Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Hussar 1942
Hussar Pre-War
Hussar 1939
Hussar 1940
Hussar 1941
Hussar 1942
Hussar 1943
Hussar 1944
Hussar - Crew


HMS Hussar IWM FL 22918 - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hussar (IWM FL22918)

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc


The Navy List indicates that Lt. R C Biggs, DSC, appointed on 13 Jan.1942, became Commanding Officer (until March 1943)


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

... a signal came through posting me to HMS Hussar as watch officer. She was then supposed to be in Scapa so off I went, a cold all night train trip, only to find that the Hussar was not there but at West Hartlepool. I was sent out to spend New Years Eve on a battleship censoring, or helping to, ratings letters. Then back again south to find my ship. Not to worry, quite normal, change at York for West Hartlepool, if its not being bombed.

I find the Hussar in dry dock with a lot of work still to be done on her. Meet her Captain, Lieutenant Commander Biggs DSC RN, ex Gunnery Officer on the Exeter at the Battle of the River Plate, action where he earned his medal. This is first command. A smallish cheerful man of about 40, good company ashore, and me being Canadian and presumably not knowing any better, seemed to make it easier for an RN to waive normal formality. Our other officers were Lt Morrison, RNR No.1, Lt Collinson, RNVR, Electrical or Green Striper, Sub. Hargraves, RNVR Gunnery, Sub Lt Hogg, RNVR Navigation (a Rhodesian), Lt T T Green, Watch Officer like me, Chiefy whose name for the moment I forget, and CPO Swift, Coxswain. We made up 120 in all, a wartime complement.

With the refit finished we had a four inch forward, multiple point fives on either side below the bridge and twin Oerlikons on either side aft above the Wardroom, abaft of which was the sweeping gear. It was bitterly cold with over a foot of snow on the ground, one of the coldest winters they had had - this was top secret naturally.

We lived ashore until she came out of dry dock. The Hussar was a Halcyon Class Fleet Sweeper, presumably to do an Oropesa Sweep at speed ahead of the Fleet, maybe at 12 knots, doubt me that they ever did. Peacetime built they had rather better accommodation than normal for a warship. With the crew almost doubled they were rather crowded below. Nevertheless I rated a cabin to myself, small though it was. It had a porthole, never opened, a single raised bunk and an electric heater. The Wardroom was commodious stretching right across the ship. It actually had a small organ which had been scrounged from somewhere at an earlier date. We had a full time guest there whilst we were in dry dock. He sat throughout the day in a chair looking upward. Seems that they had bored a hole through while putting in the Oerlikons and told him to watch it, which he did all day until sometime later they came and put a bolt in it. To go on, the Halcyon sweepers in size were about half way between a Corvette and a small Destroyer, looking more like the latter which, fortunately, they were by the enemy. By the time I joined Hussar they were all being used as Convoy Escorts and several had already been lost, mainly on the Russian run.

My recollection of what went on while we were in West Hartlepool is very sketchy being absorbed in trying to learn, take in everything that was going on, just what I was supposed to do about it especially as I was supposed to know a lot more than I did.




21/1 From NO i/c Hartlepool: Completes midnight 5/2, subject to satisfactory trials intend to sail a.m. 8/2






Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

In due course we went about our business and sailed for Scapa to join a convoy going to Murmansk. We had a spot of bother  when we arrived there and were signalled to anchor. The skipper, true to Big Ship fashion dropped his portside anchor while moving slowly ahead streaming out anchor chain, then dropping back with the wind or tide so as to lay to the chain rather than the anchor. EXCEPT it did not allow for out shallow draft and now excessive top hamper, especially forward. So she quickly swung beam to starboard and drifted down the sound, picking up the anchor and with it several old and new large cables that were stretched across the bottom, all of which came up with us. Pulling the anchor up onto the bow and cutting it free of cables was a painful sight as we seemingly hastened towards the end of the Sound.

The skipper was about to lose his first ship, even went down to help with the hacking and hewing. At nearly the last moment she came free but it was too late to turn head on so we went full speed stern first, with the seas breaking over the bridge the wrong way, until we found a more sheltered spot and dropped anchor in the normal small ship manner. I was on anchor watch that night constantly taking bearings and fancying that we had or were dragging again.










Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

We set sail the next day and joined the convoy. It was uneventful except for the weather which was as usual, damnably wet, cold, foggy, freezing up everything, high seas and so on. Being new, at first we were two to a watch with four on and four off. Later by using Collie the Green Striper we were able to make it four on eight off more or less. But that caught up with us and he was not really allowed to stand a watch, nor was Hogg the Navigator.

We had been issued with fleece lined canvas greatcoats weighing a ton, and fur lined hats, high sold leather boots that were as cold as charity sea stockings or not. We had radar that worked off and on and helped to keep station with the convoy ships, especially when zigzagging. In really heavy weather I found wedged between the compass and the asdic cabinet was a good holding place with the seas hitting the canvas dodger and going over my head. Was a wide open bridge of course. Outside of that it was an uneventful trip. We came into the estuary of Murmansk, let the Merchant go on up and later anchored further down ourselves.


