Allied Warships

HMS Chiddingfold (L 31)

Escort destroyer of the Hunt (Type II) class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeEscort destroyer
ClassHunt (Type II) 
PennantL 31 
Built byScotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Greenock, Scotland) 
Ordered4 Sep 1939 
Laid down1 Mar 1940 
Launched10 Mar 1941 
Commissioned16 Oct 1941 
End service 

Lent to the Royal Indian Navy 18 June 1954 and renamed Ganga.
Sold to the royal Indian Navy in April 1959.
Scrapped in 1975.


Commands listed for HMS Chiddingfold (L 31)

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. Lionel William Lendon Argles, RN12 Aug 1941Apr 1943
2Lt. Thomas Mervyn Dorrien-Smith, RNApr 194331 Aug 1944
3Lt. Frederick Greville Woods, DSC, RN31 Aug 1944late 1945

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Notable events involving Chiddingfold include:

30 Oct 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Lowestoft (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (1)

31 Oct 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Lowestoft (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Montrose (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN) and HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN). (1)

1 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Lowestoft (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN) and HMS Southwold (Cdr. C.T. Jellicoe, DSC, RN). (1)

5 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lowestoft (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (1)

15 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (1)

24 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Montrose (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN), HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (1)

28 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (1)

23 Dec 1941
HMS Tuna (Lt. M.B. St. John, RN) departed Scapa Flow for her 11th war patrol. She was part of Operation Archery, a commando raid on Vågsøy, Norway. Tuna was to act as navigational beacon for the surface ships involved in this operation.

The raid on Vågsøy was carried out by the British Light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Burrough, RN), the British destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and the landing ships Prince Charles (A/Cdr. W.R. Fell, DSC, OBE, RN) and Prince Leopold (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Byles, RD, RNR). (2)

24 Dec 1941

Operation Archery.

Commando raid against the Norwegian island of Vågsøy.

Around 2100A/24, the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, RN), the escort destroyer HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN), and the landing ships HMS Prince Charles (A/Cdr. W.R. Fell, DSC, OBE, RN) and HMS Prince Leopold (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Byles, RD, RNR) departed Scapa Flow for operation Archery. First they were to proceed to Sullom Voe where they arrived around 1330A/25. and Maaloy Island. The Force arrived at Sullom Voe on the 25th.

Heavy weather had been encountered on the passage to Sullom Voe and the operation was postponed 24 hours so that some weather damage to the landing ships could be made good.

The raiding force departed Sullom Voe around 1600A/26.

The arrived off the Vaagsfiord in perfect weather around 0740A/27. At 0640A/27 they had made rendezvous with the submarine HMS Tuna (Lt. M.B. St. John, RN) which acted as beacon.

Enemy positions were bombarded and troops were landed.

The enemy was caught by surprise but resistance was however stiff as an enemy unit of mountain troops was present at Måløy for a rest.

HMS Kenya engaged the enemy shore battery at Rugsundöy. She was also hit in return.

HMS Onslow and HMS Oribi sank the German patrol vessel V 5108 / Föhn (207 GRT, built 1911, former Norwegian whaler Hadarøy) in Måløy-Sund. The merchant vessels Reimar Edzard Fritzen (2936 GRT, built 1923), Norma (2258 GRT, built 1911, former Dutch Calypso) and Anita L.M. Russ (1712 GRT, built 1926) and Eismeer (1003 GRT, built 1941, former Dutch Duiveland) were either sunk or driven on the rocks.

HMS Offa and HMS Chiddinfold sank the German patrol vessel V 5102 / Donner (223 GRT, built ?) and the merchant vessel Anhalt (4621 GRT, built 1922).

The commandoes commenced to retreat back to the landing ships around 1400A/27.

The raiding force returned to Scapa Flow around 1600A/28. (3)

31 Dec 1941
HMS Resolution (Capt. A.R. Halfhide, CBE, RN) conducted exercises to the west of Scapa Flow returning later the same day. It appears she was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Wallace, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (4)

19 Feb 1942

Operation EO.

Object: destruction of enemy shipping off Tromso, Norway.

Around 0600N/19, the battleship HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) departed Hvalfjord.

Around 0845Z/20, they were joined by the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) which came from Seidisfjord.

The destroyers HMS Ashanti, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo and HMS Icarus were then detached to Seidisfjord to fuel. They returned around 1630Z/20.

HMS Inglefield, HMS Fury and HMS Echo were then detached to Seidisfjord while the other ships proceeded on the operation.

At noon on 21 February a reconnaissance aircraft reported an enemy force of two battleships and three cruisers (this were actually the heavy cruisers Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer and the destroyers Z 4 / Richard Beitzen, Z 5 / Paul Jacobi, Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn, Z 25) off the south coast of Norway steering north. The Force assigned to operation EO then immediately changed course to the southward in the hope of reaching a position from which HMS Victorious could launch a night torpedo bomber attack. Operation EO was thus abandoned. Coastal and Bomber command aircraft set out to attack and submarines patrolling of the Norwegian coast (HMS Trident, HMS Tuna, HMS P 37 and FFS Minerve) concentrated in the southern approaches to Trondheim.

No further enemy reports were received, but the Fleet continued on a southerly course so that aircraft from HMS Victorious could be launched around 0300 hours on 22 February and sweep down the coast in the vicinity of Stadtlandet in the hope of sighting the enemy force.

Later that day an aircraft report was received showing that the enemy had retired and the operation was therefore postponed. The battlefleet then retired to the north-westward.

On 22 February a further report of the enemy proceeding northwards was received. The battlefleet then steamed south again and after dark closed the Norwegian coast. At 1800A/22, HMS Victorious, HMS Berwick, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Icarus were detached to proceed ahead.

The escort destroyers HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and HMS Grove (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Rylands, RN) departed Scapa Flow around 1900A/22 for air sea rescue duties for RAF aircraft operating against the German force.

