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The short life of HMS Ekins (as I remember) icon for Recommended story

by H.J.Scott-Douglas

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03 October 2003

My draft was to the USA on Queen Elizabeth I. The journey only took five days, unescorted, and the trip was uneventful. We steamed into New York Harbour, passed the Statue of Liberty to pier 92 (I believe) and from there we went by train to Ashbury Park, New Jersey, on HMS Saker. We stayed there until 26 November 1943 when I was drafted to HMS Ekins (captain class turbo-electric frigate, 1300 tons, 3-3" guns, 26 knots). I was to pick her up at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard at Hingham near Boston.

We took the train to New York (Grand Central Station) then on to Boston, where we were bussed to Hingham. On 29 November 1943 we accepted and commissioned HMS Ekins. As we had a few days to store and ammunition also find our way around the ship, we were allowed night leave, so my mate and I went into the nearest town, Quincy, where there was a large department store called Sheridans. We bought nylon stockings and underclothes, which were unobtainable in the UK, and we were lucky enough to meet a Scottish lady serving there who sorted us out. I bought for [my wife] Margaret some nylons, underclothes and a lovely dressing gown.

We moved from Hingham to Boston while we worked and learnt more about handling the ship. My advancement to Petty Officer had come through, I was 20 years old - this made me the senior torpedo rating aboard in charge of the torpedo party and all the ships electrics and depth charges, answering to the Gunner who was trained in guns but not torpedoes and associated equipment. Our biggest problem was that we had all been trained in DC (direct current) and these ships were AC (alternating current) - but we managed and mastered the lot. I made out my lists for damage control, depth charges stations, action and cruising stations and special sea dutymen for entering and leaving harbour, and spent a lot of the time exercising the crews, much to the amusement of the dockyard workmen on the quayside, for whom the war was a long way away.

We left Boston in January 1944 and, travelling via Nova Scotia, picked up a convoy bound for the UK. After an uneventful trip, we arrived in Belfast where we were to be based for a short while. Then we joined a hunter-killer group, which roamed the Atlantic keeping the U-boats on the move. We would rendezvous with convoys and refuel from the tankers - all tankers at this time carried fuelling gear to enable the groups to stay at sea for many weeks. Our job was to keep the U-boats under water so they could not catch up with the convoys. U-boats were now fitted with Snorkel, which enabled them to charge their batteries while submerged. Coastal command now had long-range aircraft, which also kept the U-boats under. We attacked many contacts but because there were no positive sightings we never claimed any hits. (When you hit a U-boat at about 200ft down, it takes a long time for the wreckage to arrive on the surface so you could make a positive claim.)

About April 1944 we were transferred to Immingham on the Humber from where we did nightly patrols to thwart the E-boats that were active - these were German Scknellbootes (42 knots, 4-21" torpedo, 6-30m.m. AA guns). They were too fast for us to catch so we kept them on the move.

In May we moved to Sheerness and did a few channel convoys. These were not very pleasant because of the air raids and the large guns at Calais, which kept trying to hit us - they were not very successful but it was not pleasant having these large shells dropping around you. It was on one of these convoys that we were in collision with HM Tug Buccaneer. Its bow crashed into the starboard side of our forecastle above the water line, causing us to return to Chatham Dockyard for repairs. I was able to spend a few precious hours with Margaret, so every cloud has a silver lining.

Back in service at the end of May, we lay off Southend until the night of 5 June 1944 when we set sail, escorting about 30 landing craft type vessels, full of petrol through, the channel - our quietest trip yet. We were on our way to Arromanches in Normandy, France, to Sword, Juno and Gold beaches. The invasion of Europe was on [— D-Day had arrived]. We arrived at about 08.00, 6 June 1944. We could hear the guns firing but our lads were away from the beach and were awaiting the arrival of our convoy to replenish their trucks and tanks and so on. Our landing craft ran up the beach and unloading started.

With our escorting job done, we now patrolled to seawards of the beachhead to keep U-boats and E-boats away. On our patrols we sank a midget submarine and a two-man motor boat whose crew we captured. Their idea had been to creep into an anchorage, point the boat, bows packed with explosive, at a target and eject out the back of the boat. There were only a few air raids because we had air superiority over the beach head.

There was an armoured German train that waited in a tunnel near Caen, which had a bad habit of coming out of the tunnel firing guns then nipping back into the tunnel. The RAF took care of it by bombing each end of the tunnel and burying the train.

By now the Mulberry Harbour had been constructed and had survived a gale, so we were surplus to requirement and were sent to Harwich. At Harwich we were used for Dutch Coast Patrol as an MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat), control ship, keeping the swept channels clear of E-boats used to lay mines, especially pressure mines because of the shallow water. By this time our troops were advancing and we wanted to open up the Schelde leading to Antwerp to supply the troops there. We would leave Harwich early in the afternoon with four MTBs - two of these we would station at each end of our patrol area. Then, when the E-boats approached our patrol, we would direct our MTBs to intercept, and we would illuminate the target with star shells or snowflakes. As the E-boats turned away, they would run into the MTBs, which would hopefully slow them down, and we could finish them off.

On one trip, we spotted a small sailing boat - on board were two German soldiers escaping from Dunkirk, which was surrounded. They were pleased to be out of it. On the same trip we picked up a survivor from a German bomber, carrying a V1 (doodle-bug), that had been shot down by a Mosquito night fighter.

During April 1945 we were patrolling again when E-boats penetrated our patrol. Minesweepers swept the area for three days and found nothing. The next evening, 16 April 1945, we were doing our usual patrol when a mine blew up under us amidships, partly flooding our boiler and engine rooms. We stopped and drifted. Shortly afterwards, another mine blew up under our forecastle, flooding several compartments and injuring several people with shock and concussion injuries. I was in charge of damage control and we quickly ran emergency power-to-power electric pumps and lighting, and we managed to keep the second boiler room going so the stokers could raise steam and get the steam pumps going. We also had to replace a lot of lamps because so many had been smashed. Luckily, the ship stayed on an even keel and we were able to keep the water in check, but we couldn’t lower the level.

Now we had steam again, we slowly got under way as it was dangerous to hang around. Next morning, a salvage tug met us, lashed itself alongside and took us to Chatham, pumping out all the time - but it was still unable to lower the level of water inside the ship. At Chatham we were put into dry dock straight away. When the dock was pumped out we saw the reason why they could not lower the level of water; the holes were too large. Ekins was declared a total constructive loss and was scrapped. This was my last ship during wartime.

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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 EKINS

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by beachampton

I believe my dad Thomas Johnston was an officer on HMS EKINS. Did you know him ?


Message 2 - HMS EKINS

Posted on: 07 June 2004 by degoinuk

Interested to see that your father served on HMS Ekins. So did mine!! He was a Chief Petty Officer and received the BEM for his efforts following the night in April 1945 when the ship was mined. I have been tracing his service career which is why I have been researching Ekins. There are one or two of the crew writing on the internet still, which is amazing. Do you have any photos or information?
Dennis George


Message 3 - HMS EKINS

Posted on: 21 July 2004 by firstroger

posted 21july 2004

My dad served on ekins same time as
yours,name stanley wales (Ab)gunner
1943-1945 posted to LST's after short
at pembroke chatham.

Message 1 - hms ekins

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by interestedthill

Just come across by chance your story regarding HMS Ekins. My Dad, Ted Hill served on Ekins when it was hit bu the mines and while I knew of the incident this was more detail - many thanks for that

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