Allied Warships

HMS Woolston (L 49)

Destroyer of the Admiralty V & W class

HMS Woolston as seen early in the war.
Photograph with thanks to Ian Dayment.

NavyThe Royal Navy
ClassAdmiralty V & W 
PennantL 49 
ModFast escort 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.) 
Ordered9 Dec 1916 
Laid down25 Apr 1917 
Launched27 Jan 1918 
Commissioned26 Jun 1918 
End service 

Reconstruction to Fast Escort at Chatham Dockyard was completed on 9 October 1939.

Sold to be broken up for scrap on 18 February 1947.


Commands listed for HMS Woolston (L 49)

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. Walter John Phipps, RN5 Sep 193924 Apr 1941
2Lt.Cdr. Kenneth Walter Michell, RN24 Apr 1941Sep 1942
3Lt. Frederick William Hawkins, RNSep 1942Oct 1943
4Lt. Jack Broughton Cox, RNOct 1943May 1945
5Lt. John Valentine Brothers, RNMay 1945mid 1945

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Notable events involving Woolston include:

hi i have two more pics of H M S Woolston my dad served on her one pic is her at Bergen Norway at the end of the war showing the skipper and Mayor of Bergen (1)

Note the ineffective .5" machine guns later to be replaced by 20mm Oerlikons.

Twin 4" AA gun turret.

Photographs with thanks to Ian Dayment whose grandfather Albert Hodder (see last photo) served on board Woolston during the war. (1)

21 Oct 1939
HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, RN) picks up 4 survivors from the British merchant Orsa that was sunk after hitting a mine about 15 miles 150° from Flamborough Head. The mine was laid on 5 September 1939 by German U-boat U-15.

13 Dec 1939
Around 1500Z/13 (three hours late), ORP Wilk (Kpt.mar. (Lt.Cdr.) B.D. Krawczyk, DSO) arrived at Rosyth from her 1st war patrol from the U.K. The patrol had been uneventful. On several occasions a Danish (neutral) torpedo boat had been sighted patrolling off the Danish north coast. Wilk had also entered the Kattegat once.

Earlier that day she had been spotted and reported by a British aircraft. The escort destroyer HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, RN) had been sent from Rosyth to investigate but returned when it became clear that the reported submarine was not an enemy submarine. (2)

3 Jan 1940
HMS Tribune (Lt.Cdr. G.P.S. Davies, RN) conducted A/S and attack exercises in the Firth of Forth with HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN) and HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, RN). (3)

19 Jul 1940
HMS Triton (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Pizey, DSO, RN) conducted A/S exercises in the Firth of Forth with HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN). (4)

24 Aug 1940
HMS Seawolf (Lt. P.L. Field, RN) conducted exercises off Rosyth. These included A/S exercises with HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN) and HMS Fleetwood (Cdr. R.W. Moir, RN). Also a practice attack was made on HMS Fleetwood. (5)

1 Sep 1940
Around 0001A/1, HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) and HMS Southampton (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN) departed Rosyth for the Humber. Around 0140A/1, near Fidra, they were joined by the destroyers HMS Versatile (Cdr.(Retd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN) and HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) which parted company again around 0250A/1. HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN) was also to have joined later but it does not appear that she actually did, presumably due to the fact that around 0305A/1 the cruisers were recalled and then returned to Rosyth arriving around 0600A/1. The destroyers returned to Methil. (6)

9 Feb 1941

Convoy SL 65.

The bulk of this convoy departed Freetown on 10 February 1941 and arrived in U.K. waters on 8 March 1941.

Part of this convoy departed Freetown on day earlier, on 9 February 1941 and joined up with the main part of the convoy on 14 February 1941. This part of the convoy was known as convoy SLS [SL Slow] 65.

Convoy SLS 65 was made up of the following merchant vessels; Agios Vlasios (Greek, 2974 GRT, built 1918), Batna (British, 4399 GRT, built 1928), Baxtergate (British, 5531 GRT, built 1925), Camerata (British, 4875 GRT, built 1931), Deido (British, 3894 GRT, built 1928), Glaisdale (British, 3777 GRT, built 1929), Harmonic (British, 4558 GRT, built 1930), Hollinside (British, 4172 GRT, built 1930), Michael L. Embiricos (Greek, 5202 GRT, built 1918), Nevada II (British, 5693 GRT, built 1918), Ocean Coast (British, 1173 GRT, built 1935), Senta (Norwegian, 3785 GRT, built 1917), Trongate (British, 3979 GRT, built 1924), Wearpool (British, 4982 GRT, built 1936) and Zeeland (Dutch, 2776 GRT, built 1930).

