Allied Warships

HMS Dainty (H 53)

Destroyer of the D class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantH 53 
Built byFairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland) 
Ordered2 Feb 1931 
Laid down20 Apr 1931 
Launched3 May 1932 
Commissioned3 Jan 1933 
Lost24 Feb 1941 

In the late afternoon of 24 February 1941 HMS Dainty (Cdr. Mervyn Somerset Thomas, DSO, RN), belonging to the 10th destroyer Flotilla, allocated to the Inshore Squadron, sailed from Tobruk for a patrol, together with HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN). Suddenly, in the twilight, Dainty was attacked by a low-flying He.111 of II/KG.26 from Comiso (Sicily). Five He.111 had taken off singly from 1533 hours, but 2 had been forced to return, while the other three attacked , between 1855-1930 hours, Dainty and some other targets in Tobruk harbor. The destroyer, targeted by the plane flying at 100 m altitude, was hit by a 250-kg bomb which detonated in the Captain's cabin. A serious fire broke out immediately and spread rapidly, causing the ammunition of the stern gun to explode (-sounds like a probable magazine explosion to me-BV). Commander Thomas gave the abandon ship right away. While abandonment was in progress, torpedo warheads began detonating and scattering fragment all around, sinking the motorboat which Hasty had lowered to collect men in the water. Hasty herself, with skillful handling came alongside Dainty and rescued the vast majority of the survivors before Dainty sank. The death toll amounted to 33. Rescue operations also involved the goelette Maria Giovanna, a former Italian sailing vessel which had been captured by Dainty on new years day 1941 east of Tobruk.

This page was updated on 7 November 2006, we would like to thank Mr. Francesco Mattesini from Italy for the detailed information provided.


Commands listed for HMS Dainty (H 53)

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1Cdr. Frank Michael Walton, RN10 Feb 19386 Feb 1940
2Cdr. Mervyn Somerset Thomas, RN6 Feb 194024 Feb 1941

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Notable events involving Dainty include:

31 Dec 1939
HMS Oswald (Lt.Cdr. G.M. Sladen, RN) conducted exercises off Malta together with HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN). (1)

27 Jun 1940
The Italian submarine Console Generale Liuzzi was scuttled south-east of Crete in position 33°36'N, 27°27'E after being depth charged by the British destroyers HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Voyager (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Morrow, RAN).

29 Jun 1940
On 29 June 1940 around 0615 hours the Italian submarine Uebi Scebeli was sunk in the central Mediterranean in position 35°16'N, 20°20'E by the British destroyers HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Voyager (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Morrow, RAN). The Italian submarines Capitano Tarantini (offsite link) and Salpa were also hunted but escaped.

It is also possible that the submarine sunk might have been the Italian Argonauta.

8 Oct 1940
Operation MB-6;

A British convoy with the merchants
Memnon (7506 GRT),
Lanarkshire (11275 GRT),
Clan Macauley (10492 GRT) and
Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT)
left Alexandria for Malta on 8 October 1940. This convoy was escorted by the British Anti-Aircraft cruisers
HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN),
HMS Coventry (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN)
and the Australian destroyers
HMS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, DSO, RAN),
HMS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, DSO, RAN),
HMS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN)
and the British destroyer
HMS Wryneck (Cdr. R.H.D. Lane, RN).

Cover was provided by the Mediterranean Fleet (Admiral Cunningham) with the British battleships
HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, CBE, RN),
HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN),
HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN),
HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN),
the British aircraft carriers
HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN),
HMS Eagle (Capt. A.R.M. Bridge, RN),
the British heavy cruiser
HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN),
the British light cruisers
HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN),
HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN),
HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D. McCarthy, RN),
HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN),
the Australian light cruiser
HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, CB, RAN)
escorted by the British destroyers
HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN),
HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC, RN),
HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN),
HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN),
HMS Hasty, (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN),
HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN),
HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN),
HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN),
HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN),
HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN),
HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN),
HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN),
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN),
HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN)
and the Australian destroyers
HMAS Vampire (Cdr. J.A. Walsh, RAN) and
HMAS Vendetta (Cdr. R. Rhoades RAN).

The convoy was not spotted and arrived safe at Malta on 11 October. The only damage sustained was to the destroyer HMS Imperial that was mined off Malta and was out of action for over 6 months.

While on the return trip the Mediterranean Fleet was sighted by an Italian aircraft. The Italian Navy tried to intercept them in the Ionian Sea. In the night of 11/12 October the first Italian torpedo boat flotilla with Airone, Alcione and Ariel attacked HMS Ajax. The attack failed and Ajax sank Airone and Ariel, Alcione escaped. A little while later the Italian 11th destroyer flotilla, with Artigliere, Aviere, Camicia Nera and Geniere arrived at the scene. They were surprised by the radar-directed gunfire from HMS Ajax. Artigliere was heavily damaged and Aviere was slightly damaged. Camicia Nere tried to tow Artigliere away but she was sighted by a British Sunderland aircraft that homed in 3 Swordfish aircraft from HMS Illustrious. However, the torpedoed they fired didn't hit the Italian ships. Later the British heavy cruiser HMS York arrived at the scene. Camicia Nera quickly slipped the towing line and sped off. After her crew had left the ship Artiglire was sunk by York.

While the Mediterranean Fleet was still on the return trip aircraft from HMS Illustrious and HMS Eagle attacked Leros and in the evening of the 14th the British light cruiser HMS Liverpool while south-east of Crete was hit in the bow by a torpedo from an Italian aircraft. The cruiser was heavily damaged and was repaired at the Mare Island Navy Yard in the USA. HMS Liverpool was not operational again until January 1942.

8 Dec 1940
HMS Regent (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Browne, RN) departed Alexandria for her 7th war patrol (4th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

On departure exercises were carried out with HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, DSO, RN) and HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN). (2)

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 173/15864
  2. ADM 199/1833

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

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