Remembering Today 31/12/42 Lieut-Comm:A.H.T.Johns,Royal Navy H.M.S. Achates Awards: D S O

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by CL1, Dec 31, 2016.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery


    On 31 December 1942 HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Arthur Henry Tyndall Johns, DSO, RN) was escorting convoy JW-51B in the Barents Sea with 2 light cruisers and 4 O-class destroyers, when the convoy came under attack of a German force comprising heavy cruisers Lützow, Admiral Hipper and 6 Z-class destroyers in position 74N, 28E.

    In the prevailing twilight of those latitudes the fighting was rather confused, Achates was hit by unidentified opponents between 0930-1130 hrs, then, from 1130, Admiral Hipper landed several salvoes on her. The superstructure and bridge were wrecked, she lost steam and received several more hits, sinking in three minutes taking 113 men to the bottom, about 135 nautical miles east-south-east of Bear Island in position 73º18'N, 30º06'E. 80 survivors were picked up from the freezing water.
    Notable events involving Achates (i) include:

    21 May 1941
    The British battlecruiser Hood (Capt. R. Kerr, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and the battleship Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) were ordered to proceed to Hvalfjord, Iceland as the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were spotted by air reconnaissance at Bergen, Norway. As there were indications that these two were going to 'set sail' for a raid on the ocean trade routes.

    The two British capital ships were escorted by the destroyers HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN), HMS Anthony(Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. C.H.deB. Newby, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSO, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN).

    8 Jun 1941
    The British merchant Kingston Hill is torpedoed and sunk southwest of the Cape Verde Islands in position 09°35'N, 29°40'W by German U-boat U-38. HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) later picks up 16 survivors.

    25 Jul 1941
    While taking position in the screen of the carriers preparing to launch an air strike against Kirkenes/Petsamo, HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) was mined and severely damaged off the Seidisfjord, Iceland in position 64°11'N, 13°00'W. Achates was under repair until mid-March 1942.

    8 Nov 1942
    Deployed off Oran for operation "Torch". With HMS Westcott detected, attacked and sank the Vichy French submarine Argonaute, which had sortied to contest the Allied landings in the area.

    Lt.Cdr. Arthur Henry Tyndall Johns , DSO of the Royal Navy (RN) - Allied Warship Commanders of WWII -
  4. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Details of the above loss....

    31 December 1942

    In an action off North Cape during the escort of a Russian bound convoy the destroyer HMS Achates was sunk by gunfire from the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper
    CL1 likes this.
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Nothing devastating to add except his probate is interesting - well at least I thought it was, don't see many worded like this one

    Name: Arthur Henry Tyndall Johns
    Death Date: 31 Dec 1942
    Death Place: Antrim, Ireland
    Probate Date: 3 Feb 1945
    Registry: Belfast

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  6. Jimbly440

    Jimbly440 New Member

    Hi, I am his great nephew. The wording is interesting, but not scandalous, as Mary Darby Gregg was his sister! :)

    I was born a lot later, but I understand Arthur's death was very heavily felt in the family, especially my grandmother, who had a missing husband at the time. Not sure she ever got over it.

    Kind regards

    CL1 likes this.
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi James

    Welcome to the forum

    Glad you came along and cleared that up - always good to have a family member on the job.

    Anything else to add?

  8. Gradelymon

    Gradelymon New Member


    8 Jun 1941
    The British merchant Kingston Hill is torpedoed and sunk southwest of the Cape Verde Islands in position 09°35'N, 29°40'W by German U-boat U-38. HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) later picks up 16 survivors.

    That can't be correct.

    The convoy website indicates that on Kingston Hill’s first voyage (on OB.288 to the USA) she, and another ship Keila, was escorted back to Glasgow by HMS Picotee
    and the Smit Tug, Thames. The convoy was subjected to aerial attack and both ships were severely damaged The OB.288 convoy data do however show the presence of HMS Achates as one of the escort ships.

    Convoy (OG.62) data for the Kingston Hill’s second, and fateful, voyage does not mention HMS Achates at all and a search on indicates that
    Achates was stationed during much of 1941 in the NW Approaches on convoy defence duties. I don’t think that Achates can possibly have picked up 16 survivors
    from the Kingston Hill sinking at all and I wonder if this “rescue” event occurred after the first Kingston Hill voyage when the ship was damaged by aerial attack and
    the Hill’s master died as a result of injuries.
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Seems you could be right - there is no mention here HMS Achates, destroyer of picking up survivors in June or July 1941 which I would expect

    OB 288 was however in Feb 1941 and other convoy duties are shown at the bottom of the link

  10. Gradelymon

    Gradelymon New Member

    Thanks for your prompt response. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might prove the Achates earlier "rescue"? Do RN ships have movement lists like MN ships?
  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  12. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    You're unlikely to find a relevant log book for HMS Achates, those held by the National Archives, as highlighted above by TD, all pre-date 1940. Further explanation RN Ships' logs

    Hugh MacLean and Tricky Dicky like this.
  13. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    From the Movement Card, it looks as if she may have been attacked three times, will check tomorrow
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  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    OK - so the Uboat net web site link for HMS Achates says
    HMS Achates (i) (H 12) of the Royal Navy - British Destroyer of the A class - Allied Warships of WWII -
    8 Jun 1941
    The British merchant Kingston Hill is torpedoed and sunk southwest of the Cape Verde Islands in position 09°35'N, 29°40'W by German U-boat U-38. HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) later picks up 16 survivors.

