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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS ESK (H 15) -  E-class Destroyer
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Electra, sister ship (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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E-Class Fleet Destroyer ordered from Swan Hunter at Wallsend under 1931 Programme on 1st November 1932 and laid down on 24th March 1933. The ship was launched on 19th March 1934.and her completion  date was 28 September 1934. The fourth ship to bear the name ESK and built for use as a minelayer but could quickly be converted for use as a Fleet destroyer when required in that role. The eight ships of the ECLIPSE Class were part of the 1931 Programme. HMS ESK displaced 1,375 tons and had dimensions of 329 feet length, a beam of 33 feet 3 inches and a draught of 8 feet 6 inches. Single reduction turbine machinery with a shaft horsepower of 36,000 to twin screws giving a designed speed of 31.5 knots, which was exceeded in service. During minelaying trials a speed of 37 knots was recorded.


G e n e r a l   a n d    C l a s s   I n f o r m a t i o n


All E-Class destroyers had four 4.7in guns for engaging surface targets. Some smaller calibre anti-aircraft weapons were Installed as the proposal to fit a 3in HA weapon was not agreed by the Board of Admiralty. Eight 21in torpedoes were carried In two quadruple mountings for attacks against surface ships. For Anti-submarine attacks this Class had two Depth Charger Throwers and one Rail with 30 charges carried as the war outfit. The complement of 145 on design was increased during war service.


All eight ships were originally Intended to be fitted as minelayers and would have made up a complete destroyer minelaying flotilla. However the proposed system to was untried In service and it was decided to provide a minelaying capability In only two ships. The build contract for both was place with the same shipbuilder, Swan Hunter at Wallsend on Tyne. The mines were laid using an electrically powered discharge system fitted on the quarterdeck. Either 80 of the existing Type H2'mines or 60 of the new heavier design Mark XIV mines were to be carried. Study of the Naval Staff History on minelaying during the period 1939-45 shows that the minelaying destroyers ware extensively used but were frequently deployed In the normal destroyer role because of the shortage of destroyers.


After commissioning HMS ESK served in the Home and Mediterranean for Fleet duties. This Class of destroyer saw extensive service during WW2 but the Leader, HMS EXMOUTH and five others were lost during hostilities.


The tragic circumstances of the loss of HMS ESK were not fully publicised at the time for security reasons. Whilst on passage to lay a minefield off the Dutch coast in August 1940 the five minelaying destroyers, including a sister ship HMS EXPRESS, ran Into a new German minefield. Three ships were sunk and a fourth badly damaged.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

BALTIC 1855 - CHINA 1856 - 60 - NEW ZEALAND 1863-66 - CHINA  1900 - ATLANTIC 1939 - NORWAY  1940 - DUNKIRK  1940

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: A Field wavy of nine Silver and Blue


M o t t o

Flucto sed affluo: ‘ I flow but flow onwards’



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 3 9



August                  Held in Reserve and planned use for Boys training deferred by manning problem.

                2nd         Commissioned for Reserve mobilisation.

                                Attended Reserve Fleet Review and remained in commission.

                                nominated for conversion for use as a minelayer in anticipation of hostilities.


September             Stored for war service.

                7th          On completion of conversion and shakedown worked-up for minelaying duties.

                8th          Passage to embark mines for first operational minelay.

                10th        Laid minefield in Heligoland Bight with HM Destroyer EXPRESS after mines embarked at

                                Immingham (Operation AA).

                12th        Continued Heligoland Bight minelay with HMS EXPRESS (Operation QQ)

                23rd        Deployed as escort for HM Battleship ROYAL SOVEREIGN during passage from Scapa Flow

                                to Portsmouth.


October                  Minelaying operations off Dutch coast suspended.

                                Paravanes fitted.

                                Reverted to A/S role for convoy defence in Home waters..


November              Resumed minelaying operations.

                29th        Laid deep minefield in approaches to Thames Estuary with HMS EXPRESS.

                                (Operation RG).



                12th        Joined 20th Destroyer Flotilla on formation at Harwich for minelaying in Home waters.

