Winha

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Introduction

Winha was in service from 1904 until she ended her life as a block ship during the construction of Mulberry Harbours during the 1944 Normandy Landings.

Winha
Winha when named Atlantic and therefore must have been taken before her name change in 1935. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Cargo Ship
Registered owners, managers and operators Rederi A/B Transatlantic (Lundgren), Gothenburg
Builders Hawthorne Leslie
Yard Hebburn
Country UK
Yard number 398
Registry N/K
Official number 168697
Signal letters N/K
Call sign OHXC
Classification society Lloyds London
Gross tonnage 3,313
Net tonnage 1,975
Deadweight N/K
Length 339.4 ft
Overall Length 352 ft
Breadth 48.9 ft
Depth 21.3 ft
Draught N/K
Engines Triple expansion steam engine with cylinders of 25", 40 1/2" and 67" bores and 45” stroke
Engine builders N.E. Marine Engineering Co Ltd.
Works Newcastle upon Tyne
Country UK
Boilers Three single boilers operating at 180 psi
Power 332 NHP
Propulsion Single screw
Speed 11 knots
Cargo capacity N/K
Passenger capacity N/A
Crew N/K
Winha
Another photo of Winha when named Atlantic. The photo was taken at Vancouver on 25 July 1934. The funnel markings are different to the previous photo. [2]

Additional Construction Information

The Lloyds Register entry for Winha for 1940-41 has the following additional information about her:

  • 1 deck (steel)
  • Fitted with radio direction-finding equipment
Winha
another photo of Winha when named Atlantic arriving at Vancouver on 25 July 1934. [2]

Career Highlights

Date Event
24 Sep 1904 Launched as Atlantic
October 1904 Completed for Rederi A/B Transatlantic, Goteborg, Sweden
1929 New owners Rederi A/B Bore, Goteborg.
1935 New owners Winha O/Y, Helsingfors, Finland and renamed Winha.
1941 Transferred to the UK Ministry of War Transport (MOWT) and managed by Raeburn & Verel, Glasgow
1944 Management changed to J & J. Denholm
9 June 1944 Scuttled at Normandy to become part of “Gooseberry 3” at Gold Beach
Post war (date not known) Raised and towed to Troon to be broken up

Service Pre WW2

I have not found any information about the service history of Winha before WW2.

Service in WW2

Winha took part in 26 convoys according to information shown in the table below which is provided courtesy of Convoyweb - see External. Ref. #4.

Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
Gibraltar, Apr 29, 1940 HG.28 (Gibraltar - Liverpool) Liverpool, May 9, 1940
Liverpool, Nov 27, 1941 ON.41 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Clyde, Dec 9, 1941 ON.45 (Liverpool - Dispersed)
Liverpool, Jun 2, 1942 ON.100 (Liverpool - Cape Cod) Cape Cod Bay, Jun 19, 1942
Halifax, Jul 7, 1942 HS.22 (Halifax - Sydney CB) Sydney CB, Jul 9, 1942
Sydney CB, Jul 10, 1942 SC.91 (Sydney CB - Liverpool) Loch Ewe, Jul 23, 1942
WN.313 (Loch Ewe - Methil) Methil, Jul 25, 1942
Methil, Aug 17, 1942 EN.125 (Methil - Loch Ewe) Loch Ewe, Aug 19, 1942
ON.124 (Liverpool - Boston) Boston, Sep 6, 1942
Sydney CB, Sep 12, 1942 SQ.36 (Sydney CB - Father Pt) Father Point, Sep 16, 1942
Sydney CB, Sep 30, 1942 SC.103 (NYC - Liverpool) Liverpool, Oct 14, 1942
Oban, Oct 16, 1942 WN.350 (Oban - Methil) Methil, Oct 19, 1942
Methil, Mar 1, 1943 EN.200 (Methil - Loch Ewe) Loch Ewe, Mar 3, 1943
ON.171 (Liverpool - Halifax) Halifax, Mar 23, 1943
Halifax, Mar 25, 1943 HF.44 (Halifax - St John Nb) St John Nb, Mar 27, 1943
St John Nb, Apr 17, 1943 FH.49 (St John Nb - Halifax) Halifax, Apr 19, 1943
Halifax, Apr 25, 1943 SC.128 (Halifax - Liverpool) Liverpool, May 13, 1943
WN.427 (Loch Ewe - Methil) Methil, May 14, 1943
ONS.11 (Liverpool - Halifax) Liverpool, Jun 19, 1943
Liverpool, Jun 19, 1943 ONS.11 (Liverpool - Halifax)
Oban, Jul 4, 1943 ONS.12 (Liverpool - Halifax) Halifax, Jul 18, 1943
Halifax, Aug 16, 1943 HS.102 (Halifax - Sydney CB) Sydney CB, Aug 18, 1943
Sydney CB, Aug 21, 1943 SQ.65 (Sydney CB - Father Pt) Father Point, Aug 23, 1943
Red Islet, Aug 29, 1943 QS.66 (Red Islet - Sydney CB) Sydney CB, Sep 1, 1943
Sydney CB, Sep 4, 1943 SC.141 (Halifax - Liverpool) Liverpool, Sep 17, 1943
WN.481 (Loch Ewe - Methil) Methil, Sep 19, 1943
Corncob3 Seine Bay, Jun 8, 1944

Reading Stan Mayes account of his time on Winha in 1942 HERE, it is clear that she had seen better days by the time he served on her in 1942 and had been lashed up to keep her going. Despite this, as can be seen from the list of convoys above, she made a number of trips across the Atlantic. The Sydney destination is Cape Breton rather than Australia. One wonders whether the state of the ship improved from when she was described by Stan, but it seems likely that she was kept going with only essential work being done.