At sea


Between 14 and 23 Feb 1942 HUSSAR was with Convoy PQ11 (13 ships). Initially this convoy was protected by NIGER (S.O. Escorts), HUSSAR and MIDDLETON, AIREDALE ('Hunt' Class destroyers), SWEETBRIAR (corvette) and BLACKFLY, CAPE ARGONA and CAPE MARIATO (trawlers). From 17 to 21 Feb the escort was NIGER, HUSSAR, SWEETBRIAR and OXLIP. The cruiser NIGERIA joined for the 21/22 Feb. with two Russian destroyers and Harrier, Hazard and Salamander. Rain, fog and snow had shrouded the ships, and the convoy, steaming at about eight knots, avoided the enemy, arriving Murmansk 22/2 without incident.


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

I do not remember the names of the cruisers and destroyers but we were four, the Harrier, Niger, Gossamer and ourselves. At first we used to go up to Murmansk. I remember our first trip ashore there. Many of us had started to grow beards and were in the most scruffy looking stage. What with that and our unseemly looking canvas coats and hats, the Russian sentries were, I think, aghast. Contrary to expectations the Russians were clean shaven. There was, we were told, a tax on beards.

Murmansk itself had numerous large cement buildings but it was noticeable that they were not completed. A number of stores but nothing to buy in them. There was a strong urine like smell throughout. People were dressed mainly in down filled (sea gull feathers) clothes. There were a number of people lined up with their bowl at feeding stations.

On the outskirts of town was a military camp, numbers of very large log houses or buildings. It was on the hill below this that Collie and I found a number of soldiers skiing having a fine time bouncing over bumps and tossed in the air. A cheery lot with whom we dickered for their skis, 'bolshie lugie' it sounded like. I got a pair with a Hagen harness on it for three (3 X 20) packs of cigarettes and a bar of nutty (chocolate). A satisfactory trade both ways I gather. We skied several times together but not allowed on that hill and only tried once more near there. We had found a small hill and were going up and down it when we noticed a powerful looking Russian woman standing at the bottom with a rifle which she had pointed at us as we came down. We politely left and went back to our ship.




HMS HARRIER (SO M/F 6), HMS SPEEDWELL, HMS HUSSAR, HMS SHARPSHOOTER sail pm 10th March to rendezvous convoy PQ12 during daylight 11th March.


At sea


Harrier, HUSSAR and Speedwell joined PQ12 (17 ships) as eastern local escort arriving Murmansk 12/3. Although Tirpitz searched for the convoy, PQ12 arrived unmolested.




16/3 From SBNO North Russia: During air raid on Murmansk night 15th/16th, 12 bombs dropped in dock area. HUSSAR was near missed twice. No damage or casualties to HM Ships or merchant vessels


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

Murmansk was the end of a single line going south to Moscow etc. We were up there one night with the Gossamer, our chummy ship. She was alongside the jetty and we alongside her. Come evening the troops were all aboard, when the Jerrys decided to make a raid. We were not allowed to man our guns so just stayed put with our game of darts. It was a bit noisy outside. Anyway a string of bombs spread-eagled us, one going into the jetty making a bit of a mess of Gossamer's rigging. The next nicely passed us and the other two went through the ice as we found next morning.From then on, stops in Murmansk were out and we anchored down stream ten miles or so and not too close together.


At sea


Gossamer, HUSSAR, Harrier, Niger and Speedwell provided Eastern local escort for QP9 until 23/3 . Ocean escort included Britomart and Sharpshooter.


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

Our job was to be part of an escort going out with a convoy for four or five days, meeting the incoming one and helping bringing it in. Weather was the main problem at first and there was little daylight. Ice and heavy seas kept the U Boats away, not conducive to their operation. As the days grew longer so did the air attacks. There were a number of hits but |I do not remember losing any at our end. In the meantime the Jerrys blasted Murmansk and flattened a lot of it. One could not envy the merchant ships going up there to unload.


endured the full Arctic repertory of foul weather, and attacks by enemy ships, submarines and aircraft... The Eastern Local Escort consisting of the minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, HUSSAR, Speedwell had left Kola on 28th March to bring the convoy in and look for survivors and stragglers. 

That evening Trinidad had to stop with salt in the boiler feed water. The wind died, a full moon and a brilliant aurora lit up Trinidad as a perfect target. She was only 70 miles from the Kola Inlet. She managed to get going again and arrived at Kola on 30/3. 


Source: ADM 199/347- Report of the Local Escort

From    The Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla

Date    9th April 1942                              No. F.02/26

To       The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet

Convoy PQ13

The following narrative of local escort while meeting PQ13 is submitted. All times are zone minus three:- 

1.    Before leaving harbour, it was known that Convoy PQ13 was widely scattered owing to gales and that S.S. "HARPALION" had been bombed.

2.    H.M.Ships "HARRIER", "GOSSAMER", "SPEEDWELL" and "HUSSAR" sailed at 1900 through position MU to 37ºE, carrying out an A/S patrol en route.

3.    At 2118 H.M.S."HUSSAR", who was keeping guard on 500 k/cs, reported that the S.S."EMPIRE RANGER" was sinking in position 72º 13'N 32º 10ºE. As "EMPIRE RANGER" was apparently just ahead of the convoy and, apart from other escorts in the vicinity of the convoy, H.M.S."ORIBI" and two Russian destroyers from the Kola Inlet were already on their way to join the convoy, it was decided that no useful purpose could be served by detaching one of the Minesweepers (who at the time were 180 miles away from the position in which "EMPIRE RANGER" had been torpedoed).


