Information sheet

Researching naval convoys in the two World Wars

Sheet number 70

Convoy records

The National Archives has the surviving records of Allied convoys in both world wars.

World War l

Generally, convoys were begun in April 1917. Records are in class ADM 137, entitled War of 1914-1918: Admiralty Historical Section: Packs and Miscellaneous Records. The main series of convoy records are in the files ADM 137/2523 to 2664 and ADM 137/2751 to 2775.

World War ll

Convoys were operated throughout the Second World War, with 1,285 arriving at Liverpool. Reports of about half of these have survived. They are in class ADM 237, entitled War of 1939-1945: Naval Staff: Operations Division: Convoy Records. The National Archive has a card index to convoys.
Documents concerning attacks on convoys are in class ADM 233, Naval Intelligence Papers and in ADM 199, War History Cases and Papers. Interviews with survivors of merchant ships sunk during the war are in ADM 199/2130 to 2148, and these may provide convoy numbers. There is an index to the ships mentioned in these reports.

ADM 217 Western Approaches Command, consists of an incomplete series of Reports of Proceedings from Senior Officers of Escorts and others, and is indexed by convoy and by Senior Officers' ships. No other station records of this period have been transferred.
An index of ships lost in the major convoys is in Arnold Hague’s book The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945: its organization, defence, and operation. This book also provides background information on convoys in the Second World War.

Sources at the Maritime Archives and Library, Merseyside Maritime Museum

Archives

Liverpool was the hub of convoy activity during World War ll.  Much of the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ against the U-boats was indeed, fought and won from Liverpool. 

  • Derby House Western Approaches HQ: plans and blueprint, 1940 (DX/1424)
  • DX/1508 Xerox miscellaneous material relating to Convoys SC.42 Sydney-UK 1941; SL.126 Freetown-? 1943; HX.219 New York-UK 1942.
  • HX219: Report and sailing plan (DX/1508)
  • HX300: Original sailing plan for Convoy: (DX/1395)
  • KMF3: Correspondence and records re Convoy (D/KEY/12)
  • MWS: Report of proceedings on Convoy (D/HEW/2/5,6,7)
  • OS4: Report of proceedings on Convoy (D/KEY/4)
  • OS28: Charts, letters, reports, re Convoy (D/KEY/7,8)
  • OS34: Report of proceedings on Convoy (D/KEY/9,10)
  • PQ17: Account of Convoy to North Russia, written by seaman serving in HMS Pozarika, and photographs, 1942 (DX/1484)
  • SC42: Report and sailing plan (DX/1508)
  • SL87: Report of proceedings on Convoy and Court of Inquiry re loss of ships (D/KEY/5)
  • SL118: Charts of movements, reports and radio messages, re Convoy (D/KEY/11)
  • SL126: Report and sailing plan (DX/1508)
  • Details of U-boat attacks and convoys escorted by HMS Gorleston August 1941 to November 1942 (D/KEY/15/1)

Library

This is just a small selection from the large collection of books held at the Maritime Archive and Library:

  • Hague, Arnold. The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945: its Organization, Defence and Operation / (London : Chatham, 2000.) ISBN: 1861761473
  • Plowman, Peter.  Across the Sea to War: Australia and New Zealand Troop Convoys from 1865 through Two World Wars to Korea and Vietnam / (Dural, N.S.W. : Rosenberg, 2003.) ISBN 1877058068
  • Kaplan, Philip. Convoy : Merchant Sailors at War, 1939-1945 / (London : Aurum, 1998.) ISBN: 1854106791
  • Rohwer, Ju¨rgen.  Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945. English ed. / [revised by the authors]; translated from the German by Derek Masters; [edited by A. J. Watts]/ (London : Allan, 1972-74.) ISBN: 0711002770 (v. 1)

Online resources

Much of the material available online owes a debt to Arnold Hague whose research and database has been made available on Convoyweb, probably the most comprehensive online source of information relating to Second World War convoys.

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