DIDO-Class cruiser ordered from Cammell Laird at Birkenhead on 28th August 1938 under the 1938 Build Programme. The ship was laid down on 9th November 1938 and launched on 17th September 1940 as the fifth RN warship to carry this name, dating from 1809. It had last been used by a cruiser sold in 1922. Her completion was delayed until 3rd December 1941 due to the higher priority given to delivery of Escort Destroyers after the heavy losses of this type of warship during 1940. A reduced armament of four twin 4.5in guns was fitted in this cruiser and her sister ship HMS SCYLLA instead of the designed five twin 5.25in mountings. After a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign during March 1942 she was adopted by the civil community of Birkenhead, Cheshire now in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside.
1. "All in a Day's Work" - Her Career by David 'Rocky' Royle
2. Her Loss and Commemoration, by the Charybdis Association
3. Account of Her Loss from Captured German Archives
4. Service Record of Ordnance Artificer/3 George Smith, including
loss commemoration photograph and newspaper cuttings
B a t t l e H o n o u r s
MALTA CONVOYS 1942 - NORTH AFRICA 1942 - SALERNO 1943 - ATLANTIC 1943 - ENGLISH CHANNEL 1943 - BISCAY 1943
H e r a l d i c D a t a
Badge On a Field White, issuant from a whirlpool in base a fig tree Proper,
suspended from the branches a bat inverted Gold.
D e t a i l s o f W a r S e r v i ce
(for more ship information,
Naval History Homepage
and type name in Site Search
Carried out Contractors Trials.
3rd - Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials
15th - Commissioned for service.
16th - Civic Reception by local community for ship's company.
16th - Sailed for Clyde on completion of Acceptance.
3rd - Commenced work-up in Clyde area before Joining Home Fleet.
15th - Escorted ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during minelay in Northern Barrage. (Operation SN81 - See the Naval Staff History (MINING) for details).
1 9 4 2
Completed work-up and deployed with Home Fleet in NW Approaches.
Home Fleet deployment in continuation.
Home Fleet deployment in continuation.
30th - Escorted ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during minelay in Northern Barrage. (Operation SN87 - See above reference).
Nominated for transfer to Force H based at Gibraltar. (For details of operations in Mediterranean in 1941 and 1942 see Naval Staff History, THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett and MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman.)
13th - Escorted US aircraft Carrier USS WASP with battlecruiser RENOWN and cruiser CAIRO during passage to Gibraltar.
19th - Joined Force W with RENOWN and CAIRO to escort USS WASP for Malta aircraft delivery, screened by destroyers INGLEFIELD, ITHURIEL, ECHO, PARTRIDGE and US Navy destroyers USS LANG and USS MADISON (Operation CALENDAR).
20th - On completion escorted USS WASP for part of passage from Gibraltar in Atlantic
23rd - Returned to Gibraltar
6th - Joined RENOWN, destroyers ECHO, ECLIPSE and INTREPID in Force W.
7th - Escorted USS WASP in Atlantic for passage into Mediterranean.
8th - Part of escort for USS WASP and aircraft carrier EAGLE for further aircraft delivery to Malta. (Note : destroyer screen included ECHO, INTREPID, USS LANG and USS STERRET Cover was provided by RENOWN (Operation BOWERY)).
10th - On completion escorted USS WASP into Atlantic before return to Gibraltar.
17th - Escorted aircraft carriers EAGLE and ARGUS for aircraft delivery to Malta screened by destroyers PARTRIDGE, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE, WISHART., WESTCOTT, WRESTLER and VIDETTE (Operation LB).
2nd - Escorted EAGLE for aircraft delivery to Malta with destroyers WESTCOTT, WISHART, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE and PARTRIDGE (Operation STYLE).
8th - Escorted EAGLE with CAIRO for aircraft delivery to Malta screened by destroyers PARTRIDGE, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE, WISHART, WRESTLER and WESTCOTT (Operation SALIENT).
11th - Joined Force W with battleship MALAYA, EAGLE, ARGUS, cruisers KENYA and LIVERPOOL to cover passage to Sicilian Narrows of Malta convoy. (Operation HARPOON). (Note : destroyer screen comprised destroyers ONSLOW, ICARUS, ESCAPADE, WESTCOTT, WISHART, WRESTLER, VIDETTE and ANTELOPE
17th - Returned to Gibraltar with Force W and retained in Mediterranean.