4.    Altered course at 0400 to North up longitude 37ºE. At 0500 "SPEEDWELL" was detached with orders to patrol between positions B and Q and to escort the ships into Kola Inlet. If she met either "RIVER AFTON" or "EMPIRE COWPER", she was to embark two officers and one rating, to avoid their being incarcerated by the Russians, as had been the experience a little before of three officers. It transpired later, however, that one officer and the rating had sailed in the "EMPIRE RANGER" and were, presumably, taken prisoner. The officer from "EMPIRE COWPER" was collected by H.M.S."GOSSAMER" on return to Murmansk.  

5.    At 0645 a report was received of three German Destroyers in position 71º 10'N, 31º 30'E at 2200 on 28th.

6.    At 0600 and again at 0625, a Junkers 88 was sighted by "SPEEDWELL" in the vicinity of position B and at 0730 a Junkers 88 circled "HARRIER", "GOSSAMER" and "HUSSAR".

7.    "HARRIER", "GOSSAMER" and "HUSSAR" were to patrol latitude of 37º E between positions E and U; one of them was to be detached to escort any unescorted stragglers met, returning to their patrol after reaching Kola Inlet.

8.    At 0632 orders were received from The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia that a minesweeper was to be detached to look for boats from "EMPIRE RANGER" who had reported by W/T before abandoning ship that they were making for the coast. As this (Immediate) signal took nearly 12 hours to reach me and as by that time there were three enemy Destroyers between the position of sinking and the coast and it was known the H.M.S."ORIBI" and the two Russian destroyers were near the position, I replied that it was not proposed to detach a Minesweeper (the Minesweepers being some 120 miles away). At 0825 orders were received from The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia to comply with his original signal, and accordingly "HARRIER" was detailed and in latitude 71º 25' N at 0945 she increased to full speed and steered up the convoy route in the hope of getting news of "EMPIRE RANGER's" boats from any of the convoy or escorts met.

9.    At 1054 signals were received which indicated a fight between H.M.Ships "TRINIDAD", "FURY" and "ECLIPSE" and the enemy Destroyers. Later one enemy Destroyer was reported stopped near the position where "EMPIRE RANGER" was sunk.

10.    At 1045 "HARRIER" encountered ice in latitude 71º 39'N. This proved to be thick brash and "HARRIER" worked round to the Westward and later to the South-Westward with some difficulty. The extent of the ice was reported by W/T to The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia and to all escorts: also my intention of proceeding to escort H.M.S."TRINIDAD" (who had reported that she had been torpedoed and was about 50 miles to the North West of "HARRIER's" estimated position) and the position, course and speed of S.S."HARPALION" who was met about that time.

11.    H.M.S."HUSSAR", who with H.M.S."GOSSAMER" had been left to patrol the 37º meridian, sighted a submarine on the surface at 1046, which was lost sight of shortly afterwards in a snow squall. At 11.48 "GOSSAMER" obtained an Asdic contact on what was quite probably the same U-boat. Both ships carried out deliberate attacks and it appears highly probable that the U-boat was destroyed. (Click here for Report)

12.    At 1335 "GOSSAMER" detached "HUSSAR" to join "TRINIDAD" and remained in the vicinity of the submarine till dark, when she resumed patrol south of the ice.

13.    H.M.S."SPEEDWELL", patrolling between positions B and U, had attempted to intercept S.S."HARPALION" at position B but did not see her. The next morning she left her patrol line in an endeavour to escort "TRINIDAD", but in the very bad visibility failed to make contact.

14.    At 1625/29th "HARRIER" detected a ship by R.D.F. at a range of 11,000yards in a heavy snowstorm and shortly afterwards caught a glimpse of H.M.S."FURY" who was escorting "TRINIDAD". "HARRIER" was at first stationed on the beam of "TRINIDAD" to check her speed (estimated then as 11 knots) and her compass. "TRINIDAD" was then steering from aft and by magnetic compass. As "TRINIDAD''s" steering appeared a little erratic, "HARRIER" took station ahead of her to make good her course without zigzagging, while "ORIBI" and "FURY" screened her on either bow.

15.    At 1750 course was altered to 190º to make Kilbin North Bight. It was arranged that W/T silence should not be broken to ask for D/F Beacons and that the "HARRIER" should lead "TRINIDAD" into Kola Inlet by using R.D.F. if necessary.


16.    From about 0500 of 30th March the wind increased to Force 8 and visibility was frequently nil owing to snowstorms. "TRINIDAD's" speed varied from a maximum of 14 knots to a minimum of 4 during the night. "FURY", whose R.D.F. was out of action, lost touch at about midnight and "HARRIER" was unable to detect her by R.D.F. and therefore unable to lead "TRINIDAD" over to "FURY" as had been ordered by "TRINIDAD".

        At about 0500, "TRINIDAD's" speed was 4-5 knots and for half an hour or so "ORIBI" and "HARRIER" carried out an endless chain patrol around her. 

