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  • Writer's pictureSi Biggs

Loss of Trinidad by own Torpedo

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

HMS Trinidad was a Royal Navy Fiji-class light cruiser. She was lost while serving in the Arctic on convoy duty after being damaged by her own torpedo escorting PQ 13 in March 1942.



While escorting Convoy PQ 13 in March 1942, she and other escorts were in combat with German Narvik-class destroyers. She hit and damaged the German destroyer Z26 and then launched a torpedo attack.


One of her torpedoes had a fault, possibly affected by the icy waters and sub zero conditions common in the Atlantic en route to Russia; causing the torpedo to limp across the water at a speed far below the 46 knots expected, the reduced speed causing the torpedo to strike Trinidad as she performed evasive zigzags in its path. [1]


At 0922/29, HMS Trinidad fired a torpedo at Z 26. Two others fired shortly afterwards failed to leave the tubes due to icing. Meanwhile Z 26 was suppering a beating until at 0923/29 a torpedo was seen breaking surface 200 yards on the Trinidad's port bow. The wheel was put hard to port but it was too late and the torpedo hit HMS Trinidad between 71 and 79 stations on the port side. The ship almost immediately liste 17° to port, speed dropped to 8 knots, all communication from the compass platform failed and steering had to be shifted to the after-steering position.


Discovered later the torpedo struck the ship killing 32 men, including 9 Royal Marines Bandsman who were manning the Transmitting Station, which was situated deep in the hull of the ship. had been her own. [2]


Survivors included Lieutenant Commander Williams as well as composer George Lloyd, a Royal Marines bandsman who had earlier written the ship's official march. This was performed at the Last Night of the Proms on 7 September 2013, in the presence of the last surviving crewman from Trinidad.


Trinidad was towed clear of the action, and was then able to proceed under her own power towards Murmansk. The German submarine U-378 attempted to engage and sink the damaged cruiser, but was spotted and attacked by the destroyer Fury. On arrival in Murmansk, Trinidad underwent partial repairs.



HMS Trinidad

March 1942


24th

  • Convoy scattered by gale and remained to cover destroyers during re-assembly.

  • Warned that attack by German destroyers was likely.


29th

  • In action against German destroyers Z24, Z25 and Z26 with HM Destroyer ECLIPSE. (Note: Enemy ships were searching for PQ13-)

  • Damaged Z26 at close range but hit on port side aft by return fire causing damage by outbreak of fire.

  • After further damage to Z26 by HMS ECLIPSE, fired torpedo at enemy ship to complete its destruction. Owing to malfunction this torpedo circled and hit the ship on port side forward of Bridge structure. Forward Boiler Room flooded with oil fuel which ignited causing further major damage.

  • Joined by HM Minesweeper HARRIER, HM Destroyers ORIBI and FURY.

  • Taken in tow until own propulsion available. (Note: Z26 was sunk in this engagement.

30th

  • Arrived at Murmansk screened b y HMS FURY and HMS ORIBI


April


  • Taken in hand for temporary repair at Murmansk to allow passage to UK (Note: Steel plating for repair was brought to Murmansk by HM Cruiser EDINBURGH.)

7th

  • Docked for repair during which 32 bodies were recovered. (Note: Burial at sea later carried out from HM Minesweeper NIGER.)

May

2nd


  • Temporary repair completed.

13th


  • Sailed for UK escorted by HM Destroyers FORESIGHT, FORESTER, MATCHLESS and SOMALI. Cover provided by HM Cruisers NIGERIA, KENT, NORFOLK and LIVERPOOL with destroyer screen stationed west of Bear Island and ships of Home Fleet including ships of Home Fleet farther to the south west. See references for details. Speed was restricted to 20 knots as only after boiler room was in use.

14th


  • Under heavy dive bombing and torpedo attacks.

  • Hit by several bombs in forward structure which wrecked repair work and caused an outbreak of several fires.


15th


  • Ship abandoned when fires could not be controlled and threat of further attacks by aircraft during daylight period. 63 of ship's company were killed. (Casualty List - note on casualties)

  • Survivors rescued by H M Destroyers MATCHLESS, FORESIGHT and FORESTER.

  • Hulk sunk by three torpedoes from HMS MATCHLESS.

(Note: Casualty List for action on 29th March was published on 18th April 1942.) [3]


She set out to return home on 13 May 1942, escorted by the destroyers Foresight, Forester, Somali and Matchless. Other ships of the Home Fleet were providing a covering force nearby. Her speed was reduced to 20 knots (37 km/h) owing to the damage she had sustained. En route, she was attacked by more than twenty Ju 88 bombers on 14 May 1942.

HMS Trinidad in her death throes, 15 May 1942, in a photo taken from the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Matchless. Note the survivors on the stern of the Trinidad waiting to be rescued by the Matchless.

All attacks missed, except for one bomb that struck near the previous damage, starting a serious fire. Sixty-three men were lost, including 9 further Royal Marines and twenty survivors from the cruiser Edinburgh, which had been sunk two weeks earlier.


HMS Trinidad was scuttled in the Arctic Ocean north of North Cape in position 73°35'N, 22°53'E after being hit by German Ju-88 bombers on 15 May 1942. [www.RoyalMarinesHistory.com]]

The decision was taken to scuttle her and on 15 May 1942 she was torpedoed by Matchless and sank in the Arctic Ocean, north of North Cape.


Search HMS Trinidad in the Royal Marines Roll of Honour Database for a full list of names


Down load the Arctic Convoy Museum Infograph here - HMS Trinidad


[1] Wikepedia - HMS Trinidad (46)

[2] Various Sources

[3] Navy Net - HMS Trinidad

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