A Destroyer at War

The Fighting Life and Loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939–42

Richard H Osborne, David Goodey

Publication date:
September 2017
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
No associated books available.


It was headline news on 8 April 1942: ‘One of the Navy’s most famous destroyers, a ship which survived bombs, torpedoes and full scale battles, has been wrecked’. That destroyer was HMS Havock, described in another newspaper as ‘Britain’s No 2 Destroyer of this war – second only in fame and glory to the Cossack.’

Havock had earned her reputation guarding the convoys across the Atlantic in 1939 and at Narvik in the abortive bid to stave off the German occupation of Norway in 1940\. Havock was then transferred to the Mediterranean, fighting at the Battle of Cape Spada in 1940 and in 1941 at the Battle of Matapan and in the evacuations of Greece and Crete.

Havock’s duties in the Med continued, escorting the convoys to the besieged island of Malta and the equally beleaguered garrison at Tobruk. Then in the Battle of Sirte in 1942 Havock was badly damaged and she limped into Malta for repairs. There she was heavy bombed and when Havock made a bid to reach Gibraltar, she was wrecked off Cape Bon. Her crew was captured and imprisoned in the infamous Laghouat internment camp.

The authors have tracked down fifty of the surviving crew and from interviews have been able to compile one of the most detailed, and certainly one of the most dramatic, histories of a destroyer during the Second World War. Destroyer at War tells the story of the battles and operations of a famous ship, and its sad destruction, through newspaper reports, official documents, and the words of the men who sailed and fought in HMS Havock as she earned an astonishing eleven battle honors in her brief but glorious career.