Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Speedwell 1944
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HMS Speedwell

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc


Kola Inlet


Source: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ron6a/navy/hms%20cumberland-speedwell-musketeer-ww2-wwII.htm


Cyril Green:

The temperature is now back to its old level, just below freezing. All ice on the sea has completely disappeared, though plenty still remains on the ship's upper works.
We, SPEEDWELL, Gleaner and Halcyon sailed for
Archangel to pick up empties at 1400 7th January. Arrived and anchored for the night at Dvina Bar. SPEEDWELL, being a lame duck. We again had engine trouble and became a straggler but staggered on to our destination as usual.



Dvina Bar


Cyril Green:

9/1 Sailed from Dvina Bar with empties bound for Kola Inlet. Additional escort of Russians (2 destroyers and several minesweepers) have now joined us.
The White Sea
isn't frozen yet but after anchoring off Dvina Bar the sea looked very queer. We had a heavy ground swell and a thick coating of slush covered the sea making the illusion that the ship was moving ‘O’er hills and dales, or the hills and dales (snow covered) were moving under the ship!


Kola Inlet




Cyril Green:

We have the Flotilla’s Cinema Unit on board and 13 films, Bob George, Sub Lt, Hockey and I are the voluntary operators of it. We are giving 3 shows a day while in harbour. So far have shown 3 different films.
Hussar & Halcyon are busy at present bringing more empties from
Archangel, Gleaner & SPEEDWELL with Russian minesweepers standing by to act as local escort to incoming convoy and take White sea portion.


Cyril Green:

Sailed in great hurry to join incoming convoy which was attacked during night. 3 ships sunk and one escort damaged and still being shadowed by enemy A/C and submarines.


Cyril Green:

Joined convoy 3am. Convoy split at 1800. Gleaner, SPEEDWELL and 4 Russian minesweepers escorts of White sea portion. The next incoming convoy due to arrive about Monday or Tuesday has been detected by enemy A/C, so are expecting trouble too.
Our Christmas mail will be waiting for us on the oiler. The last we got was on January 2nd, so all on board are eager to get back to base. I in particular am very eager to get more news from Rose and home.
We are having a great deal of trouble with our boilers and so is the Gleaner but I think that this trip we'll both manage to get back without breaking down. Our boiler tubes are bursting two or more each day but they are being patched up and we're staggering on, though if our mail was not waiting for us I think that we'd stop and try to patch ‘em up properly.


Cyril Green:

Have done two more trips to the White Sea and back to fetch empties the next incoming convoy got caught in rough weather. All ships damaged and had to turn back and put into Iceland for repairs etc. and so giving two of us (Gleaner & SPEEDWELL) a few more days in harbour


Dvina Bar




Kola Inlet


Cyril Green:

31/1 Arrived in Polyarnoe p.m . Expected a large amount of mail but received only a Christmas card posted 17th December, the same date as the mail I received January 2nd. But all turned out O K - our mail was sent to the oiler for us to collect when oiling and we, not having received the signal to oil, came straight into Polyarnoe.
Received all that mail the next morning 1st February - 10 letters from Rose - a very happy day today.


Cyril Green:

The second half of convoy arrived today. It had a prolonged tussle with U Boats. Escorts of previous convoy went out to help them last night.

Destroyer leader Hardy was sunk by one U Boat while attacking another one (33 men missing).
 Our forces sank 4 U Boats and damaged 6 others. We lost no merchant ships and Hardy the only escort lost, though two others slightly damaged (Virago and Obdurate).
 Received another 6 letters from Rose today. ‘It never rains but it pours’.
 We found out tonight that we're going home with the next convoy, sailing on Thursday February 3rd - fully a month before our time. Two other Fleet minesweepers going too. Halcyon and Hussar, leaving only 2 up here, Gleaner and the unfortunate Seagull. We relieved her 6 weeks ago, since when she’s been swinging round at a buoy at Scapa with no leave and this her third trip up here this session. Fortunately the next convoy is the last this season, so she should only be here a month or 6 weeks.
 Received 2 more of Rose’s letters today - 18 altogether in two days - what a bumper red letter day! All of ‘em interesting and just the thing I want to keep my pecker up. But the greatest news of all was that we're going home!!  I’ll be so very glad to see home and my little girl again.


