SALAMANDER, the last sweeper to be hit, had tried desperately to stave
off the attack. Her commander was Lieutenant‑Commander Harold King,
'I had noticed a group of planes orbiting in the sun, a manoeuvre
always considered menacing, and although recognizing some of them
as Typhoons I pressed the action stations alarm button as a
precaution. But before all the crew could get to their stations
planes were diving and attacking from all directions. I rang down
for full speed and started zig zagging, using full helm and
dodging the first two salvoes of rockets which exploded in the
water alongside. By this time the yeoman of signals, another
signalman, the gunnery and Asdic officers had all reached the
bridge. The correct recognition signals were quickly made by red
and green Very lights and the ten inch lamp, new white ensigns
were hoisted at the yardarms and a large one spread out on the
Roger Twigg in May 2008 wrote:
My father, John
Twigg, was badly wounded during the Typhoon attack, and was Mentioned in
Dispatches for attempting to rescue other wounded sailors although
badly wounded himself. He was trying to lay out a Union Jack on the
stern at the time of the strike.
this did not deter the planes. Lieutenant‑Commander King
'Our Oerlikon gunners had opened fire as soon as the planes
attacked, but the four‑inch gun's crew were pinned down by cannon
and machine‑gun fire which smashed the chart table and bridge
screens. The PO wireman had telephoned the bridge asking
permission to slip the Double L tail when a third salvo of rockets
hit the stern, bursting open thirty feet of deck, jamming the
rudder and setting the minesweeping store below on fire.'
Dennis Burnett was one of the sweeping party of five on SALAMANDER's
sweep deck as the rockets struck.
'We were attacked astern by a Typhoon covered by a Spitfire on
either side. I saw the salvo of rockets leave the aircraft and was
certain we were about to be hit. I shouted to a wireman to duck
and dived behind the winch. The next thing I knew I was being
dragged bleeding along the deck by the cook and the supply rating
into the wardroom lobby.'
Burnett was severely wounded in the head, one of a number of injured.
The rockets blew off SALAMANDER's entire stern, leaving the sweep deck
a devastated mass of mangled and twisted iron and the ship ablaze.
Lieutenant Commander King:
'As there were twenty depth‑charges stowed in the blazing
minesweeping store I gave the preparatory order to abandon ship ‑
for the boats to be turned out and lashes cut on the Carley
floats. Meanwhile the damage control party, led by the engineer
officer, was tackling the fire. I went down to the boat deck to
get a closer look and met the gunner's mate, who told me that the
after magazine was getting hot and asked to flood it. Needless to
say permission was readily granted.'
four inch gun crew had recovered to load up and fire off eleven rounds
after the planes, more in a bid to discourage another attack as there
was little chance of hitting one. Gradually the firefighters in the
minesweeping store began to get the upper hand, the feared explosion
was averted and SALAMANDER's company did not, after all, have to
abandon ship. Eleven men had been injured, five seriously.
SALAMANDER after the attack
Mention in Despatches.
For good services in saving
life and in damage control:
Temporary Lieutenant Roy
Hawthornethwaite, R.N.V.R. (Lytham St. Annes).
Wireman John Twigg,
Sick Berth Attendant Leslie
John Myerscough, P/MX. 122650 (Arundel)
WANDERING along the beach
of the French port of Villiers-Sur-Mer, a small boy picked up a
large tattered White Ensign that had been washed ashore and kept
it as a souvenir.
Over forty years later he
handed it in to the British Ministry of Defence, and steps were
taken to discover its origins, through the letters column of Navy
Now it appears that the
full tragic story has been finally pieced together and the ensign
is from HMS Salamander, a minesweeper operating off the French
coast in 1944 and mistakenly attacked and sunk by British
Operating with two sister
ships, Britomart and Hussar, Salamander had hoisted two extra
ensigns in a vain bid to identify the groupís nationality, but the
attack claimed 86 lives and a further 124 were wounded, leaving
Salamander with her stern blown off, and the other two ships sunk.
The six foot by three
foot ensign has now found a final resting place in the Hampshire
village of Wickham, a village twinned with Villiers-Sur-Mer.
Presented to the local branch of the Royal British Legion it now
occupies a special place in the Community Centreís special
[Navy News 1984]