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.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

andrew coulton September 13, 2018 at 7:39 pm

A distant relative, Warrant Ordnance Officer Edgar Frank Coulton, was killed in the March 29th 1942 torpedo accident

Esther April 20, 2018 at 10:43 pm

My uncle William Bond was also on HMS Trinidad but he was one of the 32 crew that died on the 28th march 1942. Would anybody know if there was a service for the crew that died whilst the shipm was being repaired in Murmansk? Also are there any photos of the crew?

Pat Canham March 17, 2018 at 7:16 pm

My father served on HMS Trinidad and was aboard when it sank on the Artic Convoys in l942 he passed away in 1992 . Never did he speak of his ordeal, but we knew that he was suffering mentally,he was discharged with millartry honours and recieved medals which he was so proud of. God bless you dad and all the crew of HMS Trinidad.

Steven Giddens March 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Chloe. I am guessing that you are related to Eva?
I am the youngest son of Albert Giddens who was aboard Trinidad in March 1942 when she was attacked on Convoy PQ13. He survived the torpedo incident and was in Murmansk for the duration of the repairs.
On the return voyage QP11 he survived again after another German bombing mission left Trinidad fatally damaged.
It was HMS Matchless that ultimately sank Trinidad.
As Chloe stated – my Father died 18/02/18 aged 96 yrs.
He was a brave, caring, unassuming man and unless prompted, never spoke about his experiences.
He was a wonderful, loving Dad and I will miss him dearly.
I am currently compiling his Eulogy for his burial on March 12th.
He will be laid to rest in my late Mother’s grave.
I have images and newspaper clipping if anyone (Chloe) is interested.
A truly wonderful human being 17/02/1922 – 18/02/2018 R.I.P Dad x.

Ian Cottrell February 28, 2018 at 2:44 am

My Father Gil Cottrell was on board the Trinidad. When I started doing family history I found his RN docs and started researching. I got hold of the book. The ship that torpedoed itself and near the end I saw a picture of my dad. He was an aircraft artificer looking after the Walrus. Fortunately he must have been at battle stations when one of the bombs went through the tiffy lounge. He like most others never spoke of that incident or that his Sqn was involved in Operation Tungsten which crippled the Tirpitz.

chloe February 21, 2018 at 12:09 pm

My great-grand father served on the HMS Trinidad and received various medals
his name was Albert Giddens…
he sadly passed away on the 18-02-18 after fighting a battle withy pneumonia
just one day after his 96th birthday
if anyone has any images of them or any information I would be so greatful if you could let me know
many thanks x

Mark Rogers February 2, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Hi my name is Mark Rogers my father was a stoked on Trinidad he would never speak about what happened but he was there when when Trinidad was bombed. He survived the war and I miss him so much .he died in 67 with multiple illness. Aged 45 .the war was a big factor in his health .he fought for his country like the rest of his shipments. I will be sternly grateful for the men that gave there life’s so we could live godbless them all

hugh sebag-montefiore January 28, 2018 at 5:32 pm

As an author who is researching a book on the arctic convoys, I would very much like anyone who knows a living Russian convoy veteran who served on a ship that was sunk or put out of action during the run to Russia, or anyone who holds a written or taped account by such a veteran, to contact me.

This message is particularly aimed at the following contributors to this site who at the time of their writing in to this site fell into the above category: Veronica Morris concerning her father in law Sidney Davis, Claire Rowland concerning Leonard Manning’s diaries, Ken Murphy who read a survivor’s account of the Trinidad’s sinking, James McGinty concerning William Cairns, John Annett and Steven Giddens’ father Albert Giddens

hugh sebag-montefiore

Cerrie Williams November 15, 2017 at 12:57 am

I am not sure if this will help Jack Nowakowski but it could be connected to his query.
My uncle David T Meese served on HMS Trinidad from 3rd October 1941 and survived the sinking.
In his book ‘A Flintonian at Peace and War’ he mentions that on 17 January 1942 a torpedo exploded near the no1 hold and as a result clothing destined for the Polish internees blew up and hung festooned on the rigging – jerseys, pants, scarves, etc.
They soon reached the Kola Inlet and through thick fog, reached Murmansk via a Russian pilot boat. It was 30 degrees below freezing and he saw Russian troops on their way to the front line 20 miles away.
On 24th January 1942, they took aboard 250 Polish folk who had been prisoners in Russia since their country had been invaded by Stalin. Some of them had been Pilots, Officers and Captains, etc and had been put to work in the salt mines in Siberia. They were delivered to a safe place by 30 January and when they departed they were handshaking and clearly demonstrating their gratitude. I am presuming that the safe place was Scotland as he mentions a 24 hour leave and a visit to Glasgow.
Sadly, he is no longer with us but his book gives my family a wonderful history of his life during the war.