At 0100A/23, ten torpedo aircraft were flown off from HMS Victorious followed by seven more around 0145A/23. All aircraft swept down the Norwegian coast in weather which was rapidly deteriorating. The enemy was not sighted, mainly to due to the very bad visibility. Following the sortie fourteen aircraft landed safely at Sumburgh, Shetland Islands. Three aircraft were lost.

Around 0600A/23, the enemy was spotted again when the submarine HMS Trident attacked them and heavily damaged the Prinz Eugen.

HMS Victorious, HMS Berwick and their four escorting destroyers rejoined HMS King George V and her three escorting destroyers around 0900A/23. Course was then set to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1630A/23. (5)

15 May 1942
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN), HMS Bleasdale (Lt. P.B.N. Lewis, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (6)

23 Jul 1942
HMS King George V (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hawkins (Capt. G.A. French, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, CB, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow.

HMS King George V was most likely escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN). (7)

15 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51A.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 15 December 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dynastic (American, 5773 GRT, built 1919), El Almirante (Panamanian, 5248 GRT, built 1917), El Oceano (Panamanian, 6767 GRT, built 1925), Empire Meteor (British, 7457 GRT, built 1940), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Greylock (American, 7460 GRT, built 1921), J.L.M Curry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Oremar (American, 6854 GRT, built 1919), Richard Bassett (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Richard Bland (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), San Cipriano (British (tanker), 7966 GRT, built 1937), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Wind Rush (American, 5586 GRT, built 1918).

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Oligarch (6894, built 1918) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), minesweeper HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, DSC, RNVR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR).

On the 17th the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did on the 18th. After the destroyers had joined the convoy the three escort destroyer parted company with the convoy.

On the 24th five of the merchant ships were detached to proceed to Molotovsk. They were escorted by the Russian destroyers Razyarenniy and Valerian Kyubishev.

The Murmansk section of the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 25th.

The Molotovsk section of the convoy arrived there on the 27th.


To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' battlefleet ' was deployed which was made up of the battleship HMS King George V (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN). They departed Scapa Flow on 19 December 1942.

On 21 December they reached their covering position and cruiser to the southward of the convoy's route.

They arrived back at Scapa Flow on 25 December 1942.


To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' a cruiser cover force was deployed. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN). They had departed Scapa Flow on the 16th except for HMS Sheffield which joined them at sea later on the 16th coming from Loch Ewe.

On the 18th, both destroyers entered Seidisfjord to fuel. The cruisers did not do so due to thick fog and proceeded to cover the convoy without the destroyers.

On the 20th, the destroyers finally departed Seidisfjord to join the cruisers. They had been delayed due to defects in HMS Matchless.

On 23 December 1942 the destroyers joined the cruisers.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 24 December 1942. (8)

22 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51B and the Battle of the Barents Sea.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 22 December 1942 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 3 January 1943.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Calobre (Panamanian, 6891 GRT, built 1919), Chester Valley (American, 5078 GRT, built 1919), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Emerald (British (tanker), 8032 GRT, built 1941), Executive (American, 4978 GRT, built 1920), Jefferson Meyers (American, 7582 GRT, built 1920), John H.B. Latrobe (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Pontfield (British (tanker), 8319 GRT, built 1940), Puerto Rican (American, 6076 GRT, built 1919), Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Vermont (American, 5670 GRT, built 1919) and Yorkmar (American, 5612 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), corvettes HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, DSC, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt. L.A. Sayers, RNR), minesweeper HMS Bramble (Cdr. H.T. Rust, DSO, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Northern Gem (Skr. H.C. Aisthorpe, RNR) and HMS Vizalma ( T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

On 21 December the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN) departed the Clyde to fuel at Seidisfjord and then join the close convoy escort. However on 22 December they ran into a Force 12 gale near Stokksnes Light, Iceland and both sustained weather damage. Damage to HMS Bulldog, whose Commanding Officer was to become the Senior Officer of the close escort, was of such nature that she was unable to join the convoy and she returned to the Clyde for repairs. HMS Achates was able to continue to Seidisfjord.

The convoy was most likely detected by a German Focke Wolf reconnaissance aircraft on the 24th.

Late on the 24th the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Orwell ( Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates departed Seidisfjord and joined the convoy the following day.

During the night of 28/29 December 1942, five merchant vessels, HMS Oribi and HMS Vizalma separated from the convoy during a gale about half way between Jan Mayen and Bear Islands.

In the afternoon of the 29th, HMS Bramble was detached to search for the missing merchantmen.

On 30 December 1942, three of the merchantmen managed to find and rejoin the convoy.

HMS Oribi reached the Kola Inlet alone on 31 December 1942 having searched for the convoy but having failed to do so.

HMS Bramble was sunk on 31 December 1942 before she was able to rejoin the convoy.

HMS Vizalma and one of the merchantmen rejoined the convoy on 1 January 1943.

The last merchantmen that had separated from the convoy was unable to find it and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 5 January 1943, two days after the main body of the convoy had arrived.


Meanwhile in the afternoon of 27 December 1941, ' Force R ' had departed the Kola Inlet to support the convoy. ' Force R ' was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). They were to provide cover of the convoy going as far west as 11°00'E.

On the 29th he turned back and the destroyers were then detached to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived early in the afternoon of 1 January 1943.

As the cruisers went east again they kept well south of the expected convoy route and on reaching the meridian of the Kola Inlet on the 30th, they turned north-west to cross the expected convoy route early the next day with the intention to then steer a parallel course a few miles north of the route and to cover the convoy from 40 to 50 miles astern. This was the direction from which an attack was most likely to develop. The intention by Rear-Admiral Burnett to keep to the North of the convoy route was to gain the advantage of the light over any enemy that might appear and also to avoid detection by enemy air reconnaissance and leading enemy aircraft to the convoy.

