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

HMS SOMALI (L 33) -  Tribal-class Destroyer
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Tartar, sister ship (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

1936 Programme Repeat TRIBAL-Class destroyer ordered from Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend, and laid down on 26th August 1936. She was launched on 24th August 1937 as the 1st RN warship to carry the name. Her build was completed on 7th December 1938. After a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in March 1942 she was adopted by the civil community of the county of Aberdeenshire. Original Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes was L33 but this was changed to F33 in December 1938. First ship of 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet. to complete. For further details of this ship see THE TRIBALS by M Bryce. HMS SOMALI's pennant number changed from L 33,  to  F 33,  and finally  G 33. 


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


NORWAY   1940-41 - ARCTIC  1941-42 - BISMARCK  Action  1941 - MALTA CONVOYS 1942


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge  On a field Field Blue, issuant from the dexter a demi Koodoo proper



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


1 9 3 8


December              Contractors trials and commissioned for service as Leader of Flotilla.
                7th          Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.


1 9 3 9


January                  On completion of Acceptance Trials took passage to Portland to work-up for

                                Home Fleet service.


February                Passage to Lisbon to join ships of Home Fleet for courtesy visit and escorted

                                HM Submarine STARFISH.

                3rd          At Lisbon

                8th          Passage to Gibraltar with Home Fleet ships prior to joint exercises with

                                ships of Mediterranean Fleet

                16th        Damaged by Dutch liner SIBAJAK which had dragged her anchor and collided

                with this destroyer whilst anchored at Gibraltar.

                On completion of temporary repair by HM Dockyard, Gibraltar rejoined the

                combined Fleet exercises.


March                    Passage to Portsmouth for completion of repair damage.


April                       Under repair by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth.

                27th        Resumed Flotilla duties on completion of repair.

                (Note: 2nd TRIBAL Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet re-designated 6th Destroyer

                Flotilla and comprised HM Destroyers ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO,




                3rd          At Cherbourg with HM Destroyers ASHANTI, ESKIMO and MATABELE

                of Flotilla for courtesy visit

                8th          Return passage to UK and resumed Flotilla programme.


June                       Diverted from programme to provide assistance in rescue operations associated

                with sinking of HM Submarine THETIS in Liverpool Bay

                Resumed Flotilla exercise and visits programme when operations abandoned.


July                         Passage to Portsmouth for routine docking

                3rd          Taken in hand by HM Dockyard Portsmouth.

                28th        On completion resumed Flotilla duties


August                  Deployed with 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet.

                Deployed for Anglo-French exercises in Atlantic.

                Part of screen for major units during patrol in NW Approaches and North Sea

                for interception of German warships during passage for attacks on shipping.


September             Home Fleet deployment in continuation.



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)



                3rd          Intercepted German freighter HANNA BORG 350 miles south of Iceland and placed

                boarding party on board. Ship taken as Prize

                (Note: This was first enemy mercantile to be captured during WW2)

                Part of screen during further interception operations.

                26th        Part of screen for Home Fleet ships covering the return of HM Submarine

                SPEARFISH after damage during patrol in North Sea.

                Escorted HMS SPEARFISH to harbour with m Destroyers MASHONA and



October                  Present during visit by HM King George V to Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

                14th        Carried out anti-submarine search off Scapa Flow after sinking of HM Battleship

                                ROYAL OAK by U47 whilst at anchor.

                17th        Present at Scapa Flow during first German air raid on the anchorage.

                22nd       Escorted HM Battlecruiser HOOD with H M Destroyers ASHANTI, TARTAR

                                and FAME to cover passage of convoy from Norway.

                29th        Deployed with Home Fleet during search for German battleship GNEISENAU

                                and cruiser KOLN reported on passage into the Atlantic.



                15th        Escorted HM Battleships NELSON and RODNEY to Clyde with HM Destroyers

                MASHONA, ASHANTI and BEDOUIN when Home Fleet major units

                were dispersed during improvement of anti-submarine defences at Scapa Flow

                after sinking of HMS ROYAL OAK.



                6th          Escorted Force W to Ronaldshay, Orkneys.

                12th        Deployed with Flotilla as part of screen for major Home Fleet units covering

                the passage of first Canadian Troop Convoy to UK (TC1).

                (For details of naval activities in Home waters during 1939 see ENGAGE THE

                ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett and Naval Staff History.


1 9 4 0


January                  Deployed with Flotilla for Home Fleet duties in NW Approaches and North Sea.

                Taken in hand for repair to turbines and evaporators at Middlesbrough by

                Smiths Dock Company.


February                Under repair.


March                    On completion of Post Refit trials and check on Degaussing equipment resumed

                                duty with Flotilla in Home Fleet.

