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

HMS MATABELE (F 26) -  Tribal-class Destroyer including Convoy Escort Movements 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Matabele, sister ship (Navy Photos, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 


TRIBAL-Class Destroyer ordered from Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering at Greenock on 19th June 1936 with sister destroyer to be named HMS PUNJABI under the 1935 Build Programme. The ship was laid down on 1st October 1936 and launched on 6th October 1937 as 1st RN ship to carry this name on the same day as HMS PUNJABI. Her build was completed on 25th January 1939 after delay in the Tender cost was £343,005 which excluded items supplied by the Admiralty, such as weapons and communications outfits. The ship commissioned for service in the 2nd TRIBAL Destroyer Flotilla in the Home Fleet, which was re-identified at the 6th Destroyer Flotilla in April 1939. The name is that of a people native to South Africa and originating from an old Zulu indana driven into Southern Rhodesia in 1838.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


NORWAY 1940 - ARCTIC 1941-42


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field per fess wavy White and Blue,

an elephant proper.


M o t t o:

Hamba Gahle: “ Go in Peace.”


Manning Division: Devonport



D e t a i l s   o f   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


January                Contractors trials and commissioning.

          25th            Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials


February              On completion of Acceptance Trials took passage for work-up at Portland.

                             Work-up exercises and shakedown in Channel area.


March                  Joined Flotilla to take part in Home Fleet exercise and visits programme.

                              Other ships in Flotilla were:

                                         HM Destroyers SOMALI (Leader)., ASHANTI, MASHONA, BEDOUIN,

                                         PUNJABI, ESKIMO and TARTAR

April                    Resumed Flotilla duties after Leave period.



            3rd           Visited Cherbourg with sister destroyers HMS ESKIMO and HMS ASHANTI of Flotilla.

           12th          Escorted rms EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA during passage in English Channel with HM King George VI

                            and Queen Elizabeth embarked for Royal visit to Canada. To be confirmed.


June                     Diverted from programme to assist in rescue operations for HM Submarine THETIS which had sunk

                             during builder's trials in Liverpool Bay.

                             On release from THETIS diversion resumed Home Fleet programme with Flotilla.


July                       Deployed with Flotilla in Home waters.


August                 Took up Home Fleet war station and deployed for interception and anti-submarine patrol in Home



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


September             Deployed for Home Fleet screening and patrol duties.

                               Part of screen for Anglo French warships in NW Approaches.

                               (Note: Later duties included interception of German shipping attempting to return to German ports and

                                           commerce raiders on passage to attack British shipping in Atlantic as well as patrol for the

                                           interception of U-Boats operating in Home waters.)

            25th            Deployed with HM Destroyers SOMALI and MASHONA in Home Fleet search for HM Submarine

                               SPEARFISH which had been badly damaged during patrol in Heligoland Bight,.

            26th            Escorted submarine back to UK with covered by Home Fleet major warships.


October                  Flotilla deployment in North Sea for patrol to intercept German ships on passage for attacks on coastal

to December          shipping, to Atlantic Ocean for attacks on convoys or for submarine minelayers.

                                Carried out screening duties for major Home Fleet warships as required.

                                (Note: Sinking of HM Battleship ROYAL OAK resulted in major Fleet units being moved from Scapa

                                           Flow to west coast of Scotland pending improvement of protection against submarine attack on

                                           Scapa Flow anchorage.)


1 9 4 0


January                   Passage to Plymouth

              7th             Arrived at Devonport for repair by HM Dockyard.


February                 Under repair

                                 (Note: Work included replacement of turbine blades, damaged due to excess stress during high

                                           speed steaming in inclement weather, and installation of degaussing equipment for

                                           protection against magnetic mines. See THE TORPEDOMEN by A Poland.)



              9th            On completion of refit resumed Flotilla duties with Home Fleet

                               (Note: During this period Flotilla was used for defence of North Sea convoys to and from Norway

                                            and for screening of major units during interception operations.)



.             6th            Deployed with H M destroyers SOMALI,  MASHONA and TARTAR of Flotilla during escort of

                               in-bound convoy to Forth from Norway.

                               (Note: One record states the ship also included the Norwegian torpedo boat DRAUG but this is not

                                            included in Naval Staff History.).

