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HMS Birmingham in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMS Birmingham

   HMS Birmingham, C19 was a Town Class light Cruiser, built at Plymouth and commissioned in November 1937. At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, she was with the 5th Cruiser Squadron on the China Station, she sailed to Malta for a refit then joined the 18th Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet in April 1940 to patrol the coast of Norway to prevent German fishing vessels operating in this area. In mid-April, Birmingham and HMS Manchester evacuated 1500 troops from Åndalsnes.

HMS Birmingham was in refit between September-December 1940 then was engaged in the escort of troop convoys to the Middle East, around the Cape of Good Hope. In May she returned to the Home Fleet to join the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. HMS Birmingham escorted convoy WS-9A from the UK to South Africa arriving on 4 July 1941 and underwent a refit at the Selborne dry dock, Simonstown, where she was fitted with the Mk284 and 291 radars and several new Anti-Aircraft weapons.

In February 1942, Birmingham joined to the Eastern Fleet, sailing to South Africa in March. In June she joined the 4th Cruiser Squadron, in the Mediterranean, under Rear Admiral Tennant. She was involved in the the double convoy operation, from Gibraltar and Alexandria to supply the island of Malta, codenamed Operation "Harpoon" and "Vigorous". In March, she was damaged by 15 JU 87 and Italian Cant 1007 aircraft. In September Birmingham sailed for the Indian Ocean and was involved in Operation "Stream" to occupy Madagascar. Birmingham escorted a convoy to Mahajanga West Coast where the 10th Infantry Brigade was landed in November.

In April 1943 Birmingham underwent a refit in the UK, then returned to the Mediterranean in October. She was seriously damaged on the 28th of November when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-407 off the coast of Cyrenaica. She limped back to Alexandria where temporary repairs were carried out and in June 1944, she sailed for the U.S.A. to be repaired.

In November 1944, she joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow and in May 1945, she was part of a force which occupied ports in the Baltic and took control of the German cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nürnberg after their surrender. On the 13th of May HMS Birmingham was relieved by HMS Devonshire and she returned to the UK.

HMS Birmingham was decommissioned December in 1959 and sold for scrap in September 1960.


If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have sailed in

HMS Birmingham

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Byard Frank. Leading Stoker
  • Crilly Stephen.
  • Fidling Harry Bernard. (d.15th Oct 1942)
  • Graves Leslie Reginald.
  • Gregg William. Seaman
  • Miller Frank Reginald. Able Sea.
  • Mitton Leonard Henry. Ldg. Signalman (d.11 Nov 1942)
  • Nevin Thomas. Ldg Seaman.
  • Sutton Eric Cole. Lt Cmdr.
  • Thorne Ronald Percy.
  • Tomlinson Reginald. MidShp.
  • Walls Alf.
  • Walls Kenneth Wilfred. Petty Officer

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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There are 1 pages in our library tagged HMS Birmingham  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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Ldg Seaman. Thomas Nevin HMS Birmingham

An extract from the Diary of Leading Seaman Thomas Nevin during passage of HMS Birmingham from Scapa Flow to Alexandria, November 1943.

November 13th: Scapa - Captain cleared lower deck- told us we were bound for Greenock, thence to await orders- no leave- great disappointment amongst crew- who expected at least a few days, especially as we were going on a foreign commission. 11.10am Weighed and put to sea. Wonder when and under what circs we shall see Scapa again? Not sorry to leave the place but guess we shall pine for it after a few weeks out East. Sea on beam- and rough as far as Cape Wrath. Once in Minches calmed down.

Sunday November 14th. - Arrived Greenock 0800- morning cold but fine. Little doing in forenoon. Pm went ashore- first run since Devonport on September 19th. Place very dead- everything closed. Managed to get hold of a few Christmas cards. Leave expired 2300. Quite a few chaps adrift. Good luck to them.

Monday November 15th. An uneventful day. Leave to Port Watch- another crowd adrift. Number of passengers aboard including Admiral Cowie- a queer old bloke. Age 73- repatriated from Italy. Dressed in Commando uniform- rumour says his ambition is to die in action. He’s welcome to it!! Ship under sailing orders.

