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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS WELSHMAN - Fast Abdiel-class Cruiser Minelayer

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

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

Abdiel-class fast cruiser minelayer (first group) ordered on 21st March 1939 from R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd at Hebburn on Tyne. The ship was laid down on 8th June 1939 and was launched on 4th September 1940 as the first RN ship to carry the name. Her build was completed on 25 August 1941. Like her sister ships this cruiser was not included in the Admiralty lists of adoptions by civil communities in UK after the WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaigns between December 1941 and June 1942. This may have been because of the nature of her deployments in WW2. 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 barry wavy of six white and blue, a dragon rampant Red,

supporting in the paws a trident Gold.



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)



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August                  Contractors trials.

                25th        Build completion date and commenced Acceptance Trials.

                                Commissioned for service.

                                (Note: Radar Type 285 was fitted during build to provide fire control for forward main

                                armament and an RAF Air Surface detection equipment modified for shipboard

                                use was also installed. This equipment was not very suitable for RN use,

                                For details of the development and use of radar for RN use see RADAR AT SEA

                                by D Howse.)


September             On completion of trials and storing took passage to Scapa Flow to work-up with ships of

                                Home Fleet.

                                Joined 1st Minelaying Squadron at Kyle of Lochalsh (Port ZA).

                23rd        Carried out first operational minelay (Operation SN23C in Butt of Lewis part of Northern



October                  Deployment at Kyle of Lochalsh in continuation.

                31st         Deployed with Auxiliary Minelayers HMS MENESTHEUS and HMS PORT QUEBEC to

                                carry out minelay in Northern Barrage (Operation SN83A)

                                (Note: Escorted by HM Destroyers BRIGHTON, OFFA, ORIBI and ONSLOW with cover

                                by HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD).


 November             Deployment with 1st Minelaying Squadron on continuation.

                                Planned Northern Barrage minelaying operation (SN7O cancelled.

                                Transferred with HMS MANXMAN to Hone Fleet for minelay off Norway.

                                (Note: This operation was later cancelled.)


December              Detached for deployment in English Channel for series of minelaying Operations.

                                (Operation HJ Series).

                15th        Embarked mines for minelay

                                Passage to Bay of Biscay for operational lays:

                16th        Laid Field HJ1.

                20th        Laid Field HJ2.

                                Came under air attack during transit.

                23rd        Laid Field HJ3 with HM Minelaying Cruiser MANXMAN.


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                6th          Took passage to Gibraltar, Freetown and Takoradi with stores and personnel.



                1st           Returned to Plymouth on completion of service.

                2nd         Resumption of minelaying operation delayed by boiler repair work.

                3rd          Deployed at Dover for minelaying operations.

                4th          Carried out minelay across Channel route likely to be used in event of breakout by German

                                battleships GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST (Operation NS Series).

                                Laid Field NS(A) - off Cap d'Antifer.

                5th          Laid Field NS(B) - off Dieppe.

                7th          Laid Field NS(C) - off Etaples.

                9th          Laid Field NS(E) - off Pointe de Barfleur.

                12th        Resumed laying of A/S minefields in Bay of Biscay (Operation HJ Series).

                13th        Laid Field HJ6.

                15th        Laid Field HJ7 with HMS MANXMAN.

                18th        Laid Field HJ8.


March                    Under refit in Tyneside shipyard.


April                       On completion resumed minelaying operations in Bay of Biscay.

                11th        Embarked mines for HM series Minelaying operations.

                14th        Laid Field HM1.

                17th        Laid Field HM2.

                20th        Laid Field HM3

                21st         Transferred to Port ZA for duty with 1st Minelaying Squadron.

                                Arrived at Port ZA.

                22nd       Diverted from operation and returned to Plymouth for conversion to carry petrol

                                and other stores.


May                        On completion took passage to join Force H at Gibraltar for Malta support.

                8th          Sailed from Gibraltar to Malta with 240 tons of stores and RAF personnel.

                                (Note: Part of Operation BOWERY by Force H.) Rigged disguise as French destroyer.)

                9th          Sighted by aircraft during passage but the disguise was accepted and no further

                                action ensued.

                10th        Detonated two mines with paravanes on entering Grand Harbour.

                                Sustained damage.

                                Discharged cargo and took return passage to Gibraltar.

                12th        Arrived at Gibraltar.

                16th        Passage to UK for repair.

                20th        Docked at Yarrow's Scotstoun.

                29th        Passage to Gibraltar to resume duties with Force H. June



                1st           Sustained damage to bow structure and propeller shaft in collision with tug on

                                entry to harbour.

                2nd         Taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard, Gibraltar.

