Allied Warships

HMS Esk (H 15)

Destroyer of the E class


HMS Esk prewar

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassE 
PennantH 15 
Built bySwan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. (Wallsend-on-Tyne, U.K.): Wallsend 
Ordered1 Nov 1932 
Laid down23 Mar 1933 
Launched19 Mar 1934 
Commissioned26 Sep 1934 
Lost31 Aug 1940 
Loss position53° 30'N, 3° 47'E
History

On 31 August 1940 HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. Richard John Hullis Couch, DSC, RN) was mined and sunk about 40 nautical miles north-west of Texel island, the Netherlands in position 53º30'N, 03º47'E. For more information see events listed below on this page.  

Commands listed for HMS Esk (H 15)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt. Richard John Hollis Couch, RN14 Feb 19381 Sep 1940 (+)

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Notable events involving Esk include:


22 Sep 1939
To conduct an operation against German shipping off the Norwegian coast the light cruiser HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN) and the destroyers HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN) and HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) departed Scapa Flow as well as the light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN) departed Rosyth.

To provide cover for this operation two forces were deployed from Scapa Flow. One force was made up of the battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN).

The other force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN). Later the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN) and HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, RN) joined at sea.

The raid was abandoned when HMS Javelin and HMS Jersey collided in position 57°09'N, 03°08'W at 2038/22.

All forces returned to their port of departure on 23 September but not before HMS Hood reported an explosion at 1330/23. The destroyers HMS Firedrake and HMS Fortune were detached to investigate but no contact was obtained. In fact this was indeed an attack by a German submarine; U-24 which reported to have made a failed torpedo attack at 1328/23 on HMS Hood and two escorting destroyers.

13 Mar 1940
On or around 13 March 1940 German U-boat U-44 hit a mine in the barrage Field No. 7 laid by the British destroyers HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, DSC, RN) HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN), HMS Icarus (Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) on 3 March 1940.

6 Apr 1940
On 6 April 1940 German U-boat U-1 hit a mine in the barrage Field No. 7 laid by the British destroyers HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, DSC, RN) HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN), HMS Icarus (Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) on 3 March 1940.

9 May 1940
The mine laying destroyers HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, DSC, RN), HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN) and HMS Intrepid (Cdr. R.G. Gordon, RN) lay 180 mines in known German swept channels in operation XMG.

2 Aug 1940
On or around 2 August 1940 German U-boat U-25 hit a mine in the barrage Field No. 7 laid by the British destroyers HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, DSC, RN) HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN), HMS Icarus (Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) on 3 March 1940.

31 Aug 1940
On 31 August 1940, a group of destroyers sailed from Immingham on a mine laying mission to the north of the Dutch island of Vlieland.

The minelaying destroyers were from the 20th Destroyer Flotilla, these were; HMS Express (Capt. J.G. Bickford, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, RN) and HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN). The minelayers were escorted by three destroyers of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, these were; HMS Jupiter (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN, with Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN = Capt.(D.5) on board), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN) and HMS Vortigern (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Howlett, RN).

At 2250/31, aerial reconnaissance reported a large number of German ships to the north of the Dutch island of Terschelling proceeding westwards. The destroyers of the 20th Destroyer Flotilla were ordered to jettison their mines and intercept, believing wrongly that the German ships were part of an invasion force.

At 2307/31, HMS Express struck a mine in position 53°25'N, 03°48'E. She was badly damaged but did not sink. HMS Esk went to her assistance and hit mine at 2325/31, she sank immediately. HMS Ivanhoe also went to her assistance and hit a mine at 0051/1. She was badly damaged, but she was able to proceed for a while.

HMS Jupiter, HMS Kelvin and HMS Vortiger were behind the minelaying destroyers providing cover for the operation. HMS Jupiter and HMS Kelvin went to the aid of the damaged destroyers while HMS Vortigern remained behind to mark the gap in the minefield for their return.

The escort destroyers, HMS Garth (Lt.Cdr. E.H. Dyke, RN) and HMS Hambledon (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN), which were on patrol off the coast near Harwich were also ordered to assist.

The minesweepers HMS Leda (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC, RN) and HMS Saltash (Lt.Cdr. T.R. Fowke, RN), motor torpedo boats HMS MTB 14, HMS MTB 15, HMS MTB 16, HMS MTB 17, HMS MTB 29, HMS MTB 30, HMS MTB 31 and the tugs HMS St. Cyrus, Irishman, Norman, Wheeldon were also ordered to go the assistance of the crippled ships.

Around 0800/1, most of the crew of HMS Ivanhoe abandoned ship and boarded MTB 14, MTB 16, MTB 17. Thirty of the crew remained onboard trying to save the ship.

At 0941/1, HMS Express was taken in tow by HMS Kelvin, but when the towing line fouled HMS Kelvin'spropeller the tow was taken over by HMS Jupiter until it was passed over to the tug HMS St. Cyrus. Close cover for the towing group was provided by HMS Vortigern and HMS Hambledon. HMS Jupiter and HMS Kelvin formed a strike group in case German warships would arrive on the scene. HMS Express was towed to Hull where she arrived on 2 September 1940 and was out of action for around a year.

At 1415/1, the remaining crew of HMS Ivanhoe had to board MTB 15 as HMS Ivanhoe was rapidly sinking.

Later that afternoon a British aircraft reported that HMS Ivanhoe was still afloat. HMS Kelvin, HMS Garth and MTB 30 were ordered to search for her. At 1619/1, HMS Garth spotted HMS Ivanhoe while it was being attacked by a German aircraft. HMS Kelvin also arrived on the scene and she sank the wreck of HMS Ivanhoe at 1700/1 with a torpedo.

Meanwhile the light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN) and HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN) had departed the Humber to make rendez-vous with HMS Jupiter, HMS Kelvin and HMS Vortigern after the minelaying mission. As the minelaying mission was cancelled they returned to Immingham and while doing so HMS Galatea struck a mine off the Cleaner Shoal Buoy near the Humber light vessel. Damage was hoever only minor.

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


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