17.    At 0752 "TRINIDAD" broached to and told "HARRIER" to try to get a wire in to her. By the time "HARRIER" had turned and got back to her, however, "TRINIDAD" was able to resume her course. Tugs, all available A/S escorts and fighter cover were asked for by W/T, as "TRINIDAD" had great difficulty in keeping steam.

18.    0800. Made Kildin Island. Entrance to Kola Inlet was obscured by snowstorms and "HARRIER" passed in positions obtained by R.D.F.

19.    At 12.00 when inside Kola Inlet "HARRIER" and "ORIBI" resumed patrol, making for position Q. They were joined at 1500 by "SPEEDWELL".

         "ORIBI" informed me by signal that he had found "EMPIRE RANGER's" boats at 0840/29th in position 72º 00' N 31º 11'E,  showing every sign that the occupants had abandoned them. There were food, drink and blankets in the boats, so it appears that the men were picked up by some other ship. As no ship in the convoy or escort has since reported having picked them up, as German Destroyers were in the vicinity and as the German wireless has claimed prisoners from a merchant ship, their fate appears obvious.

20.    At 0550 "GOSSAMER" had intercepted the signal giving "TRINIDAD's" position, course and speed and, having no merchant ships in sight, altered to the Westward to join her.  

21.    At 0745the visibility in her vicinity had cleared to 7 miles and "GOSSAMER" sighted a submarine on the surface almost 5 miles ahead and three merchant ships at extreme visibility on her starboard quarter. "GOSSAMER" chased the submarine at full speed but the submarine drew away and, after half an hour's chase, "GOSSAMER" shaped a course to join the merchantmen. These ships were "SCOTTISH AMERICAN", "EFFINGHAM" and "DUNBOYNE". 

22.    At 1020 "GOSSAMER" received instruction from The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia to proceed immediately to the assistance of "INDUNA", torpedoed in position 70º 55'N 37º 18'E. Search by daylight and during the night proved ineffective, and patrol was resumed the next morning.

23.    ?045 "HUSSAR", not having succeeded in making contact with "TRINIDAD", came up with 9 ships of PQ13 and the Whaler ????? escorted by two Russian destroyers (without Asdics) ??????? A/S trawler (whose A/S was out of action). She escorted ?????? Kola Inlet and, as the Acting Commodore in "SCOTTISH ??????" had no charts of the Inlet, led them to Bolshoi Oleni ?????? where they arrived at 2130. When off Toros Island an ?????? aircraft dropped bombs; there were no hits. At 2200 ?????? resumed patrol.

24.    1900 "ORIBI" sighted a Whaler ahead, roughly in Position  ?????? "HARRIER" and "SPEEDWELL" closed the Whaler who proved to be Silja and was wallowing, without fuel in a sea 54. "ORIBI" ????? to the assistance of "RIVER AFTON" who had reported ??????? by a U-boat.

25.    While "HARRIER" was getting "SILJA" in tow, "SPEEDWELL" patrolled round the two ships to provide an A/S screen and then ?????? ahead when "HARRIER" with "SILJA" in tow made good ?????? and speed of 5 knots. The wind was then North- ??????, Force 7, almost astern.


26.    "HUSSAR" joined at 0230 and screened astern. Kola Inlet ???? at 08.30 again in very bad visibility owing to snow. "SPEEDWELL" had by then lost touch, and "HUSSAR" was ordered ???? patrol through positions Q and B.

27.    10.10 "HARRIER" anchored off the South-East entrance to ?????? Harbour and got "SILJA" alongside to give her 5 tons ????? "HARRIER" making good an engine defect and repairing ?????.

28.    The Captain of the "SILJA" told me that when the "BALLOT" ?????, her Master told him to take off half the crew. ?????? wisely said he would do so, provided they came by boat, ???? were an odd collection and the situation had the makings ????? stampede. "SILJA" later transferred these 40 or so med ????? "INDUNA" who was herself sunk. Survivors from "INDUNA" ????? (who reached harbour safely) have since been picked ????? inshore, by Russian patrols.

29.    1230 "SPEEDWELL", who had been patrolling in the vicinity of the entrance to the Inlet, hove to in sight, and at 1245, tugs ????? taken over "SILJA", "HARRIER" and "SPEEDWELL" set a course ???? intending to proceed on the reciprocal course to that on ???? the main body of the convoy had approached the evening ????? it being known that "GOSSAMER" and "HUSSAR" were ???? between positions Q and B and the ice limit south of U.

30.    1650 an object was sighted by "SPEEDWELL" (who was on ????? port bow 7 cables) bearing North. The investigation ?????? to be a red sail. The Master, Chief Officer, two ???? Officers and thirteen men from the American S.S. "EFFINGHAM" ?????? picked up by "HARRIER". From them it was learnt that their ????? had been torpedoed in Position 70º 28'N 35º 44'E at 1100.

        This information, and the "HARRIER" and "SPEEDWELL" were searching for a second boat from the "EFFINGHAM", was passed by W/T to The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia. This signal crossed one from the Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia ordering all minesweepers to return to harbour and fuel unless in company with a merchant ship. The search was continued until 0740 of 1st April in generally good conditions of visibility. It was then abandoned, as I considered that the missing boat, if still afloat, must be inshore. It was subsequently learned that the second boat was picked up in the Kola Inlet p.m. 31st and that the 14 occupants are doing well.