SLS 65 had no escort.


Convoy SL 65 was made up of the following merchant vessels; Belinda (Norwegian (tanker), 8325 GRT, built 1939), Belita (Norwegian (tanker), 6323 GRT, built 1933), Bencruachan (British, 5920 GRT, built 1928), Benvrackie (British, 6434 GRT, built 1922), Blairclova (British, 5083 GRT, built 1938), British Confidence (British (tanker), 8494 GRT, built 1936), British Endurance (British (tanker), 8406 GRT, built 1936), British Engineer (British (tanker), 6993 GRT, built 1922), British Governor (British (tanker), 6840 GRT, built 1926), British Renown (British (tanker), 6997 GRT, built 1928), British Workman (British (tanker), 6994 GRT, built 1922), Bur (Norwegian, 4343 GRT, built 1917), Chile (British, 6956 GRT, built 1915), City of Adelaide (British, 6528 GRT, built 1920), City of Canton (British, 6692 GRT, built 1916), City of Evansville (British, 6528 GRT, built 1922), City of Exeter (British, 9654 GRT, built 1914), City of Khios (British, 5574 GRT, built 1925), City of Ripon (British, 6368 GRT, built 1915), City of Winchester (British, 7120 GRT, built 1917), City of Worcester (British, 5469 GRT, built 1927), Cliftonhall (British, 5063 GRT, built 1938), Cordillera (British, 6865 GRT, built 1920), David Livingstone (British, 5013 GRT, built 1930), Dunstan (British, 5149 GRT, built 1925), Eskbank (British, 5137 GRT, built 1937), Fernlane (Norwegian, 4310 GRT, built 1927), Glenfinlas (British, 7479 GRT, built 1917), John Holt (British, 4975 GRT, built 1938), Kalewa (British, 4389 GRT, built 1940), Kana (British, 2783 GRT, built 1929), Marquesa (British, 8979 GRT, built 1918), Matadian (British, 4275 GRT, built 1936), Medon (British, 5444 GRT, built 1923), Morgenen (Norwegian (tanker), 7093 GRT, built 1930), Nariva (British, 8714 GRT, built 1920), Nela (British, 7220 GRT, built 1916), Polartank (Norwegian (tanker), 6356 GRT, built 1930), Port Adelaide (British, 8422 GRT, built 1919), Southern Princess (British (tanker), 12156 GRT, built 1915), Strategist (British, 6255 GRT, built 1937), Tacoma Star (British, 7924 GRT, built 1919), Tactician (British, 5996 GRT, built 1928), Thistlegorm (British, 4898 GRT, built 1940), Thornliebank (British, 5569 GRT, built 1939), Tiba (Dutch, 5239 GRT, built 1938), Ville d'Amiens (British, 6975 GRT, built 1924), Wayfarer (British, 5068 GRT, built 1925) and Zamalek (British (rescue ship), 1567 GRT, built 1921).]

[It is possible some of these ships did not sail from Freetown but joined the convoy at sea.]

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Bulolo (Capt.(Retd.) R.L. Hamer, RN) and the sloop HMS Milford (Capt.(Retd.) S.K. Smyth, RN).

At 0900N/11, the corvettes HMS Asphodel (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) K.W. Stewart, RN) and HMS Calendula (Lt.Cdr. A.D. Bruford, RNVR).

On 13 February 1941, the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) joined SLS 65 having departed Freetown on 11 February 1941.

Around 0900N/14, convoy SLS 65 merged with convoy SL 65.

At 1820N/14, HMS Milford, HMS Asphodel and HMS Calendula parted company with the convoy to return to Freetown.

At 1100D/20, the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) joined the convoy escort. HMS Kenya then parted company to proceed to Gibraltar.

HMS Sheffield parted company with the convoy in the afternoon of 1 March 1941 and returned to Gibraltar.

At 1300D/2, the light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN) joined the convoy escort. HMS Bulolo then parted company with the convoy to proceed to the Clyde.

