Friday, 16 April 2021

Hebburn - HMS Kelly Memorial

HMS Kelly

In the Commonwealth War Graves section of Hebburn Cemetery is a common grave for 7 men from  HMS Kelly. The communal grave also contains memorials to those from HMS Kelly lost in action who lie at rest in the sea.

Hebburn Cemetery CWGC plot and HMS Kelly Memorial

Hebburn Cemetery HMS Kelly Memorial

Hebburn Cemetery HMS Kelly Memorial

The destroyer was built at Hawthorn Leslie shipyard in Hebburn, and would return three times to the yard for repairs; for storm damage, after it hit a mine and after being torpedoed. In the 639 days between commissioning and sinking in May 1941, HMS Kelly spent 303 days under repair in the Hebburn Yard.

Hawthorn Leslie Shipbuilders Hebburn

HMS Kelly was commanded Lord Louis Mountbatten, an uncle of Prince Philip, (future Duke of Edinburgh), and second cousin once removed of Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen.  Mountbatten would command HMS Kelly from 27th June 1939, just prior to commissioning, to 23rd May 1941 when the ship was sunk.

Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten


HMS Kelly was a K-class destroyer built by Hawthorn Leslie and Co. Ltd at Hebburn on the River Tyne. The vessels keel was laid 26th August 1937, being named after the Admiral of the Fleet at that time, Sir John Kelly. 

HMS Kelly K Class Destroyer

The ship was launched on 25th October 1938 by the daughter of Sir John Kelly, Atonia.

HMS Kelly launch party 25th October 1938

HMS Kelly launch Hawthorn Leslie Hebburn

Taking command of HMS Kelly on 23rd June 1939 was Lord Louis Mountbatten. Recently promoted to Captain, Mountbatten would command the 5th Destroyer Flotilla from the Kelly.

Lord Louis Mountbatten on Bridge of HMS Kelly

HMS Kelly was commissioned on 23rd August 1939, ten days before the outbreak of World War Two, proceeding from the Tyne to Chatham. 

HMS Kelly leaving Hebburn 29th August 1939

HMS Kelly Sea Trials 1939

On 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany following the German invasion of Poland. On 12 September HMS Kelly headed to Le Havre to bring to bring the Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII), who had been living in Paris, back to England. 

Duke of Windsor on board HMS Kelly

HMS Kelly would serve in Home Waters conducting patrols and escorting ships to Norway. The ship would return to the Tyne in November, arriving on the 21st, to have storm damage repaired at the Hebburn Hawthorn Leslie shipyard. 

On the 14th December with repairs complete, HMS Kelly left the Tyne and was sent to the assistance of two tankers who had struck mines, SS Inverlane and SS Atheltemplar.  The same day, at 16:12 HMS Kelly struck a mine in her stern and was towed back to the Tyne, returning to the Hebburn Hawthorn Leslie shipyard where she had just left, for repairs. The ship spent nearly 3 months in dry dock, returning to service 29th February 1940. Her return was again short, two days later she collided with another destroyer, HMS Gurkha, necessitating another 3 weeks in dry dock on the Thames. HMS Kelly returned to active duty on 27th April proceeding to Scapa Flow.  

On the 29th April HMS Kelly was assigned to the evacuation of troops from Norway. The Kelly was first alongside the dock at Namos embarking 150 French troops. The overall operation resulted in 1,850 British, 2,345 French, and some Norwegian troops being evacuated, as well as 30 German prisoners. 

Naval Operations Norway April 1940

On 9th May 1940, the Fifth Flotilla headed by HMS Kelly were tasked with intercepting German minelayers and their escorts conducting operations in the North Sea. At 22:30 on the night of 9th May, the Kelly was torpedoed and badly damaged by the German motor torpedo boat S31.

