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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2005

HMS ABDIEL - Abdiel-class Fast Cruiser Minelayer

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Abdiel (Navy Photos/Bob Hanley, click to enlarge)

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ABDIEL-class fast cruiser minelayer (first group) ordered from JS White at Cowes, IoW under the 1938 Programme and   designed specifically for use as a minelayer. She was laid down on 23rd March 1939 and was launched on 23rd April 1940 as the 2nd RN warship to carry the name. It was first used for a  minelaying Flotilla Leader scrapped in 1928. ABDIEL-Class Fast Minelayers were also extensively deployed during WW2 for transport of stores and personnel.. Their high speed and availability of spacious mine decks for this purpose made them very suitable. Details of minelaying activities are available in The Naval Staff History (MINING). A modified RAF Air-Surface Vessel (ASV) radar outfit (Naval Type 286M) using a fixed aerial was fitted during build. See RADAR AT SEA by D. Howse for details   of development and use of radar by RN. Build was completed on 15th April 1941. See Royal Navy Minelaying Operations.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


JUTLAND 1916  - BISCAY 1941 - CRETE 1941 - LIBYA 1941 - SICILY 1943


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge    On a Field Green,  a Mine  (NS), Silver winged Gold over two wavelets Silver.


M o t t o

Semper Fidelis'Ever Faithful'



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



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                7th          Commissioned for service.

                                During acceptance trials required for service.

                22nd       Took passage for Milford Haven to embark mines for first operational lay.

                                Carried out vibration trials by jettisoning Dummy Mines.

                23rd        Embarked mines at Milford Haven

                24th        Deployed on A/S minelaying operations in SW Approaches. escorted by HM Destroyers KIPLING

                                and KASHMIR for first lay on Little Sole Bank.

                                (Operation GV).

                                (Note: Intended use in Bay of Biscay changed because of material shortage).

                25th        Despite machinery defect deployed in minelaying task in Bay of Biscay to hamper

                                movement of SCHARNHORST and GNE1SNAU into Atlantic.

                29th        Carried out minelay off Brest escorted by HM Destroyers KELLY, KASHMIR, KELVIN and

                                JACKAL of 6th Destroyer Flotilla (Operation GY).

                                (Note: Congratulated by 1st Sea Lord on an impressive performance in an unworked

                                -up ship. For details of activities in Home waters in 1941 see HOLD THE

                                NARROW SEA by P Smith and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C. Bamett).

                31st         Under machinery repair at Cowes


April                       Whilst on passage to Clyde for Full Power Trial required for priority duty and trial cancelled.

                17th        Took passage to Mediterranean after embarking stores required in Malta.

                24th        Passage to Malta from Gibraltar with HM Cruiser DIDO, HM Destroyers KELLY, KELVIN,

                                KASHMIR, KIPLING, JACKAL and JERSEY as Force S.

                                (Operation SALIENT - Co-incident with Operation DUNLOP (Malta aircraft delivery and

                                transfer of reinforcement warships for Fleet in eastern Mediterranean.)

                28th        Discharged stores in Malta and joined HMS DIDO, HM Destroyers JAGUAR, JERVIS, JUNO

                                and IMPERIAL as escort for HM Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE during passage to Egypt.

                30th        Arrived at Alexandria and joined Mediterranean Fleet.

                                (For details of naval operations in the Mediterranean see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY, THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D Macintyre, THE NAVAL WAR IN

                                THE MEDITERRANEAN by Greene and Massignani and Naval Staff History (HMSO-2001.)



                6th          Deployed with Mediterranean Fleet to cover passage of military convoy bringing tanks from UK 

                                for Middle East army (Operation TIGER).

                11th        Planned minelay between Lampedusa and Kerkenah Bank cancelled.

                                (Part of Operation MD4).

