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

HMS HARRIER (N 71) - Halcyon-class Minesweeper

HMS Harrier (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

HALCYON-Class Minesweeper ordered from John I Thornycroft at Woolston on 23rd February 1933 with sister ship to be named HMS HUSSAR as part of the 1st Group of this Class.. Her reciprocating propulsion machinery was to be supplied by the builder  of West Hartlepool.. The ship was laid down on 11th July that year and launched on 17th April 193 as the 8th RN warship to carry this name which had been introduced for a an 18 gun  Brig-Sloop built at Deptford in 1804 and which foundered in 1809. Last used for a Torpedo Gunboat built by HM Dockyard Devonport in 1894 and sold in 1920. Build was completed on 9th November 1934. During WW2 after a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in January 1942 this ship was adopted by the civil community of Plympton St. Mary, Devon.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


BALTIC 1855 - NEW ZEALAND 1863-66 - ARCTIC 1941-43 - NORMANDY 1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

On a field Green a Harrier Gold.


M o t t o

Tenaciter sequer: 'I follow tenaciously'


M a n n i n g   D i v i s i o n




D e t a i l s   o f   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 4

November              Contractors Trials

                9th          Commissioned for service with 1st Minesweeping Flotilla on completion of Acceptance



December              Deployed with Flotilla at Portland and worked-up for operational service.


1 9 3 5    t o    1 9 3 6


                                Flotilla deployment in Home waters including Fleet and Flotilla exercises with visits.

                                Attended Jubilee Review of the Fleet by HM King George V at Spithead.


1 9 3 7


                                Attended Coronation Review of the Fleet by HM King George VI

                                Nominated for reduction to Reserve.

                                Paid off into Reserve and laid-up at Chatham


1 9 3 8


                                Laid-up at Chatham

                                (Note: Ship may have been brought forward in September 1938 during

                                the Munich crisis.


1 9 3 9


January                  Nominated for service with 5th Minesweeping Flotilla

to July                    Commissioned for Service and prepared for passage to nominated war station.


August                  Passage to Dover to join Flotilla.


September             Deployed at Dover for minesweeping duties in English Channel.

                                (Note: Ships nominated for 5th Minesweeping Flotilla were:

                                HM Minesweepers HALCYON, HUSSAR, LEDA, NIGER, SALAMANDER,

                                GOSSAMER, SKIPJACK and SPHINX. Some of these did not join until

                                after declaration of war with Germany.)

                20th        Deployed with HMS SKIPJACK for minesweeping of coastal convoy route and

                                sighted two floating mines which were sunk.

                                Assisted in rescue of some of ship’s company of HM Corvette KITTIWAKE which

                                had been disabled after a torpedo attack. Embarked 39 men.


October                  Deployed with HM Minesweepers HALCYON, SPEEDWELL, SKIPJACK,

                                SALAMANDER and HUSSAR to ensure clear passage across Dover Strait for

                                military convoys taking BEF to French ports.

                                On completion transferred with Flotilla to Humber for minesweeping in North Sea

                                to ensure safe passage for convoys to and from Thames Estuary.


November              Grimsby deployment in continuation.

                                (Note: HMS HUSSAR was damaged when mine was caught in sweep and exploded

                                near her.)


December              East Coast minesweeping in continuation.


1 9 4 0


January                  Transferred with Flotilla to Rosyth Command and based at Rosyth.

                                (Note: HMS HALCYON and HMS HUSSAR were transferred to 4th Flotilla

                                and remained at Grimsby.)


February                Deployed for minesweeping of f east coast of Scotland to ensure safe passage

                                for convoys.

                3rd          Under air attack north of Kinnaird Head during minesweep and assisted in rescue

                                of survivors from HM Minesweeper SPHINX which sustained serious structural

                                damaged in bombing. 54 of ship’s company lost their lives.

                                Tow of stricken ship failed when she capsized in rough weather.


March                    Flotilla minesweeping and convoy defence in continuation.


April                       Transferred to 6th Minesweeping Flotilla with HMS SKIPJACK and

                                HMS SPEEDWELL.


May                        Deployed for convoy defence in Nore Command.

                25th        Under air attack during clearance of passage ahead of convoy off Zeebrugge

                                and hit by 500lb bomb which failed to explode and passed through forward

                                structure and sustained further significant damage.

                                Passage to Sheerness at reduced speed.

                26th        Passage from Sheerness to Thames commercial shipyard.

                                (Note: Facilities at Sheerness were not available for such additional work

                                since the dockyard was to be used for control of vessels deployed to assist

                                in the evacuation of allied troops from Dunkirk. (Operation DYNAMO)

                27th        Taken in hand for repair .

