Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Speedwell 1942
Speedwell Pre-War
Speedwell 1939
Speedwell 1940
Speedwell 1941
Speedwell 1942
Speedwell 1943
Speedwell 1944
Speedwell 1945
Speedwell Post-War
Speedwell - Crew


HMS Speedwell - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Speedwell

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc




For Hvalfjord


Cyril Green:

We left Scapa again with Harrier and Halcyon our partners (all 3 ships are exactly the same class) in the 6th Minesweeping Flotilla en route for Russia via Iceland. Very rough passage to Iceland, ship did everything but turn over. Screws out of water more time than in and Halcyon bent propeller shaft.


Cyril Green:

Arrived Iceland a.m. Wednesday 7th January

All three oiled in Hval Fjord and move round to Reykjavik arriving 5.30 p.m. Reykjavik all lit up and looks very inviting but as we have no motor boat we cannot go ashore and as we couldn't go ashore in Scapa Flow for the same reason the ‘troops’ are getting restless. 23 days on a small ship at sea most of the time in rough weather with no opportunity to stretch ones legs is no joke and we think that if the officers showed a little interest in us they could get us ashore. If this is to continue until we get a new motor boat something is bound to happen. 

1915 same day: - Apologies all round to the officers. The Skipper apparently had our welfare at heart, for he proceeded ashore about 17.30 p.m. to arrange For a shore boat to take Liberty men off.

I went ashore about 19.30, landing at about 20.20 after going for a cruise round the Harrier and Halcyon in the drifter to pick up stray liberty men from them also. The thing that struck me first on landing was the brilliantly lighted streets and docks which reminded me of my last break from the war in a neutral country (Uruguay).

Reykjavik appeared as a normal town, to be seen in any country where the majority of the population live in the country and come to the town at intervals for supplies. All streets crammed with shops of every description and no restrictions on shopping whatsoever, silk stockings - anything.

I'd very little money, not having been paid since November, so couldn't purchase the necessary.

The whole population on the night seemed to consist of troops, troops and more troops. British, American, Norwegian sailors and British sailors and although the remainder of the population on that night seemed to be girls and all extremely pretty I only saw one in company with an American or Britisher (and there was some doubt about that) but the Norwegian sailors seemed to have a girl each - they are not faced with the language difficulty - as we are. The girls and women seem to resent the presence of us foreigners but the men are very friendly. 

One amusing incident (to us) was that we, George Stolley, Bill Hickling and myself took Jack the ship's dog ashore with us and created minor disturbances wherever we went. Dogs being an unknown element of Icelandic existence. All dogs being shot many years ago during an attack of Scurvy. As we walked along the street the masses of pretty girls who seemed to be everywhere would suddenly stop in their tracks and carefully steer clear of Jack, or not seeing him until he was on top of them (Jack being a black Labrador) scattered in all directions much to our amusement, while the few men and youths about would stop and make a big fuss of him. 

We took him in the few restaurants there are in Reykjavik and in one he lay at our feet in the gangway and the waitress nearly trod on him, almost dropping her tray with the shock.

Late in the afternoon Jack appeared very 'chokker' not seeing any of his own species ashore (he had a thorough search for company) and in a bit of a quandary there being so many of our ships company ashore. He didn’t know whether to stick to us or join up with the many others he knew who greeted him.

It was very enjoyable to have 4 hours ashore and I would have willingly exchanged places with any of the troops stationed there who bemoan their lot so loudly. They have a paradise compared with our life at present.

One of my Coders ‘Speaky’ Lowe a Cambridge graduate had his enthusiasm damped a little on the return trip to the ship. He had been to visit his younger brother stationed 12 miles out and had returned with his brother (+ 2 doz. ¼lb bars of milk chocolate) to the liberty boat. Being busily occupied saying cheerio to his brother on the jetty and clinging to the parcel of ‘Nutty’, he missed his footing stepping from the trawler we were alongside to the drifter and stepped into the drink instead, (there being a big gap between the two ships). His thoughts on going under the wetness were "you sucker, fancy doing a wet thing like that" and although he tried valiantly to hang on to the ‘Nutty’ and his gloves (a present from his misses) he couldn't manage both so the 2 doz. milk bars had to be sacrificed. This being the only thing he dripped about on his return to the ship. He didn't stop bemoaning the loss for days and we helped him a little! - to think of 2 doz. ¼ lb bars of milk chocolate being fed to the fishes. 


