The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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HMS POLYANTHUS - Yard No 309 - Flower Class Corvette - Royal Navy - Built 1940


 HMS POLYANTHUS a "Flower Class" Corvette built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb  
Owners   Royal Navy
Registered     Keel Laid    19/03/1940
Type of Ship    Flower Class Corvette Launched    30/11/1940
      Commissioned    21/04/1941
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    190' 0" Weather    
Beam     33' 0" Time to Water    
Depth      17' 6"      
Draught     11' 5"      
G.R.T.    811 tons      
Complement    85 to 90 officers and men      
Engines    1 X 4-cyl. triple expansion steam engine, 2750 hp      
Props    1      
Speed    16 knots      
Armament     1 X 4" Gun, 2 x 0.50 cal machine gun in twin mounts

2 Lewis .303 cal machine guns in twin mounts, 40 depth charges.

Other known names   N/A    
Current Status   Sunk during the Battle of the Atlantic    
Content on HMS POLYANTHUS will be added as and when available. 
 HMS POLYANTHUS Flower Class Corvette.
Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, of course when the ship is for the Royal Navy then she has to also complete her trials to the satisfaction of the Navy Board before being commissioned into the service.

The Flower Class Corvette HMS POLYANTHUS was one of the many gallant little fighting ships that were some what over shadowed by there larger more illustrious sister ships during the battle of the Atlantic, these little fighting ships were to help keep the United Kingdom in the war against the Nazi tyranny that was attempting to control the world at the time.

The small Corvette based on a design that came from a Whale Catching ship not only had to contend with some of the fiercest weather and seas in the world but the ever present danger from U-Boats and from attack by long range German Luftwaffe planes sent out to find the convoys that the Corvettes were tasked with protecting.

She had been ordered by the Admiralty just 3 days before the declaration of war on 3rd Sept 1939 and she was taken on and ready for action by the Royal Navy in April 1941.

HMS POLYANTHUS was at action stations from that day on and was used on the North Atlantic convoy protection runs, it was after two years of fighting that the gallant little and not to mention over crowded corvette was to meet her terrible fate in the shape of one of the enemy's new secret underwater weapon, that weapon was the Gnat torpedo which was a torpedo which was able to home in on the sound of a ships engines and propeller noise, of course the ships at sea were not aware of this weapon at the time.

 While fighting and escorting a combined convoy consisting of ships from convoy ON.202 and convoy ONS.18

In the middle of the Atlantic during a real battle royal between the ships and the wolf packs of U-Boats who were attacking the convoy not only under water but on the surface as well when they could.

On the 21st of September 1943, POLYANTHUS along with the Frigate HMS ITCHEN had cone back to try and pick up survivors from the Destroyer HMCS ST CROIX while doing this the ship took a single hit from a torpedo fired by U-952, POLYANTHUS sank so quickly that the Frigate HMS ITCHEN only managed to pick up one survivor from POLYANTHUS she has went down with 87 men of her gallant crew. 

More tragedy was to follow as the Frigate HMS ITCHEN had the survivors from the HMCS ST CROIX and the lone survivor from HMS POLYANTHUS on board and she needed help with searching for any more so the Canadian Corvette HMCS SACKVILLE joined up with her to help, and even though the ItCHEN had lost the use of her ASDIC the two ships rejoined the battle with the ITCHEN then joining up with HMCS MORDEN to fight the battle in tandem as HMCS MORDEN had no depth charges left but still had the use of her ASDIC so the plan was that HMCS MORDEN would find the U-Boat and HMS ITCHEN would drop her depth charges onto the contact.

During the battle that followed HMS ITCHEN was hit by a torpedo from U-666 (what a number to give a vessel?)

She exploded in a huge fireball that threw wreckage over the HMCS MORDEN and the HMCS SACKVILLE and only three men survived, one each from the HMCS ST CROIX, HMS ITCHEN and HMS POLYANTHUS.

In what was one of the heaviest Canadian Navy losses of the war, this battle also introduced the German acoustic torpedo.

Difficult to imagine the horror of this going on nowadays from the comfort of our armchairs but the sacrifice of the men and women of the armed and merchant navies should never be forgotten.