Tuesday November 16th. The fateful day at last. Weighed 0245 and left the Clyde. Saw coast of Northern Island when on deck at 0800. Know that coast like the back of my hand now. Sea fairly calm- slight swell- but this ship exaggerates the smallest ripple. 1200. Captain spoke to Ships Coy. Over S.R.E. Told us we were convoying 43 000 troops and supplies for Algiers, Alexandria and Bombay. Pursuing westerly course 600 miles out to avoid enemy a/c. Speed of convoy 13 knots. About 40 U-boats. Recognised Reina Del Pacifico, Duchess of Bedford, Dempo (Dutch- convoyed her in April ’42 from L’pool), Ranchi, Orion, Highland Princess, Monarch of Bermuda. Bad start to trip- 2 0f escort had to turn back- owing to defects. Sea becoming rough- feel sorry for troops on transports. Some lads on board feeling pretty dicky.

Wednesday. Sea calm- circled convoy, had good look at ships. Escort Spey joined us. That makes 5 not including us. “Progress Chart” informs us we have to go further west to avoid U-boats- putting 600 miles on our journey. Course about 270.

Thursday November 18th. Sea calm. Turned back @ 0915 to await further escort Jed- but she didn’t arrive- did only 215. Unidentified a/c reported. I wonder did she spot us? Maybe “one of ours” on patrol. Innoculated- arm sore.

Friday. Jed arrived early this morning- oiled 2 escorts after much difficulty. Arm still sore.

Saturday. Convoy (slow) northbound east of us attacked by 15 U-boats. One escort hit and towed to Azores. Notice weather becoming warmer having turned south Now about lat. of Southern France but about 600 or more miles out. Sea very calm but sky overcast. Oiled two more escorts. Evening. Slight swell maybe caused by lightening of about 600 tons of oil.

Sunday November 21st. Fine, heavy sea running, 150 miles west of Azores- Jed sighted unidentified 4-engined plane- maybe Fortress or maybe? Expect to reach Gib about Tuesday. All told a very quiet day.

Monday November 22nd. Beam wind and sea. Northbound convoy attacked by long range flying boats carrying ‘Chase-me-Charlies’- two hits out of 16 (Sunday). Attack continued this morning. Sea moderated towards nightfall.

Tuesday. Fine-calm sea- left convoy 1800 and proceeded alone to Gib. Speed 26 Knots.

Wednesday. Arrived Gib 0800- very fine weather. Leave pm- went ashore and walked around- visited church of Our Lady the Crowned- very nice but too dark. Walked to border at La Linea but too dark to see anything particular. Saw signs of much poverty- especially among people of La Linea who come into Gib every day. Prices in town exorbitantly high- most of stuff just cheap trash e.g. 2/11d silk stockings at 12/6d pair. Who said war doesn’t pay.

Thursday. Still in harbour contrary to expectations. Dempo (one of convoy) arrived in am. And discharged passengers. PM. Ship under sailing orders. Left 2200 at 26 knots- destination either Port Said or Alexandria. Apparently we are to proceed alone- for which many thanks. Have to pass dangerous area (a/c attack) during next 36 hours.

Friday. Weather fine- sea calm- little to report. Evening- convoy ahead attacked by a/c. One ship which had joined convoy later (apparently off Gib) sunk- 700 survivors. 8 a/c shot down.

Saturday. Sea calm- fine- in sight of land- stbd side- all day.

Sunday Fine- calm- speed 24 knots. Prayers on qtr deck for ship’s coy. Letter from schoolgirl in Brum- must answer it. 1118 On Watch- down aft. Terrific bump- ship lifted. Thought we had hit a mine. Went up on deck to see what had gone in TX. Found explosion was forward. Hands on watch stand fast- off watch to emergency stations. Carried on- ship OK but speed reduced by half. Carried on watch- apparently we had been struck by submarine torpedo. 1230. Found my mess had been hit. Someone’s prayers have been answered. Four of my mess mates have been killed- and one radar operator, so far as we know. Lord have mercy on them. Quite a few casualties, some serious but many caused by gas from frig. and batteries. Five dead- about five blown overboard. Don’t know how many are down in messdecks. Everyone on ship shaken. Tried to scrounge something to eat- no mess left for us. Escort of 2 destroyers and about 10 planes (one of which dropped depth charges). Stand by for further attack. Stand to at dusk. 5 buried at sea. About 7o’clock action stations again- suspected submarine following us. Ordered to join slow convoy ahead. Present speed 10-14 knots. A nerve-wraking night- never knowing what to expect next minute. Slept in clothes with life belt blown up.