Deployed at Gibraltar.
14th - Escorted EAGLE with CAIRO for Malta aircraft delivery screened by destroyers WESTCOTT, WRESTLER, ANTELOPE, VANSITTART and ITHURIEL. (Operation PIN POINT).
20th - Repeated aircraft delivery escort with same ships (Operation INSECT).
5th - Joined aircraft carriers VICTORIOUS, INDOMITABLE, EAGLE and ARGUS with cruisers PHOEBE and SIRIUS in Atlantic for exercise in fighter direction and 'Cross-Deck’ multi-aircraft carrier operations (Exercise BERSERK). (For details of development and use of radar by RN see RADAR AT SEA by D Hawse).
9th - Joined Force Z west of Gibraltar with battleships NELSON, RODNEY, VICTORIOUS, INDOMITABLE, EAGLE, cruisers SIRIUS and PHOEBE with 12 destroyers to cover passage of supply convoy (WS21S) to Sicilian Narrows. (Operation PEDESTAL - See above references and PEDESTAL by P Smith).
12th - Stood by INDOMITABLE to provide AA defence after action damage.
13th - Detached from Force Z after nightfall to replace cruiser MANCHESTER in Force X during passage through Sicilian Narrows. (Note : MANCHESTER had been torpedoed and had to be sunk).
14th - Rejoined Force Z and in action with aircraft.
15th - Arrived at Gibraltar.
Deployment at Gibraltar in continuation. Carried out patrol between Azores and Cape Finisterre to intercept enemy ships attempting passage from Far East to French ports.
Atlantic patrol duty in continuation including refuelling in Azores.
28th - Escorted aircraft carrier FURIOUS with cruiser AURORA for Malta aircraft delivery screened by destroyers WESTCOTT, WISHART, ACHATES, VANOC, VERITY, Polish destroyer ORP BLYSKAWICA, Escort destroyers COWDRAY and BRAMHAM. (Operation TRAIN).
Nominated for support of allied landings In North Africa (Operation TORCH).
6th - Joined convoy KMF1 with ARGUS, Escort Carrier AVENGER, cruisers SCYLLA and SHEFFIELD for final stage of passage to Gibraltar.. Part of Eastern Task Force covering assault landings at Algiers. (For details see Naval Staff History and above references).
10th - Escorted military convoy for landings at Bougie and Bone with SCYLLA. Under periodic air attack and provided naval gunfire support during assault.
12th - Engaged aircraft after unsuccessful torpedo attack.
13th - Escorted troopships during passage to Gibraltar with Escort aircraft carrier AVENGER.
25th - Embarked British and US military personnel for passage to Algiers.
27th - Deployed with cruisers AURORA, ARGONAUT, SCYLLA and SIRIUS to intercept French warships approaching North African coast.
30th - At Mers-el-Kebir
Deployed with units of Force H for exercises in Western Mediterranean.
11th - Nominated for refit in UK.
12th - Took passage to Barrow for refit. (Note: Three German POW were embarked for this trip).
15th - Taken in hand for refit.
1 9 4 3
Post refit trials.
20th - Passage to Liverpool for routine docking
7th - Joined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow for work-up. Present during visit by King George VI to Home Fleet.
21st - Provided cover for ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during minelay in Northern Barrage (Operation SN90A).
28th - Transferred to Plymouth Command for duty in SW Approaches and took passage for Plymouth. Diverted for search operation in Faeroes area.
4th - Arrived at Plymouth.
7th - Carried out unsuccessful patrol for interception of blockade runners in Bay of Biscay
19th - Escorted Military convoy to Gibraltar.
25th - Return passage to Plymouth
5th - Escorted rms QUEEN MARY taking Prime Minister to USA with cruiser UGANDA.
8th - Detached when relieved by two US Navy destroyers.
12th - Deployed on interception patrol duty in Bay of Biscay and provided cover for UK – Gibraltar convoys prior to allied landings in Sicily (Operation HUSKY)
Bay of Biscay deployment in continuation.
