HMS Jersey F-72 had a short but eventful career, launched on September 26, 1938 at J. Samuel White in Cowes and completed in April of 1939 she joined the fleet in August of the same year. After the outbreak of war Jersey along with other ships was used to search for enemy shipping off Norway, and only four days into the war HMS Southampton, HMS Jervis F-00 and HMS Jersey approached a freighter which promptly began to scuttle, this was the 5,294 ton German steamer Johannes Molkenbuhr. The crew got off and were picked up by the British and HMS Jersey finished sinking the freighter with a few shells.
Three months later in the darkness of Dec. 6-7, 1939 two German destroyers, Z-10 Hans Lody and Z-12 Erich Giese, under the overall command of Erich Bey (who would later command Scharnhorst and was lost with her in the Battle of the North Cape), were laying mines across the Bay of Cromer, some only a mile distant from the Hainsborough lightship. It was Z-12 that actually laid the mines and after setting sixty of them a near disaster happened. The next mine went off with a bright flash about 100 yards astern of Z-12, giving the crew a terrible start and alerting the British to the presence of the rather unfriendly visitors.
To the amazement of the Germans, the British appeared to believe that the explosion was a bomb and searchlights and AA guns began to rake the sky searching for the German planes, it seems the thought that German ships may be out in the bay did not occur to anyone, but when a second mine went off less than ten minuets later the men on the lightship rang their bell, but failed to turn on a searchlight, the Germans went undetected. They had made a daring move, but they still had to get home so Bey and his destroyers retired.
Just before 3A.M. less than half an hour after the mine incident, a lookout on Z-12 spotted two destroyers about five miles to starboard running a parallel course at high speed, and after a few minuets it was determined that the British ships had not detected the German ships. Bey ordered his ships to increase speed and catch the British ships, it took about twenty minuets to come alongside the two destroyers and fire two spreads of torpedoes. Only one found the mark, Z-12 had hit HMS Jersey in the bows, the explosion and resultant fires caused the deaths of ten crewmen, but Jersey was towed to shore and survived. The British believed Jersey had been torpedoed by a U-boat and the German press played it for all it was worth. No mention was made of the destroyers as their mission had been only one of a series of minelaying excursions made by the German ships without the British suspecting that surface vessels were operating in British waters.
The damage was serious and required extensive repairs, in fact she was out of action until October of 1940. On Oct. 10 she had completed her post repair trials and the next day she departed for Plymouth to rejoin the fleet, but en route she hit a mine and and ended up back at the repair yard for the rest of the month. In November she was finally at Plymouth and was engaged in escort and patrol duty, on the 29th Jersey was again involved in an action with German destroyers, this time though they knew they were in a fight. HMS Javelin F-61 took a torpedo hit and HMS Jersey, along with the other destroyers, engaged the three German ships, however the Germans escaped without any serious damage.
After this Jersey was again employed in escort and patrol duties in the English Channel and western approaches, she was moved to Gibraltar in mid January 1941 and was assigned to Force H for several weeks. After operating with Force H in the Mediterranean Jersey developed steering trouble and was sent to Portsmouth for repairs, she was laid up from early March until early April after which she was again sent to the Med.
She was then assigned to Force K and was to take part in the search and interception of enemy shipping in North Africa. After a patrol off Tripoli Force K was coming into the Grand Harbour at Malta on May 2, 1941, after several ships had entered the harbour HMS Jersey hit a mine laid by a German aircraft and sank in the shallow water at the entrance. Thirty-five men were killed in the sinking and the entrance to the harbour was blocked. Two days later she broke in half and sank further. Her forward section was removed, but her after section remained there until after the war. It was finally blown up over a period of three years and cleared.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock
|[HMS Jersey pages here.]|
|[HMS Jersey Roll of Honour here.]|