Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS WRESTLER

HMS Wrestler
HMS Wrestler
From Wikipedia

 HMS Wrestler (D35) was a W class destroyer launched by the Royal Navy in the latter stages of the First World War and active from 1939 to 1944 during the Second World War. She was the first Royal Navy ship to bear that name, and the only one to do so to date. She was the tenth order in the 1916-1917 programme, ordered on 9 December 1916 from Swan Hunter. She was laid down at Wallsend during July 1917, launched on 25 February 1918 and commissioned on 15 May that year, too late to see active service in the war. In the month of Wrestler's commissioning the battleship HMS Hindustan collided with Wrestler and badly damaged her.

Her first deployment was in 1921, to the Atlantic Fleet's 5th Destroyer Flotilla, which also visited the Mediterranean in 1925. The Flotilla returned to the United Kingdom during the 1930s on the commissioning of new destroyers and Wrestler was placed in reserve. She then served as tender to the torpedo school at HMS Vernon from 1938 until the month before the outbreak of the Second World War, when she was put on station at Gibraltar.

From there she joined the 13th Destroyer Flotilla to defend convoys in the early stages of the Battle of the Atlantic. During 1940 she escorted Convoy OG-22F alongside HMS Bideford and Fowey through the Western Approaches on its way to Gibraltar in March. In July 1940 she tiik part in Operation Catapult,  the attack on Mers-el-Kébir (where she rescued crews from the British-sunk Strasbourg) then joined the destroyers HMS Faulknor, Foxhound, Fearless, Forester, Escort, Douglas, Active, Velox and Vortigern as they screened the capital ships preparing for air attacks from Ark Royal on Italian targets on Cagliari in July 1940 - the operation was abandoned after the force came under heavy air attacks. Wrestler then sank the Adua class Italian submarine Durbo east of Gibraltar on 18 October 1940 alongside HMS Firedrake and two flying boats.

From July 1941 to April 1942 she was stationed at Freetown and was then transferred to the Malta Convoys as part of Force H and "Operation Harpoon", before serving as one of the naval escorts for "Operation Torch". HMS Wrestler was adopted by Hyde, Cheshire, in December 1941 after a successful "Warship Week" National Savings campaign. She, a flying boat and HMS Wishart sank the U-boat U-74 east of Cartagena on 2 May 1942, then on 15 November 1942 sank U-98 alone. In July 1942 Wrestler also boarded the Vichy French merchantman Mitidja (intercepted off Cape Palos, Spain by the S Class submarine, HMS P222) and escorted her into Gibraltar.

In August 1942, Malta was facing the threat of starvation after two years of incessant bombing by Axis air forces in one of the most concentrated and prolonged aerial sieges of any war.  At the time, the Island was the linchpin of the battle in the Mediterranean. The fortitude of its population and its defenders earned them the personal award of the George Cross for Gallantry from King George VI in April 1942. HMS Wrestler was one of the escorts for Operation Pedestal, which brought relief to the island fortress in August 1942.
Operation Pedestal highlights one of the most difficult yet glorious moments in Maltese history and is today remembered by the Maltese as the "Il-Convoy ta' Santa Marija".

On 6 June 1944, whilst participating in "Operation Neptune" (the naval side of D-Day), she was mined off Juno Beach and declared a constructive total loss, being sold off on 20 July as scrap:

"HMS Wrestler, escort to Group 313, spent the night rounding up stragglers and guiding stray groups into the correct channels. At 0645 hours on D Day she was mined. "She was proceeding at speed and was one cable to the eastward of Channel 7" according to the report of Commander F orce ‘J’ who also states" The commander had appreciated that the importance of the punctual arrival of these groups outweighed the risk to his ship by operating in unswept waters".  From the entry for Juno Beach on

