Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Halcyon 1940
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HMS Halcyon - Halcyon Class Minesweepers
HMS Halcyon

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Remarks, Orders etc




HALCYON (with Hussar) transferred from the 5th MSF to the 4th MSF of ‘Smokey Joes’ based in Grimsby.




For Humber   1st Minesweeping Flotilla




27/2 HALCYON taken in hand by J S Doig & Co Grimsby for condenser defect. Probable date for completion 5/3

9.3.40: Completion of repairs to HALCYON’s condenser delayed until approx 18/3 owing to difficulty in supply of necessary materials.

9/4: For Dover


Source: http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-09-aggression-09-07.html

Halcyon's identity assumed by  German vessel 'Karl Peters'

An order for reconnaissance forces, dated 24 March 1940, entitled "Behaviour during entrance into the harbour," reads in part: "The disguise as British craft must be kept up as long as possible. All challenges in Morse by Norwegian ships will be answered in English. In answer to questions a text with something like the following content will be chosen:

Calling at Bergen for a short visit; no hostile intent.

Challenges to be answered with names of British warships: Koeln - H.M.S. Cairo; Koenigsberg - H.M.S. Calcutta; Bromso - H.M.S. Faulkner; Karl Peters - H.M.S. HALCYON; Leopard - British destroyer; Wolf - British destroyer; E-boats - British motor torpedo boats.

Arrangements are to be made enabling British war flags to be illuminated. Continual readiness for making smoke." CC115)




18/4 HALCYON taken in hand for boiler cleaning












26/5 HALCYON is to be sailed for Dover forthwith anchoring on arrival in the Downs. 6th Minesweeping Flotilla


A Halcyon signals off Dunkirk
(IWM ADM1179)

Source: Orde

HMS Halcyon at Dunkirk



Arrived Dover in company with HMS Skipjack





Anchored in the Downs


Weighed and proceeded with the destroyer Impulsive, the Skipjack and the Trinity House vessel Patricia to sweep a new channel (Afterward known as route X) and to lay U, V and W buoys


Anchored off Goodwin Knoll






Weighed and returned to Dover


Cdr Hinton took over command of the ship from Lt Cdr Cox


Slipped and returned to Dunkirk. In the Downs, the minesweepers Sutton, Skipjack, Fitzroy and Salamander joined company


Arrived off La Panne. Sent Sub Lt Worthington RNVR in charge of the motor boat and 2 whalers to embark troops








Swell made boat work difficult


Weighed and proceeded with 192 troops on board. Shortly after, a big and unaccountable explosion occurred just off the bow


Arrived Dover. Disembarked 192 troops.


Sailed for Dunkirk


In the vicinity of Dunkirk, enemy aircraft were engaged, and a deliberate attack on a hospital ship (the Isle of Guernsey) was observed. "One wounded man from this ship was picked up out of the water" (Probably an airman whom the Isle of Guernsey had been attempting to pick up.)


On arrival at Dunkirk, out-going destroyers informed HALCYON to keep clear until dark








Sharpshooter joined company and both ships anchored just to the eastward of the burning wreck of the Crested Eagle (?the SS Clan Macalister)


Weighed and proceeded with 232 troops, leaving the M/B for the destroyers to use


Off Dunkirk another unexplained explosion occurred


Arrived Dover. Disembarked 232 troops


Sailed for Dunkirk, in company with Skipjack and Salamander


Anchored off Bray. Embarked 422 troops assisted by a large private motor boat (the Amblere) the exhausted Naval crew of which were relieved by Sub Lieutenants Vann and Worthington and ratings. After this motorboat had broken down, the Skipjack's motorboat was borrowed, used for towing whalers, and then handed over to the destroyers. 