        When picked up after 32 hours, the survivors from the "EFFINGHAM" were, with one exception, in remarkably good fettle. I was particularly impressed by the bearing of the Chief Officer and have forwarded a recommendation for him through the Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia. They had buried five men (having previously removed their clothes for their own use) not long before we sighted them, and one of their company, in spite of the unremitting efforts of Surgeon Lieutenant Ian Mankelly, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and of Henry J Woodward, L.S.B.A. C/MX52544, died two hours after being brought onboard and was buried at sea that night, a funeral service having been conducted in the Sick Bay. Most of the survivors were suffering from frostbite and were a bit restless, and the Doctor and the L.S.B.A. tended them throughout the night. This is by no means the first occasion on which this officer and this rating have worked tirelessly, cheerfully and with undoubted skill under trying conditions.   



31.    "GOSSAMER" and "HUSSAR" returned to harbour a.m. and "HARRIER" and "SPEEDWELL" p.m. 1st April, "NIGER", who had been boiler-cleaning and repairing Gyro Compass sailed a.m. to search for the Whaler "SULLA". At 1045 she saw three torpedoes approaching an the surface from the port quarter. Two were going to pass ahead, but the third which was expected to pass astern was zigzagging, and the necessary avoiding action was taken. "NIGER" proceeded at full speed down the torpedo tracks. a good contact was obtained on the Starboard bow and a counter attack was made. By a great misfortune, "NIGER'S" Asdic Dome was leaking slightly, with the result that echoes went woolly within 20º on either bow. Nevertheless the attacks carried out were good and may have damaged the submarine, since they were made in broad daylight and the submarine's original firing position was definitely established at the end of the torpedo tracks which were very plain in a calm flat sea. A search was carried out for several hours afterwards and no further contact was obtained. 

32.    Having failed to find "SULLA", "NIGER" returned to harbour p.m. 3rd April.

33.    Convoy PQ13, the Ocean Escort and the Covering Force had a strenuous time indeed, competing as they did with gales, surface, submarine, and air attack, ice and frequent snowstorms (although the last mentioned were probably an advantage at times), and the way in which they won through is worthy of admiration.

34.    At the same time I submit that, to a much lesser degree and for a much shorter period, the Local Escort had a non-stop performance and I would like to pay tribute to the way in which Officers and men of H.M.Ships "HARRIER", "NIGER", "GOSSAMER", "SPEEDWELL" AND "HUSSAR" carried out their duties on this occasion. The receipt of the following signal kindly sent by The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia on return to harbour was greatly appreciated by all ships:-

M.S.6                                                                   From S.B.N.O., N.R.

I should like Commanding Officers of all Minesweepers to know that I fully appreciate the good work in the difficult conditions in the past few days searching, escorting, and hunting under the nose of the enemy sea and air forces. It does everyone, but especially the Engine room department, great credit that all ships have been ready for service whenever called upon and I am sure that valuable lives and ships have been saved by the good work performed.   


                                    Commander            Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla

Extract from ADM 199/1104 Report of SBNO North Russia March 1942

I wish to pay tribute to the recent work of the Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of HMS Harrier (Senior Officer), Niger, Gossamer, Speedwell and HUSSAR, under the command of Commander E P Hinton, DSO, MVC, Senior Officer, 6th Minesweeping Flotilla. These ships have been escorting QP and PQ Convoys in most severe weather conditions and expected every form of attack by the enemy at distances up to 300 miles from the base. They have little rest except when cleaning boilers, and can seldom berth alongside or obtain relaxation. Their work, especially when meeting convoy PQ13, has been extremely well done and reflects credit on all concerned. 

Signed N Bevan

Rear Admiral, Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia
Polyarnoe, 1942



Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

The Big Ships did the double run, cruisers that is, oil up and go back again. The Nigeria (Note: author incorrect, actually it was the Trinidad) however was badly holed and had to go into dry dock for repairs. The Russians did an unexpectedly good quick job on her and the dry dock was so well camouflaged the Germans, who knew she was there, could not find it. When she came out we laid alongside one night and went aboard to see a movie. She left with the next convoy but never made it back - had our mail on board too. Never put your mail on a cruiser they said.


Harrier, HUSSAR and Gossamer formed part of the Eastern local escort for QP10 (16 ships) as far as 30°E on 12/4. Speedwell was part of the Ocean escort. The convoy was heavily attacked by aircraft and submarines during the first few days.


Niger, HUSSAR, Gossamer and Harrier joined PQ14 as eastern local escort and a strong gale from the north-west sprang up. The convoy arrived Murmansk 19/4 where there were persistent air attacks.


Niger, HUSSAR, Gossamer and Harrier joined QP11 (13 ships) from Murmansk as eastern local escort until 29/4. They escorted the convoy for the first 300 miles and then returned to Murmansk.


Following the torpedoing of HMS Edinburgh by U456, Niger, HUSSAR, Gossamer and Harrier were sent to reinforce the protective screen of destroyers while the Russian tug Rubin took her in tow. Just before midnight with the sun touching the horizon and immediately rising again, the minesweepers hove into sight. It was found that the tug could not tow the big ship on her own, so two tows were secured. Rubin on the port and Gossamer on the port quarter. Even so, they could only make 2 knots. Edinburgh signalled to the minesweepers that ...’ in the event of attack by German destroyers...(they)...are to act independently, retiring under smoke if necessary’.


