Halcyon Class Minesweepers Loss of HMS Bramble
Board of Enquiry


Source: ADM 199/73



6th January 1943


We have the honour to submit our report of the Board of Enquiry held today, 8th January 1943, to investigate the circumstances attending the presumed loss of His Majesty’s Ship BRAMBLE. 

2. At noon on the 29th December 1942, Convoy JW51B was in position 73°18’ North 11°45’ East, steering 071, speed 6 knots. The weather conditions were:- 

            Wind – gale force, from North North West.
            Visibility – variable.
            Sea – rough. 

Five ships of the convoy had straggled, and Captain (D), 17th Destroyer Flotilla, detached HMS BRAMBLE to search for the missing ships. This was the last that was seen of her by any of the escort of Convoy JW51B. HMS BRAMBLE was fitted with Type 271 RDF Set, and, as far as is known, this set was operating correctly. It is not known if any of the separated Merchant ships subsequently sighted her, and is has not been possible to ascertain the names of these straggling ships nor to interrogate the masters. They all eventually reached harbour.   

3. On the 31st December 1942 at 1043A HMS HYDERABAD picked up the following message on Fleet Wave:

                        “Addressed ONSLOW from BRAMBLE.

                        One cruiser bearing 300 degrees.

                                                T.O.O. 1039A”

No other ship received this message. The same day, at approximately 1130A, during the action between the screening destroyers and one of the German cruisers, three other engagements were observed over the Northern horizon. Two of these were presumably Force ‘R’ engaging other enemy forces. The third, and Easterly of the three, was apparently between a fairly heavy ship on one side and a small ship firing one or two rounds per salvo, with close range weapon tracer visible. This may have been one of the cruisers of Force ‘R’ engaged with a damaged German destroyer, but, on the other hand, it may have been HMS BRAMBLE being attacked. At 1328A a heavy explosion of about two seconds duration was observed on a bearing of 020° from the convoy, distant about twelve miles. This may have been the end of the German destroyer, or the destruction of HMS BRAMBLE. 

4. In the absence of any news after HMS BRAMBLE’s signal to ONSLOW at 1039A, she must be considered sunk with all hands between that time and about 1328A on the 31st December 1942, as a result of enemy action. 

5. Another fact which cannot be overlooked is the possibility of HMS BRAMBLE having been captured by enemy surface forces, in which event the editions of the secret documents which she carried must be considered compromised.


11th January 1943 

Forwarded, concurring. With reference to para.5 this possibility is considered remote. 

Douglas Fisher
Rear Admiral

SBNO North Russia


Home Fleet
28th January 1943

1. Forwarded for the information of Their Lordships concurring in the remarks of the SBNO North Russia. 

2. I consider that the possibility of HMS BRAMBLE having been captured is so unlikely that it can be disregarded in view of the haste with which the enemy withdrew as soon as he became aware that forces heavier than destroyers were present. 

3. It cannot be stated with certainty that the explosion which occurred at 1328 was in BRAMBLE, but a study of the track charts makes this appear probable. 

Jack Tovey



From C in C Home Fleet 

A study of the reports now received make it clear the BRAMBLE endeavoured most courageously to do what she could to protect the convoy and went down fighting. 

I deeply regret the loss of such fine officers and men who throughout their commission performed such strenuous and dangerous service.




The Board of Admiralty regret to announce that the fleet minesweeper HMS BRAMBLE (Commander H.T.Rust, D.S.O., R.N.) is overdue and must be considered lost. The next-of-kin have been informed. 

HMS BRAMBLE formed part of the escort of the Russian convoy which, as announced in the Admiralty communiqué of the 8th January, arrived safely in North Russian ports. When the communiqué was issued on the 8th January there had been no recent communication with HMS BRAMBLE and it was thought probable that she had received damage to her wireless and had lost touch with the convoy in the prevailing conditions of fog and bad visibility. 

HMS BRAMBLE made an enemy sighting report on the morning of 31st December and a study of the reports now received makes it clear that the BRAMBLE endeavoured most courageously to do what she could to protect the convoy and went down fighting. 

Admiralty, SW1
20th January 1943



HMS BRAMBLE was built by HM Dockyard, Devonport, and engined by Messrs Barclay Curle Ltd, Glasgow. She was launched on July 12th, 1938 and first commissioned in June 1939, when she became Senior Officer’s ship in the First Minesweeping Flotilla.

She served with the Home Fleet until February 1941, when she was transferred to the Nore Command. From May 1941 until August 1941 she assisted in escorting convoys across the Atlantic, operating from the West of Scotland. Thereafter she proceeded to North Russia and except for occasional brief refits all the remainder of her war service has been protecting the highly important convoys to and from North Russia. 

Admiralty, SW1
20th January 1943


ADM 1/14229 Convoy JW51B Awards to Bramble 

Mention in Despatches (Posthumous)

Commander Henry Thew Rust DSO, RN, HMS BRAMBLE 

Appendix to Report of Proceedings of Close Escort (extract)
(HMS Obedient’s report of 12th January 1943) 


Commander Henry Thew RUST, DSO, RN

The whereabouts of HMS BRAMBLE during the battle is not known for certain but she must have been close to the North East, for she reported an enemy cruiser at 1039, and later that forenoon an engagement between a cruiser firing her main armament and a ship firing a single gun of about 4" calibre and pom-pom tracer could be seen. This evidence is considered to be sufficiently conclusive that HMS BRAMBLE, though hopelessly outgunned, went down fighting to the last. By doing so her Captain and ship’s company did their duty in accordance with the highest traditions of the service.

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