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

HMS SHARPSHOOTER (N 68) - Halcyon-class Minesweeper

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

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

HALCYON-Class Minesweeper ordered from HM Dockyard Devonport on 2nd March 1936 with sister ship to be named HMS HEBE. Turbine propulsion machinery was to be fitted. This ship was laid down on 8th June 1936 and was launched on 10th December that year. She was the 5th RN warship to carry this name which had been introduced for a 16 gun Gun Brig, built at Brightlingsea in 1802. The last was an S-Class Destroyer built by Beardmore in 1917 and sold in 1927. Build was completed on 17th December 1937 and she commissioned for service in the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla based at Portland. During WW2 this ship was adopted by the civil community of Penarth, Glamorgan after a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in March 1942.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


BELGIAN COAST 1917 - DUNKIRK 1940 - ARCTIC 1941-43 - ATLANTIC 1942-44 - SICILY 1943


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

On a field Green a silver bow and a golden arrow.


 M o t t o

'Swift and sure'


M a n n i n g   D i v i s i o n 



   S u m m a r y   o f   P r e - W a r   S e r v i c e


1 9 3 7


December              Contractors trials and commissioning for service in 1st Minesweeping Flotilla.

                17th        Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.                 


1 9 3 8


January                  On completion of trials and storing took passage to join Flotilla at Portland


February                Deployed at Portland for minesweeping training and support of Anti-Submarine

to July                    and mine clearance research and development.

                                (Note: Deployment to meet Home Fleet exercise and visits requirements would

                                have been carried out in accordance with Home Fleet programme.


August                  Prepared to take up war station during international crisis/

to September


October                  Resumed normal service with Flotilla at Portland.

to December


1 9 3 9


January                  Portland deployment with Flotilla in continuation.

to July



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


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August                  Carried out minesweeping trial in Lyme Bay with ships of Flotilla..

                                (Note: This field had been specially laid to establish minesweeping capabilities.)

                                Took up War Station with Flotilla at Scapa Flow.

                                Other ships in Flotilla were HM Minesweepers BRAMBLE, BRITOMART, HAZARD,

                                HEBE, SEAGULL and SPEEDY


September             Deployed at Scapa Flow with Flotilla

                                (Note: Ships were engaged in ensuring clear passages from Scapa Flow for Fleet units and

                                the gaps in East Coast Mine Barrier.)



                14th        Transferred to Clyde and cleared British deep anti-submarine mine field off Gourock

                                (Note: Home Fleet units were moved to Clyde area after the sinking of HM Battleship

                                ROYAL OAK at anchor in Scapa Flow by a torpedo from U47 which penetrated

                                the anchorage.)


November              Resumed North Sea Service to ensure passages through East Coast Mine Barrier were kept

                                clear of mines.

                                (Note: Extensive enemy minelaying using magnetic mines was being carried

                                out in North Sea. See above references.)

                                Transferred to Stornoway for Atlantic convoy escort duties with Flotilla.


December              East coast minesweeping in continuation

                5th          Sustained minor damage in collision with tanker.


1 9 4 0


January                  Atlantic convoy defence in continuation based at Stornoway

                                Deployed for escort of convoys during passage to and from Canada.

                                Returned to Scapa Flow after anchorage made safe


February                Deployed at Scapa Flow with Flotilla for mine clearance in entrances and in North Sea.

to March


April                       Transferred to 6th Minesweeping Flotilla based at Dover and joined HM Minesweepers

                                HALCYON, HUSSAR, HARRIER, SKIPJACK, HEBE and SPEEDWELL for

                                minesweeping duties in Dover Command.


May                        Channel area minesweeping with Flotilla including coastal shipping routes off Holland.

                                (Note: Ships of Flotilla came under air attacks during these operations with HMS

                                HUSSAR and HMS HARRIER being badly damaged by bomb hits on 15th

                                and 25th May.)

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to J68.)

                28th        Joined HM Minesweepers NIGER, SALAMANDER, GOSSAMER, SKIPJACK, LEDA,

                                HALCYON, HEBE and SPEEDWELL. for support of allied evacuation operations at

                                Dunkirk (Operation DYNAMO)

                30th        During evacuation of troops from Dunkirk sustained major structural damage in collision

                                with Cross-Channel steamer ST HELIOL after nightfall. Ship badly damaged forward

                                and taken in tow by tug FREMOST 22 to position off Beaches.



                1st           Towed from Dunkirk to Dover for temporary repair

                2nd         After temporary repair took passage to Sheerness escorted by HMS SALAMANDER.

                3rd          Taken in for repair by HM Dockyard, Sheerness.

                13th        Transferred to Leith for repair continuation and took passage.


July                         Under repair at Leith



                17th        Transferred to Rosyth for completion of repair.