At sea


Halcyon, Hussar and SPEEDWELL left Russia on 3 Feb 1944 as part of the Ocean escort for RA56 (39 ships) which was not attacked.  

Gleaner and Seagull provided local eastern escort from 3rd to 5th Feb. In this convoy the C‑in‑C sailed many ships in ballast who had been waiting at Murmansk since unloading after outward passages. He allotted to this convoy the escorts of two recently arrived convoys plus three extra destroyers. The enemy made preparations to intercept RA56, but the powerful escort and a succession of fierce gales and semi continuous snow helped to protect it. The high winds drove the convoy quickly past the usual U‑boat ambush party off Bear Island; shadowing aircraft were not followed by strike aircraft. Fast progress was made and the convoy reached Loch Ewe by 11th February. The three minesweepers left the convoy on 10th February and proceeded to Scapa. 

Cyril Green:

We sailed for home as expected, with what I should think is the biggest convoy with the strongest escort of any convoy to or from Russia, 40 merchant ships with 26 escorts (l9 of them 1st line destroyers).
The trip was uneventful much to our surprise. We expected a hard tussle the whole way.
We were shadowed by enemy A/C the whole hours of daylight each day except the last two and arrived at Scapa Flow in the very early hours of Friday 11th February
I awoke that morning to find 6 letters from Rose waiting for me. It didn’t take me long to turn out then.


Cyril Green:

Still in Scapa - where we are going from here and when is weighing heavily on everyone’s mind. Everyone keeps asking me - when, etc. but I can't tell ‘em. All I hear - so far, are the many buzzes that are going around (the latest is that we're going to Falmouth) what I’ve gathered so far is that we have finished with Scapa Flow as our base (the whole Flotilla of us) and are going to do sweeping off an isolated coast (hence the Falmouth buzz).
 The Captain thinks will be able to squeeze in a boiler clean leave with maybe a few days extra to patch up the after boiler room.
 I've just heard that we are sailing tomorrow night (destination still a secret) so it won't be long before we have all the dope.


Cyril Green:

Everything comes to him who waits!  Today the captain told us all the glad tidings. We, together with Halcyon and Hussar are going down to Rosyth. SPEEDWELL is going to have a boiler clean and at the same time, Admiralty Inspectors are examining the ship. Half the ships company are going on about 5 days leave tomorrow (Hurray!) with the prospect of either a few extra days or coming back to the ship and letting the other half have some leave - and who knows still more leave later. 




SPEEDWELL rectified defects between the 16th and 21st.










Port ZA















Photos: Henry Brown, Sickberth Attendant HMS Speedwell

The 'Royal' First Minesweeping Flotilla  &  Operation 'Barge Pole' in readiness for D Day









HMS Speedwell making smoke - Halcyon Class MinesweeperHMS Speedwell aground at Ipswich







"Speedwell well and truly stuck on middle ground in the Stour at Ipswich. The skipper faced a court martial but got off with 'help' from friends."

Patrick Beeson                                       Photo on left: Henry Brown, Sickberth Attendant HMS Speedwell














Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A2748855

Telegraphist Leslie Corney (24), HMS SPEEDWELL

Sailed at 1300 for France – many guesses as to where we’ll land. Our job is to sweep a channel through the enemy minefield to let everything else go in. We go in first – not a pleasant prospect. Told that at one spot a 16 inch shore gun can be brought to bear on us – unless the R.A.F. can knock it out. The weather during the afternoon very choppy. We all expect things being called off. Wind and sea eased off in the early evening and the weather seemed quite good. Began to sweep about 2000 and swept all night. Things very quiet except for colossal numbers of aircraft going over - ours fortunately! No trouble from shore gun – thanks to R.A.F.!


