HMS Phoebe.

HMS Phoebe was a Dido-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan, Scotland, with the keel being laid down on 02 September 1937. She was launched on 25 March 1939, and commissioned on 30 September 1940.

Phoebe’s first six months were spent in the Home Fleet, escorting troop convoys on the first stage of their long voyage via the Cape to the Middle East. In April 1941 she was transferred to the 7th Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean. Enemy-held territory there was to keep the British Fleet busy for the next two and half years, and Phoebe was to have her fair share of the action. One of her first operations was the evacuation of troops from Greece and Crete, which was followed quickly by the Syria landings and transporting troops to and from Tobruk, where she was torpedoed by an Italian plane and went to the USA for repair. The damage she sustained put her out of action for eight months.

Phoebe returned to the Mediterranean in the summer of 1942 to escort the last heavily opposed convoy to Malta.

On 23 October 1942, HMS Phoebe was torpedoed by U-161 off the Congo Estuary, while on passage to French Equatorial Africa. Her route was from Simonstown to Freetown, but the ship had to refuel at Pointe Noire. Two U-boats (U-161 and U-126) were patrolling that area at the time.

After the hit, a corvette coming up from the harbour prevented the U-boat from finishing off the cruiser. About 60 crew members were killed (and three more died from malaria in the following days). After provisional repairs, Phoebe made for New York for complete repairs. It was an incredible feat to sail 10,000 miles with a gaping hole (60 ft by 30 ft) in her hull. The repairs were not completed until June 1943. In October 1943 she returned to the Mediterranean to take part in the Aegean operations.

In May 1944, Phoebe was transferred to the Eastern Fleet and was involved in strike operations against the Andaman Islands, Sabang in Northern Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands. In January 1945, a busy month, she was switched to supporting amphibious operations in Burma and was engaged in actions against Akyab, Ramree Island off the Arakan Coast, and Cheduba Island. In May 1945, Phoebe was involved in the amphibious assault on Rangoon.

After VJ-Day, Phoebe returned home for refitting and spent five years in the peacetime Mediterranean Fleet. After a period in reserve she was sold for scrap in 1956. This brought to an end a relatively short but eventful career.


Published by arkwright

Ex Royal Navy.

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