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Article by Steve Thornton 2007

H.M.S. Quorn 1940-1944

The plaque given to Rushden Urban District on the Ship’s adoption, and a 50th anniversary memorial plaque, are currently displayed by the local branch of the Royal Naval Association in Rushden Working Men’s Club. 

Throughout the Second World War there were regular national drives to raise money for the war effort. During one of these, Warship Week in February 1942, Rushden District (Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Raunds) ‘adopted’ H.M.S. Quorn, a Hunt Class destroyer. Setting themselves a very hard target of £250,000, they fell somewhat short, raising a still very creditable £200,231. (At this stage in the war the District were raising £50 per head compared with the national average of just over £20).

Built between 1939 and 1940 by J. Samuel White and Co. at Cowes, Isle of Wight, she was a Type 1 Hunt Class destroyer, launched on 27 March 1940 and completed on the 21 September 1940, with a complement of 146 officers and ratings. She was attached to the 21st Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, and suffered damage from both bombs and mines on several occasions in 1941 and 1942. She also formed part of the force which destroyed the German Auxiliary Cruiser ‘Komet’, damaged two minesweepers and several other smaller craft in the Channel on the 13th of October 1942.

In 1944, under the command of Lt. Ivan Hall, she took part in the D-Day operations, initially escorting convoys across the channel, and later formed part of the naval force protecting the landing beaches. On the 3rd of August, however, she was on her way to Le Havre to carry out shore bombardment duties, but ran into a Germans naval force on their way to attack the beachhead, and was sunk by either a  "Linsen" explosive motorboat or a German "Neger" manned torpedo.   

This is an eye witness account by Norman Ackroyd (a survivor) of the events of the night of 3rd August 1944: "The ship had been part of the beach head defence force for some nights before, on the night of August 3rd we sailed as normal just before dusk and went to all night action stations (I was part of No 3 gun’s crew on the quarterdeck) again as normal, this time however we were accompanied by an American radar ship and we were informed over the tannoy that at dawn we were going in close to Le Havre in order to bombard the e-boat pens. The American ship was to control the shelling. Just before midnight however there was a massive explosion amidships and I understand we had been hit in the boiler rooms, the ship broke in two, and sank in a few minutes. I personally was blown overboard by the blast and found myself in the water fully dressed. A large number of my shipmates must have gone down with the ship but there were quite a lot of us in the water. The American ship left the scene at full speed which caused a lot of resentment at the time but it was explained to us later that if she had stayed she would possibly have sustained the same fate as the Quorn. A lot of those with me in the water did not last the night but quietly slipped away, I was in the water for eight and a half hours before we were picked up by an armed trawler looking for us, by that time we were only a small band. We were informed after that the ship had been sunk by a German human torpedo on which the pilot sat on a type of torpedo which had an explosive torpedo slung underneath and that the German pilot had been picked up by another of our destroyers of the defence force. We were also told that we had run into a number of these torpedoes which were being carried into the beach head by the tide but as a result of the Quorn being sunk the alarm had been raised and the other torpedoes had been dealt with." (1)

Another survivor, Christopher Yorston, an AB at the time was up in the gunnery tower when Quorn was hit. “Within seconds I was in the water, looking up at the ship split in half,” he said. “If I had been in a cruiser, where the gun turret is completely sealed, I’d have been a goner. I grabbed hold of the first thing in the water, a lump of wood, and a converted trawler picked me up. It’s the luck of the draw.” (2)

A total of four officers and 126 ratings were lost. (3)  Among the dead was Lieutenant (E) John R. Dight, whose aunt, Mrs R.J. Butland, was a Rushden resident.

“H.M.S. Quorn bore on her quarterdeck a commemorative plaque presented by the area. Her Ship’s Bible was a gift from Rushden and the small Bibles used by the men were given by the children of the district. Many other gifts, among them two harmoniums and a sketch of Rushden St Mary’s Church, were sent to the ship.”

“Towards the end of last year the cadets of Rushden G.T.C. Company became responsible for the local liaison work, and at one of their gatherings during the winter they were visited by Mr. F. R. Ransome, the gunnery officer. A few months ago they received an illuminated address signed by every member of the ship’s company. Some of them had penfriends in the ship.” (4)

The plaque given to Rushden Urban District on the Ship’s adoption, and a 50th anniversary memorial plaque, are currently displayed by the local branch of the Royal Naval Association in Rushden Working Men’s Club. 





(4) Rushden Echo And Argus, Friday 18th August 1944


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