22nd - Joined Joint military convoy WS32 (for Middle East and Bombay) and KMF20 (for Gibraltar and Algiers) in SW Approaches to provide cover during passage in the Bay of Biscay. (Note : This was required in case of attack by German destroyers from French bases.)
25th - Detached from convoy when it divided for separate passages to Freetown (WS22) and Gibraltar (KMF20).
Bay of Biscay and SW Approaches convoy defence in continuation.
11th - Transferred to Gibraltar for convoy defence duties in Atlantic and the Western Mediterranean Sailed from Plymouth for Bay of Biscay convoy defence during passage to Gibraltar (Note The actor Noel Coward was a passenger).
22nd - Joined military convoy WS33 (for Middle East and Bombay) and KMF22 (for Gibraltar and Algiers during passage to Gibraltar to provide cover during transit of Bay of Biscay.
23rd - Detached from WS33/KMF22 and resumed Bay Of Biscay patrol (Note: Joint convoy separated on arrival at Gibraltar)
31st - Arrived at Gibraltar to join Fleet
Transferred to Bizerta for support of military operations
10th - Joined Support Force East (TF88) with cruisers EURYALUS and SCYLLA. (Note : The two cruisers were deployed to provide defence for Escort Carriers UNICORN, HUNTER, BATTLER, ATTACKER and STRIKER against air attack during allied landings at Salerno (Operation AVALANCHE – See above references.)
11th - Detached and took passage to Palermo. Embarked General Eisenhower for passage to Salerno for visit.
12th - Sailed from Beach Head to Bizerta.
13th - Diverted on passage to embark soldiers and military stores at Tripoli.
14th - Joined EURYALUS and SCYLLA at Tripoli for transfer operation. Sailed for Salerno.
15th - Disembarked soldiers and stores off Beachhead. (Note : Much publicity has been given since 1945 to the transfer of units of the 8th Army for service in Italy - See TWO HONOURABLE YEARS by Craig Leith).
18th - Released from AVALANCHE and resumed patrol and convoy cover in Bay of Biscay.
Transferred to Plymouth Command and continued deployment.
11th - Joined escort for inward convoy from Gibraltar in SW Approaches.
12th - Detached and took passage to Plymouth
20th - Nominated for operation to intercept German mercantile MUNSTERLAND in Bay of Biscay (Operation TUNNEL Series). (Note : This vessel was known to be on passage in the area.)
22nd - Sailed from Plymouth with destroyers GRENVILLE, ROCKET, LIMBOURNE, TALYBONT, STEVENSTONE and WENSLEYDALE.
23rd - In action with German torpedo boats escorting coastal convoy off Brittany. Hit on port side by two torpedoes fired by T23 and sank within 30 minutes. 426 of the ship's company lost their lives and 107 were rescued. (A detailed analysis of this ill planned and poorly executed TUNNEL operation is available in HOLD THE NARROW SEA by Peter Smith and a privately published novel TWO HONOURABLE YEARS by Craig Leith).
S p e c i a l N o t e
TWO HONOURABLE YEARS, although a work of fiction, was written by an original member of the ships’ company who joined this ship at Birkenhead during build and left her shortly before her final voyage. This book combines a thorough and graphic account of the ship's short but active life with details of the personal experiences of six young ratings whose professional career began when they joined HMS CHARYBDIS in November 1941.
Nineteen British sailors ware buried with full military honours in Foulon Cemetery, Guernsey on Wednesday 17th November 1943. It was attended by several Senior Officers of the German occupation garrison who provided a Ceremonial Guard of 40 Marines. The Dean of Guernsey, leaders of civil authorities and clergymen of various denominations, supported by least 4,000 islanders were present to honour these men.
Since 1948 an annual remembrance of the loss of this ship is held in Guernsey. This event marks the lasting relationship between the civil community and those from far afield who have personal reasons for ensuring that the tragic loss of life on 23rd October 1943 is not forgotten. With the passing of each year the number of survivors and those who lived through the dark days of war at sea or under German occupation diminishes. However, the events surrounding the loss of this ship will be perpetuated as long as the graves of these British sailors continue to be cared for by the people of Guernsey.