HMS Vortigern (D37)
Vortigern in the First World War
|Ordered:||1916-17 Programme Build (9th Order)|
|Builder:||J. Samuel White, Cowes, Isle of Wight|
|Laid down:||17 January 1917|
|Launched:||5 October 1917|
|Commissioned:||21 January 1918|
|Identification:||Pennant number: D37|
|Motto:||Virtus a majoribus : 'Our valour is from our ancestors'|
|Fate:||Sunk by E-boats on 15 March 1942|
|Badge:||On a Field Red, an ancient British Sword, hilt Gold, blade Silver|
|Class and type:||V-class destroyer|
|Beam:||26 ft 9 in (8.2 m)|
Construction and commissioning
Vortigern was ordered from J. Samuel White, of Cowes, Isle of Wight during the First World War under the 1916–17 Programme Build (9th Order), and was laid down on 17 January 1917. She was launched on 5 October 1917 and commissioned on 21 January 1918. She has been the only ship of the Royal Navy so far to be named HMS Vortigern, after Vortigern, an early British ruler.
Wartime and interwar service
Vortigern served throughout the remaining months of the war, and was redeployed to the Baltic Sea in 1919, later serving with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. She was eventually placed in reserve, but was reactivated in 1939 in order to take part in the August Fleet Review of the ships of the reserve by HM King George VI.
Second World War
With the outbreak of war Vortigern was deployed with the 17th Destroyer Flotilla, based at Plymouth and tasked with escorting convoys and carrying out anti-submarine patrols in the South Western Approaches and the English Channel. She was engaged in these duties for the rest of 1939. In January 1940 Vortigern was nominated to join the 13th Destroyer Flotilla based at Gibraltar. On 13 January, she and Velox escorted the outbound convoy OG 14F to Gibraltar. On their arrival on 15 January, both destroyers were detached to join the flotilla. Vortigern spent the period between February and June escorting convoys between Britain and Gibraltar.
On 3 July she was present at the attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir (Operation Catapult). On 6 July she formed part of the escort with the ships of the 13th and 8th Destroyer Flotillas for the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the battleship HMS Valiant, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the cruisers HMS Arethusa and Enterprise for the air attacks on the French battleship Dunkerque. Vortigern then joined the destroyers HMS Faulknor, Foxhound, Fearless, Forester, Escort, Douglas, Active, Velox and Wrestler on 8 July as they screened the capital ships preparing for air attacks from HMS Ark Royal on Italian targets on Cagliari. The operation was abandoned after the force came under heavy air attack, and Vortigern took passage to Britain on 12 July.
She deployed in August on convoy defence duties in Home waters, covering convoys sailing in the North Western Approaches to and from the Clyde. She was taken in hand in September for a refit, and to be converted into a Short Range Escort. The work lasted until November, and after completing trials Vortigern joined the 12th Destroyer Flotilla based at Rosyth, and deployed to escort convoys in the North Sea. On 9 December whilst escorting one convoy, Vortigern came under attack by a German seaplane off Aldeburgh. The destroyer continued her patrols and convoy escort duties all throughout 1941 and into 1942.
Vortigern was sunk off Cromer on 15 March 1942, whilst defending a coastal convoy against attack by E-boats. She was torpedoed by the E-boat S104, and sank with the loss of 110 lives. Only 14 survivors were rescued. Eleven bodies were recovered from the sea by the Cromer lifeboat H F Bailey III. The wrecksite is designated as a Protected Place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. There are twelve war graves in Lowestoft cemetery from HMS Vortigern.
Correction and additions-- The ship was seen sinking by a Harwich-based 16th Flotilla destroyer, but her captain (S Lonbard-Hobson) felt obliged to keep up with the convoy, and therefore broke off and only returned once it was daylight and the E-boats had gone. An inquiry was held at HMS Badger, Parkeston Quay, where a few surviving ratings were inconclusively questioned. The final reckoning was 147 dead, not 110—the worst on any ship on the English east coast in the 2nd World War.
(Sources—J P Foynes: The Battle of the East Coast 1939-45, includes an account of the sinking based on Board of Inquiry and East Coast Convoy reports at National Archive.
S Lombard-Hobson: "A Sailor's War"
- Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
- Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
- Cocker, Maurice; Allan, Ian. Destroyers of the Royal Navy, 1893–1981. ISBN 0-7110-1075-7.
- Friedman, Norman (2009). British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-081-8.
- Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
- Lenton, H. T. (1998). British & Empire Warships of the Second World War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-048-7.
- March, Edgar J. (1966). British Destroyers: A History of Development, 1892–1953; Drawn by Admiralty Permission From Official Records & Returns, Ships' Covers & Building Plans. London: Seeley Service. OCLC 164893555.
- Preston, Antony (1971). 'V & W' Class Destroyers 1917–1945. London: Macdonald. OCLC 464542895.
- Raven, Alan & Roberts, John (1979). 'V' and 'W' Class Destroyers. Man o'War. 2. London: Arms & Armour. ISBN 0-85368-233-X.
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
- Whinney, Bob (2000). The U-boat Peril: A Fight for Survival. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-35132-6.
- Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War 2. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.
- Winser, John de D. (1999). B.E.F. Ships Before, At and After Dunkirk. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-91-6.