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HMS Wanderer (D74)
HMS Wanderer.jpg
HMS Wanderer (before 1943 conversion) by Mark Teadham
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: Admiralty Modified W-class destroyer
Name: HMS Wanderer
Ordered: January 1918
Builder: Fairfield's of Glasgow
Laid down: 7 August 1918
Launched: 1 May 1919
Commissioned: 18 September 1919
Recommissioned: 1939
In service: 1919-1945
Out of service: 1945-1946
Reclassified: 1943 Long Range Escort
Fate: Sold to be broken up for scrap on 31 January 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Admiralty modified W class destroyer
Displacement: 1,112 tons standard
Length: 300 feet (91 m) o/a, 312 feet (95 m) p/p
Beam: 29.6 feet (9.0 m)
Draught: 11.7 feet (3.6 m) under full load
Depth: 18.3 feet (5.6 m)
Propulsion: As built 1919:
• 3 x Yarrow type Water-tube boilers, Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, 2 shafts, 27,120 shp, 260 rpm
LRE conversion 1943
• 2 x Yarrow type Water-tube boilers, Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, 2 shafts, 18,000 shp
Speed: 1919: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
1943: 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph)
Range: 320-370 tons oil
3,500 nmi at 15 kt
900 nmi at 32 kt
Complement: 1919: 134
1943: 193
Sensors and
processing systems:
1943 LRE conversion
Type 271 target indication radar
Type 291 air warning radar
Armament: As built 1919:
• 4 x BL 4.7in (120mm) Mk.I guns on CP VI mounting
• 2 x QF 2 pounder (40 mm) Mk.II guns
• 1 × .303 inch Maxim gun
• 4 × .303 inch Lewis Guns
• 6 × 21-inch Torpedo Tubes (in 2 × triple mountings)
• 1 × Single Depth charge chute

1943 LRE conversion:
• 2 × BL 4.7 in (120mm) Mk.I guns
• 1 × .303 inch Lewis Gun
• 4 × Twin Oerlikon 20 mm cannon's
• 1 × Single Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
• 2 × Double Depth charge throwers
• 2 × Double Depth charge chutes
• 1 × Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar (firing 24 × 32 pound spigot mounted bombs)

March 1944:
+ 1 QF 2 pounder gun
+ 1 single Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
Motto: Vagantes numquam erramus
'Wandering we never stray'
Honours & awards: Atlantic (1939-45)
Norway 1940
Sicily 1943
Normandy 1944
Arctic 1944
English Channel 1944
Badge: Gold Bee on a Blue Field

HMS Wanderer, pendant number D74, was an Admiralty modified W class destroyer built for the Royal Navy. She was the seventh RN ship to carry the name Wanderer. She was ordered in January 1918 to be built at the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan in Glasgow, being launched in May 1919. She served through World War II where she was jointly credited with five kills on German U-boats, more than any other ship of her class.[1] In December 1941 the community of Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire officially adopted her.[1] In 1943 she was one of twenty one V&W class destroyers to be converted as Long Range Escorts. She was decommissioned after the war and sold for scrap in 1946.


HMS Wanderer's keel was laid down on 7 August 1918 at Fairfield's shipyard in Govan, Scotland.[2] She was launched on 1 May 1919 and the build was completed on 18 August.[1] The average cost for this class of ship was £262,478 which could be divided into hull cost of £104,726 (weighing 548 tons) and machinery cost of £109,308 (weighing 417 tons).[3]

She was 312 feet overall in length with a beam of 29.5 feet. Her mean draught was 9 feet, and would reach 11.7 feet under full load. She had a displacement of 1,112 tons as standard.[3][4]

She was propelled by three Yarrow type 250 pound per square inch water tube boilers, powering Brown-Curtis geared independent oil fuelled steam turbines developing 27,120 SHP and driving two screws at 260 RPM for a maximum designed speed of 34 knots.[3] She was oil-fired and had a bunkerage of 320 to 350 tons. This gave a range of between 3500 nautical miles at 15 knots to 900 nautical miles at 32 knots.[4]

She shipped four BL 4.7 in (120-mm) Mk.I guns on CP VI mountings in four single centre-line turrets. The turrets were disposed as two forward and two aft in super imposed firing positions. She also carried two QF 2 pounder Mk.II (40 mm L/39) ("Pom poms") mounted abeam between funnels and five Light machine guns (4 were Lewis guns and 1 was a Maxim). Abaft of the 2nd funnel, she carried six 21-inch Torpedo Tubes in two triple mountings on the centre-line.[3][4]

Inter war service[]

