Halcyon Class Minesweepers

HMS Hazard 1943

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HMS Hazard - view from crows nest  HMS Hazard Gun Layer (IWM A1364) - Halcyon Class Minesweeper  HMS Hazard Sea Boat (IWM A1368) - Halcyon Class Minesweeper

HMS Hazard - view from crows nest, gunlayer and sea boat (IWM A1364 & A1368)

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc

In February 1943 HAZARD sailed back to Iceland and was temporarily based at Seidisfiord for local duties the first of which was to set Convoy JW53 on its way (15/2). She remained in Icelandic waters until the end of March when she and some of her sisters were warned that they would soon join the Mediterranean 12th M/S Flotilla. 




15/2 From C in C Home Fleet: HAZARD to remain in Iceland until end of March




15/2 HAZARD to be part of western local escort for JW53 for just one day.

17/2 Postponed sailing of HAZARD until the weather moderates








6/3 HAZARD returned from search. Quantity of small wreckage seen but no survivors

  Then we went up to Govan to dry dock for a few days and we were told we had only three days. If people could get home and back they could go, but the biggest part of the crew lived down south and could not go. Some went to London, it only gave them a few hours home. I was alright down to Carlisle and across to Newcastle. We had been told we were off the Arctic run, thank God, and had to get ready with a convoy for the Mediterranean and Africa. Well that would be a bit warmer for us.  













  We left the Clyde with a new captain on board. We sailed away to the entrance waiting for the convoy. Some came up from Liverpool and some from the Clyde, some troopships came with us, and went around the north of Ireland and out into the Atlantic where the troopships left us to pick up with a fast convoy with a big escort. Well we had no trouble and after four days sighted the Rock of Gibraltar. And before we went into the Med we picked up a large convoy of ships from America and Canada. We sailed along the North African coast keeping as close as possible to the land. A German sub was waiting for us lying right under the cliffs outside Algiers harbour. They got one ship just in front of us. It looked strange, all you could see of her was the top of the mast with her balloon still flying from it. But the convoy sailed on to different parts of the coast. We carried on to a place called Bone to await for Orders. We went alongside an American ship filling up with German prisoners to take to America or England. One of the Americans asked me if we leaving the next day. He said as soon as they got clear of the harbour there would be a heavy air raid on the town. Well we got orders to sail when the American sailed. We had just got clear of the harbour when it started. The town sure got a bashing and the harbour went up in flames. I am glad that I came to a Lucky Ship.  




HAZARD sailed south with Convoy KKS14 to the Mediterranean where she joined the 17th M/S Flotilla.









  We were on our way to take over from another minesweeper and we passed her. She had her stern blown off and lost an officer and ten men. Well we knew what to expect. We joined up with the others clearing a big minefield off Cape Bon North Africa, and what a field it was. We kept losing our cutters off the wires and the wires snapping. The Chief and I were up till nearly midnight every night splicing wires and up again next morning at daybreak. Now and again we were disturbed by a plane, German or Italian, but they were soon chased off by our fighters. Well this minefield took about three weeks to clear and then we went to Malta.

The first night in we had a raid and I was glad to be away the next morning, further up the coast to St Pauls Bay which was the minesweepers base. And every night and day there were raids. There was hardly a church left standing on the island, they seemed to take a big dislike at churches. Every now and again we had to go out to a certain position and wait for one of our subs to surface and a given time was given and then we escorted her in to harbour. One day we went around to Sliema harbour where we saw a lot of activity. We stored ship and oiled. I had an idea that something big was coming off. Landing craft was getting ready. And that night we went out and down to the African coast where we picked the Invasion Fleet up. There was hundreds of ships and landing craft and escort ships and as we were passing Malta again there was other ships and landing craft.




