Allied Warships

HMS Gleaner (J 83)

Minesweeper of the Halcyon class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantJ 83 
ModSecond group 
Built byWilliam Gray & Co. (Hartepool, U.K.) : N.E. Marine 
Ordered13 Mar 1936 
Laid down17 Jun 1936 
Launched10 Jun 1937 
Commissioned30 Aug 1938 
End service2 Sep 1946 

When completed HMS Gleaner was fitted out as a survey ship and but when war broke out she was at Plymouth undergoing conversion to a minesweeper. On completion of this conversion she joined the 1st Anti-Submarine Striking Force based at Belfast. She patrolled the waters between Belfast and Liverpool. From late November HMS Gleaner was part of the 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Force, operating between the Clyde and Loch Ewe. In January 1940 she was transferred to the 3rd Anti-Submarine Striking Force.

On 12 February 1940 HMS Gleaner was on patrol off the Firth of Clyde. At 0250 hours a hydrophone contact was picked up and traced until at about 0316 hours a U-boat, U-33, was seen on the surface. U-33 dived and lay on the bottom. Gleaner carried out a depth charge attack at 0353 hours but little damage was done. A second attack was carried out at 0412 hours which caused more serious damage to gauge glasses, lights etc. and caused several leaks. The German Commanding officer, Kptlt. Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky, decided to bring U-33 to the surface which she broke at 0522 hours. HMS Gleaner opened fire on the U-boat and turned to ram her, firing as she approached, but before she could do so the crew started to abandon ship. U-33 finally sank taking 25 of her crew with her, leaving 17 survivors.

HMS Gleaner continued with anti-submarine duties until 12 August 1940 when she was detailed to relieve HMS Deptford as close escort to convoy OA-198 off the west coast of Scotland, becoming a member of the Northern Escort Force. At 1420 hours on 16 August an escorting aircraft reported having attacked and possible damaged a U-boat 180nm NW of Bloody Foreland. In a later report this aircraft claimed two direct hits by depth charges, the first blowing the U-boat to the surface with her decks awash. After the second, the U-boat healed over on it's side and sank. Gleaner was brought to the spot at 1630 howhere she carried out a sweep and at 1710 she signalled the aircraft she could not get a contact. After the was German records have shown this to be U-51. She was not sunk, as thought, but had suffered extensive damage to her machinery. Limping on the surface towards Lorient, she was attacked and sunk with all hands by HMS Cachalot on 20 August.

The Gleaner's second convoy, OA-204, was not so fortunate. The convoy consisted of 21 ships in 6 columns, protected by Gleaner (LtCdr H.P. Price) and the British corvette HMS Clematis. At 0023 hours on 29 August 1940 the convoy was attacked by U-100, the British steam merchant Hartismere was struck by one torpedo on the starboard side, underneath the bridge. One minute later the Commodore's ship, the British steam merchant Dalblair, was torpedoed amidships on her starboard side and sank in ten minutes. Gleaner sighted explosions and tried to cross ahead of the convoy, narrowly avaiding several collisions with ships which, without a Commodore and without any orders were scattering in all directions at full speed. Hampered by her lack of speed the Gleaner turned back to ensure the survivors were being picked up. At 0140 hours on 29 August the British steam merchant Astra II, was torpedoed and sunk rapidly. Gleaner picked up 20 survivors and at daylight proceeded to escort the damaged Hartismere to the Clyde. Later that night two other ships, one British and one Swedish were lost.

The remainder of HMS Gleaner's escort service was comparatively uneventful and in February 1942 she was taken in hand at Leith for conversion to a Fleet Minesweeper and to be fitted for Arctic conditions. On completion in May she joined the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, Home Fleet and, as well as minesweeping patrols, she escorted convoys between Scapa Flow and the Icelandic ports of Hval Fjord and Seidisfjord and between Scapa and the Kola Inlet. This too was a quiet period for HMS Gleaner.

In June 1944, with other members of the 1st MSF, she took part in 'Operation Neptune'. On 25 August 1944 at 1540, HMS Gleaner suffered extensive damage from a near miss mine whilst sweeping to westward of Cap d'Antifer in follow up operations. Her main engine was put out of action and she was taken in tow for repairs in the UK. Once repaired she was involved in sweeps in the area of Margate Roads. On 14 March 1945 she was rendered unseaworthy following a collision with a pilot ship which left her with a six foot hole at deck level.

HMS Gleaner remained with the 1st MSF until 2 September 1946 when she paid off into reserve at Falmouth. On 12 May 1950 she was transferred to the British Iron and Steel Corporation for breaking up.


