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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS LEDA (N 93) - Halcyon-class Minesweeper

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Britomart, sister ship (NavyPhotos, click to enlarge)

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HALCYON-Class Minesweeper ordered from HM Dockyard, Devonport on 1st July 1936 with sister ship to be named HMS SEAGULL as part of the 3rd Group of this Class.. Her turbine propulsion machinery was to be supplied Richardson Westgarth of West Hartlepool. The ship was laid down on 16th November 1936 and launched on 8th June 1937 as the 6th RN warship to carry this name which had been introduced for a 5th Rate built at Rotherhithe in 1783. The name is derived from Classic Greek legend. Last used for a Torpedo Gunboat built by HM Dockyard, Sheerness in 1892 and sold in 1920. Build was completed on 19th May 1938. Before her loss in 1942, after a  successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in February 1942, this ship was adopted by the civil community of Kingsbridge, Devon.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

TOULON 1793 - EGYPT 1801 - CAPE OF GOOD HOPE 1806 - BUENOS AIRES 1806 - JAVA 1811 - ATLANTIC 1939-41 - DUNKIRK 1940 - ARCTIC 1941-42

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

On a field Blue, upon water in base barry wavy White and Blue

 a swan roussant Proper gorged with a collar, chained Gold, the chain

 grasped by a hand issuant in chief also Proper.


M a n n i n g   D i v i s i o n




S u m m a r y   o f   P r e  - w a r   S e r v i c e


1 9 3 8


May                        Contractors trials

                17th        Commissioned for service on completion of build and commenced Acceptance Trials.

                                On completion deployed for Fishery Protection duties in Home waters.


June                        Home waters deployment in continuation.

to December          (Note: This organisation was responsible for monitoring British fishing activities to ensure

                                adherence to internationally agreed rules and to prevent ships of other nations

                                from fishing in territorial waters. Larger ships of the squadron were deployed

                                in areas as far apart as the Arctic Sea and SW Approaches including the Spanish



1 9 3 9


January                  Fishery Protection deployment in continuation.

to July                    War Station nominated for duty in 5th Minesweeping Flotilla



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




August                  Deployed in SW Approaches.

September             Passage from Gibraltar to join HM Minesweepers HALCYON, HARRIER, HUSSAR, NIGER,

                                SALAMANDER, GOSSAMER, SKIPJACK, SPEEDWELL and SPHINX based at Dover.

                                as 5th Minesweeping Flotilla.


October                  Deployed with Flotilla for minesweeping in Nore Command.


November              Transferred to Grimsby with ships of Flotilla to ensure clear passage of East Coast convoy routes.

to December          (Note: Extensive enemy minelaying including magnetic mines was being carried out.

                                For details see THE TORPEDOMEN by EN Poland, HM MINESWEEPERS (HMSO),

                                ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett and the Naval Staff History.)


1 9 4 0


January                  Transferred with Flotilla to Rosyth in continuation of North Sea duties.

                                (Note: HMS HALCYON and HMS HUSSAR remained at Grimsby as part of 4th Minesweeping



February                Deployed in Moray Firth with Flotilla for minesweeping.

                3rd          Under air attacks in snow storm 15 miles north of Kinnaird Head.

                                (Note: HMS SPHINX was sunk during these attacks.)


March                    North Sea deployment in continuation.

                                (Note: Anti-submarine operations were carried out in this period.)


April                       Remained with 5th Minesweeping Flotilla when all other HALCYON Class

                                were transferred to 4th and 6th Flotilla.

                                Joined by HM Minesweepers KELLETT, LYDD, PANGBOURNE, ROSS and

                                SALTASH and based at Rosyth for service in North Sea.


May                        Deployed in North Sea with Flotilla

                                Detached to take part in evacuation of British and allied troops from Dunkirk

                28th        Arrived at Dunkirk with HMS GOSSAMER and HMS NIGER.

                                (Note: Sister ships SHARPSHOOTER, SKIPJACK, HALCYON, HEBE and SPEEDWELL

                                from 1st, 5th and 6th Flotillas and HMS SALAMANDER also took part in DYNAMO.)

