Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Salamander
Salamander Pre-War
Salamander 1939
Salamander 1940
Salamander 1941
Salamander 1942
Salamander 1943
Salamander 1944
Salamander - Crew


HMS Salamander 1936 - Halcyon Class Minesweeper
HMS Salamander 1936

Summary of History

HMS Salamander (J86) was built and engined by J. S. White, Cowes. She was laid down on 18th April 1935 and launched 24 March 1936.  A Devonport‑manned ship, intended to relieve SELKIRK in the 1st M/S Flotilla, SALAMANDER commissioned at Devonport on 18 July 1936. She exercised briefly off Plymouth and then returned to the dockyard to be taken in hand for attention to a gun mounting. SALAMANDER sailed to Portland in October and was back at Plymouth in December for minor repairs. 

She was at Portland in Jan/Feb 1937 and then entered Devonport for a five week refit starting 5 March. During the London to Isle of Man Air Race in May, she was on patrol off the island and June saw her at Plymouth for maintenance which lasted into January. In March 1938 SALAMANDER reduced to 2/5 complement at Devonport while she refitted and replaced her 4" low angle guns with high angle weapons; this refit completed on 15 July, ex trials. In August she rendezvoused with the 1st Flotilla for a flotilla visit to Copenhagen before returning to Scottish waters in September and October. (In fact she sailed to her war station at Scapa because the Fleet was at a high state of readiness during the 'Czech Crisis'). She returned to Portland late October and sailed on to Plymouth for maintenance at the end of the year. 

She was off Portland in the opening months of 1939 before entering refit at Devonport in March. With other ships of the flotilla she stood by to search for the sunken submarine THETIS in Liverpool Bay in June, and after some South Coast visits she relieved SPEEDY on the actual salvage task. In the run up to the Second World War she stayed in the Channel, with visits to Portland, Plymouth and Sheerness. On 9 August she was temporarily allocated to the Reserve Fleet for the Royal Inspection at Spithead. With effect from 21 August she was transferred to the 6th M/S Flotilla. On 3 Sept 1939 the war started and SALAMANDER was ordered by the CinC Nore to 'proceed to Dover forthwith'. In October she sailed to the East Coast, but returned to Dover in December. 

SALAMANDER sailed to the Humber for a short visit in January 1940 and from there she proceeded to Invergordon. In April 1940 she was allocated to the 4th Minesweeping Flotilla, Nore Command, and in May took part in a minesweeping operation off the coast of Holland until the Dutch capitulation. She was one of many ships employed in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and from 26th May to 1st June, took off a total of over 1100 troops in three trips. On the latter date, while rescuing survivors from another ship which had been set on fire, she was subjected to air attacks which damaged her engine room, but she managed to raise steam for slow speed and arrived at Dover on one boiler and disembarked 479 troops. 

After lengthy repairs the ship sailed from Sheerness on 25 September with the destroyer CAMPBELL and others on Operation 'Lucid' (an attack on German invasion craft in Northern France using fireships which was abandoned). In the confused situation after the evacuation of the B.E.F, the collapse of France and the German occupation of the European coastline from the North Cape to the Pyrenees, the small ships, including SALAMANDER, carried out ceaseless patrols and sweeps off the enemy coast, waiting for him to attempt the invasion of Britain. As winter approached the weather, as usual, became the main threat and SALAMANDER suffered severe weather damage on 6 December while employed on coastal convoy escort duty.      

  HMS  Salamander

On 29 January 1941 she sailed into Grimsby to refit until 10 March. On completion she sailed to Scapa as part of the reconstituted 6th Minesweeping Flotilla which with the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla was to be based at Scapa to strengthen convoy escort groups, under Western Approaches Command. She then sailed to Aberdeen for repairs between 15 and 23 July. In August after embarking Oropesa and LL sweeps, she was engaged with the minesweepers HALCYON and HARRIER in providing anti‑submarine protection for the anchorage at Seidisfjord, Iceland; in September she was on mine searching operations at the entrance to the White Sea.

SALAMANDER remained in Russian waters until Convoy PQ1 reached Archangel (11 Oct 1941) and then sailed with HALCYON to arrive Seidisfjord on 22 October. SALAMANDER was then 'arcticised', and she knew she would therefore be returning to N. Russia. The work (lagging, provision of ice‑chipping tools and of more high pressure hoses) was carried out at Aberdeen. On returning to Scapa SALAMANDER and BRITOMART were detailed as part of the escort for Convoy PQ7 and they sailed to Seidisfjord, departing at the turn of the year to rendezvous with the convoy on 2 Jan 1942.

Apart from a period under refit from March to May 1942, SALAMANDER spent the whole of that year escorting Russian convoys. On 1st March she left Murmansk escorting a convoy which was scattered on two occasions by heavy gales, but was able to reform, although one merchant ship, a straggler from the convoy, was sunk by an enemy destroyer. The convoy reached Iceland on 9th March and SALAMANDER proceeded to Scapa. From this time, the conditions under which these convoys operated worsened, with very heavy air and U‑boat attacks, as well as attacks from coastal forces. In an outward convoy to Russia which left Iceland late in June, twenty‑three of a total of thirty‑four ships were lost by attacks from aircraft and U‑boats. SALAMANDER picked up the ship's company of one of these ships almost immediately it was abandoned and rescued the survivors of another during the earlier attacks. Some of the remaining ships reached Motochkin Strait on 7th July and were reformed. HMS SALAMANDER was among the escorting ships which sailed with the small convoy next day. Much fog and ice was encountered and the convoy was subjected to high level bombing attacks during which two ships were sunk. The surviving ships arrived at Archangel on 11th July. Boatloads of survivors had been picked up during the passage and two merchant ships had arrived at Archangel two days earlier. Other ships which had taken shelter were formed into a convoy and SALAMANDER assisted in escorting them to Archangel. In November SALAMANDER was among the escorts of an inward bound convoy of thirty merchant ships which ran into a succession of gales forcing it to scatter. One ship returned to the Kola Inlet and two were sunk, probably by U‑boats, but twenty‑seven ships arrived in Iceland and were taken on in two convoys to Loch Ewe. HMS SALAMANDER arrived at Scapa on 1st December. Between 7 December 1942 and 1 March 1943 she underwent repairs at Aberdeen.

After refit, SALAMANDER, now allocated to the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, sailed for Gibraltar with HMS Halcyon in April 1943, escorting a convoy of tank landing craft. She returned to UK with a convoy of storeships returning from North Africa. She remained in home waters for a few months until September when she was again in Icelandic waters. In October she took part in anti-U boat patrols between Iceland and the Faeroes. She was at Tyne for repairs from the end of December to the end of February 1944, when preparations were begun for operation Neptune, the invasion of Normandy which began on the 6th June 1944, and in which the minesweepers played a particularly important part. They were required to sweep channels in advance of the main force, clear neighbouring areas to give sea room and clear mines after the assault. As the spearhead of assault Force S, the 1st and 15th Minesweeping Flotillas, with their attached danlayers and minesweeping motor launches had a most difficult task but the channels were well swept and marked. The minesweepers continued ceaselessly and on 27th August the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla was working off Le Havre. By a tragic mistake, SALAMANDER was attacked by British Typhoon aircraft, was severely damaged and had to be towed to safety. She was placed in Reserve but being beyond economical repair, was scrapped at Blyth in May 1947.

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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