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Re: HMS Hilary
Posted by: Frank Luff ()
Date: September 12, 2013 02:19PM

HMS HILARY – HMS BULOLO


My first ship was on HMS HILARY in 1943, and our first encounter was the Sicily and then the Salerno landings, this ship was the Headquarters for both of these, and as such had many important people visit us aboard the ship.

Now, having read many accounts of HMS HILARY’s naval career, I thought that I, as one of the only two witnesses on board to witness this event, the other being the Captain of the ship – Captain Sir James Padget – I should recall this event.

As you know HMS HILARY then prepared for the Normandy Invasion after those two other events, and when communications were finally set up ashore at Juno Beach we prepared to return to the U.K. but there had been so many acoustic mines dropped around the ship, they had to attach a large tow rope to her so that she could be towed well clear before she could start her engines – which gladly, proved successful. We then proceeded to Spithead, where we moored in the main shipping line mooring. In batches, the crew were sent ashore for two weeks “rest and recuperation” at Pines Camp on the Isle of Wight – and what a dump that was! In the finish there was only a skeleton crew left on board when the following event took place.

It was a pitch black night, and I, as Signalman, was on watch when I saw three lights ahead, one White, one Red and one Green, which meant that a ship was coming straight towards our broadside. I then checked to see if our mooring lights were o.k. – One white light fore and aft – which they were. So I floodlighted the side of the ship with our 20 inch floodlight, but still it came and then rammed us amidships.


As I said earlier, there were only two people on deck at this time, the Captain – Sir James Paget and myself, a Signalman. The troopship,
HMS BRIGADIER, was loaded with troops on its way to Normandy, and it struck us amidships. It penetrated our main .mess deck, which fortunately was empty at the time. Its bow had penetrated three or four feet , Our ship rolled over, and came back, and came back with our upper deck trapped on the top of the BRIGADIER’s bow. It was the only time in my Naval career that I sent an S. O. S. to the Signal Station. Tugs were sent and cables were attached to keep both ships in position of safety until daylight so that the tide would not swing the BRIGADIER and rip our side open.

In the morning they attached wire to our bollards on the port side and one to the stern of the BRIGADIER and pulled, The only thing it did was to pull our bollard out of the deck, The next thing to do was to cut the bow of the BRIGADIER – which they did. The HILARY was then towed into dry dock and patched up to make her seaworthy.

We then sailed up to Inverary where we were paid off, and it was also the end of HMS HILARY’s naval career.

Being the only other witness – other than the Captain, I had to attend a Court of Inquiry, which was held aboard HMS BULOLO – a landing ship H/Q, every day for a week, dressed in my best No: 1’s. but was never called to say my account of events. Then the HILARY was then
patched up and returned to its peacetime owners – the Booth Line.

Signalman Frank Luff
HMS HILARY
(Served on Hilary 1943 – 1945)

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Subject Written By Posted
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Re: HMS Bulolo David H 06/08/2005 08:12PM
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