Halcyon Class Minesweepers Halcyon Class Ships
Friendly Fire Attack - Report of 1st MSF (HMS Jason)
Report of 1st MSF
HMS Britomart
HMS Hussar
HMS Salamander
Daily Telegraph




From:             The Commanding Officer, HMS JASON 

Date:               28th August 1944                                 Ref : C43/31 

To:                  Captain M/S (X), HMS Ambitious

Copy to:          The Senior Officer, First Minesweeping Flotilla, HMS HARRIER





  1. On 27th August 1944, HMS JASON (Senior Officer) with HM Ships BRITOMART, SALAMANDER and HUSSAR was continuing a LL/SA  - X.C.M.O. of an area which had been Oropesa cleared and LL/SA searched by ships of 1st MSF since the 22nd August. Sweeping was not  carried out on the 26th August. Previous to the 22nd the 18th MSF had been sweeping the same area.

  1. At about 1315 two laps had been swept in ‘P’ formation. As HUSSAR had developed a defect in her generator the formation had been changed to ‘Q’ at the end of the second lap. JASON was guide in the centre (making a line of dans for the third lap), BRITOMART starboard wing, SALAMANDER port wing and HUSSAR follow up ship. Course to be made good 220°. COLSAY was laying a line of dans 3 cables on the beam of the port wing ship. LORD ASHFIELD had commenced to weigh a line of dans. Speed was 9 knots.

  1. At 1330 in dazzling sunshine and a calm sea JASON had just made the first dan of the new lap. The attack came almost immediately and literally out of the blue. The first that JASON knew about it was the screaming noise of power-dived planes overhead and BRITOMART was hit. The attack came out of the sun, achieved complete surprise and was naturally presumed to be hostile. The order to Oerlikon guns to open fire in JASON was simultaneous with the action being taken. As the aircraft which had attacked BRITOMART gained height and circled away their markings were clearly seen and they were recognised as Typhoons. The signal ‘Am being attacked by friendly aircraft’ was sent by W/T immediately at 1332 and again at 1334. A quick look round at the formation revealed that HUSSAR had also been badly hit and was on fire as was BRITOMART. In addition, the latter had a bad list to port. That was the end of the first attack.

  1. The Commanding Officer of the SALAMANDER (who was port wing ship and all attacks came down sun from port) clearly states in his report that he fired recognition signals twice. On return to harbour he stated that he saw the aircraft just before they came in to attack for the first time.

  1. The second attack came about five minutes later at about 1335 and JASON fired recognition signals. The order to slip the LL tail had been passed and promptly executed on conclusion of the first attack to give greater freedom to manoeuvre. Speed had been increased to full and zig-zag course was steered.

  1. The brunt of the second attack fell on SALAMANDER and COLSAY. Both were observed to be firing their short range armament. The SALAMANDER was hit aft by rockets and was immediately on fire. The COLSAY disappeared from sight in water-spouts which looked like a bomb straddle and it was impossible not to think that she must be severely damaged.  Almost at the same time JASON was subject to severe cannon fire from the bridge to the after end of the boat deck. All guns were in action. Two ratings were killed and five wounded and the starboard after Oerlikon put out of action. A steam pipe to the siren was cut and the noise of escaping steam made voice communication difficult on the bridge. Then it was realised that BRITOMART had been hit again.

  1. Another quick look round when the aircraft disappeared revealed that BRITOMART was still burning and under-way with a worse list to port, SALAMANDER upright but heavily on fire aft and apparently stopped, HUSSAR still steaming but heavily on fire and enveloped in smoke. COLSAY was stopped and did not answer when called by V/S. A dismal scene on so fine a day. A signal was despatched at 1337 “Three ships hit and in danger of sinking”.

  1. Just before the third attack there was an explosion in HUSSAR accompanied by a large cloud of heavy smoke. It is not clear whether HUSSAR was attacked again. JASON was menaced by a cannon firing Typhoon diving down but the fire from the Oerlikons (which looked good) appeared to cause the aircraft to swerve away at the last moment and little damage was done. By this time things were getting a little confused and the third attack may be in reality have been a not-quite-so-well synchronised second attack. But the general opinion is that there were three attacks at roughly five minute intervals, the third at about 1340. When the aircraft approached for the last time JASON flashed the single identification letter.

  1. After the third attack the smoke of the explosion cleared away from HUSSAR. She was not listing badly but at 1341 she turned over and sank, part of the fore-foot remaining above water. The signal was made “HUSSAR sunk, BRITOMART sinking, SALAMANDER on fire aft”.

  1. The BRITOMART was circling slowly (1342) with a big list and heavily on fire and seen to be abandoning ship about a mile away. JASON closed at full speed ordering the trawlers to “Save life”. No reply from COLSAY and it was feared she was a casualty. It subsequently transpired that her signalling equipment was shot away. JASON stopped three or four cables short of BRITOMART fearing she might blow up and lowered both whalers which proceeded to pick up survivors. There were plenty of rafts about and men in the water were hanging on to the LL tail. A signal was despatched at 1343 “Send tugs at once”.

  1. The fire in SALAMANDER had been put out and it was seen that her stern had been blown off. After lowering the whalers JASON closed at full speed to find out her situation. All was orderly about her except the stern. She could steam at slow speed but could not steer. Unfortunately her bows were pointing towards the French coast and the tide was setting her towards the coast at about one and a half knots. It seemed that she could be left for a short time before being taken in tow by JASON and it was most desirable to find out COLSAY’s state as no V/S communication had been achieved with her.

