Allied Warships

HMS Acheron (i) (H 45)

Destroyer of the A class


HMS Acheron before World War Two

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassA 
PennantH 45 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.): Parsons 
Ordered29 May 1928 
Laid down29 Oct 1928 
Launched18 Mar 1930 
Commissioned13 Oct 1931 
Lost17 Dec 1940 
Loss position50° 32'N, 1° 26'W
History

HMS Acheron (Lt. John Rees Wilson, RN) was mined off the Isle of Wright on 17 December 1940. She was running trials after completing repairs following the bomb damage sustained on 24 August. The trial was being conducted at night, with heavy seas running and a strong north-east wind in complete darkness.
During one of the passes on the measured mile, 8 nautical miles west-south-west of St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight, she struck a mine towards the bows, her own speed driving her under; she sank within 4 minutes, killing 196 crewmen and yard workers on board for the trials, only 19 survived. The mine is believed to have been one of those laid by the Luftwaffe in no definite pattern along the Channel coast. The wreck lies in 48 meters of water in position 50º32'N, 01º26'W.

 

Commands listed for HMS Acheron (i) (H 45)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Ralph William Frank Northcott, RNJan 1939Dec 1940
2Lt. John Rees Wilson, RNDec 194017 Dec 1940 (+)

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Notable events involving Acheron (i) include:


4 Sep 1939
HMS H 31 (Lt.Cdr. W.R. Fell, OBE, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Portland with HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN). (1)

3 Apr 1940
HMS H 32 (Lt. M.D. Wanklyn, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Portland with HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Malcolm (Capt. T.E. Halsey, RN). (2)

23 Apr 1940
Around 1230/23, the aircraft carriers, HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for operations of central Norway. They were escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. I.M. Palmer, DSC, RN), AA cruiser HMS Curlew (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. E.W.B. Sim, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, RN) and HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN).

In the evening HMS Glorious flew off eighteen Gladiators to Norway which were to be used in the air defense of the Aandalsnes and Molde area.

On the 24th air operations were carried out flew missions over Aandalsnes. All aircraft returned safely to the aircraft carriers. Two Skuas crashed landed near the carriers on their return. Their crews were rescued by destroyers.

The carrier force then proceeded to an area between Namsos and Trondheim and at 0300/25 the carriers flew off aircraft to attack the Vaernes airfield and other enemy military targets in the Trondheim area. Both aircraft lost four aircraft, some of the crews were picked up by destroyers.

At 0725/26 the destroyer screen parted company to proceed to Sullom Voe to refuel. They arrived at Sullom Voe at 2130/26 and departed again to rejoin the force at 0400/27. They had been relieved at 0700/26 by a group of destroyers coming from the Narvik area, these were; HMS Grenade (Cdr. R.C. Boyle, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN), HMS Escort (Lt.Cdr. J. Bostock, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN) and HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN).

During flying operations on the 26th two aircraft were lost.

During flying operations on the 27th also two aircraft were lost.

At 2100/27, HMS Glorious parted company with the force and proceeded to Scapa Flow escorted by the destoyers HMS Hasty, HMS Grenade, HMS Fury, HMS Fortune, HMS Escort and HMS Encounter. They arrived at Scapa Flow at 1800/28.

On the 28th, aircraft from HMS Ark Royal carried out another air raid on the Trondheim area. One aircraft was lost. During this raid the force was now made up of HMS Ark Royal, HMS Berwick, HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) (joined around 1200/28), HMS Curlew (parted company around 1600/28), HMS Fearless, HMS Hereward, HMS Hyperion and HMS Juno.

At 2100/29, HMS Sheffield parted company.

At 0630/30, HMS Glorious departed Scapa Flow to rejoin HMS Ark Royal at sea. Shortly after departure replacement aircraft were flown on. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Beagle, HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, RN), HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Volunteer. HMS Volunteer however developed defects and was soon detached to Sullom Voe arriving there at 2230/30. Defects proved to be of such nature that she had to return to Scapa Flow for repairs. HMS Glorious and her remaining escorting destroyers joined the Ark Royal group around 1030/1.

At 0400/30 HMS Juno was detached from the screen of HMS Ark Royal and proceeded to Sullum Voe with defects. At Sullom Voe ammunition was transferred to HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN) which then proceeded to take her place in the destroyer screen of HMS Ark Royal. HMS Juno then proceeded to Scapa Flow for repairs arriving there at 1800/1.

Around 1100/30, the battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fury HMS Fortune HMS Escort and HMS Encounter joined coming from Scapa Flow which they had departed at 2100/29.

Around 1820/1, the force came under heavy German air attack but no damage was done.

At 2000/1, Capt. Holland assumed command of HMS Ark Royal from Capt. Power while the ship was at sea.

At 2100/1, HMS Hyperion and HMS Beagle were detached to Sullom Voe. HMS Hereward had already been detached around 1900/1. HMS Hereward arrived at Sullom Voe at 1240/2 followed aby HMS Hyperion at 2215/2. HMS Beagle proceeded to Scapa Flow arriving there at 0630/3.

HMS Ark Royal, HMS Glorious, HMS Valiant, HMS Berwick, HMS Acheron, HMS Antelope, HMS Encounter, HMS Escort, HMS Fearless, HMS Fortune, HMS Fury and HMS Kimberley arrived at Scapa Flow around 1030/3. (3)

24 Apr 1940
HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN) departed Rosyth loaded with troops for Molde. Passage north was made with HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) and HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) that were also loaded with troops but these were to be landed at Aandalsnes. Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. H.W. Williams, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN).