                27th        Intercepted German steamer BUTT near Obrestad, Norway but failed to capture




                7th .        Deployed with AFRIDI, GURKHA SIKH, MOHAWK, ZULU, COSSACK,


                destroyers ORP GROM, BLYSKAWICA and BURZA as screen for HM

                Cruisers GALATEA and ARETHUSA during search for German warships in

                area north of position 48.30N 3.20E. (SOMALI, with MASHONA, MATABELE,

                TARTAR may instead of have joined Adm Forbe's main force on this date)

                Operation cancelled and rejoined Home Fleet ships.

                8th          Search terminated and took passage to join ships of Home Fleet deployed in

                                North Sea and preparing for an attack on German warships reported at Bergen.

                9th          Deployed with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON as

                screen with HM Destroyers MATABELE and MASHONA of 6th Flotilla and

                AFRIDI, GURKHA, SIKH and MOHAWK of 4th Flotilla and took

                passage to attack ships in Bergen.

                Operation cancelled and rejoined Home Fleet

                10th        Took passage to Scapa Flow with Home Fleet screen.

                11th        Sailed from Scapa Flow with HM Destroyers MOHAWK, MASHONA,

                MATABELE, SIKH and AFRIDI as screen for HMS SHEFFIELD and

                HMS GLASGOW to carry out sweep of inshore waters off Norway.

                13th        Carried out unsuccessful search off Alesund for German ships

                15th        Escorted mv CHOBRY and ss EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA during landings at


                Deployed at Namsos to prepare for landings by parties from HMS SHEFFIELD

                and HMS GLASGOW (Operation HENRY)

                Expended all AA ammunition during intensive air attacks.

                Embarked General Carton de Wiat for passage to Lillesjona.

                (Note: The General was to take command of landings. For details see references).

                16th        Passage to replenish ammunition at Scapa Flow.

                21st         Deployed with HMS TARTAR for interception patrol in Trondheim Inner Leads,

                to            Detached as required for convoy defence and refuelling.


                30th        Embarked troops evacuating Andalsnes with HM Cruisers ARETHUSA, GALATEA,


                WANDERER, WALKER and WESTCOTT.


May                        Deployed in support of Norwegian operations. Pennant No changed to G33.

                1st           At Andalsnes for further evacuation with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER and

                BIRMINGHAM, HM AA Cruiser CALCUTTA, HM Destroyers INGLEFIELD,

                DELIGHT, DIANA, MASHONA and HM Auxiliary AA Ship ULSTER PRINCE.

                Damaged in air attacks and returned to Scapa Flow.

                2nd         Sustained slight damage when ss ISLE OF JERSEY came alongside

                Embarked PRIMROSE Detachment of Royal MARINES at Alesund.

                Return passage to Scapa Flow with 250 rescued personnel

                8th          Escorted troopship m CHOBRY to Narvik with HM Destroyers TARTAR and HOSTILE

                12th        Escorted HM Battleship RESOLUTION, HM Cruisers EFFINGHAM and AURORA to

                                Ofotfjord with HM Destroyers HAVELOCK and FAME.

                13th        Provided naval gunfire support for landings at Bodo

.               14th        On release from gunfire support during landings embarked Brigadier Fraser in command of

                military operations in the area and took passage to Mo with French destroyer


                Damaged during sustained air attacks.

                (For details of the disastrous operations of Norway which revealed weaknesses in defence

                of ships against aircraft see NARVIK by D Macintyre, CARRIER GLORIOUS by J

                Winton, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and the Naval Staff History.

                15th        During return passage from Mo with Brigadier Fraser diverted to provide AA defence

                during rescue operations in Vest Fjord after troopship CHOBRY had under air attack and

                set on fire. Provided AA support during rescue operations.

                Sustained damage from near miss by bombing attacks in Traen Fjord.

                Withdrawn from Norwegian operations and took return passage to Scapa Flow escorted by


                19th        Repair arranged in Liverpool by Cammell Laird shipyard

                                Took passage from Scapa Flow


June                        Under structural repair

to August              Twin 4in AA mounting fitted in X position and degaussing gear installed..

                                Carried out post refit trials


September             On completion of trials rejoined 6th Flotilla as Leader for duty with Home Fleet for

                                screening of major Fleet units and patrol duties In NW Approaches and North Sea.


October                  Flotilla duties in Home Fleet continued

to December          (Note: Home Fleet remained at Scapa Flow except when carrying interception

                                and search operations.)


1 9 4 1


January                  Home Fleet deployment in continuation.



                9th          Under repair at HM Dockyard Rosyth.

                Aircraft and surface warning radar Type 286 fitted.

                (For details of development and use of radar by RN see RADAR AT SEA by D House).

