Jasmine was launched on January 14th 1941, by Mrs Hewerson, from the yard of Messrs. Ferguson Bros., Fort Glasgow, and joined the Royal Navy on 1st May 1941.
As far as is generally known she is the second vessel of the name to wear the White Ensign. Her namesake was one of the famous "herbaceous border" fleet of escort vessels built during the last war.
On leaving R.N.B. Chatham, Jasmine was to me, a new "J" class destroyer1, so my first impressions were rather disappointing. Pride has now replaced that early disappointment.
Rounds were done on the ship for the first time, during the forenoon of May 1st, 1941. The Captain and a Captain, R.N. went round the ship and accepted her for trials. I had been standing by the ship for three weeks, and to a man in lodgings ashore, who had always been used to shipboard life, she was just an empty shell. The ship's company arrived at 1100 and she became alive.
Some difficulty obtaining fresh provisions had arisen, so the first meal had to be Admiralty Ham and pickles. "Bubbly" issue was delayed until 1600, by which time Naval routine and discipline were in full swing. Everyone settled in so well that Liberty men were landed at 1630, which is a tribute to the way in which the ship's company stored ship and did exactly what they were told to do.
On May 2nd, we, a very young ship's company, carried out our first and very successful depth charge attack. A regrettable accident occured, which placed E.R.A. Johnson in hospital for a long period.
Then came the move from Port Glasgow to Greenock. The ship behaved very well, and a few minds were set at rest, my own amongst them.
During our stay on Clydeside enemy bombers attacked in force, and on one occasion seamen and stoker fire parties were landed to assist the local A.R.P. These were led by Lieut. Jackson, R.N.V.R. A letter of thanks was sent to the ship in their praise. Food and hot drinks were prepared on board and sent ashore to help homeless people.
Trials finished, and our troubles started. Away we went to Tobermory2, and Commodore "Monkey Brand", who rubbed us up both the right and the wrong way. Evolutions and drills were the order of the day. Although having no trained boats crews, Jasmine pulled in all races and was never last across the line. Two football matches were played and won, much beer being consumed after. Jasmine's Cox'n and Buffer had their backs up because Western Isles insisted on sending a "Killick" P.T.I. to teach our sailors boat pulling. Those who remember will admit that the instruction was needed.
Short spells of sea time brought us to passing out day. Much run and dash duly impressed old "Monkey Brand" and won his compliments. Drill in the Royal Navy usually brings a train of accidents, and Jasmine had one slight mishap, which resulted in A.B. Cox having three stitches inserted. We sailed at 1600 that day, with no "Bluers" (extra drill), for Liverpool, our first boiler clean and leave.
Then out into the Atlantic for two short and uneventful trips, which were the supreme test for many tummies.
Our first convoy to Gibraltar found us in action with U-boats and aircraft who used every means of cunning against us.
When at Gibraltar we escorted Empire Guillemot towards Malta3. She disguised herself as a Spanish ship en route. She was the former American West Cadoa and had been handed over to Britain. He tonnage was 5,000 and she was one of a fleet of vessels built by U.S.A. in the last war. We brought home passengers who had been interned in Spanish territory.
The second trip4 brought us to war at its worst, against U-boats and aircraft working together. Leaving Gibraltar with a few passengers trouble started almost immediately. During the night of August 25th, 1941, we picked up 27 survivors of S.S. Avoceta, including two ladies. The ships company being employed on deck almost all the dark hours. Avoceta was a vessel of 3,500 tons, built in 1923 for the Yeoward line of Liverpool.
During the night of August 26th, we were again called on to save life, and to risk our own ship as well.
H.M.S. Springbank had been torpedoed. She was formerly a unit of Andrew Weir and was a motor vessel of 5,000 tons, built in 1924 at Belfast. She had been converted at Birkenhead for Naval duties. Her speed was 11 knots.
On the fateful night Jasmine was taken alongside her in very heavy seas, and in total darkness. The construction of the ship was fully tested and her builders have every reason to be proud of her. The port side took a very severe bashing. Eight officers and fifty nine ratings jumped from her decks to Jasmine, many were injured.
During this time of stress we had military assistance from one C.S.M. Frederick Yow, Somerset Light Infantry, taking passage for leave. This soldier worked alongside and as hard as anyone on the upper deck.
Jasmine got safely away from Springbank in spite of all the sea could throw against her. All this rescue work was carried out at "full ahead" and "full astern", and all wheel orders were hard over each way. The "full ahead" to get away was answered magnificently by the engine room department and praise is due to them. I myself was shut in a dark compartment, but at least I knew what was happening. Down below the information must have been very vague, and the "black gang" must have had a bad tossing about with the two ships lurching and banging together.
The ship was now very crowded, all messes were full and at least thirty five ratings were victualled on general mess in the waists.
S.B.A. Dunmore and Steward Twiddy did a good job with the injured. Home made splints and bandages were very prominent.
During the afternoon of 27th, Jasmine made two high speed runs past the ill fated Springbank, passing within forty yards of her, each time throwing depth charges in an attempt to send her to Davy Jones. This was unsuccessful, and she was finally set on fire and exploded by Jasmines 4" gun fire, A.B. Walker being the gun-layer.
