HMS Havock and Laghouat

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by chrisleach78, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. chrisleach78

    chrisleach78 Member

    Im researching Michael Alastair Mitchell Bruce who served on HMS Havock at the battle of Narvik and later died when HMS Somali was sunk as part of an Arctic convoy. Im trying to piece together what happened to him between these two events. Was he a member of the Havock crew who were interned at Laghouat by the Vichy French?
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Hi TD, this is part of completing information for Winchester High School near Bracknell.
    There is another thread for the Roll of Honour.

    Chris has probably found this (from Wiki so may need revision)
    HMS Havock was an H-class destroyer built for the British Royal Navy in the mid-1930s. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, the ship enforced the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. During the first few months of the Second World War, Havock searched for German commerce raiders in the Atlantic Ocean and participated in the First Battle of Narvik during the Norwegian Campaign of April–June 1940 before she was transferred back to the Mediterranean Fleet in May where she escorted a number of convoys to Malta. The ship took part in the Battle of Cape Spada in July 1940, the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 and the evacuation of Greece in April 1941. She was damaged during the Battle of Crete the following month, but participated in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign in June.
    Havock began escorting supply convoys in June to Tobruk, Libya until the ship was damaged in October. She was repaired in time to escort a convoy to Malta during the First Battle of Sirte in December and was badly damaged by the Italian battleship "Littorio" losing 8 men killed whilst protecting another convoy during the Second Battle of Sirte in March 1942. Repairs were attempted in Malta, but the ship was further damaged there in an air raid in early April. The Admiralty decided that further attempts to repair her at Malta were pointless and ordered her to Gibraltar for permanent repairs. On 6 April, while on passage to Gibraltar, Havock ran aground near Cape Bon, Tunisia, and her crew was interned by the Vichy French at Laghouat in the Sahara. Location more precisely given is Kelibia, Tunisia.

    It sounds as if she had a one vessel War, almost Boys Own....