                15th        Escorted HM Auxiliary Minelayer PRINCESS VICTORIA with HM Destroyers EXPRESS,

                                BRAZEN and BOREAS and provided cover during minelay in the East Coast Mine Barrier off

                                Harwich (Operation OF).

                22nd       Escorted HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA for second part of Operation GF with HMS EXPRESS,

                                HM Destroyers CODRINGTON and BRAZEN.


1 9 4 0


January                  Deployed at Harwich with 20th Destroyer Flotilla for convoy defence.



                8th          Escorted HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA with HM Destroyer EXPRESS during lay of Dummy

                                mines along extent of East Coast Barrier (Operations LD, LD2 and LD3)

                14th        On completion resumed Flotilla escort duties.

                18th        Escorted HM Auxiliary Minelayer TEVIOT BANK with HMS EXPRESS for first operational

                                lay of Deep minefield in Thames Approaches (Operation DML8).



                3rd          Joined in minelay near Horns Reef, Heligoland Bight with HM Destroyers

                                EXPRESS, ICARUS and IMPULSIVE (Operation 1E1)

                5th          Reverted to A/S role in Moray Firth area because of increase in U-Boat activity along East coast

                                of UK.

                21st         Escorted HMS TEVIOT BANK and HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA with HM Destroyers

                                EXPRESS, IMPULSIVE and ICARUS for lay of Deep Field in Moray Firth

                                (Operation PA4).

                28th        Re-deployed in minelaying role for Operation WILFRED and embarked mines at Immingham

                                for minelay off Norwegian coast.

                31st         Joined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and allocated to Force WV with ships of 20th Flotilla for

                                minelaying in Vest Fjord. (Operation WILFRED/R4)


April                       Deployed with HM Destroyers ICARUS, IMPULSIVE and IVANHOE as 20th Destroyer

                                Flotilla for minelaying operations with Home Fleet.

                5th          Sailed from Scapa Flows escorted by the HM Destroyers HARDY, HAVOCK HOTSPUR and

                                HUNTER of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.

                8th          Laid minefield in Vest Fjord (Operation EF)

                9th          Carried out patrol duty off Norway during landings (Operation WILFRED).

                10th        Deployed with HM Destroyers IVANHOE, FORESTER, ICARUS and KIMBERLEY for

                                screening of major Home Fleet ships.

                15th        Returned to Scapa Flow as screen for HM Battleship RODNEY, HM Battlecruiser RENOWN

                                with same destroyers

                16th        Nominated for further minelaying operations.

                27th        Required for operation with HM Destroyers EXPRESS and INTREPID to lay an extension to

                                Vest Fjord minefield using Narrow Gauge mine rails and Type H2/VIII mines.

                                (Operation ZMB)

                28th        Changed mine rails and embarked mines at Immingham..

                30th        Rejoined Home Fleet when ZMB cancelled.

                                Returned to Immingham to revert to Broad Gauge rails.



                6th          Passage to Scapa Flow for further minelaying duty off Norway.

                                Operation cancelled for lack of air cover.

                                (For details of disastrous operations off Norway see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                                by Corelli Barnett, NARVIK by D. Macintyre, THE DOOMED EXPEDITION by Adams,

                                CARRIER GLORIOUS by J Winton, and Naval Staff History (HMSO, 2001)).

                10th        Laid minefield in Heligoland Bight (Operation ZMC).

                                On return to Humber escorted HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA during minelay off Dutch coast.

                                (Operation CBX).

                12th        Deployed with HMS EXPRESS and HMS INTREPID for lay of Shallow minefield in East Coast

                                Barrier (Operations BS3).

                11th        Repeated East Coast Barrier minelay (Operation BSU).

                16th        Laid minefield off Hook of Holland with HMS EXPRESS and HMS IVANHOE.

                                (Operation CBX3).

                18th        Joined HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA with HM Destroyers EXPRESS, INTREPID, IVANHOE

                                and IMPULSIVE for lay of additional part of East Coast Barrier. (Operation BS5).

                                After HMS PRINCESS VICTORIA was mined in Humber entry, remained in area to warn

                                shipping of new mine danger.

                21st         East Coast Barrier minelaying continued with all ships of 20th Flotilla, except HMS

                to            IMPULSIVE.

