Allied Warships

HMS Wells (I 95)

Destroyer of the Town class


World Ship Society photograph with thanks to Jan Visser.

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTown 
PennantI 95 
Built byCharleston Navy Yard (Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.) 
Ordered 
Laid down29 Jul 1918 
Launched7 Jul 1919 
Commissioned26 Nov 1940 
End service24 Jul 1945 
History

On 21 November 1940, USS Tillman arrived at Halifax USS Tillman was decommissioned on 26 November 1940 and she was commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Wells on 5 December 1940. She suffered damage on the 9th in a collision with sister ship HMS Newmarket. She was thus unable to sail for the British Isles until 4 February 1941. Getting underway on that date in company with HMS Newark, Wells encountered a heavy gale in which she lost her topmast. Newark soon suffered engine failure and had to be towed back to Halifax.

Wells eventually arrived in the United Kingdom and was soon assigned to the 17th Destroyer Division, which provided escorts for the 1st Minelaying Squadron. During this time, she carried out a number of mining operations off the western coast of Scotland.

Between these operations, Wells escorted convoys to and from Iceland. On 10 June 1941, while operating south of Iceland, she attacked a U-boat but without success. Two days later, she encountered another U-boat and went to the attack, but the explosion of her own depth charges damaged her and forced her to give up the search.

Following refitting at Hull, England, in the autumn of 1941, Wells returned to convoy escort duty. On 16 January 1942, she intercepted an SOS from the merchant ship F. J. Cullen an American merchantman which had run aground on the southeast side of Barra Island, in the outer Hebrides, west of Scotland. Heavy seas initially made launching a boat a virtual impossibility, but Wells stood by until lifeboats and tugs arrived and transported the steamer's crew safely ashore.

While escorting two transports later that spring, HMS Wells and HMS Brighton were bombed by German aircraft west of the Faroes, but escaped damage. During November, Wells conducted convoy escort operations with Convoy KX-6, supporting Operation "Torch," the invasion of North Africa, and returned to the United Kingdom in December with Convoy MKF to soon resume escort duties with Iceland-bound convoys.

After serving another tour of convoy escort and minelaying escort duties, Wells was transferred to Rosyth in August 1943 and operated with the Rosyth Escort Force, screening coastwise convoys between the Firth of Forth and the Thames estuary. Early in 1945, after refitting at the Clyde in late 1944, she became a target ship for aircraft training with the Western Approaches Command. Decommissioned in July 1945, Wells was subsequently scrapped at Troon, Scotland, on 24 July 1945.

 
Former nameUSS Tillman (DD 135)

Commands listed for HMS Wells (I 95)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Edward John Lee, RN26 Nov 194023 Oct 1941
2Lt. Lewis Julian Pearson, RN23 Oct 194112 Jun 1942
3Lt. Nigel Dixon, RN12 Jun 1942Nov 1942
4Lt. Francis Wimburn Melvill Carter, DSC, RNNov 19429 May 1943
5Lt. Edward Beaumont West, RNVR9 May 194325 May 1943
6Lt. David Drummond Bone, RN25 May 194318 Nov 1944
7A/Lt.Cdr. Charles Alexander Headon Owen, DSC, RN18 Nov 19441 Apr 1945
8T/Lt. Arthur Philip Tomkins, RNVR4 Apr 1945mid 1945

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Notable events involving Wells include:


21 Jul 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Samphire (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Renny, DSC, RNR), HMS Wells (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and HMS Islay (Ch.Skr. T. Donovan, RNR). (1)

7 Aug 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Wells (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN). (1)

8 Aug 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. J.H. Geijs, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Wells (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN). (1)

3 Dec 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Oracle (T/A/Lt.Cdr. S.A. Martyn, RNR), HMNZS Kiwi (Lt.Cdr. G. Bridson, RNZNVR), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RNR) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN). (2)

4 Dec 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Oracle (T/A/Lt.Cdr. S.A. Martyn, RNR), HMNZS Kiwi (Lt.Cdr. G. Bridson, RNZNVR), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RNR) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN). (2)

1 Mar 1942

Convoys PQ 12 and QP 8.

Convoy PQ 12 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 8 from Northern Russia to Iceland.