Monday Stand to at dawn- convoy ahead. Still making 10 knots. Damage mostly in W/T and Signalmen’s mess- about 14 still down there. Hopes of chaps overboard being picked up. 5 in one and two messes- thank God their death must have been quick. PM Speed reduced- joined convoy- danger of forecastle giving way. Signalled for destroyer stand by to take us in tow- managed to keep going. Good escort now. Dusk- stand to- mine sighted. Captain spoke on SRE. Death roll 27. To reach Alex 0800.

Tuesday. Alexandria at last. Ship down about 12 feet by head…reach harbour safely. Expect to do temporary repairs here and proceed elsewhere for permanent one. Hope it is UK. Claimed for lost kit. Tried to get out remaining bodies but no success.

Wednesday. - Can’t those chaps out of my head. Jump at slightest sound. I suppose I am beginning to feel reaction now. Ship’s coy. generally pretty subdued, especially our mess. Incidentally nearly everyone on Sunday complained of headaches. Two bodies got out - Hillier or a sparker. Coffined and taken to morgue. Apparently damage more severe than first estimated.

C Nevin

Petty Officer Kenneth Wilfred Walls HMS Birmingham

My father, Ken, joined the Royal Navy on the 20th of April 1937 at Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was stationed at HMS Victory, the shore establishment. He was 18.5 years old. I was always told that he, and his brothers, joined the Navy like so many Englishmen before them because it was a way out of poverty. His older brother Ray had joined at 15.5 years. He was obviously dedicated and keen. His introductory training was completed after eight weeks and he was judged the ‘….. the smartest and most efficient of his Class during the eight week course’ and presented with a book to record the achievement. The book was Ships of the Royal Navy (British Commonwealth of Nations) by Oscar Parkes, 1936 . Dad has hand written comments next to some ships – e.g. ‘sunk Dutch East Indies’, ‘Overdue presumed lost’ which he obviously recorded during the course of the war.

Birmingham was a Town Class Light Cruiser launched on 1 September 1936 and was completed on 18 November 1937. These cruisers displaced from 9 100 to 11 350 tons. They were powered by 4-shaft Parsons geared turbines operated by 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers developing 75 000hp. They had a speed of up to 32 knots. They were 591 feet in length and 62 feet in beam drawing 17 feet. It had a crew of 748. Armament was 4 triple 6 inch guns, 4 twin 4 inch guns, 4 3-pounder saluting guns and two quadruple 2-pound pompom (anti-aircraft) guns.

Dad and his brother Alf were assigned to this brand new ship on commissioning. It was immediately assigned to the China Station and sailed in 1937. My mother told me that Dad had asked her prior to his departure to become engaged. Although she was a bit sceptical about this young man I think mainly because of his age – she was 22 and he only 19, she agreed. She knew there was plenty of time and they had been going out for a few years. The time that Dad spent away (almost two years) must have been a real eye-opener and the making of him as the man he turned out to be. Here was a young man who at this time hadn’t even ventured as far a field as London going out to fulfil that old adage ‘join the navy to see the world’. I assume that the ship visited Spain on the way to the Far East because I remember Dad telling me stories about the covert support that the British were giving to the Republicans. The Spanish Civil War was an absolute tragedy for all Spaniards and the many members of the International Brigades that volunteered. From memory dad told me they visited Spain on the way to China and they certainly would have stopped at Malta to bunker. The Japanese had invaded Korea and China in 1931. Dad told me a story whilst the Birmingham was in Shanghai. The Japanese of course held large sections of China including Shanghai. The British were apparently supplying arms to the Chinese ‘government’ and other forces. The way Dad told the story was that a British freighter that was carrying arms for the Chinese had been arrested by the Japanese and was occupied. The captain of the Birmingham told one of his junior officers to take an armed boarding party and take the ship back. The armed party went down the side of the ship and boarded a cutter and motored over to the British freighter. All on board Birmingham watched as the cutter approached the landing steps. The officer along with his armed party climbed the steps and the crew of the Birmingham saw the young officer engage in a heated conversation with the Japanese officer holding the freighter. The British officer saluted turned around and left the ship and rejoined the cutter – motored back to his ship and came back on board without achieving his assigned task. When he returned the way Dad told it, the captain demanded to know what had happened. He was told that the junior officer had ‘asked for permission to board’ and the Japanese officer told him it ‘was denied’ so he came back. The captain is allegedly to have then said at high volume ‘that is why I sent you over there with a xx##$$%% armed boarding party.’ I have never worked out whether he went back and corrected the situation. When Neville Chamberlain finally declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939 following the invasion of Poland two days earlier, my father and his brother (my uncle) Alf were still both stationed on the HMS Birmingham on the China station. History records that as soon as Chamberlain advised the House of Commons that Britain was at war with Germany, the air raid sirens wailed and wailed. The Royal Navy was of course immediately placed on a war footing and the Birmingham was ordered home from China. She returned via Malta for a refit and then she joined the Home Fleet operating out of Scapa Flow in the Orkney’s. According to my uncle Bill, Alf was a bit tight with money. Bill claims that on return to England reminded Dad that he owed him for a stamp he had borrowed whilst in China! The early months of this war became known as the Phoney or the Twilight War. Why? - Because on the western front there was no shooting going on. The strategic situation changed in April.

