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.
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
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
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
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’
WAR OF THE HALCYONS 1939-1945