Halcyon Class Minesweepers

HMS Hussar

Hussar Pre-War
Hussar 1939
Hussar 1940
Hussar 1941
Hussar 1942
Hussar 1943
Hussar 1944


HMS Hussar - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Hussar

Summary of History

When completed, HMS HUSSAR (J82) joined the 1st M/S Flotilla in the Home Command. She was Chatham-manned and was to relieve the old SUTTON. Her first Commanding Officer was Lt. Cdr. R. Frederick whose appointment was dated 2 August 1934. 

After her trials HUSSAR spent much of the year 1935 on visits, which included Gibraltar, Bathurst, Freetown, Amsterdam and Rouen. She was also at King's Lynn, Bristol and naval ports in the UK. She then sailed to the Mediterranean towards the end of the year. After a spell in the Eastern Med in Feb/March 1936, HUSSAR sailed home to be taken in hand at Sheerness for docking and a short refit in May/June. She corrected defects at Chatham in August, carried out trials and had further repairs in December which were completed on 12 January 1937.   

HUSSAR refitted at Sheerness in March/April 1937 prior to exercising at Portland and in the Clyde in April to July. She then sailed to the Med. where she paid visits to Spanish ports. In August she 'escorted' the ss BRITISH CORPORAL in the Gibraltar Straits, having met her after she had sailed from Algiers. The C in C Mediterranean ordered HUSSAR to close this ship 'only if she is threatened with any immediate danger'. Details of this incident are not available but it must be stated that the Spanish Civil war was in progress and Mediterranean Fleet ships were busy protecting British citizens in Spain and also trying to put an end to the sinking of innocent merchant ships by Italian submarines. HUSSAR returned home to Chatham for maintenance and then sailed to Portland. Lt.Cdr.E.P.Hinton, MVO, was appointed in command to date 23 August 1937.   

She commenced a refit at Sheerness on 14 Jan 1938 having reduced to two fifths complement at Chatham. This refit included the replacement of the 4"LA gun by a second 4” HA weapon, and a quad 0.5" MG mounting replacing her 2pdr pom-pom. In April she rejoined the 1st Flotilla at Portland and then spent four months in the Channel before visiting Friedrikstadt (Oslo, Norway). In December she had repairs at Sheerness.   

HUSSAR was in the Portsmouth area until April/May 1939, when on 11 May she returned to Sheerness to refit. She recommissioned at Chatham on 15 July with a Devonport Reserve crew for service in the 5th Flotilla. In the twilight before the start of the war she was on the East Coast, and when war commenced on 3 September she was at her war station in the Channel. 

On 4 Nov 1939 HUSSAR was involved in a collision with her sister ship SPEEDWELL and sixteen days later she had a narrow escape when sweeping near the Humber Light Vessel. A mine was jammed in the sweep and exploded 10 yards from the ship's side, causing some damage. The Navy List records the appointment of Ty.Lt.A.J.Davies, RNVR as Commanding Officer from 14 December 1939. In April 1940 HUSSAR was reallocated to the 6th Flotilla in the Dover Command. In mid May she was both bombed and mined; while off Brown Ridge (she was sweeping off the Dutch coast) on the 15th she was hit by bombs. She was hit near the starboard  edge of the quarterdeck and holed through the deck and side. Although only able to be steered by hand, she reached harbour safely but three of her complement had been killed and ten more wounded. The next day the Flag Officer - Harwich reported that she had also been damaged by a mine. HUSSAR was able to sail up to North Shields for repairs which were completed on 21 June. Ty.Lt. M.E.Melbourne, RNVR was in command at that juncture. The ship was again bombed at 0500 on 10 July in 52.128N, 02.22E, and again at 1319 when she was 21 miles off Orford Ness. The ship had been heavily engaged and hit since mid May, and it was decided to sail her to her home port, Chatham, to pay off and recommission. 

HUSSAR duly recommissioned at Chatham and her new Commanding Officer was Lt. Cdr.D.H.P.Gardiner, DSC, (appointed in July). Towards the end of September the ship was detailed to take part in Operation 'Lucid', an attack on the German invasion fleet in northern France which was later cancelled. HUSSAR then sailed to Grimsby to refit between 18 October and 7 November. Out of refit she began to escort East Coast convoys. She saw out 1940 on escort duties, and these continued in January 1941 when she is noted as escorting Convoy FS83 on the 9th. In February she performed minesweeping duties in the War Channel with SELKIRK (old 'Hunt' Class) and others. After repairs at Rosyth between 6 and 17 April she escorted the one merchant ship who constituted Convoy 'Hatch'. 

