Allied Warships

HMS Matabele (F 26)

Destroyer of the Tribal class

Photo from Imperial War Museum (IWM), A-6591

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantF 26 
Built byScotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Greenock, Scotland) 
Ordered19 Jun 1936 
Laid down1 Oct 1936 
Launched6 Oct 1937 
Commissioned25 Jan 1939 
Lost17 Jan 1942 
Loss position69° 21'N, 35° 27'E

Pennant numbers:
F 26 January 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 26 Autumn 1940 - January 1942.

HMS Matabele arrived at Plymouth, England on 26th January 1939 and after completing her sea trials went to Portland England to join the 2nd Tribal Destroyer Flotilla. After the outbreak of World War 2, she had to be docked in order for two new propellers to be fitted but she was made ready in time to rescue the submarine HMS Spearfish on the 26/27th September 1939.

In April 1940, Matabele joined the Home Fleet destroyer screen in the North Sea. She moved up and down the fjords of Norway ferrying soldiers ashore at Namsos and screening transports out to sea during the daytime. While operating in Norway, she ran onto the Fasken Shoal but managed to get back to her home port safely. On 17 May 1940 thr light cruiser HMS Effingham runs aground on an uncharted rock on Faksen Shoal in Vestfjord carrying troops to Bodo to help block the German advance on Narvik. She is later torpedoed and destroyed with gunfire by HMS Matabele and abandoned.

Repairs were substantial and the opportunity was taken to replace the 'X' mounting with a twin 4" AA gun. This work was completed at Falmouth, England by mid-August 1940.

In April 1941, Matabele underwent an extensive refit at Barrow-in-Furness, England. The refit was completed on the 27th May but the ship ran aground when leaving Barrow. The resulting repairs meant that she could not rejoin the Home Fleet until August 1941. Due to the German invasion of Russia, Matabele was immediately assigned to Russian convoy duty.

On 8 January 1942, HMS Matabele and HMS Somali were ordered to join the escort of convoy PQ-8. On 17 January, just off Kola Inlet, HMS Matabele (Cdr. Arthur Caerlyon Stanford, DSC, RN) was torpedoed by the German submarine U-454 and sank in two minutes in position 69º21'N, 35º27'E. Even in that short time, many had managed to abandon ship only to die from hypothermia in the icy waters.


Hit by U-boat
Sunk on 17 Jan 1942 by U-454 (Hackländer).

U-boat AttackSee our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Matabele

Commands listed for HMS Matabele (F 26)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

1Cdr. George Kelvin Whitmy-Smith, RN10 Jan 19391 May 1940
2Cdr. Robert St. Vincent Sherbrooke, RN22 May 194015 Apr 1941
3Cdr. Arthur Caerlyon Stanford, DSC, RN15 Apr 194117 Jan 1942 (+)

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Notable events involving Matabele include:

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), was detached for an operation in Norwegian territorial waters (operate against German forces in water at and around Bergen) together with the cruisers 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). 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. (1)

24 Oct 1940
HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN) HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) and HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN) sink the German weather ship WBS 5 / Adolf Vinnen (391 BRT) some 25 miles north-west of Stadlandet, Norway.

This sinking is often credited to the British submarine HMS Seawolf but this is not correct.

Media links

U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor
(£ 45.00)
(EUR 38.73)

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 53/112663 + ADM 186/798

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

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