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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2002

HMS MANXMAN - Abdiel-class Fast Cruiser Minelayer 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Manxman postwar (Navy Photos/Bob Hanley, click to enlarge) return to Contents List   

Abdiel-class fast cruiser minelayer (first group) ordered from Alex. Stephens of Govan, Glasgow under the 1938 Estimates on 23rd December that year (see Note below). The ship was laid down 24th March 1939 and launched on 5th Sept. 1940 as the 2nd RN ship to bear this name. It was first used by a Seaplane Carrier sold in 1921 but hired in 1941 from the Isle of Man SP Co. for use as a radar training ship and renamed HMS CADUCEUS. Build of this ship was completed on 21st June 1941. This Class of warship, in addition to their primary use as minelayers, were very extensively deployed during WW2 for transport of stores and personnel. Their high speed and ample space in the mine deck made them especially useful for this type of work. Details of all minelaying operations by the Royal Navy during WW2 are recorded in the Naval Staff History (Mining).  Although the cruiser minelayer HMS ADVENTURE was adopted by the civil community of Plymouth after a Warship Week National Savings campaign, none of the ships of the Class were adopted during the campaigns during 1941-42. (Note:  When this Class of warship was ordered they were classified as cruisers, but in later years have been referred to a Fast Minelayers.) See Royal Navy Minelaying Operations.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s




H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field Blue, Three legs conjoined in armour Proper,

spurred and garnished Gold.


M o t t o

Stabit  quoconque jerceris:  'It will stand, however it is thrown'




D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 4 1


June                        Contractors trials

                7th          Commissioned for service with 1st Minelaying Squadron.

                10th        Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials,

                25th        During work-up laid dummy minefield off Orkneys for submarine training.


July                         Deployed for delivery of mines to Murmansk.

                                Nominated for detached service with Home Fleet ships in support of Malta relief operation.

                15th        Deployed with HM Battleship NELSON, HM Cruisers ARETHUSA, EDINBURGH and

                                MANCHESTER , HM Destroyers COSSACK, LIGHTNING, MAORI, NESTOR (RAN),

                                SIKH, AVONVALE, ERIDGE and FARNDALE as escort for military convoy WS9C for

                                passage to Gibraltar.

                                (Note: Mercantiles destined for Malta detached and became Convoy GM1 (Operation


                19th        Embarked stores and personnel at Gibraltar for passage to Malta

                22nd       Deployed with HM Cruisers ARETHUSA, EDINBURGH and HERMIONE,

                                HM Destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, NESTOR (RAN), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND,

                                FIREDRAKE, ENCOUNTER, ERIDGE and FARNDALE for escort of convoy through

                                Sicilian Narrows into Malta as Force X. Cover was provided for passage in western

                                Mediterranean by ships of Force H based at Gibraltar

                                (Note: For details of passage of SUBSTANCE Convoy and subsequent similar Malta relief

                                operations see MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman. THE BATTLE FOR THE

                                MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                                by C Barnett and the Naval Staff History.)

                23rd        Under air attacks with Force X and mercantiles.

                                (Note: : HMS MANCHESTER and HMS FEARLESS were hit by torpedoes.

                                HMS FEARLESS had to be sunk by HMS FORESTER but the cruiser

                                had to return to Gibraltar escorted by HMS AVONVALE.)

                                Force H ships detached and remained west of Narrows.

                24th        Discharged stores on arrival in Malta and sailed for return passage to Gibraltar with ships of

                                Force X.

                27th        On arrival at Gibraltar embarked stores including aviation fuel with passengers

                                for transport to Malta.

                                (Note: Troopship LEINSTER intended to take passage with SUBSTANCE convoy

                                had grounded on departure and not able to continue. Her passengers and

                                stores were also embarked in HMS ARETHUSA and HMS HERMIONE

                                in a special additional relief operation (Operation STYLE.)

                30th        Sailed from Gibraltar with the two cruisers escorted by HM Destroyers SIKH and

                                LIGHTNING for speedy passage to Malta as Force X. Cover was again provided

                                by Force H



                1st           Transit of Sicilian Narrows with Force X.

                2nd         Italian submarine TEMBIEN sunk by HMS HERMIONE.

                                Disembarked stores in Malta and sailed for Gibraltar with Force X ships.

                4th          Returned to Gibraltar with ships of Forces H and X.

                5th          Took passage to UK for planned minelaying operations.

                13th        Prepared for minelay in Mediterranean at Kyle of Lochalsh (Operation MINCEMEAT)

                                (Note: These included adoption of a disguise to ship so it appeared similar to Vichy

                                French LEOPARD during the passage through French coastal waters for a

                                mine lay off west coast of Italy. Some sources record that this was the only

                                occasion when a British warships displayed French colours as part of a

                                deception plan)

                15th        Embarked mines at Milford Haven

                16th        Sailed from Milford Haven for Gibraltar.

