While much has been written
about the exploits of the Halcyons in the waters around North
Russia, six Halcyons also served with distinction in the
Mediterranean, although details of their activities have
proved difficult to find. See the individual histories for
HAZARD, HEBE, HUSSAR, SHARPSHOOTER, SPEEDWELL and SPEEDY for more information
On 12th June 1942 HEBE and SPEEDY joined Operation Harpoon at
Gibraltar, an attempt to force much needed supplies through to
Malta. HEBE was ordered to sink the damaged merchant ship
Kentucky and while trying to rejoin the convoy met Italian
cruisers. The Italians opened fire and an eight inch shell
passed through the CO of HEBE's cabin.
HEBE dumped her confidential
books in preparation for the finishing blow from the Italians.
However Hardy, taking his three fleet destroyers with him, steered
his AA cruiser HMS Cairo to HEBE's assistance. The Italian cruisers came into sight
at around 2 pm but turned away to the west.
Source: Keith Wood, Grandson of
Duncan Christison, HMS Speedy
Along with Rye and Hyde, HEBE
and SPEEDY were to form the 17th Minesweeping Flotilla based
in Malta. They faced the enormous task of trying to keep the
port free from the many mines laid on a regular basis by
ships, submarines and aircraft. The sweepers came under
regular bombing and machine gunning attacks from enemy
aircraft based just a few minutes flying time away.
In August 1942 the sweepers
helped to bring the surviving ships of Operation Pedestal,
including the famous tanker Ohio, safely into Malta. By the
end of January 1943 the 17th MSF's tally of mines cleared came
On 25th Oct 1942 SPEEDWELL and
HUSSAR joined as escorts convoy
advance convoy preceding the invasion of North Africa
(Operation Torch). They remained in the Mediterranean carrying
out various escort and minesweeping duties until June 1943
when they returned to Russian waters.
On 15th May the four ships of the flotilla, with the MLs
carrying out a shallow sweep ahead, started to clear a small field which
had been laid just off Grand Harbour by the Italians. Three mines were
swept but a fourth was struck by SPEEDY
and it exploded under her magazine, buckling the ship longitudinally and
putting her shafts out of line. She suffered a number of casualties, two
men killed, two missing and eight wounded. Although badly damaged she
managed to limp back to harbour assisted by the others of the flotilla.
Shortly after this HEBE was damaged from a
near miss from a bomb while in harbour.
HMS Speedy listing after hitting mine
Also in May 1943 HMS
SHARPSHOOTER and HAZARD arrived in the Mediterranean to take
part with HEBE in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily.
OPERATION HUSKY - The Invasion of Sicily
Source: Battle Summary No. 35 The
Invasion of Sicily
Force A Minesweepers 17th
Lt Cdr L C Smith
HEBE Cdr G Mowatt RD RNR
Cdr A E Doran (Act)
'The slow assault convoy (KMS18) after
passing through position 35º00' N, 14º16'E was joined by the fleet
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 to the west of Pt de Formiche,
the southernmost tip of Sicily.
The three ships then
spent the rest of the year carrying out a range of escort and
minesweeping duties in and around Malta, Taranto and Bari on
the Italian mainland.
In August 1943 the partially
disabled SPEEDY, which could only
steam at reduced speed, headed for Gibraltar and repairs in the UK.
On 22nd November 1943 HEBE hit
a mine that had been laid by a U Boat in the entrance to Bari
HEBE capsized within four
minutes and sank with the loss of 38 of her crew,
her unconscious captain was saved by a member of the crew from
HMS SHARPSHOOTER who dived into the sea to rescue him.
In January 1944 SHARPSHOOTER
was transferred to the 49th Escort Group and made several
journeys escorting convoys between Gibraltar, Alexandria
and ports in between. In April 1944 SHARPSHOOTER was
damaged by a GNAT torpedo and went to Haifa for repairs.
SHARPSHOOTER and HAZARD
remained in the Med until September 1944 when they rejoined
the 1st MSF to continue mine clearance in North European