HMS FRITILLARY K 199

A Corvette of the Flower Class, named for the snake's head fritillary flower (Fritillaria meleagris) 1


by Tony Drury


 

HMS FRITILLARY (post modification? 2)


 

The Flower Class Corvette HMS FRITILLARY was ordered on April 8th 1940 laid down at the Harland & Wolff Ltd. shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on February 15th 1941. She was launched on July 22nd of that year and Lt. Cdr. Wallace Hamilton Barker, RNR was appointed in command on August 18th. Her crew (80 men and seven officers by 1943) began to assemble at HMS CAROLINE, the RN base at Belfast from early September and were borne on the books of CAROLINE for pay and victualling until this responsibility was transferred to HMS FERRET on October 21st; FRITILLARY was never responsible for her own accounts, she was attached to a local naval base wherever she went.

Work-up and commissioning

After fitting out and builder's trials she moved to Tobermorey (HMS WESTERN ISLES was a work up base for new ships at Tobermorey the Isle of Mull, Scotland). FRITILLARY and her new crew three very full and hectic weeks training together, every evolution they could be rehearsed was thrown at the ship; at sea, in harbour, submarine honing, gunnery shoots, anti-aircraft shoots, depth charge attacks etc, all had to be completed satisfactorily before she could be assigned to active duty. From Tobermorey she preceded to Londonderry was commissioned on November 1st 1941 as HMS FRITILLARY bearing the pennant number K 199. She spent he next month storing ship and loading fuel, ammunition and stores, many for tropical climes when it was announced that she was nominated for service at Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa, for the defence of convoys to and from Freetown

HMS FRITILLARY sailed on December 1st 1941 in company with the Destroyer ROCKINGHAM, and Sloops ROCHESTER, SANDWICH and SCARBOROUGH as the escort force for convoy OS.13 bound for Freetown; from this date her accounts were transferred to the books of HMS EDINBURGH CASTLE (RN base, Freetown, Sierra Leone). Also sailing with this convoy were the Monitors EREBUS and ROBERTS, these ships detached from the convoy on December 3rd to proceed to Gibraltar, FRITILLARY and SCARBOROUGH provided their escort. HMS ROBERTS was on passage to Alexandria, EREBUS to Trincomalee. On handing off the Monitors FRITILLARY and SCARBOROUGH proceeded to Freetown, arriving there on December 19th.


Operations off the West & South African coast: January 1941 - May 1942

After spending Christmas at Freetown FRITILLARY sailed next on New Year's Day 1943 in company with the Destroyers VANSITTART and VELOX and Corvette ORCHIS which joined the Corvettes AURICULA and CROCUS to escort the in-bound OS.14 (UK to Freetown) convoy which arrived at Freetown on January 3rd. FRITILLARY next put to sea as part of the escort force for convoy ST.12X (Freetown to Takoradi) which departed Freetown on January 9th sailing with the Corvettes FREESIA and NIGELLA. ST.12X arrived at Takoradi on the 14th and the escorts detached to join the Destroyer WILD SWAN and Corvettes AURICULA and ORCHIS covering Convoy SL.98 (Freetown to UK) which departed Freetown on the 15th. On the 18th the escort was detached to cover the in-bound Convoy OS.16 (UK - Freetown) which arrived at Freetown on the 23rd.

On February 15th FRITILLARY's accounts were transferred to the books of HMS AFRIKANER III (RN base, Cape Town, South Africa) when the ship and sister Corvette FREESIA were loaned to Commander in Chief, South Atlantic for local escort and A/S patrols. FRITILLARY and FREESIA provided local escort for convoy WS.16F (Freetown to Durban) on March 17th, and detached to Cape Town on the 19th. The next convoy escort was at the start of April when elements of convoy WS.16B (merchant ships BERGENSFJORD, BRISBANE STAR, DELFTDIJK, DENBIGHSHIRE, NEA HELLAS, PORT JACKSON, POTARO and SIBAJAK) entered Cape Town harbour having detached from the convoy which had continued on to Durban.  