6/7 From HEBE: HAZARD in company, ETA Bark West 1220

SHARPSHOOTER, HAZARD and HEBE took part in the build up to, and the execution of, Operation 'Husky' (the invasion of Sicily).  The slow assault convoy (KMS 18) after passing through position 35º00' N, 14º16'E was joined by the fleet minesweepers HAZARD, SHARPSHOOTER, HEBE and SPEEDY. Paravanes were to be streamed before reaching the 200 fathom line.

9th July D -1   The weather deteriorated during the afternoon and considerable swell created difficult conditions for the LCT convoy, M/S and other small craft in company. As the speed of the assault convoy had been reduced, sweeping from the 100 fathom line was dispensed with in order to arrive at the release position in time. The town of Pachino was observed to be on fire. The minesweepers cleared the way for the landing craft to go ashore on the beaches at ‘Bark West’ in the Eastern (British) sector to the west of Pt de Formiche, the southernmost tip of Sicily. 

In the landings on Sicily 115,000 British and Empire troops and more than 66,000 Americans were landed on the island, starting on 10 July 1943. The minesweepers were engaged in a variety of escort and despatch duties. Seven days after the assault, HEBE, HAZARD and SHARPSHOOTER were ordered to Malta where they arrived on the 18th. 

  The landing on Sicily - we had to go in first, the minesweepers, to see if it was safe for them. But we did not have time to get our sweeps in before the landing craft was in and on the beaches. There was some firing from the shore but not much. Before we had got there the paratroopers had landed and the planes and gliders were coming all along the coast. We landed at the lighthouse of Cape Passero. Troopships were landing their men and during that first night our ship had to patrol for subs and while doing that we had a raid on the ships but none was hit. Every thing was going to plan. The British and American troops were advancing north with hardly any resistance. Within no time they were up the east coast and at Augusta the Army used that harbour for all the store ships etc. It was a very nice harbour.





















  The flagship HMS Anson tied up to one of the big buoys and all the small ships anchored round her. The transport went alongside the jetties with the soldiers. [10.9.43] One of our ships, a minelayer, the HMS Abdiel, anchored and switched off her degaussing motors and up she went with about 200 aboard. She had been sitting over a magnetic mine and as soon as the motors went off she was magnetized. The next morning the flagship thought it was better to leave. Our captain made an order to the Italian harbour police that no boats had to be in the harbour. And then we started sweeping by magnetic and acoustic and where the Anson had been up went a mine, one of the biggest I have seen. The Admiral sent a signal thanking us and to carry on the good work. We were exploding them four miles in front of the ship and a ¼ mile behind. The Germans had laid about thirty around the harbour mostly around the buoys. And then our big ships tied up to them and were allowed to switch off their motors. And we went into the inner harbour which was their naval dockyard. We went ashore to stretch our legs for a couple of hours, no longer. We could still hear the gunfire in the distance.




HAZARD was present at Taranto when the Italian fleet surrendered and sailed for Malta.

  We had orders to go back to Malta. Some of the Med Fleet had to go up to the Gulf of Taranto and await for the surrender of the Italian Fleet. They came down one channel as we went up with another sweeper, sweeping a new channel for our ships which we marked.

HMS Hazard in Mediterranean

HMS Hazard in the Mediterranean
(Source: Tibbs Halford)





  Our troops were well up into Italy by now. So we had to go across to Bari up into the Adriatic. We had to make a channel wide and safe for our ships coming up with stores etc. We swept from Brindisi up to Manfredonia and back and came into the harbour at Bari. We were ready next morning to go out but we were well overdue for a boiler clean and the Sharpshooter and the Hebe our sister ships went out in our place. But [on 22nd November] the Hebe blew up on the way into harbour, it was she who had taken our place. So you see I was on a lucky ship and when we had finished the boiler clean we went out with the Sharpshooter and started sweeping from Bari and Brindisi and right up to Manfredonia and back to Bari.













2.12.43 We had only got into the harbour and told to anchor. That was at 3.30 pm and at 4.00 pm we were told to go and tie up stern first to the jetty by the main dockyard gate. And after tea I got ready for a trip ashore. And while I was passing the American Radar Station I heard them say it had broken down and I said to myself hope there is no raid tonight as there was a big convoy of ships coming in to the harbour. When we came ashore it was supplies that they were waiting for the big push up into Italy.