                14th        Post Repair trials on completion or work by HM Dockyard, Rosyth.

                20th        Resumed operational service with 1st Minesweeping Flotilla. at Scapa Flow.


October                  Fleet Minesweeping duties at Scapa Flow in continuation with HM Minesweepers


                                (Note: When not required for minesweeping of passages used by major warships

                                carried out routine minesweeping in North Sea and north of Scotland convoy

                                routes. HMS HAZARD and HMS HEBE detached for refit during this period

                                Some ships of Flotilla were under air attack.)


1`9 4 1


January                  Scapa Flow deployment in continuation

to February


March                    Transferred with Flotilla to Harwich for clearance of convoy routes between southern North

                                Sea and Solent to ensure safe passage.

                15th        Under air attack off Rye during which HMS BRAMBLE was hit by a bomb whilst

                                recovering sweep gear and disabled. Bomb hit forward structure and killed all personnel

                                in Wardroom.

                                Escorted stricken ship to Portsmouth when she was able to steam using one engine.


April                       Flotilla duties in Channel and North Sea in continuation.

to July                    (Note: Some ships of Flotilla were transferred to Western Approaches Command during

                                this period and deployed in NW Approaches for Local Escort of Atlantic convoys)

August                  Nominated for refit and took passage to Cardiff for repair in commercial shipyard.

                6th          Taken in hand for refit prior to service in North Russia.


September             Under refit

to October             (Note: It is most unlikely that the ship was “Arcticised” for service in North Russia

                                during this refit.)



                10th        On completion of post refit trials and shakedown took passage to Iceland to join

                                Russian convoy PQ5 at Hvalfjord.

                                (Note: For details of all Russian Convoy operations with names of the

                                mercantiles and the escorts see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by RA

                                Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY !

                                by P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.)

                27th        Sailed from Hvalfjord as escort for PQ5 with HMS HAZARD and HMS HEBE

                                during passage to Archangel.



                7th          Remained with PQ5 when HMS BRAMBLE and HMS SEAGULL joined to

                                relieve HMS HAZARD and HMS HEBE.

                                (Note: HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD which had joined convoy on 1st December

                                also detached with the two minesweepers and took independent passage

                                to Murmansk.)

                13th        Detached from PQ5 on arrival at Archangel without enemy interference.

                14th        Deployed for service in North Russia to provide Local Escort of convoys and for

                                minesweeping to ensure clear passage for convoys on entry and departure.


1 9 4 2


January                  North Russia deployment in continuation

                16th        Provided Local Escort for Russian convoy PQ8 into Murmansk with HMS HAZARD.

                17th        Detached from PQ8 on arrival at Murmansk.

                                (Note: HMS MATABELE, one of the Ocean Escort was torpedoed and sunk

                                with heavy loss of life before arrival. See references.)



                13th        Joined return convoy QP7 with HMS BRITOMART to relieve HMS HAZARD and

                                HMS SPEEDWELL as Local Escort during part of initial stage of passage to

                                Seidisfjord, Iceland.

                15th        Detached from QP8 with HMS BRITOMART and returned to Murmansk.

                                (Note: Ocean Escort was provided by HM Destroyers FAULKNOR and INTREPID

                                covered by HM Cruiser NIGERIA.)



                1st           Deployed with HMS HARRIER, Russian destroyers GREMYASCHI and GROMKI

                                as Local Escort for return convoy QP8 for passage from Murmansk.

                3rd          Detached with HMS HARRIER and took passage back to base.

                                (Note: Ocean Escort was provided by HMS HAZARD and HMS SALAMANDER,

                                HM Corvettes OXLIP and SWEETBRIAR covered by HMS NIGERIA and

                                units of Home Fleet deployed to counter threat of attack by German battleship

                                TIRPITZ on this convoy and inward PQ12. See references.)

                21st         Deployed with HM Destroyer OFFA and HMS BRITOMART as Ocean Escort for convoy

                                QP9 during passage to Iceland from Kola Inlet covered by Home Fleet Fleet units.

                                (Note: HM Cruiser KENYA intended to join on 22n February and carrying gold bullion

                                from Russia to UK did not meet the convoy as part of Ocean Escort.) Local Escort

                                was provided by HM Minesweepers GOSSAMER, HARRIER, HUSSAR, NIGER,

                                SPEEDWELL and Russian destroyer GREMYASCHI.)

                24th        Sighted U655 on surfaced and carried out ramming attack.

                                Submarine turned over and sank without survivors. See HITLER’S U – BOAT WAR by

                                C Blair and above references. Sustained serious damage to forward structure.

                24th        Remained with QP9 as part of escort.



                3rd          Detached from QP9 on arrival and Reykjavik and took passage to UK

                14th        Taken in hand for repair at Leith.