Weighed and proceeded


Arrived Dover. Disembarked 422 troops


Sailed for Dunkirk. The passage up Dunkirk roads was more difficult than usual owing to the number of new wrecks in the channel, the complete darkness and the large amount of traffic. A magnetic mine was seen dropping off 12E buoy, about ½ cable from the ship 










Anchored off La Panne. An intense bombardment was in progress


Sent in whalers for troops, who also swam and paddled off in rubber boats. During this operation 30 fighters machine-gunned the ship, the boats and the beach. Lieut N Thurston RN was mortally wounded, the whalers were riddled and one rating seriously wounded. One of our fighters crashed in the sea near the ship and the pilot was rescued.


Private S V Jones 3654379
A Company, 1st Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers) 

DUNKIRK – Eye witness account 

I wandered around the beach for a while and then much later decided to have another go at wading out as far as possible, perhaps a passing small boat would pick me up. By this time my shoulders were aching madly, and I realised it was the weight of all the Bren gun magazines I was carrying, all fully loaded, plus the others tucked in behind my gas mask.  

Later in the day I saw three chaps pulling a canvas collapsible boat across the sand towards the water, so I went across to them in the hope of being able to join them. Inside the boat they had a wounded companion. Another chap reached them at the same time as I and we were told, ’Only room for one’. The other chap must have taken pity on me seeing the state of me, and said, ‘You go then mate!’ We managed to reach the waters edge pushed the boat into the sea, and then clambered in to it. The two chaps took a paddle each and began to paddle, but not in rhythm. The first wave flowed over us into the boat, almost causing us to sink. I took my steel helmet off and began to bale out the water, and shouting IN-OUT! So we finally got the boat heading smoothly to a naval ship immediately in front. It turned out to be a minesweeper, HMS HALCYON. 

Tied up alongside, I bent down to retrieve my equipment which I had taken off in case the boat had capsized and thrown me into the sea. ‘Leave that’ called out an officer of the ship ‘It’s you we want’. With hindsight I should have picked the equipment up and brought it aboard as about an hour later whilst we still lay off the beach I was asked to round the ship and collect all the ammunition people were carrying.  

On boarding the ship I had been pushed into the foc’sle under the forward gun, and given a large bowl of soup and a quarter portion of a loaf. It was like Manna from heaven. As I sat there relishing the hot soup, immediately above my head came an enormous explosion, and a rat tat tat, as empty cartridge cases fell upon the deck. I jumped out of my skin thinking we had been bombed and were being machine gunned. As I rushed out on deck a sailor told me it was the forward gun firing on hostile planes, Stuka dive bombers which were attacking all and sundry beneath them. Soldiers picked up from the beach were ringing the deck of the ship and letting fly at the planes with any weapon they had. I could have done with all those Bren gun magazines I had carried for miles only to leave them in the canvas boat. 

Now that I was aboard the ship I thought that it was high time that we pulled up anchor and made our way back to England. We continued however for several hours picking up troops, and even going down to Dunkirk to lay off shore as small craft came out to us. The scene and the entire area was a sight of pure living hell. The ship eventually slipped away during the late afternoon (1340) and we disembarked at Dover Harbour (1st June). 

IWM 11629 03/28/1


Orders were received to go alongside Dunkirk pier. This was done during a heavy dive bombing attack. While embarking French troops, about 40 planes dive-bombed the mole and the ship without causing damage.


Sailed for Dover. Shells from shore batteries west of Dunkirk missed astern.  


Off W buoy, attacked by dive bombers. Four heavy bombs fell between the HALCYON and the P/V Prague. The latter reported she was making water aft; while HALCYON was closing her, about 30 darts were dropped, falling close on either side of the HALCYON. Having escorted the Prague for a few miles, HALCYON went on ahead as she had 17 serious casualties on board and there were other ships in the vicinity.


Arrived Dover. Disembarked 508 troops.

Delay in ammunitioning ship. Reverted to 2½ hours notice



Sailed for Dunkirk

Able Seaman Francis Vincent (age 34, D/JX 137430 killed).









Secured alongside east pier Dunkirk. Embarked 416 French troops, the mole and the ship being straddled by gunfire from La Panne. A few troops on the pier were wounded. Lt Nigel Vere Brook Thurston (age 25) killed.


Sailed for Folkestone


Arrived Folkestone. Disembarked 416 troops.