She was initially commissioned to the 3rd Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet on 18 September 1919[2][5] and later moved to the Mediterranean Fleet. Then in 1931 she was deployed at Chatham Naval Base as a training vessel.[1] Shortly before the war broke out she was deployed with the 15th Destroyer Flotilla at Rosyth.[1]

Second World War service[]


At the outbreak of WWII in September 1939 Wanderer was sent to Plymouth Navy Base to join the Western Approaches Command along with her flotilla (Vanity, Vansittart, Volunteer, Whitehall, Witch, Witherington and Wolverine'), then on the 13th she was sent with HMS Whirlwind to escort convoy OB4 on its initial outward journey.[1]


Convoy duties continued until 27 April 1940 when she was transferred to the Home Fleet to support the evacuation of Allied troops from Norway in Operation Alphabet. On 29 April along with five other destroyers (Somali, Mashona, Sikh, Walker and Westcott) and the light cruiser's Sheffield, Arethusa and Galatea she took passage to Åndalsnes.[1] During the operation Wanderer rescued 150 troops but became grounded and had to be towed free by HMS Sikh.[1]

On 3 May her pendant number was changed to I74 as the Royal Navy were changing identities for all their ships in order to hopefully confuse the enemy.[1]

Took part in Operation Cycle, the evacuation of Allied troops from Le Havre, France on 6–7 June 1940.[1]

In August with HMS Anthony rescued 55 survivors (between them) of the British merchantman Jamaica Pioneer.[2]


Whilst escorting to convoy OB239 on 2 June 1941 along with the corvette HMS Periwinkle she attacked and sunk the first of her five confirmed U-Boat kills, U-147 to the west of Skerryvore at 56°38′N 10°24′W / 56.633°N 10.4°W / 56.633; -10.4.[2]

She was involved in the initial stages of Operation Substance in July 1941, escorting the convoy WS9C through the North West Approaches and in August she was escorting SL81 when it was spotted by the German submarine U-204 who called for support. When U-401 on her maiden patrol arrived they attacked together but Wanderer along with HNoMS St Albans and HMS Hydrangea managed to destroy U-401 at 50°27′N 19°50′W / 50.45°N 19.833°W / 50.45; -19.833 South-West of Ireland.[1][2] SL81 was harried for the next two days by submarine and air attacks with the loss of five ships, until it reached safer waters with RAF support.[1]


Escort duties continued in the Atlantic theatre and in September Wanderer entered the US Navy's Brooklyn shipyard for repairs or refit.[1]


LRE conversion[]

January to May 1943 was spent at HMNB Devonport under refit and conversion as a Long Range Escort; the No.1 boiler (and her forward funnel) was removed to provide space for more fuel tanks and crew quarters; two of her main guns (A and Y) were landed and replaced with a Hedgehog ahead-throwing weapon forward and depth charge stowage and launchers aft; the torpedo tubes were replaced with depth charge stowage and a pair of Oerlikon 20 mm cannon amidships, with a further pair in the bridge wings; the 2 pounders were removed; her Gunnery Director tower and torpedo control were removed from the bridge to be replaced by an ASDICS control cabinet; she was fitted with Type 144 ASDICS (Sonar), Type 271 target indication radar and Type 291 air warning radar; the latest Wireless telegraphy (W/T), Radio transmitter (R/T) and High-frequency direction finding (H/F D/F) equipment was installed; and Carley rafts were fitted throughout.[3]

The effect of removing the boiler was to reduce maximum speed to 27.5 knots but the increase in fuel increased her range and her crew complement was raised to 193.[3]

Back in service[]

In July she began by escorting a convoy of troop ships for the Allied invasion of Sicily, known as Operation Husky.[6] On 25 August, during a convoy from Britain to Gibraltar she came into radar contact with a surfaced German submarine U-523 at about 4.30am.[7] When they closed to within 2,800 yards the U-boat submerged and they had to pick her up on sonar.[7] They lost contact temporarily as the submarine headed underneath the convoy ships but the eventually picked her up again and with corvette HMS Wallflower began Hedgehog and depth charge runs.[1][7] U-523 was forced to surface and the Allied ships turned their main armaments on them, forcing the Germans to abandon the submarine; 17 were lost but the other 37 were rescued [8] and U-523 sank at 42°03′N 18°02′W / 42.05°N 18.033°W / 42.05; -18.033. The following day Wanderer landed an advanced Royal Air Force party in Portugal as part of Operation Alacrity, the occupation of leased air bases in the Azores.[9]

Wanderer was deployed to the close escort group for Convoy JW 55B which was a part of the Russian convoys, sailing from Loch Ewe on 20 December when she had to rescue a young seaman that fell overboard; although they had him inboard with the doctor within seven minutes the cold killed him. The close escort group remained with the convoy well up into the Arctic Circle before they turned for home to refuel.[10] A few days afterwards warships from JW 55B were involved in the Battle of the North Cape.


