Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS WILD SWAN

HMS Wild Swan
HMS Wild Swan in the Mediterranean in 1925

HMS Wild Swan, was one of seven Modified W-Class destroyers completed after World War 1. She was bulit by Swan Hunter at Wallsend on Tyne and completed on 14 November 1919 when she joined the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla in the Baltic. The 3rd Flotilla assisted in the evacuation of Greeks from Turkish territory after the end of the Greco-Turkish war in 1923 and In 1926 was despatched from the Mediterranean to China in order to protect British interests after the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War. She returned to home waters in July 1928 and was placed in Reserve until 1931 when she was recommissioned and joined the 8th Destroyer Flotilla on the China Station as described by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the CO of HMS Wishart.

The flotilla transferred to the Mediterranean during the Abyssinian crisis and was at Gibraltar at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. On 23 July she was attacked by Nationalist bombers. She returned to the UK that month and took part in the Coronation Fleet Review for King George VI on 20 May 1937. On 23 August 1937 Wild Swan was paid off into reserve until 1939 when she underwent a long refit at Chatham and was fitted with Asdic.

In December 1939 she joined the 18th Destroyer Flotilla but was transferred to the 19DF at Dover on the 19 April. On 10 May when Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France Wild Swan took a demolition party to the Hook of Holland as part of Operations XD to destroy oil reserves and harbour facilities. After repair Wild Swan and her sister ships in the 19DF were ordered to Boulogne on 23 May to evacuate the Welsh and Irish Guards landed the previous day to stop the German advance on Calais and Dunkirk.

On 26 May when Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk, started Wild Swan escorted the ferry Maid of Orleans and the transport Canterbury to Dunkirk and was then ordered to Portsmouth for a short refit. On 17 June Wild Swan landed a demolition party at St Malo and evacuated the British troops (Operation Cycle). 

The 19th Flotilla was based at Harwich escorting convoys in the North Sea and carrying out anti-invasion patrols. On 16 September Wild Swan collided with HMS Worcester, sustaining minor damage and later that month was allocated to Operation Lucid, a plan to use old oil tankers as fire ships to attack invasion barges in French ports.

On 30 October 1940, Wild Swan was transferred to the 7th Escort Group based at Liverpool. Inexperienced in escorting Atlantic convoys Wild Swan and Beagle were criticised for failing to spot U-99 (Otto Ketschmer) firing a torpedo from their side of Convoy HX83 on the night of 4 November and sinking the tanker Scottish Maiden. On 23 December Wild Swan towed HMS Warwick, a sister V & W back to Liverpool for repair after she was badly damaged by an acoustic mine. In January she rescued survors from the SS Clytoneus (bombed), the SS Bassano (torpedoed) and SS Westmoreland (mined) abandoned by her crew. Wild Swan's crew were awarded 600 for taking part in her salvage.

Wild Swan continued escort operations in the North Atlantic until March 1941, when she underwent a refit at the Royal Albert Dock in London and Type 286 RDF (Radar) was fitted. The dockyard was heavily bombed on 19 April and Wild Swan was slightly damaged by German bombs.

Wild Swan joined the the 1DF at Plymouth and with Wivern and Vansittart were on standby after the sinking of the Hood by Bismark but was not required and in June was ordered to Freetown in West Africa but returned to Gibraltar in August and began escorting HG convoys from Gibraltar to Britain.

On 16 June 1942 Wild Swan was escorting HG84 in the Western Approaches and was detached for refueling and passed through a group of Spanish trawlers when a squadron of Ju 88 bombers mistook them for the convoy and attacked the trawlers and Wild Swan. Wild Swan shot down six German aircraft (the record for any single ship) but was seriously damaged and collided with one of the Spanish trawlers, which sank. She rescued 11 survivors but Wild Swan also sank. HMS Vansittart "Picked up 10 officers and 123 ratings from Wild Swan and 11 men from Spanish trawler" but 31 British seamen died from exposure after 15 hours in open boats.

Battle Honours

ATLANTIC 1939 – 40   DUNKIRK 1940  ARCTIC 1942   ENGLISH CHANNEL 1942 – 43  NORTH SEA 1942 – 43  NORMANDY 1944

Commanding Officers

Lt Cdr Donal Scott McGrath RN (5 Aug 1926 - Sept 1926)
Lt Cdr Edward L. Berthon RN (Sept 1928 - Aug 1929)
Lt Cdr Philip N. Walter RN (Aug 1930 - Sept 1932)
Lt.Cdr. John Leslie Younghusband, RN (July 1939 - Aug 1940)
Cdr Claude Edward Lutley Sclater RN DSO and bar (Aug 1940 - June 1942)


Lt John H. Wallace RN (Feb 1933 - July 1934)
Gnr Harold West RN (April 1927 - July 1928)