Ships from the local A/S escort commenced to join on 4 March, these were the destroyers HMS Vanoc (Lt.Cdr. J.G.W. Deneys, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Walker (Cdr. D.G.F.W. MacIntyre, RN), HMS Brighton (Cdr. (Retd.) C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), HMS Broadway (Lt.Cdr. T. Taylor, RN), HMS Caldwell (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Mackay, RNR), HMS Rockingham (Lt. A.H.T. Johns, RN), sloop HMS Fleetwood (Cdr. R.W. Moir, RN), corvettes HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.G. Rankin, RNR), HMS Sunflower (Lt.Cdr. J.T. Jones, RNR), HMS Tulip (Lt.Cdr. A. Wilkinson, RNR), A/S yacht HMS Philante (Capt.(Retd.) H.S. Bowlby, RN) and the catapult ship HMS Pegasus (Capt.(Retd.) P.G. Wodehouse, DSO, RN). The destroyers HNoMS Mansfield (Cdr. F. Ulstrup, RNorN) and HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN) joined on 5 March.

6 Oct 1941
Around 2050A/6, the battleship HMS Resolution (Capt. A.R. Halfhide, CBE, RN), departed Greenock for Plymouth. Before departure she had carried out D/G trials in the afternoon.

Around 0700A/7, the destroyer ORP Burza (Kmdr.ppor. (Cdr.) Z.I. Wojewodzki) and escort destroyer HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN) joined company to escort her towards Plymouth.

HMS Resolution arrived at Plymouth 0800A/8. She was then taken in hand to complete her refit, for outstanding work not possible in the USA, at the Devonport Dockyard. (7)

9 Oct 1941
Around 0630A/9, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Canton (A/Capt. C.A.G. Nichols, MVO, RN) departed Cowes Roads for the Clyde. Around 1030A/9, the escort destroyer HMS Blencathra (Cdr. J.H. Ruck-Keene, DSC, RN joined. She parted company around 1555A/9 and proceeded to Dartmouth where she arrived later the same day. As relief escort the escort destroyer HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN) had joined, coming from Plymouth, on HMS Blencathra parted company.

Early in the afteroon of 10 October 1941, HMS Woolston parted company and proceeded to Belfast.

HMS Canton arrived at Greenock around 2330A/10. (8)

1 Mar 1942

Convoys PQ 12 and QP 8.

Convoy PQ 12 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 8 from Northern Russia to Iceland.

On 1 March 1942 convoy PQ 12 departed Reykjavik for ports in Northern Russia.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Bateau (Panamanian, 4687 GRT, built 1926), Beaconstreet (British (tanker), 7467 GRT, built 1927), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Capulin (Panamanian, 4977 GRT, built 1920), Dneprostroi (Russian, 4756 GRT, built 1919), Earlston (British, 7195 GRT, built 1941), El Coston (Panamanian, 7286 GRT, built 1924), El Occidente (Panamanian, 6008 GRT, built 1910), Empire Byron (British, 6645 GRT, built 1941), Lancaster Castle (British, 5172 GRT, built 1937), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Navarino (British, 4841 GRT, built 1937), Sevzaples (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1932), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

Close escort on departure from Reykjavik was provided by the A/S trawlers HMS Angle (T/Lt. E. Playne, RNVR), Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(Retd.) B. Bevans, RNR), HMS Notts County (T/Lt. R.H. Hampton, RNR) and HMS Stella Capella (Lt. W.L. Sadgrove, RANVR). These trawlers parted company with the convoy early on 5 March. the minesweeper HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN) and the A/S whaler Sulla (T/Skr. T. Meadows, RNR) were to join the convoy coming from Reykjavik as well as the destroyers HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and the A/S whalers HMS Shera (T/Lt. W.E. Bulmer, RNR), Shusa (S.Lt. J.B. Powell, RNR), Stefa (T/Lt. T. Costley, RNVR) and Svega (T/Lt. F.P. Maitland, RNVR) which came from Seidisfjord.

Of the whalers Sulla later had to turn back.Shusa and Stefa were able to join the convoy while Svega made the passage to Murmansk independently with Shera until that ship sank on 9 March, presumably as a result of stability problems as she suddenly capsized. The Svega was able to pick up three survivors from the freezing water.

HMS Offa and HMS Oribi joined the convoy early on the 5th 100 miles south of Jan Mayen Island while HMS Gossamer could not find the convoy and proceeded to Murmansk independently.

