Allied Warships

HMS Auckland (L 61 / U 61)

Sloop of the Egret class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSloop
ClassEgret 
PennantL 61 / U 61 
Built byWilliam Denny & Brothers (Dumbarton, Scotland) 
Ordered5 Mar 1937 
Laid down16 Jun 1937 
Launched30 Jun 1938 
Commissioned16 Nov 1938 
Lost24 Jun 1941 
Loss position32° 15'N, 24° 30'E
History

1939 saw HMS Auckland based on the Cape Station. From 10 until 13 May she was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa. From 24 until 25 August 1939 was her final docking, before being transferring back to the UK.

On 16 April 1940 Auckland in company with three other sloops, sailed with 700 advance troops, who were landed at Andalsnes, Norway on the 17th. On the 20th the sloop was damaged by a bomb hit, however this did not prevent her from rendezvousing on the 22nd, in company with the destroyer HMS Maori with the French transport vessel Ville D' Alger who, because of a snowstorm could only land 750 of her 1100 troops in Namsos.

In May HMS Auckland and the cruiser HMS Calcutta evacuated nearly 1000 troops of the rearguard from Andalsnes.

In August, she joined the Red Sea Force under the command of C. in C. East Indies based at Colombo, and administrated by the senior naval officer, Red Sea.(Rear Admiral Murray) Whilst operating in the Gulf of Aden, she assisted with the evacuation of civilians and troops from British Somaliland, transferring them from Tug Argan and Berbera to Aden. She was also involved in the shelling of Italian troops who were advancing west of Berbera. During October, the sloop was employed in Red Sea convoy duties. in March 1941, whilst escorting a south bound convoy, a British tanker, the British Lord (6,098 tons) was near missed by bombers south of Gavdhos Island, and was disabled, she was taken in tow by Auckland and reached Alexandria.

In April 1941 HMS Auckland was serving in the Mediterranean and was involved in the evacuation of troops from Greece. At Kapsali Bay Kitheria embarkation was by means of a motor landing craft from the troopship Glenroy. In May, she escorted the Glengyle which tok 700 troops of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from Alexandria to Timbakion on the South Coast, whence they travelled overland to Heraklion, later that month she was involved in escorting another convoy.

In June frequent losses were the result of German and Italian dive bomber attacks on their supply missions between Alexandria, Mersa Matruh and the beleaguered fortress of Tobruk. On the 24th of the month HMS Auckland (Cdr. Mervyn Somerset Thomas, DSO, RN) also met her fate 20 miles north-east of Tobruk. Three formations, each of 16 German Junkers 87 (Stuka) dive bombers attacked her and the Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta. Auckland was hit, she emerged from a cloud of smoke, out of control and heading for Parramatta, who had to turn to avoid her, as she passed the Australian ship, she was a wreck abaft the mainmast, with no stern visible, she was on fire aft, but her forward guns were still firing. After about 15 minutes there was a brief respite, Auckland stopped, and her crew abandoned ship, and Parramatta closed in on her and dropped whalers and skiffs, life belts and floats, to rescue the survivors who were being machined gunned in the water by the attacking aircraft. At this time Auckland blew up with an explosion that lifted her slowly and steadily about six or seven feet into the air. Her back broke with a pronounced fold down the starboard side, and she rolled over and sank about 30 nautical miles east-north-east of Tobruk, Libya in position 32º15'N, 24º30'E.

 

Commands listed for HMS Auckland (L 61 / U 61)

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CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Jack Tuthill Borrett, OBE, RN9 Nov 19384 Dec 1939
2Capt. (retired) Kenneth Adair Beattie, DSO, RN8 Dec 193917 Jan 1940 (+)
3Lt.Cdr. William Maurice Lloyd Astwood, RN17 Jan 194020 Jan 1940
4Cdr. John Graham Hewitt, RN20 Jan 194025 May 1941
5Cdr. Mervyn Somerset Thomas, DSO, RN25 May 194124 Jun 1941

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Notable events involving Auckland include:


24 Jun 1941
Loss of Auckland. Mr Francesco Mattesini has kindly provided us with a detailed account of the circumstances of Auckland's sinking, based on research of original archival documents as follows:

Sloop HMS Auckland (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN) sailed from Alexandria with the Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta (Lt.Cdr J.H. Walker, RAN) escorting the oiler Pass of Balmaha, heading Tobruk with 750 ts of avgas.
At 1736 hrs of 24 June, when about 20 nautical miles east of Tobruk, the convoy was attacked by several single level bombers (Italian S.79s of the 5th Air Fleet) and later, and more heavily, by 2 formations of Italo-German planes: the first consisted of 2 Ju-88 of III/LG.1 and 24 Ju-87 of II/St.G.2, led by the well-known Major Walter Ennecerus; the second group was mixed with 8 Ju.87 of I/St.G.1 and 5 Italian Ju-87 of the 239th Dive-bombing Sqn (Capt. Guseppe Cenni).
The first wave of German planes, diving from the sun, concentrated on Auckland, mistaken for a light cruiser, while the Italian planes attacked the oiler.
Auckland sustained an immediate hit on the stern, lost steering and kept way for a while at 10 kn, until 3 more bombs from the planes of II/St.G.2 hit her, causing her to go dead in the water with a 30? list. Completely wrecked and badly on fire, Auckland capsized and sank after an explosion.

Pass of Balmaha was damaged by near-misses but reached Tobruk escorted by newly arrived DD Waterhen, while Parramatta rescued Auckland's 162 survivors while still under attack and reached Marsa Matruh.


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