HMS Egret (L75)

HMS Egret was a sloop of the British Royal Navy, the lead ship of her class. She was built by J. Samuel White at Cowes, Isle of Wight, was launched on 31 May 1938, and is notable for being the first ship sunk by a guided missile in combat. So far she is the only Royal Navy warship to be named Egret.

HMS Egret (L75)
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Egret
Builder: J. Samuel White of Cowes, Isle of Wight
Launched: 31 May 1938
Identification: pennant number: L75
Fate: Sunk 27 August 1943
General characteristics
Class and type: Egret-class sloop
Displacement: 1,200 tons
Length: 276 ft (84 m)
Speed: 19.25 knots (35.65 km/h; 22.15 mph)
Complement: 188


On 5 March 1937, the British Admiralty ordered two sloops of a new class, Egret and Auckland as part of the 1936 construction programme.[1][lower-alpha 1] Egret was laid down at J. Samuel White's Cowes, Isle of Wight shipyard on 21 September 1937. The ship was launched on 31 May 1938 and completed on 10 November 1938.[2]

Sunk by a missile

HMS Egret was the first ship ever to be sunk by a guided missile.[3] The Germans had used the Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb for the first time on 25 August 1943 against the 40th Support Group in the Bay of Biscay. Landguard was slightly damaged by a near miss.[3] Bideford was hit and damaged, with one sailor killed, though more serious damage was avoided because the bomb's explosive charge did not fully detonate.[3]

On 27 August 1943 the 40th Support Group was relieved by the 1st Support Group, consisting of Egret together with the sloop Pelican and the frigates Jed, Rother, Spey and Evenlode. The group was attacked by a squadron of 18 Dornier Do 217 carrying Henschel glide bombs. One of the two covering destroyers, HMCS Athabaskan, was heavily damaged and Egret was sunk with the loss of 194 of her crew.[4] At the time there were four RAF Y-Service electronics specialists on board, all of whom also died in the attack, thus bringing the total killed to 198. (These four RAF personnel are typically excluded from published casualty figures.) Egret had been fitted with electronic surveillance equipment designed to monitor Luftwaffe bomber communications and these Y-Service technicians were aboard to operate this equipment. The other destroyer, Grenville, commanded by Roger Hill, was attacked by the Dorniers firing one missile at a time, but survived by being able out-turn the glide bombs.[5]

Egret's sinking led to the anti-U-boat patrols in the Bay of Biscay being suspended.[6]


  1. The third ship of the class, Pelican, was ordered on 19 March 1937.[1]
  1. Hague 1993, p. 6
  2. Hague 1993, p. 67
  3. Ford, Roger (2013). Germany's Secret Weapons of World War II. London, United Kingdom: Amber Books. p. 224. ISBN 9781909160569.
  4. HMS Egret (L 75 / U 75)
  5. Hill, Roger (1975). Destroyer Captain. Periscope. pp. 116–121. ISBN 0718300947.
  6. Milner, Marc (1994). The U-boat hunters: the Royal Canadian Navy and the offensive against Germany's submarines. University of Toronto Press, p. 57


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