destroyers

Aug

5

1940

Condor aircraft join the Battle of the Atlantic

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C Condor

The FW 200 Condor began patrols from Bordeaux-Merignac airfield in western France in August 1940. Flying in wide sweeps out over the Bay of Biscay and into the Atlantic west of Ireland it would continue round the north of Britain and land in Norway, a route that encompassed most of the possible convoy routes. It proved highly effective not only because of its bomb load, but also in its capacity as a reconnaissance aircraft capable of calling in U-Boat attacks.

Aug

4

1940

The Royal Navy remains on full alert

Two destroyers silhouetted against the skyline.

Although darkness was falling, the Captain decided to carry out a sweep to the northward in the hope of finding the second lifeboat; ships were spread five miles apart and speed increased to twenty-seven knots. A man was placed in the crow’s-nest, and the look-outs were instructed to sweep the horizon with their glasses.

Jun

8

1940

HM Ships Glorious, Acasta and Ardent sunk

world war 2 aircraft carrier at sea - hms glorious

The escorting destroyer [HMS Ardent] on the port side of the battleships continued her torpedo attacks and tried, extremely skilfully, to avoid the effective defensive fire of the battleships’ medium armament by means of constant alterations of course. Finally this destroyer also opened fire on the battleships. She fought with outstanding resolution in a situation that was hopeless for her. The destroyer received numerous hits and finally went down, her bow armament firing to the last and her engines apparently in order and driving her at high speed. The final range was about 5 miles.

Jun

3

1940

The grim state of a ship returned from Dunkirk

Nearly 300,000 troops had been returned from Dunkirk by the 2nd May. This is one of the officially released photographs and as such does not reflect the state in which many of the men returned.

The soldiers and ship’s crew who had survived were disembarked and the wounded were removed and taken to hospital. Such were the conditions when our little party arrived at dockside. It was a beautiful summer morning, but there was an unnatural quietness hanging all around. Even the view from dockside brought a hushed feeling to all who looked.

May

29

1940

Dunkirk evacuation underway – HMS Grafton sunk

Troops under fire on the beaches of Dunkirk, as seen from a ship offshore.

I pushed my way out on deck. Someone said: ‘Keep down. They’re machine-gunnmg us.’ I huddled against a steel door and watched the fight. Two dark shapes in the middle distance turned out to be German M.T.B.’s. The destroyer and another British warship were giving them hell with shells and tracer-bullets. The M.T.B.’s were answering with machine-gun fire. But one by one they were hit. We saw them leap into the air and then settle down’ into the water and sink. Everyone sighed with relief….

Apr

30

1940

British troops evacuated from Namsos and Andalsnes

HMS Bittern ablaze in Namsos Fjord after having suffered a direct hit in the stern by a bomb.

578 troops were pushed into us. They were in a completely demoralised state and had been machine gunned and bombed the whole day by 3 Heinkels who had come all the way from Hamburg! They hadn’t seen many German troops, but lots of parachutists, with light tanks, bicycles and field artillery in pieces!

Oct

23

1943

Over 400 dead as HMS Charybdis is ambushed

HMS Charybidis, torpedoed by German E boats and sunk in the English Channel on the 23rd October 1943

She was stopped now, broadside on. A Hunt Class, one of ours. But had she seen us? she must be in range of enemy shore batteries, and with the coming light in danger of air attack. Being stopped she was a target for any ‘U’ boat. I tried to tell the others she wouldn’t wait – lets swim for it – but I could only speak with one hand. That was it, I must try and reach her before she got underway again. I let go the lifeline and struck out. Two, three strokes and everything went black.

Oct

6

1943

Japanese destroyers prevail at Battle of Vella Lavella

A closer view of the damage to the USS O'Bannon.

With the restoration of power comes word there are emergency messages to be sent back to our base. While hurrying to the bridge to pick up these messages, I have a chance to look out across the water. What I see is rather amazing. There are many small lights out in the water, maybe a hundred of them. They turn out to be flashlights being held and waved by sailors from the Chevalier who are jumping from the rapidly sinking ship and are swimming toward the O’Bannon, a distance of about 40 yards.

Sep

23

1943

Another tragic night for Convoys ONS 202 and 18

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Express underway. She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau in 1943.

There was a splash and I could hear voices. I looked and there was a freighter [SS Waleha] which had dropped one of its floats, I tried to swim to it but I was too weak, so I hollered at them and they said they were coming. It was good news, I saw a light but it seemed far off, then I heard the sound of a motor boat. I could hear voices but couldn’t see a thing except the light. Then I felt something hit my face and heard somebody say grab the rope. Then I saw the motor boat when it was nearly on top of me.

Aug

6

1943

US destroyers ambush Japanese at Vella Gulf

The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Arashi, photographed in 1940. The fast destroyers were used for the 'Tokyo Express'.

As the eighth torpedo was about to be released I caught sight of telltale white torpedo tracks fanning out in our direction, the nearest within 800 meters. I shouted again for hard starboard helm. In the same moment I saw a pillar of fire shoot up from amidship of Arashi, and two from Kawakaze. Lead ship Hagikaze was beyond and in line with these two victims so that I could not see her. Looking again at the water, I held my breath. Three torpedoes were streaking toward Shigure’s bow, which was swinging rapidly to the right.