May                        Under repair



                11th        Resumed operational service on completion of post refit trials and work-up.


July                         Deployed in Home waters


August                  Nominated for escort of Russian convoy PQ18 during passage to Murmansk and

                                further detached service in North Russia.

                                (Note: See above references for details of the arrangements made for this transit

                                and provision of additional escorts.)


September             Joined HM Destroyers ACHATES, MALCOLM, HM Auxiliary AA Ships ALYNBANK

                                and ULSTER QUEEN, HM Corvettes BERGAMOT, BLUEBELL, BRYONY, CAMELLIA

                                and HM Minesweeper SHARPSHOOTER for service as Close Escort for PQ18.

                                Passage to join PQ18.

                7th          Joined convoy and commenced service as Close Escort.

                                (Note: Air Cover was provided by HM Escort Aircraft Carrier AVENGER screened by

                                HM Destroyers WHEATLAND and WILTON with a Fighting Escort comprising

                                HM Cruiser SCYLLA and 16 destroyers from Home Fleet.

                                HM Destroyers MONTROSE and WALPOLE had joined PQ18 escort on

                                6th September.

                                HM Submarines P614 and P615 were also deployed for defence of this convoy and

                                cruiser cover by HM Cruisers LONDON, NORFOLK and SUFFOLK.

                                Home Fleet major warships provided Distant Cover.)

                12th        Under submarine attacks during which two mercantiles were sunk.

                13th        Under air attacks during which six of the mercantiles were sunk.

                14th        Under submarine attacks by U457 which hit a mercantile, later abandoned and sunk..

                                Air attacks in continuation during which another mercantile was sunk

                                (For details see references.)

                21st         Detached from PQ18 on arrival at Archangel and commenced local duties in North Russia.


October                  North Russia Local Minesweeping operations in continuation with detached minesweepers.



                16th        Deployed with HMS HALCYON and HAZARD for minesweeping operations to ensure safe

                                passage of local convoys.

                                (Note: The operation was completed successfully despite gale conditions and thick fog.)

                17th        Deployed with HMS BRITOMART, HALCYON and HAZARD as Eastern Local Escort

                                for return convoy QP15.

                20th        Detached from QP15 and took independent eastward passage.

                                (Note: This ship is not recorded as part of Ocean Escort which did include HMS SALAMANDER

                                and further research is required.)

                27th        Sustained major structural damage in collision south of Iceland.


December              Under temporary repair in Iceland (To be confirmed)

                                Repair arranged at Hull in commercial shipyard.

                                Passage to Hull

                23rd        Taken in hand for repair in Hull


1 9 4 3


January                  Under repair.


February                On completion of post repair trials worked up for operational minesweeping service


March                    Deployed in Home waters for minesweeping duties.


April                       Nominated for foreign service with 12 Minesweeping Flotilla.

                                Passage to Mediterranean as part of escort for military convoy KMS14.


May                        Joined Flotilla in Mediterranean and deployed for minesweeping off North African

                                coast to ensure safe passage for convoys between Gibraltar and ports in Algeria

                                and Tunisia.


June                        North African coastal duties in continuation.

                                Nominated for minesweeping support of planned landings in Sicily (Operation HUSKY).


July                         Preparation for Sicily landings

                9th          Passage to Sicily with Assault Convoys

                10th        Deployed with HMS HEBE and HAZARD for mine sweeping in BARK WEST

                                beach head area prior to landings,

                11th        Remained in landings area for convoy escort and patrol until 16th

                17th        Took passage to Malta on release from HUSKY


August                  Deployed in central Mediterranean for minesweeping operations and convoy escort.

to December          (Note: This period included defence of convoys to Adriatic.)


1 9 4 4


January                  Central Mediterranean deployment in continuation.

                5th          Sustained structural damage after collision with HM Auxiliary LAURANA.

                                (Note: This vessel was a captured Italian prize used as a patrol vessel..)

                                Remained in operational use.


February                Transferred to 49th Escort Group and deployed in Eastern Mediterranean for

to April                  convoy defence based at Alexandria



                5th          Damaged by explosion of GNAT torpedo.

                                (Note: No details of this incident can be traced. It is not recorded in any record

                                of U-Boat attacks. To be investigated.)



                10th        Taken in hand for repair in Haifa.



                16th        On completion of repair and refit resumed duties with Group.


July                         Convoy defence with Group in continuation.

                                Nominated for return to UK.


August                  Joined military convoy MKS42 and took passage from Alexandria to UK

                                as part of escort.


September             Detached from MKS42 on arrival in UK and joined 1st Minesweeping Squadron

                                for minesweeping operations in English Channel.

