You are here...

Operations of the frigates in the Devonport and Portsmouth Command

The planners of Operation Neptune in their unending quest for more ships decided that the newly arrived Captain Class Frigates should be seconded to the above mentioned commands, as the need for convoy escort and other duties once the invasion started had still not been satisfied.

Two of the first were HMS Rowley and HMS Rupert, whilst these two ships were in the USA awaiting crews at a time when things were tight in this area, two of the old first world war destroyers sold to us in the early days of World War II by America, which we had now given to the Canadian Navy and had come in for repairs before their transfer, they were the Salisbury and Mansfield, so there were two ready made crews for the two frigates, and fully experienced they only needed a week to familiarise themselves with the new ships, which to them seemed like luxury after the old water logged ships they were used to.

So without having to go through the working up at Casco Bay and then Bermuda, they were able to make for the UK in January 1944, where they carried out various duties until they were both at Tobermory going through the dreaded workup in April.

Rowley was then sent to Portsmouth from where the 1st Destroyer Flotilla (DF) operated. Rupert was allocated to Devonport as also was Spragge but her first job was to join the 113th Escort Group as Senior Officer, this was a mixed group engaged on Atlantic convoy work which did not occupy her for long. Next on the scene was Narborough and Waldegrave which was at first engaged on some A/S patrols, then during April along with the other members undertook invasion exercises on the Devon coast, the last pair to arrive were Hotham and Hargood.

Hotham spent three weeks involved in the exercises on the Devon coast, then joined the 1st DF at Portsmouth.

Hargood had some problems in her engine room during her initial working up, and was detained in the USA for a few weeks, after arriving here she underwent the usual refit at Pollock Dock Belfast, and then was allocated to Devonport command.

ROWLEY was employed in escorting various convoys along the channel and also took part with ships of the 1st DF in E-Boat patrols, and was part of the action on the 25th April in company with La Combattante when one E-Boat was sunk, and the rest of the group driven off.

Rowley's work on D Day was to be part of the escort for HMS Warspite on her passage to her bombardment position off Normandy, she then went back to Portsmouth where she along with other ships of the 1st DF worked tirelessly escorting convoys across the channel to the beaches of Normandy, and occasionally took part in anti E-Boat operations, this kind of work constituted all her time until October, when the ground war had moved on quite a pace, and she was then allocated to the 3rd EG for the rest of her Royal Navy life - See her details under 3rd Escort Group Operations.

RUPERT after various A/S patrols and the odd bit of convoy work, was in Devonport around the 2nd June awaiting D Day when she took part as support on the western flank of the invasion fleet down to the beaches,and after this had been accomplished she commenced the thankless task of convoy work from the western end of the English channel to the Mulberry harbour complex, this occupation carried on for four months, after which she was sent back to Belfast to become one of the newly forming 21st Escort Group. See the rest of her RN career under 21st Escort Group.

SPRAGGE after initial work as SO of the 113th EG found herself at Milford Haven along with a host of other ships awaiting D Day, when she helped to escort a convoy of American troopships down to Utah Beach, where her crew witnessed the terrible slaughter of the US troops as they tried to move up the beach.

Spragge then in common with most of the Captains based at the south coast ports started the convoying of troop and supply ships from both the western and central parts of the channel to the Normandy beaches, this task lasted right through the summer months, then she was transferred to Portsmouth but her job did not change, it was the same old routine the only difference was the destination which was Antwerp which had now been captured by our forces. She had rather an unhappy accident when returning from Walcheren after landing commandos, she was hit head on by a landing craft which badly damaged her forecastle and as both Chatham and Portsmouth yards were too busy to attend to her she had to go to Devonport steaming stern first so that she did not take too much water. One of her Petty Officers was severely injured in the accident.

This accident happened in the early part of 1945, after repairs she went back to Portsmouth with very little to do, and after the war ended she was disarmed and converted into a floating power station and sailed out to Hong Kong in October 1945.

She was only used for various peace time jobs of not much importance, and finally her crew was reduced to a steaming party and she was handed back to the US Navy at Subic Bay on 28th February 1946.

