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HMS Gladiolus (K34)

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History
United Kingdom
NameHMS Gladiolus
Ordered25 July 1939
BuilderSmiths Dock Company, River Tees
Laid down19 October 1939
Launched24 January 1940
Commissioned6 April 1940
IdentificationPennant number:K34
FateSunk off Iceland on 16 October 1941
General characteristics
Class and typeFlower-class corvette
Displacement925 long tons (940 t)
Length205 ft (62 m)
Beam33 ft (10 m)
Draught11.5 ft (3.5 m)
Propulsion
  • Two fire tube boilers
  • one 4-cycle triple-expansion steam engine
Speed16 kn (30 km/h) at 2,750 hp (2,050 kW)
Range3,500 nmi (6,500 km) at 12 kn (22 km/h)
Complement85 men
Armament

HMS Gladiolus was a Flower-class corvette of the Royal Navy, the first ship of her class.[1]

She was laid down at Smiths Dock Company on the River Tees on 19 October 1939, launched on 24 January 1940, and commissioned on 6 April 1940.[1][2] Gladiolus was active in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II and spent most of her service career on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. She was lost in action on 16 October 1941.

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Flower-class corvette

Flower-class corvette

The Flower-class corvette was a British class of 294 corvettes used during World War II by the Allied navies particularly as anti-submarine convoy escorts in the Battle of the Atlantic. Royal Navy ships of this class were named after flowers.

Corvette

Corvette

A corvette is a small warship. It is traditionally the smallest class of vessel considered to be a proper warship. The warship class above the corvette is that of the frigate, while the class below was historically that of the sloop-of-war.

Royal Navy

Royal Navy

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is consequently known as the Senior Service.

Lead ship

Lead ship

The lead ship, name ship, or class leader is the first of a series or class of ships all constructed according to the same general design. The term is applicable to naval ships and large civilian vessels.

Keel laying

Keel laying

Laying the keel or laying down is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. It is often marked with a ceremony attended by dignitaries from the shipbuilding company and the ultimate owners of the ship.

River Tees

River Tees

The River Tees, in Northern England, rises on the eastern slope of Cross Fell in the North Pennines and flows eastwards for 85 miles (137 km) to reach the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar near Middlesbrough. The modern day history of the river has been tied with the industries on Teesside in its lower reaches, where it has provided the means of import and export of goods to and from the North East England. The need for water further downstream also meant that reservoirs were built in the extreme upper reaches, such as Cow Green.

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical process with ceremonies which have been observed as public celebration and a solemn blessing, usually but not always, in association with the launch itself.

Ship commissioning

Ship commissioning

Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to placing a warship in active duty with its country's military forces. The ceremonies involved are often rooted in centuries-old naval tradition.

Battle of the Atlantic

Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, ran from 1939 to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, covering a major part of the naval history of World War II. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. The campaign peaked from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943.

World War II

World War II

World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries, including all of the great powers, fought as part of two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. Many participants threw their economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind this total war, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. Aircraft played a major role, enabling the strategic bombing of population centres and the delivery of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war.

Convoy

Convoy

A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support and can help maintain cohesion within a unit. It may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.

Service history

After commissioning and working up, Gladiolus was assigned to the Western Approaches Escort Force. In her 18 months of service she escorted over 40 convoys, of which over a dozen were attacked; Gladiolus was involved in four major convoy battles, and participated destroying three U-boats.

She was engaged in all the duties performed by corvettes; escorting convoys, searching for and attacking U-boats which attacked ships in convoy, and rescuing survivors.

On 28 June 1940 she picked up 35 survivors from SS Llanarth, that had been torpedoed and sunk by Fritz-Julius Lemp's U-30.[3]

Gladiolus was involved in the sinking of the Type I U-boat U-26 on 1 July 1940.[1] This was the first U-boat kill by a corvette.[4] U-26 had been heavily damaged by eight depth charges from Gladiolus, as well as bombs from a Short Sunderland aircraft, and subsequently scuttled herself.[3]

As one of the early Flowers Gladiolus suffered from the drawbacks of her type; a short forecastle, merchant type bridge, and poor habitability. In October 1940 she went into dock for remedial work and was re-fitted with a longer foc’s’le to improve her habitability. This necessitated ballasting, to avoid pitch problems, and a tilt test, to check stability.[1] These were satisfactory, and she returned to action in January 1941, assigned to one of the new escort groups, 2 EG, led by HMS Douglas.