PQ8 (8 ships) sailed from Hvalfjord escorted by Harrier (Lt Commander E P Hinton) and SPEEDWELL (Lt Commander J J Youngs). The convoy sailed in the arctic darkness with just a pale daylight at noon. Harrier zigzagged ahead while SPEEDWELL brought up the rear.


Cyril Green:

After 2 days out, the sea being with us and there being a following wind, it is fairly comfortable on board and we are rolling very little. Trip continued to be comfortable, little rolling etc. As we proceeded further north weather becomes colder and sharp but quite bearable although becoming noticeably colder on approaching land.

We passed through a few ice packs on the way. The first time I had just turned in and it was quite alarming to hear the huge chunks of ice crashing against the ships side. The second time I had a look at it and it looked as though the sea and sky had exchanged places. The packed ice appearing like mottled clouds and the spaces between, where the sea (which is black in these parts) showed through seemed like a dark sky and each piece of ice had a phosphorescent look as it floated by just underneath the water. These ice packs stretched as far as the horizon on all sides.

The convoy has had a peaceful trip so far. The only cause for gun crews closing up was a whale spouting giving the effect of gunshots, although our opposite number (the convoy on the Russia to England via Iceland route) with my old ship Cumberland in charge of escort was apparently reported by an enemy U Boat and dispersed all ships proceeding on voyage independently. 


Extracts from Arctic Convoys by Richard Woodman

17/1 Convoy PQ8 was joined by eastern local escort of Hazard and Sharpshooter despite the thick fog that kept Britomart and Salamander in Kola.

At 1945 on 17/1 the freighter Harmatris was hit by a torpedo from U454 which passed underneath Harrier. SPEEDWELL was ordered to drop back and stand by the stationary Harmatris. An hour later a second torpedo hit Harmatris but failed to explode, the captain thought he had hit a mine. At 2040 SPEEDWELL was ordered alongside to evacuate some of Harmatris’s crew. After much effort a towing wire was passed but SPEEDWELL was unable to move her as the starboard anchor had let go when the torpedo struck and stuck in the sea bed.

At 2200, as Sharpshooter had joined the screen, the destroyer Matabele was sent back to Harmatris. U454 fired another salvo of torpedoes which missed their target, a tanker, but hit Matabele. Although about 60 of the 200 crew escaped alive most were killed by the own depth charges and the cold. Only two survived. Harrier recovered the dead from the sea.  The volunteer crew withdrew from Harmatris to the relative safety of SPEEDWELL and she circled the freighter all night.


Extracts from Arctic Convoys by Richard Woodman

At 0600 with both ships alone in the ocean the crew went back to Harmatris and slipped the anchor chain, reconnected the tow wire and at 0800 got under way again. They were now joined by Sharpshooter and Hazard. At noon a Heinkel He111 made a half hearted low level attack, raking the deck with machine gun fire but was driven off by the AA armaments of the minesweepers and the DEMS gunners on Harmatris. A second plane dropped her bombs (one large and four small) a mile away.

At about 14.30 a high pressure steam pipe on SPEEDWELL burst, badly scalding three men and Youngs signalled for a Soviet tug, which arrived within the hour. SPEEDWELL left at speed to seek medical assistance for her injured crew members. Two further tugs arrived when four miles from Tereberski and Harmatris got to Murmansk early on 20/1.

Cyril Green:

1400 - Explosion in our ship don't know whether we hit or what it is yet someone gave a scream.

1445 - Explosion was heater drain observation tank in boiler room exploding. 2 stokers seriously scalded and 1 fractured elbow.

We left Harmatris to two Russian tugs and proceeded to Polyarnoe (Russia) at all speed.

