SS Narkunda - Winston Special Convoy WS12Z & DM1

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by bzaoral, Jul 13, 2020.

  1. bzaoral

    bzaoral Member

    According to P&O SS Narkunda P&O's SS Narkunda formed part of a troop reinforcement convoy of four ships, hurriedly assembled at Durban. They carried the 53rd Infantry Brigade Group - part of the British Army's 18th Division; 232 Squadron RAF; 51 crated Hurricane fighter aircraft; the 6th Heavy and 35th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments, and the 85th Anti-Tank Regiment and 24 Hurricane pilots. Narkunda embarked 1,773 troops of the 6th Heavy Anti-Aircraft and the 35th Light Anti-Aircraft regiments of the Royal Artillery.

    I'm looking for a breakdown of the 1773 troops on board the Narkuna by Division, Squadron, Regiment...
  2. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    My Dad's Regt was the 35th LAA. They embarked UK on the Empress of Japan with RHQ, 78, 89 and 144 Batteries. According to the War Diary:
    Embarked strength 31 Officers and 893 O/Rs.
    19/12/41 Arrived Durban
    21/12/41 Regiment with attached Units transferred to the SS Narkunda

    By attached Units I assume they mean the RASC and Royal Corps of Signals Sections, but the numbers are not given. The convoy DM1 consisted of the four ships Narkunda and Aorangi carrying troops and the Sussex and Abbekerk carrying stores. Whilst the majority of 35 Regt were on board Narkunda this is not an absolute number. There is a letter from one of the Regt's officers stating he travelled on the Aorangi and I know for certain that one officer and 15 men were on the Abbekerk, providing additional support to the DEMS gunners. Abbekerk was carrying the Regt's guns and equipment and these men removed at least one Bofors from the hold and mounted it on deck.

    Not necessarily those embarked in the Narkunda but WO 361/2102 (35th Regt LAA Master Roll compiled by the BRE in Changi) shows 1 Padre and 2 Medical Officers attached and the attached R Sigs as 1 Officer and 38 O/Rs.

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  3. bzaoral

    bzaoral Member

    My father-in-law was in the 85 AT Regiment, RA

    The following information is from the book “The Winston Specials: Troopships Via the Cape 1940-1943” by Munro, Archie
    Published by Maritime Books (2006) ISBN 10: 190445920X ISBN 13: 9781904459200

    I do not have the book but found pages published on another thread in WW2Talk.

    Extract from page 227 - at Embarkation

    “The total declared on the sailing telegram was 21,767 which included 85 Anti-Tank and 35 Light AA Regiments believed to be on the Narkunda and 6 Heavy AA Regiment.”

    Extract from page 231 – at Durban

    “in respect of personnel, however, vast changes now reflected the changing situation in Malaya with 5418 for that destination rather than the 295 at first intended, 2374 for India instead of 1283, and 3169 for the Middle East rather than the 8077 as at embarkation. The confusion continued when a further signal 18 hours later reduced the number for Malaya to 3838; this was received in the evening prior to the arrival of the convoy. Narkunda and Aorangi were to carry all these personnel and proceed direct to Singapore with the two MT ships; Indrapoera and Johan de Witt would now be surplus for these movements and were to be used for personnel from South Africa to the Middle East”

    Extract from page 443 – Chapter Notes
    WS 12Z Embarkations

    “Capetown Castle 1,902; Duchess of Bedford 3,012; Empress of Asia 2,344; Monarch of Bermuda 2,287; Orduna 2,145; Mataroa 1,436; Aorangi 2,449; Arundel Castle 1,204; Narkunda 2,144; Empress of Japan 2,844; totals South Africa 1,210; Middle East 8,077; Iraq 10,660; India 1,283; Malaya 295; other areas 242; total embarked 21,767

    The math on all this is very confusing…
    The total embarked on Narkunda according to the book is 2,144 (the website says 1,773). Which is the correct number? I suspect that the book is correct as it references the sailing telegram and reconciles the 21,767 number Embarked in the chapter notes.
    In Durban, troop movements are altered; the Aorangi and Narkunda are to carry 3,838 to Malaya. This total is less than the Embarkation total for Aorangi and Narkunda of 4,593. Besides 35th LAA, which other group(s) were taken off or added to the ships Aorangi and Narkunda in Durban?
  4. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    When I've a minute I'll have another look. But in regards to 35th LAA they were definitely on the Empress of Japan from UK to Durban.

  5. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Additional info:
    It appears that 35th LAA also had a detachment on the Sussex, again to assist the DEMS gunners.
    6th HAA were on Monarch of Bermuda from UK to Durban and then transferred to the Aorangi (Ref. History of the 6th HAA by Patrick Walker).
    85th A/T were on the Narkunda throughout the passage UK to Singapore. I can't as yet find which Units were on the Narkunda from UK and then disembarked at Durban. There must have been some to allow room for 35th LAA to embark.
    I think you can discount any Units of 53rd Infantry Brigade/18th Division being on the Narkunda or Aorangi as they left UK for Halifax on 30/31 Oct 41 and then transferred to the Mount Vernon in Halifax forming Convoy WS12X. Mount Vernon went to Cape Town and joined DM1 at sea.
    In his post war report on Operations in Malaya, Lt Gen Percival says:
    On 13 January an important convoy arrived carrying:
    53rd British Infantry Brigade of the 18th Division
    One HAA Regiment
    One LAA Regiment
    One A/T Regiment
    50 Hurricane fighters with their crews.

    It would seem the majority on the Narkunda (Durban to Singapore) were 85th A/T and 35th LAA.
    I think the answer is 2,144 embarked UK to Durban. The 1,773 is the number embarked Durban to Singapore (the website does not make mention of the passage UK to Durban). 1,773 is getting about right for the combined 85th A/T and 35th LAA. This leaves 6th HAA and the RAF on the Aorangi. Website says Aorangi carried 2,194 troops. The total (website) for Narkunda and Aorangi is near the total of 3,838 given in 'Winston's Specials'.

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  6. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    To add a bit to the confusion, this table (extracted from WS Convoys) shows Convoy 12Z - UK to Durban. It is interesting that the figures for the troops carried, while appearing to be precise, as are those in 'Winston's Specials do not exactly agree with each other. Unfortunately Convoyweb does not give the troop figures for DM1.
  7. bzaoral

    bzaoral Member

    I sent an email to Mike Holdoway at WS Convoys to see if he can add anything

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