HMS Khartoum (F45)

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Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Khartoum
Ordered: March 1937
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Laid down: 27 October 1937
Launched: 6 February 1939
Commissioned: November 1939
In service: 6 November 1939
Out of service: February – April 1940
Reinstated: May 1940
Identification: pennant number: F45/G45
Fate: Partially sank in harbor of Red Sea island, Perim, after an exploding torpedo air vessel set off a fire which reached the aft magazine. 23 June 1940
Status: Abandoned
Notes: Badge: On a Field barry wavy of Blue and White a camel, Gold.
General characteristics
Class and type: K-class destroyer

HMS Khartoum was a K-class destroyer of the Royal Navy, ostensibly named after the capital of Sudan, Khartoum.


Khartoum was launched on 6 February 1939.[1] Her initial action occurred on 19 December 1939, during deployment in the Firth of Clyde, when she was subject to an unsuccessful torpedo attack by a submarine near Holy Isle. She then carried out an anti-submarine search for 24 hours without success. In February 1940, she was deployed for escort of convoys to Norway based at Rosyth where she sustained structural damage during anti-submarine operations at high speed in heavy weather and was sent to Falmouth for repair. On completion in May 1940, she took passage to assist in operations in Nore Command for evacuation of personnel from the Netherlands and Belgium but developed a machinery defect and was taken to Portsmouth for two days of repair, where her pennant number for visual signaling purposes changed to G45.) [2]

On 8 May she was nominated for service with the 14th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea and on 16 May, took passage from Plymouth for Gibraltar with sister destroyer Kandahar. On 23 May, they joined the flotilla at Alexandria, Egypt, and deployed for screening and patrol duties. Khartoum and Kandahar detached with other K-class destroyers Kimberley and Kingston for surveillance of Italian warship movements from Massawa on the Red Sea.[2]

In June 1940, Khartoum deployed in the Red Sea with sloops of the East Indies Squadron and her other sister destroyers and prepared for war service in defense of Red Sea shipping. On 10 June, after the outbreak of war, she deployed for patrol and convoy defense based at Aden. On 21 June she carried out attack on Torricelli, a Brin-class submarine, which was unsuccessful. Then on 23 June she was deployed with Kandahar, Kingston and the sloop Shoreham in search for Torricelli near Perim Island. After interception, she took part in surface engagement with these ships, during which, Torricelli was sunk. However, during the battle, she was hit by return fire which damaged the after torpedo tube mounting. Subsequently, a torpedo's compressed air chamber exploded, causing a serious uncontrollable fire resulting in an explosion of the ship's artillery magazine, killing one of the ship’s company, injuring three others and wrecking the stern structure aft of the engine room while causing extensive flooding. The ship beached on an even keel with forward structure awash and the ship’s company was rescued by Kandahar and taken to Aden, Yemen. Yeoman of Signals John Murphy was awarded a Mention in Despatches for his actions in securing the ship's code books. The ship’s equipment was dismantled and other security measures were implemented before the ship was abandoned. The shipwreck, in position 12º38'N, 43º24'E, remained visible after the end of World War II.[2]

Confusion over cause of sinking[edit]

Some sources deny that Khartoum was damaged by gunfire from the Italian submarine Torricelli. According to them, the fire aboard Khartoum broke out 5 and a half hours after the sinking of Torricelli. Torricelli was sunk at 0624 local time. The fire aboard Khartoum started at 1150. A torpedo air flask exploded propelling the warhead through the deck house of number 3 4.7" mount. A ruptured oil tank for the mount started the fire which led eventually to the loss of the ship. Her loss seems more due to inexperienced damage control. The Admiralty inquest ruled out damage from enemy action and sabotage, even though captured members of Torricelli‍ '​s crew were housed aboard. [3]


  1. ^ HMS Khartoum (F 45) Retrieved on 23 May 2011
  2. ^ a b c "H.M.S. KHARTOUM (F45)". Naval History. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Langtree, Christopher "The Kellys: British J, K and N Class Destroyers of World War II" US Naval Institute Press 9 May 2002 ISBN 1-55750-422-9

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 12°38′0″N 43°24′0″E / 12.63333°N 43.40000°E / 12.63333; 43.40000