Operation IRONCLAD: May 1942

On April 14th the Corvettes AURICULA, CYCLAMEN, FREESIA, FRITILLARY, GENISTA, JASMINE, NIGELLA, and THYME were nominated for support of the planned landings in Madagascar (Operation IRONCLAD) and were transferred to the control of Commander in Chief, East Indies. FRITILLARY's accounts were transferred to books of LANKA (RN Base, Colombo, Ceylon) All eight vessels proceed to Durban where the invasion forces were assembling. FRITILLARY in company with AURICULA, FREESIA, JASMINE, NIGELLA, and THYME sailed from Durban on April 25th escorting assault convoy 'Y', [BACHERQUERO (Landing Ship Tank), DERWENTDALE (Landing SHip Gantry), THALATTA, EMPIRE KINGSLEY, MAHOUT, MARTAND, and NAIRNBANK (MT/Store ships) and the oiler EASDALE. The cruiser DEVONSHIRE also sailed in this convoy as a standby bombardment ship] Corvettes CYCLAMEN and GENISTA sailed the following day escorting the MT/Store ship 'City of Hong Kong'; a second assault convoy 'Z' sailed on the 28th.

All eight Corvettes rendezvoused with Force 'F' on 5th May off the beachhead where the assault was to take place on the western side of the Ambre Peninsula in Courier Bay. The objective was the naval base at Diego Suarez. FREESIA had the honour to lead Force 'F' in to courier bay through mined and narrow waters which were commanded by a hostile shore battery. Complete surprise was achieved the only Royal Navy casualty was Corvette AURICULA which hit a mine in position 1212'S, 4919'E on 5 May 1942 and foundered the next day while under tow.

FRITILLARY and the other Corvettes patrolled in Courier Bay and the approaches after the landings; About 0500, on the 7th the Vichy French submarine LE HEROS attempted to make an o attack but was located and attacked by a flight of Swordfish from the fleet carrier ILLUSTRIOUS (part of force ;H;). The sub crash dived but was forced to re-surface and the crew abandoned her, survivors were taken aboard FRITILLARY & JASMINE, these were transferred to the Landing Ship Infantry HMS KEREN (part of assault convoy 'Z').
 

    The landing site and objectives for Operation 'Ironclad'

    The Flower Class Corvette HMS AURICULA after hitting a mine in Courrier Bay at position 12.12S, 49.19E.

In the afternoon of the 7th Diego Suarez surrendered and its important anchorage had been secured and FRITILLARY & JASMINE were assigned to escort the store ships from Courier Bay round to Diego Suarez but this was to prove a dangerous task. On the voyage round first JASMINE ran onto an uncharted reef and was to remain stuck there for a few hours; FRITILLARY stood by to offer assistance but later she too suffered grounding on the reef. JASMINE suffered the most damage, her ASDIC was wrecked and some hull damage was done, eventually both ships would need dockyard attention. No longer able to function as anti-submarine ships, the two Corvettes were employed unloading the larger troopships. This task was proceeding very slowly using landing craft so the Corvettes, although not ideal, were used for the transhipment of essential stores.

Both FRITILLARY and JASMINE were released from operation IRONCLAD on May 22nd and they left Diego Suarez for Durban where they were to have their hull damage repaired. They arrived at Durban on the 28th. From June 1st 1942 HMS FRITILLARY was reallocated to the Kilindini Escort Force for escort duties on Kilindini Aden Route; her accounts transferred to the books of TANA (RN Base Kilindini, Kenya), Kilindini became the base of operations for Corvettes in the Indian Ocean.


Convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean June 1942 - March 1944

FRITILLARY and JASMINE were back at sea by in early June when they provided local escort for the battleship RAMILLIES and her screen of Destroyers ACTIVE, DECOY and DUNCAN; she was making for Durban to undergo repairs after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine at Diego Suarez, the two Corvettes met the group two days out on the 7th and accompanied them into Durban.

HMS FRITILLARY sailed from Durban with convoy CM 029 (7 troop ships sailing Durban to Aden) on July 1st in company with the cruiser FROBISHER and netlayer GUARDIAN. On the 11th the convoy rendezvoused with the Battleship ROYAL SOVEREIGN at approximate position 3N, 51E (north west of the Seychelles) and she took over as escort and FROBISHER, FRITILLARY and GUARDIAN detached to Kilindini.