Nothing however came of this plan as the convoy was further to the south and much further to the west than had been anticipated. The result was that Rear-Admiral Burnett did not cross the route behind the convoy but well ahead of it and by 0830 hours on 31 December 1942 was nearly 30 miles due north of it. This ignorance of the relative position of the convoy exercised great influence on the Rear-Admiral's decisions throughout the action that ensued.

Up to that morning, the 31st, there had been little sign that the Germans knew of the convoy's progress since the 24th.

Actually the convoy had been sighted by a German submarine (this was U-354) around noon on the 30th. The U-boat reported it was 'weakly protected'. A German squadron, made up of the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) H. Hartmann, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral O. Kummetz), Lützow (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) R. Stange) and the destroyers of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) A. Schemmel), Z 16 / Friedrich Eckhold (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Bachmann, with Capt. Schemmel on board), Z 4 / Richard Beitzen (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. von Davidson), Z 6 / Theodor Riedel (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) W. Riede), Z 29 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) K. Rechel), Z 30 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) H. Kaiser) and Z 31 (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Alberts) then wasted no time in putting to sea. Vice Admiral Kummetz was not aware of the cruisers of Rear Admiral Burnett. He was also hampered by the orders not to risk an action with equal or superior enemy forces. Also night attack was ruled out. Also the Lützow showed a bit timid action in the engagement that was to follow, this was she was to avoid damage as she was to break out into the Atlantic immediately following the attack on the convoy.

Vice-Admiral Kummetz decided to approach from astern of the convoy thereby obtaining advantage of light, and to attack it from both sides, anticipating that the escort would be drawn off towards the first contact and that the convoy would turn away from it, thereby falling an easy prey to the other force. To give effect to this plan he devided his squadron into two forces. The Admiral Hipper, Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 were to attack from the north-west and the Lützow, Z 6 / Theodor Riedel, Z 30 and Z 31 were to operate from the southward. During the night the Lützow-group was detached with orders to be 75 miles 180° from the Admiral Hipper-group at 0800/31. The Hipper-group would be in position 73°40'N, 28°00'E. On arriving in their positions a sweep to the eastward was to commence with the destroyers spread 15 miles apart on a line 15 miles ahead of the heavy ships.

Admiral Kummentz was later criticised for adopting a plan which split his force and introduced complications such timing difficulties, identification of own forces in the Arctic dusk and qualls, etc., but it is worth noting that his tactical dispositions did in fact work out exactly as he intended. The Lützow and her destroyers passed two or three miles south of the convoy while practically all its escorts were attending to the Hipper-group in the north, and but for the extreme caution of Capt. Strange of the Lützow there seems no reason why he should not have virtually annihilated the convoy.

To return to convoy JW 51B, the situation at 0830/31 was thus approximately as follows. The convoy, temporarily reduced to 12 ships, with five destroyers, two corvettes and a trawler still in company, was on an easterly course in position 73°15'N, 29°00'E. This was about 220 miles north-west of the Kola Inlet. Some 45 miles to the northward was the trawler HMS Vizalma with one merchant vessel in company. About 15 miles to the north-eastward was HMS Bramble. Rear-Admiral Burnett in HMS Sheffield and with HMS Jamaica was about 30 miles north of the convoy and 15 miles south of the Vizalma. None of these four groups knew each other's relative positions and there was also another straggler somewhere in the neighbourhood. Quite unknown to the British, for there had been no sign of the enemy being aware of their progress, still less that he was at sea in force, the Admiral Hipper had just crossed the wake of the convoy and was then within 20 miles to the north-westward, while the Lützow, still some 50 miles off, was closing in from the southward.

The weather was generally clear, the twilight visibility being about seven miles to the northward and ten miles to the southward, but at intervals much reduced by snow squalls. The sky was mostly covered with low cloud. The wind came from the west-north-west, force 3, the sea slight with no swell. There were 16 degrees of frost and there was ice on all ships.

At 0830/31, HMS Obdurate, on the starboard beam of the convoy, reported two destroyers to the south-west. Actually, they had been sighted ten minutes previously by HMS Hyderabad (on the starboard quarter of the convoy) but she had taken them for Russians coming to reinforece the escort and made no report. Captain Sherbrooke sent HMS Obdurate to investigate. A third destroyer soon came into sight. These were the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 gradually opening from the Admiral Hipper in anticipation of the order to turn and sweep to the eastward. They altered course away from the Obdurate to the north-west. At 0930 hours - an hour after she had first sighted them - the Obdurate had closed them to 8000 yards, and they opened fire on her, so she turned away and steered to rejoin the convoy. The enemy made no attempt to follow and disappeared to the north-westward. This was the beginning of a series of disconnected skirmishes fought in the gloom of the Arctic twilight, in which smoke screens and snowstorms made it often impossible for ships of either side to identify their opponents with certainty, or indeed even to be sure of their numbers.

Captain Sherbrooke had already turned HMS Onslow towards the gun flashes and he signalled HMS Orwell, HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate to join him, leaving HMS Achates and the three smaller warships with the convoy to cover it with smoke.

A more formidable opponent, however, diverted Captain Sherbooke's attention from the three destroyers. At 0939 hours, he sighted a large ship eight miles to the north-westward, a little on his starboard bow standing towards him. With HMS Onslow at this moment was only HMS Orwell as HMS Obedient had to come from the far side of the convoy. At 0941 hours, the big German turned away to port to open fire on HMS Achates, then showing clearly to windward of her smoke, and thus disclosing herself to be the Admiral Hipper, as her four gun turrets proved. HMS Onslow and HMS Orwell returned the fire, at a range of about 11000 yards, and followed round to a similar course. Captain Sherbrooke soon formed the opinion that the enemy was unwilling to face the risk of torpedo attack by the destroyers and made good use of the fact. For half an hour they skirmished fitfully, the British ships firing by radar, the Admiral Hipper sometimes hiding in the smoke and sometimes firing towards the convoy and all the time edging towards the north-east.

