Allied Warships

HMS Maori (F 24)

Destroyer of the Tribal class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTribal 
PennantF 24 
Built byFairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland) 
Ordered10 Mar 1936 
Laid down6 Jul 1936 
Launched2 Sep 1937 
Commissioned2 Jan 1939 
Lost12 Feb 1942 
History

Pennant numbers:
L 24 October 1938 - December 1938
F 24 January 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 24 Autumn 1940 - February 1942.

HMS Maori acquired her name from the Maori people of New Zealand. She joined HMS Cossack's division in January 1939 and was the last Tribal to go to war in the Mediterranean. Maori had also acquired her own 'bum-boat'. This little fishing craft had been picked up at sea off Gibraltar. It was empty, bloodstained and full of bullet holes but when hoisted aboard and restored, became the envy of the rest of the flotilla and the object of raiding parties from their 'chummy' ship Cossack.

On 3rd September, several days after the declaration of World War 2, Maori was lying at Alexandria, Egypt with the rest of her division. Immediately she joined her sister Tribals in convoy escort duties and contraband control before returning to the United Kingdom in October. Again, convoy duty was the main mission but Maori carried out a number of North Sea patrols. On 30th November, Maori and HMS Inglefield were on one of these patrols when they were ordered to help the submarine HMS Triad which was in difficulty off the coast of Norway. A gale was blowing, but Maori successfully got a line aboard and towed the submarine into a fiord near Stavanger, Norway. Triad managed to repair her defective hydroplanes but the two destroyers stayed with her until they were relieved by a tug which brought back the submarine to the United Kingdom. To the crew of the Tribal, it always felt like they were on one, constant North Sea patrol. Even Christmas 1939 was celebrated while the ship was at sea.

Maori was refitted and degaussed at Fairfield's Yard in March 1940. Since anti-aircraft weapons were in short supply at the time, Maori's crew improvised a bit. At various times she had been fitted with a sort of an aerial 'kite- bomb'. Anything that would hit back at the enemy was always welcome on North Sea patrols. When the Norwegian campaign began, Maori spent time screening the big ships of the Home Fleet in the North Sea again. This changed on 19/20th April 1940 when she escorted French troops into Nasmos, Norway. Maori arrived at Scapa Flow, Scotland in time to join her sister ship HMS Afridi to escort the evacuation convoy sailing to Nasmos. During this operation, Maori was bombed by German aircraft. Two bombs, both fitted with screamers burst alongside; one to port abreast of the bridge and the other to starboard near the torpedo tubes. Both motor boats and a whaler were blown to pieces. Splinters pierced the hull, the funnels, and the superstructure. About twenty men were injured, five dying of their wounds. That night, Nasmos was evacuated although Bison and HMS Afridi were sunk during the subsequent withdrawal. Maori's casualties were landed in Scotland while her own damage was patched up at Scapa Flow.

On 5 June 1940, the Tribal left Scapa Flow with a force of ships bound for Iceland and their mission was to intercept German warships that were reported there. Maori was requested to investigate Seidisfiord. The destroyer eased into the narrow fiord and was prepared for ambush by shore batteries or lurking destroyers but to the relief of the crew nothing was found.

By March 1940, many of the countries in Europe had already fallen under German occupation and the British believed that they would need every available warship to repel the expected invasion of Britain. Warships belonging to occupied countries had to sail with the Royal Navy or be disabled lest they fall into enemy hands. At this time, Sweden had acquired four warships from Italy. The British felt that Sweden was too close to Germany's sphere of influence and something would have to be done about the acquisition. It was decided to invoke the Right of Angary, an ancient international law which in essence, permitted the property of neutral states to be seized and destroyed if it was deemed that the property would be employed as a weapon of war by a belligerent. HMS Maori, HMS Tartar and HMS Mashona were sent to the Faeroe Islands on 20 June 1940 in order to requisition the ships. The Swedes refused to hand them over and were also prepared to battle with the British over the situation. The old Italian ships were not even seaworthy let alone battle worthy, so the Swedes handed over their vessels without further incident. The Royal Navy thoroughly inspected the Italian destroyers and found so many defects that they would need a certain amount of repair before they could even be moved to a dockyard. Even if they arrived at a dockyard, spares, tools and drawings would become a serious issue. The British Government decided that the four ships should be returned to their Swedish crews.

By December 1940, Maori was undergoing a major refit at Hebburne-on-Tyne, England. Apart from routine repairs, the 4.7" 'X' mounting was replaced by a twin, 4", anti-aircraft gun. When refit was completed in January 1941, Maori joined HMS Cossack, HMS Sikh and HMS Zulu in convoy escort duty in the Western Approaches. While engaged in this work, the destroyers participated in the search for the German battleship Bismarck.

Maori also spent time in the English Channel to defend coastal convoys against German forces. Two, single 2 pounder guns were installed to augment her fire power against fast E-boats. She also paid a visit to Londonderry, Ireland to have type 286M radar fitted.

Towards the end of 1941, the British Admiralty decided to reinforce the 14th Destroyer Flotilla (14th D.F.) in the eastern Mediterranean so HMS Sikh and HMS Maori were promptly dispatched to that area. While in support of Force 'K', the Malta striking force, Maori participated in the action that resulted in the sinking of the Italian cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Guiossano.