HUSSAR was then reassigned to Western Approaches escort duty. Between 9 and 18 May she escorted Convoys OB319 and SC30 before putting in to Aberdeen for boiler repair between 2 and 15 June. She then escorted HX132 in June and HX135 in July before sailing to Southampton for a refit which lasted from 16 July to 15 September. When HUSSAR emerged from her Southampton refit she found herself detailed for Arctic convoy escort duty. The first in the series of outward bound convoys to North Russia sailed on 29 September from Hvalfjord (Iceland), escorted by a group which included the 'Halcyons' GOSSAMER, HUSSAR and LEDA. When the convoy arrived Archangel on 11 Oct 1941 the 'Halcyons' stayed on, temporarily based there carrying out minesweeping and A/S sweeps. The three ships just named rendezvoused with Convoy PQ2 on the last leg of its passage in late October. and in November HUSSAR, GOSSAMER and SPEEDY performed the same duty for PQ3. HUSSAR and GOSSAMER then formed part of the ocean escort for QP3. Twice on 7 December HUSSAR had to heave to in approximately 64.24N, 03.45E because of heavy weather and to free a jammed steering engine. HUSSAR was sent down to Hartlepool on 15 December to (belatedly) 'arcticise' until early February 1942 (this entailed lagging, and the provision of ice-chipping tools and extra high pressure hoses). 

The Navy List indicates that Lt.R.C.Biggs,DSC, appointed on 13 Jan 1942, became Commanding Officer. Between 14 and 23 Feb.1942 HUSSAR was with Convoy PQ11. Rain, fog and snow had shrouded the ships, and the convoy, steaming at about eight knots, avoided the enemy. The 'Halcyons' again stayed in Russian waters, HUSSAR going out to bring in Convoy PQ12 on 11/12 march. HUSSAR was near-missed by bombs during an enemy air raid on Murmansk on the night of 16 March. When the cruiser TRINIDAD was hit by one of her own torpedoes, HARRIER, GOSSAMER and HUSSAR went out to help round up scattered merchant ships and bring in to Kola Inlet the ailing cruiser. Convoy QP11 (13 ships) sailed homeward on 28 April with an escort of six destroyers, four corvettes and a trawler; the cruiser EDINBURGH was in close support. On 30 April U.56 torpedoed the EDINBURGH. NIGER, HARRIER, HUSSAR and GOSSAMER, supporting the convoy on the first leg of its voyage, immediately went to the aid of the cruiser who was attacked again, this time by German destroyers. She sank one of them but was herself again torpedoed and almost cut in half. HUSSAR took part in the battle with the enemy destroyers. The 'Halcyons' took EDINBURGH's survivors to Polyarnoe. HUSSAR sailed out of Kola Inlet to help bring in PQ16 on 29th May along with BRAMBLE, GOSSAMER, HARRIER, NIGER and SEAGULL, arriving Murmansk 31st May. 

The ocean escort for QP13 (35 ships) included  NIGER and HUSSAR. Thick weather prevailed for the duration of the passage and QP13 was not attacked. On 4 July off NE Iceland the convoy divided into two parts, one of 16 ships heading for Loch Ewe and the other of 19 ships sailing for Reykjavik. The latter portion sailed in five columns protected by NIGER (S.0), HUSSAR, ROSELYS and two trawlers. Maximum visibility came down to one mile; the wind was northeast 8 and the sea was rough on the evening of 4 July. No sights had been obtained for 48 hours. The Reykjavik portion's convoy front was reduced to two columns at 1910 so as to allow passage between Straumnes and the British minefield to the north-west of Iceland. Course was altered for Straumnes Point from a position estimated from soundings only. At about 2200 NIGER, who had proceeded ahead to find a landfall, (HUSSAR maintained a visual link with the convoy), sighted what seemed to be the North Cape about a mile away, and the convoy altered course accordingly. NIGER had in fact sighted a large iceberg, and at 2240 she blew up and sank just after she had realized her mistake and signalled the Commodore of the convoy. Fog reduced visibility further and four merchant ships were sunk by mines, two more being seriously damaged. The escorts bravely rescued survivors in the minefield, ROSELYS particularly distinguishing herself. HUSSAR obtained a shore fix and led the remaining ships out of the minefield to safety, reaching Reykjavik on 7 July. 