SPEEDWELL's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander J J Youngs, OBE, RNR, one officer and a rating were mentioned in despatches for devotion to duty while salvaging the HARMATRIS.






Cyril Green:

My first view of Russia was far from cheery. Masses of snow bitterly cold (3ÞF on our first day) with huge, impressive but very gloomy and isolated looking buildings and not many of them. In afternoon of our first day a party of us strolled on the jetty in Lammy coats, sea boots, warm caps etc. Someone produced a football and soon a football match was in progress in the middle of the main road. This was a combination of football, rugby, wrestling, skating and handball interrupted at intervals to let a horse drawn sledge or a reindeer drawn sledge or a party of Russian troops on ski’s pass along the road. I must add that on one side of the road is a headquarters of some Russian forces to which troops are always going, while outside, at least 20 Rusky's are standing watching the game and have a good laugh and looking as though they'd like to join in. On the other side of the road two huge blocks in front of which is a huge mound of soft snow. The road itself is a mass of ice and crushed snow. Every now and then someone would try a break through. He'd be edged into the snow, downed and everyone pile on top of him and a lively flounder in the snow. I had the finest rough and tumble game or football in my life.

At 2.15 pm. when we all had to return on board in a hurry to shift ship I was warm, happy and covered with snow. The snow on my beard had frozen and everyone looked happy snowmen. 


We moved out and anchored in the harbour and commenced repairs and our boiler cleaning.


Cyril Green:

The Bramble is alongside the wall now and shoves off for home with the next outgoing convoy. Harrier moved alongside her and takes over Senior Officer. The weather here is so cold that the water in the harbour gives off masses of steam causing heavy clouds of fog caused by air temperature being much colder than water. 

We have the Northern lights up here every night but one night after a run to the pictures and while waiting for the boat to take us back I saw them the best ever (Northern Lights). A dark night and as yet as light as day for a few minutes and huge patterns of all colours moving over the sky and changing formation all the time. 

One job up here is to act as local asdic escort to inward and outgoing convoys and sweep the channels. After a trip we come back looking like a ghost ship - ice 6 inches thick everywhere. The ship side, upper deck, my aerials thicker than 6” hawsers and to look over to our opposite number, if you didn’t expect it, it would give you the scare of your life. 

The inside of the ship, being insulated by lead foil covered with wood, is as normal except port holes and escape doors which are covered with frosted ice 6” thick and when the weather moderates - as it has done once, moving from 36° of frost to a temperature of 26°F - we are nearly flooded out. 

We are doing an interesting job now. SPEEDWELL and Britomart are going down to Archangel or as far as the ice barrier to sweep before and escort the first convoy leaving the white sea since last Autumn, to Murmansk. They are now breaking through the ice barrier. We are now just before the ice barrier and moving through thick ice of the consistency of very thick pea soup. We are in front of our schedule. The convoy which should have broken through the ice barrier is still being broken out by icebreakers. We are having a Russian Destroyer and 3 small Russian minesweepers with us on this job and so have a Russian Signalman and Interpreter with us. The signalman is in our mess and it is a bit awkward as neither us nor he understand each others lingo. 


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.


At sea


HMS Harrier, SPEEDWELL and Hazard carried out sweeping operations between Svyatol Nos and Cape Gorodetski. No mines swept.


At sea


Hazard and SPEEDWELL provided local eastern escort for QP7 (8ships) from Murmansk 12/2 until 13/2 when Britomart and Sharpshooter took over from them until 15/2. No enemy activity.


SS El Ona, Explorer and El Oceano left Molotovsk and were broken through the White Sea by ice breakers, reaching clear sea where they were met by HMS SPEEDWELL and Britomart on 23rd February. Thick ice prevented entry into the Kola Inlet. The tanker El Ona grounded but was refloated. El Oceano was lost sight of in the fog on 24th February; although a thorough search was carried out by HMS Britomart, she has not since been sighted and has failed to answer R/T signals. It appears that the Master had every intention of proceeding independently should a chance offer, and has openly stated that he disliked convoys. (The ship later arrived at Akureyri on 1st March).


