5th of the name – LO3

The Chronology of HMS COSSACK (L03)

The fifth of the name

Battle Honours

Baltic 1855

Witu 1890

Dover Patrol 1914-1919

Narvik 1940

Norway 1940

Atlantic 1940-1941

Bismarck Action 1941

Malta Convoys 1941

Pennant Numbers

L03 May 1938 – December 1938

F03 January 1939 – 5 May 1940

G03 5 May 1940 – October 1941

Ships colours – claret and light blue

[as known at February 2018]


10 March 1936           Ordered from Vickers Armstrong to be built at High Walker yard on the Tyne


The above map is approximately 12 miles in

14 March 1936           Contract date

Tribal Class Destroyer of 1870 tons displacement.

Two steam turbine SR geared engines driving two screws.  SHP 45150. Speed 36 ½ knots (41 ½ mph). Range 5700nm at 15 knots Engines built by shipbuilder.

Length 377.5 Beam 36.5  DWT 1944  Length 335 feet 6 inches. Breadth 36 feet 6 inches. Depth 21 feet 6 inches.

Complement: 190 – 220

Armament: 8 x 4.7 in QF MkXII in twin mountings

4x 2pdr pom-pom in a quadruple mounting

4 x 21in torpedo tubes

2 x depth chutes

9 June 1936                 Keel laid down at Vickers-Armstrong, High Walker Yard, (Yard No 7) The Tyne. Contract delivery due 14 March 1938. Trails due 5 April 1938


8 June 1937                 Launched by Mrs S.V. Goodhall

 (Extract from The Newcastle Journal   – Wednesday 9 June 1937)

Dual Launch at Walker Naval Yard

Big Advance in Destroyer Design

Civic Party at Ceremony

Within ten minutes two of the largest destroyers in the British Navy were launched and turned in the river from Messrs. Vickers-Armstrong’s Naval Yard, Walker, yesterday.

The two trim vessels, alike as two peas, took the water beautifully, one HMS Afridi and the other HMS Cossack.

The launching ceremony of the Afridi was performed by Lady Foster, who was accompanied by General Sir Richard F.G. Foster.  The Cossack was launched by Mrs. Goodall, who was accompanied by Mr S. V. Goodall, Director of Naval Construction for the Admiralty

The vessels are of the “Tribal” class type destroyers, the machinery being supplied by the Barrow works of the builders.

The Guests

The dual ceremony was witnessed by a large number of guests, those accepting invitations to be present being:

Admiralty –

 Mr A.P. Cole – constructor in charge

Mr F.J. Martin – Principal (ship) overseer

Mr C.J. Butt – Warship production superintendent

Also the active naval officers on the River Tyne

Newcastle Corporation –

The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress  (Alderman and Mrs J.Grantham) Born 1877 Blyth, educated Blyth Boarding school, married 1901 cinema proprietor, councillor for Fenham ward 1912, Alderman 1932, JP 1927.

The Sheriff (Councillor A.D. Russell and Mrs Russell) Lord Mayor 1939, son of William Russell and Alice Dawson, born Newcastle 1891, educated North View Science and Art school, married 1918, auctioneer, valuer and assesor, Councillor St Johns 1925, Sheriff 1936

The Town Clerk (Sir Arthur Maule Oliver and Lady Oliver) 1871-1927, son of William Atkinson Oliver, became town clerk 1907, married 1905, died while on holiday in Bamburgh 1937.

Vickers – Armstrongs Ltd –

Commander Sir Charles W. Craven and Lady Craven

Mr J. Callender – Director and General Manager

Commander E.R. Micklem – Director and General Manager of Elswick Works

Mr  J. Hendin – Manager of Naval Yard

Mr J.S. Redshaw – Naval Architect

Each vessel is 355ft in length with a 36ft beam and a displacement of 1870 tones. The engines, of 44000 h.p., are designed to attain 36 knots.  The new destroyers carry eight 4.5-inch guns in place of the usual four, and also anti aircraft guns. The cost of Tribal destroyers is understood to be about £480,000, a big increase on previous destroyers.

28 December 1937      Captain Daniel De Pass appointed as Commanding Officer

Before acceptance from the builders the ship sailed down the Tyne to the North Sea where the ship builders transferred to a tug. De Pass then ordered ‘Full Steam Ahead’ As the engines had not been run in serious damage was caused to the engines and L03 had to return for repairs.


Pennant number L03 until end of December 1938

7 June 1938                 Completed

10 June 1938               1700 Accepted ship from Messrs Vickers-Armstrong- Departed Newcastle on Tyne for Portsmouth. Course S E 275 – 12 knots.

12 June 1938               Portsmouth (Dented the bow coming alongside the jetty)

14 June 1938               Commissioned at Portsmouth at 0920

17 June 1938               German Naval Attaché visited the ship from 1033 to 1130

24 June 1938               1420 Colours at half- mast until 1530

27 June 1938               0840 Slipped for Spithead

                                    1730 Alongside Pitch House Jetty

4 July 1938                 Departed Portsmouth

5 July 1938                 Arrived Portland

8 July 1938                 Departed Portland

11 July 1938               Arrived Gibraltar

13 July 1938               Departed Gibraltar

Won the Arbuthnot Trophy for destroyer and submarine marathon in Malta (Date unknown)

15 July 1938               Mediterranean, Arrived Malta (The Cairo Bar! Sliema Malta) from Portsmouth/Gibraltar at 0630 with Captain De Pass and 225 ship’s company.

25 July 1938               Departed 1340 (Malta Custom Log entry 1768. The log also shows a further departure of 16 August 1938 against the same entry)

29 July 1938               Departed Malta (‘Dusty’ Rhodes L03))

30 July 1938               Opened to visitors from Gozo (The Tribals). Sailed for Turkish waters with WARSPITE, ZULU, MAORI and NUBIAN (A Sailors Odyssey – Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT,GCB, OM, DSO)

31 July 1938               Departed Gozo

1 August 1938             Arrived Malta

1 August 1938             Steamed through the Dardanelles and anchored in the Bosphorus

6 August 1938             Departed the Bosphorus with WARSPITE, ZULU, MAORI and NUBIAN (A Sailors Odyssey – Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT,GCB, OM, DSO)

Exercised on way to Cyprus (A Sailors Odyssey – Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT,GCB, OM, DSO)

15 August 1938           Alexandria? (A Sailors Odyssey – Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT,GCB, OM, DSO)

16 August 1938           Departed Malta (Malta Customs Log entry 1768 and Dusty Rhodes (L03).

18 August 1938           Arrive Palma

20 August 1938           Depart Palma

21 August 1938           Arrive and depart Gandia

22 August 1938           Arrive Marseilles

25 August 1938           Depart Marseilles

26 August 1938           Arrive Caldetas

27 August 1938           Depart Caldetas

28 August 1938           Arrive Palma

1 September 1938       Depart Palma

3 September 1938.      Arrived at Malta from Palma with Captain De Pass and 225 ship’s company.  Departed 1200 16 September 1939. (Malta Customs Log entry 2264)

19 September 1938     Arrived Istanbul accompanied by AFRIDI.  Detachment of seamen marched through the town with fixed bayonets and paraded at the local football ground.

22 September 1938     Departed Istanbul

23 September 1938     Arrived at Alexandria

25 September 1938     Departed Alexandria

26 October 1938         Arrived at Cyprus

2 November 1938        Departed Cyprus

3 November 1938        Arrived at Alexandria

5 November 1938        Departed Alexandria

9 November 1938.       Arrived at Malta from Alexander at 1040 with Captain De Pass and 215 ship’s company. Departed 1040 10 January 1939. Ships in company – AFRIDI, ARETHUSA, BARHAM, DEVONSHIRE, GALATEA, GALLANT, GARLAND, GIPSY, GLORIOUS, GLOWORM, GRAFTON, GRENVILLE, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, HOOD, MALAYA, PENELOPE, WARSPITE.  (Malta Custom Log entry 2005)  Dusty Rhodes of L03 records the departure as 23 February 1939.


Pennant number F03 until August 1940

January 1939              Pennant number changed to F03

3 March 1939             Arrived atGibraltar

6 March 1939             Departed Gibraltar for exercises

10 March 1939           Arrived at Gibraltar

19 March 1939           Departed Gibraltar

22 March 1939           Arrived at La Lavandou

2 April 1939                Departed La Lavandou

4 April 1939                Arrived at Palma

8 April 1939                Departed Palma.  Order received from CinC Med to proceed to Gibraltar with moderate despatch. (Later the same date changed to ‘reduce to economical speed’.) “Remain two days at Gibraltar and return to Eastern Area unless anything occurs to require your presence earlier.”

(According to ‘Dusty’ Rhodes of L03 the above dates were:

26/3/39 – Gibraltar.   14/3/39 – Depart Gibraltar   17/3/39 – Arrive Le Lavandou and depart 27/3/39.            31/3/39 – Arrive Palma         4/4/39 Depart Palma

12/4/39 – Arrive Malta)

9 April 1939                Gibraltar

12 April 1939              Departed Gibraltar

14 April 1939.             Arrived in Malta from Gibraltar, Le Harandon/Plama at 1145 with Captain De Pass and 210 ship’s company.  Departure not logged.  (Malta Custom Log entry 1000)

26 April 1939              Departed Malta (Manuscript of ships movements)

28 April 1939              Alexandria

1 June 1939                 Departed Alexandria

2 June 1939                 Arrived at Mersa Matruh

6 June 1939                 Departed  Mersa Matruh and arrived at Alexandria

27 June 1939               Departed Alexandria

29 June 1939               Arrived at Pors Bay

4 July 1939                 Departed Pors Bay

6 July 1939.                Arrived Malta from Alexandria/Pero Bay/Crete at 0630 with Captain De Pass and 220 ship’s company.

12 July 1939               Taken in hand for docking. Defects completed 29 July 1939

27 July 1938               French Squadron arrived at Malta (Admiral Ollive) to meet with  Cunningham Commander in Chief.

30 July 1939               Departed Malta. 1030. Ships in company WARSPITE,  MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU. (Malta Customs Log entry 1838)

1 August 1939             Deployed with 4th Flotilla in the Mediterranean with WARSPITE, MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU for a good will visit to Istanbul for a conference with the Turkish military in regards to the coming hostilities with Germany and Italy. (A Sailors Odyssey – Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope KT,GCB, OM, DSO)

2 August 1939             Arrived in Istanbul

6 August 1939             Departed the Bosphorus. The force exercised off Rhodes before returning to Alexandria.  ABC (Admiral Cunningham) in WARSPITE details manoeuvres for ships to pass across his bows between him and the ship ahead. Whilst carrying out this exercise MAORI’s rudder jammed and she narrowly missed the WARSPITE.  ABC asked what happened -–MAORI replied ‘Steering gear jammed’. ABC replied ‘Well done but do not let it happen again’.  COSSACK interjected ‘Our sea boat was manned ready to pick up survivors!’

11 August 1939           Arrived Limasol (Cyprus)

12 August 1939           Departed Limasol for Latzi (Cyprus) arriving the same day

14 August 1939           Departed Latzi for exercises

15 August 1939           Arrived Latzi

17 August 1939           Departed Latzi for Kyrenia (Cyprus) arriving the same day.

22 August 1939           Departed Kyrenia

22 August 1939           Barcelona to collect the British Consul. (He slipped and broke a leg boarding the ship’s boat!) 30 knot dash to Marseilles.

September 1939          Outbreak of war.  Mediterranean (Alexandria/Crete/ Malta)

Convoying of French troops from Marseilles to Algiers until October.

Deployed for escort of convoys between Marseilles and Mediterranean ports

3 September 1939       Alexandria. Received plain language message ’Commence hostilities with Germany forthwith’

4 September 1939       Together with the cruiser SUSSEX and destroyers MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU departed Alexandria at 1930 to relieve the light cruiser ARETHUSA and her destroyers on patrol.

7 September 1939       The patrol was terminated and the destroyers were sent to escort convoy Green 1 (25 merchant ships) from 10 September 1939

8 September 1939.      Following a patrol of Crete arrived at Malta at 0815 with De Pass and 220 ship’s company. (Malta Customs Log entry 2531)

9 September 1939       Departed Malta at 0300. Ships in company – MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU. (Malta Custom Log entry 2531)

10 September 1939     Escort to convoy Green 1  (AB 2 Slow UK to Gibraltar) relived by COSSACK, MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU. Joined by French torpedo boat POMONE from 0745.

11 September 1939     COSSACK and ZULU attack a submarine contact.

12 September 1939     0700 POMONE departs. French Torpedo Boat IPHEGENIA  joins from 0700 to 1230 to escort from Algiers to Malta

13 September 1939     Malta  (No departure date)

21 September 1939     Alexandria

24 September 1939     Cossack departs for Malta in company with MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU.

26 September 1939.    Arrived Malta at 0700 with Captain De Pass and 236 ship’s company. 

27 September 1939     Departed 0850. Ships in company – MAORI, NUBIAN and ZULU. (Malta Customs Log entry 2644) to provide escort to Green 2 (AB 3) from off Malta to Port Said.  Convoy consisted of 18 ships.

2 October 1939           Arrived Port Said

(Ordered to join Home Fleet for convoy defence.)

3 October 1939           Arrived Alexandria

7 October 1939           Departed Alexandria for Malta after refuelling.

9 October 1939.          Arrived in Malta at 0815 with Captain De Pass and 224 ship’s company. Departed at 1345 on 9th October 1939.  Ships in company –MAORI, NUBIAN, ZULU and the cruiser COVENTRY. (Malta Customs Log entry 2743)

11 October 1939         Arrived and departed Gibraltar same day

14 October 1939         Portland in company with COVENTRY, MAORI, and ZULU. The Destroyers refuelled and departed to Rosyth.

15 October 1939         COSSACK and MAORI attack a submarine contact bearing 83 degrees and 6 miles from Coquet Island. (Admiralty War Diary [ADM 199 2196])

16 October 1939.        COSSACK attacks submarine contact north of Blyth

17 October 1939         Arrived at Rosyth

18 October  1939        COSSACK departed Rosyth to escort REPULSE

19 October 1939         Cossack returned to Rosyth with MAORI

22 October 1939         Departs Rosyth to reinforce convoy FN24 off Fair Island. Action cancelled and orders received to proceed to Humber with all despatch to replace JAVLIN damaged in collision.  Arrived at the Humber the same day.

27 October 1939         Departed the Humber

28 October 1939         Arrived at Harwich (No departure details)

29 October 1939         Arrived at Grimsby and departed the same day.

30 October 1939         Arrived at Rosyth.

Information from Alf Price’s Diary (Cossack Chronicle 2/2003) confirms L03 was in England (UK) during November 1939

7 November 1939        Departs Rosyth for Scapa Flow at 1745 with MAORI and ZULU to escort West Coast Section of convoy HN1. 1800 Night Action Stations.

Firth of Forth Collision at 2030 with SS Borthwick (1097 tons) off May Island Three killed. Two missing presumed killed and four injured. ZULU assisted in releasing a trapped seaman from curled back plating and AFRIDA took the casualties ashore.  MAORI and the sloop GRIMSBY assisted.  Bulkhead to WK Mess shored up

  • November 1939. COSSACK towed stern first by two tugs to Prince of Wales

Dock, Robbs’s Shipyard, Leith arriving at 1145. Shell room and magazine emptied Period in dock 8/11 – 9/1/40.  Turbine repairs were also undertaken at this time. (Separate detailed report available in the archives)

12 November 1939. Funeral took place at Leith Cemetery at 1430


13 November 1939. Re ammunition ship at 0800

28 December 1939      Captain De Pass superseded by Captain R. St Vincent Sherbrook VC RN (Seniority 31 December 1935)


9 January 1940           Resumed Home Fleet duties with Flotilla in North Sea

10 January 1940         Departed Leith to prepare for high speed trials. 

13 January 1940         Whilst lying in the stream was involved with a collision with British cable ship Royal Scot.  Returned to Leith for repair

15 January 1940         Gun trials

17 January 1940         Captain Sherbrook VC leaves L03

18 January 1940         Captain Philip Louis Vian DSO RN appointed as Commanding Officer on transferring with staff from AFRIDI as D4

19 January 1940         Arrived at Rosyth after repairs

23 January 1940         COSSACK and ZULU departed Rosyth

23 January 1940         COSSACK was due to take part in exercises but had to return      to Rosyth because of an outbreak of influenza onboard.

4 February 1940         Departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow

5 February 1940          Arrived Scapa Flow

7 February 1940         Departed Scapa Flow for submarine hunting with SIKH.

Story by Bob Milton a signalman onboard at this time.

The Yeoman told me to

“Take these old signal forms to the boiler room and burn them”. I opened the boiler and started to burn the papers.  After a few handfuls I felt something very solid in my hand and to my horror it was a Very Distress Rocket that was about to go up in flames!  Later in the Signals Office I noticed that one rocket was missing, having fallen, I presume, from the rack into the Signal Sack stored beneath it.  I returned the rocket to its place and said nothing. (Until 2015)

10 February 1940       COSSACK in company with SIKH and MOWHAWK arrived and departed Scapa Flow to escort Convoy HN 10B from the Norwegian Coast. Attacked by two aircraft. One bomb exploded about 50 yards astern. (Ken Robinson)

11 February 1940       COSSACK departed Bergen with MOHAWK, SIKH and TATAR as escort to Convoy HN 10B consisting of 20 Norwegian, seven Swedish and two Finnish ships.

Sailed from Norway on 12 February 1940, arrived Methil on the 13 February 1940

Received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. What follows is an extract of what can be found in the Advance Sailing telegram for HN 10. Unfortunately, the convoy designations noted on the original documents used for my text on the page about HN 10 are hard to decipher in places, so I cannot guarantee accuracy. My hope is that this will simply be used as a basis for further research. Another document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 10B had 20 Norwegian, 7 Swedish, and 2 Finnish ships (12 for west coast), for a total of 29. 1 Norwegian ship appears to be missing in the table below.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Løvaas Norwegian ballast Birkenhead
Eldrid ballast Blyth
Solstad Swedish ballast Blyth
Varangnes Norwegian general Newcastle
Måkefjell ballast Tyne
Torridal ballast Preston
Mona Swedish ballast Methil
Varøy Norwegian cellulose Rouen
Svinta pulp Preston
Havbris pulp Manchester
Marvel general London
Transport ballast Leith
Rosenholm Swedish general Hull
Agnes Finnish ballast Newcastle
Sally general London
Tora Norwegian general Dundee
Torafire pulp Aberdeen
Fagerbro general Manchester
Uto Swedish pulp Greenhithe
Marita Norwegian ballast Glasgow
Navarra ballast Liverpool
Singoalla Swedish pulp Manchester
Bolette Norwegian general Grangemouth
Basel general Grangemouth
Mira passengers – fresh fish – mails Newcastle
Marg?* Panamanian general Liverpool
Sigyn Swedish pulp Preston
Oswin pulp Preston
Havørn Norwegian pulp Liverpool
* In Convoy HN 10B or HN 10? See * in Notes for HN 10
Also, note on that page that some ships are named towards the end of the table for which the convoy designation is in doubt.
Weather on passage was calm with light northerly winds and low westerly swell. In general, the ships kept good station and were good at answering signals. Torafire dropped back badly and eventually went into Aberdeen. Escorts mentioned:
HMS Cossack (S.O.?), Sikh, Mohawk, Tartar.
Gurkha and Nubian joined in the morning of 12 February, Diana joined that afternoon (or the next day? document very blurry and date difficult to read).
Cossack and Gurkha left at 17:00 on 12 February(?) and Sikh took charge of convoy (see also this page listing escorts for the HN and ON convoys, which also mentions Edinburgh, Arethusa, Cairo, and Glasgow). The 12 westbound ships were escorted by Mohawk and Tartar after having detached from the convoy on 12 February 1940

12 February 1940       COSSACK and GURKHA make attacks on submarine contact off Aberdeen at 57-15.7N 1-47W

13 February 1940       COSSACK and GURKHA arrived at Rosyth

At midnight on 13th February 1940 six of His Majesty’s Ships, the cruiser HMS Arethusa, and the destroyers HMS Cossack, HMS Sikh, HMS Nubian, HMS Ivanhoe, and HMS Intrepid, sailed from Rosyth to search the waters off the Norwegian coast. The Altmark was hugging the Norwegian coast, staying in neutral waters. Despite being “inspected”, but not searched, by Norwegian patrol vessels she continued slowly on her way. Just north of Bergen she was stopped again by the Norwegian destroyer Garm but the Captain of Altmark refused to allow a search and was told to leave the area. The British ships were scattered over a wide area, Captain Vian and HMS Cossack were far to the south investigating the large number of ships in the Leads and among the offshore islands.

14 February 1940       (Admiralty file ADM 199/281) COSSACK departed Rosyth at 2100 passing the bridge at 2230, speed 12 knots, on Operation DT.



3rd Division. PENELOPE, ARETHUSA (Cruiser)

The 1st and 2nd Divisions formed the First Group with the 3rd Division being the Second Group.

PENELOPE had fouled baffle and remained in port

According to Action this Day the ships were – ARETHUSA (Cruiser), COSSACK, INTREPID, IVANHOE, MAORI and SIKH (Fleet destroyers)

Orders were to sweep up the Norwegian coast from Kristiansand to intercept enemy ships returning to Narvik.  Members of ship’s companies from AURORA were transferred to increase the strength of COSSACK and MAORI as their own ratings were suffering from influenza. 

15 February 1940       The Force, less HMS Penelope passed May Island at 0100 and proceeded at 17 knots via the Southern Limit of the Dummy Mine Field towards position K. Between 1030 and 1230 German floating mines type X or X+ were encountered and sunk. Captain Vian receives reports that Altmark has been sighted at 1600 on 14th February (Admiralty messages 2020/15 and 2314/15). Passing Bergen. (No firm information about the appearance of the Altmark (Launched 13 November 1937) was known other than a wardroom copy Illustrated London News which showed two ships with the caption ‘German raider Altmark examining a neutral merchant ship in the Atlantic’. It did not indicate which ship was Altmark!

16 February 1940       Just after midnight (0045/16) Admiral Forbes orders ships of Operation DT to intercept the German supply ship ALTMARK. Deployed with ARETHUSA, SIKH, NUBIAN, INTREPID and IVANHOE to search for the German prison ship ALTMARK. At 0700 in position 58° 03’N, 05° 15’E the trawler LIBIA was boarded by COSSACK. The vessel was wearing Dutch colours and markings. Her papers were found to be in order.

Aircraft from Thornaby were;
Aircraft K – Pilot Officer McNeill, Pilot Officer Lawrie, LAC Sheekey, Cpl. Hugill.
Aircraft M – Pilot Officer Fleetswood, Pilot Officer Dacomb, A/C Taylor, A/C Hopkins.
Aircraft V – Flt/Lt Downton, F/O Thwaite, A/C Parfitt, LAC Wilson.
220 Squadron, Royal Air Force, came to Thornaby on 21st August 1939.    

