Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Skipjack 1940
 
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HMS Skipjack - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Skipjack

Date of Arrival

Place

Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc

1.1.40

Humber

3.1.40

 

11.1.40

Invergordon

12.1.40

24/1 From N O i/c Aberdeen: Regret to report that SKIPJACK when manoeuvring in Aberdeen Harbour collided with SS Rutland. SKIPJACK damaged her starboard ?? minesweeping leads. No apparent damage to Rutland.

27/1 From N O i/c Aberdeen: SKIPJACK grounded when proceeding out of harbour 26/1 due to heavy squalls. When being refloated and with two tugs in attendance and harbour master on board, collided with Karin Thordon Finnish steamship, holing the vessel. SKIPJACK sustained damage which will necessitate her sailing being delayed for 3 days.

24.1.40

In collision with ss RUTLAND (1437/35); minor damage

26.1.40

In collision with KARIN THORDEN (1789/19); stern damaged

3.2.40

Source: Report of HMS Speedwell Public Records Office ADM 1/10785

REPORT ON THE SINKING OF HMS SPHINX

On the morning of Saturday 3rd February 1940 HM Ships Sphinx, Speedwell and
SKIPJACK were in the position 57 37 north, 1 59 west, carrying out a searching sweep. Ships were in H formation, line abreast to port, in order Sphinx, Speedwell, SKIPJACK, five cables apart with both sweeps out. Course was 017 degrees, speed 11 knots giving maximum speed through the water of six knots.

Weather conditions were: Wind SSE force 5,  sky overcast with low cloud.

At 0915 two aircraft were sighted to the southward. They were challenged and as no reply was received were assumed to be the enemy. The aircraft were flying at a height of about 1,000 feet, steering a northerly course. They resembled the Dornier DO17 type.

A few minutes after the first aircraft were sighted a third machine, unidentifiable, was sighted 3 or 4 miles to the northward flying very low, (50 100 feet). This machine turned away almost at once and was not subsequently seen again.

At about 0918 the two Dorniers carried out a glide bombing attack on Sphinx in line astern formation approaching her from aft at a height of about 1,000 feet, descending to about 300 feet. One bomb was seen to be dropped by each machine at the bottom of the glide. One bomb missed ahead and to port, failing to explode, the other hit Sphinx but did not appear to explode until several seconds after hitting her It is understood that this bomb passed down through the bridge and upper deck, exploding in the fore mess deck. Both these bombs appeared to be large ones. As a result of the explosion the whole of the fore part of Sphinx, between the bridge and stem, was destroyed. The upper deck of the forecastle was folded back against the bridge. The stem piece and keel held till some hours after.

Fire was opened by all ships on attacking aircraft immediately before the first bombing attack.

After delivering the first attack the aircraft circled round to the east, gaining height, and approaching from the southward delivered a second attack on Sphinx. Each plane dropped one bomb, which seemed a large one. One of these bombs missed ahead and to port , about 100 feet away, and exploded under water with much the same effect as a depth charge exploding at a depth of 100 feet. The other bomb fell a few feet away from Sphinx, and astern, failing to explode.

Subsequently the aircraft split up and carried out individual bombing and machine gunning attacks on both Sphinx and SKIPJACK. Two more bombs were dropped at Sphinx but both missed, one ahead and one astern about 100 feet, both failing to explode.

Three separate attacks were made on SKIPJACK, the first and last from aft and the second from ahead, with intervals of about five minutes between attacks. In the first attack two bombs were dropped, one large and one small, both missed on either quarter at about 10 feet distance. In the second attack one small bomb was dropped which missed about 30 feet on the starboard bow. Each attack on SKIPJACK was accompanied by intense machine gun fire, the ship being repeatedly hit though no casualties were sustained.

Two or three machine gun attacks were made on Sphinx, all from aft. These alternated with the attacks on SKIPJACK. It is understood that casualties on Sphinx were four dead (killed by bomb explosion) and three injured, two by bomb explosion and one by machine gun fire.

No determined attack was made on Speedwell though toward the end of the raid one aircraft approached from astern, as if to carry out an attack. This machine was seen to be hit by 0.5 machine gun fire from Speedwell, it then turned away and dipped sharply. Black smoke was seen coming from this machine somewhere amidships. SKIPJACK reports that she hit one machine during the third attack on her, probably with 0.5 machine gun or Lewis gun fire and that white smoke could be seen issuing from her.

Both planes flew away to the eastward at about 0940.

The following avoiding action was taken during the attacks. Speedwell: Both sweeps were cut at the outset and the course was frequently altered. SKIPJACK was hove up and the ship steered a zigzag course.

During the attack, fire was kept up on the enemy planes with 4", 0.5" and Lewis guns whenever the guns would bear or aircraft were in range. Speedwell's foremost 4 gun was out of action after firing two rounds, due to a defect in the recuperator. Fire in Speedwell and SKIPJACK was in quarters firing throughout, using fuze setting 2 (short barrage). 

