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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2002

HMS ILFRACOMBE (J 95) - Bangor-class Minesweeper

HMS Polruan, sister-ship (David Hill, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

BANGOR-Class Minesweeper fitted with turbine propulsion machinery, ordered on 28th August 1939 from Hamilton Shipbuilders and laid down at Port Glasgow on 11th October 1939. She was launched on 29th January  1941 and build was completed on 20th August that year. She was the 1st RN ship to carry this name, which like others of the Class built in UK was that of a coastal town. In November 1941 she was most appropriately adopted by the civil community of Ilfracombe, Devonshire after a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


DIEPPE 1941 - NORTH AFRICA 1942-43 - NORMANDY 1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, a lantern, Gold..



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 1


August               Contractors trials and commissioned for service in 13th Minesweeping Flotilla.

            20th         On completion of build commenced Acceptance Trials.


September          Deployed at Rosyth for minesweeping trials and work-up for operational service


October               Joined HM Minesweepers CLACTON, FELIXSTOWE, STORNOWAY, EASTBOURNE

                             BLYTH (Leader), EASTBOURNE and POLRUAN for service in North Sea.

                            Took part in joint minesweeping operation with ships of 9th and 13th Flotillas to

                            provide gaps in East Coast Mine Barrier and a known German minefield. These were

                            needed to provide destroyers based at Harwich and Sheerness with an assured clear

                            passage through minefields for interception of enemy warships in the North Sea or in

                            the English Channel. (Operation QO)

                            (Note: This was to counter any attempt by the German warships SCHARNHORST and

                                           GNEISENAU to return to Germany from Brest.)


November           On completion of QO resumed Channel minesweeping at Harwich


December            Harwich deployment in continuation.


1 9 4 2


January                East Coast minesweeping in continuation


February              Transferred with Flotilla for special duty at Belfast (Operation MAGNET)

                              Deployed for minesweeping in NW approaches to ensure clear passage for military

                             convoys bringing first US troops to the European Theatre.


March                   On completion transferred to Falmouth for minesweeping in Plymouth Command.


June                      Nominated for special duty in planned landing operation.

                             (Note: Some of channel minesweeping was  undertaken in 9th Flotilla based

                                         at Portland for service in the eastern part of the English Channel.)


July                      Transferred with Flotilla to Harwich for further service in North Sea for

                             East Coast minesweeping.

                             Nominated with Flotilla for minesweeping in support of planned landing

                             by British and Canadian troops at Dieppe (Operation JUBILEE)


August                Passage to Portsmouth to prepare for JUBILEE.

                             Took part in preparatory exercises with ships of 9th and 13th Minesweeping


                             (Note: Other ships in Flotilla then included HM Minesweepers

                                         EASTBOURNE, POLRUAN, BLYTH, STORNOWAY,

                                         CLACTON and FELIXSTOWE.)

           18th           Carried out joint operations to ensure safe passage of assault convoys.

           19th           On completion of sweep returned to Portsmouth.

           24th           Transferred with Flotilla to Portsmouth Command for Channel coast


                             (Note: For details of JUBILEE see the Naval Staff History and THE WATERY

                                          MAZE by B Fergusson.)


September            Deployed with Flotilla and took part in special minesweeping operations

                             associated with clearance of passages for destroyers carrying out attacks

                             on German coast convoys off French coast.


October               Nominated with ships of Flotilla for support of planned allied landings in

                             North Africa (Operation TORCH)

                             Prepared for foreign service.

           14th          Took part in exercises for planned landings in Irish Sea with Flotilla..

                             Sustained major structural damage in collision with HMS EASTBOURNE.

                            Withdrawn from exercises and took passage for repair.


November           Under repair.

to December        Nominated for transfer to 9th Minesweeping Flotilla on completion.


1 9 4 3


                            Joined 13th Minesweeping Flotilla deployed in English Channel based at Portsmouth

                            for minesweeping in English Channel to ensure clear passage for coastal convoys and also

                            to provide gaps in British and enemy minefields to allow clear passage for allied warships

                            (Note: Interception operations were carried out frequently by ships based at Plymouth

                                        and Portsmouth to attack merchant traffic, commerce raiders and blockade

                                        runners on passage to and from ports in France (TUNNEL operations.).

                                        See HOLD THE NARROW SEA by P Smith and THE BATTLE OF THE

                                        NARROW SEAS by P Scott.)

