HMS Mahratta (G23)

HMS Mahratta was an M-class destroyer of the Royal Navy which served during World War II. Begun as Marksman, she was damaged while under construction, and dismantled to be rebuilt on a new slipway. She was launched as Mahratta in 1942, completed in 1943, and quickly pressed into service. After a short but busy career in the North Atlantic and Arctic, largely guarding merchant convoys, she was torpedoed and sunk on 25 February 1944.

HMS Mahratta at a buoy
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Mahratta (Ex-HMS Marksman)
Builder: Scotts, Greenock
Yard number: 584
Laid down: 18 August 1941
Launched: 28 July 1942
Commissioned: 8 April 1943
Honours and
Arctic (1943–44)
Fate: Sunk by U-990, 25 February 1944
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: M-class destroyer
Length: 362 ft 3 in (110.4 m) (o/a)
Beam: 37 ft (11.3 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)
Installed power:
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 190
Sensors and
processing systems:


Mahratta was originally to have been named Marksman. She was laid down on 21 January 1940 but the incomplete ship was blown off the slipway during an air raid in May 1941.[1] Marksman was to have been the lead ship of the M-class destroyers, and the class was sometimes known as the Marksman class. Damage sustained by Marksman was so bad that she had to be dismantled and transferred to an alternative site. The new ship was laid down on 18 August 1941, but she was renamed Mahratta at her launch in July 1942,[2] after the Maratha Empire of India, as a recognition of the financial support given by India to the war effort.[1] Mahratta was adopted by the people of Walsall, who held a "Warship Week" from 7–14 February 1942, aiming to raise £700,000 – the cost of a warship. She was completed on 8 April 1943 and entered service on that date. During trials in May 1943 HMS Mahratta escorted RMS Queen Mary part way across the Atlantic.[3]

Operation FH

HMS Mahratta departed Scapa Flow on 2 June 1943 with HMS Musketeer and HMS Onslaught, arriving back at Scapa Flow the same day.[4] On 4 June Mahratta left Seidisfjord, Iceland bound for Spitsbergen, Norway as part of Operation FH, which was the relief of the garrison at Spitsbergen.[3]

Operation FJ

HMS Mahratta departed Scapa Flow on 8 June 1943 for Kola Inlet[4]

In July 1943, HMS Mahratta and HMS Musketeer waited in Iceland for ice to clear before making a high speed run to Murmansk. Amongst her valuable cargo was a bathtub for an admiral.[3]

Operation Camera

Operation Camera was a war game off the coast of Iceland to test the defences against an attempt by Tirpitz to break out from Kåfjord. The operation was based at Scapa Flow, departing on 7 July 1943. The other participants were HMS Duke of York, USS Ellyson, USS Emmons, USS Fitch, HMS Furious, HMS Glasgow, USS Macomb, HMS Meteor, HMS Milne, HMS Musketeer, USS Rodman, and USS South Dakota.[4]

Operation Governor

Operation Governor was an attempt to lure Tirpitz and other heavy battleships out of harbour by simulating a raid on southern Norway. Operation Governor departed Hvalfjord on 26 July 1943. HMS Mahratta was part of Force A, other participants of Force A were HMS Anson, USS Alabama, USS Emmons, USS Fitch, HMS Illustrious, USS Macomb, HMS Meteor, HMS Milne, HMS Musketeer, and USS Rodman.[4]

Operation SF

Operation SF departed Scapa Flow on 30 July 1943. Mahratta was part of Group B. She sailed with HMS Milne and HMS Musketeer to join HMS Oribi and HMS Orwell escorting oil tanker SS Blue Ranger.[4]

Operation Lorry

Operation Lorry departed Skaalefjord on 26 August 1943. Mahratta was part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Operation Lorry enabled the passage of destroyers and stores to Kola in northern Russia.[4] Tirpitz left her base in Kåfjord with several destroyers to attack the convoy, but was a few hours too late. Operation Lorry delivered parts and crew that were to service the Spitfires used for photo-reconnaissance in preparation for Operation Source.[3]

