The sinking of HMS Trinidad

The British Fiji class cruiser HMS TRINIDAD stationary in Hvalfjörður, Iceland, February 1942, before she departed for her final voyage, escorting an arctic convoy.

There were many hazards on the Arctic Convoys but HMS Trinidad was unluckier than most. In a clash with German destroyers in March she had been struck by one of her own torpedoes. Possibly due to the extreme cold the torpedo had developed a gyro problem which caused it run in a wide circular pattern. Its return hit had killed 32 men. After receiving repairs in the Russian shipyard at Murmansk she was now returning with convoy QP11.

John Govey had had to abandon ship on the out bound convoy PQ15 when his ship was torpedoed. Now he was returning with a mixed bunch of other survivors on HMS Matchless. This was one of the destroyers escorting HMS Trinidad back to Britain from Murmansk. On board she had a number of the survivors from HMS Edinburgh.

HMS Trinidad had only been patched up in Murmansk and was making about 20 knots. She proved to be a ready target for the German bombers and torpedo planes as they rounded the North Cape:

We hadn’t been under way very long before the fun began and we were banging away at Junker 88s, it seemed for ages and ages.

The skipper of Matchless was another cool sort, he had four signalmen covering the ship, spotting bombs in the air. As soon as a cluster looked as though they were coming in our direction we altered course. That’s where I proved the theory, “You don’t hear the one which hits you”. You see the bombs falling; when they are near, you lose sight of them, they hit the water, you hear the whine of their descent, followed by the noise of the explosion. It’s a most peculiar feeling and not very good for the morale.

At one time when we were bomb-dodging I spotted torpedo bombers dropping torpedos a couple of miles away. I kept a good eye in that direction and duly reported “TORPEDO TRACKS”. Leaving the torpedoes to look after themselves, the skipper calmly assessed the situation, turned to port and the menaces passed us on either side.

Then disaster struck. At the end of a heavy bombing raid the Trinidad was hit with a bomb which penetrated to the recreation area where a crowd of survivors were sheltering and exploded with devastating effect. The explosion started the temporary patch which had been put in at Murmansk, together with a fire which they were unable to contain so the Admiral ordered the destroyers to take off the wounded and survivors.

Each destroyer went alongside in turn and took their allotted numbers on board. Then we were ordered to sink her with torpedoes. We fired two fish into her and she sank, slowly and gracefully, bow first.

Then on with the action, west of Bear Island we were joined by the covering forces of heavy cruisers, Nigeria, Kent, Norfolk and Liverpool. Were we glad to see them. The barrage they put up when attacked was terrific and they even fired their 8-inch guns to join the barrage. Gerry lost heart after a day of it and the journey to Glasgow thereafter was a piece of cake.

Sixty-three men were lost when the bomb hit HMS Trindad including twenty survivors from HMS Edinburgh which had been sunk two weeks earlier. For the whole of John Govey’s account see WW2 Cruisers.

HMS Trinidad under way in 1941

The escorting destroyer HMS Matchless which took off survivors and then torpedoed HMS Trinidad.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

S Pople March 2, 2015 at 10:22 pm

My father in law Eric Burton was an ordinary seaman on board HMS Trinidad. He was part of reduced crew remaining on board into Murmansk . After the 6 week wait for repairs was taken off following the bombing that opened the damaged repair . He died in 1987 just before we received the Russian commemorative medal we have just had his Arctic star .

William brown December 7, 2014 at 12:54 am

My uncle , Billy Wisener was on the Trinidad when she was sunk. He did not talk about his war service at all . I do know he was hospitalised for six weeks . He remained until he died a true gentleman. After the war he joined the merchant navy and then worked on oil rigs all over the world , he would tell many stories of these times , but of the war years , not a word.

Roger Hale November 26, 2014 at 9:53 pm

My father Percy Frederick Hale was a Warrant Mechanician on HMS Trinidad when it sank. He survived the war but died in 1971. We have yet to receive the Arctic Star although applied for.
If anyone knew or has any information about my father I would be most pleased to hear from them.

Peter Sillett November 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm

My Dad was Leonard Sillett he was a Storesman on the Trinidad. He died in 1992 and didn’t speak much about his time in the war. He was on her from it’s launch and on the PQ13 convoy and also when it was scuttled and survived those ordeals. His ship was also sunk during the DDay landings [LST 404] and again he was lucky. It would be wonderful to see some photos of other crew members of the Trinidad?

james mcginty November 15, 2014 at 10:22 pm

William Cairns survivor of HMS Trinidad received his artic star medal last week only waited 67 years for it .

Alan chick June 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I recently moved into a house next to the Pyle Chapel ….Capel Y Pil….in the churchyard is a memorial to Sgt Frank Hicks RM. lost at sea. I researched him on the common wealth war graves commission and finally read the story here. Fascinating, and tragic. Makes you realise how lucky you are not to have to experience war.

james mcginty May 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm

my husbands uncle was one of the crew on hms Trinidad who dived into the sea while his clothes were on fire,although being badly burnt he survived and is now aged 91.

His name is William Cairns and he lives in Glasgow.

Chris Glendinning May 28, 2014 at 6:23 pm

My Grandfather was one of the survivors on HMS Trinidad, I believe he was a gunner. His name was Sam Glendinning, he sadly passed away some time ago in1982. He would have been 100 in September of this year. He was an absolute gentleman, always talked about the good times, never mentioned the bad times. If by any chance there are any surviving crew mates still out there who remember him I would love to hear from you!

Paul Williams May 3, 2014 at 11:13 am

My Grand father was on board the Trinidad his name was Ivor Williams, if anyone has any crew photos i would be very interested to see them, he was on board when it was torpedoed, and we have just had his Arctic Star medal, someone has mentioned in a post that there may also be a russian medal? is this for all who served or for certain crew member, i would love to try and get a copy of that medal if he was entitled to it, any info would be great

george swires January 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

wifes uncle served on h m s trinidad. How can I find his details please?

Jim Baldwin January 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

My dad frank Baldwin was a survivor on board Trinidad he was with fleet air arm I have a few photos of him with some shp mates

Jim Baldwin January 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm

My dad was aboard all though the saga of the Trinidad with fleet air arm He still suffered from frost bite in his fingers from arming shells when he passed away still have a few photos taken aboard his name was Frank Baldwin

John A Hughes January 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

My father John P R Hughes was on the Trinidad, (Service Number (JX135978) He was never one to talk about his time in the Royal Navy (1932-1945) But he did tell me about the engine room staff coming on deck and diving into the sea a lot of them being on fire. He spoke of having drunk some rum and was peeing himself with fear as one of the matlows died in his lap.
Mt father passed away in 2005 just short of his 90th birthday

John Annett November 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Midshipman John Annett is also still alive and kicking.

Steven Giddens October 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

My Father, Albert Giddens was on Trinidad when she was sunk on the Arctic Convoys in 1942. He has just received The Arctic Star Medal and notification that the Russian Federation is to honour him with the Ushakov Medal.

Now aged 91yrs, he lives in Oldham.

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