 

   

HMS FRITILLARY (background) alongside sister ship HMS JASMINE

 

Between convoy duties FRITILLARY carried out anti-submarine sweeps and exercises off the East African coast and the Seychelles. On September 18th she exercised with the Submarine HM S/M TRUANT and naval aircraft. At the start of October she provided local escort for convoy CM 032A (Kilindini to Aden) while on route to conduct further anti-submarine searches off the Seychelles

On October 30th HMS FRITILLARY was sent with the 'Isles' class trawler HMS HOXA, then at Addu Atoll, with orders to raise steam with all dispatch to search for suspected Japanese Submarine close to Addu Atoll . HOXA was ordered to maintain a patrol in the 1 Degree Channel. FRITILLARY, the Corvette HMAS LISMORE, and Minesweeper HMAS CAIRNS were ordered to form a patrol covering as far as possible the probable line of advance of the submarine to the south westward of Addu Atoll. The search proved unsuccessful and was abandoned at 1130 on November 1st.

FRITILLARY spent the remainder of November and on into December conducting anti-submarine searches of the Seychelles, returning to Kilindini on December 17th. She sailed again for Diego Suarez on the 21st, arriving there on the 24th to refuel and join with the south bound convoy MC.2 (Troop ships EMPIRE TROOPER and HIGHLAND MONARCH taking 1st South African Division to Durban from Suez) for onward escort to Durban. FRITILLARY joined company with the Cruisers FROBISHER and GAMBIA until south of Madagascar, where the escort was further strengthened by the addition of the Destroyers FOXHOUND and INCONSTANT and a further two Corvettes. The convoy arrived Durban on the 31st December.

The start of1943 brought indications of a renewal of the U boat campaign off the South African coast, and orders were given that the Corvettes FREESIA, FRITILLARY, NIGELLA, and JASMINE should remain at Durban and they were placed under the operational command of Commander in Chief, South Atlantic on the 17th January. In addition to local escort duties they were to carryout additional A/S patrols. On Wednesday, 3rd February FRITILLARY and THYME escorted CA.09 (Cape Town -to Aden) to 37deg. 10S, 25 deg E. FRITILLARY transferred to books of GNU (RN base, Cape Town, South Africa, formerly AFRIKANER III) on April 1st 1943

On Monday, 26th April HM S/M TRUSTY departed from Durban for Simonstown escorted by HMS FRITILLARY; en-route exercises are carried out with the submarine and South African Air Force aircraft. During the night of 27/28 April the two ships lost contact. Aircraft searched for TRUSTY but were unable to find her; she arrived at Simonstown on the 29th. At the end of May 1943 FRITILLARY sailed from Durban with the Armed Merchant Cruiser CARTHAGE, Corvette ROCKROSE and the Destroyer HMAS NIZAM as local A/S escort for convoy CM.42 (Durban to Kilindini), leaving Durban on the 30th; FRITILLARY, ROCKROSE and NIZAM left the convoy on June 1st.

It is probable that FRITILLARY underwent a refit during June/July 1943 and during this period Lt. Cecil 'Ru-Ru' McLarnon O'Brien, DSC, RNVR relieved Lt. Cdr. Barker as commanding officer.

 

The Corvettes main anti-submarine weapon, the Depth Charge.  Left, loading Depth Charges onto the stern rails - these are gravity delivered in the wake of the ship. Right, both Depth Charge throwers are ignited flinging the charges many yards from the ship.  (images are taken on HM Ships DIANTHUS right & COREOPSIS left)

The Corvettes main armament and anti-aircraft weapon, left, the 4 inch Breach Loading Mk.IX single gun on the bow. Right, the 2-pounder (40 mm) pom-pom gun on a "bandstand" over the engine room.

(images are taken on HMS FREESIA)

 

HMS FRITILLARY resumed convoy escort duty, in company with the Corvettes JASMINE and Rescue Tug MASTERFUL (W 20), at the start of August, covering the eight merchant ships of CB.2 (Durban to Beira) between the 1st and the 4th. This time her charges came under attack; at 00.24 hours on August 3rd U-196 attacked the convoy at position 13.45S, 41.16E, about 100 miles northeast of Memba Bay, Tanganyika. The submarine reported one ship sunk and one left burning and in a sinking condition, however, only the CITY OF ORAN was hit and was later scuttled by gunfire from MASTERFUL (W 20). The master, 75 crew members and ten gunners were picked up by the tug and landed at Mombasa.

On August 6th FRITILLARY, JASMINE and ROCKROSE joined the four ships of convoy MC.8 (sailed from Kilindini July 30th for Durban) and 7 merchant ships of BC.3 (Beira to Durban) and escorted them into Durban, arriving there on the 10th. At the beginning of September HMS FRITILLARY was allocated to return to the Kilindini Escort Force to operate on the Kilindini to Aden convoy route, the ship's r accounts transferred once more to the books of HMS TANA.

