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Operations of the Nore Command Frigates

Once the four escort groups had been formed at Belfast, and the CFCF frigates had been allocated, it was decided that some of the new arrivals should be allocated to the Nore Command by the planners of Operation Neptune with their knowledge of the requirements for the big day, such as troop convoys down the East Coast and into the English Channel and the presence of E-Boats.

These frigates were allocated to Harwich and Sheerness and the local Destroyer Flotillas, the 21st at Harwich and the 16th at Sheerness, both up to this time consisted of Hunt Class and old V and W Class destroyers.

During April and May it was relatively peaceful on the East Coast unlike in the earlier part of the war, but the frigates were kept busy escorting convoys,and in their eyes they were doing all the work while the Destroyers spent most of their time tied up in harbour, but the destroyers deserved a rest after their earlier harrowing times.

The frigates were split into two groups, Cosby, Cubitt and Rutherford were stationed at Harwich, and Curzon, Dakins, Ekins and Halstead were at Sneerness.

They were not involved in the landings on 6th June, but some were employed in escorting troopships down to the landing areas as reinforcements to the troops already fighting ashore, and the rest formed an offensive sweep down to the beaches of Arromanches ahead of the troop convoys, but they very surprised at the lack of action, no E-Boats, Aircraft of U-Boats to repulse them, all the noise was from the ships still bombarding the positions ahead of the advancing troops.

The only frigate of the Nore Command which was present at the time of the first assault was Holmes, she had been kept waiting in the Clyde expecting to join her sister ships on the East Coast, and the delay became evident when she was sent to collect the battleship HMS Nelson from Milford Haven and escort her down to her bombardment position before dawn on D-Day, and she remained in the area as part of the anti submarine (A/S) screen right through June, then early in July she escorted a convoy back to the Thames estuary and then was assimilated into the Nore Command.

The frigates now settled down to the job of escorting the convoys to the invasion beaches, and returning with the empty troopships and other types of shipping heading back to the UK.

Halstead had escorted troopships to the beach area on D-Day and stayed in the area overnight, and returned to Southend the following day, she set off with another convoy of troopships on the 10th June, and was in mid Channel with her convoy on the 11th June also in company was the Hunt Class destroyer HMS Fernie when at 0140 Hrs radar contact was made on six E-Boats, they attacked Halstead but she drove them off with her Oerlikon guns.

At about 0200 Hrs the E-Boats had re-grouped and launched another attack, and one of them was spotted between Halstead and the convoy, it was too late for her to react and a torpedo hit her forward of the bridge, which blew the whole of the bow section off from B gun, and B gun deck folded up towards the bridge (this was similar damage to the other frigates which received hits in the same area) but her forward bulkheads held firm, and her hulk was towed back to Portsmouth, where she was written off as CTL, 21 of HMS Halstead's crew were killed in this action, and about twice that number wounded.

There was not much trouble from U-Boats in the Eastern end of the Channel, as the Western Approaches groups had kept them in check at the western end of the Channel, but the Nore Command frigates did have one success.

Curzon and Ekins were with a convoy south of Beachy Head on the 21st July and after attacks by both ships U 212 was destroyed, with both ships given equal credit.

Life for the Nore Command frigates became rather boring as they were used for escorting convoys of every type back and forth across the Channel, there was the odd foray with the E-Boats, and all air activity by the enemy was at night to drop mines in the Mulberry Harbour area so life on the whole was fairly peaceful.

As the Channel ports were captured and supplies were going in through Holland, the Nore Command frigates found themselves taking convoys along the Channel out into the Atlantic to about ten degrees west, where they would meet incoming convoys and escort them back to Southend, Holmes and Cosby seemed to get the bulk of this work.

Towards the end of 1944 life became more interesting, Cubitt, Curzon, Dakins, Ekins and Rutherford all became CFCF's along with the CFCF ships which had transferred to Harwich. There is no record of Cosby and Holmes being involved in this capacity.

Some kind of action against the E-Boats would take place nearly every night, but the E-Boat commanders were not very enthusiastic about close quarter action, but it was fierce for the brief time it lasted. We will give a few examples here of some typical actions.

Curzon was the first of the Nore CFCF's in action, she was in company with Torrington and the destroyer Walpole and Kittiwake a corvette on the 22nd to 23rd December 1944 off Ostend when mine laying E-Boats were detected, and during the action which followed Curzon was the first of the Nore frigates to claim success by sinking S912 and damaging two more of the enemy.

A few nights later Ekins and Thornborough had HMS Caicos a Colony Class Frigate and HMS Shearwater a corvette, in company when a strong force of E-Boats were intercepted and heavy gunfire from the RN Ships drove the enemy back from the convoy lanes, no sinkings were recorded but quite a few of the enemy were badly damaged, Ekins expenditure of ammunition of all calibre was testament to the close action that took place.

