Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Official Summary of Service

Summary of Service 1939-46

HMS FORESTER was a destroyer of the "FEARLESS" Class, built and engined by J S White & Cc Ltd, Cowes, Isle of Wight. Laid down on 15 May 1933, she was launched on 28 June 1934 and completed on 19 April 1935. Just before the outbreak of World War II, HMS FORESTER was serving as a unit of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the Home Fleet and based at Portsmouth. Early in September 1939 the Flotilla joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow to operate from there. The FORESTER was soon in action - on 20 September, together with HMS FORTUNE, she attacked a submarine contact just West of the Hebrides. The attack was successful, U27 being sunk by gunfire and depth charge. Again, on 10 December, a firm contact was made off the coast of Scotland but on this occasion the attack was without success.

On 11 February 1940, HMS FORESTER was ordered to the assistance of the SS IMPERIAL TRANSPORT, a tanker which had been torpedoed about 150 miles West of the Butt of Lewis. The bows of the ship h-ad been blown off by the torpedo explosion and the damaged vessel was drifting rapidly out into the Atlantic. Together with the tug BUCCANEER, lines were passed to the tanker and she was brought safely to port. The FORESTER had transferred 10 men to the tanker to assist with the towing operations and these had to rejoin the ship later as they could not be taken back aboard before the FORESTER returned to her base at Scapa. HMS FORESTER’s next duty was to escort the SS ORION and SS DUCHESS OF BEDFORD safely across the Atlantic with an RCAF continent to the UK. During March 1940 attacks were made on two more submarine contacts but without any success.

In April 1940 German Forces invaded Norway. Narvik, an ice-free port had been used for shipments of iron ore from Sweden to Germany. An expedition was planned to occupy the port to deny its use to the Germans. Meanwhile a force of 10 German destroyers had gone to the port carrying troops to occupy it. A force of British destroyers attacked them in the fiords leading to the port and put four out of action (the first Battle of Narvik). HMS WARSPITE sailed from Scapa with an escort of destroyers (which included the FORESTER) and on 13 April attacked the German destroyers and bombarded the troops ashore. All 6 German destroyers were sunk (the second Battle of Narvik). The port was not held for long and the naval units returned to Scapa.

On 26 June 194o, HMS FORESTER left Scapa to join Force H based on Gibraltar. On her new Station she was again quickly in action against submarines, carrying out two attacks on 11 and 12 July, but without success. In September the FORESTER took part in Operation MENACE - the unsuccessful attempt to install Free French Forces in control of Dakar, the important West African Naval Base in Senegal. Then, in November 1940 HMS FORESTER took part with Force H in Operation COLLAR - the passage of a convoy through the Mediterranean. The convoy was passed through safely but had tempted out the Italian Fleet. This led to the engagement off Cape Spartivento when the Italian Fleet was repulsed without being able to attack the convoy.

This was followed by a period of patrols and local escorting of convoys until May 1941 when HMS FORESTER took part in Operation TIGER - the successful passage of convoy through the Mediterranean, carrying tanks to the Army of the Nile. One ship only was lost by striking a mine.

Almost immediately followed 0peration SPLICE - the reinforcement of fighter aircraft in Malta. The aircraft carriers HMS FURIOUS and HMS ARK ROYAL, escorted by Force H, carried Hurricane aircraft within flying range of Malta when they were flown off. 47 out of the 48 despatched reached their destination. On 15 June came a similar operation (TRACER) when another 47 Hurricanes were flown off aircraft carriers escorted by Force H. While escorting HMS VICTORIOUS back from this operation a submarine contact was made West of Gibraltar. Together with other destroyers from Force H, HMS FORESTER attacked and U138 was sunk, with a few prisoners being captured.

