Allied Warships

HMS Ladybird (T 58)

River gunboat of the Insect class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeRiver gunboat
PennantT 58 
Built byLobnitz & Co. Ltd. (Renfrew, Scotland)  
Ordered9 Feb 1915 
Laid down 
Launched12 Apr 1916 
Commissioned26 Apr 1916 
Lost12 May 1941 

Sunk off Tobruk by German aircraft.


Commands listed for HMS Ladybird (T 58)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Lt.Cdr. Robert Sydney Stafford, RN15 Mar 193811 Jan 1940
2Lt.Cdr. (retired) John Fulford Blackburn, RN11 Jan 194012 May 1941

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Notable events involving Ladybird include:

3 Mar 1940
HMS Durban (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) departed Penang to escort the river gunboats HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) to Nancowry Island and fuel them there.

They arrived at Nancowry Island on 5 March. (1)

6 Mar 1940
HMS Durban (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN), HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) departed Nancowry Island. Shorty after deparuture they made rendezvous with HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN) which then took over the escort of the gunboats which were to proceed to the Mediterranean via Colombo and Aden. (1)

8 Mar 1940
Around 1730Z/8, HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN) parted company with HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) to proceed to Trincomalee. (2)

15 Apr 1940
HMS Dragon (Capt. R.G. Bowes-Lyon, MVO, RN), which had been on passage from her patrol area to Malta, took the gunboat HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) in tow which had broken down in heavy weather while on passage from Alexandria to Malta together with HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN).

The destroyer HMAS Vampire (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Walsh, RAN) was also sent out from Malta to assist.

The tow parted on the 16th after which the tow was taken over by the tug HMS St. Issey. (3)

23 Aug 1940

Operations MB 1, Bombardment of Bardia.

23 August 1940.

The gunboat HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) departed Mersa Matruh today to be off Bardia at 0030/24 to conduct a bombardment of enemy positions.

To provide cover for this operation the destroyers HMAS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, RAN), HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN) and HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) departed Alexandria with the following objectives;
a) to carry out an A/S sweep in direction 300° to reach position 33°26’N, 25°26’E at 2000/23.
b) proceed thence to carry out an attack on Bomba seaplane base and/or Jez el Marekeb anchorage at about 0200/24.
c) on conclusion proceed to pass through position 31°41’N, 26°18’E at 0815/24 an to carry out an A/S sweep from this position along the coast to Alexandria. Speed of advance 17 knots.
d) Fighter protection would be available as of 0800/24 consisting of Gladiators, Huricanes, Morane or Potez.
e) HMAS Waterhen was to be detached to be off Bardia at 0001/24 to cover the retirement of HMS Ladybird, subsequently rejoining the destroyers in position 31°41’N, 26°18’E at 0815/24.

The light cruiser HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, CB, RAN) was sailed as further support, steering in the wake of the destroyers A/S sweep and to be at the rendez-vous at 0815/24 and then again proceed in the wake of the destroyers A/S sweep towards Alexandria.

24 August 1940.

The attack was successfully carried out and all ships returned to Alexandria today with the exception of HMS Ladybird which arrived on the 25th. (4)

14 Dec 1940
HMAS Vampire (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, DSO, RAN), HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades RAN) and HMAS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, DSO, RAN) departed Alexandria for an A/S sweep and to provide cover for the Bombarding Squadron which was operating in the Gulf of Sollum. This Squadron was made up of the monitor HMS Terror (Cdr. H.J. Haynes, DSC, RN) and the gunboats HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.O. Campbell, DSC, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN).

On the 14th HMS Terror bombarded Bardia supported by the smaller gunboats which conducted bombardments as required.

At 1800C/14, HMAS Vampire departed the area to return to Alexandria.

On the 15th weather was too rough for the smaller gunboats to operate and they remained at Mersah Matruh. HMS Terror did bombard Bardia and many fires were started in the bombardment area.

On the 16th, HMS Terror continued to bombard the enemy. She was attacked by four enemy torpedo aircraft but none of the torpedoes fired hit. HMAS Vendetta and HMAS Voyager were taken under fire while operating with HMS Terror. HMAS Voyager sustained some splinter damage and one men was wounded when she was straddled by shore batteries. HMAS Vampire meanwhile conducted an A/S patrol in the area. At twilight she was attacked by two enemy torpedo aircraft and a torpedo missed astern by 50 yards.

