Allied Warships

HMS Duchess (H 64)

Destroyer of the D class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassD 
PennantH 64 
Built byPalmers Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd (Jarrow-on-Tyne, U.K.) 
Ordered2 Feb 1931 
Laid down12 Jun 1931 
Launched19 Jul 1932 
Commissioned24 Jan 1933 
Lost12 Dec 1939 
Loss position55° 19'N, 6° 06'W
History

On 12 December 1939, HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. Robert Charles Meadows White, RN), was arriving in the Clyde (see below) escorting HMS Barham. At 0437 hours in the North Channel, 9 nautical miles off Mull of Kintyre, at position 55°19'N, 06°06'W, possibly due to fog in the area, the zigzagging pattern of the battleship and destroyer crossed: Barham impacted Duchess, cutting her in half. Sadly, there were only 23 survivors of the crew of 153. The survivors were picked up by HMS Eclipse and HMS Echo.

 

Commands listed for HMS Duchess (H 64)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Robert Charles Meadows White, RN28 Sep 193812 Dec 1939 (+)

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Notable events involving Duchess include:


The page for this destroyer was last updated in June 2020.

28 Aug 1939
Destroyer Division 41, part of the 21st Destroyer Flotilla and made up of te destroyers HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Hong Kong for Singapore. They were to proceed to the Mediterranean to enable other destroyers to proceed from there to the South Atlantic and Home waters. (1)

1 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Singapore from Hong Kong. (2)

2 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Singapore for Colombo. (2)

5 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Colombo from Singapore. (2)

8 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Colombo for Aden. (2)

14 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Aden from Colombo. (2)

15 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Aden for Alexandria. (2)

19 Sep 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Alexandria from Aden where they joined the Mediterranean Fleet. (3)

26 Sep 1939
HMS Salmon (Lt.Cdr. E.O. Bickford, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Alexandria with HMS Deptford (Cdr. C.A.E. Stanfield, RN) and later with HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN). (4)

27 Sep 1939
The battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. I.B.B. Tower, DSC, RN) and the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) departed Alexandria for exercises. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN).

HMS Warspite returned to harbour around 1800/27. HMS Barham and HMS Malaya returned to harbour around 1630/28. HMS Glorious returned to harbour around 1500/29. (3)

29 Sep 1939
At 0930 hours, HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN), were detached from the screen of HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) with orders to proceed to Port Said where they arrived around 1800 hours. (5)

30 Sep 1939

Convoy Blue 3.

This convoy departed Port Said on 30 September 1939 for Gibraltar where it arrived on 10 October 1939.

The convoy was made up of the following merchants; Britannia (British, 8799 GRT, built 1926), British Captain (Tanker, British, 6968 GRT, built 1923), British Commodore (Tanker, British, 6865 GRT, built 1923), British Genius (Tanker, British, 8553 GRT, built 1939), British Grenadier (Tanker, British, 6857 GRT, built 1922), British Officer (Tanker British, 6990 GRT, built 1922), British Sergeant (Tanker, British, 5868 GRT, built 1922), City of Guildford (British, 5157 GRT, built 1919), City of Mandalay (British, 7028 GRT, built 1925), Clan Chisholm (British, 7256 GRT, built 1937), Clan Macbean (British, 5000 GRT, built 1918), Halizones (British, 3298 GRT, built 1920), Hatasu (British, 3198 GRT, built 1921), Malancha (British, 8124 GRT, built 1937), Malvernian (British, 3133 GRT, built 1937), Nevasa (British, 9213 GRT, built 1913), Registan (British, 5886 GRT, built 1930), Sagaing (British, 7958 GRT, built 1925), Theseus (British, 6527 GRT, built 1908), Tunisia (British, 4337 GRT, built 1927), Ville de Tamatave (French, 6276 GRT, built 1931), Ville du Havre (French, 5083 GRT, built 1919), War Krishna (Tanker, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, British, 5760 GRT, built 1919), Yorkshire (British, 10183 GRT, built 1920),

British Sergeant parted company with the convoy off Malta.

A/S Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the sloops HMS Fowey (Cdr. H.B. Ellison, RN) and HMS Grimsby (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN).

