Monday, May 2, 2011

HMS Leith. Grimsby class Sloop.

HMS Leith. As far as I can find, two ships have been named HMS Leith. The first, in service in 1782, was a 20 gun sloop. (unconfirmed).

The second HMS Leith, (seen, left), launched in 1933, was a Grimsby class sloop, and after peaceful service in the New Zealand station, served extensively in many theatres of the second world war.
She was afterwards sold to Denmark in 1949, where she was re-named the Galathea, and eventually scrapped in 1955.

Pre-war, she served with the New Zealand station, in Australia, and China and once took the Queen of Tonga on tour. The outbreak of war in 1939 brought HMS Leith back from Singapore to home shores. She protected local convoys between Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Liverpool, England, and Gibraltar, off Southern Spain.

During the war, HMS Leith served in the North Sea, and on convoy duty to North America, where she survived one convoy where 15 ships out of 34 were sunk.
Hundreds of merchant sailors were rescued from the cold, cold sea by HMS Leith during her convoy years.
She served in the Mediterranean, and on convoy duty to South Africa, and was repeatedly attacked by U-boat and Junkers bombers.
After one such bomber attack, where the bombers missed their target, and one Heinkel 111 was shot down by HMS Leith, the local newspapers said; "Captain Mueller missed, HMS Leith didn't!"
She served in the 1943 American/Allied/French landings in North Africa; "Operation Torch", and finished her war service in minesweeping duties with the Dutch Navy in the busy English Channel.

(HMS Edinburgh, a heavy cruiser, was sunk in 1942 after a vicious war career. She was involved with the Bismark, Sharnhorst, Geneisenau, and capturing the enigma machine.)

After her purchase by the Danish Navy in 1949, she was re-named Galathea, and was involved in deepwater surveys, and circumnavigated the world in 1952/3. She was involved in geographic expeditions with the Danish Navy until her eventual scrapping in 1955.


  1. My Great-Grandfather, Roland Charlton Allen RN was Commanding Officer of HMS Leith between Sept 1940 and March 1941. An excellent account of the famous U-Boat 'Wolf-Pack' attack on the Atlantic convoy SC7 that you mention is the book 'Night of the U-Boats' when HMS Leith was senior escort.

  2. My dad Eric Semmens was a telegraphist on the Leith and visited lots of south sea islands before being called back to protect the convoys in the Atlantic. He was on the Leith when escorting SC7 when 20 ships out of 35 were sunk. The Leith picked up over 100 survivors so the crew had to sleep on deck - my dad contracted TB from that and had to leave the navy a few months later.

  3. It was not the Dutch Navy but the Danish who bought it and used Galathea on a worldwide sea expedition where they, among other things, found life at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.


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