On 16th of February, at 08.25 hours, a flight of Lockhead Hudson aircraft, led by ‘K’ and crewed by Pilot Officer McNeil and Pilot Lawrie, L.A.C. Sheekey and Cpl.Hugill were to find the Altmark, identify her, take photographs, and pass information of Altmark’s position and direction as soon as possible, but not to attack. Pilot Officer McNeill has heard a signal from ‘F’ aircraft, telling of a vessel heading south; having been seen 15 miles north of the course of his flight and at 12.55 hours on seeing a dark shape ahead he made a wide sweep to view her from broadside. After this he then flew under the bows of the ship, where clearly painted was the name ‘Altmark’. (Position DVCT 2847) Realising that unless intercepted very quickly the ship would make her escape, he instructed (against wireless orders), Wireless Operator Sheekey to ‘bash’ a message out – ‘Enemy first sighting’. He felt sure that anyone interested in the Altmark would understand and take action.

At 12.50 hours on 16th February 1940 a wireless message was received giving the position of a ship thought to be the Altmark which had been spotted by an aircraft of Coastal Command

ADM199/281 – Search for Altmark – Track of COSSACK BETWEEN 0900/16 and 2030/16 with estimated tracks of ARETHUSA, SIKH, NUBIAN, INTREPID and IVANHOE.


Copied from ADM 199/281 from The National Archives
At noon Admiralty message 1114/16 reports ALTMARK in Swedish waters at the head of the Kattegat. At 1310 fire was opened on what was thought to be a Heinkel reconnaissance plane but was in fact a Hudson which fired the wrong grenade challenge and persistently abstained from replying to the many signalled challenges of the Force. ARETHUSA sights ALTMARK about one to four miles off Egero Point – approximately 58°19’N, 06° 10’E – and orders IVANHOE and INTREPID to stop the German ship. The ALMARK was painted grey with a red bottom which could just be seen at the bows. COSSACK first enters Jossingfjord at 1610. The fjord is a narrow inlet about one and a quarter miles long, overlooked by high cliffs which were covered in snow. It is one cable wide at the entrance, opening out inside to a maximum of two and a half cables. Norwegian escort ships intervened and ALTMARK enters Jossingfjord. Cossack enters fjord and interrogated Kjell – one of two Norwegian torpedo-boats (The other was the HNoMS Skarv) – via Paymaster Sub Lt. (Temp. Pay. Lt) Craven RNVR who spoke German.  On both occasions that this happened the Norwegians denied the presence of prisoners onboard Altmark  but on the second occasion (at 2200) decided not to stop COSSACK from proceeding to come alongside the German ship to enable a boarding party led by Lt Cdr B.T. Turner (4 officers and 28 ratings) to board. On entering the fjord the navigating officer (Maclean) was following a green light on the shore.  After a while he admitted to Vian that he had been following the wrong light!  Cossack then switched on her searchlight to see where she was.  Comments on the bridge were that history will show that COSSACK came in with all lights blazing when in fact she was lost!

The original plan was for some 45 officers and ratings to board.

Lt Cdr Turner to secure bridge and interrogate Captain Dau

Lt Parker to secure the bridge structure

Mr Smith to secure the after part

Petty Officer Atkins to secure the fore part.

COSSACK signals to ALTMARK to stop and prepare to be boarded.

ALTMARK directs a powerful searchlight on to COSSACKs bridge and working his engines ahead and astern Captain Dau attempts to ram COSSACK.

On COSSACKS bow meeting ALTMARKs stern Lt Cdr Turner and PO Atkins jump across a 6 foot gap. PO Turner falls short and is hauled onboard by the Lt Cdr. A manilla hawser is then made fast and the ships come together again to allow the remaining boarding party to cross. Turner then made his way to the bridge which was barred by a clipped weather door. He entered and disarmed and ordered the telegraphs to be placed at STOP.  ALTMARK grounded whilst making 4 knots sternway

English seamen found in empty shell rooms and store rooms. Lascar seamen found in empty fuel tank. Two captains were in a double cabin aft.

Jim Halliday L03 and the Altmark incident

My name is Jim Halliday, I was a crew member of L03 from June 1938 until May 1940, when she went for repairs after the 2nd Battle of Narvik ,I was not an official member of the boarding party; Captain Vian came on the tannoy for any crew member to arm himself with any kind of weapon and get on board and release the prisoners. So the only thing I could find was a Bayonet. As we went along side she tried ram us, I jumped over the guard rail, and after a short scrap, I went with Brian Besford down below to search the cabins where we found two officers-  Captain Starr and Captain Brown, just then Lt Cdr Turner came along the corridor with German Captain Dau  and made him unlock the door. Captain Dau told us the demolition charges had been set for 30 minutes so we went back on deck, where they were loading the released prisoners. So I guess that is one explanation of the cutlass story.

I was the Navigators Yeoman on L03 until May 1940, then into Submarine Service. I hope this helps.

Jim Halliday
 ex Ldg Seaman

Extract from a report by Captain Brown of the SS Hunstman. (ADM199/281)

“I laid down for about half an hour that night, but could not sleep.  I got up and put on a shirt and trousers over my pyjamas.  I tried to sleep again, but could not, so I went to collect a few of the things I wanted, my best suit, money etc., as I felt something was going to happen.  The next thing I heard was an English voice saying “Are there any prisoners here?”  I shouted “Yes”.  The door was locked, but they eventually broke it down.  The sailor told us there was a time bomb in the engine room which was set for 50 minutes; this might go off at any moment so we rushed up on the to the main deck, then on to the poop.  As I neared the bridge I heard someone call my name.  Shots were still being fired, but I stopped and asked who wanted me.  It was a German Electrician. He had had the job of screwing up our porthole and we had become quite friendly.  He had given me some tobacco and matches one day.  He had been wounded and was already very weak.   Apparently when the Bluejackets had been asked if there were any more prisoners they had been told no and this electrician had told them there were two Captains on board right aft.  I managed to shake hands with him and hoped he would be alright.  He could only speak a little English but he was really a decent fellow.

Then I got onboard the destroyer and the next thing I knew we were doing about 40 knots. We left the ALTMARK in good order and when we landed at Leith all those who had uniforms wore them and we stepped ashore with our heads up and with a cheer.”

Story of the ‘Altmark’s’ Five-Month Voyage

From the Log kept by – Able Seaman  J Swaby.. SS NEWTON BEACH

Oct. 5. – Crew of 34 captured by “Admiral Graf Spee”.
Oct. 7. – S.S. “Ashlea” caught and sunk. Crew of 35 put aboard.
Oct. 8. – “Newton Beach” sunk. Both crews put aboard “Graf Spee”.
Oct. 10. – S.S. “Huntsman” caught.
Oct. 17. – S.S. “Huntsman” sunk and crew of 84 put aboard tanker.
Oct. 18. – “Newton Beach” and “Ashlea” crews put aboard tanker and find she is “Altmark” of Hamburg.
Oct. 21. – M.V. “Trevanion” sunk. Crew aboard “Graf Spee”.
Oct. 28. – “Graf Spee” bunkered by tanker, and crew of “Trevanion” put aboard. Total prisoners, 186.”
Nov. 28. – “Graf Spee” back. Stored and took aboard captains, first and second mates, chiefs and seconds.
Dec. 6. – “Graf Spee” back with crews. 150 from “Doric Star” and “Tairoa”, sunk on Dec. 1 and 3. Total prisoners aboard now more than 300.
Dec. 16. – Name of tanker changed to “Haugsund”.
Dec. 17. – Ship painted grey. Name changed to “Chirqueue”.
Jan. 22. – Left on mad run up north on zigzag course.
Feb. 14. – Made Norse port. Believe Bergen. Our look-out very small hole, vision limited. Attempt break out. Failed.
Feb. 15. – Left port. Stopped by Norwegian destroyers. No search of ship. Made all the noise possible whistling and sending out S O S calls on officers’ whistles.
Feb. 16. – Bread and water for attempts to escape. Tea-time our look-outs believe we have been stopped by one of our ‘planes. Still battened down. Waiting daylight to see what happens.

An hour later Seaman Swaby and his companions were aboard the COSSACK

Extract from the report of Captain King of the SS Doric Star (ADM199/281)

About 11 o’clock we were boarded by the crew of HMS Cossack. We were keeping our regular watches when great activity was noticed on deck.  I was on duty and the next thing I heard was an Englishman shouting down our hatch “Are you British prisoners? “  I answered “yes!” Then he said “You are safe, we have come to release you” There was a loud burst of cheering. Then I went up to see that we made an orderly exit from the three decks; this was done very well indeed. The Captain of ALTMARK and Lt Schmidt stood at the top and shook hands with me.  They were standing there in charge of our naval guard.  At first apparently, the Captain had flatly denied we were onboard and persisted in this, but at last the young Lt at his side threw down his hand and admitted were down there.

“Are there any Englishmen down there?”

“Then come up. The Navy’s here!”

At 2330 a message was sent that time bombs had been discovered onboard and set for 0030.  In fact the message should have read 0300

The liberated prisoners embarked onto COSSACK at 2330 and were checked over by a medical officer who transferred from SIKH at 2400. No disease was found with the exception of one leper. (This was later refuted in file MT 9/3188 (Truelove – Marine B 20.2.40)

Action this Day (Page 28) quotes six Germans killed and six wounded.

Other sources show four Germans killed and 5 wounded – one British wounded (Gunner J.J.F. Smith from the AURORA) The German Third Officer was shot by Turner because he kept interfering with Altmark’s telegraphs which Turner had set to ‘stop’.

Mr Smith was treated for his wound by the surgeon of the ALTMARK whilst members of COSSACK carried two wounded Germans into their sickbay.

Two of Cossack’s officers (Ormsby and Burkitt) descended a jumping ladder lowered over the stern of Cossack and entered into the water to rescue a German – Hans Berndsen KMW Kiel 28.5.16 who had fallen overboard into an ice hole.  He was brought to the surface, secured to a rope and hauled onboard; despite being given artificial respiration by Sick Berth Petty Officer for 90 minutes subsequently died onboard COSSACK . Both officers were awarded the Humane Society Bronze Medal and Certificate.

Cossack suffers slight damage to bows and port propeller cracked. 

It was found that ALTMARK was armed with 2 pom – poms, 4 machine guns and 3 concealed 6 inch guns (Two amidships and one right aft).  None were brought in to action during the boarding

Seaward view of Jossingfjord – the boarding took place to the left  
Looking down to the far left-hand corner where the boarding took place  
Radio controlled models of Cossack and Altmark. Interessengemeinschaft.Deutsche Marine. Scale 1/100  
Later Monument erected by the Norwegians to celebrate the event  


Extract from FO 952/2 held at the National Archives

Resume of the evidence given by some of the Norwegian witnesses at the Court of Inquiry in Ergersand Norway

Customs Officer Egas, who first saw ALTMARK whilst walking along the road.

There was a considerable amount of ice in the fjord.  His colleague Giertsen (also a customs officer) was on board until 8pm.  It was decided a full coastal inspection was not necessary and only a Customs Officer need be onboard to keep watch. The two Norwegian Pilots taken onboard at Kopervik went ashore at 8pm.

The ship did not anchor.  Giertsen agreed with the Captain of the ALTMARK that only an ordinary watch should be kept.  Shortly after three Norwegian ships came in – the FIEREREN (a whaler) the KJELL and another.  There were 300 to 400 metres from the ALTMARK.   The COSSACK came into the fjord about 11pm.  Later signals were exchanged between the British and the Norwegians.   The witness saw no military uniforms nor any hidden cannons or weapons.  There were signals between ALTMARK and COSSACK which lasted four to five minutes. He did not know what they meant. Shortly after this the COSSACK came full speed towards ALTMARK. The crew of ALTMARK became very nervous and many put their lifejackets on.  They had no weapons. He conversed with them in Danish.  Men from the COSSACK boarded ALTMARK to the port side of the poop with COSSACK slightly striking with her bow.  About 25 sailors boarded the ALTMARK.   Two them approached him with fixed bayonets.  He stated in English that he was Norwegian Customs Official in uniform and raised his hands. At this stage there were no lights on ALTMARK and COSSACK’s searchlight swept the German ship from end to end.  There was no resistance from the Germans on his side of the ship.  The English sailors had revolvers and rifles with fixed bayonets. COSSACK then put men on the other side of the ship where there was some fighting. COSSACK then backed away.  Some of the Germans climbed down a rope onto the ice and then made their way to the land.  He also did the same as he was afraid of possible explosions onboard ALTMARK.

He saw one German in the water after he came ashore and made his way to the Customs Office.  Later he saw a man in the water close to ALTMARK’s bow.  COSSACK picked up the man in her searchlight and backed towards him.  There was no shooting while the man was taken onboard COSSACK.   Later COSSACK sounded her siren and came and came back and lay alongside ALTMARK where they boarded between the stern and the bridge on the Port side.  He was then surprised to see many men streaming out on deck as ALTMARK only had a crew of about 130.  COSSACK then left.

He went on to say that the ship was still but the machinery was going but after the first sailor came onboard she went full astern towards land in order to ram COSSACK which made a short turn to avoid this and scraped the aft of the starboard side of ALTMARK.  This lasted about 20 minutes.


Just after midnight, Admiral Forbes ordered the ships of Operation DT, which began late on the 14th, to intercept German supply ship ALTMARK. The British force split up to search the Leads and offshore islands south of Bergen. Light cruiser ARETHUSA sighted ALTMARK a short time later off Egero Light and destroyers IVANHOE and INTREPID were dispatched to stop her. However, the Norwegian escorts intervened and ALTMARK was able to enter Jossing Fjord. At that time, Norwegian naval units in the Fjord and nearby were torpedo boats KJELL, SKARV, TEIST and armed auxiliaries FIRERN and HVAL IV. Destroyer COSSACK followed ALTMARK in and after unsuccessful talks with the Norwegian escort commander, a boarding party of three officers and thirty ratings (under the command of Lt Cdr B. T Turner) boarded ALTMARK from COSSACK. ALTMARK ran aground, four German sailors were killed and five wounded, but 299 British prisoners from ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE’s sinking’s were released. Gunner J J F Smith in the boarding party from light cruiser AURORA was wounded. While alongside ALTMARK, COSSACK’s bow and side plates were damaged and port propeller cracked. When IVANHOE approached German merchant ship BALDUR (5805grt) off Jossing Fjord near Lister Light, she was scuttled.

Still on the 16th, submarines SEAL, TRIAD, ORZEL were ordered into the area and joined SALMON and SEALION which were already there. SEAL sighted the sinking BALDUR and the DT operation ships, but the other submarines sighted nothing at all.

Battleship WARSPITE, battlecruiser HOOD, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FURY, FAME, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE of the Home Fleet were at sea near Pentland Firth covering the operation. And after leaving Scapa Flow on the 16th, heavy cruiser NORFOLK met light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON, EDINBURGH and destroyers DARING and IMPERIAL to provide support. There was no German Fleet reaction.

After the rescue, the SOUTHAMPTON group joined convoy HN.12 on the 17th, together with ARETHUSA in support, COSSACK and her force returned to Rosyth arriving on the 17th after which she reached Leith on the 19th for repairs, and the HOOD force arrived back in the Clyde on the 18th.

Source WWW.warsailors.com/convoys

17 February 1940       Proceeded to Leith, laying alongside the quay at the entrance to the Imperial Dock at 1540, in the company of ARETHUSA, SIKH, NUBIAN, IVANHOE, INTREPID. Released prisoners, 13 ship’s captains, 286 officers and men, were landed at Leith at 1545 being met by the C-in-C Rosyth and civic dignitaries. John Hulme piloted Cossack from May Island to Leith’s Imperial Dock.


19 February 1940       Arrived Rosyth then to Leith

20 February 1940       Docked at Robb’s Shipyard for repairs to bow and side.

23 February 1940       Undocked from the Imperial Dock

23 February 1940       COSSACK departed Methil with DELIGHT, DIANA, IMPERIAL, NUBIAN and SIKH to escort convoy ON 15 consisting of 2 British, 20 Norwegian, 6 Swedish, 3 Danish, 6 Finnish and 3 Estonian ships. They were joined by AURORA, CALCUTTA and PENELOPE.

CONVOY ON 15 – U.K.-Norway

Left Methil on Febr. 23-1940 and arrived Norway on the 27th.
Received from Don Kindell – His source: The late Arnold Hague’s research. Stations are not known.

According to A. Hague, the following ships sailed in this convoy (in alphabetical order): Norwegian Annfinn*
Norwegian Bjerka
Norwegian Bjørkhaug
Norwegian Bjørnvik
Norwegian Bollsta
Norwegian Burgos
Norwegian Colombia (794 gt)
Finnish Delaware
Norwegian Einvik
Swedish Elgö
Swedish Frost
Norwegian Gol
Norwegian Gun
Swedish Gundborg Segrell
Finnish Inari
Danish Inger Toft**
Norwegian Jæderen
Estonian Kadri
Finnish Kemi
Estonian Keri
Norwegian Kis
Norwegian Lab
Norwegian Log
Danish Lotte
Swedish Mertainen
Norwegain Meteor
Norwegian Mira
Swedish Nordia
British North Devon
Swedish Oddevold
Finnish Oscar Midling
Estonian Pollux
Norwegian Sarp
Norwegian Sitona
Norwegian Spes
Danish Thyra
Norwegian Vestland
Finnish Wirpi
Finnish Zilos A document listing all the ON convoys states that ON 15 had a total of 40 ships – 2 British, 20 Norwegian, 6 Swedish, 3 Danish, 6 Finnish, 3 Estonian. 1 was not for Norway and was detached en route. * The Norwegian Annfinn is said to have hit a submerged object off Rattray Head and sank in Norwegian waters, having been hove to in a gale. She was later salvaged. Jan-Olof Hendig, Sweden has sent me a newspaper clipping about this incident (from Febr. 28-1940), which states that she collided with a U-boat, whose periscope was torn off, and which, it is claimed, may have sunk. Arnfinn developed a heavy leak, but they managed to keep her afloat with the help of the pumps until they were off Holmgengrå, at which time they found it best to take to the boats, as they were standing in water up to their waists. They were in 2 boats, which were separated in the bad weather, one reaching Tangenes, while the men in the other boat were picked up by a Danish vessel and later taken to Bergen. Arnfinn is said to have been still afloat and drifting northwards, and a salvage vessel has been sent out. I’m not sure which ship this could have been – there was an Arnfinn Jarl, but I don’t have a ship named Arnfinn. The article states she was 950 tons and had a complement of 14. She was on a voyage from Methil to Moss with coal when the the incident took place.
** A. Hague lists Inger Toft as British, but I believe she was still Danish at this time. All the Norwegian ships in this convoy, except Annfinn, are listed on this website – they can be reached via the Master Ship Index. Escorts:
See this document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys, as well as this external page (scroll down to Febr. 23) which says that ON 15 was escorted by the destroyers Cossack, Delight, Diana, Sikh, Nubian, and Imperial upon departure Methil. Close cover was provided by light cruisers Aurora and Penelope, departing Rosyth on the 24th and anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta, which left Sullom Voe on the 25th. Nubian made an attack on a submarine north of Kinnaird Head on Febr. 24 (58 00N 1 19W).

27 February 1940       Convoy arrives safely in Bergen.

28 February 1940       COSSACK, DELIGHT, DIANA, NUBIAN and SIKH departed Bergen with convoy HN15 consisting of 8 British, 29 Norwegian, 1 Swedish, 2 Finnish and 2 Danish ships. The convoy split into East and West sections. COSSACK remained with the East section.

CONVOY HN 15 – Norway-U.K.
Left Norway on February 28-1940 and arrived Methil on March 1.

Transcribed from Advance Sailing Telegram received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. The Advance Sailing Telegram gives the sailing date as Febr. 26, arrival Methil Febr. 29 Convoy stations are not available. A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 15 left on Febr. 28 and arrived on March 1, adding that it consisted of 8 British, 29 Norwegian, 1 Swedish, 2 Danish, and 2 Finnish ships, for a total of 42, 8 of which were bound for the west coast. Note that there’s also a ship listed as Dutch in the Advance Sailing Telegram.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Vang Norwegian ballast (for bunkers) Ayr
Svanefjell general London
Porsanger ballast Swansea
Finse ballast Blyth
Tordenskjold ballast Sunderland
Helmond British general (chrome, carbide, pulp) Grangemouth
no name – 3106 gt ? ore Birkenhead
Anna Finnish general Hull
Gudrid Norwegian general Manchester
Iris mail – passengers Tyne
Cygnus general Manchester
Grenaa Danish ballast Methil
Ulv Norwegian pulp Rouen
Fulton ballast West Hartlepool
Pan pulp Grimsby
no name – 1180 gt ? general Antwerp
Diana Norwegian general London
Ophir ballast Sunderland
Gudrun ballast Methil
Lysaker IV ballast Dunstan
From HN 14
Bruse ballast Sunderland
From HN 14
Ringhorn ballast Burntisland
From HN 14
Bessheim passengers – mail Tyne
From HN 14
Ask ore Middlesbrough
From HN 14
Grana general Hull
From HN 14
Ursa general London
From HN 14
Edna fresh fish Newcastle-on-Tyne
From HN 14
Cetus ballast Blyth
From HN 14
Rona cod roes Ardrossan
From HN 14
Jarl fresh fish Aberdeen for bunkers
Standard pulp Bristol
Batavia Dutch general Newcastle-on-Tyne
Stensaas Norwegian ballast Burntisland
From HN 14
Kronprins Olav pulp Ellesmere Port
(See also HN 14)
Island fresh fish Aberdeen
From HN 14
Havnia Finnish general London
From HN 14
Teano British general Hull
From HN 14
Salerno general Hull
From HN 14
(929 gt)
general Grangemouth
(See also HN 14)
No name ? general Aberdeen
Otterpool British ore Middlesbrough
Salmonpool ore Middlesbrough
Hardingham ore Immingham
Romanby ore Cardiff
Bothnia Swedish general London
See also HN 14
Vela Norwegian
If we remove the un-named ships, we end up with 42 ships in the convoy. The above list agrees on the whole with a list of ships received from D. Kindell, based on Arnold Hague’s database, except A. Hague has not included Batavia (and he says Havnia was Norwegian) – in other words, he names 41 ships in this convoy. (He lists Batavia in the next convoy, HN 16, but she’s not included in the Advance Sailing Telegram for HN 16).
Escorts mentioned on this page:
HMS Aurora, Penelope (covering force), Calcutta, Cossack, Diana, Nubian, Delight, Sikh, Imperial and Khartoum (most of which had also escorted Convoy ON 15 from the U.K. to Norway). See also the text under Febr. 26 and Febr. 28 on this external page, which mentions this convoy and its escorts. All the Norwegian ships mentioned in this convoy are discussed on this website, some are listed in the Homefleet section. The easiest way to find them all is via the Master Ship Index.

