Rear Admiral Hugh Hext Rogers, Convoy Commodore, Battle of the Atlantic

detail of painting of five ships in convoy

Detail of painting of convoy OB330 by Rear Admiral Hugh Hext Rogers

The convoy system was vital to Allied success in the Battle of the Atlantic. Merchant ships were arranged in a grid and travelled to their destination together, accompanied by as much Royal Navy and air support as resources and location allowed. The vessels were easier to protect and as a whole took up less sea-space than when travelling independently and so were harder for enemy vessels to find.

While each vessel had its own master, the convoy as a whole had a commander who travelled on board a merchant navy vessel and was the senior merchant navy officer.  He was in charge of keeping the ships in good order, relaying changes in course, liaising with the commander of the Royal Navy vessels etc.  These men were often retired, experienced officers and members of the Royal Naval Reserve.

Rear Admiral Hugh Hext Rogers (1883-1955), an ex Royal Navy officer and member of the Royal Navy Reserve with a distinguished career, served as a convoy commodore during the second world war.  During his time at sea he completed a number of drawings of the vessels in his convoys in their correct order, perhaps as an aid to memory or to exercise his artistic talent.  

These drawings are now held in the Paintings and Drawings collection of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, accession number MMM.1992.67. Please note that they are not currently on display, but you can see a selection in this online feature.  Select the thumbnails below to see a larger version of each drawing:

Convoy HX107 left Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 3 February 1941 for Liverpool and UK Ports, arriving 28 February 1941.The convoy was forced to disperse after running into a storm, four vessels were then sunk as they travelled independently:  'Edwy R Brown' on 17 February, 'Black Osprey' on 18 February and 'Empire Blanda' and 'Benjamin Franklin' on 19 February. Nine of the remaining vessels would be sunk before the end of the war. Hext Rogers was travelling on the 'Harmala', Harrison Line. Convoy HX136 left Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 30 June 1941 for Liverpool and UK ports and arrived in Liverpool 18 July 1941. Convoy HX136 was made up of 45 ships and was in company with Convoy SC 36, a much slower convoy for 14 days. The combined convoys numbered 89 ships, cruising at 5.9 knots. The faster ships were more difficult to manoeuvre at slower speeds, a particular challenge within the close confines of a large convoy. Hext Rogers was travelling on the 'Talthybius', Blue Funnel Line. Convoy OB330 left Liverpool on Monday 2 June 1941 and dispersed on 7 June, arriving at Montreal, Canada on 17 June and at Halfax, Canada on 27 June. The ship 'Mercier' was sunk on 9 June but was the only casualty from the convoy.  Subsequently 15 of these vessels would be sunk before the end of the war.  Hext Rogers was travelling on the 'Talthybius', Blue Funnel Line. Convoy SL38 left Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1 July 1940 for Liverpool and UK ports and arrived in Liverpool on 20 July 1940. The convoy lost only one vessel, 'Pearlmoor', a straggler that was unable to maintain the convoy speed and was sunk by the U-62 on the 19 July 1940, 62 miles west of Malin Head, with the loss of 13 of the 39 crew. Of the thirty ships in this convoy another 16 would be sunk before the end of the war. Hext Rogers was travelling on the 'Tribesman', Harrison Line.