HMS Kelly torpedo damage 

 By jettisoning as much topside ammunition as possible the vessel remained afloat. In the dark, HMS Bulldog managed to get a tow rope attached to the Kelly and she was taken in tow. Shortly after midnight the two ships came under attack by motor torpedo boat S33 which crashed into the vessels, S33 succumbing to the damage caused during the collision. In the morning the wounded on board Kelly were transferred to HMS Kandahar. Bodies were recovered and buried at sea, the initial loss being 20 men.  Other ships were despatched to form an escort for the stricken Kelly and coastal command alerted to provide air cover. Continuing under tow from HMS Bulldog, the Kelly with a skeleton crew on board limped toward the Tyne. 

HMS Kelly under tow by HMS Bulldog

The Luftwaffe attempted to bomb the stricken ship, but were driven off by the combined firepower of the escorting ships. The German bombers would return over the next two days.

Off the Tyne, the tow was transferred to two tugs and on the afternoon of 13th May after 92 hours on tow and barely afloat, HMS Kelly reached the safety of Tynemouth. Once again the HMS Kelly returned to Hawthorn Leslie Hebburn Shipyard to be repaired.

HMS Kelly arriving Tynemouth

HMS Kelly arrival on the River Tyne

HMS Kelly damage Hawthorn Leslie shipyard

HMS Kelly damage Hawthorn Leslie shipyard

Whilst in dry dock a further seven bodies were discovered and buried in Hebburn Cemetery. Thousands attended a commemoration service to the 27 men lost and a memorial was erected in Hebburn Cemetery by the crew of HMS Kelly and the workmen of Hebburn Shipbuilding Yard. 

HMS Kelly Memorial to those lost 9th May 1940

The damage to the Kelly was so extensive that the ship was decommissioned and it would spend eight months in the Hebburn Shipyard being repaired.  HMS Kelly returned to service in home waters on 19th December 1940 

HMS Kelly 1941
Devonport inspection by Prince George, the Duke of Kent

On 21st April HMS Kelly departed Plymouth for Gibraltar, from where she form part of naval forces escorting ships to Malta.

HMS Kelly 1941 Gibraltar

HMS Kelly Malta 1941 

German Paratroopers began an airborne invasion of Crete on 20th May 1941, capturing Meleme airfield which allowed re-enforcement of the initial assault troops. German forces began to overwhelm the defenders and Allied troops withdrew to the southern coast for evacuation. 

Battle of Crete May 1941

HMS Kelly together with HMS Kashmir and HMS Kipling were despatched to Crete on 22nd May to intercept vessels for a possible seaborne re-enforcement. 

A day later on the 23rd May 1941, HMS Kelly was sunk when Stuka dive bombers attacked Mountbatten's ships as they withdrew from Crete. Nearly half of the ships complement were lost, 121 men from the Kelly perished in the attack. 

Crete Naval Operations 20 May to 1 June 1941

A further commemoration was added to the Hebburn HMS Kelly Memorial for those lost when the ship was sunk.

HMS Kelly Memorial to those lost 9th May 1940
and those killing when the ship was sunk 23rd May 1941



NORWAY (1940)
CRETE (1941)

HMS Kelly


Lord Louis Mountbatten

Lord Mountbatten would continue with his naval career, his appointments including Chief of Combined Operations and Supreme Allied Commander South Eastern Theatre. After the war he would become Viceroy of India overseeing independence and partition of India and Pakistan. His final naval position was First Sea Lord, after which he became Chief of the Defence Staff, retiring in 1964.

Mountbatten maintained close links to Hebburn. He wrote of the memorial to the men of HMS Kelly;

“none of us will forget how members of the Yard contributed to the Memorial which was put up in the Hebburn Cemetery, or the kindness and sympathy of those who tended the grave.  There is a strong mutual bond between the men who build our ships and the men who sail in them and fight in them; and this has perhaps never been more clearly shown than it was between us in the Kelly and you in the Yard”.  

Lord Mountbatten visits Hebburn Sea Cadets 1955

On 27 August 1979, Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA when a radio controlled bomb was exploded on board his boat whilst he was holidaying at his summer home in County Sligo in the north-west of Ireland.