                31st         Sustained slight damage in collision

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling changed to J93


June                        DYNAMO rescue operations in continuation.

                4th          Involved in collision and sank French tug MARESHAL FOCH during passage.

                                Forward structure holed and required dockyard repair.

                5th          Passage to Sheerness.

                6th          Taken in hand for repair

                12th        Passage to Harwich to resume Flotilla duties on completion of repair.

                15th        Deployed with Flotilla for minesweeping duties to ensure clear passage in East Coast convoy



July                         Flotilla minesweeping duties in North Sea based at Harwich in continuation.

to August              Transferred to Grimsby with Flotilla.



                1st           Despatched with HM Minesweeper SALTASH to assist in rescue operations after HM

                                Destroyers ESK, EXPRESS and IVANHOE were mined off the Texel during minelay.

                                (Operation CBX5 – See Naval Staff History (Mining).)

                2nd         Took part in recovery of disabled destroyer IVANHOE with HMS SALTASH.

                                Transferred tow to tugs sent from Felixstowe and remained as escort for passage to Humber.

                4th          Resumed Flotilla Minesweeping duties.


October                  Deployed with Flotilla off Scottish coast.

                30th        Sustained serious damage in Tiller Flat when ship dragged anchor into path of an

                                oncoming mercantile.


November              Taken in hand for repair in commercial shipyard in Aberdeen.


December              Resumed Flotilla minesweeping duties in North Sea.


1 9 4 1


January                  Transferred to southern North Sea with Flotilla in continuation of clearance of safe

                                passage for coastal convoys inside existing British minefield.

                                (Note: In addition to hazard from mines laid by aircraft and E-Boats. Surface attacks

                                were a common feature of all escort and minesweeping operations.)


February                Remained in southern North Sea when Flotilla was transferred to Granton in Forth Estuary

                                for service off Scottish coast.



                25th        Embarked three Dutchmen from HM Destroyer MEYNELL for passage to Harwich

                                (Note: These men had been found adrift in an open boat near Sunk Light Vessel whilst

                                escaping from occupied Europe. The destroyer was part of escort for an East Coast



April                       Transferred to 6th Minesweeping Flotilla

                                Ships in Flotilla were all HALCYON-class and included HM Minesweepers

                                HALCYON, HARRIER, HUSSAR, SPEEDWELL and GOSSAMER based at

                                Harwich for east coast minesweeping.

                2nd         Taken in hand for repair at Leith in commercial shipyard.


May                        Under repair


June                        Transferred to Rosyth

                14th        Taken in hand for further repair by HM Dockyard Rosyth



                1st           Resumed Flotilla duties with 6th Flotilla

                                (Note: The Flotilla had been transferred to Western Approaches Command for convoy

                                escort duties in view of the lack of escorts available and the fact that this Class

                                of minesweeper was fitted with ASDIC underwater detection equipment and

                                some had surface warning radar Type 271 fitted during recent refits.

                                See RADAR AT SEA by D Howse for details of development and use.)


August                  Deployed for Local Escort of Atlantic convoys based at Stornoway.

                                (Note: When not required for escort and anti-submarine patrol carried out

                                minesweeping as required by Local Command.

                                Nominated for detached service in North Russia for minesweeping operations

                                to ensure safe passage of Russian convoys to and from Iceland.

                                (Note: HM Minesweepers BRITOMART, GOSSAMER and HUSSAR were also

                                nominated and the four HALYCONs were to join H0M Minesweepers

                                HALCYON, HARRIER and SALAMANDER already at Archangel.)


September             Nominated for service in North Russia

                                (Note: Ships of this Class were “Articised” during which bow structure was

                                strengthened and additional insulation provided for deckheads and internal

                                bulkheads. In view of the short time available before deployment this work

                                may not have been undertaken in this ship.)

                20th        Passage to Iceland to join escort for Russian Convoy PQ1with HM Minesweepers

                                BRITOMART and GOSSAMER.

                                (Note: For full details of all Russian convoy passages with names of the escorts and

                                mercantiles see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by RA Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN

                                CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS

                                by R Woodman.)