Commands listed for HMS Gleaner (J 83)

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1Lt.Cdr. Hugh Percival Price, RN7 May 193722 Feb 1941
2Lt.Cdr. Karl Eric Oom, RAN22 Feb 1941Dec 1941
3Lt.Cdr. Evelyn David John Abbot, RNDec 1941early 1942
4Lt. John Osric Leatham Shelton, RNearly 194210 Apr 1942
5Lt.Cdr. Frank Joseph George Hewitt, DSC, RN10 Apr 194229 Sep 1944
6T/A/Lt.Cdr. Harold Graham King, RNVR29 Sep 194416 Jul 1945
7A/Lt.Cdr. John Andrew Pearson, DSC, RNR16 Jul 1945Oct 1945 ?

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Notable events involving Gleaner include:

22 Dec 1939

Convoy TC 2.

This convoy of troopships departed Halifax on 22 December 1939 for the Clyde where it arrived on 30 December 1939.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / liners; Almanzora (British, 15551 GRT, built 1914, carrying 1284 troops), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1358 troops), Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936, carrying 806 troops), Chrobry (Polish, 11442 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1045 troops) Orama (British, 19840 GRT, built 1924, carrying 935 troops), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917, carrying 1269 troops) and Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1455 troops).

A/S escort was provided on leaving Halifax the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.N. Creery, RCN), HMCS Ottawa (Capt. G.C. Jones, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. W.B.L. Holms, RCN), HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. de Wolf, RCN) and the British destroyer HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. De Villiers, RN). These destroyers remained with the convoy until 24 December 1939 when they set course to return to Halifax.

Ocean Escort was provided by the British battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN), French battlecruiser Dunkerque (Capt. M.J.M. Seguin and the French light cruiser Gloire (Capt. F.H.R. de Belot).

When the convoy approached the British isles, the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. W. Kitcat, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) departed Greenock on the 25th to join the convoy on the 28th. On the 26th two more destroyers departed Greenock, these were HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN). These destroyers also joined the convoy on the 28th.

On the 29th the French battlecruiser Dunkerque and the light cruiser Gloire parted company with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake and HMS Fury until they were relieved by the French large destroyers Mogador (Cdr. P. Maerte), Volta (Cdr. C.V.E. Jacquinet), Le Triomphant (Cdr. M.M.P.L. Pothuau), Le Fantasque (Capt. P.A.B. Still), and Le Terrible (Cdr. A.E.R. Bonneau).

Four more escorts joined the convoy on the 29th. These were the minesweepers HMS Jason (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Fryer, RN), HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, RN).and the patrol vessels HMS Puffin (Lt.Cdr. Hon. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) and HMS Shearwater (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN).

The convoy arrived safely in the Clyde area in the morning of 30 December 1939. (1)

12 Feb 1940
German U-boat U-33 was sunk in the Firth of Clyde, in position 55°23,4'N, 05°08,2'W, by depth charges from the British minesweeper HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, RN).

29 Aug 1940
HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, DSO, RN) picks up 20 survivors from the British merchant Astra II that was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-100 148 nautical miles north-west of Bloody Foreland in position 56°09'N, 12°14'W.

7 Feb 1941
HMS L 23 (Lt. L.F.L. Hill, RNR) departed Methil for Scapa Flow. She was escorted by HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, DSO, RN). (2)

10 Aug 1942
HMS Upright (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Collett, DSC, RN) carried out A/S exercises with HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN). (3)

13 Aug 1942
HMS Upright (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Collett, DSC, RN) carried out A/S exercises with HNoMS Eskdale (Lt.Cdr. S. Storheill), RHS Adrias, HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN). (3)

10 Aug 1943
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.A.R. Troup, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Stork (Cdr.(Retd.) G.W.E. Castens, RN), HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Alisma (Lt. G. Lanning, RANVR). (4)

13 Dec 1943
HMS Telemachus (Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Tenacious (Lt.Cdr. D.F. Townsend, RN), HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. J.C. Hibbard DSC, RCN), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN) and HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN). (5)

15 Dec 1943
HMS Telemachus (Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Regal (A/Skr.Lt. J.H.D. Dansie, RNR). (5)

4 Mar 1944
HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN) picks up 68 survivors from the British merchant Empire Tourist that was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-703 in the Norwegian Sea in position 73°25'N, 22°11'E.


  1. ADM 199/367 + ADM 199/393
  2. ADM 199/400
  3. ADM 173/17714
  4. ADM 173/17773
  5. ADM 173/18214

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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