                21st         Carried out minelay in Ionian Sea between Levkas and Cephalonia against shipping using Corinth


                                Covered by HM Battleships WARSPITE and VALIANT with HM Cruiser AJAX

                                (Operation MAT ONE).

                                (Note:: This field caused loss of escorts and transports in convoy later that day.)

                23rd        Deployed with HM Sloops AUCKLAND and FLAMINGO in support of military defence of Crete.

                24th        Carried troops and stores to Suda Bay.

                25th        Returned to Alexandria with wounded and prisoners.

                26th        Passage to Suda Bay with HM Destroyers NIZAM and HERO taking troops and stores.

                27th        Disembarked personnel and stores and embarked 930 troops.

                                Took passage to Alexandria.

                31st         Sailed from Alexandria with HM Cruiser PHOEBE, HM Destroyers HOTSPUR, JACKAL and

                                KIMBERLEY carrying medical supplies and for final evacuation of allied troops.



                1st           Took passage with 3,900 troops for return to Alexandria arriving same day.

                10th        Deployed for support of Tobruk garrison.

                                (See Naval and Military Staff Histories and above references.)


July                         Transferred from Tobruk support for reinforcement of Cyprus.

                                Deployed with HM Fast Minelayer LATONA and embarked RAF personnel.

                                (Operation GUILLOTINE).


August                  Resumed support of military garrison at Tobruk with HM Cruiser HOBART (RAN), HM 

                               Minelaying Cruiser LATONA (sister ship), HM Destroyer NAPIER (RAN) and HM Destroyer


                19th        Deployed for transport of Polish Army units to Tobruk and evacuated ANZAC troops following 

                               the decision to return them to Australia in view of threat of Japanese entry into hostilities

                                See above references.)

                                (Note: 6,300 Polish troops were carried in the two cruisers.)


September             Tobruk support and ferry duties in continuation.

                12th        Troop transport duties till 22nd.


October                  Tobruk support in continuation.

                12th        7,100 troops were carried. in the two cruisers.



                28th        Transferred for further reinforcement of Cyprus and took passage to Beirut.

                                Deployed with ten destroyers for transport of 5th Indian Division.

                                (Note: Total number of troops to be carried was over 14,000.)



                1st           Commenced troop transport duties.

                8th          On completion returned to Alexandria for Fleet duties.


December              Deployed at Alexandria.

                                Nominated for transfer to Eastern Fleet.

                                Took passage to Trincomalee.


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                10th        Arrived at Trincomalee.

                27th        Laid four minefields off east coast of South Andaman Island.

                                Returned to Trincomalee on completion.



                1st           Laid three minefields in approaches to MacPherson Strait

                                On departure from Port Anson grounded and damaged port shaft.

                                Returned to Colombo on one engine.


March                    Passage to Durban for repair.


April                       Docked for investigation of starboard shaft and A Bracket defects.

                                Local repair facilities inadequate for permanent repair.

                                Temporary repair work was carried out and permanent repair arranged in UK.

                                To be relieved by HM Minelaying Cruiser MANXMAN (Sister Ship)


May                        At Durban awaiting arrival of relief


June                        Took passage to UK after HMS MANXMAN arrived on station.

                                During passage called at Cape Town to embark gold bullion for tranport to UK.

                                Refuelled at Pointe Noire, Congo where emergency repairs were effected.


July                         Disembarked bullion in Clyde and took passage to Tyne.

                                Taken in hand for repair and refit at commercial shipyard.


August                  Under refit.

to                            (Note: The twin 4.7in mountings fitted on build were replaced by two twin 4" HA mountings

November              fitted forward aft to improve defence against air attack.

                                Radar Type 290 was installed in place of the earlier modified RAF outfit and used a

                                rotating aerial. The set gave surface and air warning but was of inferior quality.

                                Fire control radar was fitted for forward main armament fire-control by Type 285 and

                                for Close Range weapons by Type 282. See above reference.)


December              On completion of Post refit trials resumed operation service..