1 March 1940             Convoy and COSSACK arrived at Methil

3 March 1940             COSSACK due to accompany convoy ON17 but withdrawn for repairs to leaking seams and dynamo defect

7 March 1940             Departed Methil at 1700 in company of ECLIPS, ESCORT, ELECTRA and ENCOUNTER as escort to convoy ON 18 consisting of 10 British, 13 Norwegian, 12 Swedish, 2 Danish, 4 Finnish and 2 Estonian ships

CONVOY ON 18 – U.K.-Norway

Left Methil on March 7-1940 and arrived Norway on the 10th.
Received from Don Kindell – His source: The late Arnold Hague’s research. Stations are not known.
According to A. Hague, the following ships sailed in this convoy (in alphabetical order): Swedish Agne
Finnish Airisto
Swedish Amsterdam
British Ashbury
Norwegian Bessheim
British Bradburn
Swedish C. A. Banck
British Dalveen
British Demeterton
Norwegian Edna
Finnish Ergo
Swedish Graculus
Swedish Gudrun
Panamanian Gunny
Norwegian Hjalmar Wesssel
Norwegian Iris
Norwegian Mari
Danish Maria Toft
Swedish Masilia
Swedish Mergus
Finnish Modesta
Swedish Mona
Norwegian Navarra
Swedish Omberg
British Pennington Court
Estonian Regulus
Swedish Rosenholm
Norwegian Røsten
British Rydal Force
Norwegian Sado
Norwegian Selbo
Norwegian Sigrid
Danish Skagen
Norwegian Snyg
British Strait Fisher
British Ulea
Swedish Utö
Norwegian Vestra
Finnish Vienti
Estonian Viiu
Swedish Visten
British Wentworth A document listing all the ON convoys states that ON 18 had a total of 44 ships (incl. 10 joining from Kirkwall); 10 British, 13 Norwegian, 12 Swedish, 2 Danish, 4 Finnish, 2 Estonian, 1 Panamanian. 4 were detached for Scapa Flow, escorted by the destroyers Fame and Sikh. The 10 ships joining from Kirkwall were attacked by 3 Heinkels at 13:15 on March 8-1940. No damage was done by the 2 bombs dropped. Fighter aircraft were sent to assist the escort (see also my page about Convoys attacked by aircraft). A collision occurred between HMS Kelly (ON 18) and HMS Gurkha (HN 17). Both ships reached port. For information on the Norwegian ships in this convoy, see the Master Ship Index. Escorts:
See this document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys, as well as this external page (scroll down to text re Convoy ON 18 under March 7).

8 March 1940             Convoy ON 18 joined by KELLY and KANDAHAR relieving COSSACK who joined convoy HN17 escorted by DELIGHT, DIANA, GURKHA, ILEX and NUBIAN TO ESCORT 8 British, 19 Norwegian, 1 Danish and 1 Finnish ship from Bergen.

CONVOY HN 17 – Norway-U.K.
Left Norway on March 7-1940 and arrived Methil on March 10.

Transcribed from Advance Sailing Telegram received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. The Advance Sailing Telegram gives sailing date as March 5 (possibly from Narvik to Bergen?) – arrival Methil March 9. Convoy stations are not known. A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 17 had 8 British, 19 Norwegian, 1 Danish and 1 Finnish ship, for a total of 29, 5 of which were bound for the west coast. Iris of 1974 gt is also included in the Advance Sailing Telegram. However, I have a note saying that this ship did not sail so I’ve crossed her out. She later joined Convoy HN 19.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Warlaby British ore Middlesbrough
Kirnwood* ore Middlesbrough
Albuera ore Middlesbrough
Baron Kelvin ore Middlesbrough
(See also HN 16)
Clarissa Radcliffe ore Immingham
Royal Norwegian paper pulp Granton
Havborg timber Aberdeen
Ek general Grangemouth
Bonde wood Tyne
Stanja general Bristol
Star general Bristol
Janna general Manchester
Ørland ballast Tyne
Fairwater British ore Middlesbrough
Scillonian ore Immingham
Maurita Norwegian ballast Blyth
Notos general London
Nesttun pulp London
Varegg ballast Middlesbrough
Reiaas pulp Rouen
Lysaker pit props West Hartlepool
Effie Mærsk Danish ballast Glasgow
Iris Swedish pulp Ellesmere Port
Listed in HN 19
Ovington Court British ore Middlesbrough
(See also HN 16)
Hafnia Norwegian pulp London
(See also HN 16)
Gol ore Tees
Vesta general Le Havre
(See also HN 16)
Jæderen ballast Markworth Coquet Is.
Spica fresh fish Newcastle
Einvik ballast West Hartlepool
Margareta Finnish ore Barrow-on-Furness
* This ship is listed as Kirkwood in the Advance Sailing Telegram. However, the tonnage is given as 3829 gt, which was the British Kirnwood (Kirkwood was 1561 gt). A list of ships received from Don Kindell, based on the late Arnold Hague’s database, agrees on the whole with the above, but A. Hague has not included Clarissa Radcliffe and Scillonian in HN 17.
A collision occurred between HMS Kelly (from Convoy ON 18) and HMS Gurkha (HN 17). Both ships reached port. All the Norwegian ships mentioned in this convoy are discussed on this website, some are listed in the Homefleet section. The easiest way to find them all is via the Master Ship Index. Report on passage is not available. Escorts mentioned on this page:
Edinburgh, Arethusa (covering force), Calcutta, Delight, Diana, Gurkha, Nubian, Ilex, Cossack.
and Valiant provided distant cover. See also the text under March 7 on this external page (scroll down in the text), which mentions this convoy and its escorts (also mentioned under March 3). The page also has details on the collision between Kelly and Gurkha.

9 March 1940             Suspected vessels four miles Northeast of Kinnairs Head were reported to COSSACK.  EDINBURGH and ARETHUSA were advised to investigate. No contact made. (Later found to be destroyers GALLANT and GRIFFIN)

10 March 1940           Convoy HN17 arrived at Methil with COSSACK, GURKHA, ILEX and NUBIAN.

11 March 1940           Departed Methil at 1500 in company of GURKHA, ILEX and NUBIAN as escorts to convoy ON19 consisting of 8 British, 14 Norwegian, 7 Swedish, 2 Danish, 5 Finnish and 4 Estonian ships bound for Norway. (One ship bound for Aberdeen).  ILEX was relieved by FAULKNOR and FORTUNE.

CONVOY ON 19 – U.K.-Norway

Left Methil on March 11-1940 and arrived Norway on the 14th.
Received from Don Kindell – His source: The late Arnold Hague’s research. Stations are not known.

According to A. Hague, the following ships sailed in this convoy (in alphabetical order): Norwegian Akabahra
British Barrwhin
British Brighton
Norwegian Bruse
Norwegian Cetus
Swedish Convallaria
Norwgian Diana
Finnish Emmi
Swedish Framnas (Framnås?)
British Fylingdale
British Grenaa (was this ship still Danish at that time?)
Norwegian Gudrun
British Harmonic (arrived Narvik on March 17)
Estonian Hermes
Norwegian Hilda (see also HN 14).
Norwegian Jarl
Finnish Karl-Erik
Norwegian Kem
Danish Marx
Estonian Meero
Norwegian Meteor
British Minorca
Norwegian Mira
Swedish Oscar
Swedish Oswin
Norwegian Raftsund
Finnish Sally
Swedish Sårimner
Swedish Singoalla
Swedish Sonja
Norwegian Torridal
British Tregenna (arrived Narvik to load on March 17)
British Trident
Estonian Ubari
British Umberleigh
Estonian Urania
Norwegian Vigør
Finnish Wirma
British Yewkyle A document listing all the ON convoys (from the Public Records Office, Kew), states that Convoy ON 19 had 40 ships (incl. 13 joining from Kirkwall); 8 British, 14 Norwegian, 7 Swedish, 2 Danish, 5 Finnish, 4 Estonian. 1 was detached (not for Norway). For information on the Norwegian ships in this convoy, see the Master Ship Index. Escorts:
This document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys, has the names of escorts for this convoy. See also this external page (scroll down to text re Convoy ON 19 under March 11). In addition to escort information, the site says that the escorting destroyer Nubian attacked a submarine contact at 17:15 on March 13, east of Duncansby Head (58 37N 1 06W).

13 March 1940           NUBIAN attacks a submarine contact at 1715 east of Duncansby Head at 58-37N 1-06W and returns to convoy.

14 March 1940           Convoy arrived safely at Bergen. Departs same day as escort to convoy HN 19 in company with EDINBURGH, CALCUTTA, NUBIAN, GURKHA, FALKNOR and FORTUNE.

CONVOY HN 19 – Norway-U.K.
Departed Norway on March 14-1940 and arrived Methil on March 17

Transcribed from Advance Sailing Telegram received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. Convoy stations are not known. A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 19 had 3 British, 16 Norwegian, 7 Swedish, 4 Finnish and 5 Estonian ships, for a total of 35, 15 of which were bound for the west coast, denoted (W) in the table below.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Crown Arun British pulp (W) Ellesmere Port
Tore Jarl Norwegian ballast Blyth
Ruth I ore (W) Workington
Heien timber (W) Liverpool
Mammy tin Le Havre
Listed in HN 20
Evviva pulp London
Skotfoss general (W) Manchester
Iris passengers – fresh fish North Shields
Inger ballast Tyne
Granfoss general (W) Manchester
Meggie Swedish paper (W) Bristol
Ester Thordén Finnish general London
Newton Ash* British ore Middlesebrough
North Devon* ore (W) Workington
Siak Norwegian ballast Methil
Selvik pulp Northfleet (Thames)
Kongshaug cod roes (W) Sables d’Olonne
Themis paper Aberdeen
Vim ballast Tyne
Svanholm fresh fish Newcastle
Ingeborg Swedish general Leith
Brage timber (W) Irvine (Ayrshire)
Iris pulp (W) Ellesmere Port
“should have sailed in HN 17
Olev Estonian telegraph poles (W) Ellesmere Port
Sulev pulp (W) Ellesmere Port
Kotka Finnish ballast Tyne
Anneberg general (W) Manchester
Listed in HN 20
Carolus* pulp London
Tor Swedish butter – bacon Hull
Saga general (W) Glasgow
Taberg general Hull
Solhavn Norwegian general (W) Glasgow
Rapid II paper Dundee
Kalev Estonian telegraph poles (W) Newport
Margo general Hull
Najaden Finnish general London
Begonia Estonian pit props Blyth
* Newton Ash, North Devon and Carolus joined from Ålesund. Comparing the above with a list of ships received from D. Kindell, based on the late Arnold Hague’s database, I find that only the Norwegian Iris is included (cargo is given as pulp), not the Swedish ship by this name – both are listed in the Advance Sailing Telegram, the Swedish ship with a note saying “should have sailed in HN 17”.
All the Norwegian ships mentioned in this convoy are discussed on this website, some are listed in the Homefleet section. The easiest way to find them all is via the Master Ship Index. Report on passage is not available. Escorts mentioned on this page:
Edinburgh (covering force), Calcutta, Cossack, Nubian, Gurkha, Faulknor, Fortune.   At 0824/16th, EDINBURGH made a submarine contact in 59-07N, 00-57W, southeast of Fair Isle, and she and COSSACK attacked the contact. At 1330/16th, COSSACK attacked a contact east of Duncansby Head in 58-36N, 1-35W.This contact had been earlier attacked by aircraft. At 2330, EDINBURGH made an attack off Tod Head in 56-54N, 2-13W. When the convoy split into two sections, FAULKNOR and FORTUNE escorted the west coast section of 15 ships to Cape Wrath where the convoy was dispersed. The destroyers arrived at Scapa Flow on the 17th at 0700. Destroyers FAULKNOR and FORESTER anchored in Longhope pending the clearance of Gutter Sound. The convoy of 20 ships arrived at Methil without incident on the 17th. COSSACK, NUBIAN and GURKHA arrived at Rosyth at 1700/17th.

17 March 1940           Rosyth for repair of auxiliary feed pump

18 March 1940           Captain Vian leaves L03 for AFRIDI.  COSSACK and GURKHA departed Rosyth at 1800 for Scapa Flow

19 March 1940           Captain Sherbrook VC appointed Commanding Officer.

COSSACK and GURKHA arrived at Scapa Flow at 0930. COSSACK in company with GURKHA, GALLANT and IVANHOE departed Scapa Flow at 1630 as escort to the heavy cruiser NORFOLK.

20 March 1940           COSSACK arrived in the Clyde at 2230 with the cruiser NORFOLK and ESKIMO, GURKHA and PUNJABI. 

21 March 1940           COSSACK and GURKHA departed the Clyde at 1200

22 March 1940           At daylight COSSACK and GURKHA joined 9 west coast ships from convoy HN21 en route from Bergen.

CONVOY HN 21 – Norway-U.K.
Departed Norway on March 22-1940 and arrived Methil on March 25

Transcribed from Advance Sailing Telegram received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. Convoy stations are not known. A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 21 had 7 British, 18 Norwegian, 5 Swedish, 4 Danish, 4 Finnish and 1 Estonian ship for a total of 39, 9 of which were bound for the west coast.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Lily Danish ballast Port Talbot
Vestra British pig iron Grangemouth
Eos Estonian general Aberdeen
Garm Swedish fresh produce Hull
Scania pulp – props Blyth
Trolla Norwegian pulp Grimsby
Kongshavn cod roe illegible
(looks like Concarneau)
Vard ballast Blyth
Hjalmar Wessel ballast Blyth
Sollund talc Manchester
Lab pulp Calais
(did not sail? See note below)
Nurgis pulp Dundee
Røsten pyrites Hull
Burgos* general London
Bjørkhaug pulp Rouen
Vestmanrød fish roe same as Kongshavn
Pluto Finnish ballast Barry
Rosenborg pulp Grimsby
Rigmor Danish ballast Blyth
Karen ballast Tyne
Sophie ballast Methil
Galatea Norwegian general Hull
Vestland ballast Burntisland
Asgerd paper – timber Hull
Roy ballast Tees
Navarra ballast Swansea
Diana general Newcastle
Mira fresh fish – passengers – mail Newcastle
Johanna Swedish general Rouen
Gwalia general Manchester
Maud Thordén Finnish timber Liverpool
Hague British general Grangemouth
King Alfred ore Immingham
Bradburn ore Middlesbrough
Grängesberg Swedish ore Middlesbrough
Becheville British ore Middlesbrough
Wentworth ore Immingham
Sarmatia Finnish pulp Rochester
Erica Norwegian pulp Manchester
Fintra British general Grangemouth
The above agrees on the whole with a list of ships received from Don Kindell, based on the late Arnold Hague’s database, except A. Hague has not included the Norwegian Lab in this convoy. Note that she also appears in HN 23B.
* According to my info for Burgos, she struck a mine on March 28 before having reached her destination – see my page about this ship. The external site that I’ve linked to further down on this page (scroll down in the text under March 28) states she was in Convoy FS 31 at the time, and that the sloop Pelican rescued her entire crew. The FS convoys are available on this external site and Burgos is included on this page. As will be seen, the Norwegian Asgerd, Trolla and Bjørkhaug, the Swedish Johanna, the Finnish Rosenborg and Sarmatia, and the British King Alfred and Wentworth (all from Convoy HN 21) are also listed. All the Norwegian ships mentioned here are discussed on this website, some are listed in the Homefleet section. The easiest way to find them all is via the Master Ship Index. Report on passage is not available. Escorts mentioned on this page:
Sheffield, Calcutta, S/M Porpoise, Cossack, Eclipse, Javelin, Janus, Juno, Gurkha.

23 March 1940           After dispersing convoy off Cape Wrath COSSACK and GURKHA arrived at Scapa Flow at 1730

25 March 1940           COSSACK departed Scapa Flow at 0700 in company with  ESKIMO and PUNJABI to search area 61N  to 60 N, 2W  to 4W

U.47 at 0600 sank Danish steamer BRITTA (1146grt) in 60‑00N, 04‑19W, off Sule Skerry. Five survivors were picked up by Danish steamer NANCY (1153grt) which was in company, but thirteen crew went missing.

Destroyers ELECTRA and ENCOUNTER, returning to Scapa Flow, proceeded to the location and ELECTRA stood by the rescue area. At 1241, ELECTRA and ENCOUNTER were ordered to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived at 1830. Destroyers HOTSPUR and HERO from Sullom Voe and SOMALI, MATABELE, FAME, FORESIGHT, SIKH, FOXHOUND from anti-submarine operations east of the Orkneys were sent to the area. Destroyers COSSACK (D.4), ESKIMO, PUNJABI departed Scapa Flow at 0700. The wreckage of BRITTA was later found eighteen miles from the reported position.

In anti-submarine operations on 25 and 26 March, COSSACK, SIKH, FOXHOUND, HOTSPUR, HERO were searching in the area 61N to 60N, 2W to 4W. They were joined by destroyer NUBIAN after escorting submarine TRIBUNE and destroyer FIREDRAKE after repairs from destroyer depot ship WOOLWICH. Destroyer FIREDRAKE was then ordered to join destroyers ICARUS and IVANHOE and the anti-submarine trawlers on the Moray Firth patrol. In anti-submarine operations on 25 and 26 March, destroyers SOMALI (D.6), ESKIMO, PUNJABI searched the eastern half of a patrol area from 60N to 59N, 3W to 5W. MATABELE, FAME, FORESIGHT searched the western half of this area.


26 March 1940           Continued to search area 60N to 61N, 2W to 4W

27 March 1940           Ordered to return at 1322 to seek shelter from heavy weather. Arrived at Scapa Flow at 1700 (Captain 4D transferred from COSSACK back to AFRIDI

29 March 1940           COSSACK should have departed Scapa Flow at 1930 in company of AFRIDI and SIKH to collect convoy HN23A from Bergen.  MOHAWK took her place.

31 March 1940            COSSACK departed Scapa Flow at 0540 to join the convoy escort to HN23 from Bergen.  En route stands by the disabled trawler SOPHOS (217 tons) from 1130 to 1415 when another trawler arrived to take her in tow.

CONVOY HN 23A – Norway-U.K.
Departed Norway on March 30-1940 and arrived Methil on Apr. 3

Transcribed from Advance Sailing Telegram received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. Convoy stations are not known. The Advance Sailing Telegram, consisting of 4 pages, contains ships in the 2 convoys HN 23A and HN 23B all together, and I’ve extracted the HN 23B ships and placed them on a separate page (see HN 23B). Please note also that the Advance Sailing Telegram for the previous convoy appears to cover both Convoys HN 22 and HN 23A, so that some ships have been extracted from those documents and placed here on this page. (W= the ship was bound for the west coast, according to the AST). A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that Convoy HN 23A had 1 British, 12 Norwegian, 7 Swedish, 6 Danish, 8 Finnish, 4 Estonian and 1 Latvian ship, for a total of 39, 14 of which were bound for the west coast.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination
Tobago Latvian pulp W Watchet
Helios Estonian ballast Sunderland
Magne Swedish general Hull
Kemi Finnish pulp W Ellesmere Port
Signe ballast Burntisland
Sunk – See Notes
Jussi H general Hull
Gottfrid ballast Blyth
Skagen Danish ballast Tyne
Note that Skagen is mentioned in Bedouin‘s report for Convoy HN 23B, said to have been in station 17 of that convoy.
Alf ballast Methil
Ulrik Holm ballast Blyth
Bjørnvik Norwegian pulp London
Bro fish W Bordeaux
Esbjørn Finnish general Leith
Merkur Estonian ballast Blyth
Viiu ballast Hull
Frisia Swedish general London
Gun Norwegian ballast Tyne
Dagmar Danish ballast Glasgow
Elgö Swedish general Hull
Aina Estonian pulp W Ellesmere Port
(for info, also listed in HN 25)
Thore Hafte Norwegian manganese Middlesbrough
Emily Finnish ballast Tyne
Spica Norwegian fresh fish – mail Newcastle
Birgitta Swedish pulp Rouen
Freidig Norwegian pulp W Rouen?
Alfa Swedish pulp W Preston
(looks like Edle)
Norwegian carbide W illegible (Runcorn?)
Barrwhin British ore W Manchester
Barrwhin is also listed HN 24. The following ships have been extracted from the Advance Sailing Telegram for Convoy HN 22, which appears to contain ships for HN 23A as well. A list of ships received from D. Kindell, based on the late Arnold Hague’s database, also has these ships in Convoy HN 23A.
Akabahra Norwegian ballast Tyne
Brask ore Workington
Brisk general London
Elizabeth Danish ballast Tyne
Ergo Finnish ballast Blyth
Frode Norwegian ballast Tyne
Neva Swedish pulp W Preston
Norruna general W Belfast
Regin Norwegian general Hull
(Commodore Vessel)
Robert Danish ballast Tyne
Tauri Finnish ballast W Barry Roads
Several of the ships named in this table are also listed in the last convoy from Norway, HN 25.
All the Norwegian ships mentioned here are discussed on this website, some are listed in the Homefleet section. The easiest way to find them all is via the Master Ship Index. In the evening of Apr. 1, the Finnish Signe stopped her engines, and HMS Gurkha was sent to enquire if she needed assistance, but no reply was received. After a while Signe continued on the proper course, Gurkha remaining in company for 20 minutes, still signalling but getting no reply, so she resumed her station and informed Afridi that the Finnish ship had proceeded and was following in the wake of the convoy, about 5 miles astern. At 23:15 HMS Sikh heard an explosion which she thought might be from Cossack. She called her by V/S and W/T but, receiving no reply, she turned back to investigate, reporting her action to Afridi, but found nothing. Afridi then called Cossack on power, asking if she had anything to communicate, but she did not. The convoy consisted of 19 ships that evening (Apr. 1) and they were all still present the following morning. As it turned out, the Finnish Signe was sunk. Date of loss is given as Apr. 2, at 00:21, German time – Jürgen Rohwer suggests in his “Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two” that this ship was torpedoed and sunk by U-38 in area AN 1814. In a footnote he adds: “U-38 attacked a ship at the end of a convoy and observed a dense cloud of smoke and vapour. Area AN 1814 was east of Moray Firth and not in a direct line from Bergen to Burntisland” (Signe‘s destination). Uboat.net’s page about this attack has more info (external link). HMS Afridi‘s report (4th Destroyer Flotilla):
HMS Afridi arrived off the entrance to Hovden at 19:00 on March 30, which was the time appointed for Convoy HN 23A to emerge. The convoy had not yet sailed so a Norwegian T.B. was sent in to send it out, and the first ships emerged at 20:30, others appearing at intervals until 22:00 that night. Due to thick weather, with a southeast force 6 wind, some ships turned back, others had to heave to. When clear of the outlying reefs, the leading ships were eventually turned in order to avoid the incoming Convoy ON 23. During the night a full southerly gale developed, causing the ships to scatter by as much as 30 miles in the morning, and the convoy consequently never formed up. During the evening (March 31) their approximate positions were established, and the next morning, Apr. 1, 23 ships were gathered up, the gale having abated. 4 of them were westbound and were detached with HMS Mohawk and Encounter in order to pass north of the Shetlands. Mohawk also received orders to intercept and attach 7 more ships that had been reported by aircraft to be 15 miles to the northward, and therefore presumed to be westbound. Later in the day a northeasterly gale blew up, and the course steered became very erratic, with the wind and sea on the quarter. The starboard columns seemed to have gone about 15° to the westward of the course ordered and were prevented from grounding on Fair Island at about 00:30 by use of the emergency signal. Afridi was slightly to the west of her allotted course, but by this time it had become evident that the following units were likely to be met between 03:30 and 04:30 that morning, Apr. 2:
Convoy ON 24 with escorts and the Kirkwall portion of ON 24 with escort, as well as HMS Somali and HMS Glasgow.
Because of the rain and sleet squalls the visibility was low. As it turned out, one of the destroyers from the escort of Convoy HN 23B* passed through Convoy ON 24, and another narrowly avoided a collision with HMS Glasgow. * It looks like the B in HN 23B has been replaced by 23A here – the B has not been crossed out, but it’s underlined, and an A is written by hand next to it. In other words, it might have been one of the destroyers from HN 23A that passed through ON 24, while another nearly collided with HMS Glasgow. When off Kinnaird Head in the afternoon of Apr. 2 a Junker carried out an abortive attack* on the convoy, the weather being clear at that time. That same day, a 20th ship was seen and added to the convoy; this ship is not named. During the night, the wind shifted to the south and the weather became thick again. The Commodore Vessel, Regin, steered an incorrect course, reducing speed by about 4 knots, and for this reason Afridi‘s commander “applied, without further notice, for an extension of Bell Rock Light, its position being uncertain on account of the failure of the log and D/F in Afridi. It was eventually made, unlit, ahead, in time to alter course”. *A document about Convoys attacked by aircraft states that in the afternoon of Apr 2-1940, 3 convoys were attacked almost simultaneously as follows: 1 aircraft bombed the eastern portion of HN 23A at 14:57, 18 miles north of Kinnaird Head. Fighters were sent in support.
Also, 2 aircraft attacked ON 24 southeast of Fair Island, dropping 4 bombs.
1 aircraft attacked HN 23B at 15:15, 6 bombs dropped – no damage caused. HN 23A arrived in Largs Bay at 11:40 on Apr. 3. Speed made good: 5.3 knots. Afridi‘s commander mentions that the convoy guide, Regin “proved unable to steer a course, nor to maintain her speed except in calm”. Escorts mentioned on this page:
Galatea, Arethusa, Calcutta, Afridi, Gurkha, Mohawk, Sikh, Encounter, Cossack. Convoy HN.23 A of one British, twelve Norwegian, seven Swedish, six Danish, eight Finnish, one Latvian, four Estonian ships departed Bergen escorted by destroyers GURKHA, AFRIDI, SIKH. Antiaircraft cruiser CALCUTTA accompanied the convoy for anti-aircraft protection. Destroyer COSSACK departed Scapa Flow on the 31st at 0540 to join the convoy escort. En route, she stood by the disabled trawler SOPHOS (217grt) from 1130 to 1415 until another trawler arrived to take her in tow. At 0021/2 April, U.38 attacked the convoy, but was driven off by COSSACK. Destroyers ENCOUNTER and MOHAWK escorted 14 ships of the west coast section of the convoy. ENCOUNTER arrived at Scapa Flow at 0420 on 3 April and MOHAWK was detached in the evening of 2 April for an anti-submarine hunt. The 26 ships of convoy arrived at Methil at 0900 on 3 April, escorted by AFRIDI, SIKH, GURKHA, COSSACK, after being divided in heavy weather.

