Allied Warships

HMS Tartar (F 43)

Destroyer of the Tribal class


HMS Tartar during the war

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTribal 
PennantF 43 
Built bySwan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. (Wallsend-on-Tyne, U.K.): Wallsend 
Ordered19 Jun 1936 
Laid down26 Aug 1936 
Launched21 Oct 1937 
Commissioned10 Mar 1939 
End service 
History

Pennant numbers:
F 43 - February 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 43 Autumn 1940 - February 1948.

HMS Tartar acquired the nickname Lucky Tartar. She had problems, misfortunes and periods or danger but she always came through the situation. When war erupted on 1st September 1939, Tartar found herself assigned to the monotonous routine of fleet screening, interspersed with high speed runs to search out U-boat contacts. Such work in appalling weather severely strained all ships and their crews. By early 1940, Tartar needed degaussing and repairs to her feedwater tanks. After this work was completed, she returned to the Clyde River on 3 March 1940 and was told to stand clear of the departing convoy. To their surprise, the new liner Queen Elizabeth sailed by. After she passed, Tartar was ordered to catch up with her and take command of the escort as far as 30 degrees west.

When the Norwegian campaign began, Tartar's good luck became apparent. She started off by screening the Home Fleet while in company with her sister ships HMS Somali, HMS Matabele, HMS Mashona and the Polish destroyers Burza, Grom and Blyskawica. The purpose of the mission was to round up as many of the Allied and neutral ships that were in Norwegian waters and provide safe escort. On 11 April 1940, a mixed convoy of forty merchantmen were escorted back to the U.K. without incident. In the following weeks, Tartar and the Polish destroyers were often in company patrolling the North Sea, escorting troop convoys and penetrating Norwegian fiords in the support of the British Army. By the end of April, the Allied troops in central Norway had to be evacuated. Tartar shared in this work, being sent to the blazing town of Molde, Norway. No one was there except a British naval officer who declined to come aboard. After escorting the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, the Tribal returned to Harstad, Norway to collect Sobieski and Batory. These were Polish liners both laden with troops and survivors of ship sinkings. While escorting these liners to the United Kingdom, Tartar lost her rudder but managed to limp back to Liverpool, England for repairs.

On 9 August 1940, HMS Tartar, HMS Punjabi and HMS Zulu escorted HMS Hood and HMS Ark Royal through the Western Approaches. Later in the month, Tartar screened HMS Illustrious on her way to the Mediterranean. Between 4 October and 30 November, Tartar found herself in refit at Plymouth, England. Subsequently, it was back to Scapa Flow, Scotland for a winter of Home Fleet patrols and escorts in fierce and bitter winter weather.

On 4 March 1941, HMS Somali, HMS Eskimo, HMS Bedouin and HMS Tartar took part in a successful commando raid on the Loften Islands (Norway). By the end of May, Tartar had established two records. First, she was the first destroyer to spend 200 days at sea in World War II and the first to have steamed 100,000 nautical miles since the beginning of the war. In June, Germany started sending weather reporting trawlers into the North Atlantic. Tartar was part of the force of ships sent out to intercept these vessels. One German ship, the Lauenburg, was successfully located and fired upon. The Germans abandoned ship, however, they did not have an opportunity to destroy the confidential code books. The 'Tartars' were able to seize the German Navy's small ships ciphers. This turned out to be a valuable acquisition for British Intelligence. Lauenburg was then gutted of all useful and interesting material, then sunk.

During August 1941, Tartar took part in two VIP missions. First, she accompanied HMS Inglefield while taking King George VI to Scapa Flow. The Tribal then headed westward to screen the battleship HMS Prince of Wales that was bringing back Winston Churchill from his Atlantic Charter meeting with President Roosevelt. Shortly thereafter, HMS Prince of Wales overtook an eastbound convoy of 73 ships, turned around and passed through the convoy again so that the Prime Minister and the merchant ships could greet each other.

Tartar underwent a major refit in London from 2 September to 17 October. Her mainmast was removed, her after funnel was cut down in size, radar installed and the depth charge throwers were repositioned. After her return to Scapa Flow, Tartar was mainly employed in screening big ships of the Home Fleet and providing cover for the early Russian convoys.

In August 1942, Tartar and her Tribal sisters, escorted the Pedestal Convoy from the United Kingdom to Malta. The ships were attacked by aircraft and on 12 August HMS Foresight was disabled. Tartar took the 1350 ton destroyer in tow, but Foresight's condition continued to deteriorate. Endangered by aircraft and U-boat attacks, Tartar took off Foresight's crew and sank her with a torpedo. The destroyer remained for a while at Gibraltar, but returned to the U.K. with ships of Force 'H' in order to prepare for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

Once the British Army was established ashore, the Tribals were employed as a striking force against enemy convoys. Action was rare but on 28th/29th April 1943, HMS Tartar and HMS Laforey engaged a number of E-boats taking supplies into Tunisia.