On 1 March 1942 convoy PQ 12 departed Reykjavik for ports in Northern Russia.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Bateau (Panamanian, 4687 GRT, built 1926), Beaconstreet (British (tanker), 7467 GRT, built 1927), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Capulin (Panamanian, 4977 GRT, built 1920), Dneprostroi (Russian, 4756 GRT, built 1919), Earlston (British, 7195 GRT, built 1941), El Coston (Panamanian, 7286 GRT, built 1924), El Occidente (Panamanian, 6008 GRT, built 1910), Empire Byron (British, 6645 GRT, built 1941), Lancaster Castle (British, 5172 GRT, built 1937), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Navarino (British, 4841 GRT, built 1937), Sevzaples (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1932), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

Close escort on departure from Reykjavik was provided by the A/S trawlers HMS Angle (T/Lt. E. Playne, RNVR), Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(Retd.) B. Bevans, RNR), HMS Notts County (T/Lt. R.H. Hampton, RNR) and HMS Stella Capella (Lt. W.L. Sadgrove, RANVR). These trawlers parted company with the convoy early on 5 March. the minesweeper HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN) and the A/S whaler Sulla (T/Skr. T. Meadows, RNR) were to join the convoy coming from Reykjavik as well as the destroyers HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and the A/S whalers HMS Shera (T/Lt. W.E. Bulmer, RNR), Shusa (S.Lt. J.B. Powell, RNR), Stefa (T/Lt. T. Costley, RNVR) and Svega (T/Lt. F.P. Maitland, RNVR) which came from Seidisfjord.

Of the whalers Sulla later had to turn back.Shusa and Stefa were able to join the convoy while Svega made the passage to Murmansk independently with Shera until that ship sank on 9 March, presumably as a result of stability problems as she suddenly capsized. The Svega was able to pick up three survivors from the freezing water.

HMS Offa and HMS Oribi joined the convoy early on the 5th 100 miles south of Jan Mayen Island while HMS Gossamer could not find the convoy and proceeded to Murmansk independently.

The light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, RN) also joined on the 5th. She parted company again on the 6th. She was however ordered to rejoin the convoy and she did so in the evening of the 6th.

The same evening the escorts were informed that a German heavy ship, thought to be the Tirpitz had left Trondheim and was proceeding northwards. The same evening the convoy encountered ice and course had to be changed from north-east to south-east. One of the merchant ships, the Bateau and the whaler Sulla had to turn back. The destroyer HMS Oribi sustained ice damage.

On the 7th the convoy was able to resume its original course. At noon on the 7th it passed convoy QP 8 in position 72°09'N, 10°34'E, some 200 miles south-west of Bear Island.

Around 1400/7, HMS Kenya sighted smoke on the horizon to the northward so she set off to investigate. Visibility was now at the maximum. It soon became apparent that it was a staggler from convoy QP 8 so Kenya then rejoined convoy PQ 12 at 1515/7.

Then around 1600/7 HMS Kenya received Admiralty signal 1519A/7 stating that enemy surface forces might be nearby. The convoy was ordered to steer north so at 1640/7 course was altered to 360°. Shortly afterwards a signal timed 1632/7 was received from the Russian merchant vessel Izhora, a staggler from convoy QP 8, that she was being gunned by an enemy warship in position 72°35'N, 10°50'E although the position was doubtful and the signal was garbled. It was thought this was the merchant vessel we sighted a few hours earlier. This ship was now thought to be 35 to 40 miles to the eastward of convoy PQ 12 and its northerly course might drive the convoy straight into the arms of the enemy.

Capt. Denny then decided to change course to 60°. Kenya's Walrus aircraft was launched at 1720/7 to search between 270° and 210°. The Walrus returned soon after 1800/7 having sighted nothing after searching to a depth of 45 miles. Course was therefore altered to 040° to bring the convoy closer to its original track.

No more news was heard from the Izhora or the enemy but soon after midnight another signal from the Admiralty was received telling the convoy to steer north of Bear Island, if ice permitted, a very considerable diversion from the original route. At daylight therefore the convoy altered further to the northward. Capt. Denny warning the convoy Commodore not to take the destroyers through the ice. The weather and information about the icefield, soon determined Capt. Denny and the convoy Commodore to disregard the Admiralty signal and they altered course to the south-east a little after mid-day, intending to cross the miridian of Bear Island to the southward after dark that evening. About 1530/8, between snowstorms, they sighted the island 40 miles off to the north-east, and the icefield at the same time. At dusk, 1700/8, they ran into the fringe of the ice.

it took the convoy three hours to work clear and reform, whereupon, to avoid further damage to HMS Oribi, Captain Denny detached her to make her own way to Murmansk, which she reached on March 10th.