Late on the 16th, HMAS Vendetta was ordered to proceed to Alexandria. (5)

17 Dec 1940
Late in the afternoon, the monitor HMS Terror (Cdr. H.J. Haynes, DSC, RN) and the destroyer HMAS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, DSO, RAN) bombarded enemy troop movements along a coastal road west of Bardia.

The destroyer HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) joined them during the day coming from Alexandria.

Gunboat HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) was also operating in the area.

At 2100B/17, HMAS Voyager was ordered to return to Alexandria. (6)

31 Dec 1940
HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN) arrived at Alexandria from Port Said.

HMS Dainty sailed again later the same day escorting the river gunboats HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.O. Campbell, DSC, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) from Alexandria to Sollum. (7)

2 Jan 1941

Operation MC 5, attack on Bardia.

2 January 1941.

Today, ships from the Inshore Squadron bombarded the Italian (Libyan) town of Bardia where the Italian garrison was cut off. The ships involved were the monitor HMS Terror (Cdr. H.J. Haynes, DSC, RN), river gunboats HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.O. Campbell, DSC, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) as well as the destroyers HMAS Voyager (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, DSO, RAN) and HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN). During the day HMS Terror was attacked by Italian torpedo bombers around 1820 hours but no damage was done to her. HMAS Voyager was bombed three times (at 1411, 1600 and 1830 hours) but also sustained no damage.

Before noon this day the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) departed Alexandria to fly on her aircraft. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A’Deane, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN), HMS Ilex (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Juno (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN).

Around 1800 hours the Mediterranean Fleet departed Alexandria. For this sortie the fleet was made up of the battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, OBE, RN flying the flag of A/Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, KCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. G.C. Cooke, RN, flying the flag of A/Rear-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. C.E. Morgan, DSO, RN), heavy cruiser HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC, RN), HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN), HMS Wryneck (Lt.Cdr. R.H.D. Lane, RN) and HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN).

When the fleet was clear of the swept channel a course was set to pass through position 282°, Ras-el-Tin, 30 nautical miles at 2000 hours on a course of 285° at 18 knots. At 2030 hours, HMS Illustrious formed astern of the line. Her escorting destroyers took up positions in the screen of the fleet.

3 January 1941.

The fleet adjusted course and speed to pass through position 32°00’N, 26°35’E at 0400 hours. Course was then altered to 250° and at 1410 hours speed was reduced to 8 knots for 15 minutes to allow HMS Janus, HMS Juno, HMS Ilex, HMS Greyhound and HMS Gallant to stream their T.S.D.S. (minesweeping gear).

At 0500 hours, the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers in HMS Illustrious parted company. She was detached with HMS Gloucester, HMS York, HMS Gallant, HMS Diamond, HMS Wryneck and HMAS Vendetta as escorts. They were to proceed to position 32°10’N, 25°30’E from where HMS Illustrious was to operate her aircraft.

At 0700 hours, the destroyers HMAS Voyager and HMS Dainty joined the fleet coming from Sollum. Also at this time spotting aircraft were flown off the aid the fall of shot for the upcoming bombardment of Bardia. Warspite and Valiant catapulted an aircraft to spot their own fall of shot and an aircraft to spot the fall of shot of Barham was flown off from land with the second observer from Warspite on board. Fighter and A/S patrols were provided by Illustrious.

At 0805 hours, when in position 31°45’N, 25°12’E, the fleet altered course to 335 degrees at 15 knots and HMS Calcutta took station 1 nautical mile on the beam of the leading T.S.D.S. destroyer. The bombardment area was the northern part of Bardia defended area, and the object to attack was large M.T. concentrations in this area to hinder the formation of a counter attacking force against the Australian division.

Fire was opened at 0810 hours and at 0830 hours course was reversed for a second run. The bombardment was completed by 0855 hours. Course was then altered to 100° and to 045° at 0910 hours.

Spotting aircraft reports indicated that the main armament bombardment was a success. Secondary armament and destroyers engaged the coast defence batteries and opportunity targets. A coastal battery engaged the battleships during the bombardment, but there was no damage and there were no casualties.

At 1000 hours, HMS Illustrious and her escorts rejoined the fleet. HMS Gloucester, HMS York and HMS Calcutta were detached to return to Alexandria and HMS Wryneck and HMS Vendatta were detached to proceed to Sollum.