    Yet the link for the Kingston Hill Crewlist from Kingston Hill (British steam merchant) - Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII - says
    "15 persons found"

    This is then supplemented by the extra details on the link Kingston Hill (British Steam merchant) - Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII - which shows that there was

    12 crew lost
    2 gunners lost

    16 crew HMS Achates

    26 crew
    2 gunners picked up by US tanker Alabama

    So 58 in total does that sound right??

    Gradelymon - I guess it might be worth an ask of the people who run The U-boat Wars 1939-1945 (Kriegsmarine) and 1914-1918 (Kaiserliche Marine) and Allied Warships of WWII - using their contact details, I have previously asked them for clarification, to see where they have gained there information from


    Another useful link (I think) is -

    SS Kingston Hill - Wikipedia

    This site has calculated 62 crew in total
    5)KINGSTON HILL U-38 - J K L - Articles - Sixtant - War II in the South Atlantic
    Sunk 08 Jun 41 by U-38 on pos 09º 35’N 29º 40’W
    14 Dead
    48 Survivors
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
    Hugh MacLean likes this.
  15. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    I am helping Gradlelymon on another forum but as I have just moved house I am not really in a position to help at the moment
    so I will leave it to you guys - anything I can add I will when things get sorted out with my move.
  16. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    I would have thought about 38/42 crew plus DEMs, seems quite a long way from 58 or 62?
    Hugh MacLean likes this.
  17. Gradelymon

    Gradelymon New Member

    Thanks for all your comments. Here is a summary of what I know - and in many cases - can prove. I've benefitted greatly from Hugh's help for this.
    My late uncle was a radio officer on the Kingston Hill and was present on both voyages.
    Voyage 1: in convoy OB.288, in February 1941, destined for North America she was accompanied by HMS Achates amongst others. The convoy was subjected to aerial attack and Kingston Hill with SS Keila were sufficiently damaged that they had to leave the convoy and were towed back to Glasgow with the assistance of HMS Picotee and a tug - Thames. As a result of the attack, the master, Captain McNiven, died. I speculate that HMS Achates picked up 16 crew members - possibly injured - to return them to the UK (Greenock) asap.
    Voyage 2: in convoy OG.62 in June 1941. No mention is made of HMS Achates. Not surprising as the destroyer was stationed in the North Atlantic in May-June 1941. The repaired Kingston Hill sailed to Gibraltar and then left independently scheduled to meet up with a Corvette - Clematis - at Cape Verde islands. This did not happen and so Kingston Hill sailed on its own into a pack of U-boats, one of which, U-38, sank her with two torpedoes. I have a collection of information from the German U-boat archive to confirm the action and its consequences. A war ministry report confirms fourteen dead by swamping. the ship sunk in 15 minutes or so. My uncle was one of the survivors in two lifeboats (strapped together) who were adrift for 14 days in the Atlantic until they were rescued (32 of them) by an American steam tanker - SS Alabaman.
    My uncle told me years ago, before he died, that one survivor started drinking sea-water and ultimately threw himself overboard. The 32 crew survivors were taken to Capetown. I do not know how they were repatriated but my uncle was back in the UK by August 1941.
    I have a copy of the Chief Officer's report (August 1941) which says "The number of crew, including the Master (a Captain Beswick possibly) and 6 Naval Gunners, was 46, of whom 1 was injured, and 14 are missing." He only makes mention of the Alabama (sic) as a rescue ship. The Merchant Navy memorial at Tower Hill lists 16 members of the Kingston Hill; including Captain McNiven (Feb 1941); 14 others (7 June 1941) and one - a gun-layer (undated). I suggest that the last mentioned could be the one who died while adrift. By my calculation the total crew number was 47 (32 + 15). My uncle was quoted in a Liverpool newspaper confirming 32 crew survivors including the Captain.
    My uncle survived the war after a number of otherwise uneventful convoys and I have a copy of the original Kingston Hill crew list and his CRS10 as an imperfect guide to his wartime service. Unfortunately his discharge book has not survived. I await crew lists for the ships on which he sailed from TNA next month.
    It would be helpful to try to confirm the HMS Achates crew "rescue" in February 1941.
    Roy Martin likes this.
  18. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    OK, a couple of things to note. The site is a great resource, unquestionably, but there are mistakes and omissions as in any research and is to be expected in a work of that magnitude and in no way am I undermining the huge effort that they have made.
    The crew list section is not anywhere near to being complete, it's a work in progress. The dead were 12 crew and 2 gunners for the attack which lead to the sinking [verified]. The Chief Officer's report gives 46 souls on board. 46 - 14 = 32 survivors picked up by ALABAMA and landed at Cape Town. Even given the numbers being out by one or two makes it quite clear to me that the 16 rescued by HMS ACHATES is factually incorrect. I would suggest that have taken this information from Alan Tennent's book: "British and Commonwealth Merchant Ship Losses to Axis Submarines 1939-1945", a copy of which I have.
    Of course, for me, as a researcher, I would want to see the last Crew Agreement for KINGSTON HILL so I could cross refer and be happy with any statement of fact.
    David, if you have it, or will get it soon, if you wish send it to me and I will check it out.

    As Timuk states HMS ACHATES logbook no longer survives so we are unable at this stage to confirm where she was operating apart from what we already know which will probably have been gleened from the ADM files at Kew.

    Roy Martin likes this.
  19. Gradelymon

    Gradelymon New Member

    Many thanks Hugh. I'll keep my fingers crossed that TNA will provide me the info. next week, in which case I'll forward a copy FYI.
    Hope that you're settling in the new home. Happy New Year.
    Hugh MacLean likes this.

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