Allied Warships

HMS Mohawk (F 31)

Destroyer of the Tribal class

HMS Mohawk as completed

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantF 31 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.) 
Ordered10 Mar 1936 
Laid down16 Jul 1936 
Launched5 Oct 1937 
Commissioned7 Sep 1938 
Lost16 Apr 1941 
Loss position34° 56'N, 11° 42'E

Pennant numbers
L 31 July 1938 - December 1938
F 31 January 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 31 Autumn 1940 - April 1941.

Industrial difficulties delayed the completion of HMS Mohawk. Builder's trials were carried out but she was not ready for her crew until September 1938. After workups were completed, the destroyer sailed for Malta arriving there on 13th October. In February 1939, she arrived in Gibraltar for exercises and later, was assigned individual patrols and cruises. For most of the next few months, Mohawk stayed with Afridi's division cruising among the Greek Islands and visiting Athens, Greece. In August, Mohawk spent several weeks drydocked in Malta, then returned to the eastern Mediterranean to concentrate on contraband control duties.

Early in 1940, Mohawk was engaged in a number of convoy escorts and fleet sweeps in the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. On 3 March, she helped escort the brand new liner Queen Elizabeth out of the Clyde River and remained with her until the first stage of the voyage to New York City was complete. Mohawk almost missed this great opportunity as a result of a collision with the steamship Gartbrattan. Mohawk carried out her assignment in a slightly damaged state then set sail for repairs at Troon.

The British Admiralty, anticipating Italian aggression in the Mediterranean, decided to move destroyers there to help screen the big ships. HMS Mohawk and HMS Nubian, as part of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla (14th D.F.), were among the first vessels selected to escort capital ships in this area. At 1645hours on 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on the United Kingdom starting at 0001hours. By 0100hours, the Mediterranean Fleet was at sea and approached to within 120 miles of the Italian coast, then returned to Alexandria, Egypt on the 14th of June.

On the 8th of July, the British and Italian Fleets clashed in the Battle of Calabria, In the ensuing conflict, the Italian navy made smoke and their ships raced for cover. HMS Mohawk and HMS Nubian were instructed to open fire if any of the enemy ships darted out of the smoke in order to fire torpedoes on British ships. For the next month, the 14th D.F. was involved in a series of sweeps and patrols in the Eastern Mediterranean hunting for U-boats and surface ships. Sometimes they were attacked but action was scarce.

On 27 August 1940, Mohawk and the other ships of the 14th D.F. left Alexandria for a fast passage to Gibraltar in order to team up with other ships already there. This large force provided escort coverage for the next convoy to Malta. From 19th to 27th October, there was a brief quiet time for the ship and minor repairs were carried out at Alexandria. This lull ended on the 28th when Italy attacked Greece. Immediately, the fleet sailed sweeping right into the Ionian Sea but no Italian forces were encountered. By 6th November, the Mediterranean Fleet had left Alexandria to provide cover for convoys crossing to and from Malta. On 11th November, Mohawk and other capital British ships detached from the Commander-in-Chief and headed for the Straits of Oranto with the objective of enhearting the Greeks and dealing the enemy a blow in his own waters. After a short skirmish with the Italian navy, the Fleet returned to Alexandria on 14th November.

At 0500hours on 7 January 1941, the battlefleet once again sailed from Alexandria to cover a complicated movement of convoys to and from Greece and Malta including the Excess convoy which passed right through the middle of the Mediterranean. Again, there were German air attacks and engagements with Italian destroyers and torpedo boats. Luckily, the Fleet returned to Alexandria somewhat damaged but without having lost a single merchant ship to the enemy. Mohawk's luck changed very suddenly.

On 10/11 April, she and HMS Jervis, HMS Janus and HMS Nubian arrived at Malta to act as a night striking force. After two night patrols nothing was sighted, however, on 15th April, Allied reconnaissance located a Tripoli bound convoy off Cape Bon. The 14th D.F. left Malta in search of the enemy and made contact just off the coast of Africa. A fierce battle developed with the Italian navy. Smoke, explosions, shell splashes, burning ships and torpedoes confused the night sea. During the action, Mohawk evaded a bow ramming from the lead German merchantman in the convoy. Just as the destroyer opened fire, a torpedo from the Italian destroyer Tarigo hit her just abreast of 'Y' mounting on the starboard side. The whole of the stern from the superstructure aft was blown away and Mohawk was awash as far as ''X mounting. The crew of 'Y' gun and the supply party were all killed. 'A' and 'B' guns continued firing on the merchantman and set her on fire. During this time, Mohawk had been motionless in the water. Just as the destroyer made an attempt to get under way, a second torpedo arrived hitting portside between No.2 and No.3 Boiler Rooms. The No.3 boiler burst, scalding people on deck. The centerline of the upperdeck split open allowing the torpedo tubes to fall into the engine room and crushed the watch below. Immediately HMS Mohawk (Cdr. John William Musgrave Eaton, RN) started to sink. All remaining hands were called to deck. Within a minute, she was listing heavy to port, rolling over until she lay on her side. There was no time to launch lifeboats but six 'Carleys' managed to float clear. Most of the crew were left in the water as Mohawk sank. Her stern touched the bottom with her fo'c'sle above the surface. Survivors were picked up by HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) while HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN) was ordered to sink the dying destroyer by firing 4.7" shells into her fo'c'sle. Mohawk slipped beneath the surface in position 34º56'N, 11º42'E and 41 men were lost with her.