At noon the fleet was in position 31°50’N, 25°12’E, course was 090°. At 1500 hours course was altered to 010° and to 140° at 1600 hours. At midnight the fleet was in position 31°50’N, 28°29’E, still steering 140°. The fleet arrived at Alexandria in the forenoon of the 4th.

During this day HMS Terror, HMS Aphis and HMS Ladybird had already bombarded the area from first light until the fleet bombardment commenced. They resumed bombarding after the fleet had retired. Three bombing air attacks were made on HMS Terror during the afternoon. HMS Aphis engaged the coast defence batteries. She sustained slight damage due to a near miss and tow of her crew were killed and two wounded. HMS Terror and the two gunboats then proceeded to Alexandria. (8)

17 Jan 1941

Operation IS 1.

Bombardment of Tobruk.

Timespan; 17 January to 22 January 1941.

At 1800/17 the monitor HMS Terror (Cdr. H.J. Haynes, DSC, RN) and the gunboat HMS Aphis (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.O. Campbell, DSC, RN) departed Alexandria for Operation IS 1. The object was to bombard enemy positions off Mersa-el-Sahal in the Tobruk area during the nights of 18/19 and 19/20 January to aid the British Army in their attempt to capture Tobruk from the Italians.

At 0400/18, a force made up of the light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.D. Pridham-Whippell, CB, CVO, RN),HMS Bonaventure (Capt. H.G. Egerton, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN) departed Alexandria. They were to cover the operations off Tobruk. The cruisers were to patrol to the north-west while the destroyers were to patrol off the north-east.

The weather however became bad and the operation had to be postponed for 24 hours. The cover forces however remained in their positions as it was thought possible that the old Italian armoured cruiser San Giorgio might try to escape from Tobruk. In the end the cover force was withdrawn for more urgent operations and was ordered to proceed to Suda Bay where they arrived in the afternoon of the 20th. Due to this bad weather the shallow draft HMS Aphis got into trouble as she was unable to seek shelter. Two destroyers and an aircraft were sent out for assistance. She was found at 1300/19 off Damietta. HMS Griffin then accompanied her to Port Said where she arrived at 0700/20. She had to be docked there for repairs to her hull.

The weather however remained bad and it was not possible to bombard during the night of 19/20 January as well. Also HMS Terror sustained weather damage but was able remain at sea.

During the night of 20/21 January, HMS Terror assisted by HMS Gnat (Lt.Cdr. S.R.H. Davenport, RN) and HMS Ladybird (Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) from the Inshore Squadron did manage to carry out her bombardment duties. Little enemy opposition was experienced.

Also the destroyers HMAS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, DSO, RAN), HMAS Vampire (Cdr. J.A. Walsh, RAN) and HMAS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, DSO, RAN) were on patrol to the west of Tobruk to cut the enemy sea communications. HMAS Stuart and HMAS Vampire had departed Alexandria on 21st the to join the Inshore Squadron. HMAS Voyager had already been operating with the Inshore Squadron since 15 January. During the night of 21/22 January, HMAS Vampire sank the Italian schooner Diego west of Tobruk. The crew of ten were taken prisoner. On the 22nd HMAS Voyager returned to Alexandria due to defects. She was relieved the next day by HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, RN).

HMS Terror and HMS Gnat also returned to on the 22nd. HMS Terror had lost her mast and sustained some additional damage in the recent heavy weather. HMS Gnat had to clean her boilers. The destroyers remained on the inshore patrol for now. (8)

23 Feb 1941

Operation Abstention (MARS 3).

Landing on and capture of the Italian island of Castelelorizo.

The destroyers HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN) and HMS Hereward (Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN) embarked 200 Commandos at Suda Bay and then sailed for Castelorizo in the afternoon of 23 February 1941.

Later the same day the light cruisers HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) and HMS Bonaventure (Capt. H.G. Egerton, RN) departed Suda Bay to provide cover for this operation.

The submarine HMS Parthian (Cdr. M.G. Rimington, DSO, RN) was also involved in this operation. During 18 and 19 February 1941 she had carried out submarine periscope reconnaissance of the island and during the actual landings she was to act as beacon.

a part (24 men) of the garrison for Castelorizo of Royal Marines which had to be landed after the commandos had taken the island was embarked on the river gunboat HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN). This vessel departed from Famagusta, Cyprus at 2330/23.