The light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, RN) also joined on the 5th. She had departed Hvalfiord with the cover force at 0600/3. She parted company again on the 6th. She was however ordered to rejoin the convoy and she did so in the evening of the 6th.

The same evening the escorts were informed that a German heavy ship, thought to be the Tirpitz had left Trondheim and was proceeding northwards. The same evening the convoy encountered ice and course had to be changed from north-east to south-east. One of the merchant ships, the Bateau and the whaler Sulla had to turn back. The destroyer HMS Oribi sustained ice damage.

On the 7th the convoy was able to resume its original course. At noon on the 7th it passed convoy QP 8 in position 72°09'N, 10°34'E, some 200 miles south-west of Bear Island.

Around 1400/7, HMS Kenya sighted smoke on the horizon to the northward so she set off to investigate. Visibility was now at the maximum. It soon became apparent that it was a staggler from convoy QP 8 so Kenya then rejoined convoy PQ 12 at 1515/7.

Then around 1600/7 HMS Kenya received Admiralty signal 1519A/7 stating that enemy surface forces might be nearby. The convoy was ordered to steer north so at 1640/7 course was altered to 360°. Shortly afterwards a signal timed 1632/7 was received from the Russian merchant vessel Izhora, a staggler from convoy QP 8, that she was being gunned by an enemy warship in position 72°35'N, 10°50'E although the position was doubtful and the signal was garbled. It was thought this was the merchant vessel we sighted a few hours earlier. This ship was now thought to be 35 to 40 miles to the eastward of convoy PQ 12 and its northerly course might drive the convoy straight into the arms of the enemy.

Capt. Denny then decided to change course to 60°. Kenya's Walrus aircraft was launched at 1720/7 to search between 270° and 210°. The Walrus returned soon after 1800/7 having sighted nothing after searching to a depth of 45 miles. Course was therefore altered to 040° to bring the convoy closer to its original track.

No more news was heard from the Izhora or the enemy but soon after midnight another signal from the Admiralty was received telling the convoy to steer north of Bear Island, if ice permitted, a very considerable diversion from the original route. At daylight therefore the convoy altered further to the northward. Capt. Denny warning the convoy Commodore not to take the destroyers through the ice. The weather and information about the icefield, soon determined Capt. Denny and the convoy Commodore to disregard the Admiralty signal and they altered course to the south-east a little after mid-day, intending to cross the miridian of Bear Island to the southward after dark that evening. About 1530/8, between snowstorms, they sighted the island 40 miles off to the north-east, and the icefield at the same time. At dusk, 1700/8, they ran into the fringe of the ice.

it took the convoy three hours to work clear and reform, whereupon, to avoid further damage to HMS Oribi, Captain Denny detached her to make her own way to Murmansk, which she reached on March 10th.

The convoy went on, keeping as far north as the ice allowed. On the 9th, HMS Offa detected a patrolling aircraft by her radar, but thick and persistent sea smoke rising many feet into the air, combined with a change of course for two hours, prevented discovery, while intercepted signals showed that the Tirpitz was no longer likely to be a threat, for which she had been attacked off the Lofoten Islands by aircraft from HMS Victorious.

The convoy arrived at Murmansk on 12 March 1942.


On 1 March 1942 convoy QP 8 departed Murmansk for Iceland.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), British Pride (British (tanker), 7106 GRT, built 1931), British Workman (British (tanker), 6994 GRT, built 1922), Cold Harbor (Panamanian, 5105 GRT, built 1921), El Lago (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Elona (British (tanker), 6192 GRT, built 1936), Empire Selwyn (British, 7167 GRT, built 1941), Explorer (British, 6235 GRT, built 1935), Fridrikh Engels (Russian, 3972 GRT, built 1930), Izhora (Russian, 2815 GRT, built 1921), Larranga (American, 3892 GRT, built 1917), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Tbilisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912) and West Nohno (American, 6186 GRT, built 1919).

Close escort on departure from Murmansk was provided by the destroyers Gremyashchiy, Gromkiy, corvettes HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Sweetbriar (Lt.(Retd.) J.W. Cooper, RNR) and the HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN) and HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. D. Lampen, RN).

The two Soviet destroyers, HMS Harrier and HMS Sharpshooter parted company with the convoy on 3 March. The other escorts remained with the convoy until it arrived in Iceland.

