Sinking of HMS Harvester : One Day in the Battle of the Atlantic

British destroyer HMS Harvester (H19) underway, coastal waters.

Sinking of HMS Harvester : One Day in the Battle of the Atlantic

11th of March 1943

The destroyer HMS Harvester, flagship of the escort group B3, escorting convoy HX-228. Stopped and picked up survivors from the American Liberty ship William C. Gorgas which had been sunk by German submarine U-757.

United States Army Transport General W. C. Gorgas during World War II. She served as the United States Navy troop transport USS General W. C. Gorgas (ID-1365) in 1919

The destroyer returned to the convoy and sighted German submarine U-444 which dived but was forced to the surface by depth charges.

Harvester then rammed the submarine and the two vessels became locked for a while. The submarine then pulled away but was again rammed, this time by the French corvette FFL Aconit (K 58), and sank.

The badly damaged British destroyer could not make way and was soon hit by two torpedoes from German submarine U-432.

The ship sank quickly and seven officers, 136 crew and 39 survivors went down with her.

The French corvette then returned to the scene and sank U-432 with depth charges and ramming.

She then picked up four crewmen from U-444, 20 from U-432 plus 60 from the Harvester, including 12 from the American Liberty ship.

The 5,001-ton Norwegian steam merchant Brandt County was also sunk in the attack on convoy HX-228 by U-86.

Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

Brandt County was carrying 5330 tons of general cargo, a large amount of carbide and 670 tons of ammunition. She was hit by one torpedo, which ignited her load of carbide.

Of the five men on the bridge, three managed to get to the lifeboat and the other two died. Three of the four men in the engine room died and the fourth was unable to stop the engine but managed to get on deck. Among the dead were also eight military passengers.

The 24 survivors abandoned ship in one lifeboat. And when it was about 200 meters away the flames reached the cargo of explosives.

The Brant County disappeared in a huge explosion, which sent pieces of metal and other debris in the air.

The survivors were picked up after 30 minutes by the British steam merchant Stuart Prince. One of them was badly burned and died shortly thereafter.

Lastly, at 0215 hours German submarine U-590 joined in the attack and reported a ship sunk. In actual fact one torpedo hit the 5,464-ton British cargo ship Jamaica Producer the ship was able to continue and get to port where she was repaired and returned to service in May 1943.

Written by Kim Hansen

Military History | WWI, WWII, Vietnam War | Rebellion Research