In July came Operation SUBSTANCE - the passage of a convoy of store-ships and troops through to Malta. Force H was to accompany the convoy through to the Sicilian Narrows where it would turn back while Force X accompanied the convoy on to Malta. On 23 July Force H came under attack from Italian bombers and torpedo-carrying aircraft. HMS FEARLESS, ahead of the screen for the main force, was hit by a torpedo and too badly damaged to continue. HMS FORESTER took the survivors aboard and then had the melancholy duty of sinking the helpless FEARLESS by torpedo.

On 30 July HMS FORESTER took part in 0peration STYLE, the passage of a fast convoy carrying stores and personnel to Malta whilst covered by Force H. Then, on 21 August, the FORESTER again left Gibraltar with Force H to carry out bombardments along the coast of Sardinia.

In September came Operations STATUS and STATUS II when another 49 Hurricanes were flown off to Malta from aircraft carriers protected by Force H. On 24 September, HMS FORESTER and Force H again covered a convoy of 9 transports to Malta (Operation HALBERD). Once again the ships got through with their vital supplies. Then came a short period of providing local convov protection until, in October, came 0peration CALLBOY, when Albacore torpedo bombers were flown to Malta. Force H arrived back at Gibraltar from this operation on 19 October 1941. Two days later HMS FORESTER received return to the UK, arriving at Greenock on 26 October.

On arrival HMS FORESTER was attached temporarily to the llth Escort Group based on the Clyde. After one month of anti-submarine patrols and convoy escorting, she was re-allocated to the Home Fleet at Scapa.

In April 1942 HMS FORESTER was part of the distant cover for Arctic Convoy PQ 14 from Iceland to North Russia. Only 8 vessels attempted the passage, 7 arriving at the Kola Inlet on 19 April, the rest of the ships being forced to return to Iceland by ice and bad weather. Then the FORESTER went to the Kola Inlet to be a unit of the strong close escort for return convoy QP 11. On 28 April the convoy started with HMS EDINBURGH on a zig-zag course about 15 miles ahead. On 30 April the EDINBURGH was struck by two torpedoes, her stern being blown off and her steering wrecked, although she was still able to steam slowly. The EDINBURGH began to make her way back to Murmansk accompanied by HMS FORESTER, HMS FORESIGHT and two Russian destroyers. They were met by some minesweepers to give antisubmarine cover. The FORFSTER made attempts to tow the crippled ship but these were unsuccessful. In the meantime, 3 German destroyers which had made a number of attempts to attack the convoy, all foiled by the escort, had started in pursuit of the damaged cruiser. In the engagement which followed when they had caught up, HMS FORESTER was hit three times - in No 1 boiler room, on "B" gun and on "X” gun. The ship was brought to a standstill and on fire. Nevertheless, the FORESTER continued to fight with her remaining gun. During the action, the EDINBURGH had been brought to a stop by another torpedo hit, but she also continued to engage the enemy. HMS FORESIGHT tried to screen the FORESTER and received a hit which brought her to a stop. Shortly afterwards the FORESTER, which had managed to get under way again, was able to repay her debt to the FORIGHT by screening her. The German destroyers did not press home their advantage - one had been hit and was in a sinking condition. Her companions took off the survivors and made off. The survivors of the EDINBURGH were taken off by the minesweepers which had been endeavouring to screen her. The EDINBURGH was then sunk by the FORESIGHT which had effected temporary repairs and the damaged ships set course for the Kola Inlet. HMS FORESTER lost her Commanding Officer and 12 ratings killed, with another 9 ratings injured.

Temporary repairs were made and on the evening of 13 May HMS FORESTER once again started off for Iceland. This time it was in company with the cruiser HMS TRINIDAD which had been damaged while escorting PQ 13 and had been effecting temporary repairs at Murmansk. Also with these two ships were HMSs SOMALI, FORESIGHT and MATCHLESS. On 14 May the ships came under attack from German aircraft, all the ships experiencing near misses. Then the TRINIDAD was hit and set on fire. It soon became obvious that the fire was out of control and the ship would have to be abandoned. The passengers and injured were transferred to HMS FORESTER and the rest of the crew were taken aboard the other destroyers before the blazing ship was torpedoed to sink her. The remaining ships met up with a covering. force near Bear Island on 15 May and although all the ships came under air attack, no further losses occurred. HMS FORESTER arrived at Scapa on 18 May to land her injured passengers before going to the Tyne where she arrived on 20 May for repairs.