Close cover for the convoy was provided from 3 to 7 March by the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN) which had departed the Kola Inlet on 2 March and arrived at Scapa Flow on 8 March.

On 4 March the convoy scattered due to the bad weather conditions but was later reformed. On 9 March the convoy was disbanded after wich most ships arrived in Icelandic ports on 11 March 1942 minus a staggler from the convoy, the Soviet Izhora, which had been found and sunk around 1630/7 by the German destroyer Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn.


Distant cover for these convoys was provided by battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), light cruiser HMS Kenya and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, 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, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN). These ships had departed Hvalfjord, Iceland at 0600/3.

At 0600/4 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), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN) departed Scapa Flow.

At 0700/4, the destoyers HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were detached from the Renown group to refuel at Seidisfjord.

At 1600/4, HMS Berwick was detached from the King George V'-group to return to Scapa escorted by HMS Bedouin. She had developed engine trouble. The cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) was ordered to take over her place after refuelling at Seidisfjord.

At 2300/4, HMS Kenya was detached from the Renown group to provide close cover for convoy PQ 12. Around the same time HMS Bedouin was ordered to part company with HMS Berwick and go to the aid of HMS Sheffield which had been mined near the Seidisfjord. HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were also ordered to assist the damaged cruiser.

At 1200/5 the 'Renown'-group was in position 66°45'N, 06°30'W steering a northerly course. This was about 100 miles south of convoy PQ 12.

At the same time the 'King George V'-group was about 100 miles bearing 154° from the 'Renown'-group and was also steering a northerly course.

At 1900/5 HMS Kenya joined the close escort of convoy PQ 12.

At 2000/5, the 'Renown'-group altered course easterly to affect a rendezvous with the 'King George V'-group the next morning. Admiral Tovey had decided to concentrate his forces.

At 1030/6, both groups made rendezvous in position 71°00'N, 04°30'E amd the two forces joined together. They continued to steer a northerly course. The entire force was now made up of the battleships HMS King George V, HMS Duke of York, battlecruiser HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Lookout, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Elcipse.

At 1100/6, the German battleship Tirpitz escorted by the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn and Z 25 departed Trondheim and steered north to intercept a convoy (PQ 12) reported by Focke Wulf reconnaissance aircraft.

At 1400/6, the Home Fleet altered course to the south.

In a signal timed 1801/6 the submarine HMS Seawolf (Lt. R.P. Raikes, RN) reported sighting the Tirpitz off Kya. At 0010/7, Admiral Tovey received the news of Seawolf's sighting. Tovey now knew that Tirpitz was out but he was unsure if the German battleships was out to attack the convoy or to break out into the Atlantic. It had been intended to fly off search aircraft from HMS Victorious but the weather conditions prevented any flying from taking place.

At 1750/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the east and the destroyers HMS Icarus and HMS Intrepid detached to refuel in Iceland.

At 2000/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the north. At the same time the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Eclipse were detached to sweep north between the Home Fleet and the Lofoten Islands along what Admiral Tovey thought to be the enemy’s most likely route to return to Trondheim. After this sweep the destroyers were to proceed to Seidisfjord to refuel. Apparently only HMS Lookout remained with the Fleet.

At 2400/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the south so that the Fleet could be in position off the Lofoten Islands to launch a strike force at dawn in case the Tirpitz would be sighted by the destroyers. At 0400/8 Admiral Tovey concluded that he had missed the German battleships and since he was without destroyers except for HMS Lookout and in submarine infected waters, he turned south-west towards Iceland to collect some destroyers that had already refuelled.

At 1820/8 the Home Fleet altered course to the north-east despite that no destroyer had joined so far. Admiral Tovey then broke radio silence sending a signal to the Admiralty requesting destroyers to be sent out and refuelling facilities at sea for his destroyers. The heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Iceland with orders to rendezvous with the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) coming from the Denmark patrol and the light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) and HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) departed Scapa Flow on 7 March. These cruisers were ordered to refuel destroyers at sea.

The heavy cruisers apparently did not fuel any destroyers. The light cruisers fuelled HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury on the 9th. HMS Echo was unable to fuel from them due to the bad weather conditions. She went to Seidisfjord to fuel as did HMS Onslow HMS Ashanti and HMS Eclipse.

Around 2000/8 the Tirpitz, having been unable to find the convoy, set course to return to Trondheim.