On 17 January Wanderer was searching for a German blockade runner along with frigate Glenarm and the corvette Geranium when they detected a weak sonar contact which turned out to be German submarine U-377 (although previously thought to have been U-305). Together they intercepted U-377 to the south west of Cape Clear and carried out a Hedgehog attack which sank the U-boat at 49°39′N 20°10′W / 49.65°N 20.167°W / 49.65; -20.167.[1][11]

During 22 to 27 February Wanderer accompanied aircraft carrier HMS Chaser on the Russian Convoy JW 57 which was attacked by U-boats with the loss of one destroyer. Wanderer then took passage with the rest of her Escort Group to the Faroe Islands to refuel but they were caught in a gale which three ships in the group registered as Force 12 on the Beaufort scale; as fuel was running low they were forced to continue and returned safely but with heavy weather damage.[1][12]

Further modifications came in late March as she was fitted rather mysteriously with a single mounted 2 pounder gun on the Forecastle and another Oerlikon 20 mm cannon on the Quarterdeck.[13]

In April she was transferred to the English Channel with Escort Group 105 in support of Operation Neptune, the landing operations in Normandy. On 28 May she escorted Motor Launch 10 on a mine laying operation off Brittany.[1] Also that may she attacked a German E-boat in the channel, setting it on fire.[14]

Between 4 and 6 June Escort Group 105 (Wanderer, HMS Tavy, HMS Dianella and HMS Geranium) and the Royal Canadian Navy corvettes Summerside, Woodstock and Regina escorted Convoy EBM2, composed of 30 motor transport ships and five others, from the Bristol Channel to the Western Task Force unloading area off Omaha Beach, arriving on D-day plus one.[1][15]

On 5 July whilst escorting a convoy north off Pointe de Barfleur Wanderer detected German submarine U-390 and along with HMS Tavy began a Hedgehog attack which would lead to her fifth and final U-boat kill at 49°52′N 00°48′W / 49.867°N 0.8°W / 49.867; -0.8.[1] They rescued only one survivor, U-390's Engineer Officer, and were directed to land the prisoner at Portland.[16]


Whilst at Portland Wanderer's Engineer Officer Lieutenant Short reported that she had "one hundred leaks from the sea and two hundred and fifty internal" and that due to steam the engineers couldn't see their way around the engine room while at sea.[17] Lt. Cdr. Whinney having questioned the officer further then signalled the flag officer at Portland that he would not take the ship to sea again except for action against the enemy.[17]

Whinney was then reassigned and his First Lieutenant Michell was given command to sail Wanderer to Chatham Dockyard for assessment where it was confirmed that the twenty five year old vessel was no longer sea worthy or even repairable.[18]

In September 1945 Wanderer was put on the disposal list and was sold by 3 January 1946 to be demolished by ship breakers Hughes Bolckow.[1]


Commander[2] From To
Cdr. Reginald Francis Morice 31 Jul 1939 24 May 1940
Cdr. John Henry Ruck-Keene 24 May 1940 14 Nov 1940
Cdr. Arthur Frederick St. George Orpen 14 Nov 1940 10 Feb 1942
Lt.Cdr. Denis Harold Palmer Gardiner DSC 10 Feb 1942 20 Apr 1943
Lt.Cdr. Reginald Fife Whinney DSC 20 Apr 1943 10 Jul 1944
Lt. Peter Roland Michell 10 Jul 1944 late 1944

Further reading[]

Wanderer's commander between April '43 to mid '44 wrote an autobiography entitled The U-Boat Peril, Arrow Books, London, 1986 ISBN 0-09-962030-8



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5, HMS Wanderer
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Whinney 1986, p.79-81
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Janes fighting ships
  5. National Maritime Museum, Warship Histories, vol.iv, vessel id.365719
  6. Whinney 1986, p.90-91
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Whinney 1986, p.95-102
  8., U-523
  9. Whinney 1986, p.104-105
  10. Whinney 1986, p.114-116
  11. Whinney 1986, p.12-18
  12. Whinney 1986, p.116-124
  13. Whinney 1986, p.127-128
  14. Whinney 1986, p.129
  15. Whinney 1986, p.131-135
  16. Whinney 1986, p.138-140
  17. 17.0 17.1 Whinney 1986, p.140-141
  18. Whinney 1986, p.145


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