The real war started for Dad and Alf in Norway. Norway is only about 300 miles from either Scapa Flow or the Shetlands at its closest and about 800 miles to Narvik – only two to four days sailing in British warships. On the 5th of April the British Government decided that the navy should lay a minefield off Vest Fjord and a minelayer and four destroyers were despatched from Scapa Flow to accomplish this task. Birmingham and two destroyers (Hostile and Fearless) were sent further north to intercept what purported to be fleet of fishing boats and the to join the rest of the fleet off Vest Fjord on the 7th. On the morning of the 7th British reconnaissance aircraft reported a German cruiser and two destroyers steering northwards. By early afternoon the following message was received from the Admiralty: ‘Recent reports suggest a German expedition is being prepared. Hitler is reported from Copenhagen to have ordered unostentatious movement of one division in ten ships by night to land at Narvik, with simultaneous occupation of Jutland. Sweden to be left alone. Moderates said to be opposing the plan. Date given for arrival at Narvik was 8th April.’ The fleet was ordered to go to ‘one hours steam.’ Later that afternoon, the Admiralty advised more German ships (including a Scharnhorst class ship and ten destroyers) had been sighted steering northwards. The enemy fleet was obviously on the move. The enemy fleet was reported as comprising one battlecruiser, one pocket battleship, three cruisers and about 12 destroyers. The British fleet that was to try and intercept them comprised three capital ships (Rodney, Valiant and Repulse), three cruisers and 10 destroyers. Birmingham was already assigned to assist Renown protect the minelayers who were mining Vest Fjord (the entry to Narvik). Other British ships were at sea protecting two convoys but these were turned back to British waters as soon they were advised of the German movements. As it turned out, some lost contact and at least 13 were destroyed or captured by the Germans. The mine laying was completed by early on the morning of the 8th of April. When the fleet arrived during this exercise Birmingham and her two destroyers were not in sight! Within three hours the first contact with the enemy (the Gloworm came across elements of the German fleet) was made and after exchanging gunfire for some time and sustaining damage, the German ship Hipper accidentally rammed Gloworm as they both emerged from the smokescreen laid down by Gloworm. Gloworm blew up and sank within minutes. Only 40 British sailors survived. It became apparent very quickly that the invasion of Norway was underway and the British fleet needed to stop them. A signal sent by Admiral Whitworth at 1850 on the 8th said, among other things, ‘Our objective is to prevent German forces reaching Narvik; my present intention is to alter course at 2100 to 280 degrees, and turn 180 degrees in succession at midnight; enemy heavy ships and light forces have been reported off Norwegian coast; position of Brimingham forces is not known.’ It was later reported to him that Repulse, Penelope, Bedouin, Eskimo, Punjabi and Kimberley were coming to assist. The official record states that at this time (about 1700 – i.e. 5pm on 8th April) the position of the Birmingham force was not known. The commander (Admiral Whitworth) was building up his forces and signalled Birmingham and Repulse to join him. The Repulse did but for some unknown reason (to me that is) Birmingham never made it. I find this quite intriguing – Birmingham seems quite elusive. A British force had left the Clyde in Scotland aboard s.s Empress of Australia, Monarch of Bermudua, and Reina del Pacifico on the 11th of April and was later joined by the s.s Batory and Chroby from Scapa. This convoy was protected by a fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Layton in Manchester, in company with Birmingham, Cairo, Proctor and five destroyers. Other ships were diverted to also ensure the convoys safe passage. The ships joined the convoy on the 13th and proceeded to escort them into Norwegian waters. At 1907 on the 14th Admiral Layton received orders for the convoy to divide – the record shows that they wre then at 68 degrees 10 minutes N; 10 degrees 20 minutes S about 130 miles from Vaagsfjord. Manachester, Birmingham, Cairo, Vanoc, Whirlwhind, Highlander and 10 destroyers under Layton were despatched to Namsos. At the same time the first British troops had begun to land – an advance party from Galsgow and Sheffield. Also the troops which were onboard the Namsos cruisers were ordered to be landed.

