Halcyon Class Minesweepers

HMS Gleaner

Gleaner Pre War
Gleaner 1939
Gleaner 1940
Gleaner 1941
Gleaner 1942
Gleaner 1943
Gleaner 1944
Gleaner 1945
Gleaner Post War
Gleaner Crew


HMS Gleaner - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Gleaner


Summary of History

HMS GLEANER (J83) was one of four new ships based on the Halcyon design which were to be used for survey work. Of these, two (Franklin and Scott) were designed for surveying and two (Jason and GLEANER) were primarily designed as minesweepers.

GLEANER was to be designed primarily for minesweeping and simply fitted for her survey role.  No armament was fitted, though GLEANER was fitted for but not with the standard Halcyon armament of 2 x 4-inch guns and small arms. All wiring and strengthening was built into her to allow for her  speedy conversion to full minesweeping configuration on the outbreak of war. 

Having been armed at Devonport GLEANER was allocated to the 1st A/S Flotilla in Western Approaches Command in time for the outbreak of war on 3 Sept 1939, based at Belfast. In December she was reassigned to the Home Fleet 2nd Force based at the Clyde. Thereafter she seems to have specialised as a Clyde defender because when U33 bravely sailed into the Firth of Clyde and attempted to lay mines she was caught by GLEANER and destroyed on 12 Feb 1940 (capturing rotors from the sub's Enigma machine). This was a fine and most important success and Adolph Hitler was subsequently assured by the German C‑in‑C, Navy, Grand Admiral Raeder, that such a dangerous attempt would not be repeated. 

In March 1940 GLEANER was sent back to W. Approaches Command in the 3rd A/S Flotilla, and she continued for the time being in her escort role. Thereafter GLEANER gained considerable experience in U‑boat hunting and attacking. Between 14 August and 27 October 1940 she escorted Convoys 0A198, SL42, 0A204, 0A216, OG43 and HG45. She took Convoy OG43 down to Gibraltar in Sept/October, and then went out to escort OG44 on the last leg of its passage, giving four enemy destroyers out of Brest a wide berth. In November she rescued survivors of the HARBOROUGH (from WN21 on the NE coast) who had been bombed, and she then escorted the East Coast convoys EN27, WN40, EN30, EN37 and WN50 before entering refit at Leith on 12 December; this refit lasted until 4 Feb.1941. 

Out of refit GLEANER spent 1941 engaged on further east coast escort duties within the Rosyth Escort Force; many of these convoys sailed between Methil and the Clyde . Very high standards of alertness (against enemy aircraft) and navigation (in the swept channel) were reached and maintained. From 9 Feb. GLEANER escorted WN81, EN71 WN84, WN87, EN74, EN77 and WN90 (to 23 Feb.).  In early September GLEANER was needed for survey duties off Iceland, but (she) "cannot be spared without relief". A few days later she was escorting FS594F and EC74; EC79 and WN87 followed. 

Early in 1942 GLEANER was ordered to be converted into a Fleet Minesweeper during her next refit which commenced on 10 Feb at Leith and ended on 20 May. When she was ready for sea she was attached to the 1st M/S Flotilla based at Scapa, and she sailed up there in July when her trials were completed. After a boiler‑clean at Aberdeen she and HARRIER departed Scapa on 30 August and arrived Hvalfjord, Iceland on 4 September. Following a convoy conference the next day GLEANER sailed to overtake Convoy PQ18 (40 ships) which arrived Archangel on 17 September 1942.  

In November 1942 GLEANER operated locally, escorting individual ships from Archangel via the White Sea to the Kola Inlet. In mid‑December GLEANER joined the ocean escort for Convoy RA51 (14 ships), arriving Loch Ewe on 11 Jan.1943. GLEANER sailed to Grimsby for repairs between 14 Jan and 22 Feb 1943, and in early March sailed up to Hvalfjord and operated there locally as a minesweeper until mid June. GLEANER returned to Grimsby for further maintenance for a month in June/July. In September she returned to Iceland for further local duties and then refitted on the Thames between 18 October and 30 November. 

Out of refit GLEANER took part in the escorting of JW55B which left Loch Ewe on 20 December 1942 (19 ships) and reached Kola on the 29th.  The battlecruiser SCHARNHORST sallied from Altenfjord and was eventually trapped and sunk on Boxing Day, the gun flashes being visible to the escorts of the convoy. GLEANER then acted as local escort and  performed other local escort tasks in Jan/Feb 1944 in North Russian waters, before departing Kola on 2 March 1944 with RA57 (31 ships).  

By March 1944 preparations for 'Neptune', the naval operation within Operation 'Overlord', the invasion of Normandy, were going ahead apace. GLEANER and the 1st M/S Flotilla were to cut two channels through the mine barrier. With the flotilla she then continued to sweep for mines and perform whatever duties were necessary while the Allied Armies were built up to stay in France. On 25 August GLEANER was damaged by a near‑miss mine while sweeping with the Flotilla off Le Havre, and she had to be towed to the UK. She underwent repairs on the Thames in September/October. 

By November 1944 the 1st M/S Flotilla was operating from Harwich and GLEANER spent virtually the remainder of her working life employed as a minesweeper with the flotilla. (It is quite possible that she occasionally performed escort duties, but the widening of swept areas and eventually the paramount need to remove all mines from the sea kept her and her sisters very busy). On 14 March 1945 she collided with a pilot vessel and, after a wait in the Small Downs, she sailed to Chatham where she was repaired between 23 March and 5 April. She still had problems when she tried to sail, and on 26 April she was ordered to rejoin the flotilla when ready. 

It was on 2 Sept 1946 that GLEANER sailed into Falmouth to reduce to reserve. It is likely that, as was the case with so many other ships, she descended down the state of readiness ladder as the rundown of the Fleet and loss of wartime‑only officers and men progressed. On 20 April 1950, she was finally sold for scrapping, and on 14 May that year she arrived Preston to be broken up. 

Primary Source: One of a series of articles from World Ship Society’s publication ‘Warship’  THE WAR OF THE HALCYONS 1939-1945 R A Ruegg 

HMS Gleaner - Halcyon Class Minesweeper


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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012