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SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2

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

HMS WRYNECK (L 04) -  V & W-class Destroyer including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Westminster, sister ship , also converted to a fast escort vessel (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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W-Class destroyer included in the 10th Order of the 1916-17 Programme and ordered from Palmers at Jarrow., Newcastle on 16th December 1916. The ship was laid down in April 1917 and launched on 13th May 1918 as the 1st RN ship to carry the name. Build was completed on 11th November 1918 and she took part in operations in the Baltic against the Bolsheviks after acceptance into service. This ship was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet in 1921 that transferred in 1925 to the Mediterranean as the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. Reduced to Reserve during the economic taken in the 1930's. Whilst laid-up at Gibraltar in 1938 she was selected for conversion to a fast escort (WAIR - including 4-4in AA) by Dockyard, Gibraltar.

 

B a t t l e†† H o n o u r s

 

LIBYA† 1941 - MEDITERRANEAN - GREECE 1941

 

H e r a l d i c†† D a t a

Badge: On a Field Green a† Wryneck on a branch all Proper

 

M o t t o

'†Lay on'

 

 

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 3 9

 

September             Under conversion at Gibraltar.

to

December

 

1 9 4 0

 

January                  Under conversion.

to                            Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to L04.

March                    Nominated for service with Mediterranean Fleet.

 

April                       Post conversion trials and commissioned for service.

                                Prepared for convoy defence based at Alexandria.

 

May                        Passage to Alexandria for convoy defence in eastern Mediterranean.

 

June                        Deployed for convoy escort based at Alexandria.

to

October

 

November              Part of escort for Convoy AS5 on passage to Piraeus.

 

December              Detached for support of military operations against Italian army in Egypt.

 

1 9 4 1

 

January                  Resumed convoy defence duties and part of escort of military convoys to Greece.

to                            (Operation LUSTRE Ė For details, of naval activities in the Mediterranean see THE

March                    THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D Macintyre and Naval Staff History

                                (HMSO, 2002)

 

April                       After Axis attack on Greece assisted in evacuation of allied troops.

                26th        Carried out rescue of troops from Nauphila with HM Destroyer DIAMOND.

                27th        During passage with HMS WRYNECK to Suda Bay assisted in rescue of survivors from

                                Dutch liner SLAMAT which had been hit and disabled in air attacks.

                                (Note: The two ships rescued 700 troops and then came under sustained air attack.

                                Both destroyers were hit and sank in position 36.30N 23.34E.

                                Only 50 survivors were found some hours later.

 


 

Addendum

 

CONVOY ESCORT MOVEMENTS of HMS WRYNECK

by Don Kindell

 

These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above

 

 

 

 

 

Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived

 

 

 

 

 

11/10/40

11/10/40

MF 004

13/10/40

13/10/40

10/11/40

10/11/40

AS 005/1

15/11/40

15/11/40

 19/01/41

19/01/41

AN 013

unknown

unknown

24/01/41

24/01/41

AS 013/1

27/01/41

27/01/41

18/03/41

18/03/41

AG 007

20/03/41

20/03/41

22/03/41

22/03/41

ASF 021

23/03/41

23/03/41

 

 

 

 

 

(Note on Convoys)

 

 


 

SINKING OF HMS DIAMOND and HMS WRYNECK  on 27th APRIL 1941

with thanks to Gary Clarke

 

On the 7 February 2011, Gary wrote to say "We have recently found in a relatives possessions a 7 page hand written letter with detailed drawn map (but see below) from a sailor on H.M.S. WRYNECK detailing how they  were ordered to assist picking up of survivors from a sinking ship, states how on arrival H.M.S. DIAMOND was already there,  and describes how after picking up survivors they were attacked by Junkers 87 dive-bombers. He describes jumping overboard , the sinking of both destroyers, and how he was picked up and survived but never wanted to go to sea again." This letter was probably written by Gary's wife's uncle, Eddie Gray, now deceased, one of seven brothers, but the only one to become a sailor. 