Despite her sorry state, Winha had one final important contribution to make to the war effort as described below.

Scuttling of Winha in the Normandy Landings

Winha was one of 60 old or damaged ships that were earmarked to be scuttled to form a protective breakwater for the Mulberry Harbours constructed to support the D-Day landings. These barriers were called Gooseberrys and the invasion plan called for five of these structures - one at each landing beaches Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Winha was one of the ships destined to become part of 'Gooseberry 3' at Gold Beach. The code name for the block ships was 'Corn Cob'; the ships forming Goosberry 3 were:

HMS Alynbank, Alghios Spyridon, Elswick Park, Flowergate, Giorgios P., Ingman, Innerton, Lynghaug, Modlin, Njegos, Parkhaven (added later to repair damage), Parklaan, Saltersgate, Sirehei, Vinlake, Winha

Further information on all the ships related to the Mulberry Harbours can be found at External. Ref. #13.

An Account of the Scuttling of Winha

A recent article in the Kirriemuir Herald External Ref. #11 from Mr John Macdonald of Kirriemuir provided an account of the scuttling :

A 91-year-old Forfar man doesn't have much difficulty in recalling the events of June 6, 1944. For John Macdonald played a role in the D-Day landings that, as important as it was, is rarely ever mentioned in footage of an event that marked the turn of the tide in world war two. Indeed, he was aboard a cargo ship that sailed all the way to the coast of France only to be blown up as part of an elaborate plan to create the breakwaters that would make it easier for the Allies to pour men and equipment on to the beaches in the days and weeks that followed perhaps the greatest moment in world history.

John popped in to the "Dispatch" office last week, to tell the story of "the block ships" that helped form the artificial harbour off the code-named Sword beach near Arromanches in France. He explained that the story of "the block ships" is one that gets little mention in coverage of the annual anniversary of the D-Day landings.

"Yet all these block ships were sunk to form the breakwaters for a mulberry harbour - an artificial port created to aid the landings," he adds. "The ships in question were the oldest merchant navy vessels around at the time, earmarked by the Royal Navy for this specific purpose. "They were all manned by Merchant Navy personnel, who came under the direct orders of the Royal Navy."

Mr Macdonald joined his ship, tied up at Rosyth Docks, on April 22, 1944. "It was the SS Winha, said to have been bought from a Greek company. It weighed approximately 1000 tonnes and was 45 years old.

Mr Macdonald joined the SS Winha as second engineer, and found that it had already been loaded with all types of ballast - sand, rocks, bricks, etc. "We all knew that the plans for the ship were for it to be sunk, for the charges had already even been laid." Ahead of sailing, there wasn't a lot for the crew to do. "Apart from watch-keeping, all we did every day was sit in the saloon along with the young deck officers, playing cards and other games."

"I forget the exact day we set sail from Rosyth - sometime in late May I think. We proceeded in convoy up the east coast, heading for the Pentland Firth and then round to continue down the west coast of Scotland. "Our maximum speed was about five knots, depending on the currents. "We eventually reached the mouth of the Bristol Channel at around 6 pm on Sunday, June 4."

"It was a beautiful summer's night and, to our amazement, out of the horizon, from Bristol, came the American and British battle fleets, first the battleships, then the destroyers and so on. "The following morning, all these naval ships passed us again, heading back towards Bristol. "We didn't know at the time that we were witnessing the lead-up to D-Day, which had to be postponed for 24 hours due to bad weather."

"We remained anchored off the Bristol Channel, and the order came for us to pack up our belongings for shipment home, left with only the clothes we stood in and two days' survival rations. "Nothing was to be left on board the SS Winha."

"We finally set sail for Christchurch on the south coast of England - and by the time we were nearing our next destination the invasion of France was underway. "I was on watch, and went on deck to have a look at what was happening around me. It was a sight I'll never forget - with the sky a mass of planes, all heading for France. "Our orders were to proceed to Arromanches, an artificial port created for the Normandy landings. "There, our ship was to be one of a number to be sunk to create two breakwaters to assist with the landing operations".

"On Friday, June 9, 1944, at 1.10 pm the SS Winha was manoeuvred into position, secured to the bows of SS Modlin. "The entire crew was then evacuated from the ship by a naval vessel, ahead of our ship's sinking, to be transferred to a Liberty ship. Fully loaded, this vessel headed back to England."
Winha
A plan of the Mulberry Harbour and breakwaters at Arromanches. [1]
Winha
An enlargement of the same plan showing the disposition of the blockships including Winha which is #10. [2]
Winha
Some of the blockships used in Gooseberrys but neither the exact location nor the names of the ships are known. Note that the armaments have been left in place on these ships as they are above the waterline. They were used for anti-aircraft defences even after the ships had been scuttled. [2]

It is understood that at some later date the scuttled vessel was raised and towed to Troon to be broken up.

Image Credits

  1. From External Ref. #13
  2. By courtesy of Stan Mayes and digitally enhanced by Brian Watson