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The introduction of the convoy system in World War One was a desperate attempt to stem shipping losses due to the U-boat campaign. The tactic of the convoy - groupings of merchant ships escorted by a screen of warships, was not a new one. There had been convoys in times of conflict for centuries.


Even in peacetime, convoys were used to protect sea commerce from the ravages of piracy. Throughout history pirates have been the scourge of merchant shipping. From the Elizabethan era, state-sponsored piracy, in the form of the privateer, added to the menace.


The convoy system had seen it's greatest usage during the Napoleonic War and American War of Independence, when groups of up to a hundred ships would assemble in Cork Harbour for convoy to America and the West Indies. One one occasion the press reported one hundred and forty merchant ships moored in Cork Harbour awaiting convoy.


The convoy system was resisted during most of World War One. The British Admiralty largely saw it as an outmoded tactic, not suitable for modern warfare. They thought that concentrated groups of ships would provide an easy target for submarines and raiders. In fact the opposite was true, with lone ships providing the easy pickings of the u-boat campaign.


It was the United States Commander of Naval forces in Europe, Admiral W.Sims who was the greatest supporter of the convoy system. It was eventually adopted in the summer of 1917, and proved a great success, continuing until war's end. Convoys have continued to be used to this day, vindicating the system.


Queenstown was used as an assembly point and departure port for convoys leaving Europe, from August 1917 to January 1918. For the rest of the war. English and French ports were used, with Liverpool, Brest, Southmpton, Le Havre and Cherbourg becoming the most important by the Armistice.


It must be remembered that the vast majority of cargoes were transported to, not from Europe. It was the ports in the USA, Canada, South America,Australia,New Zealand and West Africa that were the source of food and materials that kept the Allied war machine in operation. Much of Europe, especially Britain, would have starved without these supplies.


Troop transports from North America took a slightly different route. Troop movements were mainly done in fast convoys, staying in deep water, direct from America to the French ports.


Queenstown was a vital port in the convoy system, with up to 37 United States destroyers, 12 Royal Navy sloops, and occasionally a few British destroyers based there.


There was also the important support of the Auxiliary fleet of trawlers, rescue tugs and motor boats. In 1918 there were also United States battleships based in Berehaven, British and American submarines, and a fleet of subchasers. In August 1918 there were also United States Flying boats in operation from Lough Foyle, Wexford, Whiddy Island, and Aghada in Cork.


The Queenstown destroyer and sloop force did not only escort the outward Queenstown Convoys, but would meet incoming convoys and single ships from all over the world. In great feats of seamanship, an incoming convoy, or single troop ship, would be met by Queenstown warships, hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic. Then they would be escorted to their final destination.


The navigational skills of these ocean rendezvous were astounding. There was no satellite navigation, bad weather meant that astral navigation was sporadic, and radio communication was rudimentary at best. There were some terrible accidents and mishaps, but the facts that these tasks were accomplished speaks volumes of the seamanship and bravery of these sailors, both merchant and naval.


The Queenstown convoys were given the designation 'OQ' followed by the number of the convoy, eg; OQ27 - Outward, Queenstown, convoy 27. Homeward convoys were given a 'H' designation and their originating port, eg: HH27 - Homeward Hampton Roads, convoy 27.

The port of destination was never given on these designations.

In total there were 31 'OQ' convoys. Of these, Twenty five left from Queenstown, one left from Milford Haven in Wales, one left from Rosslare via Queenstown, One departed from Rosslare direct. Three were cancelled.

The OQ Convoys, August 1917 to January 1918

OQ1  


Departed Queenstown  21st August 1917.


Two ships were  escorted,


Waikawa,

Alconda.


OQ2      


Departed Queenstown  25th August 1917.


Ships escorted  were:


Crosby Hall 
Staro
Cornishman

Madura
Montfort

Greylarlie
Treyhawk 

Vinel
Brendon.


Convoy dispersed 50N 18W on 27th August.


OQ3


Departed Queenstown on the 30th of August 1917.


Ships escorted were:


Pancras  

Spilsby

Leucadia  

Skard

Australcrag 

Glenrazan

Esperanza De Larranga


Routed through 50.30N 09.10W, Dispersed  47.50N 16W


Escorted by USS Allen   Wilkes Warrington Patterson Perkins Winslow Fanning Jenkins


OQ4


Sailed on the 3rd of September 1917.


