HMS Woodpecker (U08)

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Photograph of HMS Woodpecker in December 1942, from IWM
Woodpecker in December 1942
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Woodpecker
Namesake: Woodpecker
Builder: William Denny & Brothers
Launched: 29 June 1942
Commissioned: 14 December 1942
Motto: Inveniet qui exquirit: 'He who seeks carefully shall find'
Honours and
  • BISCAY 1943
  • ATLANTIC 1943-44
  • Torpedoed by U-256 on 20 February 1944.
  • Sank while under tow 27 February 1944
Badge: On a Field White, a woodpecker clinging to a stump of a tree proper
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Black Swan-class sloop[2]
Displacement: 1,350 tons
Length: 299 ft 6 in (91.29 m)
Beam: 38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)
Draught: 11 ft (3.4 m)
  • Geared turbines, 2 shafts
  • 4,300 hp (3,200 kW)
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h)
Range: 7,500 nmi (13,900 km) at 12 kn (22 km/h)
Complement: 192
Service record
Part of: 2nd Support Group
  • Lt.Cdr RES Hugonin,
  • Cdr HL Pryse.
Operations: Battle of the Atlantic
Victories: 6 U-boats (shared)

HMS Woodpecker, pennant number U08, was a Black Swan-class sloop of the Royal Navy.[2] She was active during the Second World War and was a successful anti-submarine warfare vessel, being credited with the destruction of six U-boats.


Woodpecker was ordered on 13 April 1940 under the 1940 Building Programme; she was laid down by William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton, Scotland on 23 February 1941. She was launched on 29 June 1942, and commissioned 14 December the same year, with a build time of 23 months and 10 days.[3] The Black Swan design was subject to many modifications during the building process, which were later consolidated into the Modified Black Swan design. Although Woodpecker was ordered under the original design, her late build meant she incorporated many of these modifications and is consequently listed in some sources as one of the Modified Black Swan class.[2]

Service history[edit]

After commissioning, Woodpecker was assigned to convoy escort duty. In April, Woodpecker joined 2nd Support Group, a highly successful anti-submarine warfare group under the command of FJ Walker.

In February Woodpecker, and 2 SG, were on support duty in the Atlantic, though they saw little action.

In June they were assigned to the Bay of Biscay, supporting Coastal Command's Operation Musketry. On 24 June Woodpecker, with others, found and destroyed two U-boats, U-119 and U-449, off Cape Ortegal.[4]

On 30 July the group engaged three U-boats, already under air attack; all three were destroyed, with Woodpecker sharing credit for U-504.[5]

Following the end of Musketry Woodpecker was docked for an extensive refit, remaining there until the end of the year.

In January 1944 Woodpecker, under the command of Commander H. L. Pryse, RNR, rejoined 2SG, which was on support duty in the South-Western Approaches. In February Woodpecker took part in the famous "Six in one trip" episode, during which she was credited with sharing the destruction of three U-boats. On 8 February, while supporting convoy SL 147/MKS 38, 2SG destroyed three U-boats; Woodpecker and Wild Goose were credited with the destruction of U-762.[6] Three days later Woodpecker and others caught and destroyed U-424.[6] On 19 February, while supporting ON 224, Woodpecker and others destroyed U-264 after a seven-hour hunt.[6]

The following day, on 20 February 1944, Woodpecker was struck in the stern by an acoustic torpedo launched from the U-256. While being towed toward home, on 27 February 1944 Woodpecker foundered and sank in an Atlantic storm. The skeleton crew was rescued before the ship went under.[6]

Woodpecker was the only ship belonging to 2SG to be sunk. She had shared in six of the groups 23 victories.

Battle honours[edit]

During her service Woodpecker was awarded two battle honours:[7]


During her service Woodpecker participated in the sinking of six U-boats:

Date U-boat Type Location[8] Notes
24 June 1943 U-119 XB Bay of Biscay, NW of Cape Ortegal
44°59′N 12°24′W / 44.983°N 12.400°W / 44.983; -12.400
depth-charge, ramming by Starling, Woodpecker[9]
24 June 1943 U-449 VIIC NW of Cape Ortegal
45°00′N 11°59′W / 45.000°N 11.983°W / 45.000; -11.983
d/c attacks by Wren, Woodpecker, Kite, Wild Goose[10][11]
30 July 1943 U-504 IXC NW of Cape Ortegal
45°33′N 10°56′W / 45.550°N 10.933°W / 45.550; -10.933
d/c attacks by Woodpecker, Wild Goose[12][13]
8 February 1944 U-762 VIIC North Atlantic, W of Cape Clear
49°02′N 16°58′W / 49.033°N 16.967°W / 49.033; -16.967
d/c attacks by Woodpecker, Wild Goose[14][15]
11 February 1944 U-424 VIIC N Atlantic, SW of Ireland
50°00′N 18°14′W / 50.000°N 18.233°W / 50.000; -18.233
d/c attacks byWild Goose, Woodpecker, Magpie[16][17]
19 February 1944 U-264 VIIC North Atlantic
48°31′N 22°05′W / 48.517°N 22.083°W / 48.517; -22.083
d/c, ramming by Starling, Wild Goose, Woodpecker[18][19]


  1. ^ Conway p57
  2. ^ a b c Elliott p140. Some sources list Woodpecker as a Modified Black Swan class vessel. See "Construction"
  3. ^ Elliott p140
  4. ^ Blair p357
  5. ^ Blair p392
  6. ^ a b c d Blair p498
  7. ^ Warlow p
  8. ^ Locations per Kemp; other sources may differ
  9. ^ Kemp p126
  10. ^ Kemp p127
  11. ^ Neistle p66
  12. ^ Kemp p137
  13. ^ Neistle p124
  14. ^ Kemp p167-8
  15. ^ Neistle p88
  16. ^ Kemp p169
  17. ^ Neistle p63
  18. ^ Kemp p171
  19. ^ Neistle p51


  • Clay Blair : Hitler's U-Boat War Vol II: The Hunted 1942-1945 (1998) ISBN 0-304-35261-6
  • R Gardiner, R Gray : Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921 (1985) ISBN 0-85177-245-5
  • Arnold Hague : The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945 (2000). ISBN 1-55125-033-0 (Canada); ISBN 1-86176-147-3 (UK).
  • .Paul Kemp : U-Boats Destroyed (1997) . ISBN 1-85409-515-3
  • Axel Neistle : German U-Boat Losses during World War II (1998). ISBN 1-85367-352-8
  • Warlow, B : Battle Honours of the Royal Navy (2004) ISBN 1-904459-05-6


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°49′N 22°11′W / 48.817°N 22.183°W / 48.817; -22.183