DEFENDER-Class Fleet Destroyer ordered on
2nd February 1931 from Vickers Armstrong at
Barrow under the 1930 Programs. The
snip was laid down as Yard No 675 on 29th
September 1931 and launched on 8th
April 1932 as the 14th RN ship to carry the
name, introduced in 1652 for a 4th
Rate. It was last used in WW1 by two trawlers
hired for minesweeping. Build was
completed on 3rd November 1932 for a contract
price of £223,509 excluding the
Admiralty supplied equipment such as guns,
ammunition and wireless outfits. She
joined the 1st Destroyer Flotilla in the
Mediterranean during December that
year. In 1934 she was re-commissioned after
refit at Devonport and in November
sailed to join the 8th Destroyer Flotilla on
the China Station where she served
with her sister ships. The Flotilla was
renumbered to 21st Destroyer Flotilla
before the outbreak of war. As she was then
under refit at Singapore the ship
did not go to the Mediterranean with the
Flotilla when war was declared in
B a t t l
e H o n o u r s
1588 - KENTISH KNOCK 1652 - PORTLAND
1653 - GABBARD 1653 - SCHEVENINGEN
1653 - LOWESTOFT 1665 - FOUR DAYS
BATTLE 1666 - ORFORDNESS 1666 - SOLEBAY 1672 -
SCHOONVELDT 1673 - TEXEL 1673 - BANTRY BAY
1680 - PORTOBELLO
1739 - SANTA MARIA 1740 - CHAGRES
1740 - TOULON 1744 - BLACK SEA
1854 - SPARTIVENTO 1940 - MEDITERRANEAN 1941 -
CONVOYS 1941 - GREECE 1941
H e r a l d i
c D a t
On a Field Red, a diamond Silver.
M o t t o
clarissima gemma: ĎHonour is the
e t a
i l s o f W a
S e r v i c e
Naval History Homepage
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1 9 3 9
Deployed on China Station with 21st Destroyer
Nominated or transfer to Mediterranean.
Under refit at Singapore.
Post refit trials.
Prepared for return passage to Malta to rejoin
Took passage from Singapore via Red Sea to
Rejoined Flotilla for contraband control
1 9 4 0
Recalled with Flotilla to Home waters for
Took passage to UK from Malta.
Diverted for Atlantic convoy defence and
ordered to Freetown.
Arrived at Freetown and deployed in defence of
convoys between Gibraltar and Cape
of Good Hope.
(Note: This diversion was due to increase
activity by German commerce raiders in the
GRAF SPEE had been disposed of in December
Atlantic deployment in continuation.
Nominated for transfer to Mediterranean Fleet
Took passage to Malta to join 10th Destroyer
Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet.
(Note: This Flotilla included HM Australia
Destroyers STUART, VAMPIRE, .VENDETTA,
VOYAGER and WRYNECK).
Under refit by HM Dockyard
Malta and on completion joined Flotilla.
Carried out Fleet exercises with Flotilla in
anticipation of war with Italy.
Flotilla deployment based at Malta in
In action with aircraft off
Malta and sustained slight damage.
Carried out unsuccessful search for HM
Submarine GRAMPUS which was missing after a
operation off Augusta.
(For details of minelaying by RN ships see
Naval Staff History (MINING).
Escorted French submarine NARVAL into Malta to
join Free French Navy.
Detached with HM Destroyer JERVIS| and took
passage to Malta for escort of evacuation
(Note: Mediterranean Fleet cruisers engaged
Italian destroyers and expended large
Operation MA3 was cancelled. See THE
BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by
MacIntyre, MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman,
ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY by C Barnett and the Naval Staff
History (HMSO -2001).)
Sailed from Malta as escort for Convoy MF1
with HMS JERVIS and HM Australian Destroyer
VENDETTA during passage to Alexandria, covered
by ships of Mediterranean Fleet ships.
(Operation MAS ó Repeat of MA3 see above.)
(Note: Convoy comprised mercantiles ss EL NID,
ss KNIGHT OF MALTA and ss RODO carrying
civilians from Malta consequent on entry of
Italy into WW2.)
Attack by CANT seaplane driven off.
Detached from MF1 on arrival at Alexandria.
Deployed for Fleet duties in Eastern
Bombarded Italian seaplane base at Bomba with
HM Destroyers STUART (RAN), ILEX and
Deployed with HM Destroyers DAINTY, JERVIS and
JUNO as escort for Convoy MF2 from
Alexandria to Malta.
(Note: Convoy comprised RFA PLUMLEAF, ss
CORNWALL and ss VOLVO.)
Under air attacks during which ss
CORNWALL was damaged.
(Note: This was part of Operation HATS
-Transfer of reinforcement warships to join
Alexandria from Gibraltar. See above
Remained with MF2 with HMS JERVIS as escort
into Malta when HMS DAINTY detached to
stand by ss CORNWALL.
Joined Mediterranean Fleet destroyer screen
for return passage to Egypt.
(Note: Air attacks were carried out on
Rhodes during transit.)
Fleet and convoy defence duties in
(Note: Mediterranean Fleet with destroyer
screen covered passage of Convoy MF3 during
period. See MALTA convoys.)
