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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2001

HMS ESPIEGLE (J 216) - Algerine-class Fleet Minesweeper

HMS Espiegle (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

ALGERINE-Class Fleet Minesweeper fitted with Turbine propulsion machinery ordered on 15th November 1940 from Harland and Wolff, Belfast. Laid down on 5th February 1942 at the same time as sister ship FANTOME, the ship was launched on 12th August that year as sixth RN ship to carry this name, introduced in 1793 for a French 16 gun Brig Sloop captured off Ushant. It was last borne by a Sloop, reported as being last RN ship to be built with a figurehead, built at Sheerness in 1900 and sold at Bombay in 1923. Her build was completed on 1st December 1942 and she had been adopted by the civil community of Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, following a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in March 1942.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

EGYPT 1801 - MESOPOTAMIA 1914-16 - SICILY 1943 - SALERNO 1943 - ANZIO 1943

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field White, a gnome proper, clad Green.



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



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November      Contractors trials and commissioned for service.



       1st           Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.

                       On completion took passage to Tobermory for work-up and preparation for

                       operational minesweeping duties.


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January          After Work-up took passage to Port Edgar to carry out minesweeping training.

                        Commenced minesweeping training in Forth area.


February         Deployed in Home waters.


March             Nominated for service with 12th Minesweeping Flotilla in the Mediterranean.

                       Took passage to join Flotilla at Bizerta.


April               Joined Flotilla at Bizerta with HM Minesweeper CIRCE.

                       Deployed for convoy defence and patrol off North African coast based at Bizerta.

                       (Note: HMS FANTOME later replaced HMS ALGERINE as Leader)


May               Flotilla nominated for joint operations with 13th Minesweeping Flotilla for mine

                       clearance of passage through Galita and Sicilian Channels  (Operation ANTIDOTE).

       5th           Deployed at Bizerta for ANTIDOTE with the two minesweeping Flotillas.

     20th           Took part in rescue operations after HMS FANTOME sustained major damage when

                       mine exploded in sweep gear.


June               ANTIDOTE deployment with Flotilla in continuation

       7th           Mine clearance completed with destruction of 126 mines by the 12th Flotilla.

                       HM Minesweepers FLY, CADMUS and MUTINE of Flotilla, HMS FLY taking over

                       duty as Leader.

                       Nominated for minesweeping and escort duties during planned allied landings in Sicily

                       (Operation HUSKY)


July                Detached with HM Minesweeper FLY, MUTINE and CADMUS for minesweeping support

      10th          Passage to western sector of Assault area as part of escort for military convoy.

      12th          Carried out minesweeping prior to landings and remained in area for anti-submarine patrol

                       and escort duties for traffic between Malta, Bizerta and beachheads.


August           Central Mediterranean minesweeping and escort duty with Flotilla in continuation.


September      Resumed Flotilla deployment for minesweeping support of planned landings on Italian

                         mainland at Salerno (Operation AVALANCHE See above references).

        8th            Deployed with Flotilla to ensure clearance of mines during passage to Salerno.

                         Sustained slight damage from near miss by shore fire during minesweeping off beachhead.

      16th            Released from AVALANCHE and deployed in Bay of Naples for minesweeping with


                         (Note: Flotilla dealt with 135 mines in Salerno area.)

      30th            Nominated for transfer to Capri on completion of service in Bay of Naples.



        1st            Deployed for support of operations off west coast of Sicily including mine clearance of

                         positions to be used by allied warships for bombardments prior to military advances.

                         (Note: Minesweeping operations were frequently target of heavy fire from shore batteries

                                     in the Gulf of Gaeta and often restricted in their ability to rapidly change because of

                                     sweeping operation in progress. Air attacks were also frequent.)


November        West coast minesweeping duties and support off west coast of Italy in continuation.

to December    (Note: At the end of 1943 the Flotilla had swept 770 mines since arrival at Gibraltar

                                     in December 1942.)

                         Nominated for minesweeping in support of planned landings at Anzio (Operation SHINGLE).

                         Based at Naples to prepare for SHINGLE.


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January             Passage to Anzio, 90 miles north of Naples.

       21st            Deployed with HM Minesweepers RINALDO and WATERWITCH of 19th Flotilla to

                          provide swept channel off Anzio for ships of the assault force.

                          On release from SHINGLE took passage to Naples.


February           Took part with ships of Flotilla and 19th Flotilla in minesweeping to ensure clear channels

to March           for passage ships supporting military operations, including clearance of areas selected for

                          naval gunfire support by cruisers.


