Allied Warships

HMS Neptune (20)

Light cruiser of the Leander class

HMS Neptune before the war

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
Built byPortsmouth Dockyard (Portsmouth, U.K.): Parsons 
Ordered2 Mar 1931 
Laid down24 Sep 1931 
Launched31 Jan 1933 
Commissioned23 Feb 1934 
Lost19 Dec 1941 
Loss position33° 15'N, 13° 30'E

On 19 December 1941, following the First Battle if the Syrte, Force "K", consisting of light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. Rory Chambers O'Conor, RN), Aurora, Penelope with destroyers Kandahar, Havock, Lance and Lively, sortied from Malta in the hope of intercepting the Italian convoy known to be heading for Tripoli.

At a point 20 nautical miles E of Tripoli, Force "K" entered an Italian minefield, laid by Italian cruiser force in June 1941. At 0106 hrs Neptune, leading the British column, hit a mine and backed her engines but at 0116 another mine detonated under the stern, losing propellers and rudder and going dead in the water.

This left the cruiser at the mercy of wind and water in sea state 5 (heavy whitecaps), Neptune hit another mine. Destroyer Kandahar, attempting to take her in tow, lost her stern to another mine and had to be scuttled. As the SOP (Senior Officer Present), Capt. O'Connor ordered Penelope to keep away and, at 0400 hrs, a 4th mine detonated under the bridge of Neptune, 5 minutes later she capsized and sank in position 33º15'N, 13º30'E.

Due to the heavy seas and danger of further mines, which prevented rescue operations, there was only one survivor from a crew of 767. The survivor was Leading Seaman Norman Walton and he was found by an Italian torpedo boat on 24 December. The Neptune Association has recently been formed to commemorate the loss of the ship and to remember the men who died.


Commands listed for HMS Neptune (20)

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1Capt. John Anthony Vere Morse, DSO, RN20 Jul 193725 May 1940
2Capt. Rory Chambers O'Conor, RN25 May 194019 Dec 1941 (+)

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Notable events involving Neptune include:

5 Sep 1939
HMS Neptune (Capt. J.A.V. Morse, DSO, RN) intercepts the German merchant Inn (2867 GRT) off the Canary Islands. However before the ship can be capture she is scuttled by her own crew.

Nov 1939
Remained in the South Atlantic as part of Force "K", looking for the Admiral Graf Spee.
In May 1940 transferred to the Mediterranean and joined the 7th Cruiser Squadron.

22 Nov 1939
The German passenger ship Adolph Woermann (8577 GRT) is intercepted in the South Atlantic about 530 nautical miles east-south-east of Ascension in position 10°39S, 05°44W by the British light cruiser HMS Neptune (Capt. J.A.V. Morse, DSO, RN). However before the German ship can be captured she is scuttled by her own crew.

11 Jun 1940
Neptune sortied from Alexandria with the Mediterranean Fleet and elements of the French Fleet for a naval demonstration south of Crete. The Fleet bombarded Italian positions on the Libyan coast, Neptune shelling Bardia before returning to base on 14/6.

Jul 1940
Neptune was present at the Battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July then moved back to the Eastern Med, scouting into the Gulf of Athens with HMAS Sydney and sinking a small tanker.
The appearance of more German raiders in the Atlantic caused her redeployment to Freetown, Sierra Leone, by November 1940.

May 1941
Under refit at Chatham from February to May. On completion of the work hunted for the German supply ships intended to support the Bismarck.
On 4 June 1941 assisted in the interception of Gonzenheim, sinking her by torpedo north of the Azores in position 43?29'N, 24?04'W.

29 Nov 1941
Transferred to Force "B", based on Malta. On arrival she was allocated to Force "K".

1 Dec 1941
Acting on an ULTRA intercept, a British force sailed from Malta in the evening of 30 November with the British light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).
At 0330 hrs of 1/12 the British intercept and sink the Italian transport Adriatico (1976 GRT) then proceed towards the Libyan coast.
At a point 60 nautical miles north-north-west of Tripoli, Libya, Penelope, Aurora and Lively intercept a small convoy consisting of the Italian oiler Iridio Mantovani (10540 GRT) escorted by the Italian destroyer Alvise da Mosto (2125 tons) and sink both.

19 Dec 1941
While on their way to intercept an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli the British Force K (light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, DSC, RN, HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) ran into an newly laid Italian minefield. HMS Neptune and HMS Kandahar sank while HMS Aurora was badly and HMS Penelope was slightly damaged. HMS Aurora was patched up at Malta before returning home for repairs at Liverpool from April to June 1942. HMS Penelope was repaired at Malta until January 1942.

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