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HMS Abdiel (M39)
HMS Abdiel (M39)
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Abdiel
Builder: J. Samuel White, Cowes
Laid down: 29 March 1939
Launched: 23 April 1940
Commissioned: 15 April 1941
Fate: Lost, 10 September 1943
General characteristics
Class & type: Abdiel-class minelayer
Displacement: 2,650 tons (standard)
4,000 tons (full load)
Length: 127.4 m (418 ft) (overall)
Beam: 12.2 m (40 ft)
Draught: 3.4 m (11 ft)
Propulsion: Two shafts
Geared turbines
Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
72,000 shp
Speed: 40 knots (74 km/h)
Range: 5,800 mi (9,334 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 244
Armament: 4 × 4-inch AA guns (2×2)
4 × Bofors 40 mm gun (2×2)
12 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (6×2)
160 Naval mines
Armour: Magazine box protection, deck, side-plating, turrets and bulkheads, belt, internal boiler room sides (added 1936-1940).
Notes: Pennant number M39

HMS Abdiel (M39) was an Abdiel-class minelayer that served with the Royal Navy during World War II. She served with the Mediterranean Fleet (1941), Eastern Fleet (1942), Home Fleet (1942-43), and the Mediterranean Fleet (1943). Abdiel was sunk by mines in Taranto harbour in 1943. Although designed as a fast minelayer her speed and capacity made her suitable for employment as a fast transport.



On 22 March 1941 Abdiel (Captain Hon. Edward Pleydell-Bouverie) had acceptance trials interrupted and was ordered to lay mines with the objective of preventing the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau breaking out from Brest. In operation 'GV', 'GX' and 'GY', Abdiel with Intrepid, Impulse, and Icarus escorted by Kipling, Kelly and Jackal on 23 and 28 March laid mines in the vicinity of Little Sole Bank and 40 mi (64 km) WSW of Brest.

From 17 to 30 April 1941 Abdiel attempted to complete her trials programme but this was again abandoned when the ship was ordered to join the cruiser Dido and the destroyers Kelly, Kipling, Kelvin, Jackal, and Jersey. This group was then transferred from Plymouth to Gibraltar, having loaded military stores destined for Malta. The ships subsequently joined the Mediterranean Fleet.


On 24 to 28 April 1941 they formed part of "Operation Dunlop", Dido, Abdiel and destroyers Janus, Jervis, and Nubian, having discharged naval stores at Malta proceeded to Alexandria.[1]

On 21 May 1941 Abdiel (Captain Hon. Edward Pleydell-Bouverie) laid a field of 150 mines off Akra Dhoukaton (Cape Dukato, southern tip of Lefkada island, Ionian sea). On the field were later the same day lost the Italian destroyer Carlo Mirabello (1,840 tons) and the gunboat Pellegrino Matteucci and the German transports Kybfels (7764 GRT) and Marburg (7564 BRT).

On the night of the 26–27 May, Abdiel, escorted by the destroyer Hero (Commander H.W. Biggs, RN) and the Australian destroyer Nizam (Lieutenant Commander M.J. Clark, RAN), landed 800 Commandos at Suda Bay.

On 31 May 1941 Abdiel sailed from Alexandria for Sfakia, Crete, with the light cruiser Phoebe (Captain G. Grantham) and three destroyers. During the following night these ships removed 4,000 troops from Crete.

Between December 1942 and April 1943 Abdiel, in cooperation with the minelaying submarine Rorqual and Abdiel's sistership Welshman laid several minefields, totaling some 2,000 mines, in the Strait of Sicily.

On 9 January 1943 after having laid a minefield across the Axis evacuation route from Tunisia, an Italian convoy ran into it, and the destroyer Corsaro (1,645 tons) was sunk, while the destroyer Maestrale (1,440 tons) was severely damaged. On 3 February 1943 another Italian convoy fouled another of her minefields, south of Marettimo island, off the western tip of Sicily, losing the destroyer Saetta (1,225 tons) and the torpedo boat Uragano (910 tons).

On 8 March 1943 Abdiel again laid a minefield on the Axis evacuation route, 30 nm north of Cap Bon, Tunisia. On 24 March a convoy entered the field, and the Italian destroyers Ascari (1,645 tons) and Lanzerotto Malocello (2,125 tons) were lost. On 3 April 1943 Abdiel laid a minefield between the Italian fields X-2 and X-3, whose location was known to the Allies through Ultra intercepts and captured documents. On 7 March a convoy ran afoul the field, losing the Italian torpedo boat Ciclone (910 tons).


Abdiel, commanded by Captain David Orr-Ewing, DSO, was sunk by mines in Taranto harbour, Italy on 10 September 1943. The mines had been laid just a few hours earlier by two German torpedo boats (S-54 and S-61), as they left the harbour. Abdiel, carrying troops of the British 1st Airborne Division (6th (Welch) Parachute Battalion), took the berth which had been declined earlier by the captain of USS Boise (CL-47). Shortly after midnight, two ground mines detonated beneath Abdiel and the minelayer sank in three minutes with great loss of life among both sailors and soldiers. The Airborne Division lost 58 dead and around 150 injured and 48 ship's crew were lost. There is an unconfirmed report that the ship's degaussing equipment had been turned off to reduce noise and to allow troops to sleep better.[2]


  1. Source (i) Tom Brown 'No 38 Profile Warship. Abdiel Class Minelayers (ii) Jurgen Rohwer 'Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945≠
  2. "HMS Abdiel (M 39)". Retrieved 2007-07-16. 

External links

Coordinates: 40°26′35″N 17°15′6″E / 40.44306°N 17.25167°E / 40.44306; 17.25167

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