Steve Buxton August 16, 2017 at 10:09 pm

William (Bill) Buxton was a Trinidad survivor – 21 at the time. I have a few precious photos . After Trinidad was sunk he went into serve on HMs Bermuda – he say died aged 48 – never spoke about the horrors he witnessed

David Lloyd July 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm

My uncle was on the HMS Trinidad. Stan Eddie. The story goes, when he was transferring to the Matchless, the Captain handed him the ships log saying. Eddie, your a lucky bastard, take this! He survived the Artic convoys, operation pedestal and the Anzio landings with a tank transporter [he was blown up on the beach]

Alan House March 25, 2017 at 12:55 am

My dad Paul House was a survivor of the Trinidad. He got off with only his underwear and greatcoat, which was awkward as he was due to be married later in May 1942. The only uniform Gidves had left was for an admiral – so they stripped the braiding off and gave it to him. Paul died in 1991.

Jack Nowakowski February 26, 2017 at 10:19 pm

My father was a polish officer on the Trinidad. I would like to know where can i get any information about my dad,s service on the Trinidad

Mark Hardy August 31, 2016 at 12:41 pm

My father, James Hardy, was a survivor of the Trinidad attack, both on the way out and the subsequent sinking on the return leg. He unfortunately passed away in 2008 aged 87. He kept newspaper cuttings and his service papers in an old leather wallet and I’m now heartbroken that they were stolen in a recent break in to my house. They are of no financial value to the thieves but mean the world to me.

Gloria spearey March 4, 2016 at 5:23 am

My name is Gloria Spearey and my father Albert Thomas Nation Leading stoker RN. D.KX 91438
Lost his life on board the HMS Trinidad May 15th 1942 aged 25years, this was 2 months my mother gave birth to me.
Would I be entitled to the Article Star, if so how do I go about getting it as I now live in New Zealand.

Dave Morey December 26, 2015 at 2:52 am

My dad, Dave Morey was a stoker on Trinidad from it’s commissioning through til the sinking, two days after his 25th birthday.
He always appreciated how lucky he was to survive.He served from 1938 until 1960
He rarely spoke of the war and suffered nightmares throughout his life, sometimes waking the whole family.
He died in 1985.
My mum died earlier this year aged 96 not long after the family received the Arctic Star.

Amanda November 18, 2015 at 7:46 pm

My grandad served during the self torpoeding of HMS Trinidad. He is mentioned in Frank Pearce’s book and was interviewed in a 70’s documentary. Too soft for the war…he came out of it and was rehabilitated after a breakdown. He was a lovely man but after a series of strokes later in life, unfortunately, he seemed to re live his earlier experiences until he died..

Rebecca Hewitson November 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

My Great Grandfather, William Pollard, was killed on HMS Trinidad on 15th May 1942. If anyone has photographs of the crew, or relatives who may remember him, I would be so grateful to learn more about him. Thank you.

veronica morris November 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Veronica morris. November 3rd 2015

My father in law Sidney Davis served on the Trinidad when she was sunk on the Arctic Convoys in 1942.
He was a wireless operator,he recalls the day and tells the children about it in great
Now aged 93 and lives with me in Alfrick Worcester

Claire Rowlands September 22, 2015 at 9:45 am

My Grandfather Mr. Lennard Manning (Gunner) was a survivor 0f H.M.S Tinindad, His diaries of the incident are now in Portsmouth Military Museum. I am so proud to be his Granddaughter.

Gwyneth Jennings August 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm

My father Owen Emrys Hughes from Portdinorwic in North Wales was a survivor from HMS Trinidad. We also received the Arctic Star medal on his behalf- he would have been very proud of it.

Ken Murphy July 21, 2015 at 5:45 pm

My uncle John McNamara was a leading stoker aboard H.M.S Trinidad when it was torpedoed.I have just finished reading what happened to the Trinidad from a survivor who lived to tell us what happened on that fateful day the ship and a lot of the crew lost their lives including my uncle John so sad.

Lesley Wood July 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Hello Hazel I am Valerie Smith Nee Dentons daughter. My mum is extremely keen to get in contact with you. You can reply to her email submitted or my mums……

Valerie smith July 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm

my name is Valerie Smith nee Denton sister of Marion and Brian father Harry was lost with the Trinidad, I would be very happy to get in touch with you.we still live in Grimsby kind regards Val

Hazel Abbott (nee Hancock) June 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I am trying to trace Harry Denton’s children named Marian, Brian and Valerie, they lived in Grimsby, Lincolnshire during the war. Harry went down with the Trinidad, he was my father’s best friend. I live in Essex now but occasionally travel to Grimsby so would be grateful if anyone does know of their whereabouts I would be keen to hear from them. Many thanks

Andrew Nolan June 15, 2015 at 4:20 pm

My Great Uncle John McNamara died on board HMS Trinidad.

Robert Laws June 8, 2015 at 5:01 pm

My father, Robert Alan Laws, was the radar officer on HMS Trinidad during the whole of her short life. On the first convoy the oil in the radar gearbox (top of the mast) froze and he had to go up under fire with a huge blowlamp to warm it up and get the radar working again. He died in 2003 aged 87.

shaun cummings May 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

My grandad bill cummings i saw some good photos of the Trinidad

Susannah Shorrock May 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

My Grandad Harold Gregson died on HMS Trinidad.
He left behind 1 daughter and a pregnant wife who is my Mum.

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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