On 31 August 1943, Tartar helped to screen HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney and HMS Orion in the Straits of Messina while the big ships bombarded coastal batteries in preparation for the landings on the Italian mainland. The assault itself went in at Reggio, Italy on 2nd/3rd September and was witnessed by Admiral Cunningham from Tartar's bridge. HMS Nubian and HMS Tartar then escorted an assault convoy to Salerno, Italy. Tartar remained off the beaches for the whole operation without a break.

On 21 January 1944, Tartar completed a major refit in which 20mm guns were installed on the bridge wings, 20mm Oerlikons replaced the quadruple 0.5" machine guns and internal accommodation was rearranged. This was befitting for a ship which was the leader of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla (10th D.F.). For most of 1944, Tartar and the 10th D.F. patrolled the English Channel. Between each operation, they refueled, ammunitioned, repaired damage, exercised and prepared for the next foray. While on patrol in the English Channel, Tartar and the other ships in company engaged with the German ships T 24, Z 24, Z 32 and ZH 1. Tartar was hit three times. Her galley and bridge were on fire. Four men were killed and twelve wounded including Commander Jones. Her foremast hung over the side and all of the radar and communications were dead. Luckily, the 'Tartars' were able to save their ship and the flotilla destroyed ZH 1 and Z 32 by the end of the night.

Tartar had a boiler clean at Plymouth, England from 16th - 20th October and was then employed escorting 'monster' troopships in and out of the Western Approaches.

When she completed another refit on 10th January 1945, TARTAR set out for the Far East. Off the Scilly Isles (England), she developed propeller shaft trouble and had to limp back at 3 to 4 knots. She sailed for a second time on 8th February and joined HMS Eskimo and HMS Nubian in the Indian Ocean. Steaming to the Far East, Tartar assisted in the hunting of the remainder of the Japanese Fleet and minesweeping operations until she returned home in November 1945. The Tribal spent time at Devonport, England employed as an accommodation ship. She had survived through six years of hard destroyer work unscathed, but now, could not survive the breakers yard. The destroyer arrived at Newport, Monmouthshire for scrapping on 22 February 1948.

Also check out the website of the HMS Tartar Association (offsite link).

 

Commands listed for HMS Tartar (F 43)

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CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Gerald Harman Warner, DSC, RN27 Feb 193816 Oct 1939
2Lt.Cdr. Douglas Eric Holland-Martin, RN16 Oct 193920 Jan 1940
3Cdr. Lionel Peyton Skipwith, RN20 Jan 194029 May 1940
4Capt. Clifford Caslon, RN29 May 19405 Sep 1940
5Cdr. Lionel Peyton Skipwith, RN5 Sep 194017 Feb 1942
6Cdr. Richard Taylor White, DSO, RN17 Feb 194228 Apr 1942

7Cdr. St. John Reginald Joseph Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN5 Jun 194215 Mar 1944
8Cdr. Basil Jones, DSO, DSC, RN15 Mar 1944late 1945

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Notable events involving Tartar include:


14 Sep 1939
The British merchant Fanad Head is torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-30 about 200 nautical miles west of the Hebrides in position 56°34'N, 15°21'W. HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN) later picks up the 42 survivors.

9 Apr 1940
The Polish destroyers Burza, Grom and Blyskawica were ordered to join the British destroyer HMS Tartar and provide escort for convoy HN-24 (31 merchants escaping from Norway to England, some of them were loaded with Norwegian gold). The convoy reached Britain without any loses. (1)

27 May 1941
HMS Tartar and Mashona were screening King George V and Rodney on May 27, 1941 as they intercepted the crippled Bismarck for the final battle. Low on fuel, they were detached before the battle began but stayed on the scene almost to the end. The film footage that exists of Bismarck's final battle was apparently shot from HMS Tartar. Next day, Tartar and Mashona were attacked by German bombers. Mashona was sunk, with Tartar rescuing her survivors. (Source: Ludovic Kennedy, Pursiut) (1)

28 Jun 1941
The British light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.P. Thew, RN), in thick fog, intercept the German weather ship Lauenburg north-east of Jan Mayen Island in position 73°02'N, 03°13'W. The German ship was detected due to HF/DF. Her crew abandoned ship after they were fired upon. Valuable codebooks and the Enigma machine were found aboard the German weather ship.

7 May 1943
The German auxiliary minesweeper M 6616/Alba Eder (21 GRT) and the Italian tug Porto Cesareo (230 GRT) were sunk off Cape Bon, Tunisia by gunfire from the British destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, DSO, RN), HMS Loyal (Lt.Cdr. H.E.F. Tweedie, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Nubian (Cdr. D.E. Holland-Martin, DSC, RN).

12 Jun 1945
HMS Tartar (Capt. B. Jones, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Lt. Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, DSC, RN) and HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) intercept a Japanese convoy some 20 miles north of Sumatra, Netherlands East Indies and sink the Japanese submarine chaser Ch 57 (420 tons) and the Japanese landing ship Kuroshio Maru No.2 (950 tons, former T 149) with gunfire in position 06°20'N, 94°45'E.

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. Personal communication

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