Officers on 16 June 1942 when Wild Swan was lost

The CO - Lt Cdr C E L Sclater RN  (22 Aug 1940 – 16 June 1942)
Sub Lt D E Burnley RANVR  (27  Dec 1940 - NLT Feb 1942)
Gnr (T) A B Clark RN  (Feb 1940 – 16 Jun 1942)
Surg Lt J P Couchman RN (2 Jan 1940 – 20 Dec 1940)
Cmd Eng C J C Derbyshire RN (16 Oct 1939 – 16 Jun 1942)
Lt K T Holland RN  (7 Jan 1941 – 16 Jun 1942)
Temp Surg Lt F H D Hutter RNVR (20 Dec 1940 – 16 Jun 1942
M J Lee RN (1 Dec 1939 – Jan 1941)
Lt R Lockwood RANVR (12 Nov 1941 – 16 Jun 1942)
Temp Sub Lt O S Pugh RNVR  (10 Nov 1941 – 16 Jun 1942)
Sub Lt D H Revill RNR (16 Jan 1941 – 16 Jun 1942)
Mid G D K Robinson RIN (2 Aug 1941 – NLT Jun 1942)
Lt P G Satow RN (19 Dec 1939 – 16 Jun 1942)
Temp Gnr (T) A H J Timpson RN (Mar 1942 – 16 Jun 1942)

Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation who served in HMS Wild Swan
E. Wells (Wimborne, Dorset)
Please get in touch if you knew him or have a family member who served in HMS Wild Swan

Hard Lying

These two short articles were published in Hard Lying, the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Assocation and republished in the book of the same name by Clifford "Stormy" Fairweather the Chairman of the Association.

The first is an amusing account from the lower deck of the perils faced when tying up at a buoy and since the author's name appears in the title he is correctly credited but "Stormy" was not always so careful and the name of the author of the second article which briefly describes how HMS Wild Swan came to be sunk is not given. If you can identify the author do please get in touch so that I can correct Stormy's oversight by giving his name on this web page.

But by far the best account of the story of HMS Wild Swan is HMS Wild Swan: One Destroyer's War 1939–4 by Peter Smith (London: William Kimber). ISBN 0-7183-0542-6.

HMS Wild Swan
by "Jumping" Jack Skeats

Boats (destroyers to the ill informed) are the eyes of the Fleet at sea, ranging far ahead of the lumbering battlewaggons, but they lose their glory in harbour and get relegated to far away berths where no one can see them, or are directed to the buoys - hence my tale. Tying up to a buoy can be a simple matter in fair weather with a good coxswain and some helpful forecastle men, but can be rather traumatic when conditions are not favourable or when the skipper has decided to give some junior officer some experience, as well he might, so here goes.  

Jack, wearing the same overalls and plimsolls joined the motor boat via the boom and Jacob's ladder with a Bosun's bag hitched around his waist and is taken to the buoy. This is a spinning top shaped chunk of metal with a large heavy ring in the middle supporting a cable which disappears down a hole leading to three or so spread anchors. So far so good, but it is not generally known that the dock yard maties are prone to making a boob, by letting the buoys to seagulls for their daily conferences, and there has been a very long conference this day which had left the surface rather sticky. Gingerly, Jack holds on to the ring waiting for the boat to approach and the heaving line to be thrown at him, it is always thrown to make sure it gets there. Meanwhile, a fair old chop builds up and the water is slopping everywhere making a foothold pretty difficult. Here comes the Monkey Fist, the line is caught and held, now the picking up rope which is secured to the ring of the buoy by shackling it back on itself. Life now gets interesting as the Captain takes up the slack and feels the weight of the boat which has drifted away on the tide and causes the buoy to tilt with one side a foot or so under water. Jack slithers to the other side, one arm up in the air and hold on to a passing cloud. The Captain turns slowly to bring the boat up to the buoy, an event which annoys the picking up rope and makes it heated. It grinds, it thumps, the strands begin to strengthen, the jute heart is forced out and begins to smoke, Jack dreams of a wire necklace. Gently she comes up until the hawse pipe is overhead and then the fun really starts as the buoy, freed of part of the weight of the ring and cable, begins to spin. Have you ever felt like a mouse on a treadmill? I have and was forced to say uncharitable things about seagulls. Anyway down comes the anchor cable, shackled on, with pin and pellet in pace, exchanged for the picking up rope and away we go, mission completed - nearly.  

Sadly, the skipper has pulled rank on me and gone ashore with the motor boat, the men on the forecastle have vanished, it is now beginning to rain and seagulls are dive bombing me in an unfriendly manner - they want their conference table back. I shout, I scream, but all to no avail, one moment it all depends on me, the next I am the forgotten man suffering from BO. Nothing for it but to laboriously drag my little self up the cable, link, by link, slide under the guard rail and drip my way back to the mess deck.  

Hello, Jack! Where have you been? We thought you had gone ashore so we didn't save you any tea .. Roll on my twelve PLEASE roll on my twelve, this buoy jumping is ageing me beyond my twenty years. 