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to J71


June                        Under repair in London.



                9th          Carried out post refit trials and took passage to Harwich for minesweeping

                                duties in Nore command based at .Harwich.

                10th        During minesweeping operations off Lowestoft with HMS HALCYON and

                                HMS SPEEDWELL, under air attacks which were unsuccessful.

                25th        Taken in hand for repair at Great Yarmouth.

                                (Note: This is possibly for machinery defect as no record of any enemy action

                                has been traced.)


August                  On completion resumed minesweeping duties in Nore Command.


September             Deployed additional for anti-invasion patrol and convoy defence in North Sea.

to December          (Note: Ships in North Sea were under constant threat and experienced many

                                air attacks.)


1 9 4 1


January                  North Sea minesweeping and convoy defence in continuation with Flotilla.

to April                  (Note: HMS SALAMANDER joined Flotilla after repair in weather damage

                                during service in 4th Minesweeping Flotilla.) Transferred with Flotilla to

                                Western Approaches Command for convoy escort in view of the shortage

                                of escorts following recent losses and damage to destroyers and corvettes.

                                Fit of ASDIC equipment in HALCYON Class minesweepers and their

                                larger displacement made them particularly suited for this duty.)


May                        Nominated for refit and passage to Southampton.

                19th        Taken in hand for refit in commercial shipyard.


June                        Under refit



                12th        Carried out post refit trials before resuming deployment with Flotilla

                18th        Deployed for Atlantic convoy defence and passage to Iceland.

                                (Note: Some ships of the Flotilla were deployed for escort of ships between UK

                                and Iceland

                26th        Deployed with HMS SALAMANDER and HALCYON to assist in saving

                                ss ATLANTIC CITY which had been hit by torpedo in NW Approaches during

                                passage to Freetown with Convoy OS1. Carried out anti-submarine operations.

                30th        Deployed in Iceland with same ships as part of Local Escort Force for defence

                                of ships on entry or departure from Seidisfjord.


August                  Iceland deployment in continuation.

                                Nominated for service in North Russia after German invasion.

                20th        Sailed from Hvalfjord to provide anti-submarine protection with HMS HALCYON

                                and HMS SALAMANDER for ships of first convoy to North Russia.

                                (Operation DERVISH)

                                (Note: Other ships deployed for escort were:

                                HM Destroyers ELECTRA, ACTIVE and IMPULSIVE till 29th. with Home

                                Fleet ships providing Distant Cover between 24th and 30th August.

                                For full details of all Russian convoy passages with names of the escorts and

                                mercantiles see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by RA Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS

                                by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.).

                31st         Detached from DERVISH convoy on arrival at Archangel.


September             Deployed for minesweeping in North Russia,

                28th        Joined Convoy QP1 with HMS HALCYON and HMS SALAMANDER as Local Escort

                                for first stage of outward passage to Orkneys.

                                (Note: This was first return convoy from North Russia. See references.)

                30th        Detached from QP1 with Local Escort and returned to Archangel.


October                  North Russia deployment in continuation

                10th        Provided Local Escort for inward convoy PQ1 for entry into Archangel.

                                Nominated for return to UK for “Arcticisation” and made independent passage



                1st           Taken in hand for refit work by commercial shipyard in London.



                13th        On completion took passage from Thames to Scapa Flow for special duties.

                18th        Deployed in Scapa Flow for preparatory exercises to provide support for planned

                                commando raid on Lofoten Islands. (Operation ANKLET).

                                (Note: This was carried out in conjunction with a similar raid on the islands

                                of Vaagso and Maaloy by another force of ships (Operation ARCHERY)

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

                                ESKIMO, SOMALI, WHEATLAND, LAMERTON, Polish ORP KRAKOWIAK

                                and KUJAWIAK, HM Norwegian Corvettes ACANTHUS, EGLANTINE, HMS

                                HALCYON and SPEEDWELL, HM Landing Ships (Infantry) PRINZ ALBERT

                                and PRINCESS CHARLOTTE for support of landings.

                                Sailed from Scapa Flow

                                (Note: One of the Landing Ships developed machinery defects on passage and

                                had to return to Scapa Flow. This was a major setback since some 12

                                Commando personnel were embarked in this ship and their loss seriously

                                reduced the number available for the landings on Lofoten. HM Survey Ship

                                SCOTT, another of this Class was also deployed to provide accurate

                                navigational aid.)

                26th        Present at landings by commandos which were made on a reduced scale.

                28th        Operation terminated because of air threat.

