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HMS WOLFE  - Depot Ship

by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2001 - further editing and formatting is required

HMS Wolfe (Photo Ships, click to enlarge) return to Contents List

ss MONTCALM belonging to the Canadian Pacific Steamship Ltd Passenger Liner requisitioned on 28th August 1939 for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. The ship was completed for service on the UK – Canada route in 1921. She was the 4th RN warship to carry this name introduced in 1813 for a 20 gun Sloop built at Montreal, Canada and sold in 1832. The last to use the name was the Coastal Monitor M9 built on the Clyde in 1915 and later renamed GENERAL WOLFE. It is of interest to note that in 1656 a Spanish ship taken as Prize was the first RN ship to carry the name WOLF and she was followed by 19 others the last of which was a destroyer sold in 1921. The earlier name used was that of the animal but later name commemorates the General who was killed during the captured of Quebec in 1759.  His name was also used by the RCN for a requisitioned Yacht in 1940.


General Information

                                                Armed Merchant Cruiser                    Submarine Depot Ship

Tonnage                                16,418 tons                                            21,150 tons

Dimensions                           Length Overall – 563ft

                                                Beam – 70ft

                                                Draught – 28ft                                      No significant change

Propulsion Machinery        Geared turbines                                    No change

                                                Two shafts                                            No change

Armament                              Seven 6in guns                                     Two twin 4in AA guns

                                                Two 12pdr AA guns                           32 2pdr AA guns

                                                                                                                19 single 20mm guns

Complement                          Not known                                            480 Excluding Spare Crews


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

(Note:  Recorded on Official List for HMS WOLFE.

May have been introduced for the earlier HMS WOLF.

On a Field Blue a demi-wolf erased Red.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


(Note:  Two Battle Honours were awarded to HMS WOLF.)



S u m m a r y   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



         28th            Requisitioned for RN service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser


September           On release from Trade taken in hand for conversion.

to December        (Note:  In addition to fitting of armament changes included removal of all

                                         flammable material and internal modifications to suit accommodation

                                         of naval personnel. Special attention was necessary for stowage of

                                         explosives and the provision of ballast to compensate for loss of items

                                         normally carried below the waterline. In addition empty drums and

                                         material to improve flotation and reduce free flooding of compartments

                                         in the event of major damage were embarked.


1 9 4 0



         10th           Commissioned for service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser


February             On completion of conversion carried out Acceptance Trials

to April               Storing including embarkation and stowage of ammunition completed.

                            Shakedown and work-up prior to Operational Service.


May                     Deployed for trade defence and convoy escort.

to                         (Note:  This ship is not recorded in any of the outstanding actions in

December                        defence of Atlantic convoys but it should be remembered that the

                                          majority of convoys in 1940 was not subject to surface ship attacks.)


1 9 4 1


                            Withdrawn from service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser and nominated for

                            conversion to the more suitable role as a Depot Ship for which her size and

                            layout of compartments made her very attractive.


May                    Purchased outright by the Admiralty and taken in hand for conversion in

to December       commercial shipyard to suit deployment for support of submarines.

                            (Note:  Extensive changes were made to the armament to improve defence against

                                        air attacks. Compartment arrangement were modified for installation of heavy

                                        machinery and equipment for repair of engines and electrical machinery.

                                        In addition accommodation space was required for an increased ship’s

                                        company including Captain SM3 Staff Officers who were responsible for

                                        planning and execution of submarine operations by Flotilla. In addition

                                        spare submarine crew and repair staff required permanent facilities with

                                        galley, medical and recreational facilities. One source quotes a figure

                                        exceeding 1,000 which seems somewhat high.)

                            Nominated for support of submarines of the 3rd Submarine Flotilla based in the


                            On completion of trials and storing took passage to Clyde to join Flotilla for

                            operational service


1 9 4 2   to   1 9 4 3


                            Deployed in Clyde for support of submarines.

                            (Note:  Operations by the Flotilla included service in Western Approaches,

                                        support of passage of Arctic convoys in view of threat of attacks by

                                        German surface ships and submarines as well as interception of

                                        enemy supply ships in Bay of Biscay.


1 9 4 4


January                Clyde deployment in continuation.

to May


June                     Nominated for service with Eastern Fleet and relieved in Clyde by HM

                              Submarine Depot Ship FORTH.


July                       On completion of preparations for foreign service took passage to join

                              Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee. for support of 2nd Submarine Flotilla.

August                 Passage in Indian Ocean

            19th           Arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon and joined Eastern Fleet.


September             Deployed at Trincomalee for support of 2nd Submarine Flotilla.

                               (Note:  Submarines in Flotilla were HM Submarines STATESMAN,

                                           SOLENT, SUBTLE, STYGIAN, SHALIMAR and SPIRIT

                                           of the S-Class submarines built since 1939 and the older

                                           larger  PORPOISE, SEVERN and CLYDE in service before

                                           the outbreak of WW2.)


October                 Trincomalee deployment in continuation.

to December          (Note:  Submarines of the Eastern Fleet carried out offensive patrols

                                           in the Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits to intercept and sink

                                           Japanese shipping and escorts to convoys in order to reduce

                                           any supplies to garrisons in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.

                                           They also carried out reconnaissance of possible landing areas

                                            and landed intelligence personnel for covert operations.)


1 9 4 5


January                  During course of support of submarine operations involved in the

                               conduct of rescue operations by submarine staff officers to ensure return

                               of the badly damaged HM Submarine SHAKESPEARE which has been

                               subject to incessant air attacks during patrol in the Andaman Sea. and was

                               disabled in the Indian Ocean with many casualties. HM Destroyer RAIDER

                               had taken the submarine in tow after initial aid by HM Submarine STYGIAN.

                               (Note:  For details see THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by J Winton and DEVICES

                                           OF WAR by N. Kemp.

                                           HM Submarine SHAKESPEARE joined the Flotilla in December 1944

                                           and was on her first war patrol in the South East Asia Theatre.


February                 Trincomalee support in continuation.

to July



            15th            Part of Eastern Fleet on VJ Day.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS WOLFE was nominated for service with the 1st Submarine Flotilla in Malta after the return of the submarines of the 2nd Flotilla to UK. She took passage to join the Mediterranean Fleet and was based in Malta until nominated in 1947 for return to UK when relieved by HMS FORTH. She Paid-off in 1949 and was reduced to Reserve status. Placed in the Disposal List in 1952 the ship was sold to BISCO in 1952 and arrived at Faslane for breaking-up by Metal Industries on 8th November that year.


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revised 5/6/11