Arrived Dover


Sailed for Dunkirk


Secured alongside Avant-port





Sailed with 501 French troops

Dense fog off N Goodwin L.V.


Arrived Dover. Disembarked 501 troops.



Air attacked; damaged and some compartments flooded. Request HALCYON to be sailed to Devonport for docking and repairs

 Total troops transported 2,271


The following awards were made:


DSO               Cdr E P Hinton MVO


Bar to DSC      Lt Cdr J M S Cox


DSC                S/Lt J F Worthington


DSM                Sto.P.O. J H Salmon


DSM               A.B.   C E Jarnet


Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Remarks, Orders etc




11/6: Anticipate HALCYON will be ready for sea pm 15/6





 Source: ADM 199/184 Minesweeping Operations in Harwich area Awards 

From:       The Senior Officer Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla
Date:       8th August 1940
To:         The Flag Officer in Charge, Harwich

Subject:    Operations of Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla 

The following report of the movements of the Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla since their arrival at Harwich on 17th June are submitted.






At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Patrol after dark.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Patrol after dark.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Anchored at Midnight.


At sea


Fog. Anchored off Aldburgh.


At sea


Returned to Harwich.






At sea


To sea with HUSSAR sweeping Gap E. Night patrol.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Anchored for night.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Anchored for night.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Anchored for night.


At sea


Sweeping Gap E. Anchored for night.




Harbour alongside SPEEDWELL


At sea


To sea with HUSSAR sweeping Gap E.


At sea


Bombed 0455 and again at 1315. Night patrol.


At sea


Gap E. Saw convoy bombed 1411. Returned to Harwich.






At sea


To sea. Night patrol.


At sea


Gap E. Engaged aircraft 0705, no bombs. Returned to Harwich.






At sea


To sea for Gap E with trawlers sweeping. Night patrol.


At sea


Gap E 1300. Engaged one bomber and three fighters. Returned to Harwich. Alongside HUSSAR.




Harbour. HUSSAR to Chatham to recommission.


At sea


To sea. Night patrol.


At sea


Gap E with trawlers. 0900 sunk two mines. Returned to Harwich.






At sea


Sweeping Gap E with trawlers escorted by two destroyers. 1700, 13 aircraft bombing WREN sunk, MONTROSE damaged. Towed MONTROSE back to Harwich.


At sea


Returned to Harwich





Source: ADM 199/184 Minesweeping Operations in Harwich area Awards


From:   Captain M/S Harwich

Date:   10th August 1940

To:     The Flag Officer in Charge, Harwich


Subject: Clearance of Minefield 26th July 1940 – 7th August 1940


The first indication of the above was when SS Haytor was sunk in position 51° 47.7’N, 01° 48.5’E on the 26th July, 1940. On receipt of this news, five available Paddle Minesweepers were ordered from Lowestoft to make a searching sweep commencing at 0400 on 27th July, Captain M/S Harwich in HM Yacht Lexa conducting… Two mines were destroyed in addition to a ‘new type small mine’ salved and towed into Harwich by HMS Queen Empress.


28th, 29th, 30th July

Paddle sweepers continued search…Two German ‘X’ type mines and two ‘new type’ mines were cut and destroyed.


29th July

SS Moidart was sunk just to the East of the channel approximately 3 miles north on ‘Y’ and SS Clan Munroe was damaged by a mine 3 miles south of ‘Y’.


30th July

The 4th and 6th Flotillas of Fleet Sweepers augmented M/S Force, 7 Fleet Sweepers clearing a channel 3 cables on either side of the centre line from X to Z, as well as sweeping the North and South convoys through.


30th July to 3rd August

Fleet Sweepers swept North and South convoys through daily in addition to close searching the Channels X to Y to Z, and during this period a French ‘Sautter Harle’ mine was swept up and destroyed. 

1st August

HMS Whitshed was damaged by a mine north of Y.


2nd August

SS City of Canberra was mined (not sunk) in position 2 miles south of Position Z.