The repairs were finished early in October 1942 and HMS FORESTER rejoined the Home Fleet at Scapa. She was soon at sea again with the covering force for CP 15 in November and again for JW 51B in December. On 8 January 1943, the FORESTER left Scapa en route for the Kola Inlet to provide additional escort for return convoy RA 52, arriving there on 14 January. The convoy sailed on 29 January and arrived safely at Loch Ewe on 8 February. Then again at the end of February and beginning of March, the FORESTER was at sea with the heavy cover for convoys JW 53 and RA 53.

In the meantime, losses on the Atlantic Ocean convoy routes had been mounting. After a refit which commenced in April 1943 and completed at the end of June, HMS FORESTER was transferred to the Western Approaches Command as a unit of Escort Group C1, based on Londonderry. Now followed a period of giving support to the hard-pressed escorts of the ocean convoys. At the end of 1943 the Group became Close Escort Group C1 (Canadian mid-ocean) and mainly composed of RCN Ships. On 10 March 1944, in company with HMCSs ST LAURENT, OWEN SOUND and SWANSEA, the FORESTER attacked a submarine contact with success, U845 being sunk and prisoners taken.

As D-day drew near for the invasion of Europe, escorts on the North Atlantic convoy routes were reduced to the minimum. HMS FORESTER was one of the ships withdrawn and on 29 May 1944 she arrived at Sheerness. On D-day the FORESTER was on escort duty with personnel convoy LTP 1 from the Thames carrying follow-up troops for the assault. Afterwards the FORESTER was to remain at Portsmouth, providing escort for other convoys and carrying out protective, patrols in the Channel. In pursuance of these duties, she carried out 3 attacks on 2 July on a U-boat off Newhaven, but without success. Then, on 23 July, in company with HMS STAYNER, the FORESTER carried out attacks on a formation of 6 R-boats off Cap d'Antifer, destroyng 3 and damaging the rest, which retired towards the French coast. FORESTER pursued them and came under fire from a shore battery, sustaining one hit and several caualties.

On 20 August, off Beachy Head, together with HMSs WENSLEYDALE and VIDETTE, successful attacks were made on an underwater contact with depth charges and hedgehog projectiles. U413 was sunk with all hands except one who was made prisoner.

In September 1944 HMS FORESTER left Portsmouth for Londonderry where she was to join the 14th Escort Group and carry out patrols in support of convoy movements. On 1 December, the FORESTER arrived at Liverpool where she underwent repairs which were not completed until the following May. Then, on 24 June 1945, allocated temporarily to the Rosyth Command, she left Methil for Kristiansand, returning from there on 27 June to join the Rosyth Escort Force. In August the FORESTER left Rosyth for Dartmouth where she entered the Reserve Fleet.

In 1947 HMS FORESTER, worn out and leaking badly as a result of having steamed nearly half a million miles in heavy seas during her wartime service, was handed over to the British Iron and Steel Corporation at Rosyth for scrapping.

Battle Honours awarded are:

CHINA 1856-60
ATLANTIC 1939-44
ARCTIC 1942-43

Naval Historical Branch
October 1973

As we shall see, there are some inaccuracies and significant omissions in this account.

FORESTER's scorecard at war's end included four U-boats, two destroyers and three 'R' boats.


  1. My dad, Steve Canning also served on Forester from 1943-1945 as signalman at the age of 18-20 he has a few photos in an album from that time taken by him on a box brownie

  2. Hi nick,I think my grandad may have served with him,he was a telegraphist called Roy Meggitt is there any way to view those photos? Regards