At 0240/9, the Admiralty informed Admiral Tovey that the Tirpitz was heading south so the Home Fleet altered course to the south-east to close the Lofoten Islands.

At 0640/9, Admiral Tovey ordered HMS Victorious to fly off a reconnaissance force of 6 Albacores on a diverging search between 105° and 155° to a depth of 150 miles to search for the German battleship.

At 0730/9, a strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores were flown off.

At 0802/9, one of the reconnaissance aircraft the Tirpitz and a destroyer (Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn) sailing south and made a report. Shortly after being sighted the Germans however altered course towards the Vestfjord and Narvik.

At 0917/9, the Tirpitz was attacked by the strike force. No hits were obtained though one torpedo only missed the battleships stern by 30 feet. Two of the attacking Albacores were shot down by AA fire.

At 0940/9, the Home Fleet turned west and then south-west.

At 1545/9, the Home Fleet was attacked by 3 Ju-88 bombers, one bomb landed close astern of HMS Victorious but no damaged was caused.

At 1620/9, The Tirpitz and Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn arrived at Narvik.

At 1840/9 the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo and HMS Tartar (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) joined the Home Fleet coming from Iceland. The Home Fleet now set course to return to Scapa Flow.

Around 0800/10 the destroyers HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and the escorted destroyers HMS Grove (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Rylands, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) joined coming from Iceland.

Around 0920/10 the destroyers Verdun (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN) joined after they had fuelled at Scapa Flow coming from Rosyth (first two) and Port ZA (last two) respetively.

Around 1200/10 the destroyers HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus joined.

Around 2300/10 the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow. Shortly before arriving the destroyers HMS Verdun and HMS Woolston were detached to return to Rosyth and HMS Lancaster and HMS Wells were detached to return to Port ZA.

HMS Liverpool, HMS Trinidad, HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury arrived at Scapa Flow at 0930/11. (9)

13 Jun 1943
HMS Sceptre (Lt. I.S. McIntosh, MBE, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Wallace (Lt. D. Carson, RN), and HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN) and HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN). (10)

15 Jun 1943
During 15/16 June, a large exercise was carried out off Scapa Flow by ships that were to participate in the upcoming landings on Sicily. The ships that participated were; the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.H.E. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.U. Willis, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. L.H. Ashmore, RN), HMS Warspite (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. G. Grantham, CB, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C. Moody, RN). They were escorted by destroyers the destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. S.H. Carlill, DSO, RN), HMS Quail (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Jenks, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Arrow (Lt.Cdr. W.W. Fitzroy, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) (these last four remained with the Home Fleet) and escort destroyers HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN) and HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN). [It is likely that even more destroyers / escort destroyers participated in these exercises.

The Home Fleet cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN), HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, RN), screened by the Home Fleet destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Grenville (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, DSO, RN) simulated an enemy fleet.

The exercises included night encounter exercises. (11)

20 Jun 1943

Combined convoy WS 31 / KMS 17.

This combined convoy was formed off Oversay on 20 June 1943. The convoy was divided into convoys WS 31 and KMS 17 at sea on 26 June 1943.

The combined convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Britannic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), Clan Macarthur (British, 10528 GRT, built 1936), Clan Macaulay (British, 10492 GRT, built 1936), Cristobal (American, 10021 GRT, built 1939), General George W. Goethals (American, 12093 GRT, built 1942), John Ericsson (American, 16552 GRT, built 1928), J.W. McAndrew (American, 7997 GRT, built 1940), Largs Bay (British, 14182 GRT, built 192), Rangitiki (British, 16698 GRT, built 1928), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921), Santa Rosa (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932), Silverteak (British, 6770 GRT, built 1930), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Tamaroa (British, 12405 GRT, built 1922).

Also the netlayer HMS Guardian (Capt.(Retd.) H.A.C. Lane, OBE, RN) was part of the convoy.

After assembly of Oversay the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganda (Capt. W.G. Andrewes, RN), destroyers HMS Arrow (Lt.Cdr. W.W. Fitzroy, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN), HMS Wallace (Lt. D. Carson, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Hambledon (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN), HMS Mendip (Capt. C.R.L. Parry, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, RN), HMS Blencathra (Lt. E.G. Warren, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Brecon (Lt.Cdr. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN).

