Halcyon Class Minesweepers

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While reading the many reports made about the activities of the Halcyons it became clear that they were often held in very high regard by those who worked with them. This section contains the complimentary extracts from some of those reports.

Prime Minister's message to minesweepers
Message from Churchill
           Source: National Archives     PREM 3/314/5

Annual Report of Minesweeping 1st November 1936 - 31st October 1937 ADM1/9566

"At present the minesweeper is in the position of a person walking in the dark who can only feel for obstruction by stretching his arms behind him. Modern science has done much for the protection and improvement of the mine but at present cannot provide any means of giving warning to the sweeper of the danger which is before him."


Comment from: R Drax, Admiral, The Nore, 14th August 1940 

The zeal and devotion to duty of the minesweeping flotillas deserve the fullest recognition that can be given, particularly in view of the fact that their work is done out of sight and in the constant expectation of air attack. Very early recognition would be very welcome and specially appropriate at the present time.


Extract from ADM199/624

I am Commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to...request that you will inform all the officers and men concerned that the onerous duties carried out by the Minesweeping Flotillas in North Russia have enabled most valuable and timely aid to reach the Russian and that Their Lordships have noted with great satisfaction the manner in which the Minesweepers met any requirement.

The Commander in Chief
Home Fleet
4th December 1941


Extract from ADM 199/1104 Report of SBNO North Russia March 1942

I wish to pay tribute to the recent work of the Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of HMS Harrier (Senior Officer), Niger, Gossamer, Speedwell and Hussar, under the command of Commander E P Hinton, DSO, MVC, Senior Officer, 6th Minesweeping Flotilla. These ships have been escorting QP and PQ Convoys in most severe weather conditions and expected every form of attack by the enemy at distances up to 300 miles from the base. They have little rest except when cleaning boilers, and can seldom berth alongside or obtain relaxation. Their work, especially when meeting convoy PQ13, has been extremely well done and reflects credit on all concerned. 

Signed N Bevan

Rear Admiral, Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia 
Polyarnoe, 1942


Source: ADM 199/347- Report of the Local Escort

I would like to pay tribute to the way in which Officers and men of H.M.Ships "HARRIER", "NIGER", "GOSSAMER", "SPEEDWELL" and "HUSSAR" carried out their duties on this occasion. The receipt of the following signal kindly sent by   The Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia on return to harbour was greatly appreciated by all ships:-

M.S.6                                                                   From S.B.N.O., N.R.

I should like Commanding Officers of all Minesweepers to know that I fully appreciate the good work in the difficult conditions in the past few days searching, escorting, and hunting under the nose of the enemy sea and air forces. It does everyone, but especially the Engine room department, great credit that all ships have been ready for service whenever called upon and I am sure that valuable lives and ships have been saved by the good work performed.   


Senior Officer, Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla


Source: ADM 199/721 Convoy Report QP15 - Rear Admiral L H K Hamilton Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron, 27 Nov 1942

Weds 25th November 1942

At 10.30 Halcyon was sighted. He reported that his compass was damaged and only three days fuel remained. He had not seen the convoy. He still had 350 miles to steam to Seydisfjord and although the weather map did look more hopeful, wind was still force 6 - 7 against him. London passed close under Halcyon's stern and gave him a compass check which revealed an error of 14 degrees.

If he could stay the course Halcyon was doing well! He asked for a position and seemed in excellent spirits even after what must have been, in a vessel that size, a most unpleasant voyage. To my enquiries concerning his halcyon he replied that he had swallowed it!

Even from the interchange of the few signals I had had first with Salamander and now with Halcyon I could not but be impressed by the cheerful way in which these very small ships were coping with their difficulties. With so little reserve of speed, conditions in these vessels must have been even worse than in a destroyer. Halcyon must have wondered more than once what happened when his fuel gave out in a position of which he was very  unsure; and I would like to express my admiration for the manner in which these small ships carry out their vital, arduous and unglamorous work.  


The sinking of HMS Edinburgh

...Immediately HARRIER and the two destroyers swung round and headed towards the gun flashes.  These aggressive tactics by the destroyers and 3 minesweepers kept them at bay.
Edinburgh ordered GOSSAMER to cast off and, steaming in circles out of control, opened fire, hitting one of the German ships. GOSSAMER and HARRIER closed in on HUSSAR and Edinburgh, their Asdics searching for submarines. Unfortunately at 0730 a German torpedo attack on one of the British destroyers missed but went on to hit Edinburgh. With both of the destroyers badly damaged, time and again the minesweepers darted forward firing their guns. Admiral Bonham Carter described the minesweepers actions as ‘like three young terriers, going in and firing when they could’. Almost unbelievably the minesweepers’ valiant action in the cloud and flame of battle led the enemy to suppose they were destroyers arriving to supplement the British force and probably restrained them from mounting further attacks. In reality there was nothing but the small group of minesweepers to stop the Germans from annihilating every British ship opposing them.


