1943

The year started by escorting convoy MKS 4Y from Gibraltar to Devonport (1st - 9th Jan 1943). Escorted ships included Mahout, Turkistan, Ocean Seaman and Ocean Freedom (a survivor of the infamous PQ17 convoy). The escorts were Wensleydale, the Free French Commandant Detroyat, HMS Starwort and the Polish Hunt Class Destroyer Slazak, formally known as HMS Bedale. This was effectively the end of Wensleydale's long range escort duties. From now on the ship was based around The Channel ports. A few days after arriving back from Gibraltar, the ship joined The 15th Destroyer Flotilla, based in Plymouth.

On 19.2.43 the British received information that the Germans had purchased two Spanish fishing vessels, CHICHA 1 and CHICHA 2. Both had been fitted with special wireless equipment and were known to be operating in the Great Sole Bank area, where they would report on allied shipping and aircraft movements. Two days later Wensleydale and HMS Tanatside were ordered to search for them, and bring them in for examination. At 2346 hours CHICHA 1 and CHICHA 2 were sighted by aircraft. At 1700 hours on 24.2.43 Wensleydale reported  that she was bringing in four Spanish trawlers with an armed guards in one of them. The trawlers were ordered to Penzance, where radio equipment was found. However, none were CHICHA 1 or CHICHA 2, and the two armed guards were withdrawn. A local paper in Penzance reported that there was now "a welcome addition of fresh fish in the town" Signalman David Main was one of the armed guards. About 2 nights were spent on board, but he saw no evidence that they were supplying the Germans with information.

On the night of 13/14 of April 1943, Wensleydale was in the area when the Norwegian Hunt Class destroyer Eskdale was torpedoed in Lyme Bay. Wensleydale was escorting a convoy in the opposite direction.

On 13th May 1943, Wensleydale was to be found attempting to tow a downed Lancaster Bomber (W4318) piloted by Sgt Johnny S Stoneman. The bomber had to ditch and the crew were rescued by a Walrus and Air Sea Rescue launch after 3 and a half hours in a dingy. The bomber was still floating and Wensleydale attempted to tow it to shore. Needless to say, it sank. The same day Wensleydale was (along with HMS Melbreak) ordered to search for the survivors of a Sunderland flying boat that had also ditched in The Bay of Biscay. A position had been signalled to allow for bearings to be taken by M/F D/F. It was soon apparent that the position given differed from the direction of the bearing. Wensleydale ordered Melbreak to proceed to the position, whilst Wensleydale followed the radio bearing. the result was that Wensleydale eventually found the crew of the Sunderland (DP176, 119  squadron) at 15.10 hrs, and nine survivors were rescued. Three had perished (F/LT LJ Davies, F/O KR Waters and Sgt T Galloway). After much research, I found out the crew were mostly Canadians and piloted by F/L Joseph Vernon Gibson. Sadly, F/L Gibson and most of  his crew were killed (2.9.43) in a similar area a few months later. NOTE: Sunderland DP176 was, I believe the first Sunderland to be manufactured at Lake Windermere.

LEFTF/L Joseph Vernon Gibson of St Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. (Picture kindly provided by his brother John, also known as Jack.)

On graduation Joseph joined his father in the mason trade until he joined up. He had six sisters and was generally known to them and the people of St Andrews as 'Brother'. Joseph was killed when his Liberator aircraft (FL938) was shot down by an enemy fighter, while on a anti-submarine patrol. Search aircraft saw wreckage at the position given by the crew as they were under attack, there were no survivors. The majority of the Liberator crew were the same one's who had previously been shot down in the Sunderland. Joseph Vernon Gibson has no known grave. His name is inscribed on the Runnymede War Memorial, Englefield, Egham, Surrey.

This photograph (BELOW RIGHT) was taken by Richard Lindley, who was flying a 248 squadron Beaufighter from RAF Predannack, that day. Although not that clear, it shows F/L Gibson and the other 8 survivors before their rescue by Wensleydale (photograph courtesy of Richard Lindley, via John Evans Collection)

On the night of 28/29th of May 1943, whilst in action with German E-boats in The Channel, the ship received damage to her torpedo tubes through shell fire. There is some confusion here, as it is also reported that on this date the ship was the victim of 'friendly fire' by Coastal Forces MGBs. What is certain is that a shell passed through the sick-bay , went through the medicine cupboard and bulkhead, slightly wounding the doctor, Surg LT Geoffrey Wallis on the way.

On 3rd of June 1943, Wensleydale, together with the Polish destroyer Orkan and the Canadian Iroquois provided an anti-submarine escort for the battleship HMS Ramillies, bound for The Clyde.