The next convoy to be escorted was the longest route so far, HMS FRITILLARY was teamed with the corvettes FREESIA and TULIP, A/S Trawlers CAPE WARWICK, NORTHERN ISLES, and NORWICH CITY on September 17th to escort the 9 ships of convoy D K 1 (Durban for Kilindini), the voyage took 11 days, arriving at Kilindini on September 30th. At Kilindini the convoy became convoy DKA.1for onward passage to Aden. The escort force was adjusted when the convoy sailed on Thursday September, 30th, and now comprised FRITILLARY, FREESIA, TULIP, ROCKROSE, JASMINE, NORWICH CITY, Frigates DERG and, TAY, Rescue tug PRUDENT and Armed Merchant Cruiser RANPURA for Aden. The convoy and escorts arrived at Aden on October 9th

After refuelling at Aden the corvettes FRITILLARY and FREESIA and Frigates LANDGUARD and SENNEN sailed on Sunday the 10th with the 18 ship return convoy AKD.3 (Aden to Durban) [the majority of the escort force that sailed with DK/DKA.1 remained at Aden as part of a redistribution of escort forces in response to an increased threat of U-boat activity in the Arabian Sea]. LANDGUARD and SENNEN detached off Kilindini on the 20th; the Slop FALMOUTH and A/S trawlers COVENTRY CITY, INDIAN STAR, NORTHERN CHIEF, ST ZENO, and HERTFORDSHIRE joined the escort force. The convoy arrived safely at Durban on Friday October 29th.

There is no information on FRITILLARY's activities during the period November 1943 to January 1944; it is possible she was employed on local A/S sweeps or underwent a further refit. She appears next as part of the escort force for convoy CM.49A (Durban to Aden) which sailed from Durban on January 31st 1944. This convoy consisted of a single merchant vessel, the ORBITA which was escorted to Kilindini where she was handed her on to the Corvette JASMINE on February 7th for the remainder of her voyage. She next put to sea from Kilindini on February 10th to strengthen the escort of inbound convoy AKD.14 from Aden. She met the 6 vessel convoy on the 10th and provided A/S cover through the Mozambique Channel before detaching on the 12th. Nine days later she sailed with convoy DKA.12 (Kilindini to Aden) departing on February 21st in company with the Frigates SENNEN; the 10 vessel convoy arrived at Aden on March 1st 1944.


Convoy escort duties in the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean April - July 1944

FRITILLARY was to remain at Aden from March 1944 operating in the Arabian Sea. Her next convoy escort sailing was on April 4th when she was the sole escort with the single ship convoy AB.36A (Aden to Bombay); this arrived at Bombay on the 14th. Later that month, on the 25th, Lt Cdr. Leslie James Maxwell, SANF(V) relieved Lt. O'Brien as commanding officer.

FRITILLARY remained at Bombay providing local escort for the single ship convoy AB.39D (Aden to Bombay) as it approached the port on May 29th. Her next convoy duty was not until July 3rd when she sailed as sole escort with convoy BP.116 (Karachi to Bandar Abbas), arriving at Bandar Abbas on the Red Sea on July 6th. On the 14th she escorted the return convoy PB.82 (Bandar Abbas to Bombay), arriving at Bombay on the 18th. On the  return leg FRITILLARY and sister Corvette ASTER accompanied the single ship convoy BM.97 (Bombay to Colombo), sailing on July 25th. The convoy arrived at Colombo on the 31st.


Convoy escort duties in the Bay of Bengal August 1944 - M<arch 1945

From August 1944 HMS FRITILLARY was reallocated to convoy escort duty in the Bay of Bengal, covering the Calcutta to Chittagong route. She made her first run on this route on the 21st when she operated with sister Corvette VERBENA and the Sloop SHOREHAM to provide A/S cover for the 25 ship convoy CJ.38 (Calcutta to Colombo) from August 21st until they were detached on the 23rd, the convoy had left Calcutta on the q19th and arrived at Colombo on the 27th. On September 2nd FRITILLARY made the first of a series of convoy escort runs on the Chittagong to Calcutta and back route, and with the exception of two runs she singlehandedly shepherding groups of up four merchant ships.