One Springbank rating died during that night and was buried almost immediately. The Captain read a short prayer, attended by the Cox'n and four ratings especially turned out for the sad business.
Survivors and passengers were disembarked at Milford Haven, giving us a hearty cheer on leaving. We then left for Liverpool, but on reaching the Mersey our troubles were not over. We had the misfortune to collide with Hopper No. 31, and this added to the damage made necessary by recent adventures.
The story is now taken up by one who joined the ship when she was under repair. On a wintry Sunday in November, 1941, the Jasmine presented a very forlorn appearance as she lay in Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead. She had completed repairs to her hull, but workmen appeared to be all over her. Instead of navy grey her predominant feature was the amount of red lead on her hull and upperworks. One had great hopes of being home for Christmas but these alas were not to be fulfilled.
One's earliest impression of Jasmine is of a mess deck dimly lit, the main feature of which was a huge coal fire, and a predominating smell of sausage and bacon. Still she was berthed in one's home town,and it was possible to go home each evening, which was something to say the least. It was remarkable too that one's first trip in Jasmine should be across the river where one's shipping interest was fostered from early childhood. This was from Morpeth Dock, via the wiping station in the East Float, and Alfred locks across the Mersey to the Gladstone Dock, Liverpool. We passed the wrecks of Royal Daffodil II and Innisfallen on the way across. In the river were the Reina del Pacifico and Scythia. We berthed on the west side of Gladstone and nearby were the Stirling Castle and Britannic. The aircraft carrier Eagle was in the graving dock. Next day stores came aboard and we then proceeded to do compass trials. We were towed by a small diesel engined tug which had been evacuated from London.
When the time came for Jasmine to take her leave of home waters it was with very mixed feelings that one went aft to assist in slipping from the dock wall. Few who were present on that Saturday morning will ever forget the trip across the Irish Sea. One's final recollection of the Mersey is of passing the pilot boat William M. Clarke off Formby lightship. We were followed out by the Orcades. After that an issue of tropical rig left no doubt as to our ultimate destination, and one began to think in terms of six months. A certain piece of delicate electrical equipment5 was tried out to the accompaniment of sundry terrifying blue flashes. This was R.D.F. in practice. How different it was to training experience at Valkyrie.
After a very trying night we anchored off Moville and began to clean ship. Vessels of interest nearby were the Dutch tug Zwarte Zee, the largest diesel tug in the world, and the Black Heron, one of America's gifts to democracy. A number of corvettes were also in company.
The Irish scenery was not new to the writer as trips had been made in happier circumstances in Laird's Isle. What was new was the fact of being paid for travelling by sea.
Our voyage was resumed on a Tuesday morning, when we moved down the harbour with Rockrose to meet two Mersey vessels Palacio and Malancha. Palacio is a unit of Macandrews Ltd. Liverpool. She was built in 1927 for the Spanish fruit trade and has four sisters, Pelayo Ponzano Pinto Pacheco. Malancha is one of the newer ships of T.& J. Brocklebank, the oldest firm trading from the Mersey. Ships of this company always fly their house flag from the foremast in recognition of this fact.
After some very heavy weather we came to the Azores, to Ponta Delgada, and the ships company gladly suffered haircuts at the hands of a very precocious juvenile. Much fruit was purchased. In the evening we sailed and a few glorious days brought us to Freetown. This was on Christmas Day 1941. We had previously dined on corned beef. As we entered a huge convoy came out6. It included H.M.S. Ramilles, Empress of Australia, Cameronia, Orcades, Duchess of Bedford, Winchester Castle, Stirling Castle and many others. Then into port and an anchorage near the Edinburgh Castle, a veteran of 1910.
All the ships in the harbour were keeping Christmas in their own manner. Jasmine played "Tombola on the focsle". A year had to elapse before carol singing became a feature of Jasmine, (or is it).
A few days later we sailed for Takoradi with a convoy. A few hours at this port and we left for Freetown with a Canadian troopship, New Northland. She was built in 1908, and it was a surprise seeing her in West African waters. War takes all kinds of ships to all kinds of places.
We protected several convoys out of Freetown, the most interesting being the escorting of Rapidol to meet H.M.S. Resolution. This entailed a call at Bathurst, where we painted the ships side on a Sunday. The writer attempted to swarm a rope here, and ended on his back on the upper deck, after being hauled inboard by the present First Lieutenant and the former Chief Bosuns Mate. Resolution oiled from Rapidol in a deserted spot in Cape Verde Islands while we did a patrol outside. This trip was notable as we saw a troop convoy at sea consisting of the grotesque Pasteur, Britannic, Viceroy of India, Strathnaver, and Cheshire.
The days at Freetown soon passed and the ship found herself moving South. This found her escorting her biggest convoy to date, which she took towards St Helena. Included in the convoy were the Stratheden, Strathaird, Monarch of Bermuda, Duchess of York, Duchess of Richmond, Sibajak, Nea Hellas, ex TU Scanai Mooltan, Potaro, Brisbane Star, Denbighshire, Empire Pride, Cuba, and the old Bergensfjord. This last vessel was a source of continual anxiety to the 10th Cruiser Squadron in the last war. She was the latest Norwegian liner and gave our patrols endless trouble. This time her only fault was the making of smoke, a fault which she had in common with Volendam and Ormonde, which made up the convoy. The escort consisted