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HMS Forester

Summary of Service 1939-1946

HMS Forester was a destroyer of the "Fearless" Class, built and engined by J S White & Co Ltd Cowes Isle of Wight. Laid down on 15th May 1933, she was launched on June 28th 1934 and completed on 19th April 1935.

The Forester was of 1,350 tons standard displacement, with a length of 329’ 0", breadth 33’ 3" and draught (aft) of 13’ 11". Her designed top speed was 36 knots with an endurance of 6,250 miles at 15 knots and 1,250 at full speed. Armament when completed was 4 x 4.7QF guns. There were many changes to this as the war progressed. In 1941, 2 x20 Oerlikons were added. In 1942 1x 4.7 QF was removed and 1 x3"HA gun installed in lieu. By April 1943 the number of Oerlikons had increased to 4 and by October 1943 the 3" gun had been removed while the number of Oerlikons was increased to 6. The Forester was fitted with 2 x21 quadruple torpedo tubes for which she carried 8 torpedoes. In 1944 one set of tubes was removed.

For anti submarine warfare the Forester, when built was fitted with 1rail and 2 throwers for depth charges and carried an outfit of 30 depth charges. By 1944 this had changed to 2 rails, 4 throwers and an outfit of 125 depth charges. In1945 the Forester was fitted with hedgehog.

Just before the outbreak of world war II HMS Forester was serving as a unit of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla attached to the Home Fleet and based at Portsmouth. Early in September 1939 the Flotilla joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow to operate from there. The Forester was soon in action – on 20th September, together with HMS Fortune she attacked a submarine contact just west of the Hebrides. The attack was successful U27 being sunk by gunfire and depth charge. Again on 10th December, a firm contact was made off the coast of Scotland but on this occasion the attack was without success.

On 11th February1940, HMS Forester was ordered to the assistance of the SS Imperial Transport, a tanker which had been torpedoed about 150 miles WNW of the butt of Lewis. The bows of the ship had been blown off by the torpedo explosion and the damaged vessel was drifting rapidly out into the Atlantic. Together with the tug Buccaneer, lines were passed to the tanker and she was brought safely to port. The Forester had transferred 10 men to the tanker to assist with the towing operations and these had to rejoin the ship later as they could not be taken back aboard before the Forester returned to her base at Scapa. HMS Forester’s next duty was to escort the SS Orion and SS Duchess of Bedford safely across the Atlantic with an RCAF contingent to the UK. During March 1940 attacks were made on two more submarine contacts but without any success.

 

In April 1940 German forces invaded Norway. Narvik. An ice-free port had been used for shipments of iron ore from Sweden to Germany. An expedition was planned to occupy the port to deny its use to the Germans. Meanwhile a force of 10 German destroyers had gone to the port carrying troops to occupy it. A force of British destroyers attacked them in the fjord leading to the port and put four out of action (The first battle of Narvik). HMS Warspite sailed from Scapa with an escort of destroyers (which included Forester) and on 13th April attacked the German destroyers and bombarded the troops ashore. All6 German destroyers were sunk (The second Battle of Narvik). The port was not held for long and the naval units returned to Scapa.

On 26th June 1940, HMS Forester left Scapa to join Force H based on Gibraltar. On her new station she was again quickly in action against submarines, carrying out two attacks on 11th and 12th July, but without success. In September the Forester took part in Operation " Menace " – The unsuccessful attempt to install Free French forces in control of Dakar, the important West African Naval Base in Senegal. Then in November 1940, HMS Forester took part with Force H in Operation " Collar " – The passage of a convoy through the Mediterranean. This led to the engagement off Cape Spartivento when the Italian Fleet was repulsed without being able to attack the convoy.

This was followed by a period of patrols and local escorting of convoys until. May 1941 when HMS Forester took part in Operation " Tiger " – The successful passage of a fast convoy through the Mediterranean, carrying tanks to the Army of the Nile. One ship only was lost by striking a mine.

Almost immediately followed Operation " Splice " – The reinforcement of fighter aircraft in Malta. The aircraft carriers HMS Furious and HMS Ark Royal, escorted by Force H, carried Hurricane aircraft within flying range of Malta when they were flown off. 47 out of the 48 despatched reached their destination. On 15th June came a similar Operation (Tracer) when another 47 hurricanes were flown off aircraft carriers escorted by Force H . While escorting HMS Victorious back from this operation a submarine contact was made West of Gibraltar. Together with other destroyers from Force "H", HMS Forester attacked and U138 was sunk, with a few prisoners being captured.

In July came Operation " Substance "- The passage of a convoy of store-ships and troops through to Malta. Force "H" was to accompany the convoy through the Sicilian Narrows where it would turn back while Force "X" accompanied the convoy 0on to Malta. On 23rd July Force3"H" came under attack from Italian bombers and torpedo carrying aircraft. HMS Fearless, ahead of the screen for the main force , was hit by a torpedo and too badly damaged to continue . HMS Forester took the survivors aboard and then had the melancholy duty of sinking the helpless Fearless by torpedo.

On 30th July HMS Forester took part in Operation "Style" , the passage of a fast convoy carrying stores and personnel to Malta whilst covered by Force "H". Then on 21st August, The Forester again left Gibraltar with Force "H" to carry out bombardments along the coast of Sardinia

 

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In September came Operations "Status" and "StatusII" When another 49 Hurricanes were flown off to Malta from Carriers protected by force "H" . On 24th September, HMS Forester and Force "H" again covered a convoy of 9 transports to Malta (Operation Halberd). Once again the ships got through with their vital supplies. Then came a short period of providing local convoy protection until. In October , Came Operation Callboy, when Albacore torpedo bombers were flown to Malta. Force "H" arrived back at Gibraltar from this operation on 19th October 1941. Two Days later HMS Forester received orders to return to the UK, Arriving at Greenock on 26th October.

