HMS Firedrake
( Burning With Valour )

H.M.S. Firedrake

H79 - HMS FiredrakeOn the night of the 16th December 1942, HMS Firedrake, an 'F' class Destroyer, was the escort leader to convoy ON153, with 43 ships bound for Canada.

They sailed in a force 12 storm the worst the Atlantic had seen for a very long time. At about 17.00 hrs, the ASDIC operator picked up a contact. HMS Firedrake tracked the contact to about 5 miles south of the convoy, when at 20.10 hrs she was hit by a torpedo fired by U-boat U211. The ship broke in two. The bow section sank immediately, with the stern just managing to stay afloat.

Lieutenant D.J.Dampier RN had a tally up and found there were 35 still on board. He quickly got the men to work shoring up the bulkheads of No. 3 boiler room, and making safe and jettisoning the depth charges and torpedoes. The gun crew were ordered to fire star shells to attract the attention of the other escorts, because all the radio and signaling equipment had gone with the bow part of the ship.

At about 22.00 hrs, one of the other escorts - HMS Sunflower, a Flower class Corvette - was attracted by the star shells so she made towards them, firing star shells herself. The skipper first thought that the stern section of Firedrake was a U-boat and was about to fire HE at it, but then suddenly realised what it was.

He tried to get his ship as close as possible to HMS Firedrake in order to get the survivors off, but the weather was so bad and the sea too rough. There were 60 foot waves breaking over the two ships, which were bobbing about like corks, so he decided to stand by and hope the weather would get better. At about 0040 hrs on the 17th December, the weather worsened and the bulkheads started to give way under the tremendous battering. The stern of HMS Firedrake started to sink, so the men had no option but to take to the water, and at 00.45hr the stern sank.

The Sunflower moved in quickly to pick up the men in the water, a Newfoundland rating, G J Furey, had a rope tied around his waist and was lowered down the side of Sunflower. He would swim out to a man and grab hold of him, then his mates on board would heave them back to the ship and get him onboard. He and his mates managed to get 27 on board but one died later. There were 168 of the Firedrake's crew lost and 3 others that had been picked up earlier that had survived an earlier sinking that night.

HMS Sunflower
Photo left:
The Flower Class Corvette:  K 41 HMS Sunflower.
The crew managed to rescue 27 of Firedrake's crew from the sea but sadly one of them, Able Seaman Billy Kay died before morning. Billy was brought aboard unconscious and every effort was made to revive him, but all their efforts were in vain. Able Seaman John Dixon was one of the those who tried to save Billy. See Page 13

HMS Firedrake Association Remembers 2003

SBA Peter Kelly with wreath and Dr John Aldren
All ex-Crew of the Firedrake 60 years on.
P.Kelly, D.Cowland, B.How and me.
On Sunday 14th December 2003, members of the HMS Firedrake association met again to pay tribute and lay wreaths at the Cenotaph, for the 168 of the ships crew who lost there lives when the ship was sunk in the Atlantic on the night of the 16th-17th December 1942.

Painting by J.R. Masters

There's no flowers on a sailors grave

No lilies on an ocean wave

The only tribute is the seagulls sweep

And the tear drop on a loved ones cheek

We shall remember them

After Hearing what happened to Firedrake, I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I painted the scene I had in my mind.  I later sent copies of the painting to three people who were there. They confirmed the scene to being a true likeness of the scene at the time. The Poem was sent to me by one of the members of the association I decided to included it into the site, therefore the association has now adopted the Poem as our own.

I hope to show in this web-site, the facts and history of the HMS Firedrake and her crew, with lots of photos and comments from the survivors, and the families of those lost, I will from time to time add extra information to the pages as I receive it.

Available now the Firedrake Video...

The story of HMS Firedrake with interviews from veterans who saw action in 1937 escorting food ships to Spain, in 1939 sinking the first U-boat of WWII, in 1940 at the second battle of Narvik and the Maillé Brézé disaster at Greenock.

Serving in the Mediterranean with force "H", Running aground off Spain, the battle of Spartivento against the Italian fleet and the bombardment of Genoa, surviving a near miss that blasted a massive hole in the ships side and many convoy duties to Malta, Gibraltar, Canada and America.  

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Battle Of The Atlantic

60th Anniversary

Liverpool 4th May 2003
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Primula and Schiedam HMS Invincible Royal Marines Display team.
M924 Primula from Belgium
M860 Schiedam from Netherlands
HMS Invincible
The Royal Marines commandos
display team rescue a hostage.
John Masters
The photo above is of U-boat U534 at Birkenhead.

Photo left is me on the ferry.

Photo right is Tim Bulmer who is the hard worked cameraman who is making the Firedrake film that should be completed by the 2004 reunion.
Tim Bulmer
Admiral Sir Alan West KCB DSC ADC.
Photo bottom left is the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West KCB DSC ADC.

Photo right a memorial to Cpt. Johnny Walker.
Photo below was taken as the parade leaves the Cathedral.

Marchers at Liverpool
Johnny Walker memorial Liverpool.

With deep sadness we announce that John Masters, who created this site in the memory of his uncle, passed away on the 24th of August 2022.