In April 1941 Gladiolus involved in the battle for HX 121. On 28 April Gladiolus was sent with the destroyers HMS Roxborough and Leamington to re-inforce HX 121 which was under attack. During the onslaught Gladiolus and the destroyers gained contact and made a series of attacks; it was subsequently shown this was on U-96, which escaped. Douglas also gained a contact and made an attack, but saw no result. On 29 April Gladiolus rescued survivors from Beacon Grange which had been torpedoed by U-552. Later that day she sighted a U-boat on the surface and attacked, being rewarded with a gush of air bubbles and wreckage. Gladiolus was credited with destroying U-65, but post-war re-evaluation found no U-boat attacked that day, and attributed U-65's destruction to the attack by Douglas the previous day.[5]

In June 1941 HX 133 came under attack; Gladiolus was detached from escorting OB 335 to join as reinforcement. On 24/25 June, after midnight, she sighted U-71, and attacked. She attempted to ram, but slowed to avoid major damage, and U-71 dived away. Gladiolus then launched five attacks, using 30 depth charges altogether, and was joined by HMS Nasturtium, which launched another six. U-71 was severely damaged, and surfaced to try to escape on the surface; Gladiolus and Nasturtium opened fire, scoring hits on U-71's conning tower. Gladiolus claimed a kill for this, and was credited with sinking U-71, but the boat escaped to base.[6] On 26/27 June in early hours, U-556 attacked the convoy, and was sighted by Nasturtium. She attacked and was joined by Celandine and Gladiolus. Altogether the three corvettes launched 50 depth charges; U-556 was forced to the surface as Gladiolus dropped a further three depth charges; the corvettes then opened fire at point-blank range, hitting U-556's conning tower. Her captain, Wohlfarth and the crew abandoned ship, and the boat sank before she could be secured.[7][8]

In September 1941 Gladiolus was involved in the battle for SC 42. Under major attack, SC 42 lost 15 ships in two days, for the destruction of one U-boat. Numerous escorts were drafted in as reinforcement; on 11 September Gladiolus arrived with EG 2, led by Douglas. SC 42 was stalked for a further five days, losing two more ships, though the destroyers of EG 2 were able to sink another U-boat. This was, after SC 7, the worst convoy loss in the North Atlantic during the war.

Following this, Gladiolus was reassigned to the Newfoundland Local Escort Group, led by HMCS Columbia. In October 1941 she was part of the escort for SC 48, during which battle Gladiolus was lost.

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Fritz-Julius Lemp

Fritz-Julius Lemp

Fritz-Julius Lemp was a captain in the Kriegsmarine during World War II and commander of U-28, U-30 and U-110.

German submarine U-30 (1936)

German submarine U-30 (1936)

German submarine U-30 was a Type VIIA U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that served during World War II. She was ordered in April 1935 in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, which prevented the construction and commissioning of any U-boats for the German navy, and as part of the German naval rearmament program known as Plan Z. She sank the liner SS Athenia (1922) on 3 September 1939, under the command of Fritz-Julius Lemp. She was retired from front-line service in September 1940 after undertaking eight war patrols, having sunk 17 vessels and damaging two others. U-30 then served in a training role until the end of the war when she was scuttled. She was later raised and broken up for scrap in 1948.

German submarine U-26 (1936)

German submarine U-26 (1936)

German submarine U-26 was one of the two Type IA ocean-going U-boats produced by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. Constructed in Bremen, U-26 was commissioned in May 1936. She experienced a short, but successful combat career, sinking eleven ships.

Depth charge

Depth charge

A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) weapon. It is intended to destroy a submarine by being dropped into the water nearby and detonating, subjecting the target to a powerful and destructive hydraulic shock. Most depth charges use high explosive charges and a fuze set to detonate the charge, typically at a specific depth. Depth charges can be dropped by ships, patrol aircraft, and helicopters.

Forecastle

Forecastle

The forecastle is the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the foremast, or, historically, the forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters. Related to the latter meaning is the phrase "before the mast" which denotes anything related to ordinary sailors, as opposed to a ship's officers.