Bari harbour from the air

Well at 6.30 pm we went into the canteen which was part of the Railway Men’s Club and Pictures next door. The pictures were full of Italians. And then it all started. The German planes got in without being heard with the radar being broken down. I thought the world had come to an end, an explosion blew the big window in on top of me. My pals had to dig me out and on the way out of the building women and children were crying and screaming. The side of the Picture Hall had opened up about six foot gap and half the roof had come in on top of them. I said to my mate to go into the country till the raid was over, the Italians following us and then the ‘all clear’ went so I said back to the ship to see if it was still there. On the way back you have never seen anything like it. Houses with no roofs, doors and windows and bodies lying all over the place.

Bari harbour after attack of 2nd Dec 1943

The harbour was on fire from one end to the other, ships burning and sinking. We couldn’t find the dockyard gates for smoke and I was calling out for the Hazard when I heard a faint voice calling ‘Is that you John’. It was the second in command, Commander Crawford. He said I would have to find a plank of wood to get back on the ship as the gangway had blown away with the explosion. I went straight down below to get changed but brought my working clothes into the passageway. And while I was putting my overalls on there was another explosion. Another ammunition ship had blown up. It lifted me up against the wall about five feet and it blinded me for quite a while. The captain sent for me to slip the cables, after I had marked them by a float, and get out of the harbour a fast as we could. The HMS Sharpshooter had lost her mast. A big steel plate had chopped it off coming down through the air.

It took the ship half and hour to get out instead of four minutes. The spot where we had anchored at 3.30, the ship there was on the bottom. The captain gave orders for everybody to get below the water line as the ship that was on fire, the ammunition on the bridges were exploding and the shells were shooting all over the place. Quite a few came through the side of the ship. We put out of the harbour and started patrolling up and down with the other ship, and looking ashore at the town of Bari it was an inferno. Burned for a whole week and at daybreak we were told to go into the harbour back to our old place stern on to the wall. And what a sight, 17 ships on the bottom, there were only three of us that got away with it. The other one couldn’t get out she had to stay alongside of the jetty.

When we got back to the jetty the other 42 members of our crew that went ashore with us was standing there in survivor’s kit. They thought the ship had gone down. You should of heard the captain tell them what he thought of them, and told them that two members had come back to the ship to see if their shipmates were ok. He told them the first chance of getting rid of them he would and he did. We buried hundreds of dead every day for a week. And when Monty heard of all this he went mad, it was for his Big Push.  

[See also historynet.com for a detailed account of this significant raid. One of the ships contained 100 tons of mustard gas and 1,000 sailors and over 1,000 civilians were killed. Many at first appeared unhurt but were killed by the gas.]

As the minesweeper moved back to her berth, Robert Forrest recalls many bodies floating in the water. When the captain saw them, he ordered duty watch to retrieve the corpses. 'There were sailors, soldiers and Italian civilians all covered in a black mess. We pulled them from the dirty, yellow water, placed them on stretchers covered with a Union flag and took them ashore to be transported to a communal grave.'

He says of the burials, 'The road along which the tragic procession wound its way was flanked by hundreds of Italians, mostly women, sobbing and praying at the sight they were witnessing.'

(Poisonous Inferno - George Southern)

Bari Harbour attack. 2nd Dececember 1943








Well after another few days we went around to Taranto for a small docking and was there for Xmas 1944. On Christmas morning news came through that the captain had got the DSC. The second in command and myself got mentioned in Despatches for the job in clearing the big minefield off North Africa. Nearly all captains and officers in other minesweepers got rewarded. We had a celebration a few drinks and after the New Year we were sent down to Alexandria and went on a few more convoys to Augusta and back and then went to Famagusta in Cyprus with stores.



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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012