History of Leith, Edinburgh

Archive for 2010

HMS Windrush

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

HMS Derg

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

HMS Staffa

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

Team Work

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

H.M.S. ” Pink ” is another notable example of that fine team work
through which the U-boats were frustrated in the darkest days of the
battle of the Atlantic. In the early summer of 1943 a force of between
twenty-five and thirty submarines concentrated in a narrow lane of the
North Atlantic. Dense fog and icebergs provided trouble in the early
part of the voyage, and when the weather cleared there were lengthening nights and bright moon to add to the trouble. Coastal Command aircraft first found the enemy and sank two of the three U-boats sighted. H.M.S. ” Pink ” was concerned in a battle which lasted several days, during which more U-boats were destroyed and the remainder driven off, and the whole convoy saved from harm.
Near Christmastide in the same year ” Pink,” in company with other corvettes, was in a similar battle which lasted for two days and
nights, and during which no fewer than five submarines were damaged
or destroyed. On the morning of the second day a Coastal Command
Liberator aircraft was so severely damaged by the gunfire of a submarine which it was shadowing that it had to descend on the sea. Her signal for help brought a ready response from ” Pink,” which was
detailed to go to the rescue. Happily she arrived before the aircraft
could sink and took all the survivors safely on board, although the sea
was very rough at the time.

While on this strenuous work she completed three yearly crossings
of the Atlantic in all weathers.

The Greeks had a Word

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

H.M.S. ” Lotus ” made her first U-boat kill in the Mediterranean in April 1943 and shared with ” S tar wort” a second victim the very next day, which was at that time a record for the Navy.

She saw service at the siege of Tobruk and had been as far north
a5 Murmansk on the Russian supply run before she went south again
ror the landing in North Africa. *

The crew of ” Lotus ” seem to have specialised in pets. In the
Arctic they collected three eider ducklings which lived happily on the
ship for quite a long time. But perhaps their greatest pet was Abdul,
the dog. He came from South Africa and travelled many thousands of
miles with the ship. One day he went ashore on the lonely Kola Julet
and there met an untimely death beneath the wheels of the only motor
lorry in that locality. There was great grief amongst the crew who for
some time after reckoned time by the number of days after Abdul died.
One of the officers was a classics master in peace-time. When
listening to the underwater explosions and bubblings by a U-boat
breaking up, there came to his mind a word coined by the Greek poet,
Aristophanes, not far from that spot over 2000 years earlier. It was
” Pompholugopaphlasnasi.” Is it surprising that with the Navy’s
aptitude for nicknames, he was known on board as ” Mr Chips ” ?
” Lotus” was commanded by Lieut.-Commander H. J. Hall, D.S.C., R.N.R.

A Goodwill Ship

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

The Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes hung side by side in the
wardroom of H.M.S. “Polyanthus” when, early in 1942 she went to
Galveston, Texas, for a refit. Never did a crew of the Royal Navy
receive a warmer welcome or enjoy more generous hospitality. During
their eight weeks’ stay some of the crew became engaged to Texas
girls. Two of the crew, with only ij/- between them after the first
fortnight, ” thumbed “- their way all over New Orleans, and fourteen
days later were driven back to the ship in a luxurious car by their final
hosts, still with the i$/- in their pockets. Such was the warmth of
American hospitality.
” Polyanthus,” like her sisters, did valiant work to and fro across
the Atlantic before she was eventually lost by enemy action on ist
October 1943.

The Commanding Officer of H.M.S. ” Polyanthus,” during her visit to Texas, was Lieut.-Commander R. S. Holland, R.N.R., who was
succeeded by Lieut. J. G. Aitken, R.N.R., who was in command when
the ship was sunk.