Commands listed for HMS Mohawk (F 31)

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1Cdr. Richard Frank Jolly, RN12 Jul 193816 Oct 1939 (+)
2Lt. Denis Guy Douglas Hall-Wright, RN16 Oct 193919 Oct 1939
3Cdr. John William Musgrave Eaton, RN19 Oct 193916 Apr 1941

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Notable events involving Mohawk include:

16 Oct 1939
While providing escort for a North Sea convoy on 16th October 1939, HMS Mohawk (Cdr R.F. Jolly, RN) was attacked by a German Ju-88 aircraft. Before the aircraft was destroyed, it released two bombs which fell to starboard (abreast of the bridge) and to port (abreast of the torpedo tubes). The bombs exploded on the surface of the sea well before most men had time to reach their action stations. Machine gun bullets and jagged metal splinters decimated the mooring party on the fo'c'sle, slashed through the bridge, the wheelhouse, the director and the communications system. The personnel manning the machine guns, the search light position and after control position were mowed down by the projectiles. Fifteen men were killed and thirty injured, mostly experienced officers. On the bridge, Cdr R.F. Jolly, RN suffered a mortal stomach wound. While denying the comfort of medical attention, and in great pain and suffering, he commanded his ship for 35 miles until she was safely in port. After being taken to hospital at South Queensferry, Scotland, he died several hours later. For his gallantry, the Captain was awarded the George Cross posthumously. The ship was patched up at Rosyth then made her way to the Hawthorn Leslie Yard on the Tyne river for permanent repairs and a refit.

21 Dec 1939
HMS Triad (Lt.Cdr. R.McC.P. Jonas, RN) joins convoy HN-5 from Norway to Methil. Escort was provided by HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Creswell, DSC, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) and HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN). HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) later joined at sea.

2 Feb 1940
HMS Triton (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Pizey, RN) conducts exercises with HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN). (1)

3 Feb 1940
HMS Triton (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Pizey, RN) conducts exercises with HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN). (1)

6 Feb 1940
HMS Triton (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Pizey, RN) conducts exercises with HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN) and HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN). (1)

7 Feb 1940
HMS Triton (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Pizey, RN) conducts exercises with HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN) and HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN). (1)

9 Apr 1940
At 0700 hours (zone -1), HMS Manchester (Capt. H.H. Bousfield, RN) and HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) both joined the C-in-C in the Home Fleet.

At 1140 hours, HMS Manchester (Capt. H.H. Bousfield, RN), HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) and HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) were detached for an operation in Norwegian territorial waters (operate against German forces in water at and around Bergen). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. A.W. Buzzard, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) and HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN).

Soon after 1400 hours however a signal was received cancelling the operation and the ships set course to re-join the fleet.

In the afternoon the German Luftwaffe however started to attack the ships and near missed lightly damaged HMS Southampton and HMS Glasgow. HMS Gurkha was however sunk. Survivors were picked up by HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN) who was also on her way to join the Home Fleet at sea.

Later on the 9th most of the ships involved in the intended opertion against Bergen were ordered to proceed to Scapa Flow or Sullom Voe for refuelling. (2)

17 Aug 1940
In the early morning the British battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, CBE, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN), HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN) the British heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN) escorted by the British destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hostile (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN) and the Australian destroyers HMAS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, RAN), HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN) and HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN) carried out a bombardment of Italian positions around the fortress of Bardia.

17 Sep 1940
British raid on Benghazi;
Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN) attacked Italian ships in Benghazi harbour. Also mines were laid off the harbour. The destroyer Borea was sunk by torpedo, The destroyer Aquilone was mined and sunk. The merchants Gloria Stella (5490 GRT) and Maria Eugenia (4702 GRT) were also sunk during the attack.

Illustrious was escorted by the British battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) the British heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN), the British light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN) HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN), HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN).

After the attack HMS Kent, escorted by HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk, was detached to bombard Italian positions at Bardia early on the 18th. However before this could materialise HMS Kent was torpedoed and heavily damaged by Italian torpedo bombers just before midnight. Kent was hit in the stern and badly damaged. Kent was towed to Alexandria by HMS Nubian, escorted by light cruiser HMS Orion, AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and destroyers HMS Mohawk, HMS Jervis, HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN).

6 Dec 1940
HMS Regent (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Browne, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria together with HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN).

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 173/16643
  2. ADM 53/112663 + ADM 186/798

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

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