                24th        Embarked mines at Milford Haven.

                30th        Laid minefield off coast of Brittany near lie Vierge.


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January                  Transferred to Mediterranean for minelaying duties.

                2nd         Embarked mines at Milford Haven and sailed for Gibraltar.

                6th          Arrived at Algiers for Mediterranean minelaying operations required by ANCXF.

                9th          Laid first minefield off Skerki Bank in Sicilian Channel after call at Bone.

                11th        Passage from Malta to Gibraltar to embark mines being delivered from UK by HM Minelaying

                                Cruiser ADVENTURE.

                31st         Abandoned minelay off Skerki Bank after action against E-Boats.



                3rd          Completed lay in Skerki Bank and returned to Mers el Kebir to embark mines from

                                HMS ADVENTURE.

                4th          Took passage to Bone escorted by HM Destroyers LIGHTNING and LOYAL.

                7th          Completed lay off Skerki Bank and returned to Bone to recover anchor.

                8th          Sailed from Algiers for repair in UK.

                21st         Sailed for Mediterranean after repair and having embarked full outfit of Mines,

                26th        Arrived Algiers to continue minelaying operations.

                28th        In action with E-Boats.

                                Laid minefield off Ras Engela, NW of Bizerta..


March                    Embarked mines from HMS ADVENTURE at Mers el Kebir

                5th          Carried out minelay on Skerki Bank covered by HMS LIGHTNING and HMS LOYAL

                6th          Embarked mines from HMS ADVENTURE and sailed for Bone to Join HMS LIGHTNING

                                and HMS LOYAL.

                8th          During passage to Skerki Bank engaged small convoy of landing craft on passage to Sicily

                                from North Africa.

                                Commenced minelay but ceased operation when unknown ship detected by radar..

                                (Note: All but 16 mines were laid.

                                Escorted to Malta by HM Destroyers PAKENHAM and PALADIN.

                                (Note: The minefields in the Sicilian Channel proved very successful and were responsible

                                for loss and damage to several enemy warships).

                10th        Made three trips to Haifa to embark mines for storage in Malta for future use.





                4th          Resumed minelaying operations in Sicilian Narrows, escorted by H M Destroyers KELVIN

                                and PALADIN.

                5th          Laid Field off Skerki Bank and returned to Malta.

                7th          Last minelay off Skerki Bank with same escort.

                11th        Redeployed in Eastern Mediterranean for troop transport duties

.               14th        Embarked troops in Haifa for passage to Cyprus.


May                        Troop transport duty in continuation.


June                        Embarked troops at Alexandria for passage to Malta prior to planned allied landings in


                                (Operation HUSKY For details see Naval Staff History and BRITISH INVASION

                                FLEETS. by J de Winser.)

                                Returned to Alexandria                      



                8th          Sailed from Alexandria

                9th          Passage to Assault Area

                10th        Embarked Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force four tour of the Assault Area


August                  Deployed in Central Mediterranean for support of military operations.



                                Embarked troops and equipment of 1st Airborne Division at Bizerta for occupation

                                of Taranto

                                (Operation SLAPSTICK - See above references).

                9th          Passage to Taranto with HM Cruisers AURORA, PENELOPE, DIDO, SIRIUS and US

                                Cruiser USS BOISE.

                10th        Soon after arrival in Taranto harbour, the protective de-gaussing equipment had been

                                switched off, and activated recently laid ground mine.

                                (Note: The explosion caused extensive flooding and ship sunk within minutes with major

                                loss of life.

                                48 of the ship's company were killed and six wounded.

                                (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                                120 of the troops embarked were also killed with 120 wounded.

                                This disaster left no fast minelayer on Mediterranean Station.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


In January 1967 this name was carried forward for the second time when a Minesweeper Support Ship was launched at Woolston by J Thornycroft and named HMS ABDIEL. This ship served until the early 1990s when she was reduced to Reserve.


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