On 28th of June 1943 the Captain Lt J.A. McClure, relinquished command due to ill health. He was replaced by Lt W.P. Goodfellow, RNVR the former first Lieutenant. On the night of 9/10 of July 1943, Wensleydale, together with the Norwegian Hunt class destroyer Glaisdale and HMS Melbreak were involved in the sinking of the German minesweeper M1365. In this engagement, the Captain of Melbreak and other officers and crew were seriously injured. The next day Wensleydale was again in action with E-boats, when she sustained superficial damage and was 17 days under repair at Devonport.

LEFT: Lt Commander William P Goodfellow RNVR

Three destroyers HMS MELBREAK (Lieut. G.E.C.T. Baines,R.N.), HMS
WENSLEYDALE (Lieut. W.P Goodfellow R.N.V.R. and H.Nor.M.S.GLAISDALE (Cdr. P. Harne, R.Nor.N.) were patrolling at 15 knots off the north coast of Brittany in line ahead early on 10th July. There was 10/10 low cloud and no moonlight: visibility was about 3,000 yards; sea and swell 21. At 0244' the presence of enemy surface craft about five miles to the east was reported and course was altered accordingly. At 0249 the MELBREAK sighted a ship on her starboard bow and gave orders to her consorts to stand by to fire torpedoes; at 0250 she altered course to due east and four or more M-class minesweepers and T -class torpedo-boats became visible on course 020 at ten knots. Green tracer was fired into the air by the enemy at 0252; a minute later as the MELBREAK altered to port the GLAISDALE illuminated the targets with starshell, and at 0254 the MELBREAK, whose ship's company was going into action for the first time, fired both starboard tubes at the rear ship in the enemy's line. At 0255 there was a water-level flash on the target, and all three destroyers opened fire. The MELBREAK engaged the leading ship in the enemy's line with her main armament at 1,500 yards and the WENSLEYDALE used the same target at 4,000 yards. The enemy ship was hit and was seen to stop. Close-range weapons engaged E-boats by the light of starshells fired by the GLAISDALE at intervals throughout the action and the MELBREAK' s Oerlikon was busy with small craft which were making smoke on her starboard quarter and firing tracer astern of her. At 0258 the MELBREAK altered course to cross ahead of the enemy column and a minute later circled the bow of the leading ship which was repeatedly hit with 4-inch and by the smaller guns at close range. The enemy, which was stopped, down by the stern and listing, made no reply. At 0300 fire was shifted to the rear ship in the enemy's line which was also stationary and on fire forward. Her bow gun was silenced and she was seen to explode amidships. The WENSLEYDALE, which at 0258 had altered to starboard and was engaging the enemy's main force which was still proceeding westwards, observed several ineffective torpedo attacks by the enemy, and noted, thatĚ all three destroyers were scoring hits with their 4-inch guns. At 0304 the MELBREAK, then on course 214, was about to engage some E-boats which were making smoke when more substantial targets were reported about 3,500 yards away. She engaged a target at Red 90 with her after-mounting in local control and at 0306 opened fire with her forward-mounting at 2,500 yards' range on the second ship of three in line ahead and altered course to 267. These -three were taken to be T -class torpedo-boat s and the after-mounting's target ceased firing at 0307, after the MELBREAK'S sixth salvo at a range of 1,200 yards, and became obscured by smoke. At 0308, taking advantage of the brilliant illumination provided by starshells fired by a shore battery to the southward, the forward-mounting shifted fire so as to engage the leader of the enemy's line, and course was altered to 252. The close-range weapons took over the second ship in the line. The ship, which had been lost in smoke at 0307, emerged at 0310 and resumed a slow fire with a single gun, but was silenced at 0312, and the after-mounting then engaged the third ship in the line. ~he three destroyers increased speed to 20 knots and passed ahead of the enemy engaging all three ships at close range, but enemy ships of a calibre which was thought to be greater than four inches had begun to fall at 0310, and at 0319 speed was increased to 24 knots. At 0320 course was altered to about. 227, but at approximately 0322 the MELBREAK was hit; her Captain, First Lieutenant, Navigating Officer and Yeoman of Signals were all seriously wounded and others on the bridge also became casualties. There was no communication from the bridge, the destroyer was under so much helm that she had turned sharply to starboard and was proceeding almost on an o9Posite course. A collision with the GLAISDALE, which was third in line behind, appeared imminent, but 'the ship was conned from the director and the Yeoman of' Signals, Michael Gallacher, managed to repeat urgent helm orders passed from the director, and by 0325 Sub-Lieut. D.P. 0'Connor, R.N.V.R. had assumed command.. He increased to full speed and altered course to 320. At 0330 the starboard side of the superstructure was reported to be on fire, but this was under control by 0335. The compasses, however, were found to be unreliable, and at 0336, a visual signal was made to the WENSLEYDALE "Get ahead of me". This, however, was received as "Dead ahead of me", and taken to be an enemy report, and it was not until 0545 that another visual signal in reply to a query from the WENSLEYDALE reported the MELBREAK"S casualties and damage. The WENSLEYDALE accordingly took over the command and received a report from the GLAISDALE that she had four casualties, two of which were serious. Meanwhile at 0400 speed had been reduced to 20 knots on course 359, as the MELBREAK was then expecting the WENSLEYDALE to go ahead of her in conformity with her signal at 0336. In this action it was claimed that one T -class torpedo-boat had been sunk by gunfire and that two others, or perhaps M-class minesweepers, had been damaged and set on fire, that each destroyer had sunk. at least one E-boat and that several others had been damaged by the fire from close range weapons. (
Extracted from Weekly Intelligence Report, pages 17/18. 1st October 1943). The German minesweeper M1365 was sunk during this engagement.
 