                                (Note: Ships later came under air attack during which HMS ARETHUSA was

                                slightly damaged.)


1 9 4 2



                1st           Returned to Scapa Flow with ANKLET Force

                                On release from Home Fleet special duty took passage to Iceland for

                                escort of convoy to North Russia.

                8th          Sailed from Hvalfjord as part of escort for Russian Convoy PQ8 with HMS

                                SPEEDWELL during passage to Murmansk.

                11th        HM Cruiser TRINIDAD, HM Destroyers MATABELE and SOMALI joined escort.

                17th        Under attack by U454 during which HMS MATABELE was sunk and one of convoy

                                was hit but arrived later despite damage.

                                Detached from PQ8 on arrival and resumed minesweeping duties at Murmansk.

                24th        Deployed for Local Escort of outward convoy QP6 with HMS SPEEDWELL.

                                Russian destroyers GREMYASCHI and SOKRUSHITELNY.

                27th        Detached from QP6 with Local Escort and returned to Murmansk.


February                Deployed for local minesweeping.

                22nd       Deployed with HM Cruiser NIGERIA, HMS HAZARD and HMS SALAMANDER

                                Russian destroyers GROMKI and GROZNI to provide Local Escort for final stage

                                of passage into Murmansk.of Russian Convoy PQ11

                                Detached from PQ11 on arrival and resumed local minesweeping duties.



                1st           Deployed as Local Escort with HMS SHARPSHOOTER for initial stage of passage

                                of return convoy QP8 from Murmansk.

                3rd          Detached from QP8 with Local Escort and returned to Murmansk.

                11th        Deployed with HM Fleet Minesweepers HUSSAR, SPEEDWELL and

                                Russian destroyer GREMYASCHI as Local Escort during passage into


                12th        Detached from PQ12 on arrival at Murmansk.

                21st         Joined outward convoy QP9 with HM Fleet Minesweepers GOSSAMER,

                                HUSSAR, NIGER, SPEEDWELL and Russian destroyer GREMYASCHI

                                on sailing from Kola Inlet as Local Escort during initial stage of passage to Iceland.

                23rd        Took return passage to Kola Inlet with Local Escort on relief by ships of

                                Ocean Escort.



                10th        Deployed with HM Fleet Minesweepers GOSSAMER, HUSSAR and a

                                Russian destroyer for Local Escort of convoy QP10 during initial stage of

                                passage to Iceland.

                12th        Detached from QP10 with Local Escort and returned to Kola Inlet.

                17th        Deployed to meet inward convoy PQ14 for Local Escort with HM Fleet

                                Minesweepers GOSSAMER, HUSSAR and NIGER.

                                (Note: Although two Russian destroyers joined for this duty, it is not

                                certain whether the RN minesweepers joined.

                19th        Convoy PQ14 arrived at Murmansk.

                28th        Joined outward convoy QP11 as Local Escort for initial stage of passage

                                from Murmansk to Iceland with HM Fleet Minesweepers GOSSAMER,

                                HUSSAR, NIGER and two Russian destroyers, including SOKRUSHITELNY.

                29th        Detached from QP11with Local Escort after relieved by Ocean Escort and

                                took return passage to Murmansk.



                1st           Despatched with HM Fleet Minesweepers, GOSSAMER, HUSSAR and

                                NIGER to assist HM Cruiser EDINBURGH which had been disabled after

                                being hit by torpedo from U456 on 30th April whilst part of escort for return

                                convoy QP11.

                                (Note: The cruiser had embarked bullion at Murmansk. See references.)

                2nd         In action against German destroyers with ships of Ocean Escort including

                                HM Destroyers FORESIGHT, FORESTER, Russian destroyers GREMYASCHI

                                and SOKRISHITELNY. Torpedo from German destroyer Z24 hit the cruiser

                                which prevented further attempts to save stricken ship which was then sunk

                                by a torpedo from HMS FORESIGHT.

                                Took part in rescue of ship’s company of HMS EDINBURGH with other ships

                                of the Ocean Escort. See references.

                3rd          Return passage to Murmansk.

                21st         Joined return convoy QP12 as part of Ocean Escort for return passage to UK.

                                (Note: Other ships in Ocean Escort were:

                                HM Auxiliary AA Ship ULSTER QUEEN, HM Destroyers BOADICEA,

                                ESCAPADE, INGLEFIELD, BADSWORTH, VENOMOUS, Norwegian,

                                ST ALBANS, HM Trawlers CAPE PALLISER, NORTHERN PRIDE,

                                NORTHERN WAVE and VIZALMA.)