NARBOROUGH after her usual refit went to Tobermory for the dreaded working up, after which she was deployed to the Devonport command, where she as previously stated took part in invasion exercises in late April, she was then sent to Falmouth from which she sailed in early May to a position 600 miles south west of Ireland as a weather report ship as a lead up to the invasion.

On the 2nd June having completed her spell as a weather ship, she sailed into Milford Haven to oil and store ship then went to Swansea where she joined the 15th Escort Group, but left them from time to time, see under 15th EG for the rest of her RN history.

WALDEGRAVE after the usual preliminaries moved to the Devonport command and during April 1944 she took part in landing exercises and a few A/S patrols, after which she also went to Milford Haven when on D Day she took part in the escort of a convoy of US Troop Landing Ships to the beaches after which, as with the other Captains she started the convoy escort work right through the summer months. She then moved to the Portsmouth Command where she was part of the escort for the battleship HMS Warspite which carried the bombardment of Walcheren as a prelude of the invasion of the low countries. She then took part in the unforgiving convoy duties back and forth to the port of Antwerp, these ships certainly got in a lot of sea time, doing a very worthwhile job.

Waldegrave remained operational until VE Day when she was put into the reserve fleet at Harwich until her return to the US Navy in December 1945.

HOTHAM after arrival from the USA spent three weeks in May taking part in invasion exercises after which she joined the 1st DF at Portsmouth, and though she was not a CFCF she joined them in several actions with the E-Boats before D Day. On the 5th June she sailed in company with HMS Duff one of the CFCF frigates at 2230 Hrs; to patrol off Pointe de Barfleur so as to keep the Cherbourg based E-Boats from rounding the peninsula and attacking the landing beaches.

She was back at Portsmouth on the afternoon of D Day from where she started with her first convoy of four LST's for the trip south to the landing beaches, this of course remained her main duty, except the odd patrol with one of the CFCF groups which put a bit more excitement into the hum drum life of convoy duties, as the channel ports were taken by our troops the convoy work took on the change of port to be supplied ie Antwerp.

Hotham was operational in the Portsmouth command up to VE Day then went into the yard for conversation to a floating power station, where she was stripped of all her armaments and electric generating equipment was installed, this refit lasted until October 1945, when she sailed for Singapore where she supplied power to the badly damaged dockyards.

It was early 1948 when the dockyard at Singapore was finally repaired and it had its own power, after difficulties in finding enough engine room crew to man the turbo electric propulsion of the ship she sailed for home and was seen back in the UK in March 1948.

Hotham was then converted to a test bed for the new experimental gas turbine engines, and was probably the forerunner for all the modern RN destroyers and frigates which are powered by this system, she was finally passed back to the US Navy on the 13th March 1956, and sold for scrap in Holland on the 1st November 1956.

HARGOOD after the usual Pollock Dock refit was seconded to the Devonport command, her first trip was to escort a US troopship to Southampton on the 5th June, after which she refueled and made her way to Falmouth which was her jumping off place for the invasion the next day 6th June 1944.

She was taken into the whole of the Western Task Force duties, her first task was to help in the escort of the assault craft to Omaha Beach, after which, her work was similar to the rest of the south coast Captain Class Frigates, namely the endless convoy work to and from the beach heads.

She had a near disaster on the night of the 21st June when she was anchored just off the Utah beach, when the great storm blew up and caused Hargood to drag her anchor, the ships boilers were flashed up and the cable party were on the foc'sle all night ready to slip the anchor if they got too near the beach, the ship apparently dragged her anchor for about a quarter of a mile during the middle watch, fortunately she did not beach, as many other craft did.

As the autumn approached Hargood was transferred to the 1st DF at Portsmouth where she joined Waldegrave, Spragge and Hotham convoying ships to Antwerp and back until the end of the war. She continued to operate with the local flotilla until VE Day, when she was sent into the reserve fleet at Rosyth, where she waited until her return to the US Navy on 4th March 1946.

Click here to return to the top of the page.

Valid XHTML1.1 : Valid CSS : ICRA labelled : WAI-A WCAG 1.0

Author: Roy Tynan © 2003
Designer: Peter R Tynan