Halcyon Class Minesweepers

HMS Hebe

Hebe Pre War
Hebe 1939
Hebe 1940
Hebe 1941
Hebe 1942
Hebe 1943
Hebe - Crew



HMS Hebe - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hebe
(Source: NMM N4101)

Summary of History

On completion HMS HEBE (J24) was assigned to the Home Command in the 1st M/S Flotilla. She was transferred from Portsmouth to Devonport for manning and commissioned for trials on 6 September 1937. She paid off into Dockyard Control on 11 September and exchanged crews with HALCYON. In Reserve at Chatham, she was at 14 days notice. 

HEBE was refitted in March/April 1938 and she then commissioned for service and started work in the Channel with visits to south coast ports. After maintenance in August she accompanied the Flotilla on a visit to Copenhagen which started on 30 August. She spent September/October off the north-west Scottish coast and sailed down to Portsmouth in December. She was refitted at Portsmouth in April 1939. In June she took part in the search for the submarine THETIS (sunk in Liverpool Bay). With Sen. Officer 1st M/S embarked, she stayed with SEAGULL for salvage operations on the submarine. BRAMBLE relieved her In August as S.O. M/S.1 and with the war approaching she sailed to her War Station at Scapa Flow. October/November was spent on operational duties at Port 'A', Scapa and in the Clyde, helping to sweep enemy mines in the latter. 

HEBE docked at Leith and had a short refit there up to 3 Feb.1940. Out of refit she worked at Scapa and off the Scottish east coast.  Ten 'Halcyons' from the 4th, 5th and 6th M/S Flotillas took part in Operation 'Dynamo', and HEBE of the 1st Flotilla (based at Scapa) was also present. For a time she wore the flag of the F.O. Dover and on 29 May Captain Buck, RN used the ship as his headquarters in his capacity as Sen. Officer (Afloat). The same day Rear Admiral Wake-Walker hoisted his flag in HEBE and took charge of the evacuation. On 31st May HEBE took onboard Lord Gort for part of his journey from Dunkirk to Dover. On 1 June HEBE was damaged when she was struck by a bomb. The crew suffered from the strain of the operation.  'In their capacity as command ship off Bray-Dunes, few of the crew had slept for five days. In the evening of the 31st the ship’s sub-lieutenant collapsed, going into fits and convulsions. Next day, 27 members of the crew came down the same way. Finally, as HEBE returned to Dover on the morning of June 1st, the ship’s surgeon collapsed too, mumbling that he could not face another trip to Dunkirk. Under these sad circumstances HEBE was ordered to rest, the only cure, and proceeded down channel to Portsmouth on the 5th'. For the next two months every available small ship was employed in the area where the enemy seemed likely to attempt an invasion of England, ie, from the Wash to Newhaven. Destroyer flotillas backed by cruisers were stationed at strategic points and the battleship REVENGE waited at Plymouth. By September HEBE was released to head back north, and she and HAZARD were sweeping for mines off the east coast that month. On 15 November HEBE sailed into Leith for a refit which lasted until 3 Feb.1941. 

Out of refit she was detailed for an escort task but on the 8th was involved in a collision and had to put in to Rosyth for repairs until the 22nd. She escorted the Forth to Thames Convoy FS22, and then a single ship named PASS OF LENY who was under tow by the tug SEA GIANT. With BRAMBLE she performed a Dungeness to Portsmouth mine sweep after more repairs on the Thames (1.4.41 - 5.41). Thereafter her role became more clear. In mid May the ships of the 1st Flotilla were ordered to be at one week's notice for (sweeping) operations, otherwise they were to be available to the CinC Western Approaches for escort duties. HEBE therefore escorted the following W. Approaches Convoys between 19 May and 13 September 1941: HX125, OB327, HX128, OB336, SC34, OB343, HX136, HX139, ON5, SC39, SC40, HX145 and ONM16. These duties usually lasted three or four days - the first or last legs of convoy passages - on the vital North Atlantic run. HEBE then refitted at Belfast between 16 September and 9 November.

