Allied Warships

HMS St. Monance (W 63)

Rescue Tug of the Saint class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeRescue Tug
PennantW 63 
Built byHongkong & Whampoa (Hongkong) 
Laid down 
Launched11 Sep 1919 
CommissionedDec 1919 
End service 


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Notable events involving St. Monance include:

20 Oct 1941
The light cruisers HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN) and HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, CBE, RAN) and the destroyers HMS Griffin (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) departed Alexandria at 0830B/20 to bombard an enemy gun battery near Tobruk during the night of 20/21 October.

The cruisers returned to Alexandria at 1330B/21. At 0610B/21 the destroyers had been detached to go to the assistance of the gunboat HMS Gnat (Lt.Cdr. S.R.H. Davenport, RN) which had been torpedoed and heavily damaged. Due to the air threat they remained near Mersa Matruh and were not allowed to proceed further to the west. HMS Griffin and HMS Jaguar were later joined by the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN).

They contacted the damaged gunboat before sunset. HMS Griffin took HMS Gnat in tow escorted by HMS Jaguar and the A/S whalers HMSAS Southern Maid and HMS Klo.

Tow was later passed to the tug HMS St. Monance.

HMS Jaguar, HMS Avon Vale and HMS Eridge arrived at Alexandria at 0030B/23.

HMS Gnat and HMS Griffin arrived at Alexandria later on 23 October. (1)

19 Dec 1941
In the evening of the 18th, the Italian submarine Scirè launched three SLC (Siluro Lenta Corsa = Slow moving torpedo also known as Maiale = pig) near Ras El Tin.

These managed to pass through the gate with ships entering harbour. The boom had been opened several times; Around 2359B/18 the boom was ordered to be closed after the sloop HMS Flamingo (Cdr. R.J.O. Otway-Ruthven, RN) and the tugs HMS Roysterer and HMS St. Monance had just entered.

At 0024B/19, the boom, which had not yet been completely closed was ordered to be opened again. It was open by 0040B/19 after which first the light cuisers HMS Naiad (Capt. M.A.H. Kelsey, DSC, RN flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN). Followed not long after by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN). The destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) had been with them but was a little behind and entered at 0120B/19 after which the boom was ordered to be closed which was completed at 0150B/19.

At 0225B/19 the boom was ordered to be opened again which was completed at 0242B/19 after which the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN) and HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN) entered and the boom was ordered to be closed at 0300B/19. It was reported shut at 0315B/19.

One of the Maiale crew mentioned in interrogation that they had been able to get in together with three big destroyers, this might therefore have been HMS Sikh, HMS Maori and HMS Legion.

All three crews of the Maiale managed to place the explosive warheads. Warheads were attacked to the main targets, the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. C.B. Barry, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, GCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. C.E. Morgan, DSO, RN) and the tanker Sagona (Norwegian, 7554 GRT, built 1929).

At 0325B/19, two Italians were picked up which were on HMS Valiant's mooring buoy. Interrogation produced no result.

At 0547B/19, an explosion occured under the stern of the Sagona causing massive damage to the tanker. The bow of the destroyer HMS Jervis who was alongside was also damaged by the explosion.

At 0606B/19, an explosion occured under the "A" turret of HMS Valiant. She was heavily flooded forward and was down by the bow.

At 0610B/19, HMS Queen Elizabeth was rocketed by an explosion underneath the boiler rooms and as a result three boiler rooms were flooded. She was unable to raise steam and the submarines HMS Triumph (Lt. J.S. Huddart, RN) and HMS Trusty (Lt.Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) were brought alongside either side to provide electricity. HMS Trusty leaves after a few hours but HMS Triumph remained alongside until 22 December.

Neither battleship could be docked immediately due to their current draught.

All six crew of the Maiale were captured by the British.

23 Dec 1941

Convoy AT 6.

This convoy departed Alexandria for Tobruk on 23 December 1941.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alisa (Palestinian, 1072 GRT, built 1901), Varvara (Greek, 1354 GRT, built 1910) and Warszawa (Polish, 2487 GRT, built 1916). The boom defence vessel HMS Burgonet was also part of this convoy.

Escort was provided by escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and the corvette HMS Peony (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) M.B. Sherwood, DSO and Bar, RN).

Cover for this convoy was provided by the destroyers HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN).

Varvara reported her engine room flooding during the night of 23/24 December and was escorted back to Alexandria by the destroyer HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN). The tug HMS St. Monance came also out from Alexandria to assist.

At 1429/26, the Warszawa was torpedoed by the German submarine U-559 in position 32°11’N, 24°44’E. The ship remained afloat and was first thought to have hit a mine. She was taken in tow by HMS Peony with HMS Avon Vale escorting. The bulk of the passengers and crew meanwhile had been taken off by HMS Burgonet as well as HMS Peony and HMS Avon Vale.

At 1930 hours (2015 hours in British sources) the ship was hit by another torpedo from U-559 which had remained in the area undected. She sank in about 10 minutes in position 32°10’N, 24°32’E. HMS Peony quickly cut the towline and picked up the skeleton crew that had remained on board. In all 23 passengers and crew lost their lives on board Warszawa.

All survivors were landed at Tobruk in the early morning hours of the 27th. (2)


  1. ADM 53/115215 + ADM 199/415
  2. ADM 199/415

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

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