    Havock was assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet upon commissioning. She patrolled Spanish waters during the Spanish Civil War enforcing the policies of the Non-Intervention Committee. On the night of 31 August/1 September 1937, she was unsuccessfully attacked by the Italian submarine Iride with torpedoes, between the Gulf of Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The ship was refitted in Gibraltar between 19 October and 13 November and required repairs between 16 April and 6 May 1938 after hitting the stone side of a quay. Havock was given a brief refit at Sheerness Dockyard between 15 and 26 August 1939 before returning to Gibraltar.
    The ship sailed to Freetown, Sierra Leone on 30 August and arrived on 4 September to search for German commerce raiders. She was transferred back to the UK in November for a more thorough refit at Sheerness between 18 December and 23 March 1940. In the meantime, the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla had been assigned to the Home Fleet and Havock rejoined them when her refit was finished. On 6 April Havock and the rest of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla escorted the four destroyer minelayers of the 20th Destroyer Flotilla as they sailed to implement Operation Wilfred, an operation to lay mines in the Vestfjord to prevent the transport of Swedish iron ore from Narvik to Germany. The mines were laid on the early morning of 8 April, before the Germans began their invasion, and the destroyers joined the battlecruiser HMS Renown and her escorts.
    During the First Battle of Narvik on 10 April 1940, Havock and four other H-class ships of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla attacked the German destroyers that had transported German troops to occupy Narvik in northern Norway the previous day. The flotilla leader Hardy led four of her half-sisters down Ofotfjord in a surprise dawn attack on Narvik harbour during a blinding snowstorm. Hotspur and Hostile were initially left at the entrance, but Havock was third into the harbour and fired five of her torpedoes into the mass of shipping. One torpedo hit Z22 Anton Schmitt in the stern. In addition, the ship hit Z18 Hans Lüdemann twice with 4.7-inch shells. As the British ships were withdrawing, they encountered five German destroyers at close range. Two of the German ships crossed the T of the British ships and quickly set Hardy on fire and forced her to run aground. Havock was next in line and fired torpedoes at the German destroyers, but they all missed. She was hit in return, but not significantly damaged. In the confusion and limited visibility, Havock pulled out of the line to find out what happened to Hardy and to protect the rear of the British formation from the other three German destroyers in pursuit, but then had to then to turn again to allow her rear guns to fire when her forward guns failed. Havock and Hostile turned back to protect their badly damaged sister, Hotspur, and all three continued to withdraw down the Ofotfjord. En route, they encountered the German supply ship Rauenfels, loaded with artillery and ammunition, whose crew ran her aground and abandoned ship after Hostile fired at the ship. A boarding party from Havock found the ship on fire and she blew up after the ship fired two shells into her. The ship remained in Norwegian waters until May, when she escorted the light cruiser HMS Birmingham on an unsuccessful sweep of the North Sea looking for German ships, early in the month.
    Havock was assigned to the Nore Command shortly afterwards and bombarded German troops occupying Waalhaven Airfield on 10 May together with her sister Hyperion. She rescued survivors from the sunken ferry Prinses Juliana off the Dutch coast and returned them to the Hook of Holland where she recovered a number of British demolition parties. On 16 May, the ship ordered to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet at Malta and was assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla. During the Battle of Cape Spada on 19 July, the ship escorted the Australian light cruiser Sydney and rescued some of the 525 survivors from the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni together with the other escorting destroyers. Her boiler room was flooded after an attack by Italian aircraft after this battle and she was repaired at Suez from 29 July to 15 September. Havock and her sister Hasty surprised the Italian submarine Berillo on the surface on 2 October off the coast of Egypt and forced her to scuttle herself. The destroyers rescued 47 survivors between them.
    Havock was engaged on escort duties for the next six months, including escorting the carrier HMS Illustrious during the Battle of Taranto on the night of 11/12 November, aside from a refit in Malta from 22 December to 20 February 1941. During the Battle of Cape Matapan, she torpedoed and sank the Italian destroyer Alfieri on 28 March. The ship evacuated Commonwealth troops from Greece at the end of April and was one of three destroyers escorting the light cruiser Ajax when they bombarded Benghazi on the night of 7/8 May. Havock was damaged by dive bombers on 23 May, killing 15 and wounding 10 men, after a patrol off Heraklion, Crete. She was under repair at Alexandria until 16 June. The ship bombarded Vichy French positions in Lebanon in early July and then began escorting ships to Tobruk until October when her propeller shafts and propellers were damaged. Havock was under repair from 21 October to 4 December at Alexandria.
    In mid-December, the ship escorted the supply ship Breconshire to Malta during the brief engagement known as First Battle of Sirte and then joined Force K in an attempt to intercept an Italian convoy to Tripoli, Libya. On the night of 18/19 December, the reinforced Force K ran over an Italian minefield that sank one cruiser and damaged two others. Havock escorted the badly damaged light cruiser Aurora back to Malta. Havock was one of four destroyers that escorted Breconshire back to Alexandria in early January 1942. Whilst escorting another convoy to Malta, the ship was diverted to escort the damaged freighter Thermoplylae from Benghazi back to Alexandria, but the latter was attacked and sunk by Axis aircraft en route on 19 January. Havock rescued some 350 survivors before Thermoplylae sank. The ship was transferred to the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla in February and continued to escort convoys to Malta. On 22 March 1942, a splinter from a near miss by the Italian battleship Littorio perforated one of her boilers during the Second Battle of Sirte, and Havock was forced to make for Malta for repairs. Whilst in dock, the ship had become a major target for Axis aircraft and sustained some damage on 3 April, so she was ordered to Gibraltar before her repairs were complete. Havock ran aground off Kelibia, Tunisia, in the Strait of Sicily on 6 April and was wrecked. One crewman was killed in the incident. Her crew and passengers were interned by the Vichy French at Laghouat in the Sahara, but were released in November as a result of Operation Torch.

    Obviously the Vichy French may have been pretty upset after Oran, but once the Vichy regime fell, then the RN crew were presumably released to continue in other RN vessels.

    Curiously it appears that the wreck was later torpedoed by the Italian submarine "Aradam". I'd guess that the ship was pretty much a floating wreck after leaving Malta.

    Hope that is of some help, Chris.
  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Kevin
    Thanks for that, my intention was to provide some leads for chris and his pupils as it is presumably a research project for the school.

  5. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

    Hi Chris Leach78. I have just published my book 'Destroyer at War' (Pen & Sword Books) the history of HMS Havock with inputs from 30+ of her crew. Michael Bruce is mentioned in her early years.
    David Goodey
  6. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

    No, he wasn't in Laghouat.
  7. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

  8. J&BC

    J&BC New Member

    We have your book. Do you have any information on Ronald Clark?
    He was aboard HMS Havock and intered in Laghouat.
  9. David Goodey

    David Goodey Member

    Hi J&BC. Only just seen your post. Apart from his service number JX208538 and the fact that he was interned after the wrecking of the ship on April 6, 1942 I have nothing else. Hope you enjoyed the book.

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