On the way back Cdr Hinton (Harrier) pointed out with some pride to the Admiral how we had correctly improvised his flag with the red balls and hoisted it, to which Stuart Bonham Carter's reply was: 'Two balls! That's more than I expected to have this afternoon!’


Disembarking at Murmansk, Admiral Bonham Carter sent the following message to the captain and crew of HARRIER:

...it was inspiring to see the minesweepers staying on the scene of action and taking every opportunity of firing at the enemy when visibility permitted. The manner in which HARRIER and Gossamer were brought alongside the listing Edinburgh during the action showed a fine feat of seamanship and I fully confirm the Commanding Officer of Edinburgh’s report of the way we were treated on board. Never have I seen more kindness and attention than was given to myself, Captain, officers and men than by the Captain, officers and ship’s company of HARRIER in which we left. 



From Commander of Divisions, USSR Gunboat Rubin (a Russian!)
4th Day of May 1942 

Dear Sir,

Soviet seaman has witness of heroic battle English seaman with predominants powers of enemy. English seamen did observe their sacred duty before Fatherland. We are prouding to staunchness and courage of British seamens – our Allies.

Commander of Division


Source: ADM 1/14347 Sixth MSF. Service in Northern Waters 1942. 

Following this period in Northern Waters, Commander Jay,  Lt Commander Hewitt, Captain of HMS Gleaner and seven other members of Gleaner's crew received awards.

'I would like to draw your attention to the excellent service carried out by HM Ships Harrier and Gleaner, acting under the Senior Office 6th MSF (now 1st MSF) - Commander ADH Jay (HMS Harrier) during the time they have been in North Russian waters recently'.

'Their work has been strenuous, weather conditions have been bad, and the usual hazards inherent to minesweeping have been encountered. Both ships have been intelligently handled and have earned much praise and respect from the Russian naval staff.'

 Rear Admiral Douglas Fisher


HMS Jason 1943

At this moment, 12.30 pm, we are slowly making our way up the River Dvina, our first stage on the journey home. Two signals received this morning by us and Britomart: 

To Jason and Britomart  From SBNO Archangel (Captain Maund)

Good Bye. A safe landfall, and a pleasant leave. Thank you very much for all your splendid work in the White Sea. We shall miss both ships very much.   

To Jason and Britomart  From SBNO North Russia (Rear Admiral Archer)

In wishing you good bye and God speed I would like to add my sincere thanks for the excellent work you have both put in whilst in these waters. I have always felt every confidence that with either or both ships on a job it would be well done, and it has been. May you have a well deserved leave. You leave an excellent name behind you.



With this convoy went HMS Jason (Commander H G A Lewis RN) and HMS Britomart (Lt Commander S S Stamwitz DSC) who had also made a lengthy stay in North Russia. I cannot speak too highly of the service they have given during this period or the manner in which both Commanding Officers have maintained the morale of their ships’ companies. They leave a very good name behind them with the Russians who even offered to buy the ships, so impressed were they.

E R Archer
Rear Admiral, SBNO North Russia
26th MONTHLY REPORT – 1st October to 21st November


To Jason and Britomart            From C in C Home Fleet


Welcome back on completion of ten months very good work under trying conditions. As the only British Naval Units working constantly in North Russian ports the minesweepers and trawlers are always under observation and it is by their conduct, both in operations and ashore, that the British Navy is largely judged. You have set a very high standard for others to follow and I hope you will have a very good leave.  



The officers and crews of the minesweepers operating on the Russian convoys were, by virtue of their specialist role, almost all regulars. Their chosen skill consigned them to the least glamorous (and some would contend, most despised) arm of the naval service. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that, particularly among the officer corps of Merchant Navy veterans, this class of ship and their crews drew warm admiration.

Source: Arctic Convoys – Richard Woodman


As minesweepers became available to the Russians, either by transfer from the RN of suitable small craft or by provision of US built craft, the need for the Halcyons diminished, but throughout their stay the British Flag Officers were universal in their praise for the efficiency, enthusiasm and cheerful acceptance of conditions by all members of the ships' companies.

Source: Convoys to Russia 1941 - 1943 Bob Ruegg and Arnold Hague ISBN 0 905617 65


The work of the minesweepers had been a lonely and thankless task spent in a desolate theatre with an ally who seemed to place little value on their presence. Yet, the work of the minesweepers, which went largely unnoticed compared to the greater events out at sea, was extremely important to the smooth running of the convoy cycle.

Source: Convoy! Paul Kemp


On 20th February 1945 we sailed from
Brest on final completion of our work for the Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Forces, Admiral Sir Harold Burroughs, from whom we received the following warm signal which gave all of us onboard tremendous satisfaction: 

'Now that you are leaving my sphere of operations I want to express to you and your ship's company my thanks and appreciation for the splendid work that SCOTT has done in the last nine months since D‑Day. I am fully aware of the important part you have played. towards the rapid opening of captured ports and I want you all to know that it has not passed unnoticed.


'I wish you good luck and a good leave. T.O.O. 211745A.February 1945' 

For us the Second Front was over.

Extract from ‘No Day Too Long’, G S Ritchie

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