We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info
or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.

Atlantic Escorts

Atlantic Escorts

Winston Churchill famously claimed that the submarine war in the Atlantic was the only campaign of the Second World War that really frightened him. If the lifeline to north America had been cut, Britain would never have survived; there could have been no build-up of US and Commonwealth forces, no D-Day landings, and no victory in western Europe. Furthermore, the battle raged from the first day of the war until the final German surrender, making it the longest and arguably hardest-fought campaign of the whole war. The ships, technology and tactics employed by the Allies form the subject of this book. Beginning with the lessons apparently learned from the First World War, the author outlines inter-war developments in technology and training, and describes the later preparations for the second global conflict. When the war came the balance of advantage was to see-saw between U-boats and escorts, with new weapons and sensors introduced at a rapid rate. For the defending navies, the prime requirement was numbers, and the most pressing problem was to improve capability without sacrificing simplicity and speed of construction. The author analyses the resulting designs of sloops, frigates, corvettes and destroyer escorts and attempts to determine their relative effectiveness.

Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

HMS POLYANTHUS was also involved in an incredible piece of seamanship when she was tasked with towing a tanker 12 times larger than herself during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The British Tanker "British Merit" which had taken a hit from a torpedo on her maiden voyage, the POLYANTHUS had to try and rescue her and deliver her from the middle of the Atlantic to Saint Johns in Newfoundland a distance of some 800 miles away from where they were at this point, and to make things all the more difficult the weather was as most times in the North Atlantic pretty rough, the tanker had no power after being hit in the stern from the torpedo, at a snails pace of around 3 knots the gallant little Corvette managed to bring her charge to within 50 miles of St John's before a tug was sent out to help her bring the stricken tanker into port.

The "Flower Class" Corvette had been designed as a quick stop gap solution for work in the short sea routes before it became a must that they escort convoys right across the Atlantic, and they had never been designed to take on a two, as any tug man would tell you this simple sounding story was quite a feat of seamanship.

This page is in memory of all the gallant sailors who gave there live to help protect the convoys of the North Atlantic.  

The crew man who had been the only survivor from HMS POLYANTHUS was picked up by HMS ITCHEN but tragically, he was one of those amongst the 227 crew from HMS ITCHEN who perished after being hit by a torpedo just two days after the sinking of HMS POLYANTHUS.   

Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.

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0 #5 Steve Partridge 2014-05-02 09:00
My uncle Frederick Hockley was on board HMS Polyanthus when she was lost in 1943. Family tradition always had it that he was one of three who were originally rescued by another ship(HMS Itchen), but later lost with her. There seems to be some confusion over the number rescued various sources state one, three or five. I did track down an ex crew member, Fred Kellet, who wrote a book called "A Flower for the Sea and A Fish for the Sky" about his time on Polyanthus and during air crew training after he left her.
0 #4 Anna Jackson 2013-10-20 20:03
One of my relatives - Petty Officer Gerald Croose was killed on HMS Polyanthus.
0 #3 John Young 2013-10-01 13:47
The sole survivor from the Polyanthus was my Uncle, Lt Fred Young RNVR.
He was picked up by HMS Itchen, but was lost when that was torpedoed as well.
Dorothy Blackwell who placed 'In Memoriam' in the Telegraph every year from 1944. She was last heard from by our family in 1967.
0 #2 Marshall Wilson 2012-05-22 00:41
My uncle was the canteen manager on HMS |Itchen.He was delighted to join his older brothers in the conflict. His father and my father were heartbroken to get the news of his death.He was the youngest member of the family and it was his first tour.He lived at No. 13 Barry Street, Londonderry and I have only recently learned that he was torpedoed by U 666.!!
0 #1 Martin Edwards 2012-05-09 14:16
I'm researching my Grandfather, Lt Comm. Ernest Govern McMillan who family legend says served on the Polyanthus and the Violet (k35) I can't find crew lists with his name on so I'm not totally sure as to the accuracy of the legend! there was also cloak & dagger stuff later in the war so it is possible that the ships were a smokescreen that the family have believed for 60 odd years.....Ah well more research needed!

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