Cyril Green:

All the Sweepers up here suffer very much with engine trouble due to the extreme climate and rough sea combined with ice.

I've just been out to have a look at the sea! We are moving around in circles until tomorrow waiting to contact the convoy and the sea is covered by ice covered with snow not quite thick enough to prevent us moving, yet thick enough to freeze us in if we stop. 

HMS Speedwell in the Arctic - Halcyon Class Minesweeper


Photos: Henry Brown, Sickberth Attendant HMS Speedwell


Cyril Green:

Hussar and Niger arrived with inward convoy to relieve Hazard and Salamander, the relieved two returning to U.K. via Iceland with next outward bound convoy on February 27th.

We collected our convoy safely just outside the ice barrier and proceeded at 7 knots. Increased to 10 knots detailing a Russian Destroyer to escort one ship which could do only 7 knots. Leaving 3 ships, 2 tankers - one other - all British. On arrival at Kildin Island, informed that thick fog in and around Kola Inlet. Pilots would board all ships there.

Arrived Kola Inlet, Britomart saw our pilot boat, we didn’t, told her to tell pilot boat to follow us till we could pick up pilots, she disappeared, we never saw her again, carried on into inlet and anchored at Mishakov. 


On 5th March HMS Niger and SPEEDWELL went to search for the Russian destroyer Gromki who had run out of fuel when returning from escorting convoy QP8 and was drifting. They provided an A/S screen for her at daylight on 6th March when she was in tow of a tug.

CLICK HERE for report on Attack on U Boat

Report of SBNO North Russia




HMS Harrier (SO M/F 6), HMS SPEEDWELL, HMS HUSSAR, HMS SHARPSHOOTER sail pm 10th March to rendezvous convoy 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.

 Cyril Green:

The SPEEDWELL has visited Murmansk twice so far. On our first occasion we changed our money, the usual exchange is 20 to 30 roubles for 20 cigarettes, 20 to 50 roubles for a 2 oz bar of chocolate or 10 roubles for wine gums, to be obtained from anyone including little kids from 3 upwards who stop you wherever you go. Then we hopped ashore to find something to spend it on (value of a rouble 5d). The Russian shops have no frontage and are only bare rooms with counters when found, so are difficult to find. We went into every building in the main and only decent street until we found ‘em. We also found ourselves in Communal feeding houses, where the smell was appalling - the worst I've ever experienced and in the Post office and blocks of flats.

The shops when found sold only kiddies toys - very trashy. and odds and ends of no particular use to anyone. Russian style clothing or bread. So we got rid of our conkers on anything fairly reasonable. I bought a kiddies wooden sledge, magnifying glass, camera tripod and 2 pairs of ice skates. Pals bought skis (left-overs from army confiscations) or Mandolins (very poor quality)

My opinion of Murmansk and other Russian places is very low. If the Communists have made such wonderful progress since coming to power, Russia must have been a hell of a hole before then. Granted they've made one main street in Murmansk with big buildings and wide roads but these are extremely poor quality and all interior decoration is in 3 ply wood and gaudy cheap paint, while everywhere abounds in filth and horrible smells .Apart from the main street there appears to be very little order in the town. Wooden buildings being dumped anywhere although there are 3 or 4 short minor streets.


At sea


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

Cyril Green:

Murmansk has air raids nearly every day, but little damage has been done (a few wooden buildings, etc.). Three of us were lying alongside each other one night when a big wooden building not 50 yards away was hit. It shook us up a bit and this evening as we were lying at Rosta about 8 miles below Murmansk there was a raid on, dog fights and a massive ack ack barrage all in one. I saw two Jerries shot down and one Russian make a crash landing on the banks of the inlet quite near us.

We returned from escorting an outgoing convoy this afternoon (a 3 day trip). Were ordered to Murmansk but the Jerry’s seem to be aiming at our jetty lately so we’ve been ordered to stay at anchor at Mishakov and boiler clean (and are we dripping! why not Polyarnoe and a chance of pictures and a walk?). We’re hoping to go home with the next convoy and have a bit of leave then back again for more work! 