April                 Carried out minesweeping operations off Malta when not required for support of military

                          on Italian mainland,

         11th          Deployed with HM Minesweepers ACUTE, CIRCE and SPANKER of Flotilla for sweep

                          of known minefield SW of Anzio during which five mines were cut.

         18th          Carried out mine clearance northwards and into Tiber River and under fire from shore.

         20th          Deployed for clearance sweep in western channel off Anzio and during night period for

                          anti-submarine patrol.

         23rd          Assisted HMS CIRCE after of mine caught in sweep exploded on board causing many


          24th         Escorted HMS ACUTE and HMS SPANKER during tow of damaged HMS CIRCE to Naples.

                          This involved a passage of 100 miles..


May                   West coast of Italy minesweeping in continuation with part of Flotilla

                          (Note: Some ships of 12th Flotilla were deployed off Malta for clearance of minefields.)

        11th           Deployed with HM Minesweepers FLY, ACUTE, ALBACORE, CADMUS of 12th Flotilla

                          and HM Minesweepers ROSARIO and SPANKER of 19th Flotilla for night sweep off Gaeta

                          to ensure bombardment area for naval gunfire support of offensive by allied troops on

                          Monte Casino.

                          (Note: Air attacks were also a constant hazard.)

        12th           Carried out sweep close inshore prior to bombardment by HM Cruiser DIDO, US Cruisers

                          BROOKLYN and PHILADELPHIA during which the ships came under heavy fire from

                          shore batteries.

                          On completion of bombardment requirements rejoined Flotilla in mine clearance of channel

                          from Naples to Anzio. 89 mines were cut.


June                   Carried out joint minesweeping operations with ships of Flotilla, 13th Flotilla and 28th

                           Motor Launch Flotilla .

          4th            Cleared entrance to port of Civitavecchia with joint minesweeping force.

        13th            Deployed for clearance of mines in anchorage area off Civitavecchia.


July                    Joint minesweeping operations in continuation to ensure passage for ships supporting

                           military advance .

        14th            Took part in operation to clear a channel to port of Leghorn with ships of Flotilla, 19th and

                           13th Minesweeping Flotillas (Operation LOBSTER)

        25th            Port available for use by shipping.

                           (Note: 250 mines were swept during clearance of channel between Anzio to Leghorn and

                                       ships engaged were subject to shore fire.)


August               Deployed with Flotilla for clearance of mines off west coast of Italy to ensure safe passage.

to September     (Note: Aircraft minelaying was a common feature during this period )


October             Nominated for minesweeping service with Flotilla, in support of allied military operations

                           in Greece (Operation MANNA).

                           (Note: The Flotilla had swept 1013 mines by this date, an achievement recognised by

                                        the Supreme Commander, Mediterranean in a congratulatory signal)

        22nd           Transferred to eastern Mediterranean

                           Passage to Greek waters with HM Minesweepers ALBACORE, ACUTE and MUTINE.,

                           supplemented by HM Minesweepers SKIPJACK and TRUELOVE of 5th Flotilla.

                           (Note: 5th Minesweeping Flotilla deployed for this work had recently suffered two losses)



          1st            Carried out minesweeping operation to ensure clear passages for ships deployed in Aegean for

                           support of re-occupation of Greek mainland and Aegean islands.


December          Aegean minesweeping in support of Greece re-occupation in continuation.

                          Passage to Malta for Xmas


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January              Passage Dardanelles with HMS FLY for Dardanelles mine clearance as relief for  HMS

                          MUTINE. On completion rejoined Flotilla to continue mine clearance off Greek mainland.


February            Deployed in Aegean for mine clearance with Flotilla


March                Deployed at Malta,

         23rd          Took passage from Malta with HM Minesweepers ALBACORE, ACUTE, CIRCE,

                           MUTINE and CADMUS to resume minefield clearance operations based at Naples.


April                  Deployed with Flotilla for clearance between Leghorn and Genoa.


May                   Deployed off Genoa.

          9th           Port Anchorage at Genoa cleared of mines.

                          First major warship to enter Genoa.


June                   Gulf of Genoa area mine clearance in continuation.

to August


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS ESPIEGLE remained in the Mediterranean with the 12th Flotilla and continued deployment for mine clearance operations between Malta and the North African coast until being deployed for interception of ships carrying illegal immigrants into Palestine from October until 1948 when this patrol ceased. She had transferred to the 5th Flotilla in December 1946 and returned to UK to Pay-off and reduce to Reserve status in 1948. The ship was laid up at Hartlepool but never recommissioned although she was refitted for use as an Anti-submarine Escort whilst in Reserve. Sold to BISCO in 1966 for breaking-up by Arnott Young at Dalmuir she arrived at Dalmuir on the Clyde in March 1967.



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revised 23/4/11
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