On the 9th of September 1943, Wensleydale took part in Operation Starkey. One chap said that Wensleydale was the leading ship as the Commodore was on board at the time. This was essentially a rehearsal for D-Day. About 300 ships of all different sizes headed for the French coast in probable the biggest armada since Dunkirk. When approaching the French coast, they all turned around and went home.

On the night 3/4th October Wensleydale was engaged in a 'Tunnel' operation, (see Sinking of HMS Charybdis for further information on Operation Tunnel) with other Hunt class destroyers, Limbourne (senior Officer), and Tanatside. Also present were the fleet destroyers HMS Grenville and HMS Ulster. This was Force X. Along the North Brittany coast, at 0100 radar contact was made with a force of 4/5 Elbing class destroyers, which were to the South and steaming West.  After illuminating with searchlights, and opening fire at 7500y, the German destroyers split into two groups. Grenville and Ulster followed one group heading to the North. Hits were registered on both German ships causing fires. However, both Grenville and Ulster sustained damage and casualties. Meanwhile, the Hunts lost the remaining destroyers due to their superior speed; and returned to their patrol lines. Wensleydale obtained an enemy contact and opened fire. The contact turned out to be Ulster. Luckily, there were no casualties. Part of this paragraph is re-printed from another website http://www.geocities.com/abbertonroh/Behn.htm

Around the 10th of October 1943 Wensleydale was ordered to first find and then escort the Free French Submarine Minerve (P26) back to port. Ken England remembers that "the submarine was transmitting the morse letter 'A' on a known frequency and by manning our MF D/F set we were able to get a fix on the sub's position". This submarine had been a victim of 'friendly fire' and was unable to dive. A Liberator, piloted by Mick Ensor spotted a submarine  about 300 miles west of Brest. The submarine was attacked with eight 5"rockets. One 25lb rocket entered the starboard side just below the external torpedo tubes. Two men were killed. One by the rocket head and another by a fragment of the pressure hull. The submarine was off course and not reported in the area. Pilot Mick Ensor (see Enser's Endevour, by Vincent Orange) was cleared of any blame. The damage to Minerve proved very useful to navy intelligence. Many photographs were taken of the damage, angle of entry etc. The projectile was said to be virtually undamaged, but was unfortunately thrown overboard as it was considered likely to explode.ECPAD

LEFT: Free French Sub, Minerve, P26

During December 1943 the ship was on convoy duty in The English Channel, then moving through the Straights of Dover, the ship went up to Grimsby for a three week refit over Christmas.

RIGHT: Photograph of Torpedoman, Reg Young. At the end of September 1942, Reg was drafted with  a few others to Scotstoun, Glasgow. Kit was unloaded at the dockside alongside a gleaming brand new destroyer. Thinking this was the end of the journey, Reg carried his luggage aboard and headed for the torpedomans messdecks. Only to be informed that he had come aboard the wrong ship. After eventually finding the right ship, Reg was a little downbeat, the ship was still being built. Lots of welding was taking place, cork being plastered to the bulkhead to absorb water, and women were painting the interior.  The ship Reg originally boarded turned out to be HMS Racehorse. After an accident in October 1943, Reg had to spend some time in hospital, and had to leave the ship.

For a more detailed description of Reg's time on the ship CLICK HERE

 

LEFT: Torpedo party, HMS Wensleydale, 1943

Back row from L to R: ERA, Chick Horwood (Aberystwyth), Wireman (scouse), Jack Corderry (Torpoint)

Front Row L to R: Lofty, Soldier (from Preston), Reg Young (known as Brig), Bert Reeves (Yarmouth), Half of Shorty Deveraux (cockney)

 

 

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(C) David Allen Nov 2006