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

HMS WESSEX (ii) (R 78) -  W-class Destroyer
including note on Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Wizard, sister-ship (Navy Photos/George Knights, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

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, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)



1 9 4 4


May                 Contractors trials and commissioned for service in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla.

      11th           Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.

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

                        Home Fleet.

                         Worked-up for operational service with ships of the Home Fleet.


June                 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  OPERATION NEPTUNE

                                    by K Edwards and Naval Staff History  LANDINGS IN NORMANDY (HMSO).)

                                    Home Fleet ships were deployed to prevent any interference by  major German surface

                                    warships during assault landings.)


July                 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 part in

                                    allied landings in South France (Operation DRAGOON).

                                    This ship is not included in Naval Staff History record for Operation and no Battle Honour

                                    was awarded to her for participation.)


September       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

                                    WRANGLER 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.


October           Deployed at Trincomalee for Fleet screening duties.

                        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 and

                        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 Gray.)

        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.

          18th        Commenced escort for passage to Bombay.

                         (Note: One source gives name as GENERAL BUTLER. Confirmation is

                                       required 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, WAKEFUL, 

                          WHIRLWIND and WRANGLER as screen for HMS INDOMITABLE, HMS

                           ILLUSTRIOUS, HM Cruisers NEWCASTLE, ARGONAUT and BLACK

                           PRINCE during air attacks on oil installations at Palembang, Sumatra.

                          (Operation ROBSON. This was the first naval participation in Operation

                          OUTFLANK Series of attacks on these targets.)

        18th           Refuelled from Force 69.

        19th           Provided protection  during air operations.

                          (Note: As the primary target was obscured by weather conditions the attacks were made

                                      on similar installations at Belangtan Deli and on airfields at Sabang.

                                      Operation ROBSON – First of a series if attacks on oil installations in

                                      Sumatra. collectively known as Operation OUTFLANK).

         22nd          Returned to Trincomalee with Force 67.


1 9 4 5


January                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 MERIDIAN)

                             (Note: Force 63 comprised:

                                       HM Battleship KING GEORGE V.

                                       HM Aircraft Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, INDOMITABLE

                                       and VICTORIOUS.

                                       HM Cruisers ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, CEYLON and EURYALUS.

                                       HM Destroyers GRENVILLE, UNDINE, UNDAUNTED and URSA of the

                                       25th Destroyer Flotilla. KEMPENFELT, WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WAGER,

                                       WESSEX and WHELP of 27th Flotilla.

          20th            Refuelled from Force 69.

          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 Force 69.

          29th            Deployed with screen during further series of air attacks at Soengi-Gerong                      

                             (Operation MERIDIAN II)

          30th            Took passage to Sydney.



            4th            Arrived at Fremantle with Force 63.

          10th            Arrived at Sydney with Force 63.

                             Prepared for service with US Navy including exercises in communications

                             procedures used by US Navy.

                             (Note: Pennant 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.


March                   Passage to forward British base at Manus, Admiralty Islands.

                             Exercised 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 references.

             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 on 23rd

                                         March to join US Task Force ships in air attacks on Sakishima-Gunto

                                         Group. (Operation ICEBERG  I. For details see above references.)

             27th         Arrived at Leyte with HMS UNICORN.

                             (Note: BPF ships were to return to Leyte from operational area on release

                                         from ICEBERG I.)


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  I  operations.)

                18th      Deployed with BPF during continued operations.

                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 air

                              operations and bombardments off Sakishima Gunto (Operation ICEBERG II).

                              (Note: For details of changes to TF57 see above references.)

                  3rd       Refuelled  with TF57 ships in Area MOSQUITO prior to operations.

                  4th       Deployed with Task Group 57.8 for screening duties.

                   to 10th

                 11th      Detached  with HMS KEMPENFELT as screen for HM Cruisers UGANDA

                              (RCN) and SWIFTSURE for duty as Radar Picket.

                              (Note: Radar Picket ships gave advance warning of  enemy air attacks and

                                          were 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.

                              (See above references.)

                 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 R&R period.

                               Nominated for refit in New Zealand.

                               (Note: No ship of 27th Flotilla sailed with BPF ships to join US Task Forces

                                            in 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.






by Don Kindell


This convoy list has not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








KR 012








(Note on Convoys)


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