Ships escorted were:


Zuleica

President Le Roy Lallier 

Queen Margaret

Queen Louise

Jason

Ramore Head

Seattle

Boston City

Eurylochus

Tascalusa

Buranda

Sutton Hall

Erlesburgh

Dorington Court

Kaolack

Elstree Grange

Anglo Canadian

Norefos

Firtree

 Independence


Escorted by USS Cushing, Sampson, Nicholson, Parker, Drayton,  C onyngham,   Mc Dougal.


Dispersed lat 52N Lon 16W 4th Sep 1917. Speed  81/2 knots.


OQ 5


Sailed on the 8th of September 1917.


Ships escorted were:


Crown of Toledo

Batsford

Willaston

Zone

Jedmoor

Herbert G.Wylie

Roker

San Patricio

Parana

Leixoes

Helmsdale

Chicago City


Escorted by USS Cushing, Ericsson, Shaw, Porter, Burrows, Wilkes,  Patterson, Ammen.


OQ6


Sailed on the 11th of Sep 1917

Ships escorted were:


Cento

Saxoleine
Terek

Slaattero

PLM7

PLM8

Hannah


Escorted by USS Conyngham,   Nicholson, Winslow, Jenkins, Cummings, Parker, McDougal. HMS Snowdrop.


Dispersed  49.50N  17 W, speed 8 knots


OQ7


Sailed form Queenstown, 13th Sep 1917

Ships escorted :


Houston



Escorted by HMS Camellia and Bluebell

                   

Dispersed 49N 17W


OQ8


Sailed 19th September, Ships escorted:


Welshman

Penolver

Christano

Bristol City
Highland Piper

Maylands

Danblair

Grangemoor

Port  Hacking

Penare



Dispersed 50N 17W


OQ9


Departed 22nd Sep 1917

Ships escorted:



Headcliffe
Moorlands
Baykerran

Devon City
Ethelaric



                    
Dispersed 49N 15W



OQ10


Sailed 28th Sept 1917
Ships escorted



Karamea

Karroo

Rathlin Head
Australmead

Oakbranch

H.Luckenbach

Abercorn.



Escorted by:

USS Wadsworh, Tucker, Cummings, Walke, Shaw, Allen. HMS P51, HMS P62.


OQ  11


Sailed 30th September 1917

Ships escorted were:



Eastwood

Arca

Waiwera

Stathatos



Dispersed 47.42N 15W


Escorted by:
USSRowan, Wilkes Patterson, Burrows, Ammen. Shadowed by Q-Ship HMS  Tamarisk.


OQ12


Sailed 8th Oct 1917

Ships escorted were:



Paul Paix

Clan Mc Bride

Glenorchy
Penhallow

Trevanion

Baygola



Dispersed 48N 14W


OQ13


Departed Queenstown on 13th Oct 1917

Ships escorted:



Abadesa

Warri

Tocantins

Turcoman

Polesley

Dominion

Quessant

Highland Rover

Clintonia



Dispersed 49.30N 17W



Escorting ships USS Rowan, Patterson, Ammen, Fanning  Winslow  Wilkes. Convoy Shadowed by Q-Ship HMS Cullist.



OQ14


Sailed 16th October 1917.

Ships escorted:



Swinburne

Carston

Novian

St Andrew



Escorted by USSConyngham, Parker, Mc Dougal, Jacob Jones,  Sterett,  Nicholson, Burrows, Jenkins.



Dispersed 48.30 N 12.30W



OQ15


Sailed 20th Oct 1917.

Ships escorted:



Baron Napier

Hyacinthus

Thorpe Grange

Amiral Rigault de Genouilly

Ingleside

Glenaffric

W.I.Radcliffe

Zingara

American Transport

Brod Liffe

Highland  Loch

Medomsley



Escorted by USS Porter (Cushing developed defects)Trippe Wainwright Drayton Walkesham Cummings, , HMS Camellia, Zinnia. - Q-Ship, HMS Heather, positioned  in front of convoy as bait.


Dispersed  50.30N 17W


OQ16


Sailed 25th  October 1917

Ships escorted:



Hawsker

Picton

Andreas

Dorisbrook

Mavisbrook

Gorsemoor

Mokoia

Bayhowell




Dispersal: 48N 15W



OQ17,


Due to sail on Oct  29th 1917, was cancelled due to bad weather and intending ships were  instructed to join convoy OQ18.


OQ18


Sailed 01st  November 1917.

