Allied Warships

HMS St. Monance (W 63)

Rescue Tug of the Saint class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeRescue Tug
PennantW 63 
Built byHongkong & Whampoa (Hongkong) 
Laid down 
Launched11 Sep 1919 
CommissionedDec 1919 
End service 


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Notable events involving St. Monance include:

20 Oct 1941
The light cruisers HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN) and HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN) and the destroyers HMS Griffin (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) departed Alexandria at 0830/20 to bombard an enemy gun battery near Tobruk during the night of 20/21 October.

The cruisers returned to Alexandria at 1330/21. At 0610/21 the destroyers had been detached to go to the assistance of the gunboat HMS Gnat (Lt.Cdr. S.R.H. Davenport, RN) which had been torpedoed and heavily damaged. Due to the air threat they remained near Mersa Matruh and were not allowed to proceed further to the west. HMS Griffin and HMS Jaguar were later joined by the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN).

They contacted the damaged gunboat before sunset. HMS Griffin took HMS Gnat in tow escorted by HMS Jaguar and the A/S whalers HMSAS Southern Maid and HMS Klo.

Tow was later passed to the tug HMS St. Monance.

HMS Jaguar, HMS Avon Vale and HMS Eridge arrived at Alexandria at 0030/23.

HMS Gnat and HMS Griffin arrived at Alexandria later on 23 October. (1)

23 Dec 1941

Convoy AT 6.

This convoy departed Alexandria for Tobruk on 23 December 1941.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alisa (Palestinian, 1072 GRT, built 1901), Varvara (Greek, 1354 GRT, built 1910) and Warszawa (Polish, 2487 GRT, built 1916). The boom defence vessel HMS Burgonet was also part of this convoy.

Escort was provided by escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and the corvette HMS Peony (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) M.B. Sherwood, DSO and Bar, RN).

Cover for this convoy was provided by the destroyers HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN).

Varvara reported her engine room flooding during the night of 23/24 December and was escorted back to Alexandria by the destroyer HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN). The tug HMS St. Monance came also out from Alexandria to assist.

At 1429/26, the Warszawa was torpedoed by the German submarine U-559 in position 32°11’N, 24°44’E. The ship remained afloat and was first thought to have hit a mine. She was taken in tow by HMS Peony with HMS Avon Vale escorting. The bulk of the passengers and crew meanwhile had been taken off by HMS Burgonet as well as HMS Peony and HMS Avon Vale.

At 1930 hours (2015 hours in British sources) the ship was hit by another torpedo from U-559 which had remained in the area undected. She sank in about 10 minutes in position 32°10’N, 24°32’E. HMS Peony quickly cut the towline and picked up the skeleton crew that had remained on board. In all 23 passengers and crew lost their lives on board Warszawa.

All survivors were landed at Tobruk in the early morning hours of the 27th. (2)


  1. ADM 53/115215 + ADM 199/415
  2. ADM 199/415

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

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