HMS Nubian

12th December 2015

HMS Nubian memorial plaque

HMS Nubian memorial plaque

As a result of these articles I receive considerable feedback and, from time to time, inspiration for further pieces relevant to the county. A few months ago I was invited to view and photograph the plaque to the left which carries quite a story and which deserves telling in any year but perhaps even more so in this 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

In 1942, the week January 24th – 31st was nominated to have the title of ‘Warship Week’ with the object of raising £500,000 in Pembrokeshire. Several such fund raising weeks were held during the war but this one, if successful, was to have the motivating honour of allowing Pembrokeshire to adopt an already existing warship.

The money wasn’t expected as a donation; there were various investment schemes through banks or post offices where Bonds or Savings Certificates could be purchased and to make sure that even the youngest, or those with the smallest income could take part, savings stamps could be purchased for as little as sixpence.

Amongst senior naval personnel and others who addressed huge numbers to promote the week was the son of David Lloyd George, Major Gwilym Lloyd George, Liberal MP for Pembrokeshire who was about to be appointed by Churchill to the position of Minister for Fuel and Power.

The county was divided into 11 districts with each, rather dauntingly, being given a quota to aim for; i.e. Haverfordwest had to aim for £105,000, Milford £100,000. Even the Llanfyrnach district was assessed for £20,000.

The week consisted of special events, parades and fetes and rousing speeches. Quite remarkably and proudly, every district except one not only reached its target but exceeded it. Neyland went as far as to almost double its required amount of £15,000 and managed £26,000. The total raised was £641,000.

HMS Nubian

by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2002

As a reward, and as promised, the county was allowed to adopt an existing warship. The ship in question was a destroyer by the name of HMS Nubian. Almost 2,000 tons, Nubian carried eight guns and four torpedo tubes and had a crew of 219. Built in 1936/7, Nubian achieved one of the most illustrious records of any ship during the war.

Starting in April 1940, Nubian took part in the Norwegian Campaign during which seven British destroyers and one aircraft carrier were lost. Nubian was part of the naval force that evacuated the British forces from Norway and on the return to Scapa Flow, full of troops, she was attacked repeatedly by German aircraft.

Immediately following that disaster, Nubian spent a year in the Mediterranean where a succession of successful naval battles against the Italians took place. Still in the Med, Nubian assisted in the evacuation of Crete following another disaster and was attacked by German Stuka dive-bombers.

A direct hit took off the entire rear of the ship with seven deaths and several wounded. Despite this, Nubian made it, under escort, to Alexandria and from there was sent (under tow) to Bombay where over the course of eighteen months she was returned to former shipshape condition.

In 1943 Nubian was back in action in the Mediterranean and was involved in the Allied landings in Sicily and mainland Italy.

Back in the UK for further repairs, Nubian next took a limited role in the Arctic convoys mainly pursuing U-boats (she was successful in her attack of at least one) or acting as escort for the convoys to Russia.

Finally she was sent to the Far East and was present during the closing actions against the Japanese.

Nubian was awarded 13 battle honours, a record only equalled by two other ships and exceeded by just one, the battleship Warspite, a ship of 36,000 tons.

As reports of Nubian’s exploits become public, dignitaries of the adoptive county wrote congratulatory messages from time to time to the captain and crew. Some of the replies are on record.

At the end of the war Nubian was stationed for a while at Portsmouth before being used initially as a target ship and finally being scrapped in 1949. Part of the information for this article has come from research by Rev. Andrew Huckett.