                1st           Detached from QP12 and took passage to Humber for refit

                7th          Taken in hand for refit in commercial shipyard.

                                (Note: Radar Type 271 was fitted during this period, For details of the development

                                and use of radar by the Royal Navy see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)



                21st         Carried out post refit trials on completion of refit work and resumed

                                Flotilla minesweeping duties in Home waters.

                                (Note: Possible deployment in Iceland to be confirmed.

 August                 Home waters deployment in continuation.

                                Iceland deployment to be confirmed.

                                (Note: Following the disastrous passage of convoy PQ17, no sailings of convoys

                                were made to North Russia. See references and ENGAGE THE ENEMY

                                MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett.)


September             Deployed in Iceland

                8th          Part of escort for convoy PQ18.

                                (Note: Fighting escort joined on 9th September. See references for details.)

                12th        Convoy under submarine attacks during which U88 was sunk by HM Destroyers

                                FAULKNOR, ONSLOW and IMPULSIVE.

                14th        Under air attacks which sank eight ships.

                                Sank mercantile ss ALTHELTEMPLAR which had been damage in air attack.

                                (Note: Tow of this ship to Lowe Sound was deemed unsuitable in view of intensity

                                of attacks.)

                18th        HM Minesweepers BRITOMART, HALCYON, HAZARD and SALAMANDER

                                joined as Local Escort into Kola Inlet.

                                Detached from PQ 18 and deployed for local minesweeping in North Russia,


October                  North Russia minesweeping in continuation.

to December          (Note: Russian convoy traffic was suspended during this period because of the

                                Home Fleet commitments for support of landings in North Africa.

                                (Operation TORCH.))


1 9 4 3



                3rd          Deployed with HMS SEAGULL for Local Escort of Russian Convoy JW51B for

                                final stage passage to Kola Inlet.

                4th          Detached from JW51B with HMS SEAGULL on arrival at Kola Inlet/

                5th          Resumed local mine clearance.

                29th        Joined HMS SEAGULL for passage to UK as part of escort for return Convoy RA52.

                                (Note: Escort included: HM Destroyers BEAGLE, BULLDOG, FORESTER,

                                ICARUS, MATCHLESS, MUSKETEER, OFFA, ONSLAUGHT,

                                ONSLOW and Polish ORP PIORUN, HM Corvettes HONEYSUCKLE,

                                HYDERABAD (RIN), RHODODENDRON and OXLIP.

                                HMS ONSLOW was returning to UK after repair of serious

                                damage during Battle of Barents Sea. See references.)



                3rd          Convoy under submarine attack.

                9th          Detached from RA52 on arrival at Loch Ewe.

                                (Note: Deployed as SO Escorts when Home Fleet destroyers detached for passage

                                to Scapa Flow.

                17th        Taken in hand for refit at commercial shipyard in Leith.


March                    Under refit.



                8th          Carried out post refit trials on completion of dockyard work

                                On completion of work-up for operational service deployed in Home

                                waters for minesweeping and convoy defence.


May                        Home waters duties in continuation.

to September         Nominated for return to North Russia for minesweeping and convoy defence.


October                  Took passage from Scapa Flow to North Russia with Home Fleet ships sent

                                to escort empty mercantiles left in North Russia during period of suspension

                                of routine convoys. See references.

                                Resumed detached service for Local Escort and minesweeping duties.



                1st           Provided Local Escort with HMS SEAGULL and two Russian destroyers including

                                GROMKI  for passage of return convoy RA54A during initial stage of passage

                                from Kola Inlet

                3rd          Detached from RA54B and resumed minesweeping deployment.

                27th        Joined HM Destroyers INCONSTANT, WHITEHALL and HM Corvette

                                HEATHER as part of Ocean Escort for return convoy JW54B to UK.



                9th          Detached from RA54B after uninterrupted passage on relief by western

                                Local Escort.

                12th        Deployed JW55A outward convoy to Kola Inlet from Loch Ewe as Local

                                Escort with HM Fleet Minesweeper COCKATRICE.

                15th        Detached from JW55B on arrival of Ocean Escort and returned to Scapa Flow.

                31st         Taken in hand for refit in commercial shipyard in Grimsby.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under refit

to February           Nominated for service as Leader of 1st Minesweeping Flotilla.

                                (Note: Other ships in Flotilla were:

                                HM Fleet Minesweepers BRITOMART, GLEANER, HALCYON,

                                HUSSAR, JASON, SALAMANDER, SEAGULL and SPEEDWELL.)



                3rd          Carried out post refit trials on completion of refit.

                7th          Deployed at Scapa Flow for anti-submarine work-up exercises.