The convoy went on, keeping as far north as the ice allowed. On the 9th, HMS Offa detected a patrolling aircraft by her radar, but thick and persistent sea smoke rising many feet into the air, combined with a change of course for two hours, prevented discovery, while intercepted signals showed that the Tirpitz was no longer likely to be a threat, for which she had been attacked off the Lofoten Islands by aircraft from HMS Victorious.

The convoy arrived at Murmansk on 12 March 1942.

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On 1 March 1942 convoy QP 8 departed Murmansk for Iceland on 1 March 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), British Pride (British (tanker), 7106 GRT, built 1931), British Workman (British (tanker), 6994 GRT, built 1922), Cold Harbor (Panamanian, 5105 GRT, built 1921), El Lago (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Elona (British (tanker), 6192 GRT, built 1936), Empire Selwyn (British, 7167 GRT, built 1941), Explorer (British, 6235 GRT, built 1935), Fridrikh Engels (Russian, 3972 GRT, built 1930), Izhora (Russian, 2815 GRT, built 1921), Larranga (American, 3892 GRT, built 1917), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Tbilisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912) and West Nohno (American, 6186 GRT, built 1919).

Close escort on departure from Murmansk was provided by the destroyers Gremyashchiy, Gromkiy, corvettes HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Sweetbriar (Lt.(Retd.) J.W. Cooper, RNR) and the HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN) and HMS Sharpshooter (Lt.Cdr. D. Lampen, RN).

The two Soviet destroyers, HMS Harrier and HMS Sharpshooter parted company with the convoy on 3 March. The other escorts remained with the convoy until it arrived in Iceland.

Close cover for the convoy was provided from 2 to 7 March by the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN) which had departed the Kola Inlet on 2 March and arrived at Scapa Flow on 8 March.

On 4 March the convoy scattered due to the bad weather conditions but was later reformed. On 9 March the convoy was disbanded after wich most ships arrived in Icelandic ports on 11 March 1942 minus a staggler from the convoy, the Soviet Izhora, which had been found and sunk around 1630/7 by the German destroyer Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn.

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Distant cover for these convoys was provided by battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), light cruiser HMS Kenya and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN). These ships had departed Hvalfjord, Iceland at 0600/3.

At 0600/4 the battleship HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN) departed Scapa Flow.

At 0700/4, the destoyers HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were detached from the Renown group to refuel at Seidisfjord.

At 1600/4, HMS Berwick was detached from the King George V'-group to return to Scapa wscorted by HMS Bedouin. She had developed engine trouble. The cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) was ordered to take over her place after refuelling at Seidisfjord.

At 2300/4, HMS Kenya was detached from the Renown group to provide close cover for convoy PQ 12. Around the same time HMS Bedouin was ordered to part company with HMS Berwick and go to the aid of HMS Sheffield which had been mined near the Seidisfjord. HMS Faulknor and HMS Eskimo were also ordered to assist the damaged cruiser.

At 1200/5 the 'Renown'-group was in position 66°45'N, 06°30'W steering a northerly course. This was about 100 miles south of convoy PQ 12.

At the same time the 'King George V'-group was about 100 miles bearing 154° from the 'Renown'-group and was also steering a northerly course.

At 1900/5 HMS Kenya joined the close escort of convoy PQ 12.

At 2000/5, the 'Renown'-group altered course easterly to affect a rendezvous with the 'King George V'-group the next morning. Admiral Tovey had decided to concentrate his forces.

At 1030/6, both groups made rendezvous in position 71°00'N, 04°30'E amd the two forces joined together. They continued to steer a northerly course. The entire force was now made up of the battleships HMS King George V, HMS Duke of York, battlecruiser HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Lookout, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Elcipse.

At 1100/6, the German battleship Tirpitz escorted by the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn and Z 25 departed Trondheim and steered north to intercept a convoy (PQ 12) reported by Focke Wulf reconnaissance aircraft.

At 1400/6, the Home Fleet altered course to the south.

In a signal timed 1801/6 the submarine HMS Seawolf (Lt. R.P. Raikes, RN) reported sighting the Tirpitz off Kya. At 0010/7, Admiral Tovey received the news of Seawolf's sighting. Tovey now knew that Tirpitz was out but he was unsure if the German battleships was out to attack the convoy or to break out into the Atlantic. It had been intended to fly off search aircraft from HMS Victorious but the weather conditions prevented any flying from taking place.