2 April 1940                At 0021 German submarine U38 attacks convoy but is driven off by COSSACK.

3 April 1940                COSSACK in company with AFRIDI, SIKH, and GURKHA arrived at Methil at 0900 with 26 ship of the convoy

7 April 1940                At Rosyth. Sailed at 2130 with AFRIDI, GURKHA, SIKH, MOHAWK, ZULU, KASHMIR, KELVIN plus the Polish destroyers ORP GROM, BLYSAKAWICA AND BURZA as a screen for cruisers ARETHUSA AND GALATEA

8 April 1940                1700 hours. Arrived 80 miles west of Stavanger as part of an interception sweep northwards from 58.30N 3.30E. Joined by destroyers SOMALI, MATABELA, MASHONA and TARTAR

9 April 1940.               Towed HMS Kashmir, who had collided with HMS Kelvin at 0500, to Lerwick. Escorted by ZULU who attacked U99 when she surfaced north of Orkney. Submarine escaped with light damage.

10 April 1940              COSSACK and ZULU refuelled at Lerwick and departed to rejoin the force off Norway

12 April 1940.             Rejoined Home Fleet off Narvik. Deployed with ESKIMO, PUNJABI, HERO, ICARUS, KIMBERLEY, FORESTER and FOXHOUND to provide screen for WARSPITE for passage to Vest Fjord

13 April 1940              Rendezvous with task force at 0200 at 67° 44’ N 13° 22’ E ready for the   2nd Battle of Narvik. Deployed as screen for WARSPITE in Vest Fjord with destroyers HERO, FOXHOUND and FORESTER.  Later joined by destroyers BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, ICARUS, KIMBERLEY and PUNJABI

Detached from WARSPITE and entered harbour at Narvik with FOXHOUND and KIMBERLEY covered by gunfire from WARSPITE.  With FOXHOUND engaged and sunk German destroyer ERIC GIESE.  Came under shore fire.

The Germans sighted the British force sailing up the fjord at 1156 hours (battleship Warspite proceeded by the destroyers Bedouin, Eskimo, Cossack, Punjabi, Hero, Icarus, Forester, Foxhound and Kimberley). Z9 with Z11 and Z18 sailed from Narvik harbour at 1215. They met Z19, which had been on picket duty up the fjord. These four ships engaged the leading British destroyers, Z9 opening fire at 1258, through snow squalls, exchanging gunfire and torpedoes with little effect on either side. Z9 fired one salvo of four torpedoes at HMS Cossack and her last four shortly before turning back for Narvik at 1330. By this time most of their remaining ammunition had been shot off, (Z9 was, in fact, completely out of ammunition) and Bey ordered his ships to retreat up Rombaksfjord. With Z11, she retreated all the way up to the head of the fjord where, undamaged but confronted with the inevitable; she was scuttled with demolition charges.

German invasion of Norway April 1940

Geirr. H.Haarr

Seaforth publishing

ISBN 978-1-84832-032-1

Page 362

German ARNIM fired 2 triple salvos of torpedoes. COSSACK avoided all but one which was running deep.   It was spotted too late and passed under COSSACK level with the bridge.

U25 fired two torpedoes at COSSACK – both missed.

COSSACK shot at ROLDER from 2500 metres and scored with the second salvo.

1226 hours engaged and crippled German destroyer DIETHER VON ROEDER with three other Home Fleet destroyers (BEDOUIN,ICARUS, and PUNJABI) and was hit by eight direct hits and one “Short” 5” (estimated) Seven direct action fused shells. Two delayed action fused shells. (See pages 59 and 60 of ‘The British Sailor’ – Kenneth Poolman) (See page 104 of ‘NARVIK’ – Donald Macintyre)

The following is from official sources

Archivist note – This extract has, in the main, been typed as read from the file and may carry misspellings, duplicate messages, conflicting information and incorrect prose. (Skjelfjord appears in the file as Sjeld Fjord). The extract only tries to set the events in chronological order from the various reports in the file. The aerial photographs were taken by Warspite’s aircraft and inserted where thought appropriate. (See MO7710/40 Part WHCase 7441). It is not known who took the photographs of the damage to COSSACK

2nd Battle of Narvik Saturday 13 April.1940

Operation D.W.

Extracts from File M08047/40 (The National Archives)

Operations by HM Ships

Case 7442      5 – 13 April 1940

Case 7443       13 – 19 April 1940

Case 7444       20 – 26 April 1940

Case 7445       27 April – 3 May 1940

Case 7446       5 May – 13 June 1940

Naval Air Operations

Case 7447       8 April – 4 May 1940

Case 7448       6 May – 13 June 1940

Anti-Submarine Attacks and Measures

Case 7449      

Bases – Military Operations

Case 7450       RM Operations. Bases

Case 7451       Military Operations. Intelligence Reports etc.


Case 7452

Narvik – Operations for Capture

Case 7453       Reports by P.O. Narvik (Lord Cork)

Case 7454       Progress Reports and Telegrams

Case 7455       Naval Requirements. Narvik Committee – telegram

Case 7456       Telegrams and Memoranda

Case 7457       Operational Telegrams

Case 7458       Operational Telegrams

Report of Vice Admiral W.J. Withworth. Vice Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron, Commander- in- Chief. Home fleet.

Force B

WARSPITE – Captain V.A.C. Crutchley. VC DSC RN (Flying the flag of Vice Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron)

BEDOUIN – Commander J.A. McCoy         

COSSACK – Commander R. St. V.  Sherbrooke.      Position A

ESKIMO – Commander St. John  Aldrich Micklethwait. DSO

PUNJABI- Commander J. T. Lean

HERO- Commander Biggs.                                        Position B

ICARUS- Lt Cdr C. D. Maud

KIMBERLEY – Lt Cdr R. G. E. Knowling

FORESTER – Lt Cdr E. S. Tancock DSO.                            Position P

FOXHOUND – Lt Cdr G. H. Peters.                                      Position O

Aircraft from FURIOUS

Asdic range 1600 yards

Note.  From Page 141. Reception of all Wireless Telegraphy (W/T) signals with the exception of 15 kc/s (Rugby), and to a lesser extent 51.5 kcs, and very local signals was extremely bad once ships were inside the Fjords.  This was particularly noticeable in the approaches to Narvik east of longitude 16° 21’ east


(from : Jacques MORDAL : La campagne de Norvège, Editions SELF, Paris, 1949, 445 P.)

Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron instructionsOperation DW. Object destruction of German warships, merchant ships and defences in Narvik area.

Ships of force “B” are to rendezvous with WARSPITE flying the flag of the Vice Admiral commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron, in position 67o44’North 13o22’ East at 0730. HOSTILE and HAVOCK to protect Skjelfjord. Remaining destroyers are to rendezvous with commander –in-chief Home fleet in position 68o00’ North 11o20’ at 1030.

On reaching Baroy island which is the suspected minefield area the A/S screen should as far as practical swing into the swept waters until past the island. The force will proceed to in to Ofot Fjord engaging shore defences in passing, making full use of short range weapons as well as heavier guns. Non T.S.D.S destroyers and WARSPITE  covering advance of sweeping destroyers with gunfire. (Two Speed Destroyer Sweep.   It consisted of paravanes attached to steel cables streamed out aft on either side of the stern.)

 It is specially important that destroyers sighted should be engaged before they can fire torpedoes at WARSPITE. T.S.D.S sweeping is to be continued up to longitude 16o 55’East. Sweeping destroyers are then to haul clear of WARSPITE recover or cut their sweeps and assist the non-T.S.D.S destroyers. Failing other targets they may drop back and destroy shore defence guns on Baroy Island or elsewhere. WARSPITE will proceed to a position 5 miles from Narvik depending on circumstances and from there cover the advance of the destroyers into the harbour and adjacent waters where enemy ships may be located. Destroyers are normally to make smoke if required by Vice Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron the force will withdraw as ordered by the Vice Admiral Commanding. Battle Cruiser Squadron. FURIOUS to arrange air attacks on the following enemy positions. All forces to synchronise with WARSPITE’s approach.   Attack Baroy Island defences about 1215. Romeness Point, longitude 17o31’East, and Narvik harbour and Herjangs and batteries at Narvik about 1345. Vice admiral commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron, will signal exact times at which these attacks are to commence. FURIOUS is to provide anti-submarine patrol for WARSPITE from 0830 vide paragraph (II).

Signal dated 1547/12 April.

Minefield reported 68o24’ North 15o59 ’East

U-boat in Vest Fjord area

Five or six LEBERECHT MAAS class some damaged and six merchantmen sunk inside harbour

HARDY beached 68o23’North 17o06 ’East

Baroy Island 68o21’ North 16o07’ East has military defences including possible magnetic torpedo tubes.

Three 12 or 18 pounder guns on hill North of Ore Quay, chart number 3753, facing North West. Four inch calibre guns on both sides of fjord near entrance to Ranchet 68o26’  30” North 16o29’30” East and 68o24’ 30” North 16o29’ 30” East.

One or two unidentified aircraft were sighted in Vestfjord on 12 April

Two friendly Norwegian submarines are in the vicinity of Sommersoct 68o27’ North 15o 29’ East.

HM Ships Eskimo and Cossack – Report of Proceedings

(2nd Battle of Narvik)  

Page 172 onwards

HMS COSSACK       19 April 1940 (Interspersed with information from the WARSPITE, other ships reports and the communication report from the same file)

During the approach the sweeping destroyers were ICARUS, HERO, FOXHOUND.

Starboard Division – BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, ESKIMO



I have the honour to forward the following report of proceedings of HMS ship under my command during operation D.W. off Narvik on Saturday 13 April 1940.

2. The two parts of the force intended to carry out this operation joined company at 0730 and proceeded up West Fjord in the following order:- ICARUS with bow protective gear, HERO, FOXHOUND and FORESTER with T.S.D.S.


Copied from file

Weather – overcast, heavy melting snow clouds producing intermittent rain, wind south – west force 3 / 4, visibility 10 miles. Snow lay thickly on the mountains down to sea level. Weather cleared about 1600.

0743 – COSSACK to BC One by light – “As my point 5 MG has been defective, request permission to test with a few rounds

0747 – Signal from BCS to FURIOUS – “Commence air attack at the times stated in the orders for the operation.”

0757 – from BC One by light “Approved” (0743 signal)

0758 – BC One to COSSACK (and others) by light “Take screening diagram 4”

0801 – BC One to all destroyers by light – “Set watch on 565 kc/s and read H.D. routines.

0815 – COSSACK to BC One by light – “Percentage of full stowage of oil fuel remaining at 0800 35% “

0915. The following signal was received from BC One by light –“We are proceeding to attack the defences of Narvik and any German or merchant ships met.  I am sure that any resistance on the part of the enemy will be dealt with in the most resolute and determined manner. I wish you all every success”

1009 – Signal from BCS to all ships – “Operation D.W.

Paragraph (vi). Any sign of enemy activity on Baroy Island is to be destroyed by gunfire

Paragraph (vii). If a guide to fire distribution is necessary odd numbered destroyers take south side and even number take north side.  Enemy war ships take precedence over shore targets.  

Paragraph (viii) On arrival east of 17° east destroyers may use high speed but should not lose the support of Warspite’s fire. Any enemy warship in the fjord to the North of Narvik is to be provided for, before the harbour to the south is entered.

Paragraph (x) If ordered to withdraw the signal DBO by v/s and w/t will be used”

1030. 30 miles from the entrance to Ofot Fjord.

1045 – BC one to all by flag. – “Assume 1st degree of readiness with AA armament”

1058. Force B approaching ESKIMO off Tranoy Light.

3. ESKIMO who had been sent on ahead reported a submarine in sight bearing 240° which was attacked with depth charges between 1100 and 1108. ESKIMO then joined company. BEDOUIN also dropped 4 depth charges at 1110.

4. Before passing Baroy Island PUNJABI and ESKIMO formed astern of BEDOUIN as the starboard wing, KIMBERLEY and FOXHOUND astern of COSSACK as the port wing with ICARUS, HERO and FORESTER in the centre sweeping ahead of WARSPITE.

1142. 5 miles westward of Baroy Island Warspite’s aircraft flown off at 1152 for reconnaissance, to bomb suitable targets, to return to Skjelfjord.  Screening destroyers move to van.


Destroyers in Ofort Fjorden


A Swordfish from FURIOUS sighted.  The aircraft observer concurred that there was nothing to bomb on Baroy Island and it returned to FURIOUS.

1203 Warspite’s aircraft reported two enemy destroyers were off Framsk (68° 24’North  16° 49’ East ) and at 1250 that these destroyers were hiding in a bay 5 miles ahead of the screen and were in a position to fire torpedoes. The number was later corrected to one.

5. The first point at which the enemy gun defences had been reported was Baroy Island. This was passed at 1209, no fire being encountered or gun emplacement seen. A minefield had also been reported in the vicinity of the entrance to Tjeldsundet.

6. At 1228 one enemy destroyer was sighted ahead and the fire opened at extreme range at 1232.

1232. COSSACK to all by flag (flag 5) – “Fire may be opened”

As, however, the fall of shot could not be seen at this range fire was checked.

7. At 1247 fire was again opened on a single destroyer and at 1251 and 1257 two further enemy destroyers were sighted, these opened fire on the leading British ships at 1249, ICARUS being straddled at 1250. 

1250 Warspite’s aircraft via WARSPITE to COSSACK by W/T – 2 destroyers hiding in bay starboard side of fjord, one mile ahead of screen. Received by COSSACK at 1258.

9. Enemy batteries have also been reported either side of the entrance at Ramnes Point. This was passed at 1255 and no sign of enemy activities or of gun emplacements could be seen.

At 1300 a low wing monoplane thought to be a Dornier 17 was seen on the port beam proceeding down the fiord on opposite course.

1300 – From BC one by light – “Look out for destroyer hiding on starboard hand”

10. At 1303 the mean course was altered to 090° (by use of flag and light) towards Narvik. At the same time a signal was received from aircraft saying “look out for enemy destroyer in bay one mile ahead on starboard hand”

11. At 1305 another destroyer appeared out of Bogen Bay and shots began to fall in the vicinity of COSSACK at 1307. From this point the enemy ships, while keeping all the guns bearing, fought a retiring action up the fiord. The tactics of the British destroyers was to keep a solid front line and so provide numerous targets, altering courses and speeds as necessary to avoid enemy fall of shot.

While maintaining a steady and continuous pressure advancing up the fiord at a mean speed of some 12 to 14 knots.

12 Up to now, due to indifferent visibility, COSSACK had been engaging most likely target, but at 1310 fire was concentrated on the left hand ship. At this time ESKIMO was straddled and from now on the enemy had found our range and were firing with considerable accuracy.

13. At 1312 flashes of gunfire were observed on the starboard hand coming from Djupvik Bay.  This turned out to be from the destroyer reported by Warspite’s aircraft. It was seen that PUNJABI opened fire with main armament and Pom Pom on this target. COSSACK was straddled and fired 3 salvos at 3300 yards, the third of which was seen to hit amidships. At this point the enemy was heavily on fire but still had some guns in action. As now, however, the target was clear for rear ships and COSSACK was heavily engaged from ahead, fire was shifted to the left hand ship of the three seen to be retiring towards Narvik.

14. By this time ICARUS, HERO and FORESTER had dropped back to get in their sweeping gear and the order of advance consisted of BEDOUIN, PPUNJABI, ESKIMO and COSSACK in approximately line abreast from starboard to port with KIMBERLEY and FOXHOUND in rear of COSSACK.

15. 1318 – Aircraft reported 5 torpedoes approaching and at 1322 course was altered to avoid a surface runner.

16. Between 1320 and 1347 COSSACK received 16 straddles or near misses.  During this period the W/T aerial was shot away and a near miss at 46 station starboard perforated mess deck and No 2 provision room, flooding the latter and shipping a considerable amount of water on to the messdecks.

17. At 1331 while in a position 270° Narvik West Light 10 ¾ miles, a series of three or four bumps, as if striking a submerged object were felt.

1345. Sweeping destroyers hauled in their sweeps and subsequently proceeded in support of the destroyers of the striking force

18. At 1346 nine aircraft from FURIOUS were seen approaching Narvik along Ofot Fiord

19. At 1349 one torpedo passed close ahead and another under the bridge. Track bubbles were seen and it appeared that a low speed setting was in use.

20. At 1350 a lull occurred in the enemy firing, which was resumed four minutes later, when COSSACK was again straddled.  At this point it was noticed that shore defences round Narvik were in action.

1352 Warspite’s aircraft reported no destroyers in Skjomen Fjord.

1355 – COSSACK from BC One by W/T – “ EMERGENCY  Look out for enemy destroyers in bays on starboard side”

21. At 1358 columns of smoke possibly caused by exploding torpedoes or by aircraft bombs were observed close to Narvik.

22. By this time an enemy had been seen close inshore on the port hand at the entrance to Herjangs Fjord. This was engaged by COSSACK and hits scored. (FOXHOUND reported this destroyer was silenced and burning)

1402 WARSPITE ordered destroyers to engage enemy destroyers

23.  At 1406 PUNJABI received two or three direct hits, and made a large alteration to port.

24.  At 1410 three surface running torpedoes were observed approaching from the direction of a destroyer off Narvik Point.   The port engine was put to full speed astern and these avoided.

25. This destroyer was on fire but still in action with its after guns. As it was being engaged by more adjacent ships course was altered to port to engage an enemy retiring in the direction of Herjangs Fiord.

26. BC1s signal 1009 of 13 April stated that any enemy warship in fiord to the North of Narvik was to be provided for before the harbour to the south was entered.  BEDOUIN’s 1101 stated that BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and ESKIMO would go for any enemy in Herjangs Fiord and COSSACK and KIMBERLEY were to use their discretion when to attack ships in Narvik Harbour.

27. An aircraft report had been received of a large enemy destroyer in Narvik Harbour and it now being clear that the enemy in Herjangs and Rombaks fiords were being followed BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and ESKIMO decided to enter Narvik Harbour to sink any enemy merchant vessels as was deemed advisable.


Cossack approaching Narvik


Cossack in Narvik Fjord

28.  The position in the harbour of the enemy precluded more than one destroyer at a time engaging him at a decisive range, and at 1415 course was altered for the harbour and a signal sent to KIMBERLY to follow.

1420 – all from BC One by W/T – “You are doing grand”

29. When approaching the harbour no enemy destroyer could be seen (Cossack had steamed for the south side of the entrance) but on clearing the light house point the enemy came in sight near the wharf on the eastern side of the harbour at a range of 3000 yards.  Both ships opened fire simultaneously COSSACK scoring a hit with the second salvo. The enemy fired 5 salvos and then his fire was silenced. Four hits were scored on COSSACK, the first of which penetrated the TS and necessitated local control. Another entered No 2 boiler room cutting the main steam pipe resulting in the immediate loss of steam, and also severed the telemotor leads, with the result that at 1422 COSSACK grounded forwards at the harbour entrance due south of Narvik occulting light. As there was a fire in the adjacent messdeck orders were given to flood “A” magazine.

1433 – COSSACK to all by flag and light – “Am aground” (south of Framnesoddon Point)

COSSACK aground in Narvik Fjord

1434 – COSSACK to BC One by light – “Am aground, have fire of destroyer in harbour”

30.  Firing was continued at a range of 2000 yards until it was evident that the enemy had abandoned ship when the order to cease fire was given. With a view a view of boarding and taking the ship I ordered the only remaining sound boat – a whaler – to be armed and lowed.

1444. COSSACK to BC One by light – “No enemy opposition in Narvik Bay.

31. By this time the shore batteries had ceased firing. But besides the 9 ships sunk in the harbour there were some 13 at anchor or alongside quays and the situation in the harbour was no means clear.  Although the object of the operation D.W. was the destruction of German warships- merchant ships and defences in Narvik area Vide CinC H.F. 1918/12 I did not wish to sink unnecessarily merchant shipping as we were now in command of the area.  The ships appeared to be deserted but prevent any chance of scuttling by shore parties I considered that the presence of a destroyer inside the harbour was advisable.

32. KIMBERLEY had now come up, but had damage affecting his manoeuvrability had apparently been sustained, I ordered FOXHOUND to enter the harbour and investigate the situation.