                9th          Carried out Flotilla minesweeping exercises..


April                       Flotilla exercises in continuation in North Sea.

                                Passage to Portsmouth with calls in east coast ports.

                30th        Deployed at Portsmouth and nominated for minesweeping support

                                for planned allied landings in Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE).


May                        Took part in preparatory exercises including Exercise FABIUS series

                                with Flotilla.

                                (Note: For details of naval activities before and during NEPTUNE see

                                LANDINGS IN NORMANDY June 1944 (HMSO) and OPERATION

                                NEPTUNE by K. Edwards. For specific information about

                                minesweeping activities see THEY LED THE WAY by Williams.

                                Three Motor Launches and four Isles-Class Danlayers were attached to

                                the Flotilla for this specialised operation.)

                                On completion of defence exercise deployed in Solent for briefing and



June                        Deployed at Portsmouth for briefing and preparations for minesweeping of

                                Channel 9 in advance of Assault convoys taking troops of 3rd Infantry

                                Bde to SWORD Beaches.

                4th          Operation delayed by 24 hours.

                5th          Sailed from Solent to commence Channel clearance.

                                No mines cleared or exploded.

                6th          On completion deployed for mine sweeping of anchorages.

                8th          Deployed for widening the area between Approach Channels 5 and 6.

                9th          Carried out minesweeping, defence patrols off Eastern Task Force area and

                to            escort of Channel convoy as required.


                19th        Whilst replenishing fuel in rough weather alongside RFA sustained damage

                                forward and holed.

                                Withdrawn from NEPTUNE.

                20th        Passage to Harwich for repair


July                         At Harwich awaiting repair.

                8th          Taken in hand for repair in commercial shipyard.

                17th        On completion of repair took passage to rejoin Flotilla for minesweeping

                                and defence duties off Normandy coast.

                19th        Channel deployment in continuation for support of allied military operations.

                                (Note: Minesweeping to keep clear passage across English Channel was vital

                                in view of extensive minelaying by aircraft.


                1st           Withdrawn from operation after machinery defects and took passage to Portsmouth

                                for repair,

                2nd         Taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth.

                30th        On completion resumed Flotilla duties in Channel.

                                (Note: Because of this period under repair the ship was not present when HMS

                                JASON, BRITOMART, HUSSAR, and SALAMANDER came

                                under rocket attack by RAF TYPHOON aircraft on 27th August.

.                               These ships were carrying out minesweeping off Le Havre to ensure clear

                                anchorage for bombardment of Le Havre by HM Battleship WARSPITE,

                                with HM Monitors EREBUS and ROBERTS.

                                HMS BRITOMART and HMS HUSSAR were sunk by these attacks, 

                                HMS SALAMANDER damaged beyond repair, and HMS JASON and two trawlers



September             Minesweeping deployment in continuation in English Channel.

to October             (Note: Other ships of Flotilla were HM Minesweepers HARRIER, HALCYON,

                                SPEEDWELL, GLEANER, HAZARD, SHARPSHOOTER and JASON.

                                Minesweeping requirements progressively moved eastward during this

                                period and had reached the Belgian coast by the end of October.)

                                Ships of Flotilla were gradually withdrawn for refit but returned on



November              Deployed in southern North Sea with Flotilla.

                2nd         HM Danlayer COLSAY was sunk by a human torpedo (NEGER) Off Ostend.

                                (Note: Clearance of approach Channels to ports in Europe was essential to ensure

                                safe passage of military convoys supporting allied advance in the Low countries.)

                22nd       Passage to Leith for refit.

                23rd        Taken in hand for refit in commercial shipyard


December              Under refit


 1 9 4 5


January                  Under refit

to February


March                    Harbour trials and prepared for duties with Flotilla.


April                       On completion of post refit trials took passage to rejoin Flotilla at Harwich.

                                (Note: During 1945 extensive enemy minelaying was being carried out by

                                submarines, aircraft and small surface craft.)


May                        After VE Day deployed with ships of Flotilla for clearance of allied and German

to August              mines in North Sea and Channel areas.


 P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS HARRIER remained in commission after VE Day and was deployed for mine clearance in the North Sea until October when re-deployed for the same duties in the Channel area. Nominated for paying-off in 1946 she returned to Chatham in May to de-store and for removal of armament. The ship transferred to Harwich in July and was laid-up there until being placed on the Disposal List in 1950. Sold to BISCO on 6th August that year she was later towed to the Tyne for demolition by Messrs J King. This name was carried forward when used for a radar training establishment at Kete in Pembrokeshire which was closed down in 1962.





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