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).


Cyril Green:

After leaving Murmansk we returned to Polyarnoe for a few hours and sailed 2000 with Harrier, Gossamer and Hussar as local escort for incoming convoy. Oribi and 2 Russian destroyers also sailed. Ocean escort for this convoy is Trinidad, Fury and Eclipse.

Uneventful until 0428 29th when Trinidad reported 1 enemy sub, followed by report of 3 enemy destroyers (cancelled at 0501 as they were Oribi and 2 Russian destroyers). 


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

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 the the U-boat was destroyed.

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. 


Cyril Green:

At 0600 enemy reconnaissance planes sighted convoy which was greatly scattered due to heavy gale's. Trinidad reported 2 enemy destroyers at 0851/29 and at 0855 reported one of them on fire and she was chasing the other.

At 0927 Fury reported Trinidad was struck by a torpedo.

At 1012 Eclipse reported chasing enemy destroyer and at 1022 reported enemy destroyer stopped.

Reported 1116 that one enemy destroyer was hit and stopped in position 072°18'N, 032°09'E. On arrival of 2 other enemy destroyers she retired and lost touch with enemy some damage to Eclipse above water line.

Hussar, Harrier, Oribi screening Trinidad, 2 Russian destroyers and remainder of force searching for the convoy which was still greatly scattered.

U boat damaged by Gossamer and Hussar who detached from Trinidad (later confirmed as sunk) at 1220A/29. 


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

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.

(????? indicates indistinct text in original document) 


SPEEDWELL and Eclipse told to join and screen Trinidad at 0439A/30


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

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.   



Cyril Green:

0720/31 Harrier towing trawler Silta arrived in inlet (trawler short of fuel).

0732/31 Harrier, Gossamer, SPEEDWELL, Hussar to continue to search for 2 merchant ships still missing. 1 ship Effingham reported torpedoed. Harrier picked up one boat load of survivors - 1 boat load missing. 


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

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.


            Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla


Cyril Green:

0850/1 no success in search for 2nd boatload of survivors from Effingham presume all frozen to death by now.

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 be 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: http://www.ronsite.port5.com/navy/hms%20cumberland-speedwell-musketeer-ww2-wwII.htm

From the diary of Cyril Green, Telegraphist on SPEEDWELL 

Promoted Petty Officer Telegraphist 7th April 1942 (age 23½ yrs).

My small staff of operators, coders and radar mechanic pulled together always never any trouble to me or between themselves, we had a variety of characters, one Cambridge graduate, one had served 21 years gone on pension and been called back. One an insurance agent in civvy street and still so at heart, could not for the life of him make Morse decently. I finally recommended him for a commission and he ended up Officer in charge of the whole communications system for D day! Another it was impossible ever to wake for his rota duties, he literally had to be taken from his hammock still asleep and frog marched to the office before he woke - every time. The same one at some periods of stress would go into deep depression and just disappear for long periods - the remainder of staff always covered his duties without the slightest complaint.


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.


Cyril Green:

Convoy sighted and shadowed by enemy aircraft forenoon During afternoon convoy attacked by large number enemy aircraft (JU 88’s). Empire Cowper (merchant) hit dead amidships by 3 bombs. Dropped back out of convoy.

We, SPEEDWELL, shot down 1 plane, damaged 3 others. Empire Cowper left behind and escorted by local forces. Later sunk by repeated attacks, leaving 13 ships in convoy. We were continuously attacked by enemy aircraft without result for the next 4 days.

Incoming convoy from Iceland to Murmansk in trouble further east of us. H.M.S Speedy, Lord Austin and 5 merchant ships returned to Iceland damaged by pack ice. Whole convoy scattered. 6 of them later joined up with us, the outgoing convoy and returned to Iceland.

We found going hard now, forcing our way down the top of the Norwegian coast through pack ice. 


Cyril Green:

One aircraft shot down during today's attacks.