A summary of the situation in Norway on the 15th of April is that ‘in the northern area Vice Admiral Whitworth was cruising off the Lofoten Islands in the Warsprite, standing by to support the operations against Narvik … the Valiant remained in Vaags Fjord on patrol till 1900, 15th, when she sailed for Scapa … on the same day Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cork, wearing his flag in Aurora, met General Mackesy for the first time in Vaags Fjord, who had arrived there in Southampton the previous day.’ The record gos on to state that ‘Vice Admiral Cunningham, with the Devonshire, Berwick and Furious was operating in the Tromoso area. … In the central area (Tronheim) Vice Admiral Layton with the Manchester, Birmingham, Cairo and three destroyers and two transports was nearing Lillesjona where he had been directed to transfer the troops to destroyers for passage to Namsos.’ The German landing had all been reasonably successful although air and surface attacks by Bristish forces had taken quite a toll of their ships. The assault on Tronheim (Operation Hammer) was cancelled as the German’s had far superior forces in the area and was building up all the time. The fleet however was very active escorting convoys to and from Norway taking troops and supplies to those already ashore. The ships maintained a blockade of Norway and generally harassed enemy shipping and used their armaments to shell German positions ashore. The Birmingham seems to have operated in these roles up until the 26th May when she was ordered back to the Humber. On 24th of April, Layton and Manchester, York and Birmingham along with the usual fleet of escorts left Rosyth loaded with stores and troops set sail for Norway on one of the resupply sorties. Early in the morning of the 26th Layton’s ships came across a number of German armed trawlers disguised as Dutchmen. One minelayer hoisted the German flag and Birmingham¬ sunk it. My uncle Bill Walls, who was also in the Royal Navy, told me only recently that the rule was that there was no rescue of men when the ship sunk was under 10,000 tons. He tells that my father said that for this reason the captain of Birmingham shut off his engines as the cruiser ploughed through the debris – so as not to diminish the sailors already meagre chances of survival. The Manchester and the Birmingham remained in the area until the 26th of April. The Birmingham then took part in the withdrawal of the British forces from central Norway in late April and 1 May. The Birmingham was bombed but not hit. On the 9th May, the Birmingham (with Janus, Hyperion, Hereward and Havock) was ordered to intercept two enemy forces thought to be operating near the Little Fisher Bank. The Kelly (under the command of Lord Louis Mountbatten), Kimberley, Khandahar and Hostile were instructed to join them. It was during this ‘search and destroy’ type operation that Kelly was torpedoed from a MTB being hit just under the bridge at 2235. During the next few hours a number of contacts were made with MTBs including one attack on the Birmingham. Kelly was put under tow by Bulldog and with the Birmingham and her destroyers she was put under escort back to Scapa. The whole fleet was subject to air attack.

That night the German’s invaded Holland and Belgium and the Brimingham and most of the destroyers in company were told to steam immediately to Terschelling. I understand that Birmingham might have operated a fair amount of the next 12 months in convoy escort duty which included at least one trip to South America. It is in this context that my Uncle Bill tells me that at some time the Birmingham was in port in Buenos Aires. Both my father and his brother Alf were keen fans of that great crooner Bing Crosby. Apparently he was in town and after too many ‘jars’ my father and Uncle Alf decided that they would call on him in his hotel to offer their respects. They managed to cajole a hotel employee to advise his room number and armed with a bottle of scotch commenced banging on the door calling out to their hero to open up – they wanted to buy him a drink. According to my Uncle Bill it became quite apparent that he had a woman in the room and he said some rather harsh words to say through the door – quite unlike the Bing we all know! They chose to return to the ship rather than take on a rather angry Bing and the hotel management. A wise decision by all accounts.

