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HMS Gipsy (H63)

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HMS Gipsy (H63) IWM FL 13465.jpg
Gipsy in June 1936
United Kingdom
Ordered5 March 1934
BuilderFairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan, Scotland
Laid down5 September 1934
Launched7 November 1935
Completed22 February 1936
IdentificationPennant number: H63
MottoTrust your luck
Honours and
Atlantic 1939
FateMined, 21 November 1939
BadgeOn a Field Green a female gipsy's head Proper
General characteristics (as built)
Class and typeG-class destroyer
Length323 ft (98.5 m)
Beam33 ft (10.1 m)
Draught12 ft 5 in (3.8 m)
Installed power
Propulsion2 shafts, 2 geared steam turbines
Speed36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range5,530 nmi (10,240 km; 6,360 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement137 (peacetime), 146 (wartime)

HMS Gipsy was a G-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during the 1930s. She spent most of the pre-war period as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. The ship was transferred to the British Isles to escort shipping in local waters shortly after the beginning of World War II. Less than a month after her arrival she struck a mine outside Harwich and sank with the loss of 30 of her crew. Her wreck was salvaged and slowly scrapped over the course of the war.


Gipsy displaced 1,350 long tons (1,370 t) at standard load and 1,883 long tons (1,913 t) at deep load. The ship had an overall length of 323 feet (98.5 m), a beam of 33 feet (10.1 m) and a draught of 12 feet 5 inches (3.8 m). She was powered by Parsons geared steam turbines, driving two shafts, which developed a total of 34,000 shaft horsepower (25,000 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph). Steam for the turbines was provided by three Admiralty 3-drum water-tube boilers. Gipsy carried a maximum of 470 long tons (480 t) of fuel oil that gave her a range of 5,530 nautical miles (10,240 km; 6,360 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). The ship's complement was 137 officers and men in peacetime.[1]

The ship mounted four 45-calibre 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark IX guns in single mounts. For anti-aircraft defence Gipsy had two quadruple Mark I mounts for the 0.5 inch Vickers Mark III machine gun. She was fitted with two above-water quadruple torpedo tube mounts for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes.[1] One rail and two depth charge throwers were fitted; 20 depth charges were originally carried, but this increased to 35 shortly after the war began.[2]


A piece of Gipsy is hauled to the surface by a salvage vessel, March 1943

Gipsy was laid down by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, at Govan, Scotland on 4 September 1934, launched on 7 November 1935 and completed on 22 February 1936. Excluding government-furnished equipment like the armament, the ship cost £250,364.[3][Note 1] Aside from a brief period assigned to the 20th Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet after her commissioning, Gipsy spent the pre-war period assigned to the 1st Destroyer Flotilla with the Mediterranean Fleet. She was refitted at Devonport Dockyard between 2 June and 30 July 1938.[4]

On the outbreak of war in September 1939, Gipsy was deployed with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla for patrols and contraband control in the Eastern Mediterranean, based at Alexandria. Gipsy and her entire flotilla were transferred to the Western Approaches Command at Plymouth in October. On 12 November she collided with her sister ship, Greyhound, en route to Harwich, and her new assignment with the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla, but she was only slightly damaged. The ship rescued three German airmen outside Harwich harbour on 21 November and returned to port to turn them over the army.

Later that evening, Gipsy set out with the destroyers Griffin, Keith, Boadicea, ORP Burza and ORP Grom to hunt for U-Boats thought to be minelaying in the North Sea. Just outside the harbour boom she triggered one of the two magnetic mines dropped about 2 hours earlier by two German seaplanes, and, almost broken in half, sank on the edge of the deepwater channel. 31 of her crew, including the captain, Lt-Cdr Crossley, were killed or fatally injured, 115 were rescued by the other destroyers and by harbour launches.[4] The inquiry determined that, though the harbour defences had been on alert (UK National Archive 248 Heavy AA Battery War Diary WO 166/2529), and had actually seen and plotted both the seaplanes and their mines, their reporting had been inaccurate. Though the Harwich admiral had told the destroyers to hug the side of the channel opposite to where the mines fell, he had not stipulated why, nor that the ships were in any particular danger. Apart from those on the bridge, Gipsy's crew were unaware of any danger at all as a result some had gone to sleep below decks, and no contingency plan had been made to ready lifeboats. (sources—Admiralty Board of Inquiry Minutes and Report—UK National Archive ADM 1/22793, logs of Keith and Boadicea ADM 53/109431 and 107799; correspondence with Captain R D Franks, Gipsy's 1st Lieutenant, and his article in "Highlight" Harwich Society magazine).

There was controversy at the time, and later, about this lack of warning, and also about the failure of the local defences to fire on the German seaplanes (Nore Command War Diary ADM 199/375; 6 Anti-Aircraft Division War Diary WO 166/2168l Captain R D Franks; Highlight). It turned out that their failure to fire had been due to an Army Anti-Aircraft Command order that unidentified aircraft should not be engaged, though the defenders had, at the time, recognised their nationality, if not their type—and seen their mines. (ADM 1/22793, 515 Coast Artillery Regiment War Diary WO 166/1718).

The wreck remained upright on the seabed with only the bridge and forward gun visible at high tide. Only buckled plating amidships held the two main sections of the wreck together and they were cut by explosives when salvage began shortly after her sinking. The two halves were raised by pontoons, and were subsequently broken up separately 750 long tons (760 t) of ferrous scrap and 38 long tons (39 t) of non-ferrous metals were recovered between June 1940 and February 1944.[4]


  1. Adjusted for inflation to 2023 pounds, £17,905,185.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Whitley, pp. 107–08
  2. English, p. 141
  3. English, pp. 89–90
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 English, p. 95


  • English, John (1993). Amazon to Ivanhoe: British Standard Destroyers of the 1930s. Kendal, England: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-64-9.
  • Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.

External links

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