HMS Hebe - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hebe
: www.navyphotos.co.uk

After her Belfast refit HEBE joined her sisters of the 1st Flotilla on the 'Kola Run'. First HEBE, HAZARD and SHARPSHOOTER escorted four of Convoy PQ5's seven ships from Kirkwall to Hvalfjord in mid November. The 'Halcyons' with the cruiser SHEFFIELD, sailed ahead of this convoy to arrive Murmansk on 8 December. For a time HEBE was employed locally in North Russian waters; with BRAMBLE she escorted two of Convoy QP4's ships, SAN AMBROSIO and EULIMA, from Archangel to Murmansk. Next with BRAMBLE and HAZARD she rendezvoused with PQ7 and brought this convoy into Murmansk on 12 Jan.1942. HEBE and BRAMBLE then made the passage back to the UK, escorting QP6 (six ships) between 24 January and 2 February. HEBE sailed down to Immingham to refit between 8 February and 11 March. 

Out of refit HEBE proceeded to Scapa and was ordered to overtake Convoy PQ13 (19 ships). On her way to Seidisfjord with the destroyer FURY she had mechanical trouble but reached Iceland on 22 March. Convoy PQ13 had left Reykjavik on the 20th; HEBE was delayed and eventually on the 28th was ordered to join the escort of PQ14. She was more than a day late when she overtook this convoy (24 ships), 16 of which returned to Iceland because of extremely bad weather and ice. HEBE herself sustained ice damage, and she accompanied four of the returning merchant ships, who included the ALDERSDALE, to Reykjavik. HEBE proceeded to the Humber for repairs in April/May. 

After her repairs HEBE was redeployed to more sunny climes. On 31 May 1942 she left Scapa with SPEEDY for Greenock and onward routing to Gibraltar; she was in fact on transfer to the Mediterranean Fleet, and joined it by way of Operation 'Harpoon'. Other ships of the 1st M/S Flotilla also left home to join the 17th Flotilla in the Med. 

Operation 'Harpoon' was the passage of a convoy to the beleaguered island of Malta. Simultaneously a convoy left for the island from the Eastern Med. Four Fleet minesweepers, among them HEBE and SPEEDY, joined the escort of the western Harpoon convoy which left the Clyde on 5 June 1942. The fleet sweepers and MLs were needed to sweep the convoy through enemy minefields around Malta, and to stay there to keep the harbour free of mines.

On the evening of 15 June when the convoy was 30 miles south of Pantellaria two Italian 6" cruisers and several destroyers appeared. Dive bombers arrived overhead and sank the CHANT; KENTUCKY was hit and taken in tow by HEBE. BURDWAN was then disabled, and she and KENTUCKY were sunk by our own forces to give the last two merchant ships a better chance of survival. HEBE was damaged by a shell from an Italian cruiser while trying to sink KENTUCKY. Eventually the remainder of the convoy (only two ships) and escorts came within range of Malta-based Spitfire aircraft. Unfortunately ORARI, and three escorting destroyers struck mines on their way in to Malta 16 June, the Polish KUJAWIAK being sunk; the other ships survived. On the 16th HEBE was holed on the port side 8ft above the keel and the starboard propeller damaged by 'mine or torpedo' off Malta. HEBE eventually docked for repairs at Malta on 17th June until July. 

In mid August, then based at Malta, HEBE sailed out to render assistance to the BRISBANE STAR and OHIO. These ships had survived Operation 'Pedestal', the epic August convoy to Malta, although very heavily hit, particularly the tanker OHIO. HEBE was one of several ships, including SPEEDY, HYTHE and RYE who somehow pulled the shattered inert tanker into harbour. 

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. In July 1943 she took part in Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily).

At the beginning of November there were still 13 German U-boats in the Mediterranean, and one of them, U.453, made three minelaying sorties off Brindisi and Bari. HEBE became a victim of a mine off Bari on 22 November 1943 and she sank with the loss of 38 of her company. The minefield had been laid off Bari harbour by U453 during the previous week. The explosion was abreast the bulkhead between the boiler rooms on the port side, followed by a second explosion near the same place. She capsized within four minutes of the first explosion.

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

See also www.naval-history.net

HMS Hebe

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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012