The certificate presented to my father for having crossed the equator (or the ‘line’ as it was called) is dated 5th September 1939 – two days after the war was declared. Obviously it should have been presented on the way out to China but for some reason it was done on the way home. On the Proclamation by good old King Neptune, my father has written the names of the ports that Birmingham had visited – Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Singapore, Amoy, Sharps Peak, Shanghai, Tsingtao, Wei-Hai-Wei, Cheefoo, Manila, Pedang, Kobi, Alexandria and Kulang Su. This is the passage of a young Sussex boy from Worthing who worked in a dairy to manhood.

Norway had to wait until the 8th May 1945 to be liberated. My father’s records includes a certificate titled The Liberation of Norway 8th May 1945 recording appreciation of the people of Norway for Kenneth Walls’ valuable service in helping to restore freedom to ‘our’ land. It is ‘signed’ simply Olav, Oslo December 1945. Olav of course was the king.

Terry Walls

Seaman William Gregg HMS Birmingham

I am trying to find my uncle, William Gregg. He is my mother's brother and served on the Queen Elizabeth when it was sunk in 1941 in Alexandria Harbor. My mother and William were raised in an orphanage in Lee Hill Cottages, Lanchester, County Durham. My mother has a memory of William visiting her wearing tropical whites at some point. She said that after the Queen Elizabeth had been mined, he also served on the HMS Birmingham, and possibly the Repulse. He told her that he worked on the dynamos on the Queen Elizabeth. My mother is almost 90 years old and in failing health. She would love to hear what became of her brother. They lost touch during the war because she had been moved in the Land Army. As a footnote to William's service, she regaled me of tales of Italian divers sinking the Elizabeth and the heroic efforts of British wartime seamen.

Gregg Salter

Harry Bernard Fidling HMS Birmingham (d.15th Oct 1942)

I am searching for any records of an Uncle I never knew, he was my Father's brother, Harry Bernard Fidling. We know he served on the Birmingham but have very little knowledge about his movements, life or death. In fact my Father, now aged 77 has always maintained that his eldest brother Harry was killed when H.M.S. Birmingham was sunk. I now discover that it wasn’t sunk and Uncle Harry may have transferred to another ship?

Update: Harry lost his life on 15th Oct 1942 on board H.M.S. President III and is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Stuart Fidling

Lt Cmdr. Eric Cole Sutton HMS Manchester

Account of the sinking of the HMS Manchester and following journey to Laghouat POW camp by Lft Commander Eric Cole Sutton dated from the 13th of August 1942

Thurs August 13th

    0013 Torpedoed. Pathfinder came alongside and took off casualties and non essential personnel.
  • 00430 Jumped over port side of Quarter deck. Picked up by a whaler and hung on for a while and then got in. Navigator at helm (Gill).
  • 0530 Just after it got light an Italian plane let go torpedoes at the whip, but missed.
  • 0540 Ship sunk
  • 1100 Landed
  • Two tribal destroyers arrived and picked up remaining fellows in rafts and Carley-floats. We just missed them.

My father told us that he was ordered to scuttle the ship and on opening the valves to sink the ship faster came back on deck to find that all life rafts had gone. Before this the six ‘scuttlers’ had looked for rum from the stores for ressusification but the cupboard was bare!

He said he swam for about ten hours and spent sometime floating on the surface due to torpedoes being fired in the vicinity to avoid being crushed by shock waves in the event of an explosion.

On arriving in Tunisia he said that they walked into an aerodrome and at first were not stopped as their uniforms were similar to the German Luftwaffe’s. Hence they gave themselves up.

We were taken to a nearby fort and had some chocolate, Horlicks tablets and biscuits to eat. During the afternoon we were driven to another camp called Bou-Fischa. We were given supper, sardines, tunny fish and brown bread and went to sleep in a wood hut, being supplied with one shee,t sleeping bag plus one blanket. Approximate distance from Tunis 70 kilometers.

Two Italian E boats were anchored inshore, plus two Italian planes were flying around where we landed. We saw one Stukka in a field, probably out of action.

The inhabitants of the villages we passed through came out to see us in force and appeared quite friendly. The French troops were definitely anti Italian and German. The troops were obviously frightened that we were all going to make a break for it.

Fri 14th–Sun 16th Spent in Bou-Fischa. Bathed in the sea twice. American consul took all our names, next of kin and addresses and sent them off to the admiralty.

