W-Class Destroyer ordered from Stephens of Govan,
Glasgow on 3rd December 1941 with the
9th Emergency Flotilla. The ship was laid down on 20th August 1942
and intended to be named HMS ZENITH. However this name was
changed as part of a rationalisation
of names of both W and Z-Classes. Launched on 2nd September 1943 as
HMS WESSEX she was the 2nd RN
ship to carry the name, previously borne by a destroyer built in 1918 and lost in an air attack during May 1940. Build was
completed on 11th May 1944.
D e t a i
l s o f W a r
S e r v i c e
(for more ship information,
Naval History Homepage
and type name in Site Search)
1 9 4 4
Contractors trials and commissioned for service in the 27th Destroyer
11th Build completion and commenced
On completion of trials and storing took passage to Scapa
Flow to work-up with ships of the
Worked-up for operational service
with ships of the Home Fleet.
On completion attached to 3rd Destroyer Flotilla Home Fleet.
6th Deployed with Flotilla for screening
of Home Fleet ships
providing Distant Cover for landing
of allied troops in
Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE).
(Note: For details of naval activities prior to and during landings see
Edwards and Naval Staff History LANDINGS
IN NORMANDY (HMSO).)
ships were deployed to prevent any interference by major German surface
during assault landings.)
Home Fleet deployment in continuation. Transferred to 27th Destroyer
Flotilla and prepared for
foreign service with Eastern Fleet.
August Completed refit at Portsmouth.
4th Took passage from Portsmouth with HM
Destroyer WHELP of Flotilla to join Eastern Fleet in
(Note: During passage in Mediterranean allied naval forces were taking
landings in South France (Operation DRAGOON).
is not included in Naval Staff History record for Operation and no Battle
to her for participation.)
Passage in Indian Ocean to join Flotilla at Kilindini
after call at Aden.
4th Arrived at Kilindini for Flotilla duties.
(Note: Flotilla comprised HM Destroyers KEMPENFELT (Leader), WAGER,
WAKEFUL, WESSEX, WHELP,
WHIRLWIND, WIZARD and
which were deployed for convoy defence.)
6th Took passage with HMS WAKEFUL as
escort for two troopships during the passage to Colombo.
14th Arrived at Colombo with troopships.
Passage to Trincomalee.
Deployed at Trincomalee for Fleet screening
Prepared for Eastern Fleet duties during planned operation.
(See WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO).)
15th Joined Group 3 of
Force 63 as screen for HM Cruiser PHOEBE, HM Aircraft
Carriers INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS with H M Destroyers WHELP, WAKEFUL
WAGER of Flotilla.
17th Deployed with screen
during air operations against targets in the Andaman
Islands as a diversion during
US landings at Leyte (Operation MILLET).
(See above reference, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C. Barnett and
OPERATION PACIFIC by E
18th Deployed with screen for TU63.3 during
further air operations.
19th Air attack beaten off by aircraft from
HMS INDOMITABLE before reaching
ships. Seven OSCAR
aircraft were shot down for the loss of eight from carriers.
20th Return passage to Trincomalee with Force 63.
November Deployed at Trincomalee
for convoy defence.
17th Passage with HMS
WAKEFUL to meet mercantile for escort to Bombay.
Commenced escort for passage to Bombay.
(Note: One source
gives name as GENERAL BUTLER. Confirmation is
as this may have been US Navy Ship USS GENERAL
22nd Transferred with
Flotilla to British Pacific Fleet on formation.
23rd Arrived at Bombay.
1st Sailed from Bombay
with HMS WAKEFUL as escort for mercantile during passage
in Indian Ocean.
(Note: Name of
mercantile to be confirmed.)
6th Detached from
mercantile with HMS WAKEFUL and returned to resume
Fleet duties at Trincomalee.
7th Arrived at Trincomalee.
17th Joined Force 67
with HM Destroyers KEMPENFELT,
WRANGLER as screen for HMS INDOMITABLE, HMS
Cruisers NEWCASTLE, ARGONAUT and BLACK
PRINCE during air
attacks on oil installations at Palembang, Sumatra.
This was the first naval participation in Operation
OUTFLANK Series of
attacks on these targets.)
18th Refuelled from
protection during air operations.
(Note: As the
primary target was obscured by weather conditions the attacks were made
similar installations at Belangtan Deli and on
airfields at Sabang.
ROBSON – First of a series if attacks on oil installations in
Sumatra. collectively known as Operation
22nd Returned to Trincomalee with Force 67.
1 9 4 5
Deployed at Trincomalee and prepared for
planned Fleet operation.
13th Took part in Final
Dress Rehearsal off Ceylon.
16th Sailed with
British Pacific Fleet as Force 63 to carry out air attacks on targets
in Sumatra during
passage to Sydney for service in SW Pacific with ships of
US Navy (Operation
Force 63 comprised:
HM Battleship KING GEORGE V.