Meanwhile, the convoy had turned from east to south-east at 0945/31ç and was going off at nearly 9 knots, screened by smoke from HMS Achates, HMS Rhododendron and HMS Northern Gem. By 0955 hours, HMS Obedient had joined Captain Sherbrooke, and HMS Obdurate was in sight returning from the south-west He ordered these two ships to join the convoy, anxious lest it should be attacked by the three German destroyers, which he had never seen himself and whose movements he could not trace. Actually they had been ordered to join the Hipper at 0933 hours (just after opening fire on HMS Obdurate). HMS Obedient steered away to the southward at 1008 hours, and signalled to HMS Obdurate to join her, turning eastward later to lay a smokescreen across the wake of the convoy before joining it. A signal from HMS Sheffield that she was approaching on course 170° had been received ' with acclamation ' a few minutes previously.

At the same time HMS Obedient turned south the Admiral Hipper hauled right up to the northward out of action and it was thought that she had received three hits [this was not the case though]. Her firing had been ' aimless and erratic ' and whenever the range came within 11000 yards she had turned away. This was partly in pursuance of the plan to lure the escort away to the northward and so leave the field clear for the Lützow, and partly because Admiral Kummetz could form no clear picture of the situation owing to the smoke and poor visibility.

However, a few minutes later she ' suddenly pulled herself together ' and turned back to fight to two remaining destroyers. After a few inaccurate salvos she found the Onslow's range and at 1020 hours scored four hits in rapid succession inflicting considerable damage. 'A' and 'B' guns were put out of action, the aft superstructure and mess deck were set on fire, the main aerials and both W/T sets were destroyed, the engine room holed, and Captain Sherbrooke severely wounded in the face, so that he could not see. Despite his wounds he continued to direct the flotilla and his ship till a further hit compelled him to disengange the Onslow, only then, after receiving reports as to her condition and assuring himself that the order to Lt.Cdr. Kinloch of HMS Obedient to take charge of the destroyers was being acted on, did he leave the bridge. By the time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch learnt that he was in command (1035 hours), a snowstorm had reduced the visibility to about two miles and the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. This was the end of the first action.

By this time Rear-Admiral Burnett with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica was coming into the picture. Unfortunately he had been delayed from steering for the gunfire as early as he might have done by a radar contact picked up at 0858/31 of a ship some 15000 yards ahead while he was still steering to the north-west. As the plot developed, at 0905 hourss the stranger seemed to be doing at least 25 knots, though it subsequently appeared that her speed had been greatly over estimated. Just before this ' a ship was dimly in sight ' for a moment on the correct bearing and Rear-Admiral Burnett ' hauled away ' to the south-east and then closed at 0930 hours, in order to ' track and establish touch '. It was in fact, a merchant vessel, wihch had parted company with the convoy earlier and was now with the trawler HMS Vizalma. These were shortly yo see the two British cruisers stretching away to the southward ten miles on their starboard bow, without knowing whether they were friend or foe. Two minutes later, at 0932 hours, gun flashes were seen over the southern horizon and were taken for anti-aircraft fire. It must have been the skirmish between HMS Obdurate and the German destroyers that opened the day's fighting.

Rear-Admiral Burnett was in a perplexing position. He had no idea of the actual position of the convoy, whose safety was his prime objective, and which he supposed to be well to the eastward of him. Past experience had taught him that stragglers were to be expected after the heavy gales. The brief exchange of gunfire seen at 0932 hours had soon died down and might well have come from one or a detached escort vessel. On the whole it seemed likely hat the convoy was somewhere ahead of the Vizalma and her straggler and with this in mind he continued to track them by radar steering to the east and north-east.

Then, at 0946/31, heavy gunfire was observed to the southward and very shortly afterwards an enemy report of three destroyers was received from Capt. Sherbrooke. Though by then suspecting that the convoy was considerably further south than anticipated, the Rear-Admiral held on for some minutes and it was not until 0955 hours that he altered course and increasing to 25 knots and ' steamed towards the sight of the guns '.

In hindsight, it is clear that the cruisers could have intervened in the action earlier, had Rear-Admiral Burnett at once applied the two fundamental principles of British fighting policy, viz ' when in doubt, steer for the sound of the guns ' and ' the unfailing support given in battle by one British unit to another '. On the other hand the ' safe and timely arrival ' of the still unlocated convoy was his object, and human reactions are known to be slow when subjected to the rigours of the bitter Arctic climate.

As the cruisers ran south they worked up to 31 knots, and the could see through the smoke the later stages of the destroyers first fight with the Admiral Hipper, though the could not distinguish the ships engaged. At about 1030 hours, they had radar contacts of ships bearing 180° and 140°, at ranges of about 24000 and 30000 yards respectively, both ships apparently standing to the eastward at high speed. As the situation was not yet clear Rear-Admiral Burnett turned eastward himself at 1035 hours. A minute later there was a burst of firing on his starboard bow. He continued to the eastward to close this while taking care to preserve the light in his favour. At 1045/31 the nearer and western ship of the two radar contacts came in sight for a moment, she was ' larger then a destroyer, therefore necessarily an enemy' but that was all that could be said of her. The ships of the other contact, further east, altered course to the southward at 1054 hours and at 1055 hours the British cruisers turned to the southward in chase.

Ten minutes later they had a contact a little on the starboard bow at 19000 yards, and this was the ship they subsequently engaged. At 1112 hours she was seen to be firing to the eastward. Rear-Admiral Burnett then altered course towards her.