Food consisted of macaroni, soup, one or two hunks of some meat, onions, potatoes, spaghetti, all mixed up and stewed hot. Some tins of sardines and tunny fish. A lot of brown bread, plenty of cheap red wine. Grapes and figs.

Routine- get up around 7.00 AM. Hot black coffee, very sweet. 12.30 lunch as above. 19.00 Supper as above. 22.30 Lights out. Washing from a few jets in a pipe. Heads squat, or preferably in a field, no paper. Only two meals.

I didn’t feel well for two days. Dog is rampant.

Mon 17th 11.30 thanked the American consul and the French for our treatment. Marched to a railway station about two or three miles away, and went to Tunis arriving 14.30 Changed trains.

The people were very pro allies, V signs everywhere. American consul had arranged crate fulls of beer, and between that and wine we did very well! The new guards taking over were in far greater force and not as friendly.

Tues 18th Train journey was terribly hot; dusty, no sleeping room and filthy heads

Weds 19th –Thurs 20th About twice a day we were given food in one of the stations. Usually consisted of bread , wine in large quantities and salads of onion, tomatoes, Swedes and sometimes soup.

We arrived at Djelfa at about 0800 We were then put into buses and driven to Laghouat after the usual shouting and gesticulating. We arrived here at 1200 and were searched, they found my £4 in the lining of my hat, and also took my French money. After lunch, Malin, Fletcher, Rambart, Cooper and I took over a room at the south west corner of the officers block. At the moment we are sleeping on double tiers of beds.

Fri 21st Issue of Red Cross stuff. (Perhaps this is a reference to the fact that my father told me that Red Cross parcels used to arrive full only of sand having been pilfered on the way)

Sun 23rd Display by Spahis (?)

Tues 25th Pillar of gate broken down and Cooper rung the bell (?)

Mon 24th Wrote home ………….

Nov 24th released from Laghouat and arrived home

My father later joined the Birmingham and sailed into Alexandria for repairs. He was in Copenhagen for VE day. His account seems similar to Ray Davies’ account on this site. Ray’s email on his story does not work. Does anyone know if he is still alive and contactable?

Julian Sutton

Leading Stoker Frank Byard HMS Birmingham

My father served as Leading Stoker on HMS Birmingham. His notes/logs, many many photographs and memorabilia which he collected during his time ar held by the Derbyshire Records Office.

Jane Byard

Stephen Crilly HMS. Birmingham

I have recently been given a photo of a Queen's Park Hotel, Port of Spain, Trinidad taken by my father, Steve Crilly on March 23rd 1942. According to the note on the back he was serving on HMS Birmingham at the time.I would appreciate any info regarding this stop-over.

Steve Crilly Jnr.

Able Sea. Frank Reginald "Dusty" Miller HMS Birmingham

I am trying to trace details of my Dad's service his name was Frank Miller, known as Dusty. He would very rarely talk about it. He only mentioned the Captain calling him in to tell him of his mother's death, which was on Trafalgar Day. He had a scar on his neck which I believe was from when the ship was attacked. Any info would be very gratefully received as Dad passed away in 1994.

Sue Woodward

Ronald Percy "Snowy" Thorne HMS Sirius

My father, Ron Thorne, served as a gunner on HMS Sirius. He was called Snowy because his hair was so blond it was white. He never spoke much about the war but I know he was at the Normandy Landings and in the Mediterranean. He was also on HMS Birmingham. He met my Mother in Cape Town and in 1946 he sent her the money to travel to England. They were married in 1947 in his home town of Sherborne. They returned to South Africa, but settled in Dorset again a couple of years later.

Ann Thorne

MidShp. Reginald Tomlinson MID HMS Birmingham

During his service on the ship, they where laying mines out into the sea. When this was happening the captain was shooting at them, as they exploded it made some of the mines get closer to the ship. What happened was that a mine hit the side of the ship but it did not explode, due to my great Uncle Reginald being the black smith his job was to deactivate mines, bombs and shells. What he did was that he jumped into the sea and deactivated it due to this he was Mentioned in Dispatches). Due to him doing this it caused serve problems with his chest and at which he died within the 1970s. If you know of my great uncle Midshipman Reginald Tomlinson then please contact me.


Leslie Reginald Graves HMS Birmingham

Leslie Graves served on HMS Birmingham.

Jan Phillips

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