Aircraft Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, INDOMITABLE
Cruisers ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, CEYLON and EURYALUS.
Destroyers GRENVILLE, UNDINE, UNDAUNTED and URSA of the
Destroyer Flotilla. KEMPENFELT, WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WAGER,
WESSEX and WHELP of 27th Flotilla.
20th Refuelled from
24th After delay due to
weather conditions deployed with screen during air attacks
on oil refineries
at Pladjoe (Operation MERIDIAN I).
Rescued pilot of
aircraft forced down during air attacks.
26th Refuelled from
29th Deployed with
screen during further series of air attacks at Soengi-Gerong
30th Took passage to
4th Arrived at Fremantle with Force 63.
10th Arrived at Sydney
with Force 63.
service with US Navy including exercises in communications
procedures used by
Number allocated was D32 to conform with the US Navy
designation for destroyers.)
28th Sailed from Sydney
with British Pacific Fleet now designated Task Force
113 but still
under RN overall control.
Passage to forward British base at Manus,
continued on passage.
7th Arrived at Manus with ships of Force 113.
15th Approval given for BPF
to operate with US Navy 5th Fleet by US Chiefs
of Staff after
long delays. See above THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by John
Winton and above
18th Task Force 113 ships
sailed from Manus to US base at Ulithi.
20th Arrived at Ulithi to join 5th Fleet.
21st Detached from Task
Force 113 and escorted HM Aircraft Carrier UNICORN
during passage to
US Base at Leyte for use as aircraft repair ship.
(Note: Ships of
BPF redesignated Task Force 57 sailed from Ulithi
to join US Task Force ships in air attacks on Sakishima-Gunto
(Operation ICEBERG I. For details see
27th Arrived at Leyte with HMS UNICORN.
(Note: BPF ships
were to return to Leyte from operational area on release
April Deployed at Leyte to await arrival of HM Aircraft Carrier FORMIDABLE
on passage from Manus to reinforce BPF.
4th HMS FORMIDABLE arrived at Leyte.
11th Passage from Leyte with HMS KEMPENFELT as destroyer screen for HMS
14th On arrival in
Refuelling Area COOTIE detached from HMS FORMIDABLE and rejoined
BPF in Task Force
57 for screening duties during ICEBERG
18th Deployed with BPF during
20th On release of Task Force
57 took passage to Leyte with British ships.
23rd Arrived at Leyte for replenishment.
1st Sailed from Leyte with Task Force 57 to resume screening duties during
bombardments off Sakishima Gunto
(Operation ICEBERG II).
details of changes to TF57 see above references.)
3rd Refuelled with TF57 ships in Area MOSQUITO prior to
4th Deployed with Task Group
57.8 for screening duties.
11th Detached with HMS KEMPENFELT as screen for HM Cruisers
SWIFTSURE for duty as Radar Picket.
Picket ships gave advance warning of
enemy air attacks and
stationed away from operational area. Increasing KAMIKAZE
attacks at low level had made necessary this type of precaution.
25th Took passage to Manus with Task Force 57 ships after 6th Strike period.
27th Transferred with ships
of BPF to US 3rd Fleet and redesignated Task Force
37 as part of a
change in US naval dispositions prior to attacks on Japanese mainland.
31st Arrived at Manus with BPF ships.
1st Sailed from Manus for Sydney.
5th Arrived at Sydney for
refit in New Zealand.
(Note: No ship
of 27th Flotilla sailed with BPF ships to join US Task Forces
the attacks on Japanese mainland on 28th June.
3rd Took passage to Auckland from Sydney.
6th Arrived at Auckland and
taken in hand for refit by HM NZ Dockyard.
P o s t W a
r N o t e s
HMS WESSEX completed refit in late August and sailed
for Manus to rejoin ships of BPF which had returned to RN control after VJ Day. The ship was deployed for
service in Japan and sailed for Tokyo from Manus on
4th September after refuelling. On arrival she assisted in
operations to return allied nationals captured during hostilities and supported occupying requirements until 27th October
1945. During passage to Manus she rescued the crew of
a mercantile which had run aground at Bougainville and
arrived in Sydney on 9th November.
The ship sailed for UK on 19th and arrived at Devonport on 28th December. Paid-off during January 1946
she reduced to Reserve status and was laid-up in Reserve
Fleet at Plymouth. During 1948 this destroyer was transferred to continue lay-up at Simonstown, South Africa. She was transferred to the South African Navy on 29th March 1950
and renamed JAN VAN RIEBEECK. Modernised
in 1966 she continued service until 1978 when put on the Disposal List and
scrapped. The name was introduced for the 3rd time by the Royal Navy when given
to the RNVR Division at Southampton in 1946.
CONVOY ESCORT MOVEMENTS of HMS
by Don Kindell
This convoy list has not been cross-checked with the text above
Date convoy sailed
Joined convoy as escort
Date convoy arrived
(Note on Convoys)