                29th        Joined Ocean Escort for Russian convoy PQ1 at Hvalfjord with HM Cruiser SUFFOLK,

                                HM Destroyers IMPULSIVE and ESCAPADE, HMS BRITOMART, HMS GOSSAMER,

                                and HMS HUSSAR.



                2nd         HMS ANTHONY detached from escort and relieved by HM Destroyer ESCAPADE.

                4th          HMS ANTELOPE detached from escort.

                10th        HMS HARRIER joined PQ1 as Local Escort into Archangel..

                11th        Arrived at Archangel after uninterrupted passage.

                                (Note: Ships were deployed for local duties in North Russia including

                                convoy defence, minesweeping and patrol in White Sea.)

                29th        Joined inward convoy QP2 for Local Escort into Archangel with HMS GOSSAMER

                                and HMS HUSSAR

                                (Note: HM Fleet Minesweepers BRAMBLE, SPEEDY and SEAGULL had been part of

                                Ocean Escort and were joining for service in North Russia.)

                30th        Arrived at Archangel with PQ2 after uninterrupted passage.



                3rd          Deployed as Local Escort for Convoy QP2 with HMS BRAMBLE and HMS SEAGULL

                                for initial stage of passage from Archangel.

                5th          Detached from QP2 with Local Escort and returned to Archangel.

                                (Note This convoy arrived in Scapa Flow on 17th without incident.)

                7th          Deployed for local minesweeping.


December              Local minesweeping in continuation.

                18th        Despatched to join inward convoy PQ6 in place of HMS SPEEDY which had been

                                attacked and damaged in action against German destroyers whilst on passage to

                                provide Local Escort into Murmansk with HMS HAZARD.

                19th        Deployed for Local Escort of PQ6 with HMS HAZARD into Murmansk

                20th        Arrived at Murmansk with PQ6,

                29th        Joined return convoy QP4 with HM Minesweepers SEAGULL, SPEEDY, BRAMBLE and

                                HEBE, HM Trawler BUTE and HM Trawler STELLA CAPELLA for escort during passage

                                from Archangel.


1 9 4 2



                5th          Remained with QP4 when HM Cruiser EDINBURGH, HM Destroyers ECHO and

                                ESCAPADE joined as reliefs for HMS BRAMBLE and HMS SPEEDY.

                9th          Detached from QP4 with HMS SEAGULL, SPEEDY and the two trawlers when QP4 was

                                dispersed on arrival in Home waters.

                                Took passage for refit.


February                Under refit in commercial shipyard.

to March                (Note: This refit included “Arcticisation”.)



                15th        On completion of post refit trials took passage to Iceland to resume service in North Russia.

                26th        Deployed with HM Fleet Minesweepers BRAMBLE, SEAGULL. HM Destroyer LEDBURY

                                and four trawlers as part of escort for inward convoy PQ15 during passage into Murmansk.

                28th        HM AA Ship ULSTER QUEEN, HM Destroyers BADSWORTH, BOADICEA,

                                MATCHLESS, SOMALI, VENOMOUS and Norwegian ST ALBANS joined with HM

                                Submarine STURGEON to supplement escort with cruiser cover provided by HMS

                                LONDON and HMS NORFOLK

                                (Note: This convoy was also given particularly strong Distant Cover by RN and USN

                                major warships. During their cover HM Battleship KING GEORGE V had collided

                                in fog sinking HM Destroyer PUNJABI whilst east of Iceland.)



                2nd         Convoy under heavy and sustained attacks by submarines and aircraft

                                after sighting by reconnaissance aircraft. Three mercantiles were lost.

                                (Note: Submarine contact by HMS SEAGULL and HNorMS ST ALBANS

                                was attacked and later it was established that this was the Polish

                                JASTRAB which had been out of her allotted patrol area and had been sunk.

                3rd          During further air attacks one mercantiles was hit and damaged but

                                was able to reach Murmansk.

                                (Note: 15 of the mercantiles in PQ15 were US flagged.)

                                For full details of all Russian Convoy operations with names of warships

                                and mercantiles see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by RA Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN

                                CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS

                                by R Woodman.)

                5th          Detached from PQ15 after arrival at Murmansk.

