Naval History Homepage and Site Search



by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS HOWE  - King George V-class 14in gun Battleship including Convoy Escort Movements

Editing & Additional Material by Mike Simmonds

HMS Howe (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

KING GEORGE V-Class battleship ordered on 28th April 1937 from the Fairfield shipyard at Govan, Glasgow under the 1937 Build Programme. Laid down on 1st June 1937, the original name chosen was BEATTY, but this was changed on 21st February 1940 before launch on 9th April 1940. She was 6th RN ship to bear this name, introduced in 1791 to commemorate Richard Earl Howe (1726-1799).  No work was carried out for six months after May 1940 because of higher priority repair work.  Her build was completed on 29th August 1942. Following a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in December 1941 this ship was adopted by the civil community of the city of Edinburgh.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


ARCTIC 1942-43 - SICILY 1943 - OKINAWA 1945


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Field:  Barry wavy of 4 white and blue.

Badge:  In front of a circle of chain Gold, a sword erect

point upwards with a diamond studded hilt proper,

surmounted by a wolf's head couped Black.


M o t t o

Utcumque placuerit  deo  - 'God's will be done'



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 4 2


17th - Commissioned for service in Home Fleet. Commanding Officer: Captain H C L Woodhouse, RN. Minimum manning for trials.

28th - Passage to Rosyth for completion of radar outfit installation work.


Completion of radar fit at Rosyth in continuation.


Radar equipment fit completed. A total of 14 radar sets were fitted.

26th - Contractors Sea Trials.

29th - Build completion date. (Note: Some of the delay in completion was due to changes made following the loss of battleship PRINCE OF WALES. See BRITISH BATTLESHIPS by Raven and Roberts. Total build time was 5 years and 2 months.)

30th - Commenced work-up with Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.


2nd - Carried out Full Power Trials and achieved 27.5 knots.


Work-up at Scapa Flow in continuation.


Continuation of working up exercises but was available for deployment with the Home Fleet to carry out patrol duties or interception of surface warships attempting to break out in Atlantic for attacks on convoy routes.


Continuation of working up exercises but was available for deployment with the Home Fleet to carry out patrol duties or interception of surface warships attempting to break out in Atlantic for attacks on convoy routes.

31st - On receiving news of the attack by the German Pocket Battleship LUTZOW and the cruiser HIPPER and 6 destroyers on convoy JW51B (What became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea). The CinC Home Fleet flying his flag in battleship KING GEORGE V with battleship HOWE and cruiser BERMUDA screened by destroyers MONTROSE, MUSKETEER, QUEENBOROUGH, RAIDER, WORCESTER and Polish ORP PIORUN sailed from Scapa Flow. The objective was to provide cover for the returning Convoy RA51 and to attempt to catch LUTZOW which it was thought might attempt to break out into the Atlantic. (For details of all Russian Convoy operations and naval deployments in the NW Approaches see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by R. Ruegg, CONVOY! by P Kemp, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B. Schoefield, and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C. Barnett).


1 9 4 3


3rd - Resumed working up exercises at Scapa Flow but remained available for interception patrol and convoy defence in NW Approaches.


1st to 12th - Continuation of working up exercises at Scapa Flow during which she was screened by destroyers ECLIPSE and FAULKNER.

24th - Covered passage of Russian Convoy JW53 and returning RA53 with KING GEORGE V and cruiser BERWICK screened by destroyers ICARUS, METEOR, MUSKETEER, OFFA, ONSLAUGHT and Polish ORP PIORUN


10th - Resumed interception and convoy defence duty in NW Approaches.


Deployed with Home Fleet in continuation.


Nominated for support of Allied landings in Sicily after docking at Rosyth. (Note: Close range AA defence was supplemented by provision of 20mm Oerlikon guns which were fitted during passage to Gibraltar by ship's staff.) Whilst at Scapa Flow she was visited by Churchill followed a few days later by King George VI during a royal visit to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

21st - Passage from Rosyth to Gibraltar screened by destroyers ONSLOW and ORWELL. (Note: Carried out bombardment exercises during passage in NW Approaches.)

