Reminiscence and Resource Centre












Leslie Hockley was an Able Seaman with Royal Navy on board H.M.S.Polyanthus.

He was the son of F.G. and Millicent Ada Hockley of Feenan Highway, Tilbury, Essex. He was one of six children with one brother and four sisters.

Prior to the war he was an Edge Setter in Department 421 where he had worked since June 1938. He left the Company to join the Royal Navy in 1942.

An Account of the events of 20th September 1943 compiled by Steve Partridge, nephew of Leslie William Hockley.
During the night of 19/20th of September 1943 the destroyer Escapade was badly damaged following the premature explosion of a hedgehog bomb whilst attacking a U-boat contact near ONS 18. Escapade was so badly damaged that she had to return to the United Kingdom. Twenty-one of her crew were killed during the explosion.
ONS 18 and ON 202 were now only 30 miles apart, with ON 202 being to the North East of ONS 18.
Before the U-boats of Group Leuthen were in their final intended positions, U 270 sighted and reported the position of ON 202. However, whilst reporting in to U-boat Command, her transmission was intercepted by HMS Lagen using her High Frequency Direction finding equipment (HF/DF). Lagen was then able to pinpoint the exact positon of U 270 and attempted to carry out a depth charge attack. Unfortunately one of the failings of ASDIC was that when within 200 yards of the target contact was lost. This gave the target U-boat an opportunity to evade the attack and escape. It was during this period, at 0305 hours, at position 57.09N/27.28W, that a GNAT fired by U 270 hit Lagen. Lagen was seriously damaged, having lost her propellers and rudder, along with 30 feet of her stern. Twenty-nine of her crew were also killed during the explosion. This was one of the first major successes of the new German weapon. Gatineau turned to assist in the attack on U 270, which had by now disengaged. GNATS were also fired at Gatineau and HMS Polyanthus by U 402, but fortunately neither vessel was hit. HMS Lagen was eventually towed back to the United Kingdom by the tug Destiny, arriving on the 24th September, but was so badly damaged that she was declared a total loss and scrapped.
Six miles from the convoy U 386 was attacked by a Ventura aircraft of 120 squadron, piloted by Flight Officer J. Moffat.
U 238 was driven away from the convoy by the corvette HMS Polyanthus, one of a well known pair of ships known as the Anthus Sisters, Polyanthus and Dianthus. U 238 then shadowed the corvette fro three hours following her back to the convoy, where at 0540 she torpedoed two merchant ships. The Frederick Douglas, commanded by an African American, Adrian Richardson, was hit in the after cargo hold, unfortunately some of the crew panicked and failed to close the engine room hatch and then prematurely launched the lifeboats, all crew were rescued. It's possible if these men had remained on board, like their Captain, the ship may have been saved. She then remained afloat until torpedoed a second time by U 645 late in the evening ESE of Cape Farewell (57.03N/28.08W). The second ship the Theodore Dwight Weld (57.03N/28.08W), sank straight away taking 33 crew with her. Both were Liberty ships of 7176 tones, both vessels were in ballast. Survivors of the Frederick Douglas were picked by be the rescue ship Rathlin.
In an attempt to simplify operations the orders was given at noon (by Admiral Max Horton, commanding Officer Western Approaches, based in Liverpool), for both convoys to join, Commander M.J.Evans, RN aboard HMS Kepple, being placed in overall command. His task of combining the two convoys was made more difficult when Kepple obtained an ASDIC contact and sighted the periscope of U 386 close off her starboard side. After carrying out four depth-charge attacks, Commander Evans ordered the French crewed corvette Roselys to carry on with the attack, allowing Commander Evans to concentrate on the difficult task of combining the convoys. U 386 sustained damage during the attacks. The difficulties of combining both groups of ships was also made more difficult by false radio messages sent out by U-boat radio operators along with general heckling. The manoeuvre eventually being completed just before darkness fell. Commander Evans later recorded that "the two convoys had gyrated majestically around the ocean, never appearing to get much closer to each other, and watched appreciatively by a growing swarm of U-boats."
During the afternoon the 9th Escort Group arrived to reinforce the convoy escorts. After midnight fierce fighting ensued astern of the convoys in the area where the two groups had met. It was during this fighting, whilst investigating a reported U-boat sighting, that U 305 torpedoed HMCS St. Croix at 1756 hrs (57.00N/31.10W). Despite developing a heavy list St Croix remained afloat enabling an orderly evacuation to be carried out. Then at 1956 she was struck by a second torpedo, also fired by U 305. There was a massive explosion and the ship sunk within three minutes. Her Commanding Officer A.H.Dobson, who after the first torpedo had struck had sent the message "Am leaving the Office", and many of her crew went down with her. Although in the vicinity HMS Itchen was unable to pick up survivors as she had to continue with the search for the U-boat. Between the two attacks on St. Croix, U 305 had also fired a torpedo at HMS Itchen, however it exploded in the ships wake causing no significant damage.
Due to HMS Itchen being involved in teh search for U 305, HMS Polyanthus was ordered to the area to carry out a search for survivors in her place. However, she never reached the area, at 2236 she was struck by a GNAT fired by U952. Of the crew, 7 officers and 77 ratings were lost, including the commanding officer Lieutenant Aitken, R.N.R. The number of survivors is unclear, one source suggesting five, another reports that HMS Itchen only picked up one crewmember from Polyanthus. Itchen also picked up 5 officers and 75 ratings from St. Croix, who by the time of their rescue had been in the water for 14 hours.
U229 made an unsuccessful attack on HMS Icarus.
At 1050 hrs a Liberator of 120 squadron (FAM917), piloted by F.L.JK Moffatt, DSC, sighted U338 on the surface at a distance of five miles. Moffatt attacked with cannon and depth charges, all of which undershot. U338 signalled to other U boats in the areas "remaining on surface to repel aircraft", but received no assistance and Moffatt was able to continue with his attack using machine guns. At 1112 hrs the U boat submerged and Moffatt attacked again, this time using the new Mk 24 mine. In reality this was a new homing torpedo (FIDO), but was referred to as a mine for security reasons. Moffatt also called for assistance from the Corvette Drumheller, which also carried out a depth charge attack. However is is likely that U338 had already been sunk by Fido. Following the Drumheller attack the Liberator returned to the convoy and continued with its patrol before returning to Reykjavik at 2020hrs. There were no survivors from the 51 crew of U338.
From 2100 hrs onwards until 0600 the following morning there was almost constant U Boat activity. During which U305 carried out an unsuccessful attack on HMS Itchen and U229 also attacked but missed an unidentified vessel, and U645 carried out an unsuccessful attack on HMCS Gatineau. However, all attacks were driven off with two U Boats being damaged by gunfire and one by depth charges.
An attack on an unidentified vessel by U260 failed due to a dud torpedo.
Bata Record
Leslie was reported missing, believed drowned following the sinking of H.M.S.Polyanthus, date of death attributed as Monday 20th September 1943.

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