The Wild Swan was affectionately known as
"The Frantic Duck"

Wild Swan had finished her escort duty with a convoy on the afternoon of the 17th June 1942. Late that evening she was steaming at 15 knots through the Bay of Biscay on their way home. The crew were looking forward to some shore leave, when suddenly one of the lookouts shouted 'Aircraft'. A German Focke Wolf was heading for them, Wild Swan immediately went to action stations and the gunners opened fire with their twelve pounder and Pom poms. Their fire was so accurate that the aircraft turned and made off. The crew remained at action stations knowing that their position will have been relayed to the Luftwaffe. It was not to be long before twelve JU88's were sighted. Wild Swan was just passing a flotilla of Spanish fishing vessels and as the JU88's came into attack she opened fire with such devastating effect that two of the JU88's collided and burst into flames, one crashed into the sea but the other crashed into one of the Spanish trawlers. The remaining aircraft continued the attack and the first bombs straddled the unfortunate Wild Swan.

The little ship jumped and heaved, and then slowly steadied. The violence of the explosion had brought down the mast, flooded the engine room and the after boiler room, and jammed the helm hard over. Although the engines had stopped, the ship carried way and turned in a great circle. Helpless she drifted on to one of the Spanish trawlers and sank it.  

Helpless as she was the Wild Swan was far from finished and the twelve pounder guns crew kept up a devastating barrage and brought two more of the German aircraft crashing into the sea.   By now the German aircraft had become very wary of their gallant little opponent, but the ship was in a very bad way, decks were littered with debris, and she was listing heavily to port. Worse still, the crew could hear an ominous creaking and cracking that could only mean one thing, that their ship was breaking up, disregarding this, they still fought on, when another aircraft came sweeping in to the attack they opened up simultaneously with the twelve pounder and the Pom-poms and the Lewis guns, the bombs burst just off the starboard quarter. However the bomber had been hit and just scraped over the ship and crashed into the sea near to another of the Spanish fishing vessels on the port quarter. The last stick of bombs had done more underwater damage, and the ship started to crack in half. Members of the crew worked frantically among the wreckage, rigging up a jury aerial in order to send out a distress signal. It was beginning to get dark so the Captain realising that they could not hold on much longer gave the order to abandon ship.  

The Spanish trawlers had disappeared, so the destroyers crew and the Spanish fishermen they had rescued from the rammed trawler, launched the whaler and motor boat and filled them to capacity. The remainder took to the Carley floats. They pulled away from the ship and watched her slowly sink. Wild Swan although mortally wounded had fought off her attackers and inflicted destruction on half their number. The survivors were picked up by another of the same class of destroyer, HMS Vansittart.

HMS Vansittart "Picked up 10 officers and 123 ratings from Wild Swan and 11 men from Spanish trawler" but 31 British seamen died from exposure after 15 hours in open boats:

AKRIGG, Joseph P, Able Seaman, P/JX 219940
ALLEN, William G, Act/Petty Officer, P/JX 129528
ALLISON, Arthur G, Leading Seaman, RFR, P/J 114257
ASHTON, Frederick W, Able Seaman, D/SSX 24197
BADGER, Stanley G, Stoker 1c, P/KX 101935
BOURNE, Ted, Stoker 1c, P/KX 121997
CASSIDY, John, Able Seaman, P/JX 170099
CUMMINS, Richard F, Able Seaman, P/JX 182263
CURRIE, David J, Able Seaman, P/JX 182205
CURRY, Ernest L, Able Seaman, P/JX 182144
GILBERT, William M, Able Seaman, P/SSX 33658
HAGUE, Leonard, Act/Stoker Petty Officer, P/KX 85018
HARRISON, Hugh D V, Able Seaman, P/J 39096
HARRISON, Kenneth, Able Seaman, P/JX 178365
HESKETH, Colin, Able Seaman, RNSR, P/SR 8580
HUNT, William J, Stoker 2c, D/KX 129616
JACKSON, Sydney, Stoker 2c, P/KX 136882
JOHNSON, George A, Stoker 1c, RFR, P/K 62060
KEARNEY, James, Steward, P/LX 25324
MARSH, George, Leading Seaman, P/JX 136560
MCNEELY, George, Sick Berth Attendant, RNASBR, P/SBR/X 7609
MERRONY, Eric B, Signalman, RNVR, P/LD/X 4851
NASH, Eric, Stoker 1c, P/KX 119082
O'ROURKE, Francis, Able Seaman, P/JX 295533
O'SULLIVAN, Eugene P, Act/Petty Officer, P/JX 148118,
PAGE, Albert H, Cook (O), C/MX 49785
RHEAD, James L, Leading Seaman, P/JX 138988
SAMWAYS, Stanley T, Petty Officer Cook, P/MX 48953
THOMSON, Alexander R, Act/Leading Seaman, P/JX 143414
WILSON, Walter, Act/Leading Stoker, P/KX 92721
WOOLF, Peter J, Signalman, RNVR, P/LD/X 5228

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Wild Swan you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link:

If you have stories or photographs of HMS Wild Swan you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Frank Donald

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