Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Hebe 1942
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HMS Hebe - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hebe

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc





HEBE, Bramble and Hazard rendezvoused with PQ7 and brought this convoy into Murmansk on 12 Jan.1942


At sea


Harrier and Speedwell form part of eastern local escort for QP6 (6 ships) from 24/1 until 25/1. Bramble and HEBE joined on 25/1 and remained until 28/1 when the convoy dispersed.




3/2 Arrangements can be made for HEBE to be taken in hand for refit by the Humber Grazing Dock Company, Immingham, completes 14/3













Out of refit HEBE proceeded to Scapa and was ordered to overtake Convoy PQ13 (19 ships). On her way to Seidisfiord with the destroyer FURY she had mechanical trouble but reached Iceland on 22 March.












HEBE and Speedy joined PQ14 (26 ships) on 8/4 from Reykjavik




On the night of 10/4 the convoy met heavy ice which was further south than usual, consisting of growlers from which it was impossible to extricate itself due to dense fog. The convoy was delayed and scattered and 16 merchant ships together with Speedy and HEBE, which were damaged by the ice, put back to Iceland.




From PQ14








22/4 From Blenheim: HEBE should be docked for permanent repairs to plates and rivets below water line. Temporary repairs are being carried out by Blenheim, estimated completion 23/4

23/4 From Rear Admiral (D) Home Fleet: Request ACIC will sail HEBE for Scapa as soon as temporary repairs have been completed. 








3/5 HEBE taken in hand Doigs, Grimsby. Provisional completion 25/5




Left Scapa with SPEEDY for Greenock








On 12/6 HEBE and Speedy joined the convoy (Operation Harpoon) for Malta.

It was clear that unless something could be done, and done quickly, the Malta’s harbours would be closed permanently and no supplies would be able to be landed by sea. It was decided that the next convoy leaving Gibraltar would include four the fleet sweepers, SPEEDY, HEBE, RYE and HYTHE, which had been brought from the UK and the remaining six motor launches of the 3rd M/S M/L Flotilla, MLs 121 134 135 168 459 and 462.


On 12/6 the convoy (Harpoon) left Gibraltar for Malta, six merchant vessels escorted by the AA cruiser CAIRO, nine destroyers and the minesweepers. The four fleet sweepers were henceforth to be designated the 17th MS Flotilla under the command of Cdr. Doran in SPEEDY.

During the passage the convoy was repeatedly attacked by aircraft and Italian surface ships and four of the supply ships and the destroyer BEDOIN were sunk or had to be abandoned.


On the 15 June when the convoy was 30 miles south of Pantellaria two Italian 6" cruisers and several destroyers appeared. The destroyer BEDOUIN led out the fleet destroyers to meet the enemy while CAIRO four 'Hunt' Class destroyers and the minesweepers made off.  BEDOUIN and PARTRIDGE were disabled; the other destroyers hit one of the enemy ships. CAIRO and the 'Hunts' joined in the surface action when the convoy had been protected by smoke, but then more dive bombers arrived overhead and sank the CHANT; KENTUCKY was hit and taken in tow by HEBE. 

Extracts from diary of Lt J A Pearson on Rye: 

0230 Enemy coastal forces attack convoy – repulsed.

0622 Convoy attacked by Italian navy (two 8 inch cruisers and two destroyers)

0623 Cairo returns fore and smoke screen laid.

0709 Attack by Ju88 dive bombers

0720 Second attack by Ju88’s

0735 Merchantman sunk

0845 Italian navy again opens fire on convoy.

0924 Three Italian cruisers and two destroyers opened fire.

1038 Dive bombing resumes

1218 Rye and HEBE try to sink the damaged Kentucky with depth charges and gunfire.

1325 (Rye and HEBE some 25 miles astern of the convoy) Italian cruisers open fire on HEBE and Rye. 8-inch shell passes through CO of HEBE’s cabin. HEBE dumps confidential books. 

(On hearing of the attack, Hardy, taking his three fleet destroyers with him, steered the AA cruiser Cairo to the minesweeper’s assistance. The Italian cruisers came into sight at around 1400 but turned away to the west.) 

1910 Convoy being dive bombed.

1945 Hurricanes from Malta drive off enemy.

2339 Speedy, HEBE, Rye and Hythe (17th MSF) stream sweeps to lead convoy into Malta. Sometime about midnight there had been E-boats buzzing around – everybody taking pot-shots at them…very dark… port 0.5 inch gunner shouts out – “Sir, an E-boat alongside port side, can’t depress my guns enough to open fire” ….. then a voice from the ‘E-boat’ alongside … “Please, it’s only us, your ML (one of the six minesweeping motor launches) – everybody takes us for an E-boat and this is the only safe place”.