A commemoration to Lord Louis Mountbatten was added to the Kelly Memorial remembering the bond between HMS Kelly, Hebburn and Mountbatten. 

HMS Kelly Memorial Mountbatten Commemoration

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Snods Edge

Snods Edge War Memorial

 Snods Edge is a tiny hamlet just off the A668 on the Northumberland / Durham county boundary. 

 A war memorial situated in St Johns churchyard records the names of 15 men from the parish of Shotley who lost their lives in the two world wars.  

The memorial bears the inscription “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

St John's Church Snods Edge

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

The Great British Dig - Trow Point.

Hugh Dennis                               IJ            

On 10th March 2021, the TV programme the Great British Dig featured Trow Point , South Shields. Hosted by Comedian and actor Hugh Dennis, his team of archaeologists aimed to uncover the military history of Trow Point. 

Hugh Dennis and his team archaeologists Trow Point
   Richard        Hugh         Chloe            Natasha

To assist Hugh and his team of archaeologists was my good self providing local knowledge and Regimental history expertise.

IJ Trow Point Great British Dig

To understand the military aspects of their findings, the team enlisted the help of 101 Regiment Royal Artillery, South Shields based 205 Battery and Veterans from the Royal Artillery Association.

 Hugh Dennis           IJ           CO 101 RA     BC 205 Battery

3 DVA Association RAA with archaeologist Don

On top of Trow Point is the replica of a disappearing gun, the original of which was installed in 1877. The War Office used the location to conduct trials for a disappearing gun manufactured by  Clarke-Maxim gun. The mechanism proved unsuccessful and the gun removed in 1894, leaving the concrete emplacement. A replica gun was mounted in the 1990s

South Shields - Trow Rocks Disappearing Gun

Trow Point Disappearing Gun

The primary focus of the archaeologists was the military history of Trow Point which could be traced from Victorian times through both World Wars. Of particular Northumbrian Gunner interest were the activities of the 3rd Durham Volunteer Artillery (3DVA). In 1864 the 3 DVA  established a practice Battery on Trow Point.  

A photograph from the 1890's shows Trow Point with a magazine, a house for Permanent Staff  Instructors (PSI) and cannon of the practice battery. 

Trow Point 1890s
           Magazine     PSI House                                 Cannons

Photographs of the Battery firing from Trow Point show cannons mounted on wooden firing platforms consistent with the location of the two concrete platforms identified during the initial research.

3 DVA gun practice Trow Point c1890

There were however thoughts the concrete platforms could be searchlight emplacements from a later period. The archaeologists set to work to discover what lay beneath the soil.

Once uncovered, the concrete bases were found to be gun platforms, not from the 32 pounder smooth bore cannon days, but that of a type used by Rifle Muzzle Loaders (RML) coastal artillery introduced towards the end of the 19th Century.  

Gun platform Trow Point

A review of the history of the Third Durham Volunteer Artillery shows that the 3 DVA were equipped with the 64 pounder Riffle Muzzle Loader in the late 1890’s. Confirmation that the archaeology could be supported by the history. 

RA veterans identifying gun platform

64 pounder Rifle Muzzle Loader

Another excavation was made to confirm the extent and usage of a house that was identified as being  used by Permanent Staff Instructors (PSI) attached to the 3 DVA. It was also used as a caretakers house for a nearby quarry at a later date.

Trow Point house excavation

Located on the cliff edge overlooking Sandhaven Beach, a potential trench system was identified. Excavation revealed traces of corrugated iron and stakes, indicating a fire trench, confirmed when examination of the ground revealed  a zig zag communication trench. 

Potential trench system excavation

Potential trench system excavation

At the end of the weeks exploration it was back to Dig HQ for Hugh Dennis and the  archaeologists to outline their findings. 

Dig HQ Hugh Dennis and Richard

Dig HQ  Jim  IJ Andy

IJ on the TV - Sherlock views with interest