Leslie Corney

Slept anywhere we could. I spent part of the night on the deck wrapped in a duffel coat – the remainder on the lockers – much more comfortable! Found ourselves off
Ouistreham this morning just cruising around. An amazing number of ships and a terrific bombardment going on by us. Began widening the channel. Mines exploded in our sweeps occasionally from 1000 to 1330. Destroyer hit a mine nearby about 0700. Broke her back and see part of her. Water shallow. Ordered to return to Portsmouth at night. Off Portsmouth on the Wednesday morning 7th and turned round without going in and went back towards France to sweep. Swept all afternoon and then ordered back to Portsmouth again. Weather lovely all day. Ships going in all directions.



Leslie Corney

Terrific explosion just after I’d come on the Middle watch – at about 0015. The Buntings said there was a huge red glow. Evidently some ship hit a mine or been tin fished. The latter probably as it was underwater explosion. Really did arrive back at Portsmouth this morning. Going to oil now – and then what? Hospital ship St. Julien down by the bows - must have been the explosion we heard last night. Got all night in our hammocks. Thank heaven! First sleep of more than five hours since Saturday!


Leslie Corney

Sailed on a searching sweep from Portsmouth to the beachhead on the French Coast. No mines. Dirty weather. Anchored on defence line off beachhead all night. Plenty of activity – None too near us.


Leslie Corney

Sweeping all day. Lovely weather. Lots of wreckage on the water, oil and a body. From Destroyer? Anchored on defence line again. Usual activity.


Leslie Corney

Sweeping again for acoustic a magnetic mines. Dull day but calm. Was on deck in the ‘dogs’ for an hour and saw a couple of bodies pass still in lifebelts. In minefield so we couldn’t stop to do anything.


Leslie Corney

More sweeping and a few mines – more bodies and odds and ends. Usual night activity off and over the beachhead.




25/6 SPEEDWELL exploded two mines and numerous were cut about this time by the Flotilla.






SPEEDWELL exploded two mines whilst sweeping and numerous others were cut about this time by the flotilla.








10/7 Taken in hand for refit, completes 11/9 ex trials




5/10 From SPEEDWELL: Have defects, post engine out of action








11/11 SPEEDWELL taken in hand for boiler cleaning at Ipswich, ready for sea 16/11

For the remainder of the war, HMS SPEEDWELL continued to carry out minesweeping duties between Harwich and the Continent, latterly clearing the route to Hamburg and in the Heligoland Bight






Sweeping off Ostend






Source: ADM 199/153 (Extracts)


Date: 26th December 1944
From: The Commanding Officer, HMS Gleaner
To:   Commander in Chief, The Nore

Subject: Minesweeping Reports No. 2 and 4 


Thursday 21st December 1944 

Searching sweep of channel from NF3 to 53F buoys. 

SPEEDWELL, Halcyon, Speedy, Seagull with dan layer Foday.

Wind variable. Sea and swell 10. Weather misty. 

Moored mine swept up, not sunk. Lost in poor visibility. 

SPEEDWELL parted port sweep on what is believed to be the wreck marked PA in position 51°21’N, 2° 13’E. This puts the wreck approximately one mile to westward of charted position. 


SPEEDWELL swept up one moored mine believed German, believed GR. Apparently new, black paint. 51° 21’ 42” North. 2° 12’ 42” East. Charted depth 14 fathoms. 21st December 1944 1342A, no evidence to suggest that mine was dragged before being cut. 

H A King, Lt Commander RNVR

Senior Officer (borne in SPEEDWELL during this operation)


HMS Shearwater on patrol during night of 18th/19th December reported that E-boats had been encountered and had possibly laid mines in the vicinity of 51° 21’ 30” N, 02° 10’ 40” E. 

A search of QZS 596 was therefore ordered and this was carried out by 1st Minesweeping Flotilla on 21st December, one moored mine being cut as in Minesweeping Reports 2 and 4. 

A danger area was then declared and this area was subsequently cleared by the 18th MSF, five moored mines being swept, all to the eastward of the original one. 

Admiral of the Fleet
The Nore

6th January 1945







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