Source: http://www.cronab.demon.co.uk/malta3.htm 

Report on damage caused by Italian shell:

C.A.F.O 2972/39

1. Believed to be 6" H.E.
2. 26,000 yards (approx), 170 Right
3. Forecastle Deck, Port Side at Frame No. 36.
4. Burst on impact perforating surrounding superstructure to a radius of 25 feet.
5. ---
6. Structural damage slight but splinter damage considerable to electric cables.
7. As in 4 and 6.
8. 2nd whaler made unseaworthy.
9. As in 4 and 6, together with Kelvin sounding machine, Commanding Officer's Cabin, Pantry and bathroom, screen door and bulkheads, ventilating shafts, guardrails and rigging, forward support of Port .5" gun platform.
10. ¼" Hull plating at point of impact, and ⅛" Superstructure plating to distance of 30 feet.
11. Complete. Fragments varied in size, the largest being estimated at 2½" x 1½".
12. Very slight.
13. As in 6. Electric cables to LL and SA gear from bridge fractured, all low power leads; voice pipes and casing to steering gear, and echo sounding leads.

Signed  G. Mowatt
Lieut. Commander, R.D., R.N.R.
18th June 1942

Source: Damage Reports ADM 267/120




0800 HEBE mined off St Elmo

Report on damage caused by mine:

C.A.F.O 2972/39

1.  Mine (Contact) remainder unknown.
2.  Unknown, believed to be 25 fathoms.
3.  Smooth sea, fine.
4.  Bottom to port of centre line between stations 18 and 31.
5.  Before, 9' 0" Forward;  9' 9" Aft.
     After, 12' 6" Forward;   8' 0" Aft.
6.  10 knots, Heel nil, and as required for entering harbour.
7.  No tanks in vicinity.
8.   ...
9.   ...
10. ...transverse bulkhead at 25 frame torn and distorted, lower deck between 18 and 31 frames partially destroyed. All frames on port side between station 18 and station 31 below waterline destroyed. All damage adjacent to explosion.
11. Compartments between 18 and 31 stations.
12. Nil.
13. Except for ammunition in ready use positions all guns put out of action, except for Oerlikons. Loss of speed and manoeuvrability. 
14. The following installations put out of action: W/T; Gyro Compass and repeaters; Asdic and S.A. Gear.
15. Nil.
16. Flooding of Low Power Room caused much Chlorine gas, also force of explosion released CO2 gas.
17. All Watertight doors and hatches were kept shut. Nos. 18 and 31 Bulkheads have been shored. After ballast tank has been flooded.

Signed  G. Mowatt
Lieut. Commander, R.D., R.N.R.
18th June 1942


Extract from letter to Secretary of Admiralty dated 8th July 1942:

"HEBE" has since been docked and in the course of clearing the damaged compartments a large fragment has been discovered which in the opinion of the Bomb Safety Officer is from a 1000 Kilo German A.P. Bomb. As a stick of bombs is recorded as having fallen close to the ship about the time of the explosion it is highly probable that the damage was caused by a bomb exploding just below the surface and not by a mine.

Signed K. H. L. Mackenzie

(Report of the Manager, Constructive Dept:)

Holed port side approximately 24' x 16' with centre of explosion at approximately 24-25 Station 8 feet above keel. Flat keel and bottom plating port side buckled and distorted from 18 to 31 Bulkheads and to approximately 3 feet above L.W.L., together with all adjacent frames and longitudinals. Flat and vertical keels buckled upwards to a maximum of 2" between 22 and 30 stations.....

...All bottle racks in 4" Magazine distorted and crushed and all fittings in Central Stores, Upper and Lower, S.A. Magazine and CO2 Machinery Room require renewal. All W.T. Doors and hatches 18 - 31 require renewal or repair.....

Source: Damage Reports ADM 267/120




Taken in hand Malta, mine damage repairs


 Heebie Jeebies

Her name in Grecian Goddess' terms
Implies in myth she can restore
Old sailors to the bloom of youth-
A human treasure lost in war.
But sailors whom I'd known at home
When telling me about their ship,
Sighed, "Hebe's just a minesweeper
Deployed on any forlorn trip."

"We came to Malta days ago
When convoy 'Harpoon' almost failed,
With only two ships getting through
Out of a laden six that sailed.
But Malta is no 'Journey's End'
And sailors still on board agree,
The Hebe is no better off-
In harbour than she is at sea."

"She lies beneath a screen of smoke
Obscured from German bombing raids,
But every time the cloud bank drifts-
Her chance of preservation fades:
Since Hebe is the trapped quarry
Of a U-Boat and Stuka chase;
And Malta's future obviously-
Is hopeless as a naval base".

While the Hebe was in Malta my father (Bill Taylor) bumped into an old friend, John Snook, who was in the R.A.F., and it seems that occasionally they would reminisce about days gone by.   John a retired teacher, published his own poems under the publisher's name of Koons and in his book Malta Siege Verse 1941/1942/1943  he wrote a poem entitled Heebie Jeebies.