26th - Arrived at Gibraltar and joined Force H and prepared for support of Allied landings in Sicily. (Operation HUSKY - See Naval Staff History and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett.).


Force H including HOWE transferred to Algiers

12th - Present at Algiers during a visit by King George VI who came on board.


Nominated with KING GEORGE V for duty in Reserve Force to be deployed west of Sicily to prevent interference during landings by Italian warships.

5th - In company with KING GEORGE V she sailed from Gibraltar for Algiers screened by destroyers ARROW, JERVIS, PALADIN, PANTHER, PATHFINDER, PENN, PETARD and TYRIAN. Off Oran the Force was joined by battleships NELSON and RODNEY and aircraft carrier INDOMITABLE.

8th - The Force arrived at Algiers.

9th - Passage to take up station with KING GEORGE V screened by six destroyers.

10th - Deployed south of Sardinia as part of the Reserve Covering Force with KING GEORGE V, cruisers DIDO and SIRIUS, screened by destroyers JERVIS, PANTHER, PATHFINDER, PENN, PALADIN and PETARD during the landings in Sicily.

12th - Bombarded Trapani and the islands of Favignana and Levanzo with KING GEORGE V as a deception to suggest landings on west coast of Sicily (Operation FRACTURE). On release from HUSKY returned to Algiers.


4th - At Algiers when destroyer ARROW was badly damaged whilst assisting to fight fires on the British mercantile SS Fort Le Montee carrying explosives. After the explosion parties were sent to help in rescue work and dealing with casualties. (Note: Over 100 of the crew of ARROW were killed.)


Based at Algiers for future support deployments.

7th - Sailed for Malta with KING GEORGE V screened by destroyers Jervis, PALADIN, PANTHER, PATHFINDER and PENN.

8th - With KING GEORGE V she stood off Malta whilst the destroyers went in to refuel. Whilst off Malta news came through of the formal surrender of Italy (actual surrender date had been 3 September 1943). The CinC Malta Vice Admiral A J Power was ordered to hoist his flag in HOWE and to take under his command cruisers AURORA, PENELOPE, DIDO, SIRIUS, Minelaying cruiser ABDIEL and the US cruiser USS BOISE (the cruisers and the minelayer had embarked the 1st British Airborne Division) and proceed with all dispatch to seize the Italian naval base of Taranto. En route to Taranto the Force encountered the Italian Battleships ANDREA DORIA and CAIO DUILIO, the cruisers LUIGI CADORNA and POMPEO MAGNO and the destroyer NICOLOSO Da RECCO steaming to Malta to surrender. KING GEORGE V detached from the Force to escort the Italian squadron to Malta.

9th - Covered landing of 1st British Airborne Division at Taranto by cruisers AURORA PENELOPE, DIDO, SIRIUS and Minelaying cruiser ABDIEL. (Operation SLAPSTICK) (Note: Minelaying cruiser ABDIEL sank after being mined when entering harbour. See Naval Staff History (Mining)).

14th - Deployed with battleship KING GEORGE V for escort of the surrendered Italian warships during passage to Alexandria from Malta. (Note: These included battleships ITALIA and VITTORIO VENETO, four cruisers and four destroyers)

16th - Arrived at Alexandria with Italian warships and met by minesweeper DERBY with CinC Levant embarked. Passage from Alexandria to Algiers.


1st - Arrived at Algiers and rejoined KING GEORGE V. 

Recalled to Scapa Flow to resume Home Fleet duties. Took passage escorted by destroyers FOXHOUND, ECLIPSE, FURY and ECHO. On arrival deployed with Home Fleet on interception and convoy defence.


Nominated for service in Far East after refit. To be paid off and recommissioned on completion.

Passage to Devonport. Paid-off and taken in hand for refit by Dockyard, Devonport.


Taken in hand for refit prior to service in Pacific.


