Halcyon Class Minesweepers

Halcyon Class Ships
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My father, Cecil William (Bill) Burn - shown seated in photo - served as an Engine Room Artificer on the Halcyon Class minesweeper HMS Sharpshooter from November 1941 to December 1946. He died in 1975. I knew little of the exploits of his ship and decided to find out more. In early 2003 while searching the internet for information I came across similar enquiries made by 'Bubbles' (Kathryn Venn) whose father (Reuben Bradley) had also served on board at the same time.

We made contact with each other and shared information. We soon discovered a photo of the ship's company which showed both of our fathers. The successful sharing of information encouraged me to start carrying out more research into Sharpshooter's history, starting at the National Archive but then exploring the Imperial War Museum and the National Maritime Museum.

It soon became clear that the nature of the Halcyon minesweepers' work meant that they often worked together in Flotillas and the histories of each ship were closely intertwined. While carrying out my own research I was starting to build up a parallel body of information about Sharpshooter's sister ships. It was also clear from the internet that a number of other people were trying to find out more about their relatives who had served on these other Halcyon Class ships. 

I decided to set up this site in order to share all the information I had found with relatives and anyone else interested in the often gallant history of these small ships. I also wanted to give others an opportunity to contribute information to the site, especially about their relatives, creating a fitting memorial to their memory.

Although I will continue to add information as I come across it, the further development of the site depends on information from others to bring it to life so please if  you have any information you think could add to the site, please contact me.

Bill Burn

Aylesbury, April 2006

In October 2008 while looking through documents given to the Imperial War Museum by Captain J J Youngs (extracts below), it became clear that in the mid 1970's he along with Alan Jay and Jack Neale were very keen to produce a history of the Halcyon's war service. A start was made but as far as I am aware it was never completed. Hopefully this website goes some way to fulfilling their dream.


Extracts from letters sent by Lt Jack Neal to Capt Joe Youngs, HMS Speedwell. Originals in Imperial War Museum (92/50/1)

 28th April 1974 

…I do find it hard to remember lots of things about the war I thought I’d never forget. We ought to write up an account of our war experiences for our descendants. They would find it very interesting in the years ahead... 

10th November 1974 

… Alan Jay was down here recently and I promised I’d write to you about a project we discussed… We had a lively talk about the old days of the 1st and 6th Flotillas. He is in touch with several chaps in his area and has decided that a Flotilla history would be well worth while since the 6th especially had a pretty good and varied war record. His idea is that among us all we could cover most of the Flotilla history if we all wrote our personal experiences… 

I can write up two years in Speedwell as a mere watchkeeper and of course I have a good lot of photographs to help…Alan Jay is in touch with Fred Bradley (Leda and Harrier), Max Wright (Gossamer), John Benson (Bramble) and Christopher McLean (Harrier)... 

1st December 1974 

…No I don’t think our offspring will be very interested in what we heroes did in the war, at least not until we are dead, but I expect our grandchildren and Naval Historians certainly will and anyway I think it is worth doing. 

… Jay thought it was Niger you first took over and had all that crew trouble with but you have confirmed it was Hussar. 

… I joined Speedwell in May 1940 and we did Zeebrugge and Ostend blocking and then three Dunkirk trips. I was with you until the end of the first Russian trip. I have a copy of your report re Harmatris in North Russia. I must have filched it. But not the Atheltemplar one which you remember we cooked up so as to get big prize money. Have you still got it? And I’d forgotten the U boat we helped sink was U651... 

20th Jan 1975 

…My recollection of the watchkeepers in Speedwell is that the RN two stripes were jolly good chaps with whom it was a pleasure to serve, especially Stoner and (Darby) Allen, though Willie Moorman was also a thoroughly reliable and likeable man... 

16th November 1975 

…The thing I remember vividly is the sight of the Marne appearing out of the fog just about to nearly ram us – I had got to the bridge by then. …a few days later when we were short of fuel Nash accused Chiefie of incompetence in the Engine Room and our good tempered Chief Officer just about jumped down his throat saying he wouldn’t have been short if Nash hadn’t done such a bloody stupid thing as dropping a depth charge at slow speed...

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This site was last updated 01/17/12