The fortunes of the Royal Navy were reversed on 18/19th December when the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant were disabled and almost sunk by Italian 'human torpedoes'. Force K was decimated in a minefield off Tripoli, Libya. It was therefore decided that HMS Maori, HMS Sikh and HMS Zulu should be based at Malta for the time being as the 22 Destroyer Flotilla. They would act as a surface striking force and would provide additional support for convoys arriving and leaving Malta. With the British army occupying Libyan airfields, Mediterranean convoys were in comparative safety from Axis air attacks. This was not to last for long. The Axis armies were also building up their forces for a counterattack on the Allied advances in North Africa. By early February 1942, Libyan airfields were once again in Axis hands. This meant that Mediterranean convoy duty suddenly became very hazardous again. At the same time, the Germans opened a massive air offence against Malta to neutralize the island.

On 12th February 1942 at 0200hours, while anchored at Malta, HMS Maori was attacked from the air and a bomb found its way into her engine and gear room. The Tribal blew up and sank, still moored at the emergency destroyer buoy at the entrance to Dockyard Creek. Crews from other ships helped in the rescue work as blazing oil spread across the water. Since off-duty personnel customarily slept ashore in shelters while in Malta, only one man was killed in the attack. At daybreak, Maori's forepart still showed above the water and the wreck seriously interfered with shipping movements but it was decided to leave her there for the time being. Her 'A' and 'B' guns were still in good order so it was suggested that those guns be mounted on the Ricassoli Breakwater for the Army's use. Bombs still fell on Maori during succeeding air attacks. By the end of 1942, the Admiralty decided that her wreck should be lifted, moved out of Grand Harbour and set down off Sliema. On 5 July 1945, Maori's hulk was scuttled finally in deep water far away from the harbour.

 

Commands listed for HMS Maori (F 24)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Godfrey Noel Brewer, RN15 Oct 193830 May 1940
2Cdr. Harold Thomas Armstrong, RN30 May 19409 Jul 1941
3Cdr. Rafe Edward Courage, DSO, DSC, RN9 Jul 194112 Feb 1942

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Notable events involving Maori include:


23 Nov 1939
Sinking of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi;

Around midday on 21 November 1939 the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, escorted by the light cruisers Köln and Leipzig and the destroyers Z 11 / Bernd von Arnim, Z 12 / Erich Giese and Z 20 / Karl Galster, departed Wilhelmshaven for a raid into the North Atlantic, this was to relieve the pressure of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee operating in the South Atlantic. Late on the 21st the escorts left the battlecruisers.

Just after 1500 hours on 23 November the British armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi (Capt. E.C. Kennedy, (retired), RN) sighted the Scharnhorst. Rawalpindi was part of the British Northern Patrol and was stationed south-east of Iceland in the Iceland-Faroes gap. Captain Kennedy tried to outrun the German ship and reported to the Admiralty that he sighted the German pocket battleship Deutschland, still believed to be operating in the North Atlantic. Just after 1600 hours, Rawalpindi came within range of the Scharnhorst and was quickly reduced to a flaming wreck. During this engagement Scharnhorst was hit by a 6? shell from Rawalpindi causing only light damage. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau together picked up 27 survivors from Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi finally sank around 2000 hours.

The British light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt J. Figgins, RN), that was also part of the Northern Patrol, picked up Rawalpindi?s signal and closed the scene. She sighted the Gneisenau but the Germans managed to escape in the fog.

The Admiralty also thought the ship sighted by Rawalpindi and Newcastle was the Deutschland that was trying to return to Germany. In response to the sighting and destruction of the Rawalpindi the Admiralty took immediate action;
The battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN with Admiral Forbes aboard) HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) departed the Clyde to patrol of Norway to cut off the way to Germany for the Deutschland.

The light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Creswell, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. F.R. Parham, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN) and HMS Isis (Cdr. J.C. Clouston, RN) departed Rosyth to patrol between the Orkney and Shetland islands.

Light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) was sent from Loch Ewe to the last known position of the German ship(s).

On northern patrol, south of the Faroes were the light cruisers HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clark, RN), HMS Cardiff (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN) and HMS Colombo (Capt. R.J.R. Scott, RN). These were joined by HMS Dunedin (Capt. C.E. Lambe, CVO, RN) and HMS Diomede (Capt. E.B.C. Dicken, RN).

Of the ships of the Denmark strait patrol, the heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk (Capt. J.W. Durnford, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, MVO, DSO, RN) were ordered to proceed to the Bill Bailey Bank (to the south-west of the Faroes)

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN) were already at sea patrolling north-east of the Shetlands were to be joined by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Imogen (Cdr. E.B.K. Stevens, RN) .

Despite the British effort to intercept the German ships, both German battlecruisers returned to Wilhelmshaven on the 27th.

25 May 1941
The 4th Destroyer Flotilla comprising the British destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, DSO, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) and the Polish destroyer Piorun (Cdr. E. Plawski, Polish Navy) was escorting convoy WS-8B when they received an order to leave the convoy and take part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. (1)

13 Dec 1941
The Italian light cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano were torpedoed and sunk off Cape Bon by the Royal Navy destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNethN) on a supply mission to Tripoli.

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. Personal communication

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