 

Following is the original letter - click to enlarge, followed by Gary's transcription (and the map):

 

   

"At dawn on the 27th of April H.M.S Wryneck was ordered to sea, and assist in escorting a convoy which was between Greece & Crete. When we were about 2 hours steaming from Crete we sighted the convoy which we were looking for. In the convoy there were the Merchant ship of considerable size, escorted by 3 destroyers & HM Cruiser. We were then told that one of the convoy had already been dive-bombed & hit. We were then at action station, where we had been for the last to days, without any real kind of dinner, but we were even more alert now, that we had heard there were dive bombers in the vicinity. However left the convoy & proceeded to where the badly damaged Ship, was forever dive bombed. We arrived at the scene to find H.M.S Diamond already picking up survivors who were machine-gunned & torn to shreds in the water.

 

However, we picked up as many as we could, and then a few of them were already half dead. When we finally satisfied ourselves that there was nothing more to be done, we made up our minds to return to Crete. That was about 12.15, so we put ourselves or rather took up our positions. Diamond then flashed that they were going to torpedo the already badly blazing ship. The Diamond fired one only which hit right amid-ships. We saw the vessel give a great lurch and then begin to sink very quickly. During these operation Dive-Bombers never came near us. Then when they began to think they were saved & all was well, out of nowhere came those Junkers 87, those terrifying dive bombers, with something like vengeance, which they quickly got. All we knew was when we heard the whining of the machine & the machine guns & a second later bombs.

 

I never experienced as much in all the war as I did those next five minutes. One bomb landed on the forward gun & wiped out nearly everyone out then one landed on the after gun but lucky only one was hurt, the other one or two were near misses, but they did all the damage. After the Nazis thought they had done a good job which they nearly had, they never bothered us again, which was to my relief. I didnít fancy having a machine gun bullet in me. However the ship now had a great list to port & was sinking rapidly. My Pal who I owe my life to found me forward in the (galley flat) and these were the words he spoke to me quite calmly. They got us Dolly.  Dolly was my nick name in case you want to know . We went out on the Upper Deck together, & he said to me,  Have you got a life belt,

 

I said no, I didnít need one, but he gave me one as he had two and we did a bit work together, we untied a Carley Raft & threw it over the side, however the ship was going about 20 knots & we could not hold on to it, that we made our objective. We travelled a bit further on, I should say a few seconds, because all this happened within six minutes. I look over to have a look at the Diamond but it had already gone down. When we finally decided to jump over, me & my pal, we gripped one oar each, before we went. Believe me they came in handy. We made to get clear of the oil-fuel which was now spreading on the water, and then for the rafts which we could not see. When we had swam a couple of miles together, we noticed that someone else had got the whaler free so we made for this, eventually I think we swam about 3 miles before we caught up with the whaler, which we then noticed had collected two rafts, We got to one of these rafts and clambered inboard.

 

The time would then be about 2.15 - 2.30. We kept good hearts and I joked with a few of my favourite comrades who were in the whaler. I cannot tell you every little detail, but Iím writing this down to give an idea what I thought was a terrible ordeal.

 

It came to dusk & I think we had picked only two more survivors up, then a rough sea sprang up, as I have already told before we were on a raft. However it began to get rougher & rougher every minute. The whaler who was towing us suddenly decided to cut us adrift. We never thought such a thing could happen among English sailors or more so one that you share the same ship & eat with. However when we found to our misfortune that we were actually adrift, we almost gave up. Time wore on hour after hour went by till we thought that we would never be picked up when suddenly about half past three in the morning we sighted a ship but not before they had sighted us, it was a destroyer, one of those dark grey shapes. We realised but it took quite a bit to do so that it was making straight toward us, at least that what we thought, but thank goodness we were wrong. Iíll never forget that night of terror.

 

The destroyer finally came along-side us with great skill, and we were pulled up the side of the ship, our legs were numb & we could hardly use them, but we were full of smiles. We were treated splendidly aboard H.M.S. Griffin which was the name of the destroyer. I was only interested about getting something to eat.  I didnít. We got something to drink which did us the world of good. When we arrived at Crete the same morning I was relieved & never wanted to go to sea again. But I'll never forget the splendid behaviour of my ship company."

The map was not about the sinking of WRYNECK and DIAMOND, but the allied landings in Oran, French North Africa on 8 November 1942. It is likely that Eddie Gray did go back to sea, but on what ship?

 

 

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