                                        Other ships in the Flotilla were HM Minesweepers SIDMOUTH, BRIDPORT,

                                        TENBY, BRIDLINGTON, BANGOR, BLACKPOOL, EASTBOURNE and BLYTH.)


1 9 4 4


**January             Channel minesweeping in continuation with Flotilla based at Portsmouth.

to April                 Nominated for support of planned allied landings in Normandy with Flotilla.

                              (Operation NEPTUNE)

**May                  Transferred to 16th Minesweeping Flotilla based at Plymouth.

                              (Note: Other ships in Flotilla were HM Minesweepers BEAUMARIS, DORNOCH,

                                          PARRSBOROUGH (RCN), QUALICUM (RCN), SHIPPIGAN (RCN)(Leader),

                                          TADOUSSAC (RCN) and WEDGEPORT (RCN). RCN Ships were Canadian-

                                          built BANGORS built completed in 1942.)

                              Allocated for duty with Flotilla in Force U under US Command

                              (Note: An experienced minesweeping officer was appointed to serve in the American

                                         HQ Ships USS CHIMO to act as Commander Minesweeping (West),)

                              Deployed at Plymouth and took part in preparatory exercises for NEPTUNE.

                              with ships of Force U

                              (Note: Exercises carried out included the ill-fated Exercise TIGER that came under E-Boat

                                         attacks on passage to the landing area at Slapton Sands.)

                                         For details of naval activities prior to and during landings see LANDINGS

                                         IN NORMANDY, June 1944 (HMSO), OPERATION NEPTUNE by K Edwards

                                         and Naval Staff History.)

                              Nominated for clearance of Channel 1 to UTAH Beaches with Flotilla.


June                       Deployed with HM Minesweepers Flotilla for final preparation at Plymouth.

              4th           Passage to Solent to commence sweep of Channel 1.

                              Operation delayed by 24 hours

              5th           Commenced clearance of Channel 1 in The Spout.

              6th           On completion of clearance of Channel deployed for clearance of anchorage areas.

              7th           Minesweeping off US Beaches in continuation

              to             Experienced many difficulties during the Great Gales on 19th to 21st.



July                        Reverted to RN command with Flotilla on completion of NEPTUNE.

                               Minesweeping deployment in continuation off Normandy with periodic return to

                               UK for replenishment and maintenance.


August                   Channel deployment with Flotilla in continuation.

to September          (Note: Flotilla were re-deployed eastward as required to ensure safe passage for ships

                                            supporting military operations including approaches to ports in France.


October                   After period for refit and R&R in UK deployed with Flotilla for minesweeping off

to December           East Coast.

                                 (Note: This work included mine clearance of passage to ports in Belgium and off

                                             coast of UK because of extensive minelaying by surface craft and submarines

                                             as well by aircraft.)


1 9 4 5


January                   East Coast deployment in continuation with Flotilla.

to April



             6th              Despatched with HMCS TADOUSSAC to for mine clearance of entrance into

                                Kristiansund, Norway

                                 On completion of work at Kristiansund rejoined Flotilla for mine clearance to ensure

                                safe passage of ships into Norway after liberation of the country.)

            12th             Deployed with Flotilla to carry out minesweep ahead of HM Cruisers DEVONSHIRE,

                                APOLLO, ARIADNE, HM Destroyers IROQUOIS (RCN), SAVAGE, SCOURGE and

                                Norwegian destroyer ARENDAL (Ex HMS BADSWORTH.)

                                during passage in Oslo Fjord to bring Crown Prince Olaf of Norway back to his country.

             29th            Took passage from Norway to Granton, near Edinburgh with ships of Flotilla on release

                                from mine clearance duties.


June                         Deployed at Granton for repairs and maintenance

                                 Nominated for mine clearance duties in North Sea based at Harwich.


July                          Harwich deployment in continuation with Flotilla for clearance of allied and German mines

to August                for safety of North Sea commercial traffic.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS ILFRACOMBE remained in commission after VJ Day and continued mine clearance duties in North Sea. She was transferred for similar duty in the Bristol Channel in 1946 and on completion was Paid-off. After de-storing the ship was laid up in the Reserve Fleet until placed on the Disposal List in 1947. Sold to BISCO on 1st January 1948 she was towed to Dunston, County Durham for breaking-up by Messrs Clayton and Davie later that year.


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