By 0530 with the destroyers Forester and Foresight on either beam and Harrier, Niger and HUSSAR astern, Edinburgh proceeded steadily. Intermittent snow showers varied the visibility from two to eight miles. 

At 0627 HUSSAR, on Edinburgh’s starboard quarter, came under fire from three German destroyers trying to close through the fog on Edinburgh. HUSSAR took up the challenge with a spirited and gallant resistance to the enemy. She immediately opened fire with her 4 inch gun. Fire was returned immediately, straddling the tiny sweeper which, outgunned and outmanoeuvred, fell back towards Edinburgh.  

Immediately Harrier and the two destroyers swung round and headed towards the gun flashes.  These aggressive tactics by the destroyers and 3 minesweepers kept them at bay. Edinburgh ordered Gossamer to cast off and, steaming in circles out of control, opened fire, hitting one of the German ships. Gossamer and Harrier closed in on HUSSAR and Edinburgh, their Asdics searching for submarines. Unfortunately at 0730 a German torpedo attack on one of the British destroyers missed but went on to hit Edinburgh. With both of the destroyers badly damaged, time and again the minesweepers darted forward firing their guns. Admiral Bonham Carter described the minesweepers actions as ‘like three young terriers, going in and firing when they could’. Almost unbelievably the minesweepers’ valiant action in the cloud and flame of battle led the enemy to suppose they were destroyers arriving to supplement the British force and probably restrained them from mounting further attacks. In reality there was nothing but the small group of minesweepers to stop the Germans from annihilating every British ship opposing them.   

Edinburgh was listing at 17 degrees and starting to settle. With HUSSAR making a smoke screen, Gossamer was ordered along the starboard side to take off the wounded and merchant navy personnel being taken home. The transfer of the wounded from a sloping deck onto the minesweeper’s deck 12 feet below was a difficult task. The passengers included many Poles released from Russian prisoner of war camps, army and RAF instructors, and Czechs who had been interned in Russia. She embarked 440 officers and men while Edinburgh continued firing at the German ships. At 0800 the order to abandon ship was given and the remaining 350 crew were transferred to Harrier on the port side. Captain Hinton and the crew of Harrier showed remarkable calmness for the minesweeper was in danger of being crushed as Edinburgh increased her list. He signalled to Edinburgh ‘You are leaning on me rather heavily’. Meanwhile the tug Rubin came rushing in and unfortunately collided with Harrier with a resounding crack, causing little damage.  

Aboard both minesweepers the decks were becoming so overcrowded there was imminent danger of the vessels capsizing. Although the men were asked to go below to stabilise the vessel a large number were reluctant to do so. It was understandable in the circumstances, especially for those who had recently been trapped below decks. Edinburgh’s First Lieutenant called on the men to follow him and led the way as far down as it was possible to go. Finally, Rear Admiral Bonham Carter hoisted his flag on Harrier. As they laid off Edinburgh, Harrier fired 20 rounds of semi-armour piercing shells into her with little obvious effect except that two fires were started. Two patterns of depth charges were then dropped close alongside but this was also unsuccessful. At this stage the survivors nearly panicked because they had not been warned what was going on and thought they were under attack again. Finally a torpedo from Foresight sank her. 

The laden sweepers, with the Rubin and the damaged destroyers Foresight and Forester, set course for Kola Inlet. At 1020 Niger, which had been detached in the night to locate and bring in the two refuelled Russian destroyers, rejoined.


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

...we received a signal that a Town Class cruiser (HMS Edinburgh) had been torpedoed and were ordered to dash and lend help. She had left the day before as Senior Escort of a QP convoy. Admiral Bonham Carter was S.O. Escort aboard her. When we arrived (about 2300) she had just been taken in tow by the Harrier with a small Russian tug tied to her stern, or what was left of it, and they started her back towards Murmansk. All was in hand. My watch ended at 2400 (still daylight) and I went below and turned in to be awakened suddenly at 0100 by hull shaking bangs that sounded like depth charges close in and the alarm bells ringing. I arrived on deck to find that we were being shelled and the skipper, gunnery style was swinging us back and forth dodging them. Seems two large 6" destroyers and one lesser one had come out of Petsamo to finish off what the U Boat had done to the Edinburgh.

Fortunately the two Tribals, Foresight and Forester, arrived at that time returning from the convoy. A beautiful sight they were blasting their way into the battle. Skirmish our skipper called it. The Edinburgh was able to move ahead slowly in a circle but she was able to get some of her guns to bear every now and then despite being blasted by the Jerrys. The Forester was hit and stopped but before we could go to her help she was under way again, sure glad to see that. I was amidships with what was called the bumper party, all set to go alongside anything. No.1 was there too, standing by in case the Captain got blown up along with the bridge and he had to take over. Standard practice. We were banging away with our 4" as were the other three, Harrier, Gossamer and Niger, looking to the Jerrys a lot more than our actual firepower.