Escort duties

In September 1943, Mahratta was sent to the Mediterranean with HMS Matchless to escort HMS Valiant to Plymouth for repairs. Matchless broke down on the way back, and was taken in tow by Mahratta. The chain later broke, and after this Mahratta rescued some survivors from a Coastal Command Halifax aircraft that had been shot down by a German U-boat. They had spent eleven days in the water. Mahratta arrived in Plymouth on 11 October 1943 and later that month sailed north again to Scapa Flow and Seidisfjord to escort Convoy JW 54A[3] as part of Operation FR.[4]

Operation FR

Operation FR was the delivery of escort ships to northern Russia to act as escorts for the first of the winter 1943 season convoys, Convoy RA 54A. Other participants were HNoMS Eglantine, HMS Harrier, HMS Matchless, HMS Milne, HMS Musketeer, HMS Saumarez, HMS Savage, HMS Scorpion, HMS Scourge, HMS Seagull, and HMS Westcott. Cover was provided by USS Augusta, HMS London, and HMS Middleton.[4]

Convoy RA 54A

Convoy RA 54A, including the aircraft carrier Formidable and the battleship Anson,[5] sailed from Kola Inlet on 1 November 1943. The departure of the convoy was delayed by thick fog, but allowed the convoy to reach Loch Ewe without being attacked.[4]

Convoy JW 54A

Convoy JW 54A sailed on 22 November 1943,[6] arriving at Archangel on 3 December. Again, the convoy managed to avoid being attacked.[4]

Convoy RA 54B

Convoy RA 54B departed Archangel on 26 November 1943[7] bound for Loch Ewe. Passage was hampered by poor weather conditions, but the convoy did not come under attack.[4]

Convoy JW 56B

Convoy JW 56B departed Loch Ewe on 22 January 1944[8] and arrived at Kola Inlet on 1 February.[4]

During the passage the convoy was attacked. HMS Hardy was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U-278[7] and HMS Venus later sank her.[4]

Convoy RA 56

Convoy RA 56 departed Kola Inlet on 3 February 1944[9] and arrived at Loch Ewe on 11 February 1944.[4]

Convoy JW 57

Convoy JW 57 sailed from Loch Ewe on 11 February 1944,[10] arriving at Kola Inlet on 28 February.[4]

On 23 February a Focke-Wulf Condor aircraft was spotted. Wildcats were flown from HMS Chaser and it was thought that they had driven the Condor away, but it kept watch at a distance. Several U-boats were spotted by the Wildcats and Swordfish aircraft were sent to attack any U-boats they could find. HMS Kessel was successful in sinking U-713 with depth charges.[3]


On 25 February 1944, a Catalina aircraft of 210 Squadron attacked and sank U-601 which was trailing the convoy. Mahratta was struck by two T5 Gnat torpedoes[3] fired by U-990[11] off the coast of Norway. She sank at 71°17′N 13°30′E.[1] Only 16 of the 236 crew survived.[11]

Although Mahratta was lost, the convoy was a success. It was the largest convoy ever sent to Russia.[3]


A memorial to those who lost their lives on the Arctic Convoys was unveiled at Murmansk in 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the first Arctic Convoy.[3]


  1. "HMS MAHRATTA – M-class Destroyer". Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  2. "HMS Musketeer: White Ensign Models 1:350 scale". Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  3. "The Russian Convoy Club; The Arctic Lookout". Kieron Hoare. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  4. "Convoy and Operation Details 1943–44". Kieron Hoare. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  5. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy RA-54A". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  6. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy JW-54A". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  7. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy RA-54B". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 21 January 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  8. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy JW-56B". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 22 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  9. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy RA-56". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  10. "Navy and Merchant ships on Convoy JW-57". Kieron Hoare. Archived from the original on 29 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  11. "In Memory of HMS Mahratta G23". Kieron Hoare. Retrieved 16 November 2008.


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