(Foxhound report – “As I had only one gun which could fire ahead I decided to stand by Cossack but he would not let me tow him off as he might sink by the bow”)


FOXHOUND approaching COSSACK in Narvik Fjord


2011. View of Narvik from position of grounding at Ankenes


1940 View of Ankenes from Cossack


1450 FOXHOUND instructed by COSSACK to board silenced enemy destroyer laying at double pier opposite.

33. At 1510 FOXHOUND entered the harbour, (Foxhound’s report puts this as 1500) but on approaching the enemy destroyer he was met by hot machine gun and rifle fire apparently from the shore in the vicinity.  He then fired a few single rounds in to the destroyer which afterwards blew up and sank, and he then withdrew.

1532 – COSSACK to BC One by W/T – “While ordering FOXHOUND to approach German destroyer machine gun fire from shore was met with, 13 merchant ships in harbour, am taking no further action pending capture of these vessels, my damage considerable including all W/T; further signals will be made by V/S. German destroyer has now sunk.”

34. I reported the situation to the V.A Commander the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron in WARSPITE first by v/s through FOXHOUND and then by w/s as soon as the aerial had been repaired. The enemy had received a hard blow and his warships were being rapidly destroyed. Their morals has undoubtedly suffered  and while in this state it seemed to me a matter for serious consideration whether a landing party should not there and then be made to take the town.

1540 – FOXHOUND sends Medical Officer to COSSACK to assist with casualties.

1615 – COSSACK to BC One by W/T – “IMPORTANT Situation as follows. 3 holes forward on waterline before 30 bulkhead. Small holes above waterline abaft 30 bulkhead can be plugged. Consider with lightening forward and assistance of tow ship can be steamed stern first. At present is aground forward.  All guns available in local control”

1631 – BC One from Cossack by W/T – “On ordering FOXHOUND to approach German destroyers / gunfire from shore was met with.  13 merchant ships in harbour probably about half German. Am taking no further offensive action unless attempts to scuttle are made. German destroyer has now sunk. Regret to report following casualties, 7 dead, 15 seriously wounded, 12 wounded.  Consider town could be mopped up with a small force.”

1641 – COSSACK and FOXHOUND  from BC One by W/T – “Report situation in Narvik Harbour.”

1651BC One from FOXHOUND by light – “(Report on harbour activity)………. Am Picking up Germans and standing by COSSACK in case she is fired on. 5 sent to MO. Am sending MO. COSSACK’s damage looks considerable and he will not let me tow him off.”

35. At 1700 a howitzer opened fire up from behind the town.  Its shooting was accurate at about 2 minute intervals. Shots fell correct for line 150, 75 and 25 yards over. The howitzer was not in sight from the ship and only the general direction from which the shots came could be gauged, however three salvoes were fired at a small hill some 3500 yards distant, on which was seen a mast and some men, and the howitzer did not again fire.  Gun flashes had also been reported from a merchant vessel alongside the quay, on which the Pom Pom opened up.

1715 – FOXHOUND to BC One  by light – “ COSSACK being fired on”

1719 – BC One to COSSACK by light – “Are you being fired at and from what direction?

1720 – Reply from COSSACK – “Am being fired at by field gun from port beam.”

BC one to FOXHOUND by 1724 by light – “Keep out of the way, am about to open fire”

1725 – COSSACK to BC One by light – “Fire in direction of fort”

1727 – BC One to Cossack by light – “Where is the fort that is firing”

1729 –  BC One to COSSACK by light –“Have you silenced the fort?”

1731 – COSSACK to BC One by Light – “Firing appeared to come from merchant vessel.”

1745 – COSSACK to BC One by light   – “ I think howitzer fired from the hill top bearing N. 35 E. 3500 yards from me. I think this is blind from you.”

1755 – COSSACK to BC One by light – “Would like to transfer 15 wounded to WARSPITE if possible”

36. The remaining ships taking part in the operation were seen to retire down the fiord soon afterwards and some little time later a report of 12 enemy aircraft approaching up the fiord was received.

37. In view of the situation with the ship aground 50 yards from the shore in shallow water I ordered the C.Bs and S.Ps to be burnt.

38. Narvik appeared deserted except for a few men who came down near the ships. One stated there were German soldiers in the town and when pressed for numbers said he thought about 2000. They appeared very glad that the German destroyers had been sunk. Another Norwegian on skis came down to inform us that a German submarine had been in harbour the previous day, telling us “for our own good”.

1826 – KIMBERLEY from BC One by light – “Remain at Narvik and endeavour to tow COSSACK to Skjelfjord”

1832 – to all from BC One   W/T ?– “Am withdrawing. KIMBERLEY is to guard COSSACK withdrawing her if possible from Narvik Harbour. PUNJABI to guard ESKIMO”

1851 – BEDOUIN to BC One by light – “Have orders for ESKIMO and COSSACK been given please?”

1904 – BC One to KIMBERLEY by light – “Cancel my 1826. Find a safe place for COSSACK near Narvik”

WARSPITE signalled to COSSACK at 2050 – “All wounded are to be collected in PUNJABI to rendezvous with me in 17° East at Midnight” (See next signal message)

2126 – COSSACK / KIMBERLEY / PUNJABI from BC One by W/T – “All wounded are to be collected in PUNJABI to rendezvous with me in Opot Fjord in 017° E at midnight. PUNJABI will proceed with me and BEDOUIN stay with ESKIMO”

2134 from PUNJABI report “Orders were received to close COSSACK and embark her wounded – BC One signal times 2136 – Accordingly I proceeded to the entrance to Narvik Harbour. It was my intention to go alongside COSSACK whose bows were aground on the south shore but with so many wrecks in the harbour, a number of which had their masts showing above water, I felt the risk of damage did not justify my doing so. I therefore remained stopped at the entrance to the harbour while the wounded were brought over by COSSACK’s Whaler. After two boat loads had been embarked it was decided to leave the remaining six cases (Who were too seriously wounded to be moved by whaler) and to ask the Admiral to send for them by power boat.  This he later did. I now proceeded to the westward and at 0022 on 14 April secured alongside WARSPITE in Ofot Fjord and started the work of transferring the wounded. (Then lists number of wounded from Cossack, Punjabi and Eskimo) With this work complete I slipped from WARSPITE and then remained in company with the Admiral Commanding Battle Cruisers while he proceeded to Narvik to embark the remainder of COSSACKS’s wounded and later withdrew from Ofot Fjord.”

39. Between 1422 the time of grounding and 2030 when the attempt to tow off was made, steam was first raised I No 3 boiler, a dynamo restarted, investigations of damage and the necessary shoring carried out and the ship lightened as much as possible forward.  The dead and wounded were removed and taken aft.

40. KIMBERLEY returned up the fiord at 2200 (See signal from BC1 at 1832) with orders to tow COSSACK off, failing which to stand by. An unsuccessful attempt was made re-float the ship at 2015. (According to the report from Kimberley she passed a 4” wire over her forecastle to Cossack’s stern and veered 3 cables of shackle and commenced to pull with 130 revolutions at 2015 but the pendant parted) I then arranged for a further attempt to be made at 0400, one hour before the next high water, and ordered KIMBERLEY to maintain a patrol.

2206 from COSSACK to BC One and CinC Home Fleet by W/T “CONFIDENTIAL All cypher and C.Bs have been destroyed except Naval Cypher and Administration Code

41. PUNJABI returned at 2230 and six wounded were transferred by whaler for onward passage to WARSPITE.

42. The enemy destroyer which had been silenced off Narvik Point continued to drift down the fiord until 2330, when the oil tanks burst.  The ship finally sank at 0030.

43. At 0315 COSSACK was able to get off under her own power and WARSPITE then having returned I went alongside to transfer 15 seriously wounded. (0326 – 0540 14 April 1940)

0520 – FOXHOUND report – “In Ofot Fjord COSSACK and ESKIMO returning stern first with escorts. No apparent shore activity.”

44. COSSACK then proceeded stern first with FORESTER as escort to Skjelfjord    (68° 00’ N 13° 15’ E) arriving at 1645.

45. COSSACK was ashore 50 yards from the land at the entrance to Narvik Harbour from 1422 until 0315 the following morning.  During this time only three howitzer rounds and a few stray rifle bullets were fired at the ship and no other offensive action taken by the enemy.  I cannot think that COSSACK had the luck to hit a howitzer whose whereabouts was only vaguely known.  The Germans it seems either suffered from a shortage of ammunition (but FOXHOUND received hot fire) or to an outstanding lack of initiative.

46. I should like to call attention to the support I received from my two heads of departments, and to pay tribute to the excellent behaviour of the ship’s company throughout the action and the high morale sustained during a trying interval when the remaining British warships had apparently left and COSSACK was aground in a particular vulnerable situation.

(a) The First Lieutenant P.W. Gretton had only joined the ship 8 days prior to the action.  In this short time he had achieved a knowledge of the ship and of its fighting powers, which enabled him to carry out his duties in action and afterwards when the ship was grounded in a damaged and flooded condition, with marked success.  His leadership of a necessarily unknown ship’s company was of the highest order.

(b) During the action, with continuous large alterations of course and speed, the E.R. Department answered every call made upon them.  Afterwards under the direction of the Engineering Officer Lieutenant Commander W. F. B. Lane the difficult situation which arose from damage, flooding and grounding, was admirably and rapidly dealt with

47. I regret to have to report the following casualties:- (for detailed list see appendix 5)

Killed                                                              9

            Seriously wounded since died            2

            Seriously wounded                             3

            Wounded                                            9

            Slightly wounded                               7

            Total                                                 30

I have the honour to be


Your obedient servant

Cdr. R. St V. Sherbrooke

Commander in Command

Action damage

  1. Entered at stations Port 17-18 1 foot below lower deck, passed horizontally through No 20 bulkhead and left stations Starboard 26 ¼  – 27 ½ . Flooded No 2 central store and No 1 provision room.
  2. Stations Port 13 ½ – 16 ½ between lower and upper decks. Hole about 5 feet diameter. Ship’s side between 13 and 25 stations Port severely damaged by peroration. No 1 Central store wrecked
  3. Stations Port 15 ½ – 19 between upper and forecastle decks. Hole 6 feet by 4 feet. Ship’s side perforated 15 ½ – 26 stations Port.
  4. Stations Port 46 – 48 between upper and forecastle decks. Hole 3 ½ feet by 5 feet and ship’s side perforated between static port 44 and 50.
  5. Stations Port 40 – 43 in fore superstructure. Hole 5 feet by 4 feet. Screen wrecked to 48 station Port. Gun support perforated and oil supply pipe to “B” gun damage.
  6. Near miss. Stations Starboard   42 ½ – 42 ½ from 2 feet below lower deck to about 4 feet above.  Ship’s side severely perforated. No 2 provision room flooded.
  7. Stations Port 93 ½ – 95 just below upper deck. Burst inside No 2 boiler room lifting deckhead. Main steam pipe fractured. Loss of steam and putting machinery temporary out of action. No 98 bulkhead between Nos. 2 and 3 boiler room perforated.
  8. Burst on backstay of mast perforated foremast.

Extracted from pages 213 on.

In action off Narvik 13 April 1940 against German destroyers.

During, but towards the end of the action, COSSACK received several hits at close range from a German destroyer. COSSACK destroyed the enemy and eventually run aground but got off under her own steam.

The major damage sustained by the various hits is as follows:

  • One shell hole in forward upper crew space. A large hole in ship’s side (Port) and hull in vicinity extensively perforated.  The exhaust steam pipe from the capstan engine was carried away.
  •  Another exploded in No 1 Naval Store. There is a large hole in the ship’s side (Port) and hull, bulkheads and decks in vicinity extensively perforated by splinters.
  •  Another shell entered No 2 Naval store Port side just above the waterline, turning aft through two bulkheads and went out the Starboard side of the Cool Room, just above the waterline, without exploding.
  •  Another shell entered No 2 Provision /Room Starboard side just above the waterline and exploded.  There is a comparatively small hole where it entered but hull in the vicinity and deck over is extremely perforated.  Some splinters entered the A/S Office.
  •  Another exploded in the after crew space on the upper deck. There is a large hole in the ships side (Port) and considerable perforations of the hull and bulkheads in the vicinity. Splinters through the fuse board in the Transmitting Station put the T/S out of action.
  •  Another exploded in the Petty Officer’s Mess and did considerable damage and killed a member of the supply party. There is a large hole in the superstructure (Port) and considerable perforations of the plating and “B” gun support in the vicinity. Power to “B” gun was interrupted by a broken pipe.
  • Another entered No 2 Boiler Room on the Port side just below the upper deck and exploded. Hole in the ship’s side is not large. Splinters holed the main steam pipe to No 1 Boiler and made a deep nick in the Port main steam pipe to No 2 Boiler. Steam to the fans was carried away. The port telemotor leads in No 2 Boiler Room, which were in use at the time, were broken and threw the steering gear out of action in consequence of which COSSACK grounded forward up to 30 station. She got off under her own power.  The fans casing in No 2 Boiler Room were badly distorted but fans can be turned by hand.
  • A shell hit the forward funnel backstay and exploded. The forward funnel is riddled by splinters. 

As a result of the damage the following compartments flooded.

No 2 Naval Store, No 1 Provision Store, No 2 Provision Store, Cool Room.

The Starboard Magazine forward was flooded intentionally because of fire but was pumped out soon afterwards.  Temporary shores were at once fitted to the flooded compartments and COSSACK steamed stern first to Skjelfjord escorted by FORESTER to make temporary repairs.

The help of Mr Krogsted, Civil engineer, Statend-Havnevesen, Kabebveg, was brought in to effect repairs. He had cutting and welding apparatus and brought 15 men from the village which is 40 miles away on the mainland.  The men worked from 7 am to 8 pm and worked well provided they were given plenty to eat. They returned home each evening.

The ammunition and stores forward were moved to aft which brought the large holes in the hull forward above the water line. The small splinter holes in the flooded compartments were plugged with wooden plugs. All flooded compartments were then pumped out and this brought all the holes above water.

The rough edges of all the holes were cut off and the holes blanked by bolted or riveted plated with insertion backing as necessary. The hull will be reasonably watertight when this is complete.

The A/S training motor was flooded. This being dried out and it is hoped to have the A/S working before COSSACK sails.

Temporary repairs are being made to the T/S.

The exhaust steam pipe from the capstan is repaired by flexible hose.

Broken pipe of power to “B” gun has been made good.

COSSACK will be ready to sail about 25 April. She will have steam on No 3 boiler and on left hand side of No 1 boiler.  90 Tons of oil fuel remained on 17th instant so she will have to refuel before sailing.

Draughts on 17th were:

                        Forward          10’ 1 ½ “

                        Aft                  13’ 10 ½ “

All temporary shoring will be removed when repairs are complete.

COSSACK is to be repaired at Thornycrofts, Southampton.

German losses

Diether von Roder

Hans Ludermann

Wolfgang Zenker

Bernd von Arnim

Erich Giese

Erich Koellner

Hermann Kunne

Georg Thiele



At 2000 KIMBERLEY unsuccessfully tries to tow COSSACK off.

14 April 1940.             0315 Ship refloated on rising tide COSSACK proceeded to WARSPITE to offload casualties then with FORESTER / KIMBERLEY escorting preceded stern first to Skelfjorden. (Entrance to Skjelfjord) According to Kenneth Rail (Boy Seaman) those killed were transferred to WARSPITE for burial at sea.

HMS Cossack arrives at 1645 with escort HMS Forester.  68°00’N 13° 15’ E. Cossack transferred her ammunition to HMS Zulu and her torpedoes to HMS Bedouin.

First Allied troops – British 24th Brigade under Brig. Fraser landat Harstad in Norway to assist Norwegian 6th division under Maj Gen Fleischer

16 April 1940.             Skjelfjord. (Cripple Creek) Under temporary repair with the help of local Norwegian engineers. Ammunition transferred to ZULU and torpedoes to BEDOUIN.

COSSACK held a thank you tea party for the local children and gave the locals Corned beef and biscuits

Before COSSACK, HOTSPUR and PUNJABI sailed the Captain of ESKIMO obtained from them 6 shackles of different sized cable and one anchor and ordered BRIGAND to lay it out with the ends buoyed in a corner of the fjord.  This was used during bad weather or when there was no ship to secure to. A stockless anchor with a length of cable has been found in Skjelfjord during Spring 2014. Divers are hoping to recover and clean it so its source can be identified.

23 April 1940              Departs Skjelfjord at 2300 with tanker WAR PINDARI. (HF WD, HF D WD and movement books refer)  Bad weather meant a continuos bucket chain was necessary to prevent serious flooding. Eight officers from ALSTER were onboard.

Other ships visiting the fjord were


Some sources say the empty tanker was BRITISH LADY who left on 20 April escorted by PUNJABI and HOTSPUR.

27 April 1940              Arrived at Scapa Flow at 0830

28 April 1940              Departed Scapa Flow at 1510

30 April 1940              Arrived at Portsmouth for de-storing

2 May 1940                 Arrived at Thorneycroft’s Yard Southampton for repairs for damage sustained at 2nd Battle of Narvik

X gun mounting replaced by twin 4.7” HA. (High Angle)

Reserve Feed tank and patrol tank compartment repaired

Installation of Type 286 RADAR (RAD air to surface RADAR modified for naval use and the first RADAR outfit to be fitted in RN destroyers

4 May 1940                 Captain Sherbrook leaves L03

5 May 1940                 Captain Vian D4 appointed as Commanding Officer with own staff.

4th Destroyer Flotilla consists of COSSACK (D4) ECHO, ENCOUNTER, ESCAPADE, ESCORT, MAORI, SIKH, ZULU.

15 June 1940.              Carried out post repair trials and prepared for return to Home Fleet as leader of 4th Flotilla replacing AFRIDI sunk off Namos (3 May 1940) by Stukas.

21 June 1940               Portsmouth –departed for the Clyde

23 June 1940               Departed Greenock at 2330 on Operation FISH in company of ATHERSTONE and the light cruiser EMERALD carrying £130,000.000 worth of bullion from Scotland en route to USA/Canada. (EMERALD arrived safely at Halifax on 29 June)

25 June 1940               Rough seas forced COSSACK and flotilla to turn back to Clyde from position 12W

26 June 1940               Arrived Scapa Flow 1720 in company of ASHANTI

End June.                    Off  Norway being attacked by HE 111. No damage. (This may be an error see 6th July)

1 July 1940                 At 0600 ordered to position 58-21N 2-51W with ASHANTI, MAORI and ECHO to hunt for submarine bombed by British aircraft.

6 July 1940.                Departed Scapa Flow at 0215 to find and escort damaged submarine SHARK to Rosyth. (SHARK was captured before the force arrived)

Whilst off Denmark German ME110s attacked and shot down two British Bleneims. (M254 and N254). 1214 COSSACK picked up three airmen before being attacked by HE111s. 

ADM 1 / 10830 – Awards to Members of the crew of HMS Cossack – Humane Society –At 1050 a British aircraft was shot down by enemy fighters and crashed near HMS Cossack. Sgt Johnstone was thrown out of the plane as sit struck the water.  Cossack stopped about 100 yards short of the aircraft and Lt Gretton immediately jumped fully clothed into the water, which was thick with petrol, to assist the sergeant to safely reach the ship.  This was regardless of the fact that Cossacks propellers were still in motion and that the ship may have to leave the scene if enemy aircraft arrived leaving him and the plane crew behind. Lt Gretton was awarded the Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum.

6 July 1940                 Rosyth (There are some minor discrepancies between sources for the dates 6 to 8 July)

7 July 1940.                Departed Rosyth as Screen for Home Fleet for major warships during an unsuccessful search for submarine HMS Shark in difficulties off Norway.  (SHARK was damaged by air attacks and sunk by German minesweepers. 

Sea War 1939 – 1945’ shows on page 79 a photograph of HMS Shark (Submarine minelayer) in Wilhelmshaven  5 June 1940 after being captured by two German Ar 196 A-3 floatplanes on Sunday 5 May 1940.  (The name on the conning tower shows SEAL) The submarine had been badly damaged by a mine the previous evening (page 780)

8 July 1940                 Scapa Flow

16 July 1940               Departed Scapa Flow at 1030 in company of FURY, FORTUNE, GLASGOW, IMOGEN, INGLEFIELD, MAORI, SHROPSHIRE, SIKHA, SOUTHAMPTON, SUSSEX, and ZULU to attack German ships off Denmark.  The force swept southeast until 1543 when the course was reversed.  IMOGEN and GLASGOW collide in fog. GLASGOW returned damaged to Scapa Flow. IMOGEN caught fire and was abandoned.  COSSACK and other ships return to Scapa Flow after an unsuccessful search for the drifting IMOGEN.

17 July 1940               Arrived Scapa Flow

20 July 1940               1938 . Went to short notice to steam on receiving report of German battleship GNEIESENAU had departed Trondheim.  This proved to be false.

22 July 1940               0838 Fleet returned to usual notice of steam

23 July 1940               At 1958 Scapa Flow British aircraft reported 8 destroyers and 6 camouflaged vessels at 57-18N 4-23E steering 315. COSSACK, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, FURY, MAORI and ZULU came to immediate notice. At 2356 notice was lengthened to one hour.

24 July 1940               0930 COSSACK and other ships revert to 4 hours notice.  (The enemy force was attacked by 9 Skuas of 801 Squadron and 6 Swordfish of 823 Squadron. The minelayers completed their task and returned safely)

2 August 1940             0800 The Home Fleet was reorganised. Consisted of COSSACK, FAME, FORTUNE, MAORI, SIKH, and ZULU. Temporary attached were FIREDRAKE, FURY and FOXHOUND (on return to England).

Pennant number changed to G03. 3 August 1940

6 August 1940             Departed Scapa Flow at 1700 with SIKH to carryout anti submarine in Fair Island Channel. No contacts made.

7 August 1940             Met convoy WN5 in the Minches near Troddy Island and escorted it to Pentland Firth

8 August 1940             At 1515 COSSACK and SIKH joined convoy OA 195 to escort it to Cape Wrath.

9 August 1940             COSSACK and SIKH arrived at Scapa Flow at 0240

10 August 1940           0830 COSSACK in company with DUNCAN, MAORI and SIKH departed Scapa Flow to join convoy OA 196.  The destroyers stay with convoy as far as Cape Wrath then proceed to Loch Alsh for minelaying operation SN13

11 August 1940.          Departed Loch Alsh as part of escort with MAORI, SIKH and DUNCAN for ships of the 1st Minelaying Squadron whilst they laid mines in the northern sector of the East coast Mine Barrier – Operation SN13.

13 August 1940.          Returned to Scapa Flow at 0700

16 August 1940           COSSACK in company of HOOD, MAORI, SIKH and VORTIGERN departed Scapa Flow at 0620 for Rosyth arriving the same day.