  1. When commencing to close the COLSAY at 1400 BRITOMART, still on fire healed over and remained afloat keel upwards. A signal was made “BRITOMART sunk”.

  1. About the same time an RAF launch appeared on the horizon, hovered about a bit, did not answer V/S signals, and finally closed and picked up survivors.

  1. COLSAY was close to HUSSAR (fore-foot still showing above water) and appeared abandoned at first sight as there was no sign of life on board. There were one or two boats about, some rafts and survivors in the water. JASON got some survivors inboard by the scrambling nets  (13 in all) and then the shore batteries opened fire. This was something like the last straw. At 1421 a signal was made “Am being fired on by shore batteries”. 

  1. At first the fire was not accurate, being short and out  for line, and it was hopefully disregarded. JASON continued to pick up survivors, closing COLSAY at the same time and occasionally looking over the shoulder to see that all was still well with SALAMANDER.

  1. The shore batteries corrected in leisurely fashion for line, eventually got on and started getting unpleasantly near. COLSAY was now in hailing distance and answered all was well except for a few casualties, but that most of the crew were in boats and rafts saving life. At this moment the shore batteries landed a shell within a half a cable dead in line of JASON. It was time to go. COLSAY was ordered to get out of range at full speed and to send a boat for the remaining survivors which she did. Shouting to survivors in the water that she would have to leave them but that ships boats would be sent, JASON proceeded at emergency full speed towards SALAMANDER, making smoke by all possible means on the way.

  1. It was feared that the tide might have drifted SALAMANDER to within range of the shore batteries. So a two mile long smoke screen was laid between her and the shore and smoke floats dropped under her lee to give cover while taking her in tow.

  1. SALAMANDER was in tow of JASON within 10 minutes of the first line being passed. The drill in both ships was excellent. It was then about 1500.

  1. During all this time LORD ASHFIELD had been doing excellent work picking up a large number of BRITOMART survivors, after nearly one-third of his ship’s company had become casualties as the result of severe cannon fire attack.

  1. HM Ships GOZO and CATHERINE had appeared on the scene. LORD ASHFIELD signalled that she had a large number of survivors on board. GOZO was requested to close the trawlers as she carried a Medical Officer. CATHERINE was requested to round up ships boats and pick up survivors if any were left.

  1. HMS PITCHLEY next appeared and as she also carried a Medical Officer was requested to take badly wounded from any ship without a doctor. Later she was requested by W/T to sink the wrecks if they were still floating.

  1. Later three tugs arrived. JASON continued towing SALAMANDER until just short of the JUNO Light Vessel. The tow was then slipped and Tug DESTINY took over at 1815.

  1. JASON buried her two dead at sea at 1700.

  1. As COLSAY and LORD ASHFIELD had transferred their wounded survivors they were ordered to anchor in the M/S anchorage.

  1. JASON was ordered to proceed to HM Hospital Ship DUKE OF LANCASTER to transfer wounded survivors and casualties. After anchoring off DUKE OF LANCASTER it was found that she was full. Finally six casualties were sent to her and five to HMHS St. JULIEN

  1. The Commanding Officer went on board both Hospital Ships and found that HMS PITCHLEY and RAF Rescue Launch had already transferred wounded to DUKE OF LANCASTER. It is understood that CATHERINE transferred all her survivors, which she picked up from ships boats, to PITCHLEY. GOZO transferred her wounded to ST. JULIEN.

  1. The PMO’s of the Hospital Ships stated that they could not get out a complete list of casualties until 0700 the following morning. As it was most important to get these lists JASON anchored off for the night and sent over for them at  0700 and then proceeded to the M/S anchorage.

  1. On arrival at Portsmouth JASON will render to C in C Portsmouth a complete nominal list of survivors from BRITOMART and HUSSAR and a list of casualties in JASON, SALAMANDER, COLSAY and LORD ASHFIELD.

  1. Survivors according to records received from Hospital Ships and shore are as follows:





Wounded Officers



Wounded Ratings



Unwounded Officers



Unwounded Ratings







30. The casualties sustained in HM Ships JASON, SALAMANDER, COLSAY and LORD ASHFIELD are as follows: 























*2 officers including Commanding Officer

** 1 officer



31. It is regretted that the Commanding Officer of BRITOMART is among the missing and the Commanding Officer of the HUSSAR is badly wounded. 

32. As Commanding Officer of HMS JASON I desire to place on record my high satisfaction with the conduct and bearing of my Officers and Ship’s Company during the action and afterwards. They were extremely cool and steady throughout.

33. It is not considered the HMS BRITOMART or HMS HUSSAR had much chance of survival or fighting back. They were badly hit by the first salvo of rockets they received. It seemed that BRITOMART’s bridge was instantly wiped out. Neither did it appear that either ship was prematurely abandoned. There has been no time or opportunity to question survivors. 

34. It is desired to draw attention to the favourable reports of the Commanding Officers of HM Ships SALAMANDER, COLSAY and LORD ASHFIELD on the conduct and bearing of their own Officers and Ship’s Companies. In turn it is desired to place on record high appreciation of the conduct, spirit and initiative of the Commanding Officers themselves in this most trying action against friendly aircraft which were so persistently and successfully hostile. Especial notice is drawn to the Commanding Officer of HMS COLSAY who received wounds in the back in the second attack. 

35. It is felt that the fury and ferocity of concerted attacks by a number of Typhoon aircraft armed with rockets and cannon is an ordeal that has to be endured to be truly appreciated.


T G P Crick

Commander in Command

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