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HMS 'Bellona': Action on D-Dayicon for Recommended story

by Peter Walker

Contributed by 
Peter Walker
People in story: 
Peter Walker
Location of story: 
UK
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2363267
Contributed on: 
28 February 2004

HMS 'Bellona' at sea, during World War Two

Bellona was a modified Dido class cruiser named after a Goddess of War. Her motto was 'Battle is our Business'. Her main armament was 5.25 guns in twin turrets. She was commisioned around September 1943, having been built at the Fairfield ship-building and engineering company's shipyard at Govan on the Clyde. At the same time, a battleship, an aircraft carrier and several destroyers were being built at Fairfields. Over 50 warships were built on the Clyde. As a Petty Officer Higher Submarine Detector I stood by the ship while she was being fitted out, and stayed with her until the end of war in Europe.

Channel patrol

Bellona participated in several Russian Convoys, both before and after D-Day. Prior to D-day, she took over Channel patrol in place of HMS Charybidus, which had been sunk off the Channel Isles by a radio-controlled bomb. On arrival at Plymouth, Bellona was fitted with equipment for jamming the radio signals that controlled the bombs. Bellona and seven destroyers were involved - Tartar, a RN tribal class, lead six Canadian tribals named after indian tribes. The codename for the Channel patrol force was 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs'.

During the day, the force anchored in Plymouth Sound, as air defence of Plymouth. At dusk, under cover of darkness and maintaining radio and rador silence, the force would proceed at full speed to the French coast to keep the German Narvik class destroyers bottled up in Brest. The force would return to Plymouth by daylight. By day, the RAF would patrol the Channel and, by night, Plymouth.

Leave before D-Day

To our suprise we were suddenly ordered to proceed to Bangor, Northern Ireland, where we were given 36 hours' leave following each watch. I and some of my messmates went ashore, booked B&Bs, drank draught porter in the local pubs, then went to the Lido to swim and sunbathe. In the evening we went to a club to dance. This was our only real run ashore since commissioning. We watched as other warships also assembled at the anchorage.

A view of the beaches

Eventually we were briefed about D-Day and the ships proceeded to Normandy. As soon as we cleared harbour, paravanes (mine-counter-measures devices) were streamed, then as we got into to the Channel we went to action stations. I was the Action 1st Operator on the Asdic (sonar) and as far as I can remember operated in the mine-detecting mode as we approached the beaches. Bellona's duty was to help to support OMAHA beach, the American sector. The American battleships Texas and Arkansas were also there.

Serenaded by Frank Sinatra

After the initial bombardment we were allowed to go to breakfast in relays. On my way to the mess I heard the SRE (sound reproduction) speakers come on - it was Frank Sinatra singing 'I Didn't Sleep a Wink Last Night'. I don't know if it was a BBC broadcast or a record.

As the landing ships were further off shore, we saw the landing craft from the ships pass by on their way to the beachead. One stopped because there was a rope round the screws. In the distance we could see a Mullberry Harbour. Seeing the rocket ships close inshore firing salvo after salvo of rockets in quick sucession was an awesome sight.

Bellona's continuing contribution

As the army advanced, Bellona fired her guns well inshore at targets spotted by aircraft and forward observation officers off shore. There was a Fleet Air Arm Officer and an Artilliary Officer in the operations room who communicated with them. The stench of burnt cordite permeated the whole ship. On several occasions Bellona returned to Plymouth to get more ammunition and change the gun barrels because of wear.

At night Bellona went close inshore and did the night firings. The Gunners' Mate said that the ammuniton was of recent design and was flashless. Gunflashes from the older ships would have given their position away.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - HMS BELLONA D DAY

Posted on: 25 March 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I very much enjoyed reading this fine contribution.

Best wishes,

Peter

Message 1 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 07 June 2004 by SamDaughter

It has been lovely reading about this remarkable ship. You see, my late father was aboard on D-Day. I was so proud of him - he had a remarkable Naval record. He completed his Naval service in 1946 - the year I was born.

His name was Stanley Herbert Murphy and he was a Chief Petty Officer. I heard all his Navy stories as a child, and was myself Christened in the bell of HMS Tenby - his last ship and a mine-sweeper. This service was held in Swansea, where I lived until I was nearly 13 years old.