                                Resumed minesweeping and Local duties after return from PQ15

                21st         Deployed with Russian destroyers GROZNI and SOKRUSHITELNY, HMS BRAMBLE,

                                HMS GOSSAMER and HMS SEAGULL as Local Escort for outward Convoy QP12 during

                                initial stage of passage from Kola Inlet.

                23rd        Detached from PQ15 with Local Escort and took return passage to Kola Inlet.

                29th        Joined Local Escort for inward convoy PQ 16 by three Russian destroyers including

                                GROZNI and SOKRUSHIELNY, HM Minesweepers BRAMBLE, GOSSAMER

                                and SEAGULL during passage into North Russia with HM Destroyer MARNE and

                                HM Auxiliary AA Ship ALYNBANK for escort of ships bound for Archangel.

                                (Note: This convoy had been subject to air attacks on 28th.)

                30th        Under unsuccessful air attacks during passage and detached on arrival at Archangel.

                                Detached from ships from PQ16 on arrival.


June                        Deployed for minesweeping in North Russia

                10th        Under air attack off Mishokvo. Near missed by six bombs and slightly damaged.

                26th        Deployed with Russian destroyers GROZNI, GREMYASCHI and KUIBYSHEV,

                                HMS BRAMBLE, HAZARD and SEAGULL for Local Escort of outward Convoy

                                PQ13 during initial stage of passage to Rekyavik, Iceland.

                28th        Detached from QP13 with Local Escort and returned to North Russia.

                                (Note: During later passage in fog off Iceland this convoy went into a British minefield

                                and suffered many losses including that of sister ship HMS NIGER which was

                                returning to UK as part of the escort.)


July                         Deployed for minesweeping duties in North Russia

                                Despatched to take part in search operations for merchant ships dispersed from

                                inward Convoy PQ17 after perceived threat of attack by major German warships

                                including the battleship TIRPITZ. See THE CONVOYS IS TO SCATTER by

                                J Broome and the Naval Staff History.

                26th        Deployed with HM Minesweepers BRAMBLE, HAZARD, HM Corvette DIANELLA

                                and HM Auxiliary AA Ship POZARICA as well as Russian destroyers in search for

                                boats with survivors and shipping,

                                Deployed with HMS BRAMBLE to escort found mercantiles into Archangel.


August                  Resumed minesweeping deployment in North Russia.


September             Nominated for return to UK for refit with HMS BRAMBLE.

                13th        Joined return convoy QP14 with HMS BRAMBLE as part of Ocean Escort

                                for return to UK. Other ships of Ocean Escort were:

                                (Note: HM Cruiser SCYLLA, HM Escort Aircraft Carrier AVENGER,

                                HM Destroyers ASHANTI, ESKIMO, FAULKNOR, FURY,

                                INTREPID, MARNE, METEOR, MILNE, OFFA, ONSLAUGHT,

                                ONSLOW, OPPORTUNE, SOMALI, TARTAR, WHEATLAND,

                                WILTON, BLANKNEY, MIDDLETON, HM Trawlers AYRSHIRE,

                                LORD AUSTIN, LORD MIDDLETON, NORTHERN GEM, HM

                                Auxiliary AA Ships ALYNBANK, PALOMARES and POZARICA

                                Distant Cover was provided by ships of Home Fleet in view of any

                                attack by German heavy warships.

                                This convoy was also carrying survivors from the ill fated PQ17.)

                14th        Passage in heavy weather with no immediate threat of interference.

                20th        Under attack by seven U-Boats. See HITLER'S U-BOAT WAR, Volume 2

                                by C Blair.

                                Whilst in position astern of convoy in poor weather, hit by two torpedoes

                                fired by U435.

                                Ship sank one and a half hours later in position 76.48N 06.00E with the loss of 46 lives

                                in total - 1officer, the Surgeon LT, RNVR, 43 ratings, and two MN survivors (until then). Six

                                of these were among the 86 of the ship's company who were rescued, and who later died.

                                (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                                (Note: In the continuing submarine attacks, ss SILVER SWORD, which had survived

                                PQ17 was sunk. The destroyer HMS SOMALI was hit by U703 and

                                disabled. Taken in tow by sister HMS ASHANTI the stricken ship

                                sank in heavy weather on 24th.)





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