At 1750/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the east and the destroyers HMS Icarus and HMS Intrepid detached to refuel in Iceland.

At 2000/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the north. At the same time the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Ashanti, HMS Punjabi, HMS Fury, HMS Echo and HMS Eclipse were detached to sweep north between the Home Fleet and the Lofoten Islands along what Admiral Tovey thought to be the enemy’s most likely route to return to Trondheim. After this sweep the destroyers were to proceed to Seidisfjord to refuel. Apparently only HMS Lookout remained with the Fleet.

At 2400/7, the Home Fleet altered course to the south so that the Fleet could be in position off the Lofoten Islands to launch a strike force at dawn in case the Tirpitz would be sighted by the destroyers. At 0400/8 Admiral Tovey concluded that he had missed the German battleships and since he was without destroyers except for HMS Lookout and in submarine infected waters, he turned south-west towards Iceland to collect some destroyers that had already refuelled.

At 1820/8 the Home Fleet altered course to the north-east despite that no destroyer had joined so far. Admiral Tovey then broke radio silence sending a signal to the Admiralty requesting destroyers to be sent out and refuelling facilities at sea for his destroyers. The heavy cruiser London departed from Iceland with orders to rendezvous with the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) coming from the Denmark patrol and the light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) and HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) departed Scapa Flow on 7 March. These cruisers were ordered to refuel destroyers at sea.

The heavy cruisers apparently did not fuel any destroyers. The light cruisers fuelled HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury on the 9th. HMS Echo was unable to fuel from them due to the bad weather conditions. She went to Seidisfjord to fuel as did HMS Onslow HMS Ashanti and HMS Eclipse.

Around 2000/8 the Tirpitz, having been unable to find the convoy, set course to return to Trondheim.

At 0240/9, the Admiralty informed Admiral Tovey that the Tirpitz was heading south so the Home Fleet altered course to the south-east to close the Lofoten Islands.

At 0640/9, Admiral Tovey ordered HMS Victorious to fly off a reconnaissance force of 6 Albacores on a diverging search between 105° and 155° to a depth of 150 miles to search for the German battleship.

At 0730/9, a strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores were flown off.

At 0802/9, one of the reconnaissance aircraft the Tirpitz and a destroyer (Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn) sailing south and made a report. Shortly after being sighted the Germans however altered course towards the Vestfjord and Narvik.

At 0917/9, the Tirpitz was attacked by the strike force. No hits were obtained though one torpedo only missed the battleships stern by 30 feet. Two of the attacking Albacores were shot down by AA fire.

At 0940/9, the Home Fleet turned west and then south-west.

At 1545/9, the Home Fleet was attacked by 3 Ju-88 bombers, one bomb landed close astern of HMS Victorious but no damaged was caused.

At 1620/9, The Tirpitz and Z 14 / Friedrich Ihn arrived at Narvik.

At 1840/9 the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo and HMS Tartar (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) joined the Home Fleet coming from Iceland. The Home Fleet now set course to return to Scapa Flow.

Around 0800/10 the destroyers HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and the escorted destroyers HMS Grove (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Rylands, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) joined coming from Iceland.

Around 0920/10 the destroyers Verdun (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN) joined after they had fuelled at Scapa Flow coming from Rosyth (first two) and Port ZA (last two) respetively.

Around 1200/10 the destroyers HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus joined.

Around 2300/10 the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow. Shortly before arriving the destroyers HMS Verdun and HMS Woolston were detached to return to Rosyth and HMS Lancaster and HMS Wells were detached to return to Port ZA.

HMS Liverpool, HMS Trinidad, HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury arrived at Scapa Flow at 0930/11. (3)

7 Oct 1943
HMS Uther (Lt. P.S. Beale, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Dundee with HMS Wells (Lt. D.D. Bone, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt. D.B.G. Dumas, RN) and HMS Stella Conopus (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RD, RNR). (4)

2 Dec 1944
HMS Sibyl (Lt. H.R. Murray, RN) conducted A/S and attack exercises in the Clyde area with HMS Ramsey (Lt. R.A.S. Sproul-Bolton, RN) and HMS Wells (A/Lt.Cdr. C.A.H. Owen, DSC, RN). (5)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. File 2.12.03.6377 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  2. File 2.12.03.6368 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. ADM 234/340
  4. ADM 173/18397
  5. ADM 173/18745

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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