Depth charge attack by HMS Speedwell




Photo: Henry Brown, Sickberth Attendant HMS Speedwell


SPEEDWELL attacked a U-boat 60 miles south of Bear Island but without success. The SPEEDWELL first attempted to ram the submarine without success; she then turned and attacked with depth charges. Four charges were dropped by the SPEEDWELL before the MARNE followed with a larger attack. The two ships circled the position, observing a large patch of oil on the surface. The SPEEDWELL parted company from the convoy on 18 April and proceeded to Hvalfjord, Iceland. 

Cyril Green:

0100/13th - Convoy attacked by submarines. 2 ships Kiev (Russian) and El Occidente (Panamanian) sunk. We picked up 37 survivors from the latter, trawler picked up others. Again attacked by aircraft and shadowed by sub at dawn.

One more aircraft shot down during day, no damage to convoy.

2042  We, SPEEDWELL, sighted sub surfacing and trimming ready to fire torpedoes at cruiser Liverpool.  We fired our 4” gun at her and tried to ram her but our speed not sufficient. She dived and we depth charged her helped by destroyer Marne. We think sub definitely sunk. My aerials shot away by one of our Oerlikon guns during day. Took two of my staff and rigged temporary aerials. Will put new aerials up on arrival in harbour, far too cold (20°below zero) and risky to put new ones up at present.

CLICK HERE for report on attack on U Boat

The Panamanian flag freighter, SS El Occidente, was torpedoed by the German U435 (Seigfried Strelow) at 0130 local time on April 13, 1942 in position 78-28 N./28-30 E. while en route from Murmansk to New York via Reykjavik in Convoy QP10. She was carrying a part cargo of Chrome Ore as ballast...the ship was armed and manned by British gunners. There were 41 crew members on the ship. Twenty were lost. The ship sank so fast there was no time to launch lifeboats. The crew was forced to jump overboard. About 30 minutes later the 21 survivors were picked up by HMS SPEEDWELL, a British minesweeper. The SPEEDWELL also picked up 9 bodies and buried them at sea. Survivors were landed at Reykjavik.





The convoy reached Reykjavik on the 21st, but SPEEDWELL had left it three days earlier escorting the trawlers BLACKFLY and PAYNTER, both storm‑damaged, into Seidisfjord on the 19th. She then escorted them into the Minches on 20 April before herself proceeding to Scapa.

Arrived O K. Landed survivors from El Occidente. Then sailed alone to Scapa.


Source: ADM199/347  Report of Proceedings as part of ocean escort of convoy QP10

Report of Commanding Officer HMS SPEEDWELL, 20th April 1942 

The behaviour of the ship's company was magnificent under the most trying conditions of constant preparedness for action, bad weather and extremely cramped quarters with the additional 25 survivors. They were always alert and cheerful and created a very favourable impression on the survivors, who were of many different nationalities. 

Special mention is made of the following officers and ratings whose outstanding cheerfulness and devotion to duty was a splendid example to the rest of the ship's company, both during the attack on the U boat and numerous air attacks: 

Lt Alfred William Allen RN
Able Seaman James Frederick Cox C/JX 264983
ERA Richard William Dorrell C/MX 56192
Able Seaman Sydney Herbert Mason C/J 96766
Able Seaman James Thomas Kesby C/J 87250

Able Seaman John Douglas Bartlett C/JX 171167
Ordinary Seaman Robert Bowens C/JX238833 

Special mention is also made of the following ratings whose untiring efforts undoubtedly saved the lives of many of the survivors who were suffering from shock, exposure and immersion: 

CPO Cyril Charles Mitchell C/J 99549
ERA Terrence James Brennan C/MX 51247
Leading Steward Arthur Wells C/LX 23783


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

Recommendation for Awards 

DSC - Lt Cdr John Joseph Youngs HMS SPEEDWELL was acting as part of the ocean escort of convoy QP10. As commanding officer, Lt Commander Youngs set an inspiring example of leadership during the frequent attacks by aircraft and an attack on an enemy U boat. Two enemy aircraft were shot down.   