After Convoy QP13 HUSSAR towed a merchant ship to Scapa (perhaps one of the casualties from QP13). She then sailed to Milford Haven where she refitted between 17 July and 10 October. She left Milford Haven on 12 October for Greenock from where she joined the escort of KX48 between 25 and 31 October. With the minesweepers BUDE and SPEEDWELL she took this convoy as far as Gibraltar. It was an advance convoy, preceding the 'Torch' Operation (the invasion of North Africa) and its ships comprised trawlers, tugs, fuelling coasters, and cased-petrol ships, eight ships in all. After performing a local A/S sweep with SPEEDWELL, HUSSAR departed Gibraltar on 5 November with SPEEDWELL and ALGERINE to rendezvous with Convoy KMS(A)1 in 35.56N, 06.42W to augment the convoy screen. This was the main slow Assault Convoy bound for Algiers, consisting of 47 ships and 18 escorts. Thus the three minesweepers sailed as part of Operation 'Torch'. They then returned to Gibraltar with the 'empties' in Convoy MKS1A.

Like so many home-based ships HUSSAR had been caught up in the huge web of Operation Torch and its associated Mediterranean convoys; HUSSAR and SPEEDWELL returned to Algiers with a TE (local) convoy early in December. In mid December HUSSAR sailed back to Gib with Convoy ET5. She then left Gib as additional escort to KMF5 returning with MKF5. Over Christmas 1942 HUSSAR was with the homeward bound MKS4 as far as Gibraltar. 1 Jan 1943 HUSSAR escorted KMS7 and UGS4 (American) within the Med. After a spell with MKS7 in February she carried out an A/S sweep into the Atlantic before re-entering the Med for convoys GUS5, UGF6 and RS4. She had an interlude for maintenance at Gib between 30 March and 7 April. By mid May the Admiralty was calling for HUSSAR and SPEEDWELL to be sailed home. HUSSAR left Gib for Algiers on 9 May and it seen, likely that she sailed homeward with an MPS convoy in May/June 1943. Between 26 June and 6 August she underwent repairs at Hull. 

The Arctic was beckoning HUSSAR and other 'Halcyons'; in September she sailed into Icelandic waters and carried out local duties into October. Between 15 and 25 November she escorted Convoy JW54A to North Russia. Between 26 November and 1 December HUSSAR escorted RA54B (homeward) on the first leg of its passage; this convoy also arrived intact. Temporarily based in N. Russian waters once more, HUSSAR carried out local duties, sometimes with Russian destroyers and minesweepers, through December and into Jan/Feb.1944. 

Apart from patrols and watch and ward duties, the local work included attachment to ocean convoys such as RA55A and RA55B. On 3 Feb 1944 HUSSAR sailed as escort to RA56 which reached Loch Ewe intact on 11 February. The usual concentration of U-boats off Bear Island was ineffective but aircraft shadowed; a succession of gales and semi-continuous snow completed the picture. HUSSAR then went to Rosyth, 26 February, for maintenance. 

After her exertions stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and back the Arctic, the ship was in need of attention. In April 1944 she spent another week at Rosyth under repair. With Operation 'Neptune', the naval phase of the invasion of Normandy, imminent her machinery required re-tuning and her people needed training for their special duties. She picked up her minesweeping gear prior to taking part in the vast and intricate minesweeping operation which preceded the amphibious assault, after which she sailed up to Immingham for final maintenance.   

After the Allied Armies had been safely put ashore in Normandy, minesweeping was commenced off the Channel ports and on 27 August 1944, HUSSAR was with ships sweeping off Le Havre when an RAF strike was called down on a force of enemy ships in that area. In error, they attacked the RN sweepers, sinking HUSSAR and BRITOMART and badly damaging SALAMANDER (see Friendly Fire). 

However dangerous her position, HUSSAR had always lived up to her motto: 'Forward'

Source: One of a series of articles from World Ship Society’s publication ‘Warship’  THE WAR OF THE HALCYONS 1939-1945 R A Ruegg 

See also www.naval-history.net


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