HMS Sphinx and  another unknown Halcyon Class minesweeper

  HMS Sphinx bomb damage - Halcyon Class Minesweeper

HMS Sphinx

Sphinx was taken in tow stern first by Speedwell at 10.50. Considerable difficulty was experienced in passing the tow owing to the state of the sea. Course was shaped  w230 degrees and speed was gradually worked up to 110 revolutions giving approximately 3 knots  It was intended to get under the lee of Kinnaird Head. The tow was proceeding easily until 1250 when the 31/2 wire parted.  SKIPJACK, who was in company, was ordered to take Sphinx in tow and tow was passed at 1500. At 1800 course was altered to 280 degrees in order to close the land more quickly. Tow proceeded easily, speed about two knots. At 1315 contact was made with HM Ships Boreas and Brazen. They were asked to stand by in case assistance was required and they proceeded to screen the ships of the 5th MSF at 1905 contact was made with HMS Harrier who had come from Invergordon to assist.

At 2200 the tow parted and SO 5th in Harrier was informed. Harrier then attempted to take Sphinx in tow but this was unsuccessful. At 0100 a signal was intercepted from Sphinx asking for a ship to go alongside to take off the wounded. Speedwell was the nearest ship and made two attempts but owing to the heavy seas and danger of sinking Sphinx, the attempt was abandoned. Sphinx appeared to be floating well and reported that she was comfortable.

At 0245 Harrier again attempted to get a wire to Sphinx in order to hold her stern to wind. Speedwell and SKIPJACK were ordered to form a lee.

At 0300 information was received from Harrier that Sphinx was going to abandon ship and Speedwell was told to go alongside her.  The first attempt was made at 0316. This failed, a second attempt was made immediately after and four men were taken off Sphinx. A third attempt to get alongside was made at about 0333, but this failed. It was then seen that Boreas was standing by to go alongside Sphinx and Speedwell then lay off to give her room. Boreas made repeated attempts to get alongside Sphinx and it is understood that she was able to take off a few men.

At about 0445 Sphinx capsized and a search for survivors was made until daylight. Three men on a Carley float were picked up by Speedwell but no further survivors were seen.

Throughout the night the weather deteriorated considerably and at the time when Sphinx capsized the seas were very high and a full gale was blowing.   

4.2.40

Invergordon

?

 

21.2.40

Invergordon

28.2.40

 

1.3.40

Humber

4.4.40

4/3 Taken in hand for refit at Grimsby by J S Doig & Son, anticipated completion 18/3

19/3 Owing to delay in delivery of machinery parts anticipated date of completion now 27/3

27/3 Owing to delay in delivery of machinery and electrical parts, refit of SKIPJACK will not be completed before 31.3

3/4 SKIPJACK will not be ready for sea until 4/4 Intend sailing Hussar with SKIPJACK then.

5.4.40

Harwich

5.4.40

 

5.4.40

Harwich

6.4.40

 

6.4.40

Dover

14.5.40

To join 6th MSF

13.5.40

Harwich

?

 

15.5.40

Harwich

17.5.40

 

?

Sheerness

26.5.40

26/5 To be sailed for Dover forthwith anchoring on arrival in Downs

26.5.40

Dover

?

 

 

Source: Orde

HMS SKIPJACK at Dunkirk
 

1st June

0530

..continual bombing attacks. Several W/T messages were transmitted asking for fighter assistance. Except for one period of about 5 minutes no fighters were seen.

 

0600

A derelict motor launch was repaired and embarkation continued apace. 

 

0700

The minesweeper Gossamer came alongside to deliver a bottle of chloroform required for some wounded troops who had been embarked. Except when boats were alongside, the SKIPJACK circled round at full speed, using full wheel to avoid attacks, troops were embarked from boats. 

 

0800

The 4 inch ammunition was nearly expended - only 12 rounds a gun being left.

 

0844

About 275 troops had been embarked.

 

0845

A flight of 10 Ju88's attacked the SKIPJACK. All guns opened fire and full helm was put on. The leading plane dropped its bombs, 2 of which hit the ship, one on each side, abreast the whaler's davits. The SKIPJACK immediately lost way and developed a heavy list to port.

 

0846

A second plane dived and 3 more bombs hit the ship; one through the bridge, one on the fo'c'sle and one in the foremost boiler room. The Lewis gunner (L/Sea. McLeod RNR) on the rangefinder platform, continued however to fire, and the plane dived straight on into the sea. 

 

0847

The order was given to abandon ship

 

0849

The SKIPJACK turned turtle (and remained floating, bottom up, for some 20 minutes before she finally sank). A further bombing attack was made on the survivors in the water. Most of the survivors in the water were picked up by the skoot Hilda, a few by the tug St Abbs. Nearly all the troops were below decks.

 

0930

The St Abbs was hit by bombs and sank immediately.

 

1730

The Hilda landed her survivors at Ramsgate. Lieut Cdr Proudfoot handed over the keys of the code book safe to the First Lieutenant of Chatham Barracks

 

 

Total troop transported 865     

 

 

SKIPJACK sank with loss of 19 crew and up to 275 troops

A personal memory of my fathers is that, on the 5th June 1940, his sister, Bessie (who would have been seven at the time) had requested a tune to be played on the wireless (Sandy McFearson's theatre organ) for their father, Thomas Charles Game.  The tune requested was, 'Come home again you Sailorman.'   Sadly, at this time, Thomas was already dead.
     

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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012