Anyhow, having done a job on the Edinburgh they broke off action and headed back to Petsamo. She was too far gone to bring her in so after Harrier had taken off survivors she was sunk, which took a bit of doing. Foresight and Forester went off to join the convoy again and we dashed for home. Come to think of it the Harrier must have been with the convoy and left to look after Edinburgh.

A sequence to this which we found enlightening was a few weeks later when we were in Polyarnoe which is well down the estuary to port going out. The Sea Wolf, one of our smaller submarines, lay astern of us. Her skipper came aboard one noon for pinkers. Amongst other things the Edinburgh loss was mentioned and he said that Bonham Carter, instead of staying in the middle of the convoy as he should have, was dashing about well outside hunting subs. He said that if he had seen him as the U Boat captain must have he would have called his No.1 over to the periscope and said "Look at that No.1. She is all yours. Let me know when you've sunk her I'm turning in". SO!!! Maybe BC didn't know she had £75 million bullion aboard which was salvaged many years later.


Harrier, Gossamer, HUSSAR, Niger and the other ships arrived at Kola. Edinburgh’s survivors were disembarked at Polyarnoe where they were split into two groups with one group being re-embarked on Gossamer for Vaenga. The minesweepers stopped at Vaenga to refuel.

Soon after arriving at Murmansk Harrier’s Commanding Officer received the following letter from the captain of the Russian tug Rubin, which was greatly appreciated by everyone: 

Dear Sir,

Soviet seaman has witness of heroic battle English seaman with predominants powers of enemy. English seamen did observe their sacred duty before Fatherland. We are prouding to staunchness and courage of British seamens – our Allies. I an very sorry what injured your ship by approach to board for what I must beg pardon.

Commander of Division

Disembarking at Murmansk, Admiral Bonham Carter sent the following message to the captain and crew of Harrier:

...it was inspiring to see the minesweepers staying on the scene of action and taking every opportunity of firing at the enemy when visibility permitted. The manner in which Harrier and Gossamer were brought alongside the listing Edinburgh during the action showed a fine feat of seamanship and I fully confirm the Commanding Officer of Edinburgh’s report of the way we were treated on board. Never have I seen more kindness and attention than was given to myself, Captain, officers and men than by the Captain, officers and ship’s company of Harrier in which we left.

A day or two after arriving in the Kola Inlet, Harrier entertained Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter in the small wardroom. Christopher McLean recalls that at the end of the evening he thanked them very much for their hospitality and for all the help they had given in the Edinburgh action. He had no way of reciprocating but wondered whether they had ever seen an admiral stand on his head. This he proceeded to do much to the delight and astonishment of his audience.


On the evening of the 29th, 140 miles NE of the Kola Inlet,  Captain Crombie commanding the 1st MSF based at Kola joined PQ16 in HMS Bramble, together with Leda, Seagull, Niger, HUSSAR and Gossamer. The convoy divided and at 2330 Crombie's section, escorting six of the merchant ships to Archangel, was attacked by 15 Ju88’s while 18 attacked the Murmansk-bound ships.


Crombie's division, proceeding in line ahead and led by the Empire Elgar, arrived at the estuary of the Dvina on 30/5 where it met the ice breaker Stalin. They began a passage through the ice lasting 40 hours. Confined to the narrow lead cut by the Stalin, they were attacked by Ju87 Stukas in a noisy but useless attack.  This section of PQ16 passed Archangel and secured alongside at Bakarista, a new wharf two miles upstream.

Commander Onslow, Senior Officer close escort reported that four fifths of the convoy had got through....  ‘due to the gallantry, efficiency and tireless zeal of the officers and men of the escorts and to the remarkable courage and determination of those of the merchant vessels. No praise can be too high for either’.

Source: ADM116/4544 Convoys to Russia March to May 1942

Recommendation for Awards

Lieutenant Reginald Charles Biggs DSC RN HMS HUSSAR

During the action in which HMS Edinburgh was sunk, Lt Biggs without the slightest hesitation took his ship into action against the more heavily armed attacking force and effectively laid a smokescreen between HMS Edinburgh and the enemy to cover the transfer of the ship's company to HMS Harrier and Gossamer alongside.

For outstanding courage, cheerfulness and devotion to duty while engaging superior enemy forces:

DSC - Lt Alexander Morrice RNR

DSM - CERA 2 Frederick George Barton D/MX 46505

DSM - AB Gordon Reginald Varman D/JX 284265

DSM - Stoker 1 Raymond Joseph Anthony D/KX 133001

Mention in Despatches:

Sub Lt William Douglas Hogg RNR

AB Thomas William Pullen D/153 RFR

ERA 3 Patrick Daniel Dougherty D/MX 59556

Stoker 1 William Stone D/KX 126935  


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

Between convoys we anchored in a smallish bay which we called Stuka Alley as they came our way quite often. It was standard practice for a Jerry to come over high up at about 0800 each day to photograph all and sundry. Kodak Party he was called. Then around 1400 the stukas, having picked the best pictures, came in and did their stuff. We were selected one sunny afternoon as we lay at anchor.

