Military Wiki
HMS Express (H61)
HMS Express
HMS Express in November 1942
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Express
Ordered: 1931 Naval Programme
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Launched: 29 May 1934
Fate: Transferred to Canada, June 1943
Career (Canada)
Name: HMCS Gatineau
Acquired: June 1943
Struck: 1955
Honours and
Atlantic 1943-44
Normandy 1944
Fate: Scrapped 1955
General characteristics
Class & type: 'E' class destroyer
Displacement: 1,350–1,405 long tons (1,372–1,428 t) standard
1,886–1,940 long tons (1,916–1,971 t) full load
Length: 318 ft 3 in (97.00 m) p/p
329 ft (100 m) o/a
Beam: 33 ft 3 in (10.13 m)
Draught: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
Propulsion: 3 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 300 psi
2 shaft Parsons geared turbines
36,000 shp (27,000 kW)
Speed: 35.5 knots (40.9 mph; 65.7 km/h)
Range: 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Endurance: 471 tons fuel oil
Complement: 145 (173 in 1942)

• 4 × 4.7-inch/45 (120-mm) Mk IX guns (4×1)
• 8 × .50-inch (12.7-mm) Vickers machine guns (2×4)
• 5 × .303 inch machine guns (5×1)
• 8 × 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes (2×4)
• 2 × depth charge racks
• 60 depth charges
• 4 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes replaced by

• 1 × 3 in (76.2 mm)/50 gun and 2 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (2×1)

HMS Express was an E-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was one of 18 E- and F-class destroyers to be built. She was launched on 29 May 1934. She had an overall length of 100 m, displacement of 1,375 tons, and a maximum speed of 35.5 knots (66 km/h). Her design was similar to the 'C' and 'D' classes of 1931, but with an improved hull form, modified bridge, three boiler rooms instead of two, and 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns that could elevate to 40 degrees (vs. 30 degrees on earlier classes). She cost approximately £GBP 300,000 to build.

She and her sister Esk were fitted as minelayers. Unlike the others of the class, Esk and Express had tripod mainmasts and carried their ship's boats on the foredeck.


Minelaying duty

On the outbreak of war in September 1939 during the Invasion of Poland, Express was assigned to the 20th (Minelaying) Destroyer Flotilla, initially based at Portsmouth before moving to Immingham on the North Sea. Express spent the first year of the war laying defensive minefields in British waters and offensive minefields off enemy coasts with the 20th Flotilla. In September 1939 she took the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from Portsmouth to Cherbourg.

In late May 1940, Express was one of several dozen destroyers ordered to help evacuate the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, and was one of the first to arrive and begin taking troops off the beaches. Later troops were taken off from Dunkirk harbour. The Express and the destroyer Shikari were the last ships to leave Dunkirk with troops before the evacuation ended on June 4. She brought out 2,795 troops over the course of the evacuation. She was damaged by bombing, but was hastily repaired-in-process to continue taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation.

On 31 August 1940, she left Immingham to lay an offensive mine field off the coast of the Netherlands. During the night, Express struck a mine, losing her entire bow up to the bridge. Esk and Ivanhoe then struck mines while trying to go to her assistance. Express was towed back to Britain, having lost 4 officers and 55 ratings. Esk and Ivanhoe were lost. The event became known as the Texel Disaster.

To the Far East

She returned to service in September 1941 as a fleet destroyer.

In October, she was ordered to escort the battleship HMS Prince of Wales to the Far East with her sister HMS Electra where the ships would form the nucleus of a new Eastern Fleet intended to deter Japanese aggression. On 2 November, the three ships put into Freetown. They arrived at Cape Town on 16 November, with the destroyers putting into Simon's Town Naval Base. They left Cape Town on 18 November and arrived at Colombo, Ceylon, on 28 November, stopping at Mauritius and Addu Atoll to refuel on the way. On 29 November, the destroyers HMS Encounter and HMS Jupiter joined at Colombo from the Mediterranean Fleet and the five ships sailed later that day. The ships were joined at sea by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse which had sailed from Trincomalee. The force then set course for Singapore, where they arrived on 2 December.

Force Z at Singapore

Early in the morning of 8 December (Singapore time), Singapore came under attack by Japanese aircraft. Prince of Wales and Repulse shot back with anti-aircraft fire; no planes were shot down, and the ships sustained no damage. After receiving the reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor and invasions of Siam by the Japanese, Force Z put to sea at 1730 hrs. on 8 December. Force Z at this time consisted of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, escorted by the destroyers Electra, Express, HMAS Vampire, and HMS Tenedos. At about 1830 on 9 December, the Tenedos was detached to return to Singapore, because of her limited fuel capacity. That night, Electra sighted and reported a flare to the north. This caused the British force to turn away to the southeast. The flare was dropped by a Japanese aircraft over their own ships by mistake, and caused the Japanese force to turn away to the northeast. At this point, the two forces were only about five miles (8 km) apart. At 2055, Admiral Philips cancelled the operation, and ordered the force to return to Singapore. On the way back, they were spotted and reported by the Japanese submarine I-58. The next morning, 10 December, they received a report of Japanese landings at Kuantan, and Express was sent to investigate the area, finding nothing. That afternoon, Prince of Wales and Repulse were attacked and sunk by 85 Japanese aircraft off Kuantan. Repulse was sunk by five torpedoes in 20 minutes, and Electra and Vampire moved in to rescue survivors of Repulse, while Express rescued survivors of the Prince of Wales. All told, the three destroyers rescued over 1,000 survivors from the Prince of Wales and Repulse.

She spent 1942 in the Indian Ocean as part of the British Eastern Fleet before returning home to refit.


In June 1943, she was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and rechristened HMCS Gatineau. She served with distinction in the Atlantic.

In 1955, she was struck from the boards and sold for scrap. Her hulk was used with others to form a breakwater at Royston, British Columbia. She remained visible for many years, but little now remains of her hull.(2010) 49°39′14.26″N 124°56′53.74″W / 49.6539611°N 124.9482611°W / 49.6539611; -124.9482611 [1]:30


  1. James, Rick (2004). "The Ghost Ships of Royston". Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia. ISBN 0-9695010-9-9. 


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  • Haarr, Geirr H. (2010). The Battle for Norway: April–June 1940. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-051-1. 
  • Haarr, Geirr H. (2009). The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-310-9. 
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Mahoney, Patrick. Battleship: The Sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2. 
  • Smith, Peter C. Hold The Narrow Sea.
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  • Winser, John de D. (1999). B.E.F. Ships Before, At and After Dunkirk. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-91-6. 

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