When off Malta on 5 October 1939, HMS Defender and HMS Duchess were relieved by HMS Grenade (Cdr. R.C. Boyle, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN). They remained with the convoy until off Algiers on 8 October 1939 when the returned to Malta. The convoy was then escorted only by the two sloops and arrived at Gibraltar on the 10th. (3)

5 Oct 1939
HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Malta from escort duty with convoy Blue 3.

HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) arrived at Malta with defects to her machinery. Repairs took about a week to complete. (6)

12 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Malta for Gibraltar.

At sea she joined HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN) and HMS Grafton (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN) that were also to proceed to Gibraltar and had departed Alexandria on the 10th. (6)

14 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN) and HMS Grafton (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN) arrived at Gibraltar. (6)

17 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Gibraltar for Malta. (6)

20 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Malta from Gibraltar. (6)

21 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Malta for the Kithera Channel for a contraband patrol. (6)

22 Oct 1939
Around 1600 hours, HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived in the Kithera Channel for contraband patrol where she took over from HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) following which HMS Diana set course for Alexandria. (6)

26 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) abandoned her contraband patrol in the Kithera Channel 24 hours early to take an injured rating to Malta. (6)

27 Oct 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Malta. (6)

16 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Malta escorting the liner Franconia (20175 GRT, built 1923) to Marseilles, France. Franconia had on board three MTB's that were to proceed to the U.K. through French rivers and canals. These were HMS MTB 2, HMS MTB 5 and HMS MTB 17. (3)

19 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the liner Franconia (20175 GRT, built 1923) arrived at Marseilles. They had been delayed by heavy weather in which Franconia sustained damage. (6)

22 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Marseilles for Malta. She was escorting the liners Ettrick (11279 GRT, built 1938) and Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939). (3)

24 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the liners Ettrick (11279 GRT, built 1938) and Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939) arrived at Malta from Marseilles.

They all departed Malta for Alexandria later the same day. (2)

27 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the liners Ettrick (11279 GRT, built 1938) and Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939) arrived at Alexandria. (2)

28 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) shifted from Alexandria to Port Said escorting the liner Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939). They departed Port Said later the same day for Haifa. (7)

29 Nov 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the liner Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939) she was escorting arrived at Haifa. They departed again later the same day for Malta. (3)

1 Dec 1939
HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN) departed Alexandria for Gibraltar. She was escorted by HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN) and HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN).

While off Malta at 1000/3 HMS Dainty and HMS Defender were relieved by HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN). (3)

3 Dec 1939
HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) and the liner Devonshire (11275 GRT, built 1939) arrived at Malta.

HMS Duchess departed Malta later the same day with HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) to make rendez-vous with HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN) and escort her to Gibraltar. (3)

5 Dec 1939
HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN), HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) arrived at Gibraltar. (8)

6 Dec 1939
HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN), HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) departed Gibraltar for the Clyde. (8)

11 Dec 1939
HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN) and her two escorting destroyers, HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN), HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN), are joined by three more detroyers; HMS Exmouth (Cdr. R.S. Benson, DSO, RN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. I.T. Clark, RN) joined around 1500 hours while HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN) joined shortly after 1700 hours. (8)

12 Dec 1939
While passing through the North Channel and approaching the Clyde HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN) and HMS Duchess (Lt.Cdr. R.C.M. White, RN) collided at 0437 hours.

HMS Barham stopped and lowered her seaboats. Around 0450 hours the ready use depth charges on board HMS Duchess exploded and she sank.

Shortly before 0600 hours Barham continued to the Clyde escorted by HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and HMS Exmouth (Cdr. R.S. Benson, DSO, RN).

HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. I.T. Clark, RN) and HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN) remained behind to search for survivors. Only one officer and twenty-two ratings could be picked up from the water. Six officers and one hunderded and twenty-four ratings were lost.

HMS Barham arrived at the Clyde around noon. (8)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/374
  2. ADM 199/2552
  3. ADM 199/389
  4. ADM 173/16021
  5. ADM 53/108383
  6. ADM 53/108384
  7. ADM 187/3
  8. ADM 53/107659

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


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