HMS Wessex (D43)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Wessex.
Career (United Kingdom)
Class and type: Admiralty W-class destroyer
Name: HMS Wessex
Ordered: 9 December 1916[1]
Builder: Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Tyneside, England[1]
Laid down: 25 May 1917[1]
Launched: 12 March 1918[1]
Completed: 11 May 1918[1]
Commissioned: 11 May 1918[2]
Motto: Proles militum ("Offspring of soldiers")[1]
Honours and
awards:
Battle honour for Atlantic 1939-1940[1]
Fate: Sunk 24 May 1940[1][2][3]
Badge: The Dragon of Egbert in red on a gold field[1]
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,100 tons
Length: 300 ft (91 m) o/a, 312 ft (95 m)p/p
Beam: 26.75 ft (8.15 m)
Draught: 9 ft (2.7 m) standard, 11.25 ft (3.43 m) in deep
Propulsion: 3 Yarrow type Water-tube boilers
Brown-Curtis steam turbines
2 shafts
27,000 shp (20,000 kW)
Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph)
Range: 320-370 tons oil, 3,500 nmi (6,500 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), 900 nmi (1,700 km) at 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Complement: 110
Armament:
Notes: Pennant number:
  • F32 (June 1918)[3]
  • D43 (interwar)[1]

The first HMS Wessex (D43) was a W-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in the final months of World War I and the early months of World War II.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

Wessex was ordered on 9 December 1916 as part of the 10th Destroyer Order of the 1916-1917 Naval Programme[1] and was laid down by Hawthorn Leslie and Company at Tyneside, England, on 25 May 1917.[1] She was launched on 12 March 1918,[1] completed on 11 May 1918,[1] and commissioned the same day.[2] She was assigned the pennant number F32 in June 1918;[3] it was changed to D43 during the interwar period.[1]

Service history[edit]

World War I[edit]

Wessex served in the Grand Fleet for the rest of World War I,[1] and was in attendance at the surrender of the Imperial German Navy '​s High Seas Fleet in November 1918.[1]

Interwar[edit]

During the interwar period, Wessex served in the 6th Destroyer Flotilla in the Atlantic Fleet. She later was assigned to duty with the Royal Navy '​s torpedo school at Portsmouth, HMS Vernon.[1]

World War II[edit]

When the United Kingdom entered World War II in early September 1939, Wessex and the destroyers HMS Keppel (D84), HMS Vanessa (D29), HMS Vesper (D55), HMS Viscount (D92), HMS Vivacious (D36), HMS Vortigern (D37), and HMS Wakeful (H88) were assigned to the 17th Destroyer Flotilla at Plymouth for convoy defence and patrol duties in the English Channel and Southwestern Approaches. She continued in this role until April 1940.[1]

In April 1940, Wessex was reassigned to Nore Command for the support of the operations of Allied forces in France. After the successful German invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France began in May 1940, Wessex evacuated the British naval attaché to the Netherlands from the Hook of Holland on 14 May 1940 and transported him to the United Kingdom. She then was reassigned to Dover Command to support Allied forces opposing the German advance in Belgium and France.[1]

On 24 May 1940, Wessex, the destroyers HMS Vimiera and HMS Wolfhound (D56), and the Polish Navy destroyer ORP Burza were ordered to bombard German Army forces in France advancing on Calais. They opened fire on a German armored column west of Calais at Sangatte Hill at 16:20 hours and received return fire from German artillery ashore. At 16:30 hours, 27 German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers attacked the destroyers, hitting Wessex with three bombs. Wessex quickly sank in 115 feet (35 meters) of water at 51°00′54″N 001°45′50″E / 51.01500°N 1.76389°E / 51.01500; 1.76389 ("HMS Wessex (D43) sunk"). Vimiera rescued her survivors but had to withdraw with damage from six near misses. The German aircraft then concentrated their attack on Burza, which suffered heavy damage from two bomb hits and three near misses but managed to limp back to Dover with Vimiera. The ships shot down one German aircraft during the action.[1][2]

References[edit]