It was marvellous seeing the D-Day services and commemorations yesterday. I felt so humbled. If my father hadn't survived D-Day, I would not have been born.

Can anyone out there remember my father? Thank you.

 

Message 2 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 09 August 2004 by Nodgermy

My Dad was on Bellona 'Tubby Myers' I'll ask him if he remebers your Dad - N

 

Message 3 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 27 August 2004 by Lynne25246

Hello Nodgermy,

Thank you so much for replying to my post. It would be wonderful if your Dad remembered my Dad!!

Tubby Myers sounds a great Dad to have! Please remember me to him - I wish him well.

Hopefully I'll hear from you again Nodgermy. Take care of yourself.

 

Message 4 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 23 November 2004 by Jaccrow

Hi to you both,

My Grandfather William A Hopping (Bill) was also on this ship in WW2. I will find out if he remembers either of your fathers. Does anyone remember my grandfather? He's alive and well, 79 years old!

 

Message 5 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 11 January 2005 by interestedMikeBone

Hello there
I live next door to chap who regulary likes to make me a nice cup of coffee with some biscuits.

He was on H.M.s. Bellona, joined it two days after DDay. He spent a while on watch in the cold on the way to Russia. (not like the central heating they have today, so he always comments)

His name is Larry Lamb, I think he was a Sub-Lieutenant..I'm not familiar with Military jargon.

Is he known by any of you out there?

 

Message 6 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 13 January 2005 by LinGuildford

I was thrilled to read the article on HMS Bellona. My father, Herbert (Bert)Guildford, was stationed on this ship. He was at D-Day and on the Russian Convoys. Unfortunately he died a few years ago, but my son is very proud to be left his medals. Does anyone remember him?

 

Message 7 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 24 June 2005 by billydew

My name is Gordon Hollis and I was a writer on Bellona aged 18 during 1945/6.

 

Message 8 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 21 August 2005 by dundeesean

Hi,

My Dad was on the Bellona from 1943-1946. He remembers Larry. My Dad is Len Hearn, Able Seaman. Dad was part of Commander Murray Smith's Staff. He was in Quarter Division/Mess 23. Dad is well and was interested to hear from anyone that served with him. Let me know if Larry remembers him.

 

Message 9 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 29 November 2005 by Caroline_Hurd

My Father is Peter Hurd, he was a L.t Commander (RN Reserve) and the Fighter Direction Officer on HMS Bellona. He was on HMS Bellona during the D Day action and remembers the action off Omaha Beach very well. He also remembers the practice maneouvers with the American forces beforehand. He would have been 22 at the time.

I still have his Naval dress tunic and medal tabs. He has his commission sword and other medals.

He remembers his Arctic Convoys to Archangel and other ports in Russia in HMS Bellona. As well as visits to Iceland.

He keeps the family amused by recounting many weird and wonderful things that happened to him during the war. It's truly amazing to listen to him recount what went on as many of these men were only in their late teens and early twenties. He is supposed to be filling up dictaphone audiotapes with his wartime memories so I shall check up on him asap.

He also remembers hunting U-Boats off the fjords of northern Norway right at the end of the war.

I will ask him if he remembers the various names posted here - I am seeing him and Mum at Christmas. They now live in retirement in Umbria, Italy.

Warmest Regards to all who have posted information about their relatives here. Thank you

Message 1 - HMS Bellona

Posted on: 16 October 2005 by bruceanthony

I was very interested to read about HMS Bellona as I spent many art lessons as Kings College Junior School in Wimbledon, circa 1971-2 listening to the former gunnery officer of Bellona who was our arts and crafts teacher. I was fascinated by the Navy as my father had served in an escort group in the Western Approaches. I therefore plauged Bill Yelland with questions about his experiences. Art lessons (when we should have been throwing clay pots) became lengthy discussions about Bellona and I remember being awe-struuck when Mr Yelland brought in a set of builder's plans for her. I recall that he told us that he was present whilst she was being built and the guns installed.He also told us about the action against the German destroyers which I think he said were more like light cruisers. He was kind enough to give me a photograph of the ship which I still have to this day!
Bruce Anthony

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