                10th        On completion embarked stores, mail and personnel for Malta.

                11th        Sailed for Malta as part of relief convoy (Operation HARPOON).

                                (Note: For details of Operation HARPOON see THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN

                                by D MacIntyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Bamett , MALTA

                                CONVOYS by R Woodman and Naval Staff History.)

                12th        Detached from HARPOON convoy and took independent passage to Malta.

                15th        Disembarked stores on arrival in Malta and sailed on completion to reinforce

                                escort of HARPOON convoy which was under heavy air attacks.

                16th        Returned to Malta with the two surviving mercantiles and escort.

                                Took passage to Gibraltar with returning HARPOON escorts.

                19th        Arrived at Gibraltar.

                20th        Took passage to Clyde for repair and boiler clean.

                24th        Taken in hand for docking and repair at Scotstoun.



                9th          On completion took passage to rejoin Force H at Gibraltar.

                13th        Arrived at Gibraltar and embarked stores and passengers for passage to Malta.

                14th        Took passage to Malta with ships of Force H covering aircraft delivery.

                                (Operation PINPOINT).

                15th        Detached from Force H ships and took independent passage to Malta.

                                Under air, surface and submarine attacks during passage, none were successful.

                16th        Discharged stores and passengers on arrival in Malta.

                17th        Sailed for Gibraltar.

                                (Note: Although attempts were made by Italian ships and aircraft to intercept this transit

                                but failed to locate ship.)

                21st         Arrived at Gibraltar.


August                  Embarked stores for delivery to Malta

                                Passage to Malta co-incident with transit of Malta relief convoy.

                                (Operation PEDESTAL - See above references and PEDESTAL by Peter C Smith).

                16th        Arrived in Malta and disembarked stores.


September             Transferred to Eastern Mediterranean for carriage of stores.



                                Deployed in eastern Mediterranean.

                                Nominated for independent return passage to Gibraltar.

                                Embarked stores for Malta.

                28th        Sailed for Malta with ships of Force H covering aircraft delivery

                                (Operation TRAIN).

                29th        Detached from Force H ships and made independent passage to Malta.

                30th        Disembarked stores and took return passage to Gibraltar.



                2nd         Arrived at Gibraltar.

                                Nominated for support of allied landings in North Africa (Operation TORCH).

                11th        Passage to Algiers with stores for support of TORCH.

                17th        Took passage to Malta with stores.

                18th        Sailed for Gibraltar.

                22nd       At Gibraltar

                27th        Took passage to Haifa from Gibraltar to collect torpedoes for use in Malta.

                30th        Return passage from Haifa to Malta.



                1st           Disembarked torpedoes and took passage to Gibraltar.

                                Nominated for minelaying operations in central Mediterranean.

                4th          At Gibraltar.

                                Passage to Haifa to prepare for minelaying duties.

                                Carried out practice minelay off Haifa.

                                Passage to Algiers with call at Bone with MTB and submarine spares.

                                (For details of operations in Eastern Mediterranean see OFFICIAL HISTORY OF WW2

                                MEDITERRANEAN AND MIDDLE EAST (HMSO) and Naval Staff Histories.)


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January                  Embarked mines for Mediterranean operations.

                                (Note: One source records that that ship embarked 150 tons of seed potatoes for delivery

                                to Malta.

                4th          Arrived at Malta and disembarked seed potatoes.

                                (Note: Deployed with HM Fast Minelayer ABDIEL for minelaying operations.)

                7th          Carried out minelay in Skerki Channel..

                8th          Passage to Malta on completion.

                9th          Returned to Alexandria for troop transfer duties.

                12th        Deployed for transfer of troops from Beirut to Famagusta, Cyprus.

                                (Note: 4,000 troops were taken to Cyprus by ships of Mediterranean Fleet.)

                                Took passage from Cyprus to resume minelaying duties.

                28th        Arrived in Malta with mines embarked.

                30th        Carried out minelay in Skerki Channel.

                31st         Took passage from Malta to Alexandria to embark mines.


February                Nominated for transport of stores and personnel to Tobruk.

                1st           Hit aft by torpedo fired from U617 in position 32.12N 24.52E East of Tobruk.

                                Serious flooding of mine deck caused instability and could not be corrected.

                                Sank quickly after 2 hours.

                                155 killed included 2 civilians.

                                Some casualties were caused by explosion of depth charges.

                                Survivors rescued by HM Escort Destroyers TETCOTT and BELVOIR were taken

                                to Alexandria. (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                                (Note: Full details of all RN minelaying operations are available in The Naval Staff History

                                on Mining and include information about the ABDIEL Class.



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