September 1944 convoys: CH .39 (3 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing September 2nd and arriving on the 4th; HC .67 (3 ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing on the 7th, arriving on the 9th; CH.40 (4 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing September 10th, arriving on the 11th.

October 1944 convoys: HC.72 (3 ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing on October 16th, arriving on the 17th; CH 44 (3 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), on the 18th, arriving on the 19th; HC .74 (3 ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing on the 22nd, arriving on the 25th; CH.46 (2 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing on the 27th, arriving on the28th.

November 1944 convoys: HC .78 (3 slow ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing with the Corvette MONKSHOOD on the 3rd, arriving on the 8th; CH. 50 (3 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing on the 9th, arriving on the 10th; HC.81 (3 ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing with the Corvette MONKSHOOD on the 16th, arriving on the 17th; CH.53 (2 ships, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing on the 18th, arriving on the 19th; HC 084 (2 ships, Calcutta to Chittagong), sailing on the 24th, arriving on the 26th; CH.56 (1 ship, Chittagong to Calcutta), sailing on the 26th, arriving on the 27th.
CH.56 was to be her last convoy with the East Indies Fleet, in December she was allocated for a refit (location not known) which continued into January 1845. It is not clear what duties she performed post refit, presumably local A/S patrols.
 

Return to UK and paying off to reserve fleet March - June 1945

At some point in the early spring of 1945 FRITILLARY was nominated for return to UK for reduction to Reserve. She sailed for UK via Mediterranean sometime in March, arriving at Gibraltar during the second week of April. From Gibraltar FRITILLARY sailed for the UK as part of a 15 strong escort force covering the Liverpool bound 29 merchant ship convoy MKS.96G on April 20th.

HMS FRITILLARY arrived at Liverpool with the convoy on April 28th 1945 and preparations began to destore her ready for her decommissioning into the reserve fleet. She was paid off sometime in June1945 and allocated to class B reserve.

 

HMS Convoy routes and major ports of call for HMS FRITILLARY 1941 - 1945

 

 She was put up for disposal during 1946 and was sold on March 19th of that year for conversation for mercantile service. Beloved to have become the merchant vessel ANDRIA in 1947, but renamed V.D. CHIDAMBARAM in 1949. She was scrapped in India in 1955.


Notes:
1 The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white.[3] It flowers from March to May and grows between 1540 cm (616 in) in height. The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m (2,625 ft).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritillaria_meleagris


2 It is not clear when FRITILLARY received her modifications - most Flower Class Corvettes had the fo'c'sle deck extended aft so that it ran from behind the forward gun mount to the funnel (in the original build the space between the bridge and the funnel was not enclosed as can be seen in the picture of HMS AURICULA above.) The bridge was be redesigned to a naval pattern (the ships were based on a civilian Whaler design) and increased in height for better visibility. The mainmast was stepped and moved aft of the pilot house to provide improved arcs of fire for the new 20mm Oerlikon guns which were fitted to the expanded bridge wings. A 2-lb pom-pom A/A gun was added in a bandstand aft and hedgehog anti-submarine mortar throwers were added port & starboard in front of the bridge behind the 4" gun mount joined the array of weaponry being shoe-horned aboard these small ships. New RDF (Range and Direction Finding) radar was added (the original Type 271 radar is the tin can mounted aft on top of the bridge).


 

Sources:

Web sites:
ww.naval-history.net
Various sections of this site provided information, in particular the Admiralty War Diaries,

Arnold Hague convoy database
Details of main and short convoy routes of WW2, including details of merchant vessels and escort ships.

uboat.net
Various pages on allied shipping and U-Boats

The Flower Class Corvette and WWII Royal Navy Forums
A number of threads concerning Corvettes especially those that operated wit FRITILLARY. Various images that illustrate the layout and armament of the ship.

HMS Freesia thread at World Naval Forums
Various snippets of informational out joint operations between FRITILLARY and FREESIA . Various images that illustrate the layout and armament of the ship.

Articles:
Corvettes at war

Adobe Acrobat document Author unknown.

War-time history of HMS Jasmine by Sub. Lt. James ('Jim') A Hingston, her navigation officer from 20 March 1941 and 16 June 1943.

 

Documents:

The service record of JX267757 AB Radar (RDF) William A Clark

Seated far left while under training, location unknown;

click to enlarge image. Digital copy of page 2 of his service record sheet.

William served on FRITILLARY 14 Sep 1941 to 14 Apr 1943.  


 

 


 

 

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