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Operations of the 15th Escort Group

This group unlike the other Western Approaches Captain Class Frigate groups was made up of all Evarts Class diesel/electric powered ships,where the usual format was three Evarts and three Buckley Class.

The first to commission was HMS Louis which was destined to become the leader of the 15th EG under the command of Commander J P Majendie RN. The next was HMS Lawson which commissioned a week later than Louis but had various problems with welding which had not been carried out to the standard expected, and thus delayed her departure for the UK, and when she finally started her journey back heavy seas caused further weld failures to her longitudinal joists under her upper deck, after crawling back to Bermuda the dockyard there put everything right and she was at long last able to proceed to Belfast.

Now more trouble overtook her, after a maintenance of her engines had been completed, and the engines were run up an explosion blew the crankcase open and filled the engine room with smoke, after inspection it was discovered that a big end bearing had been put back the wrong way, which prevented the lubricating oil from entering the bearing which eventually heated up and burst. So at long last all was well with Lawson.

HMS Mounsey was next to complete her working up on the other side of the Atlantic,and crossed over to Belfast to join up with the 15th EG early in April 1944 at the same time as Lawson.

HMS's Loring, Moorsom and Inglis all commissioned in the period late November to the end of December when it was a hard time to make up crews for the frigates, they all had a pseudo commissioning, and then laid up to await Canadian ferry crews, their Canadian crews were eventually ready to sail for the UK on the 14th February 1944, and brought them over to Lissahally, where their UK crews joined them on about 25th February 1944. The ships next went through the Western Approaches working up notorious routine at Tobermory, then on to gunnery training against towed targets which was completed about the end of March.

The Group were now all together at Belfast on the 2nd April except for Loring which according to records was unallocated at Holy Loch, and later records show her refitting in the Clyde in June, presumably because Pollock Dock Belfast was pulled out with refits.

The first group deployment was as close escort to a convoy bound for Newfoundland, only four of the group took part as Lawson it is presumed was still refitting. The trip was devoid of any U-Boat activity at this time, and on arrival the crews looked upon a bare landscape, but were very pleasantly surprised when entering the US administered base to find the quantity of good food, sweets and ice cream etc; rather overwhelming, Christmas every day, or so it seemed, and of course looking to many more trips like this, but they were to be denied another taste of the good life, and after an uneventful return convoy escort they were back in Belfast early in June.

After fuelling and storing ship the five ships of the 15th EG sailed to Swansea where it was joined by HMS Narborough to awaiting their sailing orders for Operation Neptune. Loring was still having her modification refit. The group sailed south on the 5th June 1944 to the English Channel, where on the 7th June they were escorting four landing craft to the assault area, when about 8 miles from Omaha Beach the Landing Craft Susan B Anthony struck a mine at 0800, the Louis and Narborough went alongside each side of the landing craft and took almost all the US Troops off, and shortly after the craft sank.

Narborough sustained slight damage through contact with the landing craft and the number of troops departing from the ship down scrambling nets, and went into Devonport for repairs. The group spent most of June escorting convoys to the Normandy beaches then had a spell in Belfast.

Their next assignment was to head south into the Bay of Biscay and patrol around Ushant along the Channel as far as the Channel Islands, but try as they may there was no success for them, even though they thought they had a good asdic contact and made in their opinion perfect depth charge attacks, there was no evidence they could present to the Admiralty assessment board.

Their only brush with the enemy was when they strayed too close to the German guns on the Channel Islands, who always had a go at any Allied ships that might sail within their range, but they never did hit any ship. In the early part of July Narborough left the Group and was the only Captain Class Frigate to help escort three Troopships down to Bordeaux for the landings in the Gironde Estuary.

In Mid July Narborough, Inglis and one other of the group detached from the group, and headed south to Spain (which of course was neutral), Narborough went to Bilbao,the other two frigates went to Santander and San Sabestion respectively to bring back British Ships which had to take shelter in these ports. Narborough was held up for three weeks as the Ore Carrier she was to escort suffered a flash back in her boiler room.

They had a very brief respite when they visited Devonport to refuel and store ship on the 4th August, then it was immediately off again further south in the Bay of Biscay for a further stint of A/S patrolling, the area was thought to have a fair amount of U-Boat activity, but as usual the 15th EG seemed to be out of luck when it came to U-Boat hunting, then it was back to Devonport to Fuel ship etc: on the 18th August, where at long last HMS Loring finally caught up with the group.

