HMS Defender (H07)

HMS Defender (H07)

HMS "Defender" (H07) was a D class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She served in the Second World War, and was sunk in 1941.

Construction and commissioning

Ordered under the 1930 Programme, "Defender" was laid down at the Vickers Armstrongs yard in Barrow as Yard Number 674 on 22 June 1931, and launched on 7 April 1932. She was commissioned on 31 October 1932 having cost a total of £223,979, excluding the Admiralty supplied equipment such as guns, ammunition and wireless outfits.



"Defender" joined the 1st Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean early in 1933. The ship was then re-commissioned in April 1934 after a refit at Devonport and in November 1934 sailed to join the 8th Destroyer Flotilla on the China Station. During her pre-war deployment in the Far East she had some machinery defects requiring several weeks under repair at Singapore and Hong Kong. Before outbreak of the Second World War, the Flotilla was designated the 21st Destroyer Flotilla.


In September 1939 she transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet and took passage to Alexandria with her flotilla, joining the Fleet on 19 September. She undertook contraband control duties and patrols in the Mediterranean before transferring to Gibraltar for Anti-submarine (ASW) duties.


In early 1940 she deployed off the Portuguese Coast for an ASW patrol, and in February transferred to the West Africa Command based at Freetown for convoy protection, arriving on 18 February 1940. She conducted Atlantic convoy defence until April, when she transferred back to Gibraltar, escorting HMS "Neptune", and arriving on 23 April 1940. In May 1940 she joined the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet for convoy defence and Fleet screening duties, escorting Convoy US-2 carrying ANZAC troops to the Middle East through the Red Sea.

In June her flotilla deployed with Mediterranean Fleet units preparing for the entry of Italy into the war , and on 27 June, in company with the destroyers HMS "Dainty", HMS "Diamond", HMS "Ilex", HMS "Jervis", HMS "Juno" and the Australian destroyer HMAS "Voyager" she was ordered to screen HMS "Eagle", HMS "Ramillies", HMS "Royal Sovereign", HMS "Gloucester", HMS "Liverpool", HMS "Neptune", HMS "Orion" and HMAS "Sydney", who were to provide cover for the passage of Convoys MF1 and MS1 to Egypt from Malta in Operation MA3 (evacuating personnel from Malta). On the same day, in company with "Voyager", "Dainty", "Ilex" and "Decoy", she depth charged the Italian submarine "Console Generale Liuzzi" off Crete. The submarine was forced to the surface and scuttled by her crew. Two days later, the same ships attacked and probably sank the Italian submarine "Argonauta" at around 0615, although the possibility exists that this submarine was sunk by an RAF Sunderland later the same day.

On 7 June she sailed on a repeat of the convoy operations, and in company with the same ships. The ships of the Mediterranean Fleet engaged an Italian heavy squadron on 9 June at the Battle of Calabria. The Italian squadron included the battleships "Conte di Cavour" and "Giulio Cesare", 16 cruisers and four destroyers. The Italian ships withdrew after HMS "Warspite" returned the Italians' fire and after air attacks from HMS "Eagle".

August to October saw "Defender" deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean, and on 8 October 1940 she took part in Operation MB-6, a convoy of four merchant vessels from Alexandria to Malta, escorted by a large proportion of the Mediterranean Fleet, which arrived safely. On 6 November she deployed with HMS "Decoy", HMS "Hasty", HMS "Havock", HMS "Hereward", HMS "Hero", HMS "Hyperion", HMS "Ilex", HMS "Janus", HMS "Jervis", HMS "Mohawk" and HMS "Nubian" as a screen for HMS "Illustrious", HMS "Malaya", HMS "Ramillies" and HMS "Warspite", with the cruisers HMS "Ajax", HMS "Gloucester", HMS "Orion", HMAS "Sydney" and HMS "York" providing distant cover for the passage of Convoy MW3 from Egypt to Malta and Convoy ME3 from Malta (Operation MB8). "Defender" was detached on 9 November with HMS "Decoy" and HMAS "Vampire" as screening destroyers for HMS "Ramillies" and HMS "Coventry" to escort the return Convoy ME3, suffering air attacks on 13 November and returning to Port Said on 14 November.

On 23 November she sailed to conduct screening duties with the destroyers HMS "Diamond" , HMS "Gallant", HMS "Greyhound" and HMS "Hereward" for a variety of major Fleet units, operating around Pantelleria and the Sicilian Channel, rejoining the ships of the Mediterranean Fleet off Malta. The Battle of Cape Spartivento, a brief engagement with an Italian battle group which disengaged after a short exchange of fire, took place on 27 November 1940, but "Defender" was not directly involved in the action. On 29 November she screened the Mediterranean Fleet units during their passage to Malta as escort for Convoy ME4, and arrived in Alexandria on 1 December


On 7 January "Defender" deployed with HMS "Diamond" and HMS "Calcutta" as Force C for the escort of Convoy MW5J during passage to Malta from Alexandria (part of Operation Excess), arriving in Malta on 10 January and returning to Alexandria on 16 January. The return passage had come under heavy and sustained air attacks by German dive bombers, and HMS "Southampton" was damaged and had to be sunk.

In February she took passage to Malta for a refit, and was taken in hand by HM Dockyard from 4 February until completion of trials on 19 March, rejoining the Fleet in Alexandria on 24 March. She was straight back into action on her return, screening Mediterranean Fleet units covering the passage of military convoys to Greece, and taking part in the Battle of Cape Matapan on 27 - 29 March.

During April she continued Fleet-screening duties with her flotilla for the protection of convoys to Greek ports and in support of military withdrawal from the Western Desert. On 24 April she escorted Convoy GA14 with HMS "Hereward" from Piraeus, and on 25 April took part in evacuation of allied troops from Greece (Operation Demon). May involved operations in defence of Crete and assistance with the subsequent evacuation of British and allied troops.

In June she was transferred to the Inshore Squadron for the defence of convoys to Tobruk and support of military operations in the Western Desert, and on 29 June she was damaged by air attacks off Tobruk in company with HMAS "Waterhen". "Defender" took "Waterhen" in tow, but on 30 April "Waterhen" capsized and sank under tow. After repairs the Inshore Squadron continued their convoy defence and support operations.


At 1300 on 10 July 1941, "Defender" sailed from Tobruk for Alexandria in company with HMAS "Vendetta". Within a few hours, taking advantage of a clear and moonlit night, a single Ju-88 of I/LG.1 (Lt. Gerd Stamp), on a reconnaissance flight along the coast, attacked the destroyers. At 0518 a heavy bomb scored a near-miss on "Defender", detonating beneath the machinery spaces. The shock deformed the stern and flooded the engine rooms and one boiler room. "Vendetta" took "Defender" in tow, but despite determined attempts, "Vendetta" was unable to make much headway. It appears "Defender"’s back was broken, and as she was deep in the water from flooding, the tow caused much strain on "Vendetta"’s 1917-vintage engines. The decision was then made to scuttle the crippled destroyer, and "Vendetta" carried out a torpedo attack at 1145 hrs, barely convert|7|nmi|km north of Sidi el-Barrani. There was no loss of life in the sinking; all 271 men aboard "Defender" were transferred safely to "Vendetta" and arrived in Alexandria unscathed. A first-hand account of the loss of "Defender" by the Captain of HMAS "Vendetta" may be read at the [ Naval Historical Society of Australia website] .

Commanding Officers


External links

* - []
*Naval - []

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