1st August

DC as well as magnetic mines being suspected in the Sunk Area, Paddle Sweepers swept ¾ mile on either side of QZS148 towards the North swim and 7QEF.


2nd August

Paddlers extended the search, LL Trawlers sweeping swept water of previous day, and 4 magnetic mines were destroyed, both days under the direction of Captain M/S in Lexa.


3rd August

Paddlers in harbour. Fleet sweepers swept convoys through, and SS Wychwood in convoy was sunk, by a torpedo or mine, approximately between Y and Z.


4th August

Sweeping hampered by fog. Fleet Sweepers made a close searching sweep of the new channel…Captain M/S conducting.


5th August

Fleet Sweepers swept convoys through new channel…successfully. Whilst hauling in her sweep near Z, HM Trawler River Clyde was mined and sunk. HMS Selkirk reported a mine and sinker in her sweep and this was salved complete and brought into Harwich by Commander W R Bull in Drifter Sunbeam II


6th August

The new channel was swept by the Fleet Sweepers – nothing found.


7th August

Trawlers sweeping the new channel exploded one mine in their sweep.



  Mines Destroyed

        Fleet Sweepers          17

        Paddle Minesweepers     14

        Trawlers                7

        Casualties              7 


  1. New small type mine has such a light sinker that it gets dragged a long way before being cut, often getting entangled with the kite.
  2. Evidence of conical floats working a delayed release.
  3. Possible obstructions in the mooring wire to defeat sweeping action and the present British Cutter.
  4. Two types of mines:

(a) The larger one laid by submarines or, singly or in pairs, by aircraft.
(b) The smaller by aircraft or ‘E’ boats.


‘E’ boats, accompanied by aircraft, probably come across at speed and when near the desired area cut out their fast-running engines and use a smaller one fitted with suitable exhaust, or rely upon the noise made by the aircraft, and the distraction of look-outs by flares dropped from them, to pass through unseen. 


The operations of the Fleet Sweepers have been most ably conducted by Commander E P Hinton, RN – Senior Officer in HALCYON – by whom no detail of organisation have been overlooked. Great keenness was displayed by the ships’ companies of all the ships concerned – Trawlers, Paddlers and Fleet Sweepers. Commander W R Bull has been recommended separately for his action in bringing in the enemy mine with sinker complete, and I attach a further list of Officers and Men recommended for decoration, Life Saving Medals, or other suitable award.


At sea


Sweeping Channel XYZ with four fleet sweepers ahead of convoys. SUTTON, SALAMANDER, SELKIRK joined company at 1000. 1218 and 1229 engaged single enemy aircraft. 1625-2130 Harbour. Then anchored Shipway.


At sea & Harwich


Sweeping XYZ with six fleet sweepers. 1500 sighted single enemy aircraft. 0810 ELGIN and DUNDALK joined company at sea. Returned to Harwich.


At sea


Sweeping XYZ with fleet sweepers (seven).


At sea & Harwich


Sweeping convoys through XYZ with seven sweepers. Sweeping new channel close to Shipwash. Sweeping H34 back to Harwich. 1715 sighted 20 twin-engined enemy bombers. HARRIER joined flotilla on return to Harbour.




HALCYON harbour. Six Fleet sweepers sweeping convoys through XYZ channel.


At sea


Clearing sweep new channel close to Shipwash 20’ X 2’. Poor visibility. 2 mines cut. 1200 SPEEDWELL rejoined flotilla. 1623, anchored in thick fog. (Eight Fleet sweepers.)


At sea


Continued at dawn. Completed channel 2000. Anchored Shipway. 0640 one mine each cut by HUSSAR, SPEEDWELL and HARRIER in position 201’ 3.2 miles from 54A buoy while sweeping outer eastern lap of channel.


At sea


Clearing channel joining new channel, eight Fleet sweepers. Completed clearance 2115. Anchored Shipway.


At sea & Harwich


High percentage search…with eight fleet sweepers…Sweeping X to Y on return. Returned to Harwich.

