Allied Warships

HMS Acheron (i) (H 45)

Destroyer of the A class

HMS Acheron before World War Two

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantH 45 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.): Parsons 
Ordered29 May 1928 
Laid down29 Oct 1928 
Launched18 Mar 1930 
Commissioned13 Oct 1931 
Lost17 Dec 1940 
Loss position50° 32'N, 1° 26'W

HMS Acheron (Lt. John Rees Wilson, RN) was mined off the Isle of Wright on 17 December 1940. She was running trials after completing repairs following the bomb damage sustained on 24 August. The trial was being conducted at night, with heavy seas running and a strong north-east wind in complete darkness.
During one of the passes on the measured mile, 8 nautical miles west-south-west of St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight, she struck a mine towards the bows, her own speed driving her under; she sank within 4 minutes, killing 196 crewmen and yard workers on board for the trials, only 19 survived. The mine is believed to have been one of those laid by the Luftwaffe in no definite pattern along the Channel coast. The wreck lies in 48 meters of water in position 50º32'N, 01º26'W.


Commands listed for HMS Acheron (i) (H 45)

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1Lt.Cdr. Ralph William Frank Northcott, RNJan 1939Dec 1940
2Lt. John Rees Wilson, RNDec 194017 Dec 1940 (+)

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Notable events involving Acheron (i) include:

4 Sep 1939
HMS H 31 (Lt.Cdr. W.R. Fell, OBE, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Portland with HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN) and HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN). (1)

3 Apr 1940
HMS H 32 (Lt. M.D. Wanklyn, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Portland with HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Malcolm (Capt. T.E. Halsey, RN). (2)

24 Apr 1940
HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN) departed Rosyth loaded with troops for Molde. Passage north was made with HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) and HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) that were also loaded with troops but these were to be landed at Aandalsnes. Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. H.W. Williams, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN). (3)

29 Apr 1940

Operation Klaxon, the evacuation of troops from Namsos.

Timespan: 29 April to 5 May 1940.

At 2000/29 the French armed merchant cruisers El D’Jezair, El Kantara and El Mansour departed Scapa Flow for Namsos, Norway where they were to evacutate troops. They were escorted by the British destroyers HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. W. Kitcat, RN) and the French large destroyer Bison (Capt. J.A.R. Bouan).

A cover force departed Scapa Flow one hour later. It was made up of the British heavy cruisers HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.H.D. Cunningham, CB, MVO, RN), HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), the French light cruiser Montcalm (Capt. J.L. de Corbiere, flying the flag of Commodore (Contre-Admiral) E.L.H. Derrien) and the British destroyers HMS Grenade (Cdr. R.C. Boyle, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN) and HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN).

These forces were later reinforced by the British destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and the French destroyer Foudroyant Foudroyant (Cdr. P.L.A. Fontaine)

The force lead by Vice-Admiral Cunningham arrived off the Norwegian coast near Namsos on May 1st.

HMS Maori had been sent on ahead and reported fog. HMS Kelly, HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin and Bison were ordered to join her.

When entering the Namsenfjord in fog on 2 May 1940, HMS Maori is bombed and damaged from near misses. She had to retire for temporary repairs but was able to participate in the evacuation during the next night. The evacuation attempt was then postponed to the night of 2/3 May.

On 2 May the force was reinforced by the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN).

In the evening of 2 May the force entered the Fjord to embark troops except HMS Devonshire, Montcalm, HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin, HMS Hasty and HMS Imperial which remained at sea to cover the operation.

A total of 1850 British, 2345 French, some Norwegian troops and 30 German prisoners were evacuated. The evacuation was completed around 0445/3.

Heavy German air attacks developed when the Force was leaving the area. The attacks concentrated on the Devonshire and Montcalm but they were not hit.

The French destroyer Bison was hit at 1010 hours in position 65°42'N, 07°17'E and her forward magazine exploded blowing off the fore part of the ship.The survivors were rescued by HMS Grenade, HMS Imperial and HMS Afridi The wreck was then scuttled by HMS Afridi.

But the attacks continued and at 1400 hours HMS Afridi was hit in position 66°14'N, 05°45'E and sank around 1445 hours. Her survivors were picked up by HMS Griffin and HMS Imperial.

The destroyers with the survivors; HMS Grenade, HMS Griffin and HMS Imperial were detached to land these at Sullom Voe where they arrived around 1700/4. They departed again around 2130/4 for Scapa Flow where they arrived around 0730/5.

Reinforcements had meanwhile been sent out from Scapa Flow these were the light cruiser HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN) and HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN).

Shortly before midnight during the night of 3/4 May, four more destroyers were sent out, these were; HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN), HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. E.W.B. Sim, RN).

All forces arrived at Scapa Flow in the evening of May 4th or the early hours of May 5th. (4)

24 Aug 1940
HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) was damaged by German aircraft during a air raid on Portsmouth. Repairs were completed on 2 December 1940.

27 Dec 1940
The loss of HMS Acheron was made public.

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 173/15687
  2. ADM 173/16286
  3. ADM 53/112663 + ADM 186/798
  4. ADM 199/361

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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