HMS Whelp (R37)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Whelp.
HMS Whelp.jpg
HMS Whelp underway on the Tyne, 1944
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Whelp
Ordered: December 1941
Builder: Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Hebburn
Laid down: 1 May 1942
Launched: 3 June 1943
Commissioned: 25 April 1944
Decommissioned: January 1946
Out of service: Sold to South African Navy on 23 February 1952
Honours and
Portland 1653
Gabbard 1653
Okinawa 1945
Badge: On a Field White, a lion's whelp sejant guardant Proper.
Career (South Africa)
Name: SAS Simon van der Stel
Acquired: 23 February 1952
Reclassified: limited conversion to frigate in 1963
Fate: Broken up in 1976
General characteristics
Class and type: W-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,710 tons (1,730 tonnes)
2,530 tons full (2,570 tonnes)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.57 m)
Beam: 35 ft 8 in (10.87 m)
Draught: 10 ft (3.0 m)
Propulsion: Twin steam turbines
Speed: 37 knots (69 km/h) maximum
Range: 4,680 nmi (8,670 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h)
Complement: 185
Sensors and
processing systems:
Type 276 radar
Type 291 radar
Armament: 4 x QF 4.7 in (119 mm) L/45 Mk.IX, single mounts CP Mk.XXII
4 x QF 2 pdr Mk.VIII, quad mount Mk.VII
- 2 x QF 40 mm Bofors, twin mount "Hazemeyer" Mk.IV

4 x A/A mountings;
- twin 20 mm Oerlikon Mk.V
- single Bofors 40 mm Mk.III or "Boffin" Mk.V
- single QF 2 pdr mount Mk.XVI
8 (4x2) tubes for 21 in torpedoes Mk.IX
2 racks & 4 throwers for 70 depth charges

HMS Whelp was a W-class destroyer of the Royal Navy (RN) that was ordered and launched during the Second World War. After completing trials in home waters, she joined the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, which was sent to the Far East via the Mediterranean. Whelp's duties with the British Pacific Fleet were to escort the major ships, such as aircraft carriers and battleships, during operations by the Fleet Air Arm against Japanese oil refineries in Sumatra and airfields near Okinawa. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay and later in Hong Kong. She was paid off in January 1946 and went into reserve.

Whelp was sold to the South African Navy on 23 February 1952 and renamed Simon van der Stel. She was subsequently modernised in 1963 with a limited conversion to an anti-submarine frigate. She remained in the South African fleet until 1976, when she was scrapped at Durban.[1][2]


Whelp was one of eight W-class destroyers constructed under the War Emergency Programme: Whelp and her sister ships made up the 9th Emergency Flotilla.[1]

She was launched from the yards of Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Hebburn on 3 June 1943.[1]

From March 1942, the destroyer was adopted by the civil community of Wembley,[1] Middlesex.

During her active service, her captain and first officer were Commander G. A. F. Norfolk and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (now Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh), respectively.[3][4]


Her name is taken as a continuation of ten earlier Lyon's Whelps,[note 1] inheriting the earlier ships' honours. "Lyon's (or Lion's) whelp" is an archaic term for a lion cub,[5] and may have had Biblical connotations,[note 2] be a play on the coat of arms (a lion rampant) of the Villiers family,[6] or both.

Operational history[edit]

Second World War[edit]

After commissioning in 1944, Whelp was temporarily attached to the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla in the Home Fleet. She participated in exercises for the Normandy landings in May 1944 and in June sailed on replenishment missions for the garrison on Spitsbergen.[note 3] On her release from these operations on 4 July, Whelp joined the 27th Destroyer Flotilla (27thDF) on the Clyde, which subsequently sailed as escort to the battleship Ramillies from Portsmouth on 2 August. Ramillies was to provide bombardment for the landings in the south of France, but the destroyers left her at Algiers as they were to be deployed elsewhere in the Mediterranean.[1]

In September, Whelp and the 27thDF sailed to Trincomalee in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where, on 15 October they joined the Eastern Fleet. In October and November 1944, Whelp escorted the fleet's aircraft carriers and the auxiliary tanker Wave Prince in air operations against various shore targets.[1]

On 22 November the ships of the 27thDF were among the founding units of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF). In early January 1945, Whelp was amongst the destroyer screen for the British aircraft carriers during the Operation Lentil air raids on the refineries at Pangkalan Brandan. She was then detached to tow the damaged submarine HMS Shakespeare to Trincomalee, arriving on 8 January.[1]

On 16 January, the BPF sailed for Sydney. While en route, the BPF air raided vital Japanese oil installations at Pladjoe and Soengi-Gerong (Operation Meridian I & II) on 24 and 29 January; during which, Whelp contributed to the screens for the major ships and recovered two ditched airmen, one of whom, Sub-lieutenant Roy Halliday from the aircraft carrier Victorious, survived. During this period, there were three at-sea refuellings. The BPF arrived at Sydney on 10 February and prepared for deployment with the United States 5th Fleet. These included conforming to USN hull classification numbers: Whelp′s pennant number was temporarily changed to D33.[1][3]

The BPF arrived at their forward base at Manus Island on 7 March, where they waited for formal approval from United States Navy (USN) Admiral Ernest King. They finally sailed for their operational deployment on 17 March.[1] Whelp′s station was at the rear of the fleet's formation, to recover ditched aircrew. Her radar had developed faults and she was briefly detached for repairs on 25 March, rejoining the Fleet five days later. Whelp witnessed kamikaze attacks on the British aircraft carriers on Easter Sunday.[3][note 4]

A 2006 BBC program describes the attacks and subsequent rescue of a pilot and his gunner, Roy 'Gus' Halliday and Norman 'Dickie' Richardson, who had been shot down, and the role of Lieutenant Philip who later married Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II.