On 25 June HMS Arrow and HMS Amazon parted company with the combined convoy to proceed to Casablanca to fuel. They arrived at Casablanca around 1730A/25.

Around 1730B/25, the destroyers HMS Foxhound (Cdr. C.J. Wynne-Edwards, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Blackmore (Lt. H.T. Harrel, RN) were to join the combined convoy in position 36°05'N, 07°54'W. They had departed Gibraltar earlier on the 25th.

When these destroyers joined the destroyer HMS Witherington and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury were to proceed to Casablanca.

Also the convoy was to split. Convoy KMF 17, made up of the transports Britannic, Cristobal, J.W. McAndrew, Largs Bay, Samaria, Santa Rosa, Silverteak, Tamaroa and the netlayer HMS Guardian. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganada and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy, HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden proceeded towards the Mediterranean.

On the 26th, HMS Uganda, HMS Guardian, HMS Viceroy and one of the transports arrived at Gibraltar.

On the 27th, HMS Uganda, which had rejoined the convoy after a brief stopover at Gibraltar, 7 of the transports and HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden arrived at Algiers.

Meanwhile Convoy WS 31, made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Stratheden and Tamaroa continued on to Freetown.

The convoy was now escorted by the destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

The destroyer HMS Amazon also rejoined after fuelling at Casablanca. It had originally been the intention that HMS Arrow was also to rejoin the convoy but while at Casablanca orders had been received that she was to proceed to Gibraltar instead.

On 1 July the French armed merchant cruiser Quercy joined the convoy.

Convoy WS 31 arrived at Freetown on 4 July 1943.


Convoy WS 31 departed Freetown on 6 July 1943.

It was now made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Rangitiki, Stirling Castle (British, 25550 GRT, built 1936) and Stratheden.

The convoy was now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN), Quercy, destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog, HMS Wolverine (Lt. I.M. Clegg, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

in the early afternoon of the 7th, in approximate position 03°15'N, 14°54'W the Rangitiki was to be detached to proceed independently to Montevideo.

HMS Despatch was to arrived at Takoradi late in the afternoon of the 9th to fuel and after completion of this on the 10th she was to rejoin the convoy. HMS Wolverine also made a short call at Takoradi on the 10th to fuel and then rejoin the convoy.

On the 10th HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore were detached to proceed to Lagos to fuel and then escort transports from there to join the convoy. HMS Corfu was also detached on the 10th to proceed to Ascencion after first calling at Takoradi.

The destroyer HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) and corvette HMS Armeria (Lt. M. Todd, RNR) had joined the convoy on the 10th.

On the 11th the transports Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928) and Staffordshire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929) joined the convoy coming from Lagos. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

When these ships joined HMS Foxhound, HMS Witch and HMS Armeria then parted company and proceeded to Lagos arriving there also on the 11th.

HMS Despatch and HMS Rapid arrived at Pointe Noire to fuel at 0700Z/14. They departed again to rejoin the convoy at 1430Z/14.

Meanwhile the destroyers HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Ropner, DSO, RN) had departed Pointe Noire at 0900Z/14 to join the convoy.

At 1800Z/14, the Quercy, HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore arrived at Pointe Noire.

At 0600Z/15, HMS Wolverine arrived at Pointe Noire.

The convoy arrived at Capetown on 21 July 1943. HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant, HMS Rapid and HMS Redoubt then continued on to Simonstown arriving there later the same day.


A much reduced convoy WS 31 departed Capetown on 26 July 1943. It was now made up of the transports Arawa, Highland Brigade, Highland Monarch, Staffordshire, Stirling Castle and Stratheden. The convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch and the destroyers HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt.

They were relieved near Mauritius on 4 August 1943 by the heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher (Capt. J.F.W. Mudford, RN) which took the convoy to Bombay where it arrived on 13 August 1943.

HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt arrived at Mauritius on 5 August 1943.

28 Jun 1943

Convoy KMF 18

This convoy departed U.K. waters on 28 June 1943.

It was made up of the following (troop) transports; Ascania (British, 14013 GRT, built 1925), Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936), Circassia (British, 11136 GRT, built 1937), Derbyshire (British, 11660 GRT, built 1935), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Llangibby Castle (British, 11951 GRT, built 1929) and Marnix van St. Aldegonde (Dutch, 19355 GRT, built 1930).