                19th        At Gibraltar to collect orders for MINCEMEAT.

                22nd       Hoisted French colours during passage near Balearics and headed for Toulon.

                24th        Laid 150 mines in Gulf of Genoa minefield.

                                (Note: Diversionary air attacks were carried out on Sardinia in Cover operation by

                                ships of Force H. See Naval Staff History.)

                25th        Return passage to Gibraltar with same procedure when in French coastal waters.

                30th        Arrived at Kyle of Lochalsh after successful operation



                4th          Detached for duty with Home Fleet and deployed with HM Cruiser KENYA and HM

                                Destroyer LIGHTNING for lay of anti-shipping field off Norwegian coast.

                                (Operation EH)

                                Resumed service with Squadron on return to Kyle of Lochalsh.

                17th        Nominated for minelay in English Channel and took passage to embark mines at

                                Milford Haven.

                18th        Carried out unescorted minelay off Les Heaux (Field HF)

                20th        Carried out further unescorted minelay of Le Havre (Field JT)

                                Returned to Kyle of Lochalsh on completion.

                                Nominated for minelaying duty in East Coast Barrier with HM Fast Minelayer

                                WELSHMAN of Squadron.

                28th        Laid Field SN16Ain East Coast Barrier off Aberdeen



                3rd          Laid Field SN16B north of Aberdeen

                9th          Laid Field SN16C north of Aberdeen.

                13th        Nominated for further minelaying operations in English Channel and embarked mines

                18th        Laid Field HF off St Valery sur Somme without escort.

                21st         Deployed with HMS WELSHMAN and carried out lay of Field HG off Lorient without


                25th        Carried out lay of Field JX(B)) off St Valery sur Somme unescorted.

                                (Note: HMS WELSHMAN laid Field JX(A) concurrently.)

                26th        Under repair by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth.

                31st         Passage to Kyle of Lochalsh on completion of repair.


November              Nominated for minelay in Northern Barrage.

                                Planned lay of Field 7C cancelled and took passage to Scapa Flow for detached duty

                                with Home Fleet.

                                Planned minelay cancelled and transferred to Channel for minelay in Bay of Biscay.


December              Diverted for delivery of stores to Gibraltar and took passage.

                20th        Returned to Milford Haven to embark mines for anti-submarine mine lay in Bay

                                of Biscay

                23rd        Carried out lay of Field HJ3 in Bay of Biscay.

                                On completion took passage to Liverpool.

                24th        Taken in hand for routine docking at Liverpool.


                1 9 4 2



                28th        On completion of docking and maintenance too passage to Plymouth to resume

                                Channel duties.



                3rd          Carried out minelay off Bellisle in perceived path of likely to be used in the event of

                                break-out from Brest by the German warships SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU

                                to return to Germany by passage through English Channel.

                5th          Laid Field HL1 off Ile Verges.

                7th          Laid Field HL2 off Ile de Bas.

                                On completion took passage to Milford Haven to embark mines for further planned

                                minelays in Bay of Biscay.

                11th        During passage to carry out minelay of Field HJ5 engaged aircraft attacking convoy

                                and completed lay without interference.

                15th        Deployed with HMS WELSHMAN and carried out lay of Field HJ7.

                18th        Laid Field HJ8 independently.

                19th        Laid Field HJ9 independently.

                23rd        Took passage from Plymouth to resume Squadron duties at Kyle of Lochalsh.


March                    Deployed at Kyle of Lochalsh with Squadron.

                                Nominated for service in Indian Ocean to relieve HM Fast Minelayer ABDIEL

                                Serving with Eastern Fleet which had been damaged by grounding and was under repair.


April                       Embarked stores and personnel for passage to Gibraltar, West Africa and Simons Town.

                18th        Sailed from Plymouth to join Eastern Fleet.


May                        Passage in Indian Ocean after intermediate calls.

                15th        Arrived at Kilindini and joined Eastern Fleet

                                (Note: Eastern Fleet units were based at Kilindini after the losses of RN ships in

                                April when a Japanese aircraft carrier force attacked Ceylon.

                                One source records that after call at Durban on 9th this ship went to Diego

                                Suarez which had just been captured during landings in Northern

                                Madagascar (Operation IRONCLAD)

                                Nominated for special duty to assess requirements for storage and supply of mines

                                for use in Indian Ocean during planned operations.


June                        Deployed for an extended cruise to Colombo, Trincomalee, Bombay, Addu Atoll,

                                Calcutta and Vizgapatan for local discussions and assessment of facilities.


