Allied Warships

HMS Janus (F 53)

Destroyer of the J class

HMS Janus

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantF 53 
Built bySwan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. (Wallsend-on-Tyne, U.K.): Wallsend 
Ordered25 Mar 1937 
Laid down29 Sep 1937 
Launched10 Nov 1938 
Commissioned5 Aug 1939 
Lost23 Jan 1944 
Loss position41° 26'N, 12° 38'E

In April 1940 HMS Janus was involved in convoy escort duties in Norwegian waters. In May North Sea patrols were carried out against German minelayers. By July she was a member of the 14th DD Flotilla based on Alexandria. She was involved in the bombardment of Bardia. She formed part of Force C under the command of Vice Admiral Pridham Wippell. This force was involved in operations off Punta Stilo better known as the Battle of Calibria. In September Janus and two other destroyers shelled an airfield and troop concentrations at Sidi Barrani. In November she was on Malta convoy duties. December, whilst on convoy duties in the Mediterranean the destroyer HMS Hyperion was mined off Cape Bon on the 22nd of that month. The destroyer HMS Ilex attempted to tow the ill fated destroyer, but failed and the vessel had to be abandoned, Janus was tasked to sink her.

In January 1941 Janus assisted with convoy operations between Malta and Piraeus. In March Janus was involved in the battle of Cape Matapan, whilst a unit of the 14th DD Flotilla, under Captain Mack aboard HMS Jervis. On April 10th, the 14th DD Flotilla was detached for duties in the Central Mediterranean, based on Malta, where other craft were already stationed to harass the enemy shipping route to North Africa. On the 15th, whilst patrolling an area near the Kerkenah Islands, Janus and the destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk spotted an Italian convoy escorted by three Italian destroyers, within minutes the convoy escorts had been destroyed, but the Italian had been lucky to have managed to release a salvo of torpedoes, which sank the destroyer Mohawk. The convoy comprising five merchant ships was completely destroyed. Later the same month Janus with three other destroyers, put to sea from Malta on the 23rd they encountered the armed Italian motor ship Ego which they sank, the German convoy they were seeking however, managed to evade them. On May 20th, Germany launched her attack on the Island of Crete. Patrolling the western sector of the Island was a force under Rear Admiral Glennie. Janus was a member of this force which consisted of cruisers HMS Dido, HMS Ajax and HMS Orion and destroyers HMS Isis, HMS Imperial and HMS Kimberley. Before midnight on the 21st, Glennie had been warned of the approach of a German troop convoy. The enemy convoy consisted of a number of caques-motorised schooners-and small steamers, escorted by one Italian torpedo boat. Once the convoy had been intercepted the Italian escort was soon put out of action and the convoy was obliterated, it was estimated that about 4,000 German troops perished. On the 28th, Janus with HMS Jervis and HMS Hasty sailed from Alexandria to assist with the evacuation of troops from Crete, the pick up point being the little fishing village of Sphakia.

During June – July 1941 British and Gaulist troops occupied Syria against strong French resistance, two large French destroyers, Guepard and Valmy engaged and shelled Janus off Sidon. Janus received five heavy hits, which killed or wounded all on the bridge, her commanding officer miraculously escaped injury. The damage disabled the destroyer so, that she had to heave-to for repairs. In August, the damaged destroyer arrived at Simonstown, South Africa and was docked in the Selborne dry dock, where her damage was surveyed. The rudder was un-shipped, along with the forward boiler and aft torpedo tubes. In October - November she was placed into wet dock for the removal of her gun mountings. During February – March 1942 Janus was re-placed into the wet dock, where she underwent an inclination experiment.

In December 1942 Janus in company with HMS Javelin, HMS Jervis and HMS Kelvin surprised the Italian torpedo boat Lupo, which was rescuing survivors from the freighter Veloce off Kerkennah and sank it.

On 20 January 1944 Janus was involved in the landings of Anzio. On the 23rd Janus (Lt.Cdr. William Brabazon Robert Morrison, RN) was hit by a glying bomb (HS293) from a Do217 (5.Wing KG100) and sunk in about twenty minutes with heavy loss of life in position 41º26'N, 12º38'E, though more than 80 survivors were rescued by HMS Laforey, HMS Jervis and some smaller craft. The loss of this destroyer was a sad blow. She and Jervis had fired over 500 rounds of 4.7", of the first two days of Anzio, a figure typical of many destroyers which indicated the enormous amount of help given by these ships during those critical days in Italy.

The ships badge can still be seen proudly displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall.


Commands listed for HMS Janus (F 53)

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1Lt.Cdr. John Anthony William Tothill, RN14 Jun 193916 May 1940
2Capt. Philip John Mack, RN16 May 194029 May 1940
3Cdr. John Anthony William Tothill, RN29 May 1940ca. mid 41
4Lt. Shirley Elliston Jagger, RNca. mid 41???

5Lt.Cdr. John Melvill Alliston, DSC, RNAug 1942Dec 1942
6Lt.Cdr. William Frank Niemann Gregory-Smith, DSO, DSC, RNDec 1942early 1943

7Lt.Cdr. William Brabazon Robert Morrison, RN16 Jun 194323 Jan 1944 (+)

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Notable events involving Janus include:

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).

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.

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).

21 Apr 1941
Submarine HMS Truant (Lt.Cdr. H.A.V. Haggard, RN) acts as beacon for the Mediterranean Fleet during a bombardment of Tripoli. The bombardment was carried out by the battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, CBE, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. G.C. Cooke, RN), and HMS Valiant (Capt. C.E. Morgan, RN), light cruiser HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN), and destroyers HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt. W.J. Munn, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hotspur (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), and HMS Juno (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN). The Italian torpedo boat Partenope and six freighters were damaged in the bombardment. According to Italian sources the steamers Assiria (2705 GRT, built 1928) and Marocchino (1524 GRT, built 1920) sank in shallow waters, the motorboat Ciconetti sank in deep waters and the steamer Sabbia (5787 GRT, built 1926) was damaged.

Later on this day Truant attacks what is believed to be the small Italian tanker Prometeo (1080 GRT, built 1920) with 2 torpedoes off Tripoli, Libya. Both torpedoes missed their target. Italian sources cannot confirm the identity of the ship attacked.

(All times are zone -2)
In position 033° Tajura 3.5 nautical miles sighted the Italian Auxiliary Prometeo to the Southward. Closed to attack.

1410 hours - In only 50 feet of water fired 2 torpedoes from 2000 yards. The torpedoes were sighted by the enemy which altered course to avoid.

1430 hours - Surfaced and proceeded to deeper water on the main engines.

1520 hours - Dived. (1)

13 Sep 1943
HMS Uther (Lt. P.S. Beale, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Janus (Lt.Cdr. W.B.R. Morrison, RN) and USS Bell (Cdr. L.C. Peatross, USN). (2)

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

The Kellys

Langtree, Christopher

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 199/1861
  2. ADM 173/18396

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

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