1 9 4 4

January to February

Under refit and routine docking. (Note: Radar Type 276 fitted to give improved air and surface warning capability. New design fire control radar Type 274 replaced original Type 284 for main armament. Aircraft facilities were removed during this period. For details of development and use of radar during WW2 see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)




Refit in continuation. Recommissioned for service in British Pacific Fleet. Commanding Officer: Captain H McCall, RN.

11th - Carried out Full Power Trial. Returned to Devonport on completion


Refit complete.

10th - Took passage to Scapa Flow.

12th - Arrived at Scapa Flow for work-up with - Home Fleet.


30th - On completion of work-up took passage from Scapa Flow to Mediterranean.


7th - Arrived at Algiers.

9th - Took passage from Algiers for Port Said.

22nd - Took passage from Port Tewfik for Aden

28th - Took passage from Aden for Colombo. En Route see was joined by cruisers CEYLON and KENYA and destroyers RAPID, RAIDER, REDOUBT, ROCKET and ROTHERHAM.


3rd Arrived at Colombo.

9th - Arrived at Trincomalee and joined the Eastern Fleet for deployment pending the formation of British Pacific Fleet. (Note: battleship VALIANT sustained major damage when the Floating Dock AFD 28 in which she being refitted collapsed. This ship was then withdrawn from operations.)

24th - Covered aircraft carriers VICTORIOUS and INDOMITABLE with two cruisers and five destroyers of the Eastern Fleet during air attacks on Padang, Sumatra (Operation BANQUET). One Japanese freighter sunk and two damaged.

28th - Provided air-sea rescue and fighter cover for attacks by US XX Bomber Command B29 aircraft on targets in NW Sumatra from Ceylon. In company with battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, Free French Battleship RICHELIEU, battlecruiser RENOWN, aircraft carriers INDOMITABLE, ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS, cruisers CEYLON and KENYA and destroyers RACEHORSE, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROCKET and ROTHERHAM the Eastern Fleet. (Operation BOOMERANG).


16th - Covered air attacks by INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS on Sigli, Sumatra and a series of photo-reconnaissance flights on Nicobars, with cruisers CUMBERLAND and KENYA and destroyers RACEHORSE, RAPID, RAIDER, REDOUBT, RELENTLESS, ROCKET and ROTHERHAM of Eastern Fleet (Operation LIGHT). (For details of Eastern Fleet operations see OPERATION PACIFIC by Edwin Gray, THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by J Winton, and Naval Staff History).


Deployed with Eastern Fleet in Ceylon.


22nd - Joined British Pacific Fleet on formation in Ceylon with KING GEORGE V, INDEFATIGABLE, ILLUSTRIOUS, VICTORIOUS, INDOMITABLE, cruisers BLACK PRINCE, SWIFTSURE, ARGONAUT and two destroyer Flotillas.

26th - Carried out Full Power Trial.


4th - Took passage from Trincomalee escorted by destroyers QUADRANT, QUALITY and QUILLIAM.

6th - Crossing the Line ceremonials.

11th - Arrived at Fremantle. Took passage later in the day for Sydney.


1 9 4 5


18th - Arrived at Sydney.


2nd - Took passage from Sydney for Auckland flying the flag of the CinC British Pacific Fleet, Admiral Sir Bruce Austin Frazer escorted by cruisers HMNZS's ACHILLES and GAMBIA and destroyers QUADRANT, QUEENBOROUGH and QUIBERON. For independent visit by CinC to RNZN and discussions with the NZ War Cabinet.

5th - The Force arrived at Auckland.

10th - The Force sailed from Auckland. After clearing Auckland harbour and in sight of the coast she gave a gunnery demonstration by firing her 14in guns. She then took passage to Sydney to join the British Pacific Fleet for operations with the US 5th Fleet.

28th - Sailed from Sydney with BPF ships for passage to Forward Base at Manus in the Admiralty Islands.


7th - At Manus, British Fleet base in Admiralty Islands.

