HMT Pine 18/10/2018

HMT Pine. Information from Guildford BSAC NAS Survey. 

General Details

Gross weight of 530 tons. Dimensions of 164ft OA X 27 ft 6 inches. One shaft reciprocating engine 850 IHP 11.5 knots. Armed with 1 x 12pdr, 2x 0.5 inch AA $x LG and a crew of 35.

Hms Pine was built in the Hall, Russell and Co. Ltd yard in Aberdeen. She was laid down on 29th September 1939, launched on 25 March 1940 and commissioned on 3 July 1940.

Her commanding officers were :

1940 - 1941 Lt.Cdr Charles ‘Bunty’ Palmer Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserves.
1941 - 1943 T/Lt Charles Meldon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves.
1943 - 1944 T/Lt J Hird Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves.

Convoy CW-243, the final voyage of HMS Pine.

Convoy Cw-243 consisted of 10 merchant vessels and 7 escorts destined for St.Helens Roads from Southend, comprising Hms Haslemere, Hms Albrighton, Hmt Rehearo, Hmt Lorraine, Hmt Blackthorn, Hmt Walnut and Hmt Pine. The merchant vessels including among others Caleb Sprague, Emerald, Balduin, Ara and Jernland. 

The convoy left Southend on the 30th January 1944 bound for St. Helens Roads. It would be passing through the infamous E-boat alley, a popular hunting ground of German fast attack boats out of Calais. The first day passed uneventfully as the convoy steamed at 7 knots along the south coast. Late into the day a Sunderland of coastal command spotted a U-boat on the surface but it soon submerged and nothing more was reported.

On into the night the convoy pressed slowly passing Beachy Head. The three Tree class armed trawlers Walnut, Pine and Blackthorn in the van of the convoy on mine-seeping duties clearing the path for the merchant vessels behind. Leading the port column of vessels was the Fleet Auxiliary Hms Haslemere commanded by the convoy commodore. Tailing the port column of merchant vessels was Hmt Lorraine and behind the starboard column Hmt Rehearo, finally tailing the convoy was the destroyer Hms Albrighton.

At 0145 a radar operator on the Sussex shore spotted 10 new plots on his screen headed straight for the convoy plodding along at 7 knots. The new blips on his radar were headed for the convoy at 40 knots and it could mean only one thing. A pack of E-boats was hunting and had found the convoy. The civilian radar operator then made a fatal mistake of following procedure to the letter and went to find a senior naval officer to give him permission to make a plain language transmission to warn the convoy. All the time the E-boats closed in on the convoy.

The E-boats had lain waiting in the channel with their engines turned off and watching for the lights and listening for the transmission of the convoy proceeding down the channel. When they confirmed their target they started their engines and raced towards the convoy at 40 knots, splitting into 2 groups they encircled the convoy and began to fire torpedoes at the advancing merchant vessels.

One group of E-boats attacked the centre of the convoy and in the ensuing melee the Caleb Sprague and The Emerald were both sank in quick succession. At this time the call of ‘action stations’ had passed along the escorts and Hms Albrighton charged in between the lines of merchant vessels and engaged the E-boats as best she could.

The second group of E-boats had made their way around the front of the convoy and were now attempting to engage the convoy from the coastal side. It was at this time that Hms Pine was torpedoed by S142 commanded by Oberlutenant zur See Hinrich Ahrens. The torpedo hit Hms Pine on the bow and blew it clean off, 10 men were instantly killed in the attack.

Kindly sent by the grandson of RPO Tom McGabe

‘…and then tragedy for one of our flotilla, the minesweeper 'Pine'. We were in convoy with the Pine when we got the alarm during the night when we were on the last lap to Portsmouth. 'Action Stations' the usual star shell, tracers and very loud bangs and flashes. There were a couple of terrific flashes and it was rumoured that two small tankers in the convoy had vanished in them, more flashes and the Pine was hit and blown clean in two by a torpedo - the stern half remained afloat, the rest had just disappeared. A few survivors including two officers were fished out of the water and shortly afterward they went back onboard to salvage the stern half of their ship. They managed to get it taken in tow but a couple of hours later it also sank without warning and the survivors had to swim for it again. The culprits had been E boats on a pitch dark night lying in wait in the swept channel with their engines switched off. We had regularly lain alongside the Pine in harbour and we knew most of those lost fairly well, so it came as a great shock to all of us.'

The E-boats seemed content with their 3 ‘kills’ and left as quickly as they had arrived. The convoy stayed on high alert and began to ‘hug the coast’ to try and avoid a further anticipated attack form the e-boats. The convoy was ordered not to slow down and make best speed towards the safety of Portsmouth, leaving the crippled Hms Pine adrift behind them.

It was Lt-Commander Leslie close by in Motor Launch 206 who quickly came to save those still on board Hms Pine. He took 20 survivors from Hms Pine and with encouragement from the survivors again went alongside Hms Pine and a boarding party took further 7 survivors from below decks onto M.L.206. Lt.Cdr Leslie then stayed on station with Hms Pine until the Hmt Rehearo came alongside and took Hms Pine under tow towards Newhaven.

M.L.206 quickly made its way into Newhaven to disembark its survivors. The Naval Officer in command then ordered Hms Pine to be towed to Portsmouth where there were better repair facilities, so Hmt Rehearo turned and towed Hms Pine towards Portsmouth. 2 of Hms Pines surviving officers asked to be put back on board Hms Pine for the tow back into Portsmouth. M.L.206 quickly came along side Hms Pine and the 2 officers transferred across. The 2 officers weren’t on the Hms Pine for long, before, 6 miles from Selsey Bill at 1345 on the 31st January 1944, she suddenly sank.

Today she she still rest 6 miles or so from Selsey Bill at 
Latitude*=*50°43'.057 N***
Longitude*=*000°37'.183 W 

Those who lost their lives on board Hms Pine:

AUDIS, Raymond G E, Ordinary Signalman, RNPS, LT/JX 405841, MPK 
ELLIOTT, Robert T, Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 231951, MPK 
FAULKNER, Albert V, Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 203620, MPK 
HAYWARD, Arthur, Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 436311, MPK 
HOBSON, Loris, Cook, RNPS, LT/MX 107746, MPK 
MARTIN, Edward, Ordinary Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 355532, MPK 
MARTLAND, John, Leading Cook, RNPS, LT/MX 84970, MPK 
MASON, Stanley, Ordinary Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 532715, MPK 
PECKHAM, Cecil C, Ordinary Telegraphist, RNPS, LT/JX 370193, MPK 
SHERIFF, Ronald B, Seaman, RNPS, LT/JX 379840, MPK