In May, the BPF returned to Sydney, via Leyte, for repairs and replenishment. Whelp, however, was detached to Melbourne for repairs where she stayed until July, allowing her crew some shore-leave.[3] She rejoined the BPF at Sydney (now attached to the United States 3rd Fleet) and on 31 July escorted the battleship Duke of York to Guam, where Admiral Bruce Fraser, CinC BPF conferred with U.S. Admiral Chester Nimitz. The British ships continued to Manus, arriving on 3 August.[1]

Whelp was not part of the screens for the aircraft carriers off Japan during operations there, as she continued to act as an escort for Duke of York, transporting Admiral Fraser between Manus and Guam. She was, however, present at Tokyo for the formal surrender of the Japanese on 2 September. Released British prisoners of war visited Whelp. She left Tokyo on 9 September and, following an overnight stop at Okinawa on 11/12 September, arrived at Hong Kong with Admiral Fraser aboard. The Japanese forces at Hong Kong surrendered on 16 September.[7]

Post-war service[edit]

During October 1945, Whelp was stationed at Hong Kong with the 27thDF on anti-pirate patrol along the Chinese coast. On 12 November, she left Hong Kong for Sydney, via Darwin. She sailed for Britain on 7 December, via Suez, and arrived at Portsmouth on 17 January 1946.[7] She was paid off and left in reserve until November 1947 when she was transferred, still in reserve, to Simonstown, the former British naval base in South Africa.[1]

Transfer to South African Navy[edit]

In 1952, Whelp was sold to South Africa as the replacement for HMSAS Natal (formerly HMS Loch Cree).[8] Whelp was renamed Simon van der Stel, after the 17th century colonist reputed to be the founder of the South African wine industry. Much of Simon van der Stel′s service was as a "grey ambassador", on good-will visits to Europe and Europe's African colonies, including a 147 day cruise to Europe in 1954. This role, however, declined as South Africa became increasingly isolated during the apartheid years.[9]

Simon van der Stel was placed in reserve from 1957,[10] but was modernised as a Type 15 frigate (in common with other destroyers of her generation) from 1962 to 1964, and re-commissioned in February 1964.[1] She now had helicopter facilities, which were used by South Africa's 22 Flight (later 22 Squadron).[11]

Simon van der Stel was scrapped in 1976 at Durban.[1]


  1. ^ Mason states that Whelp was "... the 11th RN warship to carry this name which dates from 1627." There were ten 17th century warships acquired from George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, all called Lyon's Whelp or Lion's Whelp. There may (sources are uncertain) have been two earlier naval ships of the name, both lost or disposed of by 1625, which would make the Second World War Whelp the 13th of the name.
  2. ^ Genesis, ch.49, v.9: "Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?" (King James' version)
  3. ^ Other ships deployed on Operation Gearbox included the cruiser Jamaica and the destroyers Matchless, Marne, Milne, Meteor, Musketeer, Wager, Wakeful, and Wessex.
  4. ^ There is a discrepancy between sources. Mason's account states that Whelp was returned to Melbourne for repairs in March and implies that she missed operations off the Sakishima Islands, not rejoining the Fleet until July. Gatrell's personal account is more detailed and gives dates and incidents off Sakishima. Gatrell also records a period at Melbourne for repair, but is specific that it was shorter than Mason states. Gatrell is supported by Stonebridge's account, taken from contemporaneous notes. For these reasons, Gatrell is preferred.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mason, Whelp
  2. ^ Whitley, W Class, p.134
  3. ^ a b c d Gatrell, Anthony (2004). "HMS Whelp: Reminiscences of a Young Naval Officer". WW2 People's War. BBC. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Duke of Edinburgh - Naval career". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "whelp". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Wassell, John. "HISTORY OF TEN LIONS WHELPS". Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Stonebridge, W J (11 January 2005). "HMS Whelp: Memories of a Young Stoker". WW2 People's War. BBC. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Mason, Lt. Cdr. Geoffrey B. (2005). "HMS LOCH CREE/HMSAS NATAL - Loch-class Frigates". SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Unlikely Ambassadors". South African Navy. 9 February 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Wessels, Andre (2004). "Snelstomers : torpedojaers in Suid-Afrikaanse Vlootdiens, 1950-1975 (abstract)". Electronic Publishing. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  11. ^ "22 Squadron". South African Air Force. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 


External links[edit]

  • Mason, Lt. Cdr. Geoffrey B. (2004). "HMS WHELP - W-class Destroyer". SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2. Retrieved 4 February 2010.