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Western Local Escort Force (WLEF) referred to the organization of anti-submarine escorts for World War II trade convoys from North American port cities to the Western Ocean Meeting Point (WOMP or WESTOMP) near Newfoundlandmarker where ships of the Mid-Ocean Escort Force (MOEF) assumed responsibility for safely delivering the convoys to the British Islesmarker.


Background

On the basis of experience during World War I, the Admiralty instituted trade convoys in United Kingdommarker coastal waters from September, 1939. Convoys gradually extended westward until HX 129 left Halifax on 27 May 1941 as the first convoy to receive escort for the entire trip from Canadamarker. The American Neutrality Zone offered some protection in North American coastal waters until United States declaration of war in December 1941.

Organization

The Royal Canadian Navy organized the Halifaxmarker-based Western Local Escort Force in February 1942 as U-boats began patrolling North American coastal waters during the "second happy time". The Royal Navy provided the WLEF with twelve old, short-range destroyers well-equipped for anti-submarine warfare and manned by experienced personnel. Newly commissioned Canadian Flower class corvettes and Bangor class minesweepers were assigned to the WLEF. Town class destroyers St. Clair, Columbia, and Niagara were assigned to the WLEF after their endurance proved inadequate for MOEF assignments. During the winter of 1942-43, some of these destroyers were organized into Western Support Force (WSF) groupings of three ships to augment protection of convoys coming under attack in the western Atlanticmarker.

Operations

The WLEF was theoretically organized in to eight escort groups able to provide an escort of four to six ships to each convoy. WLEF escort group assignments were more dynamic than the MOEF escort groups, and WLEF escorts seldom worked with the same team of ships through successive convoys. A WLEF escort group would typically meet a westbound ON convoy at WOMP and then individual WLEF ships would be detached with elements of the convoy proceeding separately to Sydney, Nova Scotiamarker, Halifax Harbourmarker, Quebecmarker ports on the St. Lawrence Rivermarker, St. John, New Brunswickmarker, Boston, Massachusettsmarker, or New York Citymarker. Some WLEF escorts were assigned to coastal convoys reaching as far south as the Caribbeanmarker. Eastbound HX convoys and SC convoys worked in reverse forming with a few WLEF escorts in New York City and picking up others as ships joined from New Englandmarker ports or the Maritimes. Short range escorts or escorts experiencing mechanical problems might be similarly detached and replaced at intermediate points between WOMP and New York City. The most frequent location for escort exchanges was the Halifax Ocean Meeting Point (HOMP) off the WLEF home port of Halifax.

The WLEF operated exclusively within range of anti-submarine patrol bombers; although weather often limited flight operations. U-boats were deployed cautiously in areas where air patrols were expected, so single U-boat encounters were more common than wolf pack engagements. The name was shortened to "Western Escort Force" (WEF) in the summer of 1943.

Combat Chronology



Convoy Routes



Notes

  1. Morison (1975) p.319
  2. Hague 2000 p.x
  3. Hague 2000 p.23
  4. van der Vat (1988) p.187
  5. Hague 2000 p.56
  6. Milner (1985) p.97
  7. Milner (1985) p.97
  8. Milner (1985) p.98
  9. Milner (1985) p.98
  10. Milner (1985) p.188
  11. Milner (1985) p.129
  12. Middlebrook (1976) p.91
  13. Morison (1975) p.349
  14. Middlebrook (1976) pp.98-109
  15. Gretton (1974) pp.31-32
  16. Middlebrook (1976) p.108
  17. Milner (1985) p.273
  18. Blair (1996) p.571
  19. Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.149
  20. Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.152
  21. Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.160
  22. Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.158
  23. Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.161
  24. Runyan & Copes (1994) p.199
  25. Runyan & Copes (1994) p.204
  26. Runyan & Copes (1994) p.206
  27. Hague 2000 pp.109-114


References




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