Allied Warships

HMS Sikh (F 82)

Destroyer of the Tribal class

HMS Sikh as completed

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantF 82 
Built byA. Stephen & Sons Ltd. (Glasgow, Scotland) 
Ordered19 Jun 1936 
Laid down24 Sep 1936 
Launched17 Dec 1937 
Commissioned12 Oct 1938 
Lost14 Sep 1942 
Loss position32° 05'N, 24° 00'E

Pennant numbers:
L 82 August 1938 - December 1938
F 82 January 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 82 Autumn 1940 - September 1942.

HMS Sikh started her naval life with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla (1st D.F.). Her builders trials commenced in August 1938 and after being fitted with a gyro-compass and other equipment at Chatham, England she was completed on 2 November 1938 even though she had been commissioned a month earlier. After bringing King Carol and Crown Prince Michael of Romania from Boulogne, France to Dover England, Sikh returned to Portsmouth while the royal party went on a state visit to Buckingham Palace. The Tribal returned the East European royals to Boulogne on 18th November. After more workups, Sikh sailed for the Mediterranean, arriving at Malta on 2 December.

In February 1939, HMS Afridi led Sikh and the rest of the flotilla to Gibraltar for exercises followed by individual cruises. On 21 March 1939, Sikh sailed to Cartagena, Spain to embark refugees from the Spanish Civil War.

HMS Sikh, HMS Gurkha, HMS Afridi and HMS Mohawk were patrolling in the Red Sea when war broke out. The ships quickly returned back to the Mediterranean for convoy escort duty and blockades. After a short operational period, Sikh was ordered back to home waters but a broken turbine interrupted her departure from Malta. Eventually, the Tribal made it home by 26 December 1939 and after a quick refit, she joined the 4th D.F. in 1940.

Anti-submarine patrols, fleet sweeps and convoy escorts occupied SIKH for the next few months. By April, the Tribal found herself involved with the Norwegian campaign. At Nasmos Norway, Sikh and her sister Tribals were attacked from the air almost continuously and usually at meal times. As soon as she returned to Scapa Flow, Scotland, Sikh was detailed for the evacuation of Allied trops from Central Norway at the beginning of May. She then accompanied the 6th D.F. when they embarked troops in the Andalsnes area of Norway. More turbine trouble developed, so it was off to Alexander Stephen's Yard at Govan for repairs and refit.

Routine screening, North Sea patrols and anti-invasion exercises followed and continued through the autumn and winter months. Sikh escorted convoys in the Western Approaches and protected the capital ships of the Home Fleet in northern waters. It was mostly monotonous work in filthy weather but there were some notable incidents. Sikh escorted one East Coast convoy from the Forth River to the Thames River during the Battle of Britain and without any air or sea attacks. The night of 16/17th October was also eventful when Sikh narrowly avoided following HMS Fame and HMS Ashanti onto the beach at Whitburn, England.

On 21 May 1941, HMS Sikh, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori and HMS Zulu left the Clyde River to escort another troop convoy through the Western Approaches. Enroute, these ships were detached to screen Home Fleet capital ships which were attacking the German battleship Bismarck. The 4th D.F. witnessed the destruction of Bismarck at dawn on 27 May 1941.

After undergoing two more refits, Sikh helped to escort HMS Nelson back to the U.K. The battleship had been temporarily repaired following a torpedo hit during a Malta convoy. Sikh rejoined Force H at Gibraltar taking part in various sweeps and exercises. Ordered to reinforce the 14th D.F., HMS Sikh, HMS Maori, HMS Legion, and HrMs Isaac Sweers proceeded eastward and off Cape Bon, Tunisia they sank the Italian cruisers Alberico di Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano. After calling at Malta, HMS Sikh and HMS Maori took part in the First Battle of Sirte, then arrived at Alexandria, Egypt on 18/19th December. It was then decided that HMS Sikh and HMS Maori should return to Malta, to join HMS Zulu and form the 22nd D.F. This would act as a strike force against Axis supply convoys between Italy and North Africa.

On 12/13th September, HMS Sikh (Capt. St John Aldrich Micklethwait, DSO and 2 Bars, RN) and HMS Zulu were supporting an assault off the coast of Africa. While picking up troops in boats at 0505hours, a searchlight on shore suddenly lit up HMS Sikh. Quickly, HMS Zulu moved away, then came in bow first into the searchlight. Shore batteries opened fire. One 88mm shell exploded in Sikh's Gear Room, damaging the lubrication feed system and the steering gear. A second hit forward, blew up the ready-use ammunition locker for 'A' gun and started a fierce fire that killed, burned, or disabled all of the Royal Marines who had just been picked up. It also trapped more Royal Marines who had been waiting in the messdecks. Emergency damage control and first aid parties rescued the wounded, flooded 'A' and 'B' magazines, and dealt with the blaze. Sikh was steaming in circles at 10 knots and getting slower. A third shell struck her range finder director and from then on, all her guns had to fire under local control. As Sikh came to a stop, Captain Micklethwait, Sikh's Commanding Officer, ordered all Royal Navy Forces to leave the area while HMS Zulu towed Sikh away from danger. While under tow, a forth shell hit the unlucky destroyer setting off the charges around Sikh's 'Y' mounting. This started another bad fire aft while a fifth shell struck 'B' mounting killing the gun crew. Others took up their places and the guns continued firing. During the shelling, the towline broke and Zulu made attempts to get a heaving line to Sikh. Captain Micklethwait, went forward to supervise the towing preparations on the fo'c'sle when a sixth shell smashed the bridge. It was now broad daylight and the two ships were getting underway when another 88mm shell hit the towline and severed it. There was no hope of saving Sikh. HMS Zulu laid a smokescreen around Sikh and tried to come in to take Sikh's crew. It was too dangerous. HMS Zulu was ordered away. Shells continued to hit Sikh but her 'X' gun kept firing until the ammunition in the ready use locker was exhausted. Captain Micklethwait fired the scuttling charges which flooded the engine and boiler rooms. He made a final tour of his ship and left. Sikh took a long time to die, heeling over to starboard as she sank in position 32º05'N, 24º00'E while shells continued to hit. All the survivors were taken as prisoner of war.


Commands listed for HMS Sikh (F 82)

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1Cdr. John Agnew Giffard, RN5 Sep 193825 Oct 1940
2Cdr. Graham Henry Stokes, RN25 Oct 19403 Feb 1942
3Lt. David Edmund Cole-Hamilton, DSC, RN3 Feb 194221 Feb 1942
4Capt. St. John Aldrich Micklethwait, DSO, RN21 Feb 194214 Sep 1942

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Notable events involving Sikh include:

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)

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. (2)

25 May 1941
The 4th Destroyer Flotilla comprising the British destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, DSO, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) and the Polish destroyer Piorun (Cdr. E. Plawski, Polish Navy) was escorting convoy WS-8B when they received an order to leave the convoy and take part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. (3)

23 Jun 1941
HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) picks up 21 survivors from the Swedish merchant Calabria, which had been torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-141 off Inishtrahull Lightship.

13 Dec 1941
The Italian light cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano were torpedoed and sunk off Cape Bon by the Royal Navy destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNethN) on a supply mission to Tripoli.

4 Aug 1942
German U-boat U-372 was sunk in the Mediterranean south-west of Haifa, in position 32°28'N, 34°37'E, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN) and the British escort destroyers HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN) and HMS Tetcott (Lt. R.H. Rycroft, RN) and by depth charges from a British Wellington aircraft (221 Sqdn.).

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
  3. Personal communication

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

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