In a prologue to this poem he wrote

"I knew two sailors who came to Malta on board H.M.S. Hebe escorting the remains of a convoy code named 'Harpoon' which reached the island in June 1942. While in Grand Harbour, with two merchantmen that had also survived the voyage, the Hebe was almost enveloped by a smoke screen.

After meritorious service mine sweeping and escorting Mediterranean convoys for months in most hazardous waters, Hebe was sunk by enemy action in the Adriatic Sea off Bari.  Over thirty members of her crew were lost including one of the sailors I knew. The other man survived and when I met him recently he was enjoying a happy retirement in the little west of England town where he and I were born."

John was a lovely old chap and in 1990, the year of publication, signed a copy of the book for my father  "To Bill Taylor.  'Survivor of the Hebe'.

Sadly both have now died, my father in May 1999 and John in the summer of 2005.

Source: Rob Taylor, son of Bill Taylor, Stoker HMS Hebe


On 17/8 the 17th MSF of Speedy (Lt Cdr J G Brooks DSC), HEBE (Lt Cdr G Mowatt RD), Hythe and Rye were at Malta under the overall command of Commander M/S Malta, Commander H S (Jake) Jerome also in Speedy.

Early that morning the fleet minesweepers and ML’s left Malta to sweep into Malta the three remaining ships of the original convoy of fourteen that had taken part in ‘Operation Pedestal’. The fourth, Ohio, lay immobile some way behind. Commander Jerome in Speedy sent Rye and two ML’s to help Ohio while the rest escorted the three merchant ships the last few miles into Malta.


During the morning, Speedy, HEBE and Hythe joined Rye who was towing Ohio, and the three sweepers set up a protective screen around Ohio and her helpers. Shortly afterwards a tug arrived to take over the tow. 

From the log of Lt. Pearson, commanding officer HMS Rye: 

0855 SPEEDY sighted to eastwards. (SPEEDY with 3ML`s, HEBE and HYTHE 
     were to join up with RYE and OHIO).
0900 OHIO taken in tow by destroyer LEDBURY. RYE passes tow wire to
     LEDBURY; Tow commenced and proceeding well.
0940 PENN secured alongside OHIO`s starboard side to help with
1040 Heavy dive-bombing lasting ten minutes.
1059 OHIO out of control after bombing. BRAMHAM proceeds alongside 
     OHIO; helps RYE re-rig tow wire which had parted during the
1245 BRAMHAM`s wires part. RYE ordered to slip tow and screen ahead.
     Tug from Malta on way to help. (SPEEDY, HEBE and HYTHE meanwhile
     set up a protective screen round the ships).
     PENN and BRAMHAM alongside OHIO; Malta tug towing from ahead 
     and RYE sweeping ahead.

Source: http://www.cronab.demon.co.uk/malta3.htm 


Early the following morning the 17th Flotilla entered harbour to be followed at midday by Ohio.

Life for the men of the minesweepers at Malta was, like that for all at Malta, service or civilian, hard and dangerous. Food was severely rationed. Stan Jaques (on HMS Rye) has recalled life at that time...

...."rations were so low that when we were sweeping we were allowed to draw a couple of tins of steak extra for the ship’s company, and this was a real luxury. There were no crockery replacements and so we had to toss up for the empty jam-jar which became available now and again. Another facet of life was that the crews of the minesweepers were to be formed into Defence Platoons, in case Malta was invaded. They even tried Pongoes (soldiers) giving us drill, but they had to give this up as a bad job as their drill was different to ours and it always ended up as a shambles. There were always runs ashore, but it was usually the case of Jack (the sailors) and the troops organising themselves with football and water polo etc. And always the noise of aircraft and bombs".....

The ships of the 17th MSF continued their routine of daily sweeping at the same time as the enemy attempted to keep the channels closed with fresh minelaying at night.

Source: http://www.cronab.demon.co.uk/malta3.htm 


On this day the 17th MSF cleared five mines and in this month their total bag topped 300. But finally things began to get easier. With great support from the air the sweepers no longer faced the prospect of being bombed or machine gunned as they worked, and the minelaying aircraft became much less. Although the worst was over, there were still plenty of moored mines to deal with.

Nov 1942

HEBE stayed on and played her part in keeping Malta's harbour open. It is likely that following operation 'Torch' in November 1942 (which brought Allied Armies to the N. African shore) she was then deployed to deal with mines in other ports, and also to act as an escort vessel.


Sub Lt Kempson and Sub Lt Manning of 826 Albacore Squadron force landed in the sea, killing Manning. Kempson was rescued after surviving in a dinghy for 9 days. He was found 51 miles southeast of Malta and was picked up by HMS HEBE.


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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012