Now lets return to the convoy. The situation that Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had to cope with on taking over command of the escort at 1035 hours was by no means clear. The convoy, by this time steering 180°, was some three miles to the southward of HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate, which were closing it. HMS Orwell, somewhat to the north-east, was steering to join them. HMS Achates a little to the westward was continuing to lay smoke, and the damaged HMS Onslow was taking station ahead of the convoy from whence she could home ' Force R '. Just about this time, HMS Rhododendron from the port quarter of the convoy reported smoke to the south-west, followed ten minutes later by a report of a large vessel bearing 160° only two miles off, steering to the north-east. These reports necessarily engaged the attention of Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, but he did not accept them for want of corroboration by ships nearer to the strangers, and continued to follow the convoy to the southward, keeping between it and the direction in which the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. For some reason HMS Hyderabad, stationed on the starboard side of the convoy, which just previously had seen two destroyers and a large ship cross ahead from west to east, made no report. This was the Lützow's force, but provindentially a heavy snow-squall just then partially blotted out the convoy, and her Captain, though aware of its presence, considered it too risky to attack and decided to stand off to the eastward till the weather should be clear.

Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper, after disabling HMS Onslow had stood on the east-north-east at 31 knots. At 1036 hours, she fell in with HMS Bramble, which no doubt had altered course towards the gunfire of the previous engagements, and damaged her with a few salvoes at short range. At 1047 hours, she altered course to the southward, detaching Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt a few minutes later to finish off HMS Bramble.

Lt.Cdr. Kinloch with his three destroyers continued to the southward, gradually overhauling the convoy and passing down its port side. His last news of the Hipper had been a report from the Orwell placing her 038° eight miles from her at 1040 hours. The weather cleared somewhat at about 1100 hours and HMS Obedient then sighted a cruiser and two destroyers bearing 060°. This was the Lützow waiting for the weather to clear. Lt.Cdr. Kinloch led round towards her mad made smoke. She seemed to be steering about 150°, and the British destroyers soon conformed, keeping between her and the convoy. At 1106 hours the enemy opened fire, but no fall of shot could be seen from HMS Obedient. Actually, the ship firing was the Admiral Hipper, which was approaching at 31 knots on course 190° on a bearing nearly the same as the Lützow's. The Admiral Hipper at that time was firing on destroyers to the eastward, which she claimed to have set on fire. No British destroyers were in this position at the time. A possible explanation is that this was the unfortunate Bramble again, which in the murk and gloom had limped off to the southward. Be that as it may, the Admiral Hipper continued at high speed on course 220°, and at 1115 hours engaged HMS Achates, then just clearing her smoke screen in response to orders from Lt.Cdr. Kinloch to join HMS Onslow ahead of the convoy. After three minutes, HMS Achates received a hit which crippled her, killing her Commanding Officer, Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, and some 40 others. Lt. Peyton-Jones, who then took command, found he could only overtake the convoy very slowly, so he disregarded orders and continued to lay smoke as before.

The Admiral Hipper then shifted her fire to HMS Obedient, which had led her destroyers to the northward again to keep between her and the convoy, and had opened fire on her at a range of 8500 yards at 1120/31. At 1125 hours the Admiral Hipper hauled up o the north-westward (310°), and having straddled HMS Obedient and put her wireless out of action at 1128 hours, altered course to 360° at 1130 hours in order to clear the torpedo menace. At the same time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, as the range was rapidly opening, altered course to port again to close the convoy.

At this moment the Admiral Hipper received an unpleasant shock. Firing broke out from the northward, and before it was realised what was happening she received a hit which reduced her speed to 28 knots. ' Force R ' had arrived. Her turn to the north-westward at 1125 houres had revealed her broadside to the approaching cruisers, then some sever or eight miles off. Rear-Admiral Burnett led round a roughly parallel course and at 1130 hours, HMS Sheffield opened fire under helm at about 13000 yards, HMS Jamaica firing directly afterwards from her forward turrects. Taken completely by surprise, the Admiral Hipper failed to reply till after the fourth salvo had arrived. She made smoke and altered course towards them, swinging through east to 240°, and receiving two more hits before she was round. This was too much for Vice-Admiral Kimmetz, who thus found himself between Lt.Cdr. Kinloch's destroyers to the southward and an unknown force engaging him from the northward, and at 1137 hours he made a general signal ordering all ships to break off action and retire to the west.

The British ships conformed with her turn and the range at one stage fell as low as 8000 yards, unluckily the Admiral Hipper then became obscured, and HMS Sheffield had to cease fire from 1136 to 1139 hours, losing three precious minutes at short range. At 1143, when both sides were pointing southward again, two German destroyers appeared in an ideal position to attack with torpedoes at 4000 yards range. HMS Sheffield reversed her helm and headed for one destroyer. This was the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, which had mistaken the British cruisers for the Admiral Hipper and Lützow, which she was trying to rejoin. HMS Sheffield engaged her with all guns down to pompoms, passing within half a mile of her and reducing her to a shambles in ten minutes. HMS Jamaica astern fired first at the other destroyer, which was further off and which turned away seemingly unharmed [This was the Z 4 / Richard Beitzen]. Then she shifted her aim to the Sheffield's target, but refrained from firing on the blazing wreck, which the enemy subsequently admitted had been sunk. Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper having completed the full circle of her turn passed out of sight to the westward. She had suffered three hits in the brief action. Her no.3 boiler room was flooded and her hangar on fire. They only salvo she got off at her opponents had fallen harmlessly in the sea.

Before the British cruiser found the enemy again, HMS Obedient and her consorts had one more fight. After disengaging from the Admiral Hipper at 1130 hours, they stood to the southward to close the convoy. The flashes of Rear-Admiral Burnett's guns to the north-eastward had been a welcome sight. Though they had known he was on his way, they could not know when he would arrive. They also saw another engagement further east at 1138 hours, apparently between a large ship and a much smaller one, the latter firing a single gun. This may have been the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt sinking HMS Bramble. Then, some three minutes later, a large ship began shelling the convoy from the north-east at a distance of about nine miles. Some of the merchant ships were not yet screened by the smoke the destroyers had been laying, and one of them, the Calobre, was damaged. This was the Lützow, which seeing no possibility of attacking the convoy from the east, had altered course at 1126 to the north-westward, in order to maintain contact with the Admiral Hipper, which she had seen firing and identified by exchange of recognition signals ten minutes previously.