Battle Honours

Commanding Officers

with acknowledgement to the Dreadnought Project and Unithistories

Cdr Edward McC. W. Lawrie, RN (16 April 1918  – 12 Feb, 1920)
Lt Cdr Vernon Hammersley-Heenan, RN (12 Feb. 1920 - 2 Jan. 1922)
Lt Cdr  Kenneth H. Grant, RN (18 May, 1922 – 17 April, 1923)
Lt Cdr Peter McClelland, RN (10 April, 1923 -
Lt Cdr Donald C. Brock, RN (19 Aug. 1924 – 4 March 1925)
Lt Cdr Reginald W. Lawrence, RN (2 March, 1925 – April, 1927)
Lt Cdr  Cyril J. H. Hill, RN (30 April, 1928 – 11 Nov. 1929)
Lt Cdr Ian R. H. Black,RN (11 Nov. 1929 – c. April, 1930)
Lt Cdr Ian R. H. Black, RN (Sept. 1930 – 4 Oct. 1930)
Lt Cdr Michael W. Ewart-Wentworth, RN (24 Oct. 1930 – 1931)
Lt Cdr Godfrey N. Brewer, RN (22 Sept. 1931 -
Lt Cdrf Dudley B. Dowling, RN (14 Nov. 1932 -
Lt Cdr Noel R. Courthope-Munroe, RN (12 Sept. 1933 -
Lt Cdr Philip C. Ransome, RN (1 May, 1935 -
Lt Cdr (A I Fr) Henry G. D. de Chair, RN (Nov. 1936 -
Lt.Cdr. Edmund Neville Vincent Currey, RN (21 Aug 1939 - Oct 1940)
Lt. Eric Lister Jones, RN (Oct 1940 - 7 Dec 1941)
Lt. Reginald William Beecroft Lacon, DSC, RN (7 Dec 1941 - mid 1944)

Officers - change!

Eng Lt Cdr Ralph Myddelton Jones (28 Sept 1917 - 16 Feb  1919)

Lt Frank A Hall RN (28 January 1918 -
Lt Cdr Eng  George Oswald RN (22nd November 1917 -

Lucky Wrestler
Oran and Mers-el Kebir, North Africa
Operation Catapult

Operation Catapult was the name given to Britain’s attack on the naval fleet of France in July 1940. It was an attempt to ensure that the Germans did not get their hands on the six battleships and two battle-cruisers that the French had in their fleet when France surrendered to Germany after Dunkirk and the occupation of France. It led to the sinking of most of the Frech Fleet in harbour at Mers el Kébir near Oran in Algeria and the death of one thousand French sailors which was the source of much biterness between the erstwhile allies. The misunderstandings which led to this heavy loss of life and ships could have been avoided as explained on the historylearningsite.


Joined force'H' under Admiral Somerville aboard HMS Hood, also along were HMS Valiant, Resolution, Arethusa, Enterprise the Aircraft carrier Ark Royal and two flotilla's of destroyers. We set sail from Gibraltar at 1400hrs on July 2nd.

The first action occurred at about 2345hrs when a torpedo exploded ahead of the destroyer Vortigern, she along with Vidette carried out a search, there was then much coming and goings between Admiral Somerville and Admiral Gensoul's emissaries to try and determine the outcome of the French Fleet which was now berthed at Mers-el-Kebir and Oran.   It was becoming obvious that the demands of the Admiralty for the French Fleet to surrender to the British were not going to be met. At 1730 hrs It was 'Action Stations' and we were detailed to close the entrance to the harbour to intercept any submarine activity.   Soon the 15 inch shells from the Hood were whistling overhead causing explosions among the French Fleet with smoke and flames rising several hundred feet in the air. The shore batteries were beginning to find our range and shells were falling all around us, they seemed to be of different colours, each shore battery must have had its own colour scheme.  

Admiral Somerville ordered ordered the Wrestler "To get out and retire out of range". Not before time too for we were being straddled, but 'Lucky' Wrestler came out unharmed.  The Battle cruiser Strasbourg and some destroyers escaped, we gave chase for a while but due to the shortage of fuel compelled us to retire and were recalled to the Fleet, we picked up the crews of two Swordfish which had been shot down.   With Force 'H' back in Gibraltar it was found that we had lost three Swordfish and two Skua's were lost but only one Skua's crew was lost. Of the Vichy French - enough said.  

had become the home of a legion of cockroaches, but I reckon we had the cheapest and most successful way of helping them on their way to Davy Jones Locker, but I don't claim copyright.   A jam jar strategically placed in several messes, burnt coffee placed in the bottom of the jar smeared with grease (preferably butter), they gave themselves up in droves, tip over the side, and R.I.P.  

Later the skipper made it up to us when a signal said that we must carry out a boiler clean in Bermuda instead of Liverpool. Each mess was given a week’s ration of our own island. What a break! talk about Captain Hook and Long John Silver. They could have had nothing on us, we lived like pirates for a week. What fun! Old Joe was the oldest among us but what a good mate to have around when it came to tent pegging, camp fires and cooking. Best to end on a happy note!!  
Laurie Conlon 

HMS Wrestler's part in Operation Pedestal is commemorated on this stampp

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Wrestler 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 Wrestler you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster

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