15th June to 7th August – HALCYON

Days at sea       33
Days in Harbour   20 

Some minor actions against aircraft have been omitted from the report but, like all Flotillas operating in this vicinity, hostile aircraft have been engaged almost daily. 

I consider that all officers and men in the Flotilla have carried out their duties cheerfully and efficiently and I find it most difficult to single out and for individual mention. A few names are however, submitted on the attached list. 

R P Hinton
Senior Officer Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla 

The following Officers and Men of HMS HALCYON are recommended for awards:- 

Lieutenant John Douglas David Moore RN
For a magnificent feat on the occasion of towing HMS Montrose to Harwich, the latter part being in very poor visibility and with strong and unpredictable tides.

[Mentioned in Despatches] 

Sub Lieutenant Bernard Geoffrey Vann
During the attack on HMS Wren, this Officer did excellent work in encouraging his Guns crew and getting the best results out of them during the action, and, in his new capacity as First lieutenant, made excellent arrangements for the rescuing and caring for the survivors.

[Awarded DSC] 

Surgeon Lieutenant William Hibbert Allanson Picton RNVR
On his first day at sea in one of HM Ships did excellent work in caring for the survivors from HMS Wren. This work was most ably assisted by Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant Richard March Hooper, RNVR, who has invariably carried out his duties in a most cheerful and conscientious manner. 

Thomas Patrick O’Flaherty, Petty Officer JX144278
Showed great initiative and constant devotion to duty in his capacity of Chief Boatswain’s Mate.

[Awarded DSM] 

James Sweeny, Acting Yeoman of Signals JX128458
As an Acting Yeoman during important Minesweeping operations, he carried out his duties as a senior V/S rating (no signal officer being borne) with great zeal and efficiency. This unit consisted at times of eleven ships and for a time signalling was continuous.

[Mentioned in Despatches] 

William Ruddock, Leading Seaman, JX138963
In his capacity of ‘QO’ he has maintained the armament in such a high state of efficiency that no breakdown has been experienced during frequent actions. This fact is due to the many extra hours put in quite voluntarily by this rating, no ‘OA’ being borne.

[Mentioned in Despatches] 

Clarence Edward Jarnet AB J595955
Has carried out his duties in connection with the maintenance and handling of the minesweeping gear with marked keenness and efficiency. 

       H Spicer, Leading Stoker, KX82037
       E Spooner, Stoker, KX88693
       N Horsley, Leading Telegraphist, JX135407
       J Clarke, Officers Steward, LX21778  

The above named ratings have carried out their several & routine duties with great ability and efficiency at times under the most trying conditions. The stokers have on occasions formed volunteer members of boats crews. 

R P Hinton
8th August 1940


Comment from: The Flag Officer in Charge, Harwich, 12th August 1940 

The operations covered by these reports entailed a degree of hard work, determination and technical skill which reflects the highest credit on all concerned and showed a very fine spirit to exist in the Minesweeping Force at Harwich.  


12th August 1940

Comment from: R Drax, Admiral, The Nore, 14th August 1940 

The remarks of the Flag Officer in Charge, Harwich are fully concurred in. The zeal and devotion to duty of the minesweeping flotillas deserve the fullest recognition that can be given, particularly in view of the fact that their work is done out of sight and in the constant expectation of air attack. Very early recognition would be very welcome and specially appropriate at the present time. 

(Awards were made on 29th August 1940)




For Middlesborough




Taken in hand 16/8 for refit, completes 13/9. approx.
Completed midnight 16/17.9.40. Earliest date of sailing 19.9
22/9 Delayed owing to defect in degaussing until 25.9.
26/9: HALCYON returning, overheating in degaussing compartment, ready to sail 27/9




28.9.40 HALCYON on leaving Tees at 1800 on 27/9 owing to explosion, probable mine, returned to Middlesborough. Ship has been wet docked, a further report will be forwarded tomorrow after dry docking.
2.10.40 Taken in hand at Smith’s dock Middlesborough.
Stem was under water by the time she entered dry dock
4/10 Date of delivery about 4 months
7/10 Completes 31.1.41 


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