July                         On arrival at Madras at end of cruise nominated for support of special diversion

                                operation in Indian Ocean (Operation STAB).

                                Prepared for escort of Dummy convoy nominated as Force M to suggest an

                                imminent landing on the Andaman Islands.



                1st           Sailed from Madras with HM Corvette ASTER and HM Indian Auxiliary

                                SONAVATI as escort for four mercantiles during passage in Bay of Bengal

                                as an Assault Convoy.

                                (Note: The mercantiles were ss TASMANIA, ss HOPERANGE, ss CLAN MCIVER,

                                ss YVENSANG and ss CUSTODIAN.)

                2nd         Took return passage to Madras.

                                (Note: This was to imply the cancellation of landing operations.)

                                On return nominated for support of planned landings to complete the occupation of

                                Vichy French held Madagascar (Operation ESME B.)

                                Passage to Kilindini to join Force M.



3rd          Arrived at Kilindini and took part in Exercise TOUCHDOWN with Force M

                                ships in preparation for ESME B and main landings at Majunga (Operation STREAM)

                                (Note: Other Ships in Force M included HM Cruisers BIRMINGHAM, DAUNTLESS

                                GAMBIA and CARADOC, HM Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, HM Monitor

                                EREBUS, HM Seaplane Carrier ALBATROSS (As HQ Ship), HM Destroyers

                                NAPIER (RAN), NORMAN, NIZAM, FOXHOUND, HOTSPUR, ARROW,

                                BLACKMORE. ACTIVE, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, NEPAL (RAN),

                                Dutch destroyers VAN GALEN and TJERK HIDDES, HM Corvette FREESIA,

                                HM Fleet Minesweepers CROMER, CROMARTY, ROMNEY, HM Whalers

                                LURCHER, MASTIFF, SIGFAR (?) and HM Auxiliary Netlayer BRITTANY with

                                twelve mercantiles carrying Assault Force with equipment and stores for

                                planned landings

                8th          Embarked Royal Marines detachment from HMS CARADOC and troops of Pretoria

                                Highlanders to capture island of Noise Be off NW coast of Madagascar.

                9th          Passage to Noise Be.

                10th        Moored inside harbour at Heleville, Noise B and carried out support bombardment

                                including use of mortars carried by landing parties prior to landings (Operation ESME B)

                                (Note: Port was captured with only one casualty.)

                14th        Deployed to land military force from position in river below Maromandia on main island

                                of Madagascar.

                15th        Royal Marines occupied town after surrender of Vichy French troops.

                29th        Deployed to carry out reconnaissance of Fort Dauphin on southern tip of Madagascar.

                                Found local authorities friendly.


October                  Released from STREAM before final armistice in Madagascar.

                                For details of Madagascar operations see WAR WITH JAPAN and Naval Staff History.

                                Transferred to Mediterranean for minelaying operations.

                16th        Took passage to join Fleet at Alexandria.

                30th        Arrived at Port Said after passage in Red Sea.


November              Joined Mediterranean Fleet and deployed at Alexandria.

                10th        Took passage from Alexandria to Malta with stores and personnel escorted by six

                                destroyers also carrying stores and personnel.

                12th        Arrived in Malta.

                                (Note: First surface ships to arrive from Egypt for 12 weeks.

                13th        Embarked and prepared mines for first minelay with great difficulty because of

                               local conditions.

                25th        Took passage to Algiers with mines embarked for first lay.

                29th        Laid minefield off Cani rocks in Sicilian Channel and returned to Algiers

                                (Note: Although an E-Boat was sighted and passed near ship the lay was completed




                1st           Took passage from Algiers to Gibraltar to collect supply of mines for future minelays.

                                Hit by torpedo from U375 off Algiers in position 36.39N 00.15E and sustained serious


                                Torpedo struck port side causing flooding of Engine and Gearing Rooms which disabled

                                ship and caused 12 degree list.

                                Taken in tow by HM Destroyer PATHFINDER and escorted by HM Destroyer ESKIMO

                                under HM Tug RESTIVE arrived to take over operation.

                2nd         Arrived at Mers-el Kebir, Oran under tow.

                5th          Under emergency repair to allow passage under tow to Gibraltar.

                18th        Took passage to Gibraltar under tow.

                20th        Arrived at Gibraltar.

                22nd       Under repair by HM Dockyard Gibraltar to allow permanent repair in UK shipyard.


                1 9 4 3                    


January                  Under repair and docking at Gibraltar

to May                   Permanent repair arranged at Hawthorn Leslie shipyard in Newcastle.


June                        Prepared for Atlantic passage under tow by HM Tug BUSTLER.