8th - Delayed at Manus pending approval by US Naval CinC Admiral King for deployment of to BPF in Pacific naval operations.

14th - (Note: RN ships had been re-designated Task Force 113).

15th - Deployment in US 5th Fleet approved.

18th - Took passage from Manus to Ulithi prior to joining 5th Fleet in operational area.

20th - Arrived at Manus with ships of TF113.

23rd - Part of Re-designated Task Force 57 and sailed for Sakishima Gunto Group.

(Note: Task Force 57 comprised:
Task Group 57.1 - HOWE and KING GEORGE V (1st Battle Sqdn.)
Task Group 57.2 - aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS (1st aircraft carrier Sqdn).
Task Group 57.5 - cruisers ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, GAMBIA (RNZN) and SWIFTSURE (4th cruiser Sqdn.)
Task Group 57.8 - cruiser EURYALUS (RA(D)) and destroyers of 4th, 25th and 27th Flotillas).

26th - Joined ships of Task Force 58 for operations to neutralise airfields in Sakishima Gunto Group (Operation ICEBERG ONE).


Deployment off Sakishima Gunto in continuation. Operation continued in conjunction with TF58 with Replenishment periods from ships of Fleet Train. For details see WAR WITH JAPAN (O) and above references.

21st - Withdrew from operational area with Task Force 57.

23rd - Arrived at Leyte for replenishment and repair period.


1st - Sailed with Task Force 57 to continue operations with US Navy off Sakishima Gunto. (Operation ICEBERG TWO). (Note: ILLUSTRIOUS did not rejoin Task Group 57.2. Task Group organisation otherwise as for ICEBERG ONE).

4th - Rejoined US Task Force 58 with Task Force 57 for further joint operations in the Sakishima Gunto Group. Detached to carry out bombardment of airfield at Hiara, Miyako Shima with KING GEORGE V, SWIFTSURE, BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, GAMBIA (RNZN) and UGANDA (RCN) screened by 25th destroyer Flotilla. Returned to rejoin other ships which were under KAMIKAZE attacks during which FORMIDABLE was hit and sustained serious damage with many casualties.

5th - Deployed with Task Force and provided defence against conventional and KAMIKAZE to air attacks. See following references for details.

24th - Replenished periodically from Fleet Train with Task Force.

25th - Withdrew for replenishment before taking passage to Sydney via Manus. (Note: KING GEORGE V detached from Task Group 57.1 to visit Guam.) (For details of operations by British Pacific Fleet see OPERATION PACIFIC by Edwyn Gray, THE FORGOTTEN Fleet by J Winton, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C. Bamett, TASK FORCE 57 by J Winton, WAR WITH JAPAN (O) and the Naval Staff History).

30th - Arrived at Manus.


2nd - Took passage from Manus for Sydney.

5th - Arrived at Sydney. Withdrawn from service with British Pacific Fleet

8th - Took passage from Sydney for Durban with call at Fremantle to refuel, to refit in Durban because no suitable facilities were available in Australia.

27th - Arrived at Durban and commenced refit.

July to September

Under Refit.

10th - On completion of refit took passage to Cape Town.



P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS HOWE visited Cape Town after completion of refit and returned to UK. She remained in commission in 1946 and became Flagship of the Training Squadron at Portland for the next 4 years. The ship reduced to Reserve status in 1950 and became headquarters of the Devonport Division, Reserve Fleet. During 1957 this major warship was placed on the Disposal List with the other three ships of the KING GEORGE V Class battleships. Sold  to BISCO for demolition she arrived in tow at Inverkeithing on 2nd June 1958 for breaking-up by TW Ward. Note: KING GEORGE V CLASS BATTLESHIPS by VE Tarrant includes details of this ship and her service. 







by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above


Date convoy sailed

 Joined convoy as escort

 Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








RA 051





JW 053





RA 053




(Note on Convoys)



back to Contents List
or Naval-History.Net

revised 19/04//09


if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net