Our man dropped his too late, our Oerlikon shots too far behind, but they got Gossamer. Bomb went in between the sweep rail and the wardroom, blew her bottom out and the deck off along with my opposite number. She rolled over and gradually sank slowed up somewhat as a Russian barge alongside held her up until she went too. Chiefy had our steam up in ten minutes, a record, and we were there just after she went, picking up survivors. I do not know how many there was but our wardroom was full of wounded. Being our chummy ship it meant a lot to our chaps. When I say chummy it had started long before I joined Hussar as they had worked together a lot.


QP13 (35 ships) sailed in two parts from Murmansk and Archangel, joining at sea on 28/6. Niger and HUSSAR were part of the Ocean escort. The convoy was not attacked as the German’s attention was focussed on PQ17.


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

We had finished our spell at Murmansk and started back home as part of the escort of QP13 at the end of June. The weather was as bad as ever and the going slow, but as far as the enemy was concerned, uneventful. One of my jobs was Coding Officer mainly to unbutton message addressed to us or our convoy. It was doing this that I first got wind of the disaster to PQ17 heading to Archangel, which must have passed not long before. The story was grim and vague, other than that ships were being sunk all over the place as the convoy had been scattered. This kept up until we were out of range. Nothing for us to do about it but carry on with our lot to Reykjavik where it was to join another heading west.


The convoy divided off Iceland with 16 going to Loch Ewe and the other 19, escorted by Niger, HUSSAR a corvette and two trawlers, heading around the north coast of Iceland to Reykjavik.


At 1900 the convoy was approaching the north-west coast if Iceland in five columns. The weather was bad, visibility was under one mile, rough seas and a Force 8 wind from the north-east. No sighting had been taken since 2/7 and the convoy’s position, calculated by dead reckoning, was in doubt. At 1910 Niger’s Senior Officer (Commander A J Cubison) suggested to the Commodore that the convoy be reduced to two columns to pass between the coast and a British minefield. At 2100 Niger, which had gone ahead looking for land, leaving HUSSAR in between as a visual link with the convoy, sighted what she believed to be the North Cape and ordered a course alteration for the convoy.

Unfortunately, what Niger had sighted was an iceberg and the alteration took the convoy into the minefield. Just before 2240 Niger realised the mistake and signalled the Commodore to change course but it was too late and Niger hit a mine with heavy loss of life, including Cubison. Six of the merchantmen were hit and sank, another survived. The escorts displayed conspicuous gallantry in entering and remaining in the minefield to rescue the survivors. Finally a definite shore fix was obtained by HUSSAR and the convoy reached Reykjavik on 7/7.


Source: Private papers of Lt R M Milligan RCNVR - IWM 500 88/55/1

Before we reached the east end of Iceland our larger escort ships , which were running out of oil, left us to shepherd 15 to 20 empty freighters the rest of the way. We had not had a sight for over a week and presumably the S.O. could not get a DF from Iceland. Anyway we walked right into our own antenna minefield, that is the usual contact mine but with antennas streamed out from them, a far more effective trap. We lost nine ships including the Niger before we got out of it. We were well out on the starboard wing so missed it. It was a sorry mess which in view of the losses to PQ127 nothing was ever said about it, noticeable that is. One night in windswept Reykjavik and we were off to Milford Haven and a refit with leave to both watches.




After Convoy QP13 HUSSAR towed a merchant ship to Scapa






Milford Haven


17/7 Taken in hand for refit, completes 10 weeks

27/7 Revised completion date 10/10






Milford Haven




25/10 Speedwell and HUSSAR joined as escorts to KX4B. It was an advance convoy, preceding the 'Torch' Operation (the invasion of North Africa) and its ships comprised trawlers, tugs, fuelling coasters, and cased‑petrol ships, eight ships in all.


After performing a local A/S sweep with SPEEDWELL, HUSSAR departed Gibraltar on 5 November with SPEEDWELL and ALGERINE to rendezvous with Convoy KMS(A)1 in 35.56N, 06.42W to augment the convoy screen. This was the main slow Assault Convoy bound for Algiers, consisting of 47 ships and 18 escorts. Thus the three minesweepers sailed as part of Operation 'Torch'. They then returned to Gibraltar with the 'empties' in Convoy MKS1A.


While on patrol off Algiers HUSSAR
sighted a torpedo track which passed down starboard side on a converging course crossing the bows at 10 yards. ASDIC contact was made and the submarine was attacked four times. (Click here for Report)




Escort duties




Escort duties




Escort duties


On 24 November HUSSAR left Gib with SPEEDWELL and RHYL escorting the LSTs BACHAQUER0 and TASAJERA, whom they took to Casablanca and back to Gib, first collecting the merchant ships HILDURA and FINTRA off Port Lyauty (the whole party sailed to Casablanca and then back to Gibraltar, arriving there on 29 November).




Escort duties





Like so many home‑based ships HUSSAR had been caught up in the huge web of Operation Torch and its associated Mediterranean convoys; HUSSAR and SPEEDWELL returned to Algiers with a TE (local) convoy early in December.









In mid December HUSSAR sailed back to Gibraltar with Convoy ET5, among whose escorts was the destroyer VENOMOUS She then left Gibraltar with the 'Flower' NASTURTIUM to act as additional escort to KMF5 returning with MKF5. Over Christmas 1942 HUSSAR was with the homeward bound MKS4 as far as Gibraltar, with NASTURTIUM, the AA ship ALYNBANK and destroyer BOREAS.










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