Allied Warships

HMS Abdiel (M 39)

Minelayer of the Abdiel class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantM 39 
Built byJ.S. White & Co. (Cowes, U.K.) 
Ordered23 Dec 1938 
Laid down29 Mar 1939 
Launched23 Apr 1940 
Commissioned15 Apr 1941 
Lost10 Sep 1943 

HMS Abdiel (Capt. David Orr-Ewing, DSO, RN) was mined and sunk in Taranto harbour, Italy on 10 September 1943. The mines were laid just a few hours earlier by the German motor torpedo boats S-54 and S-61 while they escaped from the harbour. Abdiel, carrying troops of 1st airborne division (6th Royal Welsh battalion), took the berth which had been declined earlier by the Captain of USS Boise. Shortly after midnight, two ground mines detonated beneath her and the minelayer sank in three minutes with great loss of life among both sailors and soldiers. The airborne division suffered 58 dead and around 150 injured, while 48 crewmen were lost. We have received info that the ships degaussing equipment was turned off to allow troops below decks to sleep better with less noise.


Commands listed for HMS Abdiel (M 39)

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1Capt. the Hon. Edward Pleydell-Bouverie, RN15 Sep 194018 Aug 1942
2Lt.Cdr. Harry Westacott, RN18 Aug 194221 Sep 1942
3Lt. Henry Alec Eliot Cooper, RAN21 Sep 194210 Oct 1942
4Capt. David Orr-Ewing, RN10 Oct 194210 Sep 1943

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Notable events involving Abdiel include:

21 May 1941
HMS Abdiel (Capt. Hon. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, MVO, RN) laid a field of 150 mines off Akra Dhoukaton (Cape Dukato, southern tip of Levkas island, Ionian sea).
On the field were later the same day lost the Italian destroyer Carlo Mirabello (1840 tons) the Italian gunboat Pellegrino Matteucci (620 tons) and the German transports Kybfels (7764 GRT) and Marburg (7564 GRT).

27 May 1941
On the night of 26-27 May, HMS Abdiel (Capt. Hon. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, MVO, RN), escorted by the British destroyer HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr M.J. Clark, RAN), landed 800 Commandos at Suda Bay.

31 May 1941
HMS Abdiel (Capt. Hon. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, MVO, RN) sailed from Alexandria for Skakia, Greece, with the British light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN) and 3 destroyers. During the following night these ships removed 4.000 troops from Crete.

1 Dec 1942
Between December 1942 and April 1943 HMS Abdiel, in cooperation with the British mine laying submarine HMS Rorqual and Abdiels sister ship HMS Welshman laid several minefields, totalling some 2.000 mines, in the Sicilian Channel.

7 Dec 1942
HMS H 32 (Lt. C. Gordon, RN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Abdiel (Capt. D. Orr-Ewing, RN) and HMS Goathland (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Pumphrey, RN, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN). (1)

9 Jan 1943
Lays one of the fields mentioned above, athwart the Axis evacuation routes from Tunisia.
Later the same day an Italian convoy found the field and loses the destroyer Corsaro (1645 tons), while the destroyer Maestrale (1440 tons) is severely damaged.

3 Feb 1943
Another Italian convoy fouls one her minefields, this one south of Marettimo island, off the western tip of Sicily, losing the destroyer Saetta (1225 tons) and the torpedo boat Uragano (910 tons).

3 Apr 1943
Lays a minefield between the Italian fields X-2 and X-3 (whose location was known to the Allies through ULTRA intercepts and captured documents). On 7 March another convoy fouls the field, losing the Italian torpedo boat Ciclone (910 tons).


  1. ADM 173/17220

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

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