HMS Southwold (L10): Sunk today, 75 years ago

As we have mentioned in our plan of expeditions for 2017, while in Malta, the U-Boat Navigator, within several projects, is busy exploring the home waters and filming local wrecks.  One of these wrecks is the HMS Southwold (L10), the type II British Hunt-class destroyer that sunk 75 years ago on this day, 24th March 1942.


The vessel was laid down on June 18, 1940, by the order under the War Emergency Programme of 1939 and launched on the 29th May 1941. In October the ship was commissioned and nominated for service in the Mediterranean.


In November 1941 she joined the convoy WS12Z together with HMD Dulverton to the Indian Ocean. In December 1941 she got detached from the convoy. At the end of December, she left for Alexandria and then there joined the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla. In February 1942 she joined the Malta Relief Convoy MW9B. Getting under air raid, she is forced to return to Alexandria.


In March the vessel was used for anti-submarine sweeping and as a defensive screen for British cruisers. On the 22nd March, she rejoined MW10 escort, getting under heavy air attacks again. On the 23d, after being caught by another air raid, she leaves the MW10 to escort the supply ships entering Malta. One of the supply ships HM Breconshire had been hit during the bombing, and the rough weather made her drift towards the Maltese shores, only managing to anchor the vessel about a mile away from the Zonqor Point, Marsascala.


On Tuesday morning, 24th of March 1942, the HMS Southwold comes to rescue the helpless Breconshire, and when she reached the point, and the crew was passing lines to the supply ship, a mine hits the hull of HMS Southwold. An explosion goes off right under the vessel’s engine room. An officer and four ratings got killed immediately. The crew managed to stop the leaks and keep the gearing room from flooding by shoring up the bulkhead, so only the engine room was flooded. The tug boat Ancient came to tow the vessel to repair, but the Southwold started breaking in two pieces from the area of the breech up to the upper deck. All the wounded crewmembers were moved aboard the HM Destroyer Dulverton, but very soon the middle part of the ship started going deeper and deeper, so the rest of the crew had to leave the ship.  Shortly after the HMS Southwold sunk in two pieces.


The HMS Southwold was 86 meters long with a beam of 9.5 meters, weighing 1050 net. The destroyer was armed with three two barrel 4-inch guns, anti-submarine depth charges, and anti-aircraft guns. She was able to build up speed up to 25 knots. The ship is resting at the sandy sea bed at the depth ranging 65-75 meters; the hull is broken in two parts: the bow is lying on the starboard side, and the after part is standing at the even keel, about 300 meters away.