The cruisers disembarked their troops at their destinations in the evening of the 25th. (4)

29 Apr 1940

Operation Klaxon, the evacuation of troops from Namsos.


Timespan: 29 April to 5 May 1940.

At 2000/29 the French armed merchant cruisers El D’Jezair, El Kantara and El Mansour departed Scapa Flow for Namsos, Norway where they were to evacutate troops. They were escorted by the British destroyers HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and the French large destroyer Bison (Capt. J.A.R. Bouan).

A cover force departed Scapa Flow one hour later. It was made up of the British heavy cruisers HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.H.D. Cunningham, CB, MVO, RN), HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), the French light cruiser Montcalm (Capt. J.L. de Corbiere, flying the flag of Commodore (Contre-Admiral) E.L.H. Derrien) and the British destroyers HMS Grenade (Cdr. R.C. Boyle, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN) and HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN).

These forces were later reinforced by the British destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and the French destroyer Foudroyant Foudroyant (Cdr. P.L.A. Fontaine)

The force lead by Vice-Admiral Cunningham arrived off the Norwegian coast near Namsos on May 1st.

HMS Maori had been sent on ahead and reported fog. HMS Kelly, HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin and Bison were ordered to join her.

When entering the Namsenfjord in fog on 2 May 1940, HMS Maori is bombed and damaged from near misses. She had to retire for temporary repairs but was able to participate in the evacuation during the next night. The evacuation attempt was then postponed to the night of 2/3 May.

On 2 May the force was reinforced by the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN).

In the evening of 2 May the force entered the Fjord to embark troops except HMS Devonshire, Montcalm, HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin, HMS Hasty and HMS Imperial which remained at sea to cover the operation.

A total of 1850 British, 2345 French, some Norwegian troops and 30 German prisoners were evacuated. The evacuation was completed around 0445/3.

Heavy German air attacks developed when the Force was leaving the area. The attacks concentrated on the Devonshire and Montcalm but they were not hit.

The French destroyer Bison was hit at 1010 hours in position 65°42'N, 07°17'E and her forward magazine exploded blowing off the fore part of the ship.The survivors were rescued by HMS Grenade, HMS Imperial and HMS Afridi The wreck was then scuttled by HMS Afridi.

But the attacks continued and at 1400 hours HMS Afridi was hit in position 66°14'N, 05°45'E and sank around 1445 hours. Her survivors were picked up by HMS Griffin and HMS Imperial.

The destroyers with the survivors; HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin and HMS Imperial were detached to land these at Sullom Voe where they arrived around 1700/4. They departed again around 2130/4 for Scapa Flow where they arrived around 0730/5.

Reinforcements had meanwhile been sent out from Sullom Voe these were the light cruiser HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN) and HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN). They had departed Sullom Voe late in the evening of May, 2nd with orders to give support to the forces operating in the Namsos area.

Shortly before midnight during the night of 3/4 May, four more destroyers were sent out, these were; HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN), HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. E.W.B. Sim, RN).

All forces arrived at Scapa Flow in the evening of May 4th or the early hours of May 5th. (5)

5 May 1940
The British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.H.D. Cunningham, CB, MVO, RN), French light cruiser Montcalm (Capt. J.L. de Corbiere, flying the flag of Commodore E.L.H. Derrien), British light cruiser HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), French troopships (armed merchant cruisers) El D’Jezair, El Kantara, and the British destroyers HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. E.W.B. Sim, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN) and HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow at 0400/5th from operations off Namsos, Norway.

31 May 1940
The aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) and HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for operations of northern Norway. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Acasta (Cdr. C.E. Glasfurd, RN), HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Ardent (Lt.Cdr. J.F. Barker, RN).

8 Jun 1940

Evacuation of the 'Narvik / Harstad / Tromso area'.

2nd Evacuation convoy from Harstad.

The troopships Arandora Star (15501 GRT, built 1927), Duchess of York (20021 GRT, built 1929), Ormonde (14982 GRT, built 1917), Oronsay (20043 GRT, built 1925), Royal Ulsterman (3244 GRT, built 1936), Ulster Monarch (3791 GRT, built 1929) and Ulster Prince (3791 GRT, built 1930) departed the Harstad area for the U.K. They had embarked nearly 10000 troops. They were escorted by the light ccruiser HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Admiral of the Fleet W.H.D. Boyle (Lord Cork), GCB, GCVO, RN), AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN) and HMS Havelock (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSC, RN).

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and her escort, the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) initially operated near the convoy but they acted independently to enable flying operations.

The convoy arrived in the Clyde very late in the evening of the 12th.

11 Jun 1940
The battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Tartar (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from operations off Norway.

13 Jun 1940
HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) departed Scapa Flow at 1800/13 to search for a reported (1515/13) enemy submarine in position 59°07'N, 01°30'W. At 1904/13 another enemy submarine contact was reported in position 59°54'N, 00°10'E which they were also ordered to investigate.

15 Jun 1940
HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) returned to Scapa Flow after a fruitless A/S hunt at 0115/15.

24 Aug 1940
HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) was damaged by German aircraft during a air raid on Portsmouth. Repairs were completed on 2 December 1940.

27 Dec 1940
The loss of HMS Acheron was made public.

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 173/15687
  2. ADM 173/16286
  3. ADM 199/376 (+ ADM 53/111432 and ADM 53/111433)
  4. ADM 53/112663 + ADM 186/798
  5. ADM 199/361

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


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