                                (Note: Flotilla also comprised HM Minesweepers HARRIER, HALCYON,

                                SPEEDWELL, GLEANER, HAZARD, JASON and SEAGULL.

                                HMS BRITOMART and HMS HUSSAR had been tragically lost

                                on 27th August when attacked by RAF aircraft. See FRIEND OR

                                FOE by P Kemp.)


October                  Deployed off Belgian and French coasts.

                                Nominated for repair and took passage to Chatham.

                                Taken in hand by HM Dockyard, Chatham for refit.


November              Under repair at Lowestoft

to December          On completion resumed operational service with Flotilla and deployed for

                                minesweeping and convoy defence in Nore Command.


1 9 4 5


January                  Deployed with Flotilla for minesweeping in North Sea to ensure safe passage of

to March                                to ports in re-occupied Europe and North Sea.

                                (Note: During this period extensive minelaying was being carried out by

                                aircraft, submersibles and coastal warships, mainly to disrupt military

                                convoys to French and Belgian ports.)


April                       Nominated for post war deployment as a Survey Vessel.

                                On release from operations to be Paid-off and de-stored prior to conversion.


S u m m a r y    o f    P o s t    W a r    S e r v i c e


May                        Released from Flotilla and Paid-off at Chatham. De-stored

                15th        Taken in hand for conversion to Survey Vessel by HM Dockyard, Chatham.


June                        Under conversion

to December


1 9 4 6


January                  Under conversion

to February


March                    Acceptance Trials and re-commissioned

                                Prepared for Survey duties


April                       Work-up for survey deployment.

                3rd          Involved in collision with mv FEALTIE in Woolwich Reach. holed above

                                waterline and subsequently collided with moored barge.

                4th          Taken in hand for repair locally.


May                        Resumed work-up in Home waters


June                        Nominated for survey in Far East and took passage to Singapore.


July                         Deployed for Hydrographic duties based at Singapore on arrival.

to December

1 9 4 7


January                  Far East survey in continuation.

to September



                13th        Sustained damage in collision with mv CELEBES during survey work,

                                Taken in hand for repair.


November              Resumed survey work.

to December


1 9 4 8


January                  On release from duty took passage from Singapore to re-commission.

to March


April                       Paid off and under refit prior to resuming survey duties.

to May


June                        Re-commissioned for service in Homed Waters for Hydrographic deployment

to July                    Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to A310.


August                  Deployed for survey duties in Home waters

to December


1 9 4 9    t o    1 9 5 2


                                Home Waters survey duties in continuation

                                (Note: Based at Lowestoft during this period for North Sea surveys.)

                                Re-commissioned for further Home waters deployment


1 9 5 3


January                  Under repair by HM Dockyard, Chatham

to February


March                    Home Waters survey duty in continuation

to May                   (Note: Carried out surveys of west coast of UK)


June                        To be renamed HMS SHACKLETON

                                Attendance at Coronation Review to be confirmed.


July                         Re-commissioned as HMS SHACKLETON in continuation

                                of Home Waters deployment.


August                  Home waters deployment in continuation

to December


1 9 5 4    t o    1 9 5 7


                                Deployed for surveying duties in western Home waters coastal areas


1 9 5 8


January                  West coast UK deployment in continuation.

to September



                28th        Grounded during survey in Bristol Channel.


November              Resumed survey work in Bristol Channel after replacement of

to December          ASDIC Dome


1 9 5 9


January                  West coast UK survey work in continuation.

to July


August                  Diverted from survey work to carry out search for an RAF VICTOR Bomber

                                aircraft which crashed in the Bristol Channel.

                                (Note: 25 square miles of the area were search and when the wreckage was

                                located the site was combed by 11 trawlers charted by the Government

                                in order to recover parts. Over 70% were found and sent to the Royal

                                Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough for examination.)


September             Resumed survey work in Irish Sea.

to December


1 9 6 0


                                Completion of survey in Irish Sea and Bristol Channel.

                                Nominated for refit prior to reduction to Reserve Status.

                                (Note: New Survey Ships had been built with latest electronic

                                equipment designed for Hydrographic work.)


1 9 6 1


January                  Under refit by HM Dockyard, Devonport,

To August


September             Carried out post refit trials prior to reduction to Reserve.

to October


November              Completed de-storing and removal of special equipment.

                9th          Accepted into Reserve Fleet and laid-up at Devonport.


F i n a l   P h a s e


HMS SHACKLETON laid-up at Devonport until placed on the Disposal List in 1965. The ship was sold to BISCO on 3rd November 1965 for breaking-up at Troon by the West of Scotland Shipbreaking Co. Ltd.  On 20th November that year she arrived in tow at the breakers yard to terminate her 28 years of naval service as a minesweeper during WW2  and as Survey Ship in peace-time.





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