The headquarters ship HMS Hilary (Capt.(Retd.) J.F. Paget, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), fighter direction ship HMS Ulster Queen (A/Capt. M.H.J. Bennett, RD, RNR) and landing ships HMS Glengyle (A/Capt. E.C.L. Turner, RN), HMS Boxer (Lt.Cdr. G.B Herbert-Jones, RNR), HMS Bruiser (Lt.Cdr. J. Stretch, RD, RNR) and HMS Thruster (A/Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) A.W. McMullan, DSC, RNR).

The convoy was escorted by the AA cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. D.H. Hall-Thompson, RN), sloops HMS Pheasant (Cdr. L.F. Durnford-Slater, RN), HMS Chanticleer (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Bristowe, DSO, RN), HMS Crane (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Jenkins, RN), HMS Cygnet (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN), HMS Whimbrel (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Moore, DSC, RNR) and the frigates HMS Test (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR) and HMS Trent (T/A/Lt.Cdr. J.G. Rankin, DSC, RNR).

Around 2300B/1, HMS Colombo parted company with the convoy to proceed ahead to Gibraltar to fuel and rejoin the convoy. She arrived at Gibraltar around 1535B/3. After fuelling she departed Gibraltar around 2200B/3 for Algiers where she arrived around 1950B/4. On entering harbour her port engine failed.

Around 0600B/5, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) and netlayer HMS Guardian (Capt.(Retd.) H.A.C. Lane, OBE, RN) joined the convoy coming from Gibraltar which they had departed around 0330B/5.

Around 1325B/6, the sloops HMS Cygnet and HMS Whimbrel attacked a submarine in position 36°46'N, 01°38'E. This was U-409 which escaped without damage.

Around 2115B/6, the AA cruiser HMS Delhi (Capt. A.T.G.C. Peachey, RN) joined the convoy coming from Algiers.

On 7 July, HMS Ledbury and HMS Ulster Queen rejoined the convoy after having fuelled at Algiers.

Also on 7 July the destroyer HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Wallace, DSC, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Wallace (Lt. D. Carson, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Hambledon (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN), HMS Mendip (Capt. C.R.L. Parry, RN, Capt. D 21), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, RN), HMS Blencathra (Lt. E.G. Warren, RN) and HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN) joined the convoy coming from Bone. HMS Pheasant, HMS Chanticleer, HMS Crane, HMS Cygnet, HMS Whimbrel, HMS Test and HMS Trent then parted company and arrived at Bone also on the 7th.

Around 1300B/9, the following transports joined the convoy from convoy KMS 18B; Alcinous (Dutch, 6189 GRT, built 1925), Empire Confidence (British, 5023 GRT, built 1925), Orestes (British, 7748 GRT, built 1926) and Prometeus (British, 6096 GRT, built 1925). Also joining was the landing ships Derwentdale (Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), 8390 GRT, built 1941) and the HMS LST 301 (A/Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) R.F. Hoyle, RNR), HMS LST 305 (A/Lt.Cdr. R.M. Naylor, RNR), HMS LST 319 (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Sutton, RN), HMS LST 321 (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.H. Metcalfe, RNR), HMS LST 365 (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.F. Halliday, RNR), HMS LST 366 (A/Lt.Cdr. N. Hall, RNR) and HMS LST 424 (Lt.Cdr. G.R. Grandage, RNR).

Besides these transports the monitor HMS Roberts (A/Capt.(Retd.) R.E.C. Dunbar, RN) also joined the convoy.

Around 1815B/9, HMS Guardian parted company with the convoy to proceed independently to Malta where she arrived around 2100B/9.

The convoy arrived off Sicily in the early hours of 10 July 1943.

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. Personal communication
  2. ADM 53/1108748 + ADM 199/362 + ADM 199/373 + ADM 199/1853
  3. ADM 173/16618
  4. ADM 173/16648
  5. ADM 173/16526
  6. ADM 53/111579 + ADM 53/112668 + ADM 53/113256 + ADM 199/385
  7. ADM 53/114993
  8. ADM 53/113800
  9. ADM 234/340
  10. ADM 173/18004
  11. ADM 53/117014 + ADM 53/117576 + ADM 53/117670 + ADM 53/117839 + ADM 53/118252 + ADM 53/118480 + ADM 53/118629 + ADM 53/118673 + ADM 53/118714

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

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