              7th            Passage to join HM Destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA, SIKH, MOHAWK, ZULU, COSSACK,

                               KASHMIR and KELLY in screen for HM Cruisers GALATEA and ARETHUSA deployed in search

                               for German warships on passage in North Sea. (MATABELE, with MASHONA,  SOMALI,  TARTAR

                               may instead of have joined Adm Forbe's main force on this date)

                               For details see NAVAL OPERATIONS OF THE CAMPAIGN IN NORWAY , April –June 1940


              9th            Joined Home Fleet ships with HMS GALATEA and HMS ARETHUSA and destroyer screen.

                               Detached with HM Destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA, SIKH, MOHAWK, SOMALI and MASHONA

                               as screen for HM Cruisers MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON, GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD to carry

                               out an attack on German warships reported at Bergen.

                               When operation cancelled by Admiralty took passage to rejoin Home Fleet ships.

                               After rejoining Fleet came under heavy and sustained air attacks during which sister destroyer HMS

                               GURKHA was sunk.

            11th             Sailed from Scapa Flow with HM Destroyers SOMALI, AFRIDI, SIKH, MATABELE and MOHAWK

                                to carry out sweep inshore northward of Alesund to intercept enemy warship movements prior to

                                planned allied landings in Norway.

            12th             Carried out search with same destroyers.

            13th             Under air attacks at Alesund without damage.

            14th            Deployed in support of landings by RM from cruisers at Namsos (Operation HENRY)

                                On completion took passage to meet troopship convoy

             15th            Arrived with troopships.

             16th            Under heavy air attacks at Lillesjona

             17th            Deployed with AFRIDI, NUBIAN, SIKH and MATABELE to ferry troops ashore from transports after

                                refuelling. Under air attacks.

                                Took passage to Bodo with HM Destroyer ECHO, HM Cruisers EFFINGHAM and COVENTRY to

                                land troops and equipment embarked in HMS EFFINGHAM

              18th           During passage ran aground on Foksen shoal but managed to re-float with damage to structure.

                                (Note: HMS EFFINGHAM also ran aground and was seriously damaged.

                                            Had to be sunk by gunfire three days later. See reference.)

                                After assisting in rescue of troops with other ships and craft from shore took passage to return to



May                         Deployed for support of operations in Norway

                  4th         Escorted HM Landing Ship ROYAL ULSTERMAN to Bodo for landing of Commando unit.

                                On release from operations returned to Scapa Flow

                                (Note: For full details of the disastrous operations off Norway see above reference,

                                            NARVIK by D Macintyre, THE DOOMED EXPEDITION by J Adams and

                                            CARRIER GLORIOUS by J Winton.)

                                Repair and refit arranged at Falmouth and withdrawn from operational use

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to G59.

                27th         Taken in hand for refit and repair by Silley Cox shipyard at Falmouth.


June                         Under refit

to July                      (Note: Work included replacement of twin 4.7in mounting in X position aft with a twin 4in

                                             HA mounting to improve defence against air attacks.


August                     Post refit trials

                 19th         On completion of sea trials and shakedown took passage to Scapa Flow to resume Flotilla

                                 duties in Home Fleet.


September                Home Fleet deployment in continuation.

                                  (Note: Ships of Home Fleet were extensively deployed for ant-invasion patrols in North Sea

                                             as well as search and interception and anti-submarine patrol in Home waters.


October                    Deployed for Home Fleet duties including offensive operations against coastal shipping off


                 22nd        Carried out attack on convoy with HMS SOMALI of Flotilla and sank coaster off Andalsnes.


November                Deployed at Scapa Flow for Home Fleet duties with Flotilla

to December            Part of screen for major Home Fleet ships during search for German armoured cruiser

                                  ADMIRAL SCHEER reported on passage to attack Atlantic convoys


1 9 4 1



                  3rd         Deployed with HM Destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR and  BEDOUIN as screen for HM

                                Destroyers INTREPID and ICARUS during minelay in Norwegian coastal waters.

                                (Operation DZ – See Naval Staff History (Mining) for details.)

                                (Note: Despite a series of unfortunate incidents lay was successful.)

                  5th         Resumed Flotilla duties on return to Scapa Flow.