19 August 1940           Departed Rosyth

25 August 1940           Arrived at Rosyth for docking and repairs

11 September 1940     Undocked to complete on 13 September 1940.

13 September 1940     Reported repairs delayed owing to defect in feed system.

October 1940.             Following trials after repair she resumed flotilla duties

13 October 1940         Departed Firth of Forth in the evening with ASHANTI, MAORI and SIKH to attack German convoy off Egero Light Egersund, Norway. Arrived Midnight. German netlayer GENUA (1949 tons) was sunk. Leading Stoker Woods was wounded in the arm when a single shell hit the stern of COSSACK on the Starboard side plating beneath the waterline. (Home Fleet Operation MD) Woods had just taken over from Kellaway and was reporting the fact to the bridge when the incident happened. The ship sustained minor structural damage to after steering flat and some flooding

14 October 1940         Returned to Rosyth

15 October 1940.        Rosyth for repair to rudder damage caused by own torpedo!  The ship rolled heavily at time of launch and the torpedo hit the side of the deck causing it to deviate towards the stern.

25 October 1940         Repairs complete

4 November 1940        Departed Firth of Forth at 1615 in company of BONAVENTURE, BRILLIANT, ELECTRA, MATABELE, MAORI, NAIAD, NELSON, PUNJABI and RODNEY.

5 November 1940        Arrived at Scapa Flow at 1400

6 November 1940        Departed Scapa Flow at 0700 in the company of BRILLIANT, DOUGLAS, KEPPEL MAORI, SOUTHAMPTON and VIMY to cover the Iceland-Faroes Channel.

8 November 1940.       Stationed between Iceland and the Faroes.

10 November 1940   Petty Officer  was lost overboard. Able Seaman S. Remnant was also washed overboard but was washed back aboard again

12 November 1940      Maltese Steward Joseph Aquilina (Steward to Captain Vian) was lost overboard. This is the CWG date. Source is the Ratings Death Book held in the Admiralty. It is believed the home port account of this event placed the date as 13 November. Arrived at Scapa Flow

13 November 1940      Departed Scapa Flow and returned the same day

19 November 1940      Departed Scapa Flow at 0715 on Operation DL- a sweep off the Norwegian coast commencing at 2135 at position 63N and passing Budgrunden Bank and Langgrunds Bank until 0200 on 20 November when the course was altered to the West.  Ships in company – ESKIMO and MAORI.

21 November 1940      Arrived at Scapa Flow at 0900

23 November 1940      Departed Scapa Flow at 1730 in company of HOOD, AURORA, ECAPADE, ESKIMO and SIKH to cover minelaying by the 1st Minelaying Squadron. Minefield SN11 was laid off the southern tip of Iceland in the Denmark Strait.

29 November 1940      Arrived back at Scapa Flow at 0830 for A/S dome replacement.

8 December 1940        Departed Scapa Flow at 0900 in company with SIKH

11 December 1940      Rendezvoused at 1000 at 55°N. 22°W with CALIFORNIA, FRANCONIA, FURIOUS and RAMILLIES.

14 December 1940      Arrived in the Clyde at 1410 and departed with SIKH from Greenock later the same day.

15 December 1940      Arrived Scapa Flow at 2300

18 December 1940      Departed Scapa Flow in company of BEAGLE, BRILLIANT, BULLDOG, DOUGLAS, ECLIPSE, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA, NELSON, REPULSE, SIKH and TARTAR to carry out tactical exercises west of the Orkneys.

20 December 1940      Arrived at Scapa Flow at 0930

24 December 1940      Departed Scapa Flow at 1730 in company of ECHO, ELECTRA, ESCAPADE, EDINBURGH and HOOD to patrol east of the Iceland Faroes Passage to intercept inbound or outbound raiders.

25 December 1940      Escorting HOOD and EDINBURGH in thick fog north of the Shetlands and east of the Faroes.

29 December 1940      Arrived back at Scapa Flow. Outer bottom under feed reserve tank leaking badly. New false bottom required.

At sea 188 days (2542 hours) using 8460 tons of fuel and covering 35,801 miles.


2 January 1941.          Returned to Scapa Flow

3 January 1941           Departed Scapa Flow for Portsmouth and Southampton for refitting

7 January to 20 February 1941

Refit at Thorneycroft’s Yard, Southampton.

Repairs included docking for structural work on external bottom plating to rectify corrugation caused by high speed in poor weather and modification of accommodation for the increased complement to 226.

Type 286 RADAR modified to allow use of a rotating aerial unit. (286M)

After funnel was shortened and the Mainmast reduced in size.

28 February 1941       Small fire in cotton and waste storage in Tiller Flat

2 March 1941             COSSACK departed Southampton for Scapa Flow on completion of refitting.

3 March 1941             COSSACK damaged by non – contact acoustic mine exploding close by at a point 300 degrees south west of Isle of Man.  Minor structural damage and minor defects to auxiliaries from the underwater explosion.  The cast iron feet of the starboard L.P. turbine were fractured. A reduction in speed because of damaged castings.

4 March 1941             COSSACK arrived at Scapa Flow at noon.

9 March 1941              COSSACK departed Scapa Flow at 1800 to join MAORI and ZULU to rendezvous with the 1st Minelaying Squadron in the Minches for escort duties

11 March 1941.          Escort to ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron for Operation SN6B. (Minelaying in Northern Barrage).  Other ships MAORI, ST MARYS, ZULU and cruisers EDINBURGH and NIGERIA.

13 March 1941.          Arrived at Loch Alsh for refuelling.

14 March 1941           Departed from Loch Alsh at 0835 in company with MAORI and ZULU to join convoy OB 297 in the Minches at 1100. Submarine hunting followed this.

15 March 1941           0900 together with MAORI and ZULU rendezvoused with ACTIVE, BOADICEA, ESCAPADE, NELSON, and NIGERIA to operate south of Iceland.

16 March 1941           Reykjavik to refuel. Departed at 2245.

17 March 1941           Rejoined the group at 0800 which then supported the 1st Minelaying Squadron to lay field SN69.

19 March 1941           Mines were laid.

21 March 1941           Iceland

23 March 1941           At 2200Z-2 hours in position 60N, 27W, destroyers COSSACK (D4), ZULU and MAORI rendezvoused with convoy HX 114. Following which RODNEY escorted by destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI detached from convoy HX 114 and proceeded to Hvalfjord to refuel.

24 March 1941           COSSACK in company with MAORI and ZULU escorted the battleship RODNEY to Hvalfjord for refuelling arriving at 1645. (One report has this as 1345Z – 2 hours)

25 March 1941           At 1030Z – 2 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI sailed from Hvalfjord for Halifax.

26 March 1941           At 0630Z-2 hours in approximate position 61-16N, 30W, destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI detached from RODNEY and returned to Hvalfjord to refuel.

28 March 1941           Departed Reykjavik at 2100 in company of MAORI and ZULU to rendezvous with King George V

29 March 1941           2100 rendezvoused with King George V at 61N 25W.

30 March 1941           1200 ordered to return to Scapa Flow

31 March 1941           British battleship King George V arrived at Scapa Flow with COSSACK, MAORI and ZULU at 1416 from escorting convoy HX 115. (Home Fleet WD) (Tovey’s Diary)

4 April 1941                Departed Scapa Flow at 0900 and arrived at Loch Alsh at 1630

5 April 1941                Departed Loch Alsh for mine laying operation

6 April 1941.               Escort for ships of the 1st Minelaying Squadron for Operation SN8 (Minelaying in Northern Barrage).  Other ships ANTHONY, LANCASTER and ST MARY.

8 April 1941                Arrived at Port ZA (Loch Alsh) at 0829 and departed the same day

9 April 1941                Arrived at Londonderry to refuel and departed at 1400 to join the HOOD group

11 April 1941              Joined the Hood group at 0800 at 50N 21W.

14 April 1941              Arrived at Scapa Flow at 2230

18 April 1941              Departed Scapa Flow at 1700 in company of KENYA, MAORI and ZULU to relieve battleship KING GEORGE V on BISCAY Patrol. Diverted to  support the cruiser patrol in the Iceland Faeroes passage.

19 April 1941              German Battleship BISMARCK and escort passed the Skaw

21 April 1941              COSSACK in company of HOOD, INGLEFIELD, MAORI and ZULU arrived at Hvalfjord at 0730 and ordered to remain at two hours notice.

25 April 1941              COSSACK and ZULU departed Hvalfjord at 0100 to carry out an anti submarine sweep in advance of the minelayers at field SN 71.

26 April 1941              The mines were laid

29 April 1941              Arrived at Scapa Flow at 2130

30 April 1941              Departed Scapa Flow at 1700 with ZULU en route for Plymouth to join the Plymouth Command to deal with German destroyers and E-boats causing problems to Channel convoys

2 May 1941                 Arrived Plymouth for repairs

14 May 1941               Departed from Plymouth

14 May 1941               Dartmouth. (May have been training Midshipmen)

19 May 1941               Departed Dartmouth arriving at Plymouth the same day

20 May 1941               Departed Plymouth for the Clyde

21 May 1941               Arrived at Greenock

22 May 1941               Left Clyde for Gibraltar – Convoy WS8B ( 7 merchant ships which dispersed off Aden 4 July 1941 for Suez ) to Indian Ocean with troop reinforcements.  Other ships – CARIO, ERIDGE, MAORI, SIKH, ZULU, RCN ships RESTIGOUCHE, OTTAWA: Polish ship ORP PIORUN. Rendezvous Oversay 6 miles. (Oversay is the lighthouse on the southern end of Islay)

24 May 1941               F.W. Condor attacks convoy at 0827. Flies low between two western columns from astern. Aircraft engaged by ships of convey and escort.

0828 Two bombs close to liner ABOSSO stopped their port engine. Convoy delayed for repair. (One source states this was the 23rd May)

26 May 1941               Left Convoy WS8B at 0200 to look for BISMARCK with MAORI, SIKH, ZULU and ORP PIORUN. 4th Destroyer Flotilla (HF D WD) Alternative sources place this as 0200 25 May 1941, 0345 26 May 1941 and 2152 26 May 1941.

The Real Cruel Sea (Richard Woodman)Page 332 suggests that the 4th Destroyer Flotilla was to join C in C Home Fleet Admiral Sir John Tovey as a screen to HMS King George V. but Captain Vian in typical fashion used his initiative and disregarded his orders to trail the BISMARCK to ensure contact would not be lost.

26 May 1941.              Joined KING GEORGE V with SIKH and ZULU. Contacted BISMARCK at 2310. (Alternative source cites BISMARCK sighted at 2200)

Captain Vian orders box formation around the enemy with COSSACK astern. Speed18 knots.  Gale force winds. MAORI and COSSACK miss each other by a matter of feet whilst manoeuvring at 26 knots.

Lt Cdr “Jock” Moffat (aged 21) flying Swordfish L9726 from HMS Victorious approached BISMARCK in a force 9 gale and loosed a torpedo at 0905 at a height of 50 feet. It is thought that it was this torpedo that jammed BISMARCK’s rudder and caused her to go round in circles. Other members of the Swordfish crew were Observer – Sub Lt “Dusty” Miller, Telegraphist/gunner Albert Hayman.  Lt Cdr Moffat died 13 December 2016 aged 97.


2324  (Half an hour before sunset) Vian orders his force to take positions for a synchronised torpedo attack. (See ‘ PURSUIT’- Ludovic Kennedy)

2342 COSSACK 4 miles from BISMARCK was near missed by 15” and 5.9” shells. A near miss caused splinters damage to aerials and motorboat. COSSACK sheers away. Fighting efficiency Slight impaired.  The ship was unable to transmit.

27 May 1941. 0040 COSSACK (Capt. Vian), PIORUN (Cdr Plawski) and ZULU make contact with each other and Vian orders the others to intercept separately

0140 Cossack fires three torpedoes from 6000 yards – two possible hits.

0230 C-in-C orders 4th Destroyer Flotilla to fire starshell and make MF/DF transmissions to show BISMARCK’s position.

0300 Fires last torpedo at 4000 yards. No hit. Lost contact with BISMARCK

0500 Vian detaches PIORUN to Plymouth as she is short of fuel.

0800 KING GEORGE V, RODNEY and their escort arrive on scene

0830 COSSACK directs DORSETSHIRE into battle

Retired from the battle with JUPITER, MAORI, SIKH and ZULU to escort battleships KING GEORGE V and the RODNEY to refuel whilst DORSETSHIRE with NORFOLK was left to finish off the wreck of the BISMARCK.

(It is at this point the story of the cat called Oscar starts! Sea War 1939 – 1945 page 142 states “some hours later, the destroyer COSSACK crossed these waters on its homeward voyage.  One of the seamen spotted amid wreckage and bodies a black cat floating on a board.  The destroyer stopped and picked up the soaking wet animal, which was shivering with cold.  The cat was given the name of Oscar, and so the BISMARCK’s mascot joined the Royal Navy.”  And so the folk law began! (See details in the Cossack Archives)

1010 NORFOLK (Capt Phillips) fires four torpedoes at BISMARCK

1015 Admiral Tovey orders engagement to be broken off.

1020 DORSETSHIRE (Capt Martin) fires two torpedoes

1036 DORSETSHIRE fires third torpedo at the stationary BISMARCK – which sinks

COSSACK refuels at Milford Haven Docks

28 May 1941               en route to Loch Ewe with KING GEORGE V and ZULU

29 May 1941               Arrived at Loch Ewe (Aultbrea)

30 May 1941               Departed Loch Ewe at 0300 in company of ESKIMO, INGLEFIELD, JUPITER, KING GEORGE V, LANCE, NESTOR, PUNJABI, SOMALI and ZULU for Scapa Flow.


June 1941                    Extract from Chapter 7 ‘Action this Day’ by Sir Philip Vian indicates COSSACK was dispatched to operate from Plymouth against E-boats. It was at this time a POM POM gun was fitted either side of the Signal Bridge.

1 June 1941                 Departed Scapa Flow to escort convoy WS9A to the Clyde in company with MAORI, SIKH and ZULU.

2 June 1941                 Arrived at the Clyde

3 June 1941                 Departed the Clyde as part of escort to convoy WS9A

7 June 1940 (Approximately) COSSACK sinks submarine. (Bill Yeo, Maritime Gunner 6th Regiment – Tales of the Sea The Maritime Gunner Issue 1 Summer 2008)

7 June 1941                 Dispatched from convoy and believed to be at Londonderry until 9 June 1941

14 June 1941               Arrived in the Clyde with ARGUS, FURIOUS, MAORI, SIKH, and Greek liner NEA HELLAS

17 June 1941               Deployed as escort for HMS Victorious from Gibraltar.

20 June 1941               Arrived at the Clyde and despatched to Scapa Flow for Home Fleet Duties

23 June 1941               Departed the Clyde

28 June 1941               Met and escorted convoy TC11 from Halifax ( Troops form Canada)

30 June 1941               Arrived at the Clyde at 0800

1 July 1941                 Departed the Clyde

(Another source shows 2 July at Plymouth 3 July to 10 July under repair at Devonport)

3 July1941.                 Joined Convoy WS9A as local escort during passage in NW Approaches. Other ships in attendance: CARIO, MAORI, OTTAWA (RCN), RESTIGOUCHE (RCN), RAMSEY, RICHMOND, SIKH, VANQUISHER, ZULU AND WINCHELSEA.

7 July 1941.                Returned to the Clyde

9 July 1941                 Captain Vian leaves L03

10 July 1941               Captain  E.L.Berthon DSC RN appointed Commanding Officer

Lt Cdr Foster indicates a visit was made to Tobermory before picking up a convoy off Liverpool for Malta

12 July 1941.              Left Scapa Flow to join escort to Convoy WS9C  (9 merchant ships under Op Substance) during passage in NW Approaches


14 July 1941               Gibraltar – Operation Substance

(Extract from The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940 -1943 ISBN 978-1-84832-618-7) Included two anti-aircraft regiments (One light and one Heavy) and thirty field guns to strengthen Malta against possible airborne attack

Force H

RENOWN, ARK ROYAL (21 Fulmers and 7 Swordfish as reinforcements for Malta)).  Destroyers -HERMIONE, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FURY, FORESTER, DUNCAN

Home Fleet – part of which formed Force X


Merchant fleet

AVILA STAR (Detached before Gibraltar), CITY OF PRETORIA, DEUCALION, DURHAM, LEINSTER (Ran aground off Carnero Point), MELBOURNE STAR, PASTEUR (Failed to join convoy), PORT CHALMERS, SYDNEY STAR

17 July1941.               Detached from WS9C with ARETHUSA, SIKH and MAORI to escort troopship LEINSTER in to Gibraltar.

20 July 1941.              Carried out exercises until 2020.

21 July 1941               Passed through the Gibraltar Straits at 0145.  Weather consisted of fog and squalls. Arrived Gibraltar at 0329. Embarked 150 soldiers. Left Gibraltar for Malta at 0426. Sighted two Vichy French merchant ships.

22 July 1941.              Convoy now known as GM1. Refuelled from RFA BROWN RANGER escorted by the Hunt Class BEVERLEY. Convoy attacked by six torpedo bombers and Italian high-level bombers at intervals throughout the day.  Lost three British aircraft. Shot down seven enemy aircraft (Robert. A Hamilton – Radio Officer – MV City of Pretoria) RENOWN and HMAS Nestor were just missed by torpedoes from the submarine DIASPRO.

23 July 1941.              COSSACK joined Force X. Speed of convoy 13.5 knots with a mean course of due East.

Main convoy located by the Italians and was attacked by nine S.79 torpedo bombers at low level while five Cant Z1007 bombed from high altitude. ARK ROYAL launched seven Fulmars to join the four already airborne but three were lost to enemy fire.

As part of Force H.  MANCHESTER  attacked by torpedoes launched by MAS numbers 16 and 22. Damaged by aerial torpedo from a S.79 (which was shot down ) hitting an oil fuel tank. 26 killed and one wounded.

Aerial attack at 0910 (0945?) by SM79 bombers.

FEARLESS hit by an aerial torpedo from a S.79) North of Bone.  She was sunk at 1055 (37-40N, 8-20E ) by a torpedo from FORESTER after picking up survivors.  18 missing and 23 wounded of whom 9 died later.

Second aerial attack at 1011 by five Fiat BR20s at 17000 feet. They were attacked by five Fulmars

1900 Skerki Channel. Convoy attacked by four torpedo bombers from the South. One enemy shot down.

1945 High – level bombing of the convoy

FIREDRAKE damaged by near miss bomb. (Towed for 37 hours en route to Gibraltar.)

COSSACK ordered into the van of the Port column

Attacked off Cape Bon by aircraft and by two MAS boats who fired two torpedoes. Two torpedoes missed COSSACK who damaged two E-boats with gunfire.

24 July 1941               0013 Convoy turned SSE into the Italian convoy route.

0246 COSSACK’s radar picked up three small unidentified objects

0250 Short flashes of light were seen and motorboat engines were heard to start up. COSSACK lit up an Italian motorboat (MAS-boat) in her searchlight

COSSACK engaged Italian motor torpedo boats. A torpedo passed close astern
0300 SYDNEY STAR torpedoed and damaged in the bows. 

0305 Noise of MAS-boat heard on COSSACK’s sonar. Captain Berthon orders immediate increase of speed intending to ram the boat close under the port bow.  The craft fired a torpedo that passed under COSSACK’s bow.  COSSACK opened fire but extent of damage to enemy boats not certain.  (Records show MAS 532 and 533 were lost) Some sources claim these boats were undamaged

Sounds of MAS-boat engines heard for the next twenty minutes

(See page 83 -‘Red Duster, White Ensign’- Ian Cameron. One E-boat rammed by Cossack)


SYDNEY STAR, HMAS NESTORandHERMIONEarrived independently having used the northern route.

COSSACK left three hours later having refuelled.

Extract from War Weekly 5 August 1941.

On the morning of 22 July an important convoy was being escorted through the central Mediterranean by British naval forces under the command of Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville when it was sighted by enemy reconnaissance aircraft. That night an Italian submarine delivered an attack. This was unsuccessful and it is possible the enemy submarine was destroyed by the very strong counter-attack top which it was subjected.

Next morning the first of a series of air attacks developed. This was by torpedo carrying aircraft synchronised with high level bombing. Of the six torpedo carrying aircraft which pressed home their attacks, three were shot down by our anti-aircraft fire. HMS Fearless, a destroyer of 1,375 tons launched in 1934 was hit by a torpedo, and had to be sunk by our forces. Her casualties were not many.

The high level bombing attack was completely unsuccessful, two of the enemy bombers being shot down by out naval aircraft, and two others probably destroyed. Three of our aircraft were lost in this engagement, but the crews of all of them saved.

During the afternoon further attacks by bombers and torpedo carrying aircraft developed. These attacks were abortive, and two S79s were shot down by our fighters and another enemy aircraft was damaged. In the evening our ships were again unsuccessfully attacked by similar methods.  At this period the convoy was close to enemy bases but it eluded the air attacks by determination and skilful handling. Enemy aircraft were seen to be searching unsuccessfully for our ships with the aid of a large number of flares.  Early on 24 July the convoy and its escort were attacked by enemy motor torpedo boats. During this attack one ship of the convoy received damage, but was able to continue under her own power. One of the attacking boats was certainly sunk, another probably damaged.

Three separate air attacks then developed on the convoy and its escort between 6.30 and 10 am. The third of these attacks was delivered by German dive-bombers at the same time that our ships were being subjected to high level bombing. In none of these engagements were any of our ships hit, but one of the German dive-bombers was shot down by our anti-aircraft fire. Enemy air attacks were also made on the fleet but no damage or casualties were suffered by any of our ships. Shortly before the development of the most serious of these last attacks, two Italian aircraft, both Cants, were shot down by our fighters. The main attack was delivered by torpedo carrying aircraft and high level bombers, but was broken up by our fighters. Two S 79s were brought down, and one was damaged in the course of the fighting. Three of our naval aircraft were lost but the crew of one was saved. During these operations one of our cruisers and one destroyer suffered some damage, there being a small number of casualties in each ship. Beyond the attack by motor torpedo boats already mentioned, no attempt was made by enemy surface forces to interfere, although this important convoy had, of necessity, to be for some time in close proximity to the enemy’s main bases. Italian and German air forces were unable to prevent this difficult operation being brought to a successful conclusion, and the long series of air attacks resulted in the destruction of at least 12 enemy aircraft with at least four others damaged and probably destroyed.

A special Press Correspondent who was onboard one of our cruisers gave a vivid account of his experience in what he described as “the most brilliant convoy action fought by the Navy in this war”.

“For 27 hours on end we were subjected to continuous attacks from the air and from motor torpedo bots as we, with another cruiser and destroyers, convoyed merchantmen through the Mediterranean. All of them arrived safely at their destination, obeying Admiral Somerville’s signal “Convoy must go through”.

“Fighters from HMS Ark Royal – which, with the RENOWN was with us from the first day, July 23 – took off to engage Italian aircraft soon after breakfast. We hear their battle cry “Tally Ho” over the wireless as they engage the enemy on the skyline. Terrific engagements are being fought over there as the aircraft swoop and soar with the rattle of machine guns. Twenty minutes later we hear the boom of the destroyer’s guns as they open fire against the enemy formation ahead. A column of black smoke goes up from the FEARLESS as she is hit. At the same moment the look-out shouts: ‘Italian plane hit.’ I see the aeroplane sweep down to the water and two Italians climb into a rubber boat. Another aeroplane has its wings plucked off and falls like a stone into the sea.

There is a brief pause in the din. At the microphone the Commander announces: ‘Two planes shot down and one destroyer hit’ so that the crew below decks may know what is going on! We are delighted because we believe we got one of the aeroplanes.