Fleet deployment with Flotilla in
Nominated for screening duties with Fleet
during cover for passage of convoys in
(Note: This was a major operation which
included passage of warships from UK to
in the Eastern Mediterranean..
HMS RAMILLIES and HMS BERWICK were leaving
Fleet in Eastern Mediterranean.
Fleet based at Alexandria. See above
Deployed with HM Cruiser CALCUTTA, HMS DAINTY,
HM Australian Destroyers VAMPIRE,
VOYAGER and WATERHEN as escort for Convoy AN6
on passage from Port Said to Suda Bay,
(Operation MB8 - Part of Operation COAT -
Transfer of further reinforcement ships at
and cover by Mediterranean Fleet for the
passage of convoys to and from Malta. See
Arrived at Suda Bay.
Deployed with HM Destroyers DEFENDER, GALLAN1,
GREYHOUND and HEREWARD as
screen for HMS RAMILLIES, HM Cruisers BERWICK,
COVENTRY and NEWCASTLE in Force D
to cover passage of Convoy MW4 from Egypt to
Malta (Operation MB9)
Joined escort for Convoy MW4 at sea.
(Note: Escort included HM Cruisers GLASGOW,
GLOUCESTER and YORK.).
Force D detached from MW5 off Malta and
briefly joined HMS EAGLE, HM Battleships
and MALAYA (Force C).
Detached as screen for Force D off Pantelleria
and continued on westward passage through
With Force D screen met reinforcement ships (H
M Destroyer HOTSPUR, H M Cruisers
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON west of Sicilian
Channel and took joint passage to rejoin
Mediterranean Fleet ships off
(Note: Other ships in screen for Force D were
H M Destroyers DEFENDER, GREYHOUND
GALLANT and HEREWARD).
Took part in brief engagement with Italian
battle group which disengaged after exchange
(Battle of Spartivento - See above references
Part of screen for Mediterranean Fleet units
during passage to Malta as escort for Convoy
Arrived at Alexandria
Mediterranean Fleet with destroyer screen
carried out major Fleet operation (HIDE)
1 9 4 1
Fleet screening deployment with Flotilla in
Deployed with HM Destroyer DEFENDER and
Cruiser CALCUTTA as Force C for escort of
Convoy MW5 1/2 during passage to Malta from
Alexandria (Operation MC4).
(Note: This was part of complex operation
including passage of Convoys ME5 1/2 and ME6
from Malta as well as a military convoy from
Western Mediterranean to Piraeus.
Cover was being provided by major Fleet units
Detached from Convoy MW5i before arrival in
Rejoined Fleet destroyers in screen for major
Fleet units including H M Aircraft Carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS for westward passage to meet
EXCESS convoy from Gibraltar.
Under heavy and sustained air attacks by
German dive bombers.
Planned deployment as escort for Convoy ME6
changed after HM Destroyer GALLANT detonated
a mine south of Pantelleria and was badly
Joined HM Destroyer GRIFFIN, HM Cruisers
BONAVENTURE, GLOUCESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON escorting HM Destroyer MOHAWK which was towing HMS GALLANT to
Took passage from Malta with HMS SOUTHAMPTON
and HMS GLOUCESTER to join
Mediterranean Fleet units which were providing
cover for passage of EXCESS Convoy and came
under sustained and air attacks by German
aircraft of Fliegerkorps X during which HMS
SOUTHAMPTON was damaged and had to be sunk by HM Cruiser ORION.
Embarked the survivors from HMS SOUTHAMPTON
that had been abandoned after ship was
badly damaged and later sunk. See references.
Transferred survivors to HMS GLOUCESTER.
Passage to Port Said with screen covered by
HMS EAGLE, HMS BARHAM and HMS AJAX.
Arrived at Alexandria with Fleet units.
Mediterranean Fleet deployment in
(Note: Passage of cruisers taking personnel to
Malta and convoy from Malta was covered.
(Operation MC8 - See references.
The lack of an aircraft carrier prevented any
major operation for Malta support.)
Deployed for escort of troop convoys to Greek
ports (Operation LUSTRE).
Eastern Mediterranean convoy defence in
Deployed with HMS JANUS, HMS JERVIS and HM
Destroyer NUBIAN as escort for Convoy
ME7 from Malta.
Detached from ME7 after transfer to
Mediterranean Fleet cover and resumed convoy
military convoys to and from Greek ports
(Note: Mediterranean Fleet with destroyer
escort carried out bombardment of Tripoli.
Took part in evacuation of allied troops from
Greece (Operation DEMON)
(Note: Other destroyers involved were STUART,
VOYAGER, VENDETTA, WATERHEN,
VAMPIRE (all RAN), DEFENDER, DECOY DEFENDER,
HERO, HOTSPUR, HEREWARD, ISIS, NUBIAN,
KIMBERLEY. For details see Naval Staff
Rescued 700 survivors from troopship SLAMAT
with HM Destroyer WRYNECK.
During passage to Crete with HMS WRYNECK
carrying troops from SLAMAT the two
destroyers came under air attack and were both
sunk south of Morea (Position 36.30N 23.34E).
CONVOY ESCORT MOVEMENTS of
convoy lists have not been cross-checked
with the text above
convoy as escort
OF HMS DIAMOND and HMS WRYNECK on
27th APRIL 1941
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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