HMS Ardent (H41)
HMS Ardent in 1930
|Ordered:||6 March 1928|
|Builder:||Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock, Scotland|
|Laid down:||30 July 1928|
|Launched:||26 June 1929|
|Commissioned:||14 April 1930|
|Motto:||“Through Fire and Water.”|
|Fate:||Sunk by the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 8 June 1940|
|Badge:||On a Field Black, a Cresset, Silver with flames proper.|
|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:||4,080 nmi (7,560 km; 4,700 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
HMS Ardent was an A-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She served during the Second World War in Home waters and off the Norwegian coast, before becoming an early war loss when she was sunk by the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on 8 June 1940 whilst escorting the aircraft carrier Glorious.
Construction and commissioning
HMS Ardent was ordered on 6 March 1928 from the yards of Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock, Scotland under the 1927 Naval Estimates. She was laid down on 30 July 1928 and was launched a year later on 26 June 1929. She was commissioned on 14 April 1930. After carrying out acceptance trials throughout March 1930, she was assigned on 23 March to operate with the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, with the Mediterranean Fleet. Whilst working up, her No. 4 gun mounting was found to be defective and Ardent returned to Chatham for a replacement. The repairs were not completed until May, and she did not sail for her new station at Malta until 19 May.
Ardent was deployed throughout June to September 1930, carrying out exercises and taking part in Fleet visits programmes. By October, however, her continued deployment was in question due to the recurrence of a number of defects. She put into the Royal Dockyard at Malta on 31 October to undergo repairs. She was not taken in hand for a survey until 1 December. By January 1931, her complement was reduced in anticipation of a long programme of repairs, which eventually lasted until September. During this time, she was paid off and reduced to the reserve. With the completion of repairs, Ardent was nominated to be recommissioned and to subsequently rejoin the 3rd Flotilla. She was recommissioned on 4 November, and after a period of working up rejoined the flotilla in December.
1932-1933 was spent carrying out Fleet Exercises and Visits Programmes as well as Flotilla exercises and independent visits. She also took part in combined exercises with the Home Fleet at Gibraltar each year in Spring. Ardent returned to the UK in January 1934 to undergo another refit. She was paid off in February and subsequently recommissioned to rejoin the flotilla. She spent March–July 1934 working up and on duties in home waters, before taking passage to Malta to rejoin the flotilla. The rest of the year was spent in the Mediterranean, in deployments and exercises. 1935 was much the same, with a brief visit to the Coronation Review at Spithead in June with the Mediterranean Fleet.
Ardent continued to deploy with the flotilla throughout 1936, but by August the Italian military operations in Abyssinia, and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War caused an increased state of readiness amongst the ships of the Mediterranean Fleet. On 8 September, Ardent and other ships of the flotilla were deployed on non-intervention patrols off the Spanish coast, and provided assistance to British citizens in Spain. She returned to Malta on 17 October. After carrying out a few exercises off Malta, Ardent resumed her Spanish patrols, including providing humanitarian aid to refugees, on 29 November. These activities would keep her occupied throughout December and into 1937.
In January–February 1937, she was deployed as the Senior Naval Officer’s ship at Barcelona. In March, Ardent returned to the UK, and on 14 March was taken in hand at Sheerness for a long refit. The refit lasted until March 1938, and included the installation of anti-submarine detection equipment (ASDIC/Sonar). After the refit had been completed Ardent was nominated to serve with the Devonport Local Flotilla, along with her sister destroyers Codrington and Achates, along with the older destroyer Broke. After post refit trials in April, Ardent was recommissioned with a reduced complement to serve with the Plymouth Command. She served with this command as a training and emergency destroyer, and on 24 September her complement was increased as a result of the Munich crisis. She was also prepared for war service. By October, the crisis seemed to have abated, and on 11 October her complement was again reduced and she resumed her local flotilla duties. On 17 October, she entered Devonport Dockyard for repairs. She was back in service on 15 November and in December she was deployed at Devonport for boy's training, whilst remaining ready for emergency duty. This was how she would spend the first half of 1939. In July, she was again undergoing repair, and in August she was moved to her war station with the 18th Destroyer Flotilla, for convoy defence and anti-submarine patrol in the English Channel. On 23 August, with war looming, she was joined with a full complement and prepared for war.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Ardent joined the flotilla at Portland to cover the first troop convoys to France, through the South Western Approaches and in the Channel. In October, she was transferred to the Western Approaches Command but was later transferred to Liverpool. She sailed for Liverpool in January 1940, and began deployments in the Irish Sea, and the South Western Approaches. On 30 January, she was patrolling west of Ushant when she received an urgent SOS from Fowey, which had been escorting a convoy which had come under attack by a U-boat, which had already sunk the tanker SS Vaclite. Ardent carried out a hunt for the U-boat with destroyers Whitshed, Valmy, Fowey and Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command. They eventually forced the attacking U-boat — U-55 — to surface, whereupon she was attacked by aircraft and forced to scuttle herself. Forty-one of the crew were rescued by Fowey and Whitshed. The next day, Ardent joined Whitshed in escorting the cruiser Ajax into Plymouth on her return from her battle with the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee.
Ardent remained deployed in the Western Approaches throughout February, before spending March escorting convoys from the Clyde to Norway. In April, she was transferred to the Home Fleet after the German invasion of Norway to carry out convoy escort duties. On 14 April, she was deployed with Codrington and Achates as part of the escort for military convoy NP1, on passage to Norway with troops for the planned landings at Narvik. On 4 May, Ardent damaged the underwater dome of her sonar outfit and had to return to the UK. She was taken in hand for the replacement of the dome on 6 May, and returned to active duty on 18 May. On 22 May, she escorted the troopship SS Ulster Prince as she took troops to the Faroe Islands to replace the Royal Marines that had been landed there in April as part of Operation Valentine. On 31 May, she and the destroyers Acasta, Acheron, Highlander and Diana escorted the aircraft carriers Ark Royal and Glorious from the Clyde to the Norwegian coast to carry out air operations in support of the evacuation of allied forces from Norway, in Operation Alphabet. She remained as the carriers' escort throughout early June, with a period spent refuelling at Harstad.
Ardent was detached from Ark Royal on 8 June, and joined Acasta in escorting Glorious back to Scapa Flow. En route, the three ships were discovered by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Ardent and Acasta laid a protective smokescreen to hide the British ships, and engaged the German ships with their 4.7 in (120 mm) main armament, which proved to be ineffective. Despite coming under heavy fire from the much larger guns of the Germans, Ardent carried out a torpedo attack. She managed to score a single hit with her 4.7 in (120 mm) gun, but was struck repeatedly by enemy shells. Ardent eventually capsized with the loss of 10 officers and 142 ratings. Acasta and Glorious were also sunk in the engagement. Only two of Ardent's survivors remained to be picked up by a German seaplane five days after the sinking. One of the two later died from exposure, leaving AB Roger Hooke, who crewed 'X' Gun, as Ardent's only survivor. Hooke was eventually repatriated to Britain in 1943 on account of ill health.
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- HMS Ardent at U-boat.net.
- HMS Ardent at the Scharnhorst web site.
- HMS Ardent's prewar and wartime career