Naval Resource

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

There was an exciting moment for H.M.S. ” Petunia ” one day in November 1942 when she was missed by four torpedoes from a
U-boat in the South Atlantic. The Italians did the corvette the honour
of claiming that they had sunk a United States battleship at the spot.
During the same voyage H.M.S. ” Petunia ” carried out an attack
on a U-boat. Leading Cook Scott worked up to his waist in water
whilst helping to man the depth-charge thrower. A gale was blowing
and the depth-charge strop parted. The cook knelt on the deck while
other members of the crew heaved charges on to his shoulder. Then
slowly he pulled himself up far enough to tip the charges into the
thrower-stalk, from whence they were fired overboard. Leading Cook
Robert Henry Samuel Scott was later mentioned in despatches for his
service during this momentous voyage.

Some four months later the crew of ” Petunia ” proved the traditional
ability of the Royal Navy to deal with any emergency when they,
rescued 420 survivors—men, women, and children—from a sunken
liner, ” Empress of Canada,” in a tropical sea. Working in the intense
heat of his galley, it was the same Leading Cook who, with such assistance as he could muster, produced in the next twenty-four hours 900 sausage rolls, 600 bread rolls, and stews, soups, and hot vegetables for more than 400 people. But there was one meal still unsatisfied. A tiny baby needed a bottle for its milk ; bottles there were in plenty on board, but no teat, until the resourceful crew made a very efficient one from some soft rubber commandeered from the medical stores.

In January 1946 H.M.S. ” Petunia ” was transferred on loan to the Chinese Navy under the terms of the Anglo-Chinese Lease-Lend
Agreement. The Chinese officers and ratings forming the crew had
trained with the Royal Navy for many months and the Commanding
Officer, Lieut.-Commander Liu Hoh-Tu, who had spent several years
with the Royal Navy, was specially chosen by his Government for the

A Gallant Action

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

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.

A Point Halved

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

One of the Flower Class Corvettes, H.M.S. ” Delphinium,” saw a good deal of active service in the fight against enemy submarines off the Portuguese coast in 1943. In July of that year she shared with another corvette a ” kill ” of a large U-boat.

H.M.S. ” Delphinium,” with several of her sister ships in the Levant group of corvettes, stood by the Eighth Army faithfully from Egypt to Sicily, and visited nearly every port along the North African coast. She formed part of the 47th Mediterranean Escort Group in March 1944.
In February 1945 she returned to Plymouth patrol.


Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A substantial volume would be needed to do justice to all the
adventures of ” Stornoway.” During her working-up period the town
of Stornoway was visited and the ship and crew were given a great
ovation. “Stornoway” became one of the famous I3th Minesweeping
Flotilla and steamed over 60,000 miles and swept up over 2000 mines ;
did duty off Irish coast, English Channel, and attended at Dieppe raid,
and survived countless air and E-boat attacks; transferred operations
to North African coast and took part in Pantellaria and Sicilian
landings; swept channel in front of fleet during King’s visit to Malta
in July 1943 ; present at all operations on Italian coast and survived
attacks from R-boats, bombers, and coastal batteries; visited Capri
where inhabitants organised and held first dance since Italy entered war.

Whilst having Christmas dinner at La Maddalena was attacked by
bombers. In June 1944 captured island of Giannutri, a former Eboat
base, found the Germans had left inhabitants without food, so
fourteen days’ rations were left. Later, an R-boat was sunk by a
direct hit. The next operation was to sweep channels to allow food
ships to enter Greek ports. Whilst on this duty a mine exploded and
stopped one engine.

At Preveza in Greece the natives gave the ship’s company a tremendous welcome. On one Greek island German garrison pleaded
to be taken prisoners, but the crew being busy told them to report next
morning. Sure enough when dawn broke all the Germans were ranged
on the jetty awaiting transfer to the ” Stornoway.” On the voyage to
Taranto, one German appeared among the ” request ” men to interview
the Commander. His request was to be allowed to remain on board as
one of the crew. The ship’s pets were two tortoises whose shells were
always camouflaged with paint in keeping with the ship. One had its
shell cracked by a bomb splinter; the crack was filled with putty, with
apparently satisfactory results.

During the Mediterranean operations the crew engaged with other
ships’ crews in water polo and cricket contests and were often victors.
Belonging to the i}th Minesweeping Flotilla, they claim to have much
factual evidence that the thirteenth is their lucky day.

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