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

HMS Wryneck
HMS Wryneck after her conversion at Gibraltar in March 1940 to a WAIR with twin high altitude 4 inch guns and assignment of a new Pennant Number L04
A year later on 28 April 1941  she was sunk evacuating troops from Greece with the loss of most of her crew
Courtesy Andrew Lyle

HMS Wryneck, the ...

Following .....

Battle Honours

Commanding Officers

Lt.Cdr. Robert Henry Douglas Lane, RN (26 Jul 1940 - 27 Apr 1941)

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Officers - change!

Sub Lt William G Andrews  (2 February 1918 -
Sub Lt Frederick Ayers RNVR (13 February 1918 -
Lt John H. Cobby RN (4th December 1918 -
Lt Frank A Hall RN (28 January 1918 -
Lt Cdr Eng  George Oswald RN (22nd November 1917 -

Evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces from Greece
The disaster of the SS Slamat, HMS Diamond and HMS Wryneck

The SS Slamatwas a twin-prop ship of 11,636 tons of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd. The vessel was launched in 1924 by shipyard De Schelde in Flushing carrying passengers between Rotterdam and the Dutch Dutch East Indies. In order to compete with faster newer ships Slamat was modernized in 1931. Her length was increased to 155.5 meters  by altering the bow whuich enabled the De Schelde steam turbines to increase the ship's speed from 15 to 17 knots. The Slamat  was chartered by the British Ministry of Shipping in 1940 and converted into a troop-ship in Sydney, Australia. She was mainly deployed in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean  carrying  British Empire troops  to Egypt.


In the afternoon of 26 April, 1941, Slamat, HMS Glenearn and Khedive Ismail of 7,290 ton (under Egyptian flag) escorted by the cruiser HMS Calcutta and five destroyers were directed from Crete to evacuate the troops from Nauplia in the in the Peloponnese. The Glenearn, an LSI (Landing Ship Infantry), was bombed and a bomb hit the engine room stopping the LSI dead in the water. The destroyer HMS Griffin was ordered to tow the landing ship back to Crete. The loss of the Glenearn was a bitter set back;  their landing craft would have madeb the evacuation of the troops much easier.

In the evening the ships dropped anchor in the bay at Nauplia. The harbour was still blocked by the wreck of the Ulster Prince and since the landing craft of the Glenearn were not available the troops could only be ferried to the ships in the life-boats of the ships themselves and some small loocal boats. The cruisers HMS Orion and HMS Perth and the destroyer HMS Stuart which had replaced HMS Glenearn, took the first 2,500 troops aboard. By 03.00 the Khedive Ismail had taken aboard no troops at all and Slamat only a few hundred, when HMS Calcutta signalled that departure was due. Captain T. Luidinga of the Slamat knew that hundreds of evacuees remained on shore and against orders he continued to embark troops. HMS Calcutta and the Egyptian ship only departed at 04:00 and Slamat at 04:15. In spite of the decision by captain Luidinga to board more troops there were only 600 troops onboard, only half of her capacity.

After a few hours the allied fleet was attacked in the Sea of Pelagos by nine German Ju 88 bombers and the Slamat received a direct hit between the bridge and the foremost chimney which caused a fierce blaze. The crew tried to control the fire but this was made more difficult by heavy machine gun strafing by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter airplanes and Ju 87 (Stuka) bombers. The ship received another near-miss and started to list. Captain Luidinga ordered abandon-ship. The life boats and rafts which had been left over did not provide sufficient capacity and two life-boats capsized as they were overcrowded. To make things worse the drowning troops were machine gunned in the water by the German airplanes whilst the other ships maintained heading and speed. HMS Calcutta took a few survivors aboard and ordered the destroyer HMS Diamond to stay and rescue as many survors as possible.

At 09:16 three British destroyers from Crete arrived to reinforce the convoy. HMS Wryneck was ordered to assist HMS Diamond in her rescue attempts. Both destroyers rescued as many drowning men as possible and returned at 11:00 to the burning Slamat. Here they discovered another two life-boats and they took the survivors aboard. HMS Wryneck fired a torpedo at the Slamat which sank her within minutes. HMS Diamond already had about 600 victims onboard and HMS Wryneck another few dozen when both destroyers at 13:00 headed for Crete. A quarter of an hour later both ships were attacked by Ju87 dive bombers coming out of the sun. HMS Diamond received two hits and sank within eight minutes. HMS Wryneck received three hits, capsized on her port side and sank within fifteen minutes. The crew of the Wryneck had been able to lower a single life-boat and both destroyers had launched their three Carley rafts. The capacity of these was far short of what was needed and hundreds drowned, especially those wounded.

In the evening of 27 April the destroyer HMS Griffin was sent out to establish why HMS Diamond and HMS Wryneck had failed to return. Griffin found two rafts at the spot where Slamat had sunk. Fourteen survivors were picked up and next morning another four, who were taken to Crete. The life-boat of HMS Wryneck reached a little rocky island thirteen miles south east of Milos on the 28th of April. Here they found a Greek fishing boat full up with Greek and British refugees from Piraeus. That evening the fishing boat and the life-boat sailed for Crete and were spotted during the night by a landing craft on its way with refugees from Port Raphtis. All the evacuees were taken aboard the landing craft and arrived safely at Crete.

Almost one thousand perished in the disaster of the Slamat, HMS Diamond and HMS Wryneck.
Only eight of the 600 men being evacuated by the Slamat survived plus  eleven of the 214 crew and 21 Australian and New-Zealander artillery men.
Of the 166 crew of HMS Diamond 20 were saved and of the 106 crew of HMS Wryneck 27 survived.

George Dexter's Story

"HMS Witch was my home for three and a half years. I was an H.O. (Hostilities only) Telegraphist and although my seamanship was not brilliant, I could read Morse at 22 words per minute - that was my job. The following is a report of the rescue of 24 survivors from the American Steamship Independence. The boats crew in the rescue were mainly Officers and men of the seaman branch. The only way that I could assist was (with others) in the lowering and heightening of the rescue boats. I was able to witness most of the operation and I was in awe of those brave men of the boats crews who risked their lives to save others. The sea was heavy and very, very cold.   I and others were so proud of the rescuers who did their job with the minimum of fuss in difficult conditions."  Ray Hodgson 


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

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