Before dawn on the 25th the destroyers landed the Commandos which then successfully captured the island after the small Italian garrison surrendered. HMS Ladybird also managed to land the Marines in daylight. During an Italian air raid HMS Ladybird was hit while in the harour. The commanding officer of the Commandos stated that he did not require the Marines so these were re-embarked on HMS Ladybird which then left for Cyprus.

The main garrison of Royal Marines was embarked in the armed boarding vessel HMS Rosaura (Capt. R. Spencer, RD, RNR). Her sailing to Castelorizo was cancelled due to the enemy’s air raids on the harbour. She was to sail at night but this gave trouble due to her slow speed. She was to be escorted by the two destroyers but by now these were low on fuel.

In the end all ships involved in the operation were ordered at 0230/26 to proceed to Alexandria where the destroyers were to fuel and then take over the Royal Marines from Rosaria and land them at Castelorizo. The Commandos in the meantime had to held the island.

HMS Gloucester, HMS Bonaventure and HMS Decoy arrived at Alexandria at 2000/26. HMS Rosauria and HMS Hereward arrived at 0400/27. HMS Ladybird was ordered to remain at Famagusta, Cyprus. When HMS Gloucester arrived at Alexandria Rear-Admiral Renouf reported sick and command of the operation was transferred to Captain Everton of HMS Bonaventure.

The garrison from the Rosauria was then transferred to the destroyers HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN) and HMS Decoy.

The Italians however meanwhile did not wait and counter attacked. Over 300 troops were embarked at Rhodes by the torpedo boats Lupo and Lince. They were supported by the destroyers Francesco Crispi, Quintino Sella and the motor torpedo boats MAS 541 and MAS 546.

When HMS Ladybird left Castelorizo for Famagusta the commandos were left without support and means to communicate. So when the Italians attacked they were on their own.

At 0700/27, HMS Decoy with half the garrison, and HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN) departed Alexandria for Castelorizo. They were followed around 0830 hours by HMS Bonaventure, HMAS Perth (Capt. P.W. Bowyer-Smith, RN), HMS Hero (with the other half of the garrison) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN). HMS Decoy and HMS Hero were to land the garrison at Castelorizo and take off the commandos.

When the force arrived off Castelorizo a small party was landed and found out about the Italian counter attack. It was then concluded that without more naval and air support the situation would be hopeless. The bulk of the exhausted commandos were then embarked and the whole force then set course for Suda Bay.

While covering the withdrawal of the commandos HMS Jaguar sighted a unknown ship in the harbour (this was the Italian destroyer Francesco Crispi). Jaguar fired five torpedoes into the harbour entrance. Four explosions were heard but the enemy ship was not hit. Shortly afterwards Jaguar sighted two torpedo tracks passing astern. Jaguar then opened fire on the enemy destroyer and claimed two hits. After the searchlight of Jaguar had broken down starshell was fired by her with some delay but in the meantime she had lost contact with the enemy.

The whole force then proceeded towards Suda Bay but at 1000/28, HMAS Perth, HMS Hasty and HMS Jaguar were detached. HMS Bonaventure then escorted HMS Dainty and HMS Hero south of Crete towards Suda Bay but parted company with them at 1500/28 and Bonaventure then set course for Alexandra where she arrived at 0715 hours on March 1st. Decoy and Hero continued on to Suda Bay where the commandos were landed in the afternoon of March 1st. They then also proceeded to Alexandria still with the intended garrison for Castelorizo on board. They arrived at Alexandria at 0630 hours on 2 March 1941. (8)

16 Apr 1941
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN) arrived at Tobruk.

She departed again at 1630 hours together with the gunboat HMS Ladybird (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.F. Blackburn, RN) to conduct a raid by special forces on Marakeb [now called Jazirat al `Ulbah] during the night of 16/17 April.

The raid was however unsuccessful as HMS Decoy grounded and the selected landing spot could not be found in the darkness and the bad weather.

Both ships then proceeded to Alexandria arriving in the afternoon of the 17th. (8)


  1. ADM 53/112103
  2. Report of proceedings of HMAS Hobart from 1 October 1939 to 31 March 1940
  3. ADM 53/112047
  4. ADM 199/386
  5. ADM 53/113323 + ADM 199/387 + Report of proceedings of HMAS Vampire for December 1940 + Report of proceedings of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla
  6. ADM 53/113323 + Report of proceedings of HMAS Voyager for December 1940 + Report of proceedings of HMAS Waterhen for December 1940
  7. ADM 187/11
  8. ADM 199/414

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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