                19th        Resumed duties with Flotilla



                1st           Escorted ss PRINCESS EMMA and ea PRINCESS BEATRIX for raid by 3 and 4

                Commando on Lofoten Islands with HM Destroyers BEDOUIN, ESKIMO and TARTAR

                of 6th Flotilla

                (Task Force REBEL - Operation CLAYMORE - See THE WATERY MAZE by B

.               Fergusson and SEIZING THE ENIGMA by D Kahn)

                4th          During landing operations intercepted Norwegian Trawler KREBS off Svolvaer.

                (Note: This ship was being used by German Navy as a patrol vessel. After brief

                engagement the trawler was set on fire and grounded. Boarding party discovered

                rotor disks used in the ENIGMA coding machine and some associated documents

                which were found to be invaluable when studied by the Bletchley Park

                codebreakers. KREBS was captured.

                For details see BREAKING THE ENIGMA.)

                24th        Deployed with HM Destroyers BEDOUIN, MASHONA and MATABELE for Local Escort

                                of military Convoy WS7 during passage in NW Approaches from Clyde.

                27th        Detached from WS7 and resumed Home Fleet duties.


April                       Home Fleet deployment in continuation.



                5th          Deployed with HM Cruisers EDINBURGH, MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, HM

                Destroyers NESTOR, ESKIMO and BEDOUIN to intercept and capture the German

                Weather Ship MUNCHEN

                (Note: The operation was planned in order to obtain an ENIGMA coding machine.

                Boarded enemy ship whose crew had abandoned the vessel after throwing the

                ENIGMA machine overboard in a weighted bag. Documents were however

                retrieved and found to include latest information on use of the Machine.

                (See above reference).

                22nd       Deployed as escort for HM Battleship RODNEY and mv BRITANNIC with HM Destroyers

                                ESKIMO, TARTAR and MASHONA.

                24th        Detached to join rest of Flotilla as part of screen for Home Fleet major ships during search

                                for German battleship BISMARCK after sinking of HMS HOOD.

                (For details of the search operation and sinking of BISMARCK, The Naval Staff

                History and BATTLESHIP BISMARCK by Mullenheim-Rechberg).


June                        Taken in hand for refit at Southampton by John I Thornycroft Ltd.

to                            Fire-control radar fitted (See above reference).



August                  On completion rejoined Flotilla for Home Fleet duties.

                4th          Part of screen for HM Battleship PRINCE OF WALES during Atlantic passage to take

                                Prime Minister, to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland for 'Atlantic Charter' Meetings.

                6th          Detached and returned to Scapa. Flow because weather conditions did not allow

                                the ship to maintain speed without structural damage.

                30th        Escorted HM Aircraft Carrier ARGUS and HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE with HM

                Destroyers MATABELE and PUNJABI for passage to Archangel.

                Embarked RAF personnel.

                (Operation STRENGTH - Delivery of Hurricane aircraft and RAF personnel).

                (For details of all Russian Convoy operations see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by R A Ruegg,

                CONVOY ! by P Keep, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield and ARCTIC

                CONVOYS by R. Woodman).

September             On completion of STRENGTH deployment resumed Hose Fleet duties with Flotilla.

                12th        Part of screen for HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS during air attacks on Bodo.

                23rd        Part of screen for HM Battleship KING GEORGE V during interception patrol.


October                  Home Fleet Flotilla deployment in continuation





                8th          Embarked Soviet Ambassador at Invergordon for passage to Scapa Flow

                                Wore Soviet Flag during passage

                22nd       Deployed with HM Cruiser ARETHUSA, HM Destroyers ASHANTI,

.               BEDOUIN, ESKIMO. HM Escort Destroyers WHEATLAND, LAMERTON, Polish

                ORP KRAKOWIAK and Polish ORP KUJAWIAK for support of raid by No 12

                Commando on Lofoten Islands (Operation ANKLET).

                Searched for shipping off Vestfjord during landings from HM Landing Ships PRINCE



1 9 4 2



                11th        Ocean Escort for Russian Convoy PQ8 with HM Cruiser TRINIDAD and HMS


                17th        Carried out Anti-submarine attacks on U454 after sinking of HM Destroyer MATABELE

                                during the passage of PQ8. This failed because depth charge gear was inoperative due to


                25th        Escorted Convoy OP6 with HMS TRINIDAD until dispersed on 28/1/43.

                28th        Detached from QP6 and resumed Flotilla duties.


February                Home Fleet duties in continuation.

                15th        Detached to escort HM Auxiliary Minelayers AGAMEMNON, MENESTHEUS and PORT

                QUEBEC for Northern Barrage minelay with HM Destroyers LANCASTER, WELLS and

                VANQUISHER covered by HM Cruiser KENYA.

                (Operation SN84. For details of minelaying operations see Naval Staff History (MINING)).

                20th        Taken in hand for refit by Amos and Smith Ltd at Hull


March                    Under refit.