The convoy made an emergency turn to 225°, while Lt.Cdr. Kinloch hauled round to the eastward to cover it with smoke, and opened fire. According to the Lützow all shots fell short. One of the German destroyers following the Lützow fired a few ineffective rounds. After about five minutes, the smoke screen became effective and the Lützow ceased fire. Immediately afterwards Lt.Cdr. Kinloch sighted the Admiral Hipper and her two destroyers on a south-westerly course four to five miles to the northward. The three British destroyers turned together to the north-west which put HMS Obdurate, to whom Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had turned over the direction of the destroyer when his own wireless was disabled, at the head of the line and steered between the convoy and the new enemy. The Germans altered away to a similar course, but by this time the Lützow was steaming to join the Admiral Hipper at 24 knots and she opened an accurate fire on HMS Obdurate at 1155/31, to which the British destroyers replied. At 1202 hours, after the Obdurate had been damaged by a near miss, they turned away to keep between the convoy and the most likely direction of attack if the enemy should close again, while the Lützow continued to the westward. But this was the last attempt the Germans made. Vice-Admiral Kummetz had repeated his signal to withdraw at 1149 hours, and no more was seen of them by the destroyers. At 1240 hours, with no enemy in sighted and night drawing on, the steered south to overtake the convoy.

All this time the crippled HMS Achates, her bows deep in the water and listing ominously, had continued to screen the convoy with smoke. By 1300 hours the list had increased to about 60°, and a quarter of an hour later she lost steam. Lt. Peyton-Jones then signalled for assistance, and HMS Northern Gem closed her at once. She capsized suddenly and sank at 1330 hours. HMS Northern Gem picked up 81 survivors.

Meanwhile HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica had ceased fire at 1154 ad alter to the westward. At 1215 hours, they sighted the Admiral Hipper for a moment 12 miles away on the port bow going also to the westward. Then at 1223 hours two destroyers came in sight four or five miles to the southward in a good position for firing torpedoes. Rear-Admiral Burnett turned towards them to engage. As the guns were training on the target, however, HMS Sheffield sighted a larger ship, the Lützow, further away on the same bearing. At 1229 hours, the British cruisers opened fire on her from 14000 yards. She replied at once and the Admiral Hipper joined in the fight two or three minutes later from further ahead. The Lützow's shots fell consistently short, but the Hipper's fire was dangerously accurate, so Rear-Admiral Burnett hauled up to the northward to avoid being engaged ' from both sides at once ' and to lessen the risk from torpedoes fired gt the destroyers, which were not being engaged. By 1236 hours the fight was over, HMS Jamaica claiming one hit on the Lützow [this was not the case]. The Germans continued to the westward, and the British ships soon turned west also, tracking the enemy by radar till at 1400 hours they lost contact. By this time the radar operators in HMS Sheffield, who had been operating their apparatus in an exposed position in a temperature well below freezing point for hours, were completely exhausted. HMS Jamaica's radar had been out of action due to her own salvo firing. Rear-Admiral Burnett also did not want to get too far from the convoy, of whose position he was still very uncertain. The big German ships had been driven off, but it was known that the light cruiser Nürnberg had been with them at Altenfjord. It was though that she was also at sea nearby. Rear-Admiral Burnett to the southward, between the convoy and the big German ships still with the advantage of what little light remained.

So the fighting ended. The British forces had lost the Achates and Bramble but the convoy was intact and the had sunk the Friedrich Eckholdt and seriously damaged the Admiral Hipper. As a result of these actions, too, the Germans abandoned the plan for the Lützow to break out onto the Atlantic which was deemed impossible of fulfulment, and thouroughly discouraged they steered for the Altenfjord.

Convoy JW 51B had no more encounters with the enemy after the action on 31 December. In the afternoon of January 2nd, the minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) as well as two Russian destroyers joined. The Russians taking charge of ships bound for Archangelsk, which then parted company. The main body of the convoy entered the Kola Inlet on the 3rd and the Archangelsk detachment arrived there on the 6th.

Rear-Admiral Burnett had patrolled with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica to the westward of convoy JW 51B up to 1830/31 when he followed it to the south-east and finally turned north early on 1 January to give protection to westbound convoy RA 51. These two cruiser eventually arrived at Seidisfjord on 4 January 1943.


A distant cover force had also been deployed. It was made up of the battleship the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and had left Akureyri, Iceland on shortly after noon on 26 December. At 0400/29 they had arrived in position 72°36'N, 13°07'E after which they turned back for Iceland.

In the early evening of 30 December HMS Cumberland was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived very late in the evening of 31 December.

HMS Anson and the three destroyers then proceeded to Seidisfjord where they arrived early in the afternoon of 31 December but not before they had been joined by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Ledbury earlier in the day. (9)

31 Dec 1942
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet), destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) arrived at Seidisfjord. (10)

25 Feb 1943
HMS P 31 (Lt. L.E. Herrick, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN). (11)

12 May 1943
HMS Ultimatum (Lt. W.H. Kett, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Tumult (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), ORP Slazak (Lt.Cdr. R. Nalecz-Tyminski, ORP), HMS Charlestown (Lt. W.F.B. Webb, DSC, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN). (12)

14 May 1943
At 0340 hours, HrMs O 10 (Lt.Cdr. Baron D.T. Mackay, RNN), was spotted by a Catalina that was sent out to search for her. Around 0600 hours HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN) came in sight. Late in the morning they were joined by HMS Brecon (Lt.Cdr. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN) and HMS Celia (T/Lt. L.B. Merrick, RNR). HMS Brecon then took O 10 in tow. Around 1600 hours HMS Halcyon (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Corbet-Singleton, RN) arrived which took over the tow. (13)

30 Aug 1943
HrMs O 15 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. Schouwenaar, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, DSO, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and HMS Rocket (Lt.Cdr. H.B. Acworth, OBE, RN). (14)

1 Sep 1943
HrMs O 15 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. Schouwenaar, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, DSO, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN), HMS Kingston Agate (Lt. J. Simms, RNR) and HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR). (14)

24 Sep 1943

Convoy MKS 26.