                23rd        Sailed from Gibraltar under tow as part of Convoy MKS15G

                24th        Joined Convoy SL131 with ships of MKS15G for passage to Liverpool



                4th          Detached from SL131 on arrival at Liverpool

                8th          Arrived in Newcastle under tow.

                9th          Taken in hand for repair by Hawthorn Leslie


August                  Under repair

to December


                1 9 4 4


January                  Under repair

to December          Nominated for service in British Pacific Fleet on completion of work-up


                1 9 4 5


January                  Under repair

to March.               (Special Note: One source records that ship went to Rosyth for completion of some

                                work before recommissioning. This is in doubt and is being further

                                investigated. Revised record will be provided when confirmed.)


April                       Contractors trials

                                Nominated for Dummy Minelay on completion of post refit sea trials.

                10th        Recommissioned for service in BPF.

                                Carried out sea trials including Full Power on measured mile.

                                Embarked Dummy mines at NIC Quay, Newcastle.

                                Carried out Dummy minelay and on completion took passage to Sheerness.


May                        Leave period and prepared for foreign service.

                                Passage to Portsmouth

                                Embarked Mines at Priddy’s Hard for delivery to Royal Australian Navy Mine Depot.

                                at Geelong.

                                Sailed from Portsmouth with stores for Gibraltar and Malta.


June.                       Worked-up for operational service in Mediterranean with ships of Mediterranean Fleet.



                4th          Transit of Suez Canal

                14th        Arrived at Colombo

                                Passage to Australia to join BPF with call at Cocos Islands.

                27th        Called Fremantle on passage


August                  Passage to Geelong.

                                (Note: Ships of British Pacific Fleet which had been under US Navy control were

                                returned to RN control after VJ Day. For details see OPERATION PACIFIC,

                                THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by J Winton and WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO).

                                Disembarked mines at RAN Depot and took passage to Melbourne

                                Docked at RAN Dockyard, Williamstown for repairs to propeller shafts

                                (Note: The repair involved us of lathes suitable for this type of work which were

                                not available in Williamstown dockyard and completion was delayed by need

                                for transfer to another facility.)

                                Nominated for support of repatriation operations and for transport of stores to RN

                                ships and bases in Pacific.


September.            Passage to Sydney to prepare for transport of repatriated personnel

                                Passage to Tokyo for first trooping mission with calls at Manus and Guam.



S u m m a r y   o f   P o s t   W a r   S e r v i c e


HMS MANXMAN was first deployed to support the repatriation of British and nationals of allied nations and carried stores and supplies from Sydney to Japan. On later trips she went to Shanghai and Hong Kong  which was used as the base for the BPF in 1946 and 47. In June 1946 the ship returned to UK and was refitted at Sheerness before returning for further service with the BPF in February 1947 as relief for HM Cruiser EURYALUS. At the end of that year she was nominated for reduction to reserve status and returned to join the Reserve Fleet at Sheerness.


In 1951 this ship was brought forward for operational use and following a refit joined the Mediterranean Fleet in September 1951. After two years she was again placed in Reserve and laid-up in Malta where she remained until again refitted. The after 4” mounting was removed and she re-commissioned in February 1956 for duty as Flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet Flotillas. During this service she took part in relied operations after an earthquake in the Lebanon as well as taking part in NATO and Fleet exercises in the Mediterranean. She was deployed for headquarters duties during the Suez operation later in 1956 and the next year returned to Malta to lay-up in Reserve. 


Refitted for further service after tow to Gibraltar in 1958 she returned to lay up Malta until 1961 when she was selected for conversion into a Support Ship for minesweepers at Chatham where she was taken in hand by HM Dockyard on 17th July that year. During this work the other two 4” mountings and two boiler rooms were removed which reduced her speed significantly. Additional accommodation and support workshops  were fitted to suit her new role and work was completed during February 1963. Whilst on trials in April 1963 she visited the Isle of Man where she grounded whilst in Douglas Bay. On returned to Chatham the ship prepared for service in the Far East and re-commissioned on 23rd September that year for support of the 6th Minesweeping Squadron at Singapore. She deployed in that role until late in 1968 and arrived at Portsmouth on 12th December


The ship was then used for sea training of engineering officers and was based at Plymouth for use by the RNEC at Manadon between February and May 1969. Later that year a serious fire caused extensive damage which prevented further use. Plans to extend her role for sea training of navigation and direction officers were never implemented and she Paid-off in September 1970 and laid-up in Devonport. Transferred to the Reserve Fleet at Chatham this ship was placed on the Disposal List in 1972 and sold for demolition by J Cashmore at Newport, Wales. She arrived at the breakers yard in tow on 6th October after 32 years of distinguished service during WW2 and varied types of use during post war years. 


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