                16th         Part of escort for HM Battleship KING GEORGE V during passage to USA in NW Approaches

                                with Lord Halifax and senior defence personnel.

                                Returned to Scapa Flow on release from escort..



                  2nd         Deployed with HM Destroyer TARTAR of Flotilla, HM Cruisers ARETHUSA and

                                 AURORA as escort for HM Destroyers INTREPID and IMPULSIVE during minelay off

                                 Trondheim in the entrance to Fro Havet (Operation EA).

                  3rd          Returned to Scapa Flow when operation cancelled due to deterioration of weather conditions.


March                       Deployed with Flotilla in Western Approaches.

                24th           Joined military convoy WS7 in Clyde with HM Destroyers BEDOUIN, MASHONA and

                                  SOMALI as Local Escort during passage in NW Approaches.

                                  (Note: HM Destroyers LEGION, BROADWATER and Polish Destroyer

                                               ORP PIORUN were also deployed as part of Local Escort and HM Cruiser

                                               CAIRO joined on 25th to provide additional AA defence. HM Cruiser

                                               EDINBURGH , HM Battleships REVENGE and NELSON provided cover

                                               against surface attack.)

                 28th         Detached from WS7 with BEDOUIN, MATABELE and SOMALI for return

                                  passage to Clyde.


April                          Nominated for refit at Barrow-in Furness.

                 11th          Taken in hand for refit and modifications by Vickers-Armstrong shipyard.


May                           Under refit.

                                   (Note: Work carried out included removal of mainmast and top of after funnel to

                                               improve arcs of fire for close range weapons. Type 286M radar was also fitted.

                                               This was a modified RAF air-surface equipment but had serious shortcomings

                                               when used on board a ship. For details of development and use of radar by the

                                               Royal Navy see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)

                 27th          On completion commenced post refit trials and prepared for operational use. 



                   5th          During departure from Barrow to rejoin Flotilla for service in Home Fleet, ship

                                  grounded and sustained major damage to underwater fittings including shaft

                                  brackets and propellers.

                  10th         Under repair at Barrow,


August                     Under repair

                  15th         Carried out post refit trials before taking passage to rejoin Flotilla.

                                  After arrival at Scapa Flow nominated for special operation.

                  30th         Deployed with HM Aircraft Carrier ARGUS, HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE,

                                  HM Destroyers PUNJABI and SOMALI for transport of HURRICANE aircraft,

                                  RAF equipment and personnel to North Russia for support of Soviet military

                                  operations after Russia entered WW2 (Operation STRENGTH).

                  30th         (Note: Cover was provided by HM aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS, HM Cruisers

                                               DEVONSHIRE and SUFFOLK  screened by HM Destroyers ECLIPSE,

                                               ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD). 



                    7th         Aircraft despatched and ships took passage to Murmansk.

                  15th         On return to Scapa Flow resumed Flotilla duties.


October                     Flotilla deployment for Home Fleet screening and patrol including offensive

to December             operations off Norway and interception patrol for ships on passage in North Sea

                                  and NW Approaches. See Naval Staff History.

                                  (Note: No record of duty for escort of Russian convoys traced.)


1 9 4 2


January                      Nominated for escort of Russian convoy.

                                  Took passage with HMS SOMALI as screen for HM Cruiser TRINIDAD to

                                  join Russian Convoy PQ8 on passage from Iceland to Murmansk.

                  11th         Joined HM Minesweepers HARRIER and SPEEDWELL in escort for PQ8.

                  16th         PQ8 under threat of submarine attack.

                  17th         Hit by torpedo from U454 and sank almost immediately after explosion in position

                                  69.21N  35.24E with loss of 238 of ship’s company, of whom only two survived

                                  and were rescued by HMS HARRIER. Many who were able to leave the stricken ship

                                  succumbed in the ice-cold water before rescue was possible.

                                  (Note: For details of all Russian convoy operations see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA

                                               by RA Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY !

                                               by P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman

                                               Casualty List TIMES 9 March 1942.)






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








ON 003/1





HN 003





ON 004/1





HN 004





TC 001





TC 002





ON 024/1





HN 024





FS 001





PQ 008








(Note on Convoys)


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