On Arrival HMS Forester was attached temporarily to the 11th Escort Group Based on the Clyde. After one month of anti-submarine patrols and convoy escorting , she was reallocated to the home fleet at Scapa.

In April 1942 HMS Forester was part of the distant cover for Arctic Convoy PQ14 From Iceland to North Russia. Only 8 vessels attempted the passage, 7 arriving at the Kola Inlet on 19th April - the rest of the ships being forced to return to Iceland by ice and bad weather. Then the Forester went to the Kola Inlet to be a unit of the strong close escort for return convoy QP11. On 28th April the convoy Started with HMS Edinburgh on a Zig Zag course about 15 miles ahead. On 30th April the Edinburgh was struck by two torpedoes , her stern being blown off and her steering wrecked, although she was still able to steam slowly.

The Edinburgh began to make her way back to Murmansk accompanied by HMS Forester and HMS Foresight and two Russian destroyers. They were met by some minesweepers to give anti-submarine cover. The Forester made attempts to tow the crippled ship but these were unsuccessful..

In the mean time ,3 German destroyers which had made a number of attempts to attack the convoy. All foiled by the escort , had started in pursuit of the damaged cruiser. In the engagement which followed when they had caught up, HMS Forester was hit three times - in No1 boiler room , on B gun and on X gun . the ship was brought to a standstill and on fire never the less the Forester continued to fight with her remaining gun. During the action Edinburgh had been brought to a stop by another torpedo hit - but she also continued to engage the enemy. HMS Foresight tried to screen the Forester and received a hit which brought her to a stop. Shortly afterwards the Forester, which had managed to get under way again, was able to repay her debt to Foresight by screening her .

The German destroyers did not press home their advantage - one had been hit and was in a sinking condition . Her companions took off the survivors and made off.

The survivors of the Edinburgh were taken off by the minesweepers which had been endeavouring to screen her . The Edinburgh was then sunk by the Foresight which had effected temporary repairs and the damaged ships set course for the Kola Inlet. HMS Forester lost her Commanding Officer and 12 ratings with another nine ratings injured.

Temporary repairs were made and on the evening of 13th May HMS Forester once again started off for Iceland . This time it was in company with HMS Trinidad which had been damaged while escorting PQ13 and had been effecting temporary repairs at Murmansk. Also with these two ships were HMS's Somali, Foresight, And Matchless. On 14th May the ships came under attack from German aircraft, all the ships experiencing near misses . Then the Trinidad was hit and set on fire. It soon became obvious that the fire was out of control and the ship would have to be abandoned . The passengers and injured were transferred to HMS Forester and the rest of the crew were taken aboard the other destroyers before the blazing ship was torpedoed to sink her . The remaining ship met up with a covering force near Bear Island on 15th May and although all the ships came under air attack, no further losses occurred . HMS Forester arrived at Scapa on 18th May to land her injured passengers before going to the Tyne where she arrived on 20th May for repairs

 

The repairs were finished early in October 1942 and HMS Forester rejoined the home fleet at Scapa. She was soon at sea again with the covering force for QP15 in November and again for JW51b in December .On 8th January 1943 the Forester left Scapa en route for the Kola Inlet to provide additional escort for the return convoy RA52, arriving there on 14th January . The convoy sailed on 29th January and arrived safely at Loch Ewe on 8th February. Then again at the end of February and beginning of March, the Forester was at sea with the heavy cover for convoysJW53 and RA53.

In the meantime , losses on the Atlantic Ocean convoy routes had been mounting. After a refit which commenced in April and completed at the end of June, HMS Forester was transferred to the Western Approaches Command as a unit of Escort Group C1, based on Londonderry. Now followed a period of giving support to the hard pressed escorts of the Ocean convoys. At the end of 1943 the group became Close Escort Group C1 ( Canadian mid Ocean) and mainly composed of RCN Ships. On 10th March 1944, in company with HMCS's St Laurent, Owen Sound, and Swansea, the Forester attacked a submarine contact with success, U-845 being sunk and prisoners taken.

As D-Day drew near for the invasion of Europe , escorts on the North Atlantic convoy routes were reduced to the minimum. HMS Forester was one of the ships withdrawn and on 29th May1944 she arrived at Sheerness.

On D-Day the Forester was on escort duty with personnel convoy ETP1 from the Thames carrying follow-up troops for the assault. Afterwards the Forester was to remain at Portsmouth , providing escort for other convoys and carrying out protective patrols in the Channel . In pursuance of these duties she carried out 3 attacks on 2nd July on a U-boat off Newhaven , but without success . Then on 23rd July in company with HMS Stayner the Forester carried out attacks on a formation of 6 R -Boats off Cap d Antifer damaging 3 of them . The R-boats retired to wards the French coast pursued by the Forester which under fire from a shore battery, sustaining one hit .

On 20th August , off Beachy Head , together with HMS Wensleydale and Vidette, successful attacks were made on an underwater contact with depth charges and hedgehog projectiles . U413 was sunk with all hands except one who was made prisoner .

In September1944 HMS Forester left Portsmouth for Londonderry where she was to join the 14th Escort Group and carry out patrols in support of convoy movements . On 1December the Forester arrived at Liverpool where she was to undergo repairs which were not completed until the following May. Then on 24th June 1945, allocated temporarily to the Rosyth Command , she left Methil for Kristiansand, returning from there on 27th June to join the Rosyth Escort Force. In August the Forester left Rosyth for Dartmouth where she entered the Reserve Fleet

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