History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 22, 2010

A Gallant Action

H.M.S. ” Dianthus,” another early Flower Class Corvette, was destined to play a leading part in one of the fiercest battles of the little
ships against U-boats in the Atlantic. The fight lasted five days and
nights in August 1942. The part of ” Dianthus ” is perhaps best told
in the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Right Hon. A. V.
Alexander, M.P., in a speech on 3rd September 1942. The First Lord
said :—
” For nearly three hours one of our corvettes hunted the U boat
in the Atlantic. It was first sighted on the surface. There were
violent rain squalls and complete darkness. Accurate gunnery forced the U-boat to dive, but depth charges forced her to the surface
again. Four times the little corvette fired everything she could
muster and rammed the U-boat. Clouds of sparks made a fantastic
firework display each time she hit her. After the fourth attack the
U-boat reared up above the ship’s deck and crashed down hard on
the fo’csle. Then the U-boat sank. The fight had lasted nineteen
minutes, during which there was great excitement. The Captain
shouted, ‘ We’ve got her. Give her everything we’ve got.’ The
men shouted back, ‘ Ram her again, sir.’ Every gun on board
was blazing away and men even ran for rifles and revolvers and
fired at the conning tower.”

The First Lord added:—” We did not get this information from the
Captain. All his report said was : ‘ The next nineteen minutes can be
described as lively.’ ”

“Dianthus” necessarily sustained damage by the repeated rammings, but she had her station to keep to protect the precious convoy.
After five days and nights of incessant vigilance and battle the crew then worked all through the night to make the ship seaworthy.
At dawn next morning a very tired but very happy crew had
” Dianthus ” seaworthy and back with the convoy.
But her troubles were not yet over. Oil had apparently been lost
and ” Dianthus ” was 600 miles from home with only 26 tons of fuel.
A careful calculation showed that this was not enough to reach port.
The Captain ordered every drop of oil of all kinds on the ship to be
mustered. Men went down into the empty tanks and carefully swept
up the pools that might remain near the feed pipes. Lubricating oil,
gunnery oil, and even two drums of castor oil from the sick bay were
brought into service. All this effort meant an extra half ton of oil, which
proved just sufficient to bring the ship safely into harbour.

The Commanding Officer of H.M. Corvette ” Dianthus,” Lieut.-
Commander C. E. Bridgman, R.N.R., was awarded the Distinguished
Service Order for skill and determination in protecting the convoy
during these operations in the Atlantic.

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