Their next patrol was back to Biscay, where at the time of the Allied break out from the bridge heads, was driving the E Boats out of the Channel towards Holland, and on the Atlantic coast of France the U-Boats were abandoning their safe havens. At this time there were approximately 18 U-Boats in various non operational state, and orders were given to make them operational with utmost speed, so that they could sail around the British Isles to Norway via the Atlantic route.

The group felt at long last they may have some success on this A/S patrol. Lawson sighted a U-Boat on the surface, and the group went into the attack, which became a 24 hour effort with asdic contact being lost and found several times, and after the last attack all contact was lost, with no evidence of a sinking the Admiralty only awarded a probable kill. German records after the war failed to show any U-Boat being sunk in that area.

On the 24th August the group leader Louis obtained a strong asdic contact some 80 miles south of Ushant and attacked with a textbook approach which sank U 445 with the loss of all 52 of her crew. This of course lifted the moral of the group who now hoped for further success, but despite the fact that there were many U-Boats in their search area they had no further success up to their return to Belfast in mid September.

After a rest and maintenance period at Belfast the group had a change of ship, the Moorsom left the 15th EG to become a member of the new 17th Escort Group, and once again HMS Narborough rejoined on the 30th September 1944, this seemed to be an odd choice, as all the five original members of the group were Evarts and the newcomer was a Buckley which had up to now been operating on and off with the 15th EG (The Admiralty works in some unorthodox ways at times, or so it would seem).

They now were sent up to the north west of the British Isles along with other groups, as the U-Boats were operating in the area between Northern Ireland and Scotland, the route of all convoys coming across the Atlantic and heading for the Clyde and Liverpool. Needless to say at this time of the year the sea is usually very rough with constant storms, making life very miserable for the groups crews, and once again though they expended many depth charges they had their usual bad luck in trying to find and sink U-Boats, this deployment lasted until the second week in October, and after a short rest and replenishment.

Their next trip was as a support group to the Russian convoy JW 61, which has been detailed in previous reports (see EG3), after a three day rest the 15th EG along with the 3rd and 21st EG's proceeded to the outer limits of the Kola Inlet to clear the area of U-Boats before the convoy emerged two days later, unfortunately HMS Mounsey was struck by a torpedo on an after empty fuel tank which probably took most of the shock, but some of her deck plates were buckled, but she kept afloat and Narborough towed her back into the Kola Inslet, when she was able to make her own way back to Polyano for repairs. The U-Boat responsible for this was U 295. 11 Members of HMS Mounsey's crew lost their lives.

After their Russian convoy they returned to Belfast in mid November much battered by the weather and enjoyed a longer than usual rest. In mid December they were operational again , this time it was up to the Atlantic off the North of Scotland, with HMS Dacres in company to make up for Mounsey's absence, their patrol area was Kyle of Lochalsh to the Faeroes, which in winter is not the place to be, with its constant gales, and though they made many attacks on suspected U-Boat contacts, their luck was out as usual, so it was back to Belfast in mid February 1945 for a well deserved rest.

Mounsey had returned from Russia before Christmas 1944 to have her repairs properly completed at Pollock Dock Belfast, and she now joined up with her group at the end of February when they headed south to take up their patrol in the English Channel approaches with Devonport as their base, they enjoyed the relatively decent weather as apposed to when they were up around Cape Wrath area, during this patrol Narborough left the group and along with the Hunt Class Destroyer HMS Bulldog escorted liberation troopships and hospital ship Viga to Guernsey, and escorted 10 German vessels back to Cawsand Bay where the surrender took place.

The rest of the group were back in Belfast for VE Day, but Narborough was not given any time to celebrate, on VE Day she set sail for Wilhemshaven to escort four U-Boats to Lisahally, she then did various duty destroyer jobs in the Plymouth command until she was given her final mission which was to tow a U-Boat from Lisahally to Lenningrad, but unfortunately the weather was very bad, and it was impossible to reach her destination as the Baltic Sea froze and Narborough was holed up in Libau, Latvia. She managed to escape the winter there, and she sailed with paying off pennant hoisted into Portsmouth in November 1945.

Louis, Mounsey, Lawson and Inglis were sent to the reserve fleet at Hull in June 1945. Loring, Moorsom and Dacres were also sent to the reserve fleet at Hartlepools in June. Moorsom was the first to go back to the US Navy on 20th October 1945. Dacres went back on 26th January 1946. Mounsey went back on 4th February 1946, Inglis, Lawson and Louis went back on 20th March 1946. Narborough returned to the USA on 4th February 1946. Loring stayed at Hartlepools being used as accommodation ship for the care and maintenance staff to the reserve fleet and was the last Evart to be sent back on 7th January 1947.

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Author: Roy Tynan © 2003
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