The two Italians in the in the rubber boat drift through the lines of ships. The second wave of Italians cannot face the terrific barrage we are putting up: they drop a hail of bombs harmlessly into the water a few miles away and flee pursued by the fighters from the Ark Royal.

Far astern the FEARLESS, now almost enveloped in smoke, blows up as she is torpedoed by another destroyer after the survivors have been rescued. We can not stop to assist her because the convoy must get through whatever happens. More of the ARK ROYALs fighters take-off in the smoke of the battle as enemy formations are reported.

We eat supper of soup and sandwiches at action stations which nobody left for two days and nights.  At 7 pm torpedo bombers attack from starboard. Through glasses I see them skimming the water towards us like birds, shells bursting around them and pom-poms shooting a hail of fire into them. I see the torpedoes plop into the water as they swing away after the attack, one appearing to be hit. At 7.45another big formation attacks and more bombs fall erecting soundless columns of spray around us. The Italians flee before the withering barrage which shatters the tea cups on the bridge and spills tea on the navigating officer’s charts.  Two Italians are shot down. Empty shell cases fill the wash places and over flow into the crew’s recreation space.

There was a lull until 3 am the next day, when Italian motor torpedo boats – which they call Motoscafi antisommergibile, or anti-submarine motor launches – make an attack. In the inky blackness the cruisers open fire at dim targets, pom-poms spouting across the sea like fireworks. There is a terrific excitement as the look-outs, with their eyes glued to their glasses, scan the sea.

Suddenly a flood of light appears ahead as a cruiser boldly switches her searchlight on for half a minute and I see an enemy boat scudding through the water to escape the shells. She twists and turns to escape the shows of metal hurled from the guns but the flying woodwork seen by the look-out means a direct hit.

Ten minutes later there is an explosion astern as a merchantman is torpedoed but she carries on and we and a destroyer are despatched to assist her.

At 7.20 pm eight  Junkers 87 dive bombers come screaming to the attack.  ‘Here they come again. Look out, here come the bombs; one hitting the sea 40 yards from us raises a water spout 60 feet high. The merchantman is plodding along near us with a heavy list and swings away just in time as a bomb drops almost beside her.’

Our guns are still firing and the air is filled with the stench of cordite as the black puffs rising skyward like tiny clouds near the Germans show that our gunners are well on the target. Two of the attackers are brought down.  Altogether we were at action stations 60 hours, sleepless, red eyed and unshaven.

On 2 August 1941 the Italian Stefani News Agency reported that the Italians had sunk six steamers including a tanker – 10 to 15 thousand gross tonnage. The destroyer FEARLESS was hit by an aerial torpedo and finally had to be sunk by British units.

25 July 1941               Rejoined Force H off Galita Islands.

27 July 1941               Gibraltar

30 July 1941               Left Gibraltar with ARK ROYAL, ENCOUNTER, ERIDGE, FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTOER, FOXHOUND, FURY, MAORI, NELSON, NESTOR, and RENOWN to create a diversion for Operation STYLE

(Another source quotes ARETHUSA, EDRIDGE HERMION and MANXMAN.)

(Operation STYLE  – Force X consisted of ARETHUSA, HERMIONE, LIGHTNING, MANXMAN and SIKH departed Gibraltar for MALTA 31 July carrying troops and supplies that had been on the MANCHESTER and LEINSTER)

(Force S consisted of the oiler BROWN RANGER and the destroyer AVONDALE)

31 July 1941 / 1 August 1941

Escorted Force H to Sardinia then onto the Balearic Islands 1941. COSSACK entered Alghero with MAORI and bombarded the waterfront destroying the Custom House and the seaplane base. Star shell ignited house inland.

4 August 1941             Gibraltar

8 August 1941.            Passage to UK in company with LIGHTNING, MAROI, RENOWN, ZULU and the troop ship PASTEUR carrying 15 officers and 1507 ratings from the damaged MANCHESTER.

Deployed as escort to Convoy WS11 from Clyde to NW Approaches. Other ships in attendance. HIGHLANDER, LEGION, LIVELY, WINCHELSEA, ZULU. ISACC SWEERS  (Netherlands) ORP GARLAND (Polish), ORP PIORUN. (Polish)

13 August 1941           Arrived at Greenock

15 August 1941           Departed for the Clyde

18 August 1941           The Clyde for Operation Halberd convoy WS11X  (GM2) to Malta

Escorted empty convoy from Malta to Gibraltar.


Close Escort Group 11


Convoy Group 1


Force H


14 August 1941           Joined the escort to convoy HG 70 from Gibraltar and detached during the night.

25 August 1941           Left Gibraltar as part of Force A providing cover for Convoy (WS11X)

31 August 1941           Departed Clyde as part of escort to convoy WS11X

(Second source shows arrival at Gibraltar as 2 September and departed 8 September)

7 September 1941       Arrived at Gibraltar in company with FURIOUS, LEGION, LIVELY and ZULU

20 September 1941.    Attack on Gibraltar by three Italian human torpedoes launched from the Italian submarine SCIRE (Cdr Count Borghese) at 0100 21 September. Searched for submarines with HEYTHROP. One source has this as 20 August 1941.

According to Sea War 1939 – 1945 page 168 they sunk the British tanker FIONA 2,444 gross tons, the DENBYDAE 8,145 gross tons and caused considerable damage to the motor ship DURHAM 10,893 gross tons. The three torpedoed crews succeeding in reaching Spanish territory.

Admiralty Communiqué issued 23 September 1941: During an attack on the harbour at Gibraltar last Saturday an old ship’s hull was sunk. Any further claims by the Italians must be regarded as incorrect.

23 September 1941     Departed Gibraltar with FARNDALE and HEYTHORPE

24 September 1941     Joined WS 11X (GM2 on passing Europa Point). Operation Halberd at 0800 in company with FARNDALE and HEYTHORPE. Convoy consisted of nine freighters carrying 81,000 tons of military equipment and supplies.

CLAN MACDONALD 9,653grt, CLAN FERGUSON 7,347grt, AJAX 7,539grt, IMPERIAL STAR 10,733 grt, CITY OF LINCOLN 8,039grt, ROWALLAN CASTLE 7,798grt, DUNEDIN STAR 11,168grt, CITY OF CALCUTTA 8,063grt and HM supply ship BRECONSHIRE and HM troopships PRINCESS BEATRIX, QUEEN EMMA, ROYAL SCOTSMAN, ULSTER MONARCH and LEINSTER. As the convoy passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, HM troopships PRINCESS BEATRIX, QUEEN EMMA, ROYAL SCOTSMAN, ULSTER MONARCH and LEINSTER detached to Gibraltar.



Nine submarines were deployed to ambush any Italian warships: UNBEATEN and URSULA were south of the Straits of Messina. UTMOST and UPRIGHT were to the north. URGE, TRUSTY, UPHOLDER and the Polish SOKOL were off the NW coast of Sicily and the Dutch 0-21 was stationed near Cape Carbonara in the Gulf of Cagliari

(24/9/41 late in the evening the Italian battleships LITTORIO flag Admiral Iachino and VITTORIO VENETO with destroyers GRANATIERE, FUCLIERE, BERSAGLIERE, and GIOBERTI of the 13th Destroyer Division and DA RECCO, PESSAGNO, and FOLGORE of the 16th Destroyer Division sailed from Naples and steered south westward to intercept the RODNEY force.

26/9/41 the heavy cruisers TRENTO, TRIESTE, and GORIZIA with destroyers CORAZZIERE, CARABINIERE, ASCARI, and LANCIERE of the 12th Destroyer Division sailed from Messina and steered north, then westward to RV with the light cruisers ABRUZZI and ATTENDOLO with destroyers MAESTRALE, GRECALE, and SCIROCCO of the 10th Destroyer Division who sailed from Palermo to intercept the convoy.

The two battleships and seven destroyers operated as one group. The five cruisers and seven destroyers operated as the second group. The remainder of the Italian Fleet could not sail due to fuel shortages)

25 September 1941     0130 passed Europa Point. Weather clear and fine. In the afternoon the convoy was spotted by an Italian air reconnaissance and the distant escort closed to provide more protection.  The Italians had submarines  AXUM, SERPENTE, ARADAM  and DISPRO east of the Balearics and SQUALO, BANDIERA and DELFINO SW of Sardinia. Another three – DANDOLO, ADUA and TURCHESE were SSW of Ibiza and the NAVALO was off Cape St Bon.

0800 hours in approximate position 36-08N, 3-20W RODNEY, and destroyers DUNCAN, GURKHA, LEGION and LANCE joined battleship PRINCE OF WALES flag of CinC 2BS and 2IC Home Fleet, Vice Admiral Alban Thomas Buckley Curteis, light cruisers KENYA flag CS10 Rear Admiral Harold Martin Burrough, CinC close escort, EDINBURGH flag CS2 Rear Admiral Edward Neville Syfret, SHEFFIELD and EURYALUS and destroyers LIVELY, ORIBI, ISAAC SWEERS, PIORUN, GARLAND, FURY, FARNDALE and HEYTHROP as the close escort, Group 2, for convoy GM2 (Operation HALBARD).
Force H, Group 1, comprising battleship NELSON flag Vice Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and destroyers COSSACK D4, ZULU, FORESIGHT, LAFOREY D19 and LIGHTNING, preceded ahead of convoy GM2; steering a course to the south of the convoy.

At 1000 hours clocks were advance by one hour.

During the day six Fulmars from ARK ROYAL flew around Groups 1 & 2 for recognition purposes.

26 September 1941. Convoy GM2 and escort proceeded north eastward.
At 0650 hours the first two destroyers were detached to refuel from BROWN RANGER. However because of BROWN RANGER’s slower than expected speed she was 22 miles to the west of her expected position. This was to cause problems throughout the day and refuelling of Group 2’s 12 destroyers was not completed until after dark.

At 0700 hours course was altered to eastward.

0932 Force H sighted by Cant Z506 of the 287th Squadron.

At 1200 hours in position 38-31N, 2-32E course was altered to 107¼.

At 2130 hours the destroyers FURY and HEYTHROP rejoined the convoy after refuelling. The ORIBI was the last destroyer to complete refuelling and failed to locate the convoy in the dark, so until morning she joined Group 1 screen.

(During the day Group 1 was ahead to the south eastward and out of sight of the convoy. At 0932 hours lookouts on NELSON sighted a shadowing aircraft, bearing 150¼, 10 miles and flying very low, this aircraft was not detected by radar. At 1048 hours Group 1 sighted the Swiss merchant SS TUNISIAN. At 1537 hours Group 1was also sighted by two aircraft, thought to be RAF Hudson’s so they were not intercepted)

27 September 1941     Transports separate in the Skerki Banks area and stood for Malta with Force H and Force X (Five cruisers and destroyers COSSACK, ZULU ORIBI, LAFOREY, HEYTHROP and FARNDALE.

The Italians five submarines: BEILUL, DA PROCIDA, H-1, H-4, and H-6 stood off the Ligurian coast.

117 Italian aircraft were available and operational from Sardinia; 217 available and operational from Sicily with a further 32 MC200 being flown in to Sardinia from the mainland.

At 0710 the two British Goups merged into one as shown. Speed 16 knots


At 0720 hours radar indicated that enemy reconnaissance aircraft were in the vicinity of the Force.

At 0800 hours ARK ROYAL flew off four Fulmars

(At 0810 hours an Italian Cant Z 506B reconnaissance aircraft of 287 Squadriglia sighted units of Operation HALBARD west of La Galite Island and sent off the following signal; “position 37-43N, 06-55E,course 90¼, speed 12 nm per hour; 1 battleship, 1 carrier, 4 cruiser, unspecified number of destroyers and steamboats‘)

At 1000 hours, in expectation of air attacks, Force H, less ARK ROYAL, EURYALUS and HERMIONE who manoeuvred ahead of the convoy, joined the convoy escort.

At 1158 hours radar detected an aircraft bearing 210¼, at 14 miles. LEGION reported this aircraft as an Italian Fiat BR 20. ARK ROYAL’s Fulmars failed to shoot it down and a sighting report was subsequently intercepted.

At 1255 hours radar reported two formations at 30 miles and closing, one from the north and one from the east. These were eleven Savoia-Marchetti S 84’s torpedo bombers from Decimomannu airfield, north of Cagliari. Severn attacked from the north with top cover of five Fiat CR 42 fighters and four from the east.
At 1259 hours 8 Fulmars of 808 Sqd. attacked the northern group of six S 84’s, shooting down one.

The torpedo attack was made against the port wing of the force; this was where RODNEY was stationed.

At 1302 hours an S 84 flown by Capitano Rotolo was shot down either by RODNEY and PRINCE OF WALES; the damaged aircraft collided with his right wingman, Tenente Barro and both crashed into the sea.

At 1300 hours two S 84’s targeted RODNEY one flown by Maggiore Arduino Buri of 256 Squadriglia and the other flown by Tenente Piercarlo Amante of 257 Squadriglia. As the two torpedoes were approaching RODNEY made an emergency turn of 60¼ to port and both torpedoes were avoided.

At 1303 hours two destroyers of the port screen were targeted these were the LANCE and ISAAC SWEERS, however the destroyers took evasive action and avoided the torpedoes.

At 1327 hours radar reported another wave of aircraft closing from the east. These were five S 84 torpedo bombers of 258 and 259 Squadriglia, from Decimomannu airfield and they attacked the Force from the starboard side.

At 1330 hours two aircraft flown by Colonnello Seidl and Tenente Tomasino targeted NELSON who was hit by a torpedo (probably Seidl’s) on the port bow, the second torpedo missed. As they pulled away both Seidl and Tomasino were shot down by AA fire from the PRINCE OF WALES and SHEFFIELD. The damage to NELSON caused her to immediately reduce speed to 18 knots. (15 knots according to another report)

During this action, a Fulmar was shot down by RODNEY, but luckily the crew, Sub-Lieutenant Percy Guy and Leading Airman Jones, were rescued by DUNCAN.

At 1345 hours the Force was attacked by twelve Savoia-Marchetti SM 79’s torpedo bombers of 278, 280, 282 and 283 Squadriglia, from Decimomannu airfield, escorted by twelve CR 42’s, attacked from the north, south and west. The attackers were met by the Fulmars and intense AA fire, which prevented them from attaining a dropping position.

At 1359 hours a CR 42 flown by Sergente Maggiore Luigi Valiotti of the 354a Squadriglia, in an attempt to divert the AA from the torpedo-bombers, began to perform aerobatic manoeuvres over the heads of the starboard wing destroyers, who after a while started to shoot at him. Valiotti avoided their shells for six minutes before being killed when his CR.42 crashed into the sea. However Valiotti’s sacrifice was in vain as after several unsuccessful attempts, to penetrate the AA barrage the remaining SM 79,s gave up and returned to base.

At 1404 hours the CinC Force H received an emergency report from aircraft B, a RAF Maryland of 69 Squadron on a reconnaissance flight from Malta, timed at 1340 hours. The signal read, 2 battleships and 8 destroyers in position 38-20N, 10-40E, steering 190¼, speed 20 knots. At the time of receipt NELSON’s position was 37-46N, 09-04E, the enemy was therefore 74 miles, bearing 076¼ from NELSON.

At 1408 hours the CinC Force H ordered ARK ROYAL to fly off two Swordfish to take over shadowing duties and to prepare an air strike force.

At 1417 hours the CinC Force H ordered RODNEY and PRINCE OF WALES to form up on NELSON ahead of the convoy.

At 1425 hours the CinC Force H received a further emergency report from aircraft B, timed at 1350 hours. The signal read 4 cruisers and 8 destroyers some 15 miles WSW of the enemy battle fleet and steering same course and speed.

At 1430 hours NELSON was forced to reduce speed to 15 knots to reduce flooding and further damage from her torpedo hit and the CinC Force H ordered Vice Admiral Curteis in PRINCE OF WALES to proceed with PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, EDINBURGH, SHEFFIELD and 6 destroyers at best speed to close the enemy. At the same time NELSON took station astern of the convoy.

At 1506 hours a signal was received from the RAF shadowing aircraft, timed at 1445 hours stating that the enemy had reversed course and was now steering 360¼.

The PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, SHEFFIELD and EDINBURGH plus six destroyers detached at 1530 to “close and drive off the enemy” to the NE but were recalled at 1700 without making contact. The surface strike force steered north at their best speed with the two cruisers ahead and working up to 30 knots and PRINCE OF WALES and RODNEY trailing behind.

At 1540 hours a strike force of 12 Swordfish of 816 and 825 Sqds, escorted by 4 Fulmars of 807 Sqd were launched from ARK ROYAL.

At 1543 hours a further signal was received from the RAF shadowing aircraft, timed at 1503 hours stating that the enemy was now steering 060¼.

At 1658 hours with no news from the Swordfish shadowing aircraft, the RAF Maryland had departed, or the strike force; the CinC Force H ordered Vice Admiral Curteis to return to the convoy.

At 1830 hours PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, EDINBURGH, SHEFFIELD and the 6 destroyers rejoined the convoy.

At 1855 hours in approximate position 37-30N, 10-15E, Force A comprising NELSON, PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers DUNCAN, GARLAND, GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION, LIVELY and PIORUN detached from the convoy and turned on to 285¼ and proceeded at 14 knots, this being NELSON’s best speed.

There were air attacks at 1300, 1337 and 1345. 28 torpedo bombers (S.79s and S84s) with an escort of 20 Cr42s.  Severn torpedo bombers and one Cr42 were lost

COSSACK evades torpedo dropped outside the screen.

COSSACK ordered out to port under the protection of FORESIGHT’s paravane together with ZULU and HEYTHROPE. 

At 1915 COSSACK detects an incoming aeroplane on her port side and sights it at 2000. Torpedoes dropped by enemy aircraft.

According to Able Seaman George Gilroy of LIGHTING there were almost continuous, intense, very accurate air attacks on the ships from dawn to dusk.


During the night Force H turned back and Force X was detached to take the convoy onwards. An attack by a number of torpedo bombers hit the IMPERIAL STAR which had to be scuttled.

28 September 1941     Force A continued on a westerly course at 14 knots.

At 0725 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish A/S patrol and 3 Fulmar fighters.

0958 hours the CinC Force H received a RAF reconnaissance report, timed at 0940 hours stating, 2 enemy battleships, 5 cruisers and 13 destroyers, 70 miles, 105¼ from Cagliari, steering 195¼.

The convoy arrived at Malta with 50,000 tons of supplies. COSSACK departed the same day (1830?)

At 2000 hours, it was now dark, in approximate position 37-30N, 03-14E the speed of Force A was reduced to 12 knots to reduce the strain on NELSON’s bulkheads and decks.

At 2010 hours PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION and LIVELY detached and steered easterly to RV with Force X, the convoy escort, on their return from Malta.

29 September 1941. At 1030 hours in approximate position 37-35N, 08-00E PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION and LIVELY, rendezvoused with Force X returning from Malta. The combined force then steered west for Gibraltar.

At 1930 hours the PRINCE OF WALES, KENYA, SHEFFIELD and destroyers LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, ORIBI, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FURY detached and proceeded ahead.



2 October 1941           Departed Gibraltar at 0130 with ZULU as local escort to EDINBURGH, PIORUN and GARLAND en route for the UK. They then joined aircraft carrier ARGUS and escorted her to Gibraltar.

8 October 1941           The aircraft carrier ARGUS escorted by the destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and SIKH arrived at Gibraltar with 12 Albacores of 828 Sqd. These aircraft were then transferred to ARK ROYAL in preparation for Operation CALLBOY.

16 October 1941         Departed Gibraltar 1100 – speed 18knots – for Operation CALLBOY in company with ARK ROYAL, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, HERMOINE, LEGION, RODNEY, SIKH and ZULU

(Operation CALLBOY was an operation to supply Malta with a FAA strike force of Albacores and cover the passage of a surface strike force to be known as Force K. This operation came about because in the Summer of 1941 GC&CS [Bletchley Park] had broken the Italian Naval cipher C 38. Therefore full details of Axis convoys to North Africa became known and the strike forces were to be employed to take advantage of this knowledge. Force K comprising the light cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE and destroyers LANCE and LIVELY, departed Gibraltar on 19/10/41 and arrived at Malta on 21/10/41)

 18 October 1941        11 Albacore and 2 Swordfish of 828 Squadron were flown of the aircraft carrier at  0140.

19 October 1941         Arrived Gibraltar 1617

A second source reads:

20 September 1941     Gibraltar. Searching for human torpedo personnel that had penetrated the harbour)

25 September 1941     Straits of Gibraltar. COSSACK survived 6 air raids and narrowly avoided 1 torpedo.

26 September1941      South of the Balaerics.  Detached to refuel from RFA BROWN RANGER

27 September 1941     Evening at Skeri Banks area. 

Day described as almost continuous air attacks from dawn to dusk.  Air attacks are logged at 1300, 1327, 1345, 1915

COSSACK evaded a torpedo dropped outside of the screen

IMPERIAL STAR torpedoed off Cape Bon. COSSACK leaves Force A to join Force X

28 September 1941     1330 Grand Harbour, Malta having lost two merchantmen.  Left Malta same day at 1830 in company with ZULU.

29 September 1941     Transited Sicilian Narrows to rejoin Force A.

1 October 1941.          Arrived at Gibraltar between 0700 and 0900

16 October 1941.        1100. Left Gibraltar to provide screen for Operation Callboy to provide cover for delivery of aircraft to be flown off ARK ROYAL for Malta.


19 October 1941.        Returned to Gibraltar at 1617

21 October 1941         Berthed alongside HMS LEGION at Gibraltar. Both Wardrooms enjoyed a convivial party together onboard COSSACK.  Being Trafalgar Night a toast was drunk to the Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson. (Lt B.G. O’Neill – Navigating Officer of LEGION)

22 October 1941         Sailed from Gibraltar about 1600 as escort to Convoy HG75 on passage to the UK.

Other ships in attendance: ARIGUANI, BLUEBELL, CAMPION, CARNATION, DUNCAN, HELIOTROPE, LA MALOUINE, LAMERTON, MALLOW, ROCHESTER, VIDETTE,  The Real Cruel Sea (Richard Woodman) Page 392 mentions also Free French COMMANDANT DUBOC.

Sailing had been delayed due the report presence of U-boats. Betchley Park had decoded a message that showed a pack of 6 U-boats were being assembled to attack the convoy as it passed Tarifa west bound.  U-206 (Herbert Optiz), U-563 (Klaus Bargsten), U-564 (Reinhard Suhren), U-204 (Walter Kell) sunk with all hands by depth charges from ROCHESTER and MALLOW of Tangers on 19 October 1941, U-71 (Waalter Flachsenberg), U-83 (Hans-Werner Kraus) were laying submerged at periscope depth during the day and surfaced at night, no more than 5 miles apart to form a barrier.  U-71 made the first contact – sighting the convoy when they were abeam of Espartel

Departed Gibraltar on 22 October1941 and arrived Liverpool on 3 November 1941.
Arnold Hague’s “The Allied Convoy System” agrees with 17 ships.