Bridge (nautical)

Bridge (nautical)

The bridge, also known as the pilothouse or wheelhouse, is a room or platform of a ship from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is under way, the bridge is manned by an officer of the watch aided usually by an able seaman acting as a lookout. During critical maneuvers the captain will be on the bridge, often supported by an officer of the watch, an able seaman on the wheel and sometimes a pilot, if required.

HMS Douglas

HMS Douglas

HMS Douglas was an Admiralty type flotilla leader of the British Royal Navy. Built by Cammell Laird, Douglas commissioned in 1918, just before the end of the First World War. During the Second World War, Douglas served with Force H out of Gibraltar and as a convoy escort. She was sold for scrap in March 1945.

Destroyer

Destroyer

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, manoeuvrable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy, or battle group and defend them against powerful short-range attackers. They were originally developed in 1885 by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.

German submarine U-96 (1940)

German submarine U-96 (1940)

German submarine U-96 was a Type VIIC U-boat of the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during World War II. It was made famous after the war in Lothar-Günther Buchheim's 1973 bestselling novel Das Boot and the 1981 Oscar-nominated film adaptation of the same name, both based on his experience on the submarine as a war correspondent in 1941.

German submarine U-552

German submarine U-552

German submarine U-552 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during World War II. She was laid down on 1 December 1939 at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg as yard number 528, launched on 14 September 1940, and went into service on 4 December 1940. U-552 was nicknamed the Roter Teufel after her mascot of a grinning devil, which was painted on the conning tower. She was one of the more successful of her class, operating for over three years of continual service and sinking or damaging 35 Allied ships with 164,276 GRT and 1,190 tons sunk and 26,910 GRT damaged. She was a member of 21 wolf packs.

German submarine U-71 (1940)

German submarine U-71 (1940)

German submarine U-71 was a type VII C submarine of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during the Second World War.

Conning tower

Conning tower

A conning tower is a raised platform on a ship or submarine, often armoured, from which an officer in charge can conn the vessel, controlling movements of the ship by giving orders to those responsible for the ship's engine, rudder, lines, and ground tackle. It is usually located as high on the ship as practical, to give the conning team good visibility of the entirety of the ship, ocean conditions, and other vessels.

Fate

Gladiolus was lost in October 1941 whilst escorting SC 48. At the time, she was under the command of Lieutenant Commander H. M. C. Sanders.

British sources record Gladiolus separated from SC 48 on the night of 15/16 October. At 2130 Empire Heron was hit, and Gladiolus was detached to chase down the attacker and search for survivors. At 2200 she signalled she had picked up one man, and was continuing to search.[9] This was her last contact; nothing more is known of her, and there were no survivors from either vessel.[9] It was believed that she had been sunk while picking up survivors[10] or been lost in a marine accident.

However German sources, assuming Gladiolus was on station, credited her loss to possible hits reported by U-558 or U-432 during the melee on the night of 16/17 October:[11] Another source has argued definitively for a stray torpedo from U-553 at 00.07.[12] However historian Bernard Edwards is clear that Gladiolus was lost without rejoining the convoy; while acknowledging the claim for a loss in the early hours of the 17th, he states it is more likely that she went down before that.[9]

In an interview with the BBC,[1] former crew member Dick Turner speculated Gladiolus was unstable due to her refit, and had overturned during a violent manoeuvre.

In the absence of any conclusive explanation, the actual cause of her loss is unknown.

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Source: "HMS Gladiolus (K34)", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, December 23rd), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Gladiolus_(K34).

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Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e Paul Bevand (28 January 2006). "Dick Turner's Wartime memories - Part 2: Wartime service after leaving H.M.S. Hood". BBC. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  2. ^ Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 141.
  3. ^ a b "HMS Gladiolus (K 34)". uboat.net. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  4. ^ Humble. Fraser of North Cape. p. 141.
  5. ^ Blair p. 273
  6. ^ Blair p. 311
  7. ^ Blair p. 312
  8. ^ Kemp p. 70
  9. ^ a b c Edwards p. 55
  10. ^ Coy. The Echo of a Fighting Flower. p. 111.
  11. ^ Blair p.370
  12. ^ "U-boat attacks on the convoy SC-48 and the mysterious loss of HMS GLADIOLUS during the night of 16/17 October 1941". uboat.net. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
References
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