This week’s photograph is a nice study of the W class destroyer HMS Witherington:This ship was laid down in September 1918 at Samuel White and Company in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and launched in January 1919. She was 300 feet long and had three White Foster water tube boilers, fuelled with oil and arrange of 3500 nautical miles at 15 knots. These boilers exhausted through two funnels amidships:The ship was well armed for its small size, she displaced just 1,140 tons, but was originally equipped with three breach loading 4.7 inch gun turrets:She was to lose one of these turrets, the ‘y’ turret during a refit in February 1942 to convert her into a short range escort, the extra space being used for depth charges.
She was originally commissioned with the pennant number of ‘D76’ but in May 1940 this had been changed to ‘I76’ for visual signalling purposes, and it is this pennant number she is wearing in our photograph:HMS Witherington had an eventful war, she had been laid up in Rosyth since the early 1930s and was reactivated in August 1939.
In September 1939 the ship was allocated to the 15th Destroyer Flotilla based at Rosyth (changed to Liverpool in 1940) in Western Approaches Command for convoy defence. Up to April 1940 she was employed in the North West Approaches area providing local escort for convoys leaving Liverpool (OB series) to a dispersal point in the Atlantic approximately 750 nautical miles west of Lands End. Periodically an OA (sailing from Southend)series convoy would sail and join up with the OB series. The merged convoy would change to an OG series (UK to Gibraltar). During this period she escorted 20 convoys, for a total of 436 ships with total losses of 3 ships (2 sunk by U-boats and 1 due to collision).
In April 1940 she was detached to Scapa Flow after the German invasion of Norway. From 11 April to 15 April she escorted military convoy NP001 to Narvik then on 24 April she escorted military TM001/1. She provided local escort for the arrival at Clyde for TC004 with two troopships carrying 2,591 troops.
In July 1940 she was returned to the Western Approaches for convoy defence and was mainly employed in the North-West Approach sector as a local escort until February 1942. During this time she escorted 13 mercantile convoys. On March 11, 1941, she was beached in Portsmouth after sustaining damage from a Luftwaffe air raid, to be later repaired and returned to service.
At the end of June 1943 she was transferred to the Mediterranean-based out of Alexandria in support of follow on convoys for the Allied invasion of Sicily. In November she was deployed to Gibraltar for Atlantic Convoy Defence.
On 1 November she took part in the sinking of U-340 with HMS Active, HMS Fleetwood and two Vickers Wellington aircraft of No. 179 Squadron RAF at position 35o33’N, 06o37’W. She was deployed in the South-West Approaches out of Gibraltar throughout 1944.
She was deployed in the South-West Approaches out of Gibraltar throughout 1944.
In 1945 she was deployed to the English Channel area to counter the threat of snorkel equipped U-Boats being concentrated or convoy formation areas. She remained in this deployment until VE-Day. Witherington was paid off into reserve after VE-Day. She was placed on the disposal list after VJ-Day. On 20 March 1947 she was sold to Metal Industries for breaking up. On 29 April while under tow to the breakers yard at Charlestown near Rosyth she parted the tow and was wrecked off the mouth of the Tyne in a gale.