                30th        Resumed Flotilla duties in Home Fleet.



                10th        Part of destroyer screen for HM Battleships KING GEORGE V and DUKE OF YORK,

                HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS, HM Cruisers NIGERIA and KENT with HMS

                BEDOUIN and HMS ESKIMO of Flotilla, as well as nine other Home Fleet destroyers

                to provide cover for passage of Russian Convoy PQ14 to Kola Inlet and returning

                Convoy QP10

                29th        Joined escort for Convoy PQ15 with HM AA Ship ULSTER QUEEN, HM Destroyers

                               BOADICEA, MATCHLESS, VENOMOUS, Norwegian ST ALBANS and HM Escort

                               Destroyer BADSWORTH



                1st           HM Destroyer PUNJABI of Flotilla sunk by HM Battleship KING GEORGE V in

                collision during low visibility whilst providing cover for PQ15.

                Convoy and escort attacked by Ju88 Dive Bombers.

                5th          Detached from PQ15 on arrival at Kola Inlet.

                Remained in North Russian waters.

                During this period had to leave Murmansk because of air raids.

                13th        Escorted damaged cruiser TRINIDAD returning from Murmansk after temporary repair

                with HM Destroyers FORESIGHT, FORESTER and MATCHLESS.

                (See THE SHIP THAT TORPEDOED HERSELF by F Pearce).

                15th        Closed HMS TRINIDAD and took off survivors when ship was abandoned.

                (Note HMS TRINIDAD was sunk by HMS MATCHLESS

                15th        One of those rescued was Rear Admiral Bonham Carter)

                Took passage to Clyde with survivors from HMS TRINIDAD.

                19th        Disembarked survivors.


June                        Home Fleet duty with Flotilla in continuation



                1st           Deployed as screen for HM Cruisers LONDON and NORFOLK, US Cruisers USS

                TUSCALOOSA and USS WICHITA with US destroyers USS WAINWRIGHT and

                USS ROWAN as the cruiser covering force for passage of Russian Convoy PQ17

                and returning Convoy OP13.

                (For full details of the premature Admiralty order to scatter Convoy PQ17 and its

                passage see THE CONVOY IS TO SCATTER by J Broome ,THE DESTRUCTION

                OF PQ17 by D Irving and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.)


August                  Detached for escort of Hone Fleet units deployed in support of relief convoy from

                UK to Sicilian Narrows (Operation PEDESTAL).

                10th        Part of screen for HM Cruisers NIGERIA, KENYA and MANCHESTER with H M


                LEDBURY, BRAMHAM, TARTAR, ESKIMO and ASHANTI in Force X.

                13th        Stood by HMS MANCHESTER after she had been torpedoed and scuttled.

                Rescued some survivors from ship but attempt to rescue more from beach was

                prevented by shore fire and had to withdraw.

                AA mounting damaged in air attacks.

                Rescued survivors from the mercantile WAIRANGI sunk by bomb in earlier air attack.

                17th        Escorted HM Battleship RODNEY to UK with HMS ASHANTI on release from


                25th        Repair of damaged AA gun not possible because of forthcoming requirement.


September             Passage to Iceland with HM Cruiser SCYLLA and 14 Fleet destroyers for escort of

                                Russian Convoy PQ18 (Operation EV).

                19th        Joined 'Fighting Escort’ for passage of PQ18.

                                Allocated to Force A with HM Destroyers ONSLOW, ONSLAUGHT, OPPORTUNE.

                                OFFA, ASHANTI, ESKIMO and TARTAR.

                16th        Detached with HMS SCYLLA and other destroyers to join returning Convoy QP14.

                17th        Part of Ocean Escort for QP14

                19th.       HMS SCYLLA and HM Escort Carrier AVENGER detached in view of submarine


                20th        Hit in Engine Room by torpedo from U703 and sustained major damage.

                Five of ship’s company were killed and four seriously injured.

                With high possibility of saving ship, despite a severe list, taken in tow by HMS ASHANTI.

                Eighty of ship's company first transferred to Rescue Ship HM Trawler LORD MIDDLETON

                (Note: Tow operation was screened by HM Destroyers ESKIMO, INTREPID and


                24th        Ship broke in two after 420 mile under tow in deteriorating weather.

                77 men were lost when ship had to be abandoned.

                35 rescued from the sea by HMS ASHANTI and HMS LORD MIDDLETON

                included Lieutenant Cdr Colin Maud, RN Commanding Officer

                (For full details see ARCTIC CONVOYS and Naval Staff History.)







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













ON 001/1





HN 001





TC 001





TC 002





ON 024/1





HN 024





PQ 008





QP 006





PQ 014





QP 010





PQ 015





PQ 018





QP 014








(Note on Convoys)


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