|Ordered:||6 March 1928|
|Builder:||John Brown & Company, Clydebank|
|Laid down:||11 September 1928|
|Launched:||4 October 1929|
|Commissioned:||27 March 1930|
|Motto:||Fidus Achates (Latin: "Faithful Achates")|
|Fate:||Sunk, Battle of the Barents Sea, 31 December 1942|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Class and type:||A-class destroyer|
|Length:||323 ft (98 m) (o/a)|
|Beam:||32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)|
|Draught:||12 ft 3 in (3.73 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines|
|Speed:||35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)|
|Range:||4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
|Complement:||134; 140 (1940)|
HMS Achates was an A-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during the late 1920s. Completed in 1930, she initially served with the Mediterranean Fleet. She was sunk on 31 December 1942 during the Battle of the Barents Sea.
Design and description
In the mid-1920s, the RN ordered two destroyers from two different builders, Ambuscade, built by Yarrow, and Amazon, built by Thornycroft, incorporating the lessons learned from World War I, as prototypes for future classes. The A-class destroyers were based on Amazon, slightly enlarged and carrying two more torpedo tubes. They displaced 1,350 long tons (1,370 t) at standard load and 1,773 long tons (1,801 t) at deep load. The ships had an overall length of 323 feet (98.5 m), a beam of 32 feet 3 inches (9.83 m) and a draught of 12 feet 3 inches (3.73 m). Acasta was powered by a pair of Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, each driving one shaft, using steam provided by three Admiralty 3-drum boilers. The turbines developed a total of 34,000 shaft horsepower (25,000 kW) and gave a speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph). During her sea trials, she reached a maximum speed of 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h; 40.9 mph) from 34,596 shp (25,798 kW). The ships carried enough fuel oil to gave them a range of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). The complement of the A-class ships was 134 officers and ratings and increased to 143 by 1940.
Their main armament consisted of four QF 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mk IX guns in single mounts, in two superfiring pairs in front of the bridge and aft of the superstructure. For anti-aircraft (AA) defence, they had two 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF 2-pounder Mk II AA guns mounted on a platform between their funnels. The ships were fitted with two above-water quadruple mounts for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes. Carrying the minesweeping paravanes on the quarterdeck limited depth charge chutes to three with two depth charges provided for each chute. The A-class destroyers were given space for an ASDIC system, but it was not initially fitted.
Battle of the Denmark Strait
In early May 1941, the British Admiralty was on the alert that the German battleship Bismarck might attempt to break out into the North Atlantic, so Achates was ordered to Scapa Flow for possible deployment against the Germans. On 22 May, just after midnight, Achates sailed along with the destroyers Electra, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, and Icarus, escorting the battlecruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales to cover the northern approaches. The intention was that the force would refuel in Hvalfjord, Iceland, and then sail again to watch the Denmark Strait.
On the evening of 23 May, weather started getting bad. At 2055 hrs., Admiral Lancelot Holland aboard Hood signaled the destroyers "If you are unable to maintain this speed I will have to go on without you. You should follow at your best speed." At 0215 on the morning of 24 May, the destroyers were ordered to spread out at 15 mi (24 km) intervals to search to the north. At about 0535, the German forces were sighted by Hood, and shortly after, the Germans sighted the British ships. Firing commenced at 0552. At 0601, Hood suffered a massive explosion, sinking the ship within two minutes.
Electra and the other destroyers were about 60 mi (97 km) away at the time. Upon hearing that Hood had sunk, Electra raced to the area, arriving about two hours after Hood went under. They were expecting to find many survivors, and rigged scrambling nets and heaving lines, and placed life belts on the deck where they could be quickly thrown in. From the 94 officers and 1,321 enlisted men who were aboard Hood, only three survivors were found. Electra rescued these survivors, and continued searching. Shortly thereafter, Icarus and Anthony joined in and the three ships searched the area for more survivors. No more were found, only driftwood, debris, and a desk drawer filled with documents. After several hours searching, they left the area.
Kirkenes and Torch
On 8 November 1942, while deployed off Oran, Algeria for operation "Torch", Achates detected, and attacked the Vichy French submarine Argonaute, which had sortied to contest the Allied landings in the area. Achates attack on Argonaute, saw the rise of oil to the surface of the sea and huge air bubbles, as well as debris from both inside, and outside the submarine. Following this, at a later point, HMS Westcott made a further attack, hence both ships were credited with her demise.
Battle of the Barents Sea
The German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, pocket battleship Lützow and six large destroyers had been ordered to attack and destroy the convoy. Despite being heavily outgunned the escort, under the command of Captain R. St. Vincent Sherbrooke, beat off the attack and not one merchant vessel was lost.
At 11:15, Achates was laying smoke to protect the convoy when she was hit by gunfire from Admiral Hipper, killing the commanding officer, Lt Cdr Johns, and forty crew. The First Lieutenant, Lt L. E. Peyton-Jones, took over command and, despite having sustained severe damage in the shelling, Achates continued her smoke screen operation. At 13:30 she went down 135 nautical miles (250 km; 155 mi) ESE of Bear Island. 113 seamen were lost and 81 were rescued, one of whom later died on the trawler Northern Gem which had come to the aid of Achates. In response, the light cruiser Sheffield damaged Admiral Hipper, and subsequently sank her escort, Z16 Friedrich Eckoldt.
- English, p. 14
- Whitley, p. 97
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- Friedman, p. 197
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- Coxswain in the Northern Convoys by S.A. Kerslake; an ex-fisherman's account of convoy JW51B and the sinking of the Achates
- Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews: HMS Achates by Rob Jerrard
- The Last Commission of HMS Achates by H.J.Scott-Douglas; on the BBC "WW2 People's War" Archive
- Obituary: Commander Loftus Peyton-Jones, Daily Telegraph 9 January 2001
- HMS Achates (Clydebuilt Ships Database)