Ships escorted  were:



Roselands

Brunswick

Welbeck Hall

Havo

Singapore

Booral

Poplar Branch

Keyingham

Port Chalmers



Escorting vessels were USS Porter  Wainwright Drayton Trippe  Burrows  Cummings and Q-Ship, HMS Heather, shadowing convoy..


OQ19


Sailed 13th Nov 1917

Ships escorted were:



Greystoke Castle

St Fillans

Tibet

Middleham Castle

Zinal

Karmala

Lord Sefton

Langholm

Boukadra (returned due to  mechanical defects)

Exeter City

Highcliffe

Sunray

Geralarlie

Glennevis



Escorted by USS Cushing, Wilkes,  Ericsson,  Drayton, Davis, Sampson, HMS  Jessamine, Q-Ship HMS Tamarisk shadowing convoy.

                    

To 49.30N 17W



OQ20


Sailed , Nov 17th 1917

Ships escorted:



Boukadra

Ramore Head

Highland Pride

Welshman

J.L.  Lukenbach

Eurylochus

Rene

Wisley,



Escorted by:

USS Nicholson, Warrington, Cummings,  Fanning, Conyngham, Jacob Jones, HMS Zinnia, Viola.


To 48N 14W


OQ21


Sailed from Rosslare on Nov 21st  1917


Ships escorted:


Highland Star

Highland Glen

Alston

Wearwood

Breynton, 

Leikoes



To 51.44N 06.16W then  dispersing  at 49N 15W



Escort USS Allen


OQ22


Sailed from Rosslare 24th Nov and Queenstown  25th Nov 1917.

Ships escorted:



Flavia

Pearl Shell

Crenella

Santa Theresa

Princess Clementine

Queen Margaret

Oaklands Grange

Leitrim


Escorted by:

USS Ericsson, Drayton, Shaw, Davis,  Downes, Cushing, HMS Jessamine. Q-Ship HMS Tamarisk shadowing convoy.


To Pos 48.25N 14.30W.



OQ23


Sailed 29th Nov 1917 from  Queenstown.

Ships Escorted:


H.V.Fisker

Mattawa

Arracan

Zerod

Turret Cape

Hartland Point.


Escorted by USS Nicholson, Benham,  Conyngham, Jacob Jones,  Cummings, HMS  Camelia, Viola, to pos 50.30N 15W.



OQ24


Sailed from Queenstown Dec 03rd  1917

Ships escorted:



Chicago Grange

Beacon Grange

Cedar Branch

Highland Brigade

Comte de Flandre


Escorted by USS Balch, Duncan, Sterett,  Burrows, Winslow, Trippe.


To 48.20N 14W



OQ25


Due  to leave, Dec 08th 1917, cancelled due to lack of merchantmen to be  escorted


OQ26


Sailed from Queenstown Dec 14th 1917

Ships escorted:



River Araxes

Clam


Escorted by: USS Wadsworth, Porter,  Sterett.

               

To 48N 12W



OQ27


Sailed 20th  Dec 1917

Ships Escorted:



El Cordobes

Oreland

Lord Downshire

Turcoman

Atholl

Turret Court

Ferro

Rathlin Head

Champlain


Escorted by USS Ericsson, Davis, Shaw,  HMS Camellia, HMS Jessamine. Q-Ships HMS Aubrietta and Tamarisk shadowing convoy.

                    

To 49N 14W



OQ28


Sailed  Dec 25th 1917

Ships escorted:



Guernsey

Kathlamba
Highland Scot

Devon City

Dara


Escorted by USS Porter, Ammen ,Tucker,  Jarvis, Drayton, HMS Zinnia.


To 49.30 15W




OQ 29


Sailed 02nd Jan 1918

Ships escorted:



Bombay

Orn II

Canastota

Paulsboro

Fanad Head


Escorting Ships:

USS Wilkes, Fanning ,  Mc Dougal,   Wainwrigh,t O’Brien,  Sterrett,, HMS  Bluebell  HMS Viola


To 49.40N 13W


OQ30 


No  information – cancelled?


OQ31


Sailed from Milford Haven, Monday 7th  Jan 1918

Ships escorted:



Cornishman

Melania

Cowrie C

Munardan

Cushing


Ships escorting:

(SO) USS Duncan,   Jarvis,   Trippe,  Paulding,  Ammen,  HMS Zinnia, Q-ShipsHMS Tamarisk and HMS Aubretia shadowing convoy

                    

Passed through position  50.40N  09.00W, dispersed at position  50.40N 14.00W


The Queenstown Convoys, 1917 to 1918

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