Dakins had the bad luck while patrolling off the Belgian coast on Christmas Day 1944 to strike a mine which had been laid by E-Boats, her hull was severly damaged and some of her internal machinery broke loose from its bed plates. She was towed into Antwerp where she was eventually written off as CTL. Fortunately none of her crew were killed, but there were many wounded.

On the 14th to 15th January 1945 Curzon along with the destroyer HMS Cotswold were off Westkapplle when a group of five E-Boats managed to break through the patrol line, and attacked a convoy with long range torpedoes, claiming two hits, Curzon and Cotswold very quickly closed in and made contact with the E-Boats, pressing their attack with such vigour that the enemy scattered after receiving a severe mauling and suffering many casualties.

Curzon and Cotswold were again together on the 16th to 17th January on the Scheldt patrol when radar contact was made on two groups of E-Boats at 0127 Hrs Cotswold took on the group nearest to her almost immediately, Curzon closed at full speed with the other group, at 0140 Hrs she was within 3000 yards and immediately opened fire on them, but the enemy did their usual disappearing trick behind smoke, Curzon had to alter course as she was approaching shallow water. The E-Boats regrouped and made another attack but it turned out to be a repeat of their earlier attempt.

Rutherford and Cubitt during the early part of 1945 mostly patrolled north of the Scheldt estuary with little to show for all their efforts, as soon as E-Boats tried to break through the patrol lines, and came up against the frigates they veered off at high speed under cover of a smoke screen.

There were very infrequent actions between the Nore Command CFCF's during the latter part of January and the month of February with no reports of any sinkings.

Cubitt went into Tilbury docks for a small refit, her 2pounder pom pom bow chaser was removed as was her two Oerlikons in front of the bridge to be replaced with two single 40mm Bofors guns, and splinter shields were fitted to her 3" guns. Curzon also received the same refit a short time after Cubitt.

Holmes had her claim for sinking a U-Boat rejected by the powers that be,but they were sure they had destroyed U 275 on the 8th March after it had torpedoed the merchant ship Lornaston that was part of a convoy, of which she was part of the escort, the German records say it sank after hitting a mine two days later.(This was not the first time claims by ships of sinking U-Boats were turned down, for example the 3rd EG had three legitimate claims turned down).

Cosby and Holmes were transferred to the Devonport local flotilla during April, the war was nearing its end but the E-Boats were still active as their bases had not yet been over-run.

On the night of 7th to 8th April Cubitt and Rutherford with their broods of MTB's were on patrol when Cubitt encountered and opened fire on a large group of E-Boats at medium range, two were severely damaged and a third was hit at which point they retired out of range, but a patrolling aircraft attacked the group and drove them back towards the MTB's where a very close quarter action took place resulting in an MGB and an E-Boat colliding, Cubitt took off casualties from an MGB that was on fire. On the following night Rutherford and Cubitt were on patrol off Ostend, when once again an aircraft directed Rutherford toward an E-Boat formation and a brief action lasting about five minutes took place with the result that two of the enemy were sunk and several others damaged, as they escaped at speed Cubitt managed to get a few shots off at them as they disappeared behind their own smoke.

Ekins was on patrol on the night of 11th to 12th April when she had a brush with a group of E-Boats which took the pattern of many when they fled, rather than get too involved.

Then on the 15th April Ekins was on patrol in the Scheldt estuary when a small action resulted in a merchant ship being on fire, Eakins headed towards the ship to give help at 2100 Hrs and was rocked by two explosions as she sailed over ground mines, she appeared to be sea worthy, except one of the bearings on a propeller shaft was running very hot, so the engines had to be shut down, the paddle steamer Royal Eagle towed her back to Chatham, she was put into the dry dock, and as the water was being pumped out there was a tremendous crash as she settled down with her back broken, and then was written off as CTL. Once again thankfully there were no fatalities among the crew, but there were several wounded.

This was the end almost of the war for the Captain Class Frigates, after VE Day Curzon had a refit for service in the Pacific, but of course nither she or any of the Captains went there.

Cubitt enjoyed a few visits to Dutch ports immediately they were liberated, and when the war ended she did some escort work to Oslo and Brunsbuttel on the Kiel canal. Cubitt then spent several idle weeks tied up to the wall at Rosyth dockyard,She was then one of the unlucky ships to be chosen for Operation Deadlight, which involved towing surrendered U-Boats from Loch Ryan into the North Atlantic where they were sunk by various methods, this lasted until she was returned to the USA in March 1946.

Cosby after her short stay at the Devonport flotilla also was seconded to the Deadlight operation and joined Cubitt on their return to the USA on 4th March 1946. Holmes was still operational in Devonport in September when Lt Cdr Dudley Davenport, later Rear Admiral took command, she remained in Devonport with little sea time until November when she went to Chatham to reduce the size of her crew before returning to the USA.

Rutherford was sent to the Isle of Man after VE Day, and was to be refitted for the Far East, but the Pacific war ended before she could go out there, and she returned to the USA on 25th October 1945.

Curzon was the last of the group to be sent back to the USA after having completed her refit, it is thought she was operational for a short time, before reaching America on 27th March 1946.

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