Mention in Despatches: 

Lt Alfred William Allen RN - The outstanding cheerfulness and devotion to duty of Lt Allen was a splendid example to the ship's company, both during an attack on a U boat and numerous attacks on convoy QP10 by enemy aircraft. 

AB James Frederick Cox C/JX264983
ERA Richard William Dorrell C/MX56192
AB Sydney Herbert Mason C/J96766
Ordinary Seaman Robert Bowens C/JX238833

(For all four men shown above) Their outstanding cheerfulness and devotion to duty was a splendid example to the remainder of the ship's company, both during an attack on a U boat and numerous attacks on convoy QP10 by enemy aircraft.




Proceed passing Switha 24/4 to refit at Humber Graving Dock

In May she had a short refit at the Humber Graving Dock Co's yard, escorting as far as Rosyth as she sailed south, the battleship ANSON with the destroyers WESTMINSTER and WOLSEY.




28/4 SPEEDWELL taken in hand at Humber Graving Dock, Immingham, estimated completion 25/5




















24/6 Taken in hand, machinery repairs, completes 27/7. This repair work to her port engine meant she was unavailable for PQ17.




1/8 Taken in hand, completes 1/10

17th August 1942 When Parliament next reassembles, the dockers, garment workers and munition makers of Whitechapel, in London's squalid East End, will be represented in the House of Commons by Petty Officer Walter James Edwards, stoker in the Royal Navy's mine sweeper H.M.S. Speedwell.

In an uncontested by-election last week Stoker Edwards, former dockers' union leader and ardent piano thumper, won his seat. Next day he returned to active duty at sea. Cracked his constituents: "01' Walt'll build some fires under them White hall toffs."


2/10 Completion date is now 9/10 ex trials










Milford Haven


25/10 SPEEDWELL and Hussar joined as escorts to KX4B, an advance convoy preceding the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch). The ships were tugs, trawlers, fuelling coasters and cased petrol ships (8 vessels in all)


After performing an A/S sweep near Gibraltar Hussar and SPEEDWELL joined the ALGERINE 12th MSF on 5 November to rendezvous with Convoy KMSA1 in 35.56N, 06.42W and augment the convoy screen; this was the chief slow Assault convoy bound for Algiers during 'Torch'. It comprised 47 ships and had 18 escorts. The minesweepers then returned to Gibraltar with the 'empties' in Convoy MKS1A.


8/11 SPEEDWELL had made eleven attacks on a U‑boat north‑east of Algiers, twice blowing the enemy to the surface (but evidently he got away). SPEEDWELL must have been well‑endowed with depth charges at that time..





Sweeping off Algiers,  Sunday morning 8th November 1942




Photo: Henry Brown, Sickberth Attendant HMS Speedwell




Escort duties between Algiers and Gibraltar with Hussar




Escort duties between Algiers and Gibraltar with Hussar




Escort duties between Algiers and Gibraltar with Hussar


On 24/11 SPEEDWELL departed Gibraltar with HUSSAR and 'Bangor' RHYL, escorting the LSTs TASAJERA and BACHAQUERO to Casablanca and back to Gibraltar collecting the merchant ships HILDURA and FINTRA off Port Lyauty (the whole group sailed to Casablanca and then back to Gib, arriving at the latter on 29/11.)




Escort duties between Algiers and Gibraltar with Hussar


On 1 December SPEEDWELL was ordered to assist the minelayer MANXMAN who had been torpedoed in 36.39N, 00.15E by U375. The destroyer PATHFINDER took MANXMAN in tow and made for Mers‑el‑Kebir.

Like so many home‑based ships, SPEEDWELL became caught up in the huge web of Operation 'Torch' and its associated Convoys. HUSSAR and SPEEDWELL returned to Algiers with a local TE convoy early in December 1942 and thereafter was busy escorting convoys within the Med. Some of these were: TE10, TEll, ET9, TE14, RS2, GUS5A.




Escort duties between Algiers and Gibraltar with Hussar


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