This convoy departed Alexandria on 24 September 1943.

It was made up of the following ships; Badarpur (British, 8079 GRT, built 1922), Clan Murdoch (British, 5950 GRT, built 1919), Delane (British, 6054 GRT, built 1938), Diplodon (British (tanker), 8149 GRT, built 1941), Drammensfjord (Norwegian, 5339 GRT, built 1920), Empire Capulet (British, 7044 GRT, built 1943), Fort Cadotte (British, 7128 GRT, built 1943), Fort Frederick (British, 7135 GRT, built 1942), Fort George (British, 7129 GRT, built 1942), Fort Glenlyon (British, 7132 GRT, built 194), Fort Lawrence (British, 7134 GRT, built 1943), George Gipp (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Glenogle (British, 9513 GRT, built 1920), Highland Prince (British, 7043 GRT, built 1942), R.C. Brennan (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Talma (British, 10000 GRT, built 1923) and Thistlemuir (British, 7237 GRT, built 1942).

The convoy was escorted by the corvettes HMS Hyderabad (T/Lt. T. Cooper, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt. A.H. Pierce, OBE, RNR), HMS Delphinium (Cdr. V.F. Smith, DSO, RD, RNR) and the minesweeper HMAS Gawler (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) W.J. Seymour, RAN). The corvettes HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. G.W. Rayner, RNVR) were unable to depart on time due to defects. HMS Delphinium and HMAS Gawler were sailed in their place. Both corvettes were able to proceed after repairs to overtake and join the convoy relieving their substitutes which then returned to Alexandria.

On 28 September 1943, the following ships departed Malta to join the convoy; African Prince (British, 4653 GRT, built 1939), Benreoch (British, 5818 GRT, built 1921), Coxwold (British, 1124 GRT, built 1938), Derwenthall (British, 4934 GRT, built 1940), Duke of Athens (British, 5217 GRT, built 1940), Empire Nerissa (British, 7086 GRT, built 1943), Empire Rosalind (British, 7290 GRT, built 1943), Fort Augustus (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Fort Charnisay (British, 7133 GRT, built 1943), Fort Howe (British, 7133 GRT, built 1942), Fort Poplar (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Fort St. James (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), Fort Stager (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort Walsh (British, 7126 GRT, built 1943), Gudrun Maersk (British, 2294 GRT, built 1937), Harpagus (British, 7172 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Valley (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Stanhill (British, 5969 GRT, built 1942), Ulla (British, 1575 GRT, built 1930) and Vittorino Zanibon (Italian (tanker), 1622 GRT, built 1943).

With them was also the damaged light cruiser HMS Uganda (Capt. W.G. Andrewes, RN).

The Malta section was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Eggesford (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Austin, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN) and the corvettes HMS Alisma (Lt. G. Lanning, RANVR), HMS Jonquil (T/Lt. R.W. Tretheway, RNR) and HMS Vetch (Lt. K.M.B. Menzies, RNR).

On these ships joining the convoy both escort destroyers returned to Malta taking the following ships of the convoy with them; Badarpur, Clan Murdoch, Diplodon, Empire Capulet, Fort Cadotte, Fort Frederick, Fort George, Fort Glenlyon, Fort Lawrence, Glenogle, Highland Prince and Talma.

HMS Jonquil and HMS Vetch proceeded to Tripoli taking the Thistlemuir with them.

HMS Alisma joined the main body of the convoy as additional escort towards Gibraltar.

On 29 September 1943, the Fanad Head (British, 5038 GRT, built 1941) joined the convoy coming from Tunis.

On 29 September 1943, the following ships parted company with the convoy and arrived at Bizerta; Empire Rosalind, Fort Walsh, Gudrun Maersk, John Howland and Ulla while the following ships joined the convoy coming from Bizerta; Charles Goodyear (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Crista (British, 2590 GRT, built 1938), Empire Perdita (British, 7028 GRT, built 1943), Marigot (French, 4047 GRT, built 1932), Miriam (British, 1903 GRT, built 1912) and Richard Henry Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941).

On 30 September 1943, the Empire Commerce (British, 3722 GRT, built 1943) joined the convoy from Bone.

On 30 September 1943, the following ships were detached to Philippeville; Crista, Derwenthall, Empire Perdita and Fort Charnisay while the Henry Wynkoop (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) joined the convoy coming from Philippeville.

Around midnight during the night of 30 September / 1 October 1943, the German submarine U-410 attacked the convoy sinking the Fort Howe and heavily damaging the Empire Commerce. The aft part of the latter ship sank while the front part was towed to Bone.

On 2 October 1943, the following ships of the convoy were detached to Algiers; Coxwold, Fort Stager, Marigot, Miriam, Vittorino Zanibon and HMS Alisma while the following ships joined the convoy coming from Algiers; Abangarez (American, 4538 GRT, built 1909), Franka (Yugoslavian, 5273 GRT, built 1918) and Waipawa (British, 12436 GRT, built 1934). Also joining were the motor minesweepers HMS MMS 13 (T/Lt. A.E. Durham, RNVR) and HMS MMS 118 (A/Skr.Lt. J. Smith, DSC, RNR).