                27th        (Operations BS6 - 21/5 ; BS7 - 23/5; BS8 - 25/5 and BS9 - 27/5).

                                For details of all minelaying operations see The Naval Staff History).
                28th        Passage to Dover for evacuation of allied troops from Dunkirk. (Operation DYNAMO)

                                (Note: Rear Admiral Dover and Staff officers embarked to act as Senior Naval Officer (Afloat)

                                off beaches.)

                29th        Flag of SNO (Afloat) transferred to HM Fleet Minesweeper HEBE.

                                (Note: Flag later transferred to a destroyer..).

                                Embarked troops and returned to Dover

                30th        Passage from Dover for 2nd embarkation.

                31st         Carried out Third trip and returned to Dover to make second passage.



                1st           Carried out fifth trip and returned to Dover.

                                Sustained slight damage

                2nd         Resumed DYNAMO duties after repair.,

                3rd          Final embarkation trip and rescued over 1,000 French troops from ss SCOTIA which had been

                                hit during air attacks and later sank

                                (Note: For details of numbers of troops evacuated see BEF SHIPS by John de Winser and

                                Naval Staff History (HMSO- 2002)

                                In all ship carried 3,100 troops to Dover in DYNAMO evacuation trips.)

                4th          Rejoined Flotilla on release from DYNAMO and resumed convoy defence and patrol.


                19th        Deployed as escort for HMS TEVIOT BANK, HM Coastal Minelayer PLOVER and destroyers

                to            of 20th Flotilla for minelays in East Coast Barrier.

                30th        (Operations BS16 - 19/6; BS17 - 22/6 and BS18 - 25/6)

                                (Note: Resumed Flotilla escort and patrol duties between BS operations.


July                         Escort and minelay duties in continuation.

                7th          Operation BS22.

                11th        Operation BS23.

                21st         Joined ships of 20th Flotilla for minelay in Galloper area of the Thames Estuary

                                (Operation BS26).

                27th        Continuation of Galloper minelay with 20th Flotilla ships (except HMS IVANHOE).

                                (Operation BS28)

                30th        Escorted HMS PLOVER and Netherlands minelayer VAN DER ZAAN with HMS INTREPID

                                for minelay in East Coast Barrier lay (Operation BS29).



                2nd         Deployed for lay of extension to East Coast Barrier minefield with HMS PLOVER, Dutch

                                VAN DER ZAAN and HM Destroyers EXPRESS, ICARUS, INTREPID and IMPULSIVE

                                (Operation BS30).

                6th          Deployed with ships of 20th Flotilla escorted by MTB's for lay of minefield off Belgian coast

                                (Operation CBX4).

                25th        Escorted HMS TEVIOT BANK, HMS PLOVER and Dutch VAN DER ZAAN for lay in East Coast

                                Barrier with HM Destroyers ICARUS and IMPULSIVE

                                (Operation BS34).

                27th        Escorted HMS TEVIOT BANK for lay in East Coast Barrier (Operation BS35) and remained in area

                                on completion to ensure all mines laid correctly.

                31st         Sailed with HM Destroyers INTREPID, ICARUS, IVANHOE and EXPRESS of 20th Flotilla

                                for minelay off Dutch coast, north of Texel.

                                Cover to provide protection against surface attacks was provided by HM Destroyers JUPITER,

                                KELLY and VORTIGERN.

                                (Operation CBX5).

                                During passage, enemy ships were reported in vicinity and CinC (NORE) then ordered attacks on

                                them, after jettisoning mines.

                                Almost immediately after this order had been received HMS EXPRESS hit a mine in new German

                                mine field and lost part of her bow structure.

                                HMS ESK closed to assist and almost immediately struck another mine.

                                Some 15 minutes later there was another explosion amidships causing ship to break in two parts,

                                both of which sank quickly in position 53.23N 03.48E.

                                HMS IVANHOE rescued some survivors and 25 other were taken prisoner.

                                135 members of the ship's company were killed.

                                (For full details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE and The Naval Staff History – BRITISH

                                minelaying BR1736 (56))






by Don Kindell


This convoy list has not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








BC 007R





BC 011/1





OB 029








(Note on Convoys)


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revised 29/7/11
further editing and formatting is required