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.