On 3 October 1943, the following ships of the convoy were detached to Oran; Abangarez, Charles Goodyear, George Gipp, Henry Wynkoop, John Howland, R.C. Brennan and Richard Henry Lee while the following ships joined the convoy coming from Oran; Dalemoor (British, 5835 GRT, built 1922), Empire Spey (British, 4292 GRT, built 1929), Kingsborough (British, 3368 GRT, built 1928) and Van Ostade (Dutch, 2890 GRT, built 1942).

The convoy arrived at Gibraltar on 4 October 1943.

21 Jun 1944

Convoy MKF 32.

This convoy departed Port Said on 21 June 1944 and arrived in U.K. waters on 4 July 1944.

It was made up of the following transport vessels; Antenor (British, 11174 GRT, built 1925), Nieuw Holland (British, 11066 GRT, built 1927), Orduna (British, 15507 GRT, built 1914), Orion (British, 23371 GRT, built 1935), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Ranchi (British, 16738 GRT, built 1925), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Strathmore (British, 23428 GRT, built 1935).

On departure from Port Said the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Chiddingfold (Lt. T.M. Dorrien-Smith, RN), HMS Croome (T/A/Lt.Cdr. J.S. Lawrence, DSC, RNVR), HMS Exmoor (Lt. D.D. Howson, RN), HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.J. Watkins, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. H.A. Corbett, DSC, RN).

Later on 21 June 1944 the damaged light cruiser HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.W. Williams, RN) joined the convoy for passage to Gibraltar. She came from Alexandria together with the netlayer HMS Guardian (Capt.(Retd.) H.A.C. Lane, OBE, RN) which also joined the convoy for passage westwards to Djidjelli, Algeria [now called Jijel].

In the eastern Mediterranean the escort destroyer Quantock was also with the convoy for a while. [Further details currently unkown.]

Around noon on 25 June 1944 convoy SNF 25 coming from Naples merged with the convoy. Convoy SNF 25 had departed Naples on 24 June 1944 and was made up of the transports Hai Lee (Norwegian, 3616 GRT, built 1934), Orontes (British, 20097 GRT, built 1929) and Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921).

On departure from Naples this convoy was escorted by the escort carrier HMS Attacker (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, DSO, MVO, RAN), frigates HMS Bazely (Lt.Cdr. J.V. Brock, RCNVR), HMS Bentinck (Cdr. E.H. Chavasse, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Byard (A/Lt.Cdr. J.I. Jones, DSO, DSC, RNR), HMS Calder (T/A/Lt.Cdr. E. Playne, RNVR), HMS Drury (Lt.Cdr. N.J. Parker, RN), HMS Pasley (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Wright, RD, RNR) and the destroyer escort USS Frederick C. Davcis (Lt.Cdr. O.W. Goepner, USNR). This last ship served as jammer escort against German radio guided bombs.

The transport Hai Lee proceeded to Bizerta while the other two transports joined convoy MKF 32.

On 26 June, off Djidjelli, HMS Guardian was detached and later off Algiers the transport Champollion (French, 12263 GRT, built 1925) joined the convoy while HMS Attacker was detached.

On 27 June, off Oran the transport Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931) and the escort carrier HMS Hunter (Capt. H.H. McWilliam, RN) joined the convoy. They were escort from Oran to the rendezvous with convoy MKF 32 by the destroyers USS Knight (T/Cdr. J.C. Ford, Jr., USN) and USS Doran (T/Cdr. N.E. Smith, USN). USS Frederick C. Davis was detached to Mers-el-Kebir.

On 28 June, off Gibraltar the escort carrier HMS Hunter was detached as were the escort destroyers HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Croome, HMS Exmoor, HMS Tetcott and HMS Wheatland.

Also off Gibraltar the transports Felix Roussell (French, 17083 GRT, built 1930) and Tai Shan (Norwegian, 6962 GRT, built 1929) joined the convoy as did the escort carriers HMS Nairana (Capt. R.M.T. Taylor, RN), HMS Ravager (A/Capt. G.V.B. Faulkner, RN) and the AA ship HMCS Prince Robert (Cdr. A.M. Hope, RCN).

The convoy arrived in U.K. waters on 4 July 1944.

20 Jul 1945
HMCS Ontario (Capt. H.T.W. Grant, DSO, RCN) conducted exercises off Malta. These included radar calibration exercises, underway towing exercises with HMS Bicester (Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, DSO, RN), underway refuelling exercises with HMS Chiddingfold (A/Lt.Cdr. F.G. Woods, DSC, RN) and torpedo firing exercises. (15)

10 Aug 1945
HMCS Ontario (Capt. H.T.W. Grant, DSO, RCN) transited the Suez Canal southbound and then set course for Aden. HMS Bicester (Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, DSO, RN) and HMS Chiddingfold (A/Lt.Cdr. F.G. Woods, DSC, RN) joined during the passage to Aden. (15)

14 Aug 1945
Around 0630C/14, HMCS Ontario (Capt. H.T.W. Grant, DSO, RCN), HMS Bicester (Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, DSO, RN), underway refuelling exercises with HMS Chiddingfold (A/Lt.Cdr. F.G. Woods, DSC, RN) arrived at Aden from Suez. En-route to Aden exercises had been carried out.

Around 1600C/14, HMCS Ontario departed Aden for Colombo. (15)


  1. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  2. ADM 199/1844
  3. ADM 53/114498 + ADM 199/396 + ADM 199/399
  4. ADM 53/114995 + ADM 53/115138
  5. ADM 53/115420 + ADM 53/116132 + ADM 53/116734 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  6. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  7. ADM 53/116137
  8. ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429 + ADM 199/644
  9. ADM 234/369
  10. ADM 53/115327 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  11. ADM 173/17897
  12. ADM 173/18316
  13. ADM 199/1856
  14. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  15. Reference: RG24-D-2, Volume number: 8872, Item ID number:1085374 (Library and Archives Canada (LAC))

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

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