- HMS Kingston during the Second World War -
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John Edward Marchant HMS KingstonMy father, John Edward Marchant, was the buffer aboard HMS Kingston, autumn 1939 to early 1942. He was mentioned in dispatches to HM King George VI for his part in the towing of the SS Imperial Transport, which broke in two after being torpedoed in the North Sea. It was towed to Scotland at 4 knots where a new forward half was built. In 1949 it was sold to Norway and renamed RONA.
Father was injured ashore at Alexandria and HMS Kingston sailed to Malta without him where it was hit by a bomb on the range finder, his action station. He then assisted with the navigation of a merchant cruiser to negotiate the Tobruk run, but survived its sinking 5 miles out of Tobruk to swim ashore. Found fit after his swim, he was handed a rifle and joined the soldiers besieged at Tobruk until it was relieved.
Father survived the war having been mined twice during D Day operations while serving in a mine sweeper. He died in 1983 aged 81.John Edwin Marchant
Ldg.Sea. Willliam Davidson HMS KingstonBy May 1940 we had joined the 14th Destroyer Flotilla – Red Sea and on 22 June 1940 with the Kandahar and the sloop Shoreham sunk the Italian Submarine Evangelista Torricella and picked up most of the crew. The Italians left Sudan and two Italian destroyers the Pantera and TIGRE were beached at Jeddah. "We had a lot of lot of target practice". During this period we escorted a lot of convoys up and down the Red Sea. One trip I remember we went to French Somaliland where we picked up women and children from the beach, I cannot remember where we landed them.
Along with the Glasgow, Calendon and Kandahar the Kingston took part in the capture of Berbera and the landing of troops at Mersa Kuba for the recapture of British Somaliland. It was when we joined the 14th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean that the fun started.
As part of Operation Demon starting on 26th April Kingston, Kimberley, Carlisle and Havock evacuated Australians and New Zealanders from Raftis Greece to Crete. This was done under the cover of dark.
Battle of Crete May 1941 - the German invasion of Crete took place, "we got bombed stupid. I always remember the diner was prepared in the galley and three days later it was still there" Kingston was damages by three near misses. It was while rescuing survivors from the Greyhound, Gloucester and Fiji that the following incident occurred – Two JU88s flew over us and at a fair distance they dropped their bombs in the sea, dipped their wings and flew off. We then joined up with the fleet and fuelled from a battleship, we didn't have enough fuel to reach Alexandria "When we arrived at Alexandria I slept around the clock".
We had quite a few "to-do's" after that. We were based at Haifa in Palestine. With the HASTY we went off the coast of Syria. Our task was to stop anything that moved on the road out of Beirut, which we done with ease. Whilst there shells continually bursted into the sea, after a period of time it was found that the shells were being fired from a building on top of a hill above Beirut which had a large red cross on it. Within the hour the Hasty had soon silenced it.
With the Kandahar and Jarvis we were taking supplies and ammunition to Tobruk and at the same time we were taking potatoes from Cyprus to Alexandria they said it was 170 tonnes per trip, " I think we did three or four trips. On the last trip all the destroyers flew the pendants from their mastheads with the name of removal companies – the Admiral wasn't very pleased and sent us out on exercise right away". During the exercise 4 Beaufighters made a low attack, we didn't know they were ours and of course we opened fire with everything. I know one of them hit the range finder on the top of the mast and spun into the sea. I heard all the planes were lost - "The beufighters looked like J88s when head on"
In the following months along with the other destroyers we had a busy time running stores to Tobruk, we had to get unloaded before daylight as we could see the German lights from convoys passed overhead. We evacuated a considerable number of Australian troops from Tobruk and got two bottle of beer each for our troubles. Sent with the Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandria to cover sorties by Malta and Alexandria based cruiser forces against Italian convoys heading for Libya.
We were on convoy with three battleships Queen Elizabeth, Barham and Valiant when we were north of Sidi Barrini we got orders to turn back. The destroyers turned first our lead destroyer Jervis had an Asdic echo but ignored it. As the battleships were turning the BARHAM was hit by torpedoes from a German submarine U.331 it blew up. Three of the KINGSTON crew had brothers on the Barham but because we were sent to Malta we could not find out whether our brothers were safe. We were in Malta for some considerable time and it was only when we returned to Alexandria with the Cleopatra we discovered our brothers fate. Our Captain on arriving immediately ordered the lowering of the skiff and we were sent ashore. All three lost our brothers that day the 25th November 1941.
Battle of Sirte 22nd March 42 - we were sent to attack the battleship LITTORIO but were hit by a shell which went through the whaler under the searchlight platform and exploded above the torpedo tubes making a big hole in the deck. I was a gun layer gun and shrapnel ender under my legs killing two of my crew and injured the other two, I was the only gun crewmember unharmed. All our engines were stopped; the cruisers went between us and the battleship laying a thick smoke screen. We managed to get one engine going and managed to crawl into Malta under our own steam. We were tied up and the dockyard maties put a big plate over the hole. With the next attack the Germans managed to drop a bomb right through the plate and out the bottom without exploding. We were put into dry dock but continually bombed, volunteers manned the guns but it was futile. She was badly damaged.
The Penelope was peppered by shrapnel, which was plugged with wood. At night she sailed for Gibraltar and made it. Along with other three mates we were on a tug pulling barges loaded with recovered booty from sunken ships there were barrels and crates of tinned foodstuff. The tug took the barges to the jetty for unloading. We managed to feast on tinned sausages and bacon heated on a shovel. During the bombing raids we sheltered in passages cut out of the rock, there was a main tunnel with passages off. It would appear that there were enough metal bunk beds to accommodate all the islands people in these passages. We had been warned not to stay in the main tunnel.
On the 11th of April on what was to be the final sortie on the Kingston a stick bomb exploded at the mouth of the main tunnel unfortunately a considerable number of our crew including our Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Somerville DSO, were in the tunnel and lost their lives.
Some of the crew were sent to a farm above Rabat aerodrome, I think it was called Takali. The aerodrome was continually bombed. We were supplied with bikes and had to cycle down the hill and hand fill the craters, an old road roller flatted them down making it flat enough to allow the fighters to land. I was given a pass and took a passage on the Welshman, a minelayer to Ilfracomb, from there to Pompey and some leave before joining my next ship.
William Davidson joined HMS Kingston on August 1939 at the Isle of White and remained with her until she was sunk on June 1942 in Malta harbour, one of the few to see service on her for the duration of her life.
This recount was compiled with the assistance of "The Kelly's" by Christopher Langtree published by Chatam Publishing. Without it the timeframes would not be accurate.Drew Davidson
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