Transcribed from documents received from Tony Cooper, England – His source: Public Records Office, Kew. Information on ships sunk has been added with the help of
“Lloyd’s War Losses”, Vol. I.
“The World’s Merchant Fleets 1939”, R. W. Jordan
“Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two”, Jürgen Rohwer.
Ship Nationality Cargo Destination Remarks
Ruth I Norwegian iron pyrites Mersey
Blairdevon British iron ore Ardrossan From HG 74
Empire Brook iron ore Tyne
Wallsend pyrites Mersey
Cara iron pyrites London
Ulea pyrites Aberdeen Sunk Oct. 28 by U-432
19 – 9 survived
Tadorna general – onions Liverpool From HG 74
Empire Bay iron ore Barrow
Ariosto* general Liverpool Commodore
Sunk Oct. 24 by U-564
6 – 42 (45?) survived
Empire Snipe none given Glasgow
Merkland none given Liverpool
Como none given Belfast
Carsbreck* iron ore Barrow Sunk Oct. 24 by U-564
23 (24?)† – 19 (18?) survived
Harperley iron ore Mersey
Alhama* cork – onions Belfast Sunk Oct. 24 by U-564
no casualties – 33 survived
Marian scrap Belfast
Pacific iron ore Barrow
Empire Wolfe iron ore Barrow
* Ariosto, Carsbreck and Alhama have all been crossed out with the word “NOT” next to them, which is usually the way of indicating the ship did not sail. In this case, however, they must have sailed, since they were sunk when in HG 75. Carsbreck, on a voyage from Almeria for Barrow with about 6000 tons iron ore, was sunk on Oct. 24 by U-564. According to “Lloyd’s War Losses”, she had a crew of 36 and 6 gunners, 19 crew and 4 gunners missing. Alhama, on a voyage from Seville and Valencia for Belfast with a cargo of 180 tons tartaric acid, 1730 tons onions, wines and cork, and 27 tons general, was sunk at the same time by the same U-boat. She had a crew of 26 and 7 gunners, all of whom were saved. (Arnold Hague gives U-563 as the culprit in Alhama‘s case). Ariosto was also sunk by U-564 at the same time. She was on a voyage from Lisbon to Liverpool with 495 tons cork, 51 tons ore, 26 tons diatonite and 10 tons general, and a crew of 37 plus 4 gunners, 4 Commodore’s staff and 3 passengers. 5 crew and 1 gunner were lost. Ulea, voyaging from Huelva, cargo of 2393 tons copper pyrites, was sunk on Oct. 28 by U-432. She had a crew of 21, as well as 4 gunners and 3 passengers on board – 13 crew, 3 gunners and all the passengers were lost. In addition to the 4 merchant ships, HMS Cossack (U-563 – Oct. 24) and HMS Ariguani were also torpedoed (damaged by U-83 – Oct. 26). Commodore’s notes are not available.    

At about 2250 VIDETTE, which was stationed about 4 miles ahead on the port bow of the convoy, got an RDF contact ahead, range 7,000 yards.  Speed was increased to 24 knots and course was altered to keep the contact ahead.  When the range had had decreased to 3,000 yards a U-boat was sighted 10° on the starboard bow.  An alarm report was made to Captain (D) IV in COSSACK and starshell fired. As soon as fire was opened the U-boat submerged, altering course to port as she did so. VIDETTE altered course and when slightly ahead of the U-boats diving position the Commanding Officer ordered a 14-charge pattern, set to shallow, to be fired. Unfortunately only six charges were dropped.  This was caused by the fact that when U-boat Action Stations were ordered the Officer of the Watch had pressed the bell to the Captain’s Cabin instead of the alarm bell.  The Bo’sun’s mate, thinking the alarm bells were not working piped “Action Stations”; consequently the full crew were not closed up at the depth charges and only six charges could be fired.

It is believed that at 2315 the convoy altered course from 254° to 262°

23 October 1941 (Thursday)

0040 ROCHESTER on H/F D/F detected a U-boat making a first sighting report of the convoy bearing 061° or 241°. She presumed that this was the same U-boat which had previously been sighted by the VIDETTE.

0540 LAMERTON heard noises which were exactly like an echo-sounder working; these continued for an hour.  A report was made to COSSACK at dawn and the two ships swept back six miles and then re-joined the convoy without contact.


Wind               NE Force 2

Weather           Clear

Sea                  Slight sea and swell

Visibility         3-5 miles

2210 Hands at Action Stations.  Speed 13 knots. Alarm Green 30 was passed.  Depth Charge Party closed up and stood by to prepare a pattern.  Defence Stations was ordered (2230). 2300 went to action stations to search for a reported submarine. Nothing was found so she returned to her position in the convoy. Ray Davies reports that they were warned of going to Action Stations at 2359 so went for a wash (in a bucket). He noticed Jack Heather’s identity disc on the deck. He called too him but Jack told him to keep it until after action stations.  Jack was killed on ‘A’ gun.

2306 Whilst stationed on the starboard bow of the convoy CARNATION sighted a U-boat on her starboard quarter at a distance of 1000 yards.  CARNATION altered course towards and increased to full speed with the intention of ramming.  An R/T message was immediately transmitted and this was answered by COSSACK.

2308 The U-boat dived but A/S contact had been gained and two minutes later CARNATION dropped a five-charge pattern set to 50 feet.  After this attack contact was lost and a hunt was commenced. Meanwhile BLUEBELL who was stationed on the starboard beam had received the R/T report and altered course to close the position.  No contact could be obtained so at 2316 a pattern of five charges, set to 50 feet, was dropped some 500 yards from the position of CARNATIONS attack, which had been marked by a calcium flare.  An A/S sweep was then commenced down the starboard side of the convoy.  All other escorts appear to have carried an ASDIC and starshell search in accordance with Captain (D)’s orders.  “If at night the side of attack is indicated the corvettes on that side will turn outwards and sweep for two miles using starshell and snowflakes and if nothing is sighted will then re-join the screen.  Destroyers in the positions on the bow and quarter of the convoy will search inwards and then outwards in their respective sectors using starshell”

Torpedoed by U563 (Lt Klaus Bargsten) 35.36 N 10.04 W at 2337 whilst stationed astern of the convoy and proceeding at 13 knots.

Extract from some information concerning the rescue of the survivors of HMS Cossack, from French official maritime history.

Extracts translated from : CRAS Hervé, MANGIN D’OUINCE Xavier, MASSON Philippe : Les bâtiments de surface des F .N.F.L.. Marine Nationale, Service Historique, Paris, 1968, pp. 122 – 125.

     They report that, from Gibraltar, the 22nd of October 1941, the convoy had to take a route of 262° from Spartel Cap, south of Tanger. [Cap Spartel is a promontory in Morocco about 1,000 feet above sea level at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, 12 km West of Tangier. Below the Cap are the Caves of Hercules] They had to follow this route until midnight the 23rd to join 10° West at about 190 nautical miles from the Cap.

     The aviso Commandant Duboc (minesweeper aviso type Élan, 630 t.), from the Free French Navy, left Gibraltar the 22th of October 1941, with the escort of the convoy HG75. The 23th, at 2335 (11.35 pm), it was seen a red rocket at about 3000 m ahead on starboard and few minutes later, a ship on fire. The aviso headed for this ship at maximum speed. At 2347 (11.47 pm), the aviso arrived near a destroyer in fire (HMS Cossack) assisted by another. The aviso collected 5 men on a raft and 16 other (including Lieutenant MOTH) on another (total = 21). The shipwrecked were exhausted, paralyzed by cold, and poisoned by oil. Several Free French sailors went into the water to rescue them.

They give as position of the shipwrecked from Cossack at midnight the 23rd : 35° 23 North – 9° 48 West.

     The 24th, at 0410 (4.10 am) 22 survivors of cargo ship Carsbreck were rescued. At 0600 (6 am) 34 survivors of cargo ship Alhama were rescued. After 0700 (7 am) the Commandant Duboc transferred all these survivors either onto the passenger ship Ariguani (52) or onto sloop HMS Rochester (15).

Extract from –Boat Attack Logs Daniel Morgan & Bruce Taylor (ISBN 978-1-84832-118-2)

Kriegsmarine code (of attack) Quadrat CG 8813.  U-boat timekeeping differential +2 hours.  Sighted by U71 and U563 on 23rd October 1941. Shortly after 2200 GMT corvette CARNATION reported a submarine sighting and the entire escort went to Action Stations. When the tentative ASDIC contact faded and nothing more was sighted COSSACK stood down to second degree readiness and took station astern of the convoy.  About 15 minutes later a torpedo was seen approaching the port side. This immediate alteration was only sufficient to avoid one of the pair of torpedoes fired by U563 and hitting COSSACK at 2238 GMT.

U563 War Diary

Commanded by Oblt.z.S Klaus Bargsten

Qu. CG 8821. Wind NNW 2. Sea 1, 5/10 overcast. 1,016mb visibility 3 nm.

0014 Four torpedo detonations heard in boat. We sight explosion clouds and shining light at bearing 285° true.  (These may have been depth charge attacks carried out by CARNATION following a contact around this time)

0018 Several steamers in sight at bearing 285° true. We alter course towards them. Precise formation cannot yet be determined but we fire a spread of two torpedoes at the largest of them, range 3500 m.  Due to a switching error we only get one torpedo away.  After 4 min. 30 sec. there is a donation together with a huge sheet of flame followed shortly after by an explosion.  Explosion cloud rises 80 – 1000 m. My impression is that this torpedo detonation occurred on the far side of the steamer and that it was not mine but another boat’s torpedo which struck. A large number of starshell and rockets are then fired towards the dark side which I have now vacated. (British records show no record of torpedo attacks at this time so it may have again been anti-submarine activity elsewhere in the convoy)

0030 Ahead of me, with an inclination of 70°, bows left, appears a destroyer about 1,000 m. She is illuminating the area on the far side with her searchlight.  Immediately behind her and overlapping is a medium sized steamer.  Destroyer alters course, now has an inclination of 90°, bows right.  (British and German sources cannot be reconciled on this point. Bargsten’s plot of the attack confirms the log data which indicates he fired when COSSACK was beam on to him on her starboard side. By contrast British records which make no reference to any starshell being fired prior to the attack on COSSACK (But see entry above at 2306 from ADM 199/1994) are unanimous that the torpedo was sighted on her port side where it struck despite the turn to starboard)

0038 Spread of two torpedoes fired. (All torpedoes during this engagement were fired by the First Officer of the Watch Oblt.z.S Klaus Peterson) After about 30 sec. she alters course once again. At first I assume this is towards us at a bearing of 0° because we can make out the white foam from her bows. It turns out that she was turning away from us and what we saw was her propeller wake.  I now find myself completely illuminated by starshell, which is being fired across the entire horizon on my side.

0039 Emergency dive.  As we are diving we hear two powerful torpedo detonations. Boat sinks to T = 45 m (185 m -607 feet) and we have difficulty bringing her back up. It becomes apparent that the flooding valve of the torpedo compartment was leaking. Running time of my torpedo 1min. = 900 m. So we evidently hit the steamer.

0110 We surface. Nothing more to be seen of the steamer. While we were submerged we heard the cracking noise typical of a sinking merchantman, as well as two explosions that sounded like they came from boilers going up.  At a bearing of 20° true we can see a burning vessel with a destroyer and another escort vessel nearby; the destroyer is illuminating the area about her as a precaution. I assume they are taking survivors on board.

0130 Single torpedo fired from Tube V at the burning ship. No success. We then head off on a north westerly course to catch up with the convoy.

0211    Incoming W/T transmission from U71: Convoy Qu.8827 heading north. Other U-boats U-206, U-564 in the vicinity.

(U563 – Built by Blohm and Voss of Hamburg  – was commissioned in March 1941 and heavily damaged by a Whitley bomber on 1 December 1941. She returned to the fray in October 1942. She was sunk 29 May 1943 in the Bay of Biscay by a Sunderland piloted by Wing Commander W.E. Oulton 58 Squadron.) Bargsten went on to command U521 which was sunk by US patrol craft PC-565. Bargsten, the only survivor, spent the rest of the war in captivity being released in 1946. He died in August 2000.

In COSSACK the Captain and 159 officers and men were killed or missing; presumed dead with 29 injured.

Jimmy Tychurst the Communications on ‘X’’ gun heard the Captain say ‘Torpedo to port.

The order ‘Hard a starboard’ was given but the ship was hit by the second torpedo just forward of the bridge between ‘A’ and ‘B’ magazine on the port side destroying the whole forward structure and setting the bridge on fire.  The ready use pom – pom ammunition on the bridge was ignited.

2300. Second Lt passed the order to abandon ship. 

‘X’ gun crew slipped the Carly float and tied it to the rail.

No 1 boiler room flooded immediately but the sprayers were shut off by the Stoker Petty Officer before he came out. No 2 boiler room was evacuated before shutting off the sprayers with the forward bulkhead split and leaking.  The sprayers were turned off shortly afterwards from the upper deck by Commander (E) Halliwell who had noticed a  strong smell of  oil leaking up through the bulkhead of No 1 boiler room, and feared an oil fuel fire. There was no lighting and the order ‘Abandon Ship’ was given by Lt Moth after consulting with Cdr Halliwell and Mr Foster the Gunner (T) who came to the conclusion the forward magazine may explode.  At the time the smoke and darkness it was not possible to know the extent of the damage forward of the bridge. According to Ray Davies he and others were detailed to make safe the depth charges. Throwers and racks were primed to 50 feet and primers made safe.  He describes seeing a body wrapped around a guard-rail, one over the fore funnel and many more laying around. He and others helped as many as they could and 14 boarded a Carly float.  This included several badly burnt men including Ginger Lamb (who died onboard LEGION and was buried at sea), Raggy Marshall and the Gunnery Officer. Leading Seaman Hack was blown off ‘A’ gun and broke his leg.  He was the only survivor from ‘A’ gun.

Bill Armstrong was resting behind the gun in a corner formed by two ammunition boxes. He joined about 20 others on a Carley float that they eventually abandoned to swim to LEGION.

Ken Nicholson was leader of the of the single pom -pom situated on the flag deck. In a state of shock and confusion managed to make his way from the flag deck to the torpedo tubes and into a Carly float. He was picked up by CARNATION.

‘Monty’ Foster was on the Quarterdeck in charge of the depth charges when the ship turned hard a starboard and was struck.  He and the Chief set the charges to ‘safe’.  He missed the Carley float and was on his own in the water but managed to shine a torch that had been in his pocket.  Seen by the CARNATION he was thrown a rope and pulled onboard to be met with the welcome “The bastards still got his F***ing hat on!” He then passed out and came to in a warm bath of water.

Kenneth Rail – a Boy Seaman at the time recollected the following. Just before Midnight he and a mate were on double-banked lookout on the starboard side just aft of the bridge and at a lower level. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion forward on the port side.  He managed to scramble down three ladders and ran towards the sten.  The sea around the ship seemed to be ablaze. A Carley float was launched from aft. Ken jumped into the sea missing the part that was alight and someone pulled in to the raft.  The lower part of his legs were burnt and he had a fractured nose.. He and his companions were picked up three hours later by the French ship and then transferred by cutter to the ARIGUANA which in turn had her stern blown off. He was subsequently picked up by VIDETTE.

COSSACK was subsequently re – boarded and the fire brought under control. No. 2 boiler room was half flooded but No. 3 boiler room was found to be intact.  Top weight was jettisoned. (See ADM1 11847 – Hand written notes by Commander Halliwell in Engine Room Order Book)

24 October 1941         DUNCAN departs from Gibraltar with medical supplies and surgeon.  Tug THAMES and corvettes CARNATION and JONQUIL depart Gibraltar

HMS Carnation picked up 49 survivors whilst LEGION, ARIGUANI and COMMANDANT Le BOC picked up the others

0100 Commander Halliwell of COSSACK was picked up by LEGION and transferred at 0130 to CARNATION

0145 CARNATION passed towing line with LEGION standing by. The tow proceeded at 3 knots but was reduced because of adverse weather conditions. Cdr Halliwell took a damage control party onboard COSSACK to begin the fight to save her. (Engineering Lt McLeod, CPO Allpress, PO Beech, AB Broom, Boy Davis from COSSACK and fire party from CARNATION). Allpress discharged torpedoes with stop valves shut.  Three seriously injured were found onboard (Sub Lt Day and two ratings) and Surgeon Lt Scott of COSSACK returned on board to attend to them.

Recollection of David Broom. (Able Seaman.  P/JX 156413) About 0145 we jumped across and took a hose forward and started to put out the fire which was burning in the aft end of the bridge in the ‘Comforts Store’ where there was a large stock of soap, warm clothing and other articles.  We also put water on the coal that was burning in the messdeck coal bunker.  At 0530 the fire was out and we returned to CARNATION which cast off.  We were given hot food and drink and slept for a while.

0600 COSSACK showed signs of sinking and all hands returned to CARNATION

0800 Boarding party return onboard. Steam was raise in No 3 boiler room. ‘Y’ magazine and shell room flooded to restore the freeboard forward.  By the evening the boiler room and machinery had to be shut down as the feed water was expended

Recollection of David Broom. (Able Seaman.  P/JX 156413). At 0800 on the 24th the Carnation went back alongside the Cossack and I went back onboard her.  I put on my boots and duffle coat which were where I had left them on the Gun Deck.  Up until then I had been wearing overalls and plimsolls given to me by someone on the Carnation.  The Engineer Officer then asked Ivor Davis and myself to go into the Number 3 Boiler Room and work the oil fuel pump.   This was at the back of the boiler. We were alone and in very uneasy strange surroundings. Steam was raised and we returned on deck.

The motorboat was still in its davits when I returned to the deck and with some help I got it into the water and with Ivor as crew took it away and recovered two Carley Floats which I took to Cossack and made fast alongside the ship’s port side aft.  The motorboat was then made fast to the starboard side using a long boat rope and a breast rope

1055 Enemy plane approaches but is driven off by the guns of COSSACK and CARNATION.

Recollection of David Broom. (Able Seaman.  P/JX 156413). At 1055 the Carnation sounded ‘A’s on her siren and I saw a Focke-Wolfe Condor approaching on the starboard side

1900 Hands transferred back aboard CARNATION for the night.

Telegram from London on military situation 10/25/41

          Telegram from London dated October 25th.                                      
Correction to telegram dated October 24th: in second paragraph 
 for H.M.S. "Maori" read H.M.S. "Cossack" 
 and for "10 miles" read "ll0 miles." (Latest reports state that H.M.S. Cossack is proceeding to harbour in tow).                         

25 October 1941        

0845 Boarding party return to COSSACK

Lt McLeod, CPO Allpress, CPO Bellinger, AB Broom, Signaller McGloskey of CARNATION and a Sick Berth Attendant from GURKA were put onboard.  Shored No 3 boiler room and jettisoned depth charges, HD Fittings, fan trunkings etc.

1130. SBA returned to CARNATION.  Stokers Miller and Coggins went onboard.

1300 HM Tug THAMES escorted by JONQUIL arrived.  20 survivors transfer from CARNATION to JONQUIL

1340 COSSACK signal to JONQUIL – “Tug to come alongside Port Aft”

Towing commenced at 1500 in moderate weather. Course East. Wind NW force 2.  Onboard was Commander Halliwell, Engineering Lt McLeod, Mr Foster – Gunner (T), CPO Allpress, CPO Bellinger, AB Broom, Signaller McGlusky, Stoker Miller, Stoker Collins.

2000. Wind, Sea and swell increasing.   Course East at 2 knots.  Downton pump used every ½ hour.

26 October 1941.       

0100 Wind North force 4

0800 Wind NE force 5. COSSACK slightly more down by the head.

0840 COSSACK signal to CARNATION.  Request for pump.  Not met

1200 Wind NE Force 6

1300 Tug reduced speed

1450 Trawler STELLA CARINA joined the screen

1501 COSSACK signal to JONQUIL. “Red Very light “abandon ship”.  Green Very light “man overboard”

JONQUOL signal to COSSACK “Bring over all brandy in wine stores. Key in Wardroom cigarette drawer.  Wine in cases starboard side aft. Probably 15 bottles.

COSSACK reply to JONQUIL. “Wine store locked and battened down.  Cupboards in Wardroom empty”

1600 Wind NE Force 6 Sea and Swell 6/6./ No apparent headway being made. Stern higher and bow lower.

1630. Sea racing waist high across weather deck made it too dangerous to continue pumping engine room bilges and was abandoned at 1750

1900 COSSACK is lower in the water

1930 Abandoned ship for the night

2000 The 9 officers and men were transferred to JONQUIL

27 October 1941        

Conditions prevent re boarding of COSSACK

HMS COSSACK sinks at 1043.  35.12N 08.17W

‘They will not be forgotten’

ADM1/11846 – cause of sinking

  1. The fresh water ran out, thus preventing steam being kept after 1800 on 24 October.
  2. The submersible pump could not be used owing to lack of  suction hoses and adequate electric leads
  3. The Downton Pump could not be used owing to absence of suctions
  4. The Tug THAMES escorted by HMS JONQUIL arrived 10 hours late having been misdirected
  5. No salvage pump was sent in THAMES
  6. The heavy weather which blew up on the 26th October.


Many survivors were picked up by HMS Legion and taken to Gibraltar where those in hospital were visited by Vian. They were then discharged to HMS Victory taking passage in HMS Rodney to Loch Ewe. From here they were transported in open Army trucks wearing only their survivor’s kit to Inverness. A good meal was made available in the hotel by the station and some survivors found partners to dance with to the music being provided

Springall, H.J. P/SS12571 Stoker 1st Class,

Wallace, R.J.G. P/JX15366 Able Seaman

When HMS Cossack was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic in October 1941 a number of survivors were picked up by other ships.   These two were amongst them but both were severely wounded and needed urgent hospital treatment.   HMS Legion took them to Ponta Delgada, the Azores being neutral, where they were taken into hospital.   Unfortunately both died of their wounds and were buried in the British Protestant Cemetery in Ponta Delgada, St Michaels Island.



HMS Cossack (L03) Ship’s Company and relatives

HMS Cossack Association

The Imperial War Museum

The National Maritime Museum

The National Archives

MOD RN Records

The Central Library, Plymouth.

The National Maritime Museum Malta

The War Museum Malta

Malta National Archives

The people of Malta and Norway

The Daily Mail

Don Kindell

G.B Mason

Eric P. Smith

Ian Cameron (Red Duster, White Ensign)

David A. Thomas (Malta Convoys)

Richard Woodman (Malta Convoys)

Frischauer and Jackson (The Navy’s Here)

The Newcastle Chronicle & Journal Ltd

Tyne and Wear Archives Service

Sir Philip Vian G.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O. (Action This Day)



British Destroyers A-I and Tribal classes – Les Brown

The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940-1943 – Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani

The Battle for Norway 1940-1942 – John Grehan & Martin Mace.

Sea War 1939-1945 Pages 170 and 173.

See also ‘HMS Cossack 1938 – 1941 Some Survivors Narratives’ and HM Ships Cossack 1938 – 1959’ published by the HMS COSSACK Association

All entries from “H.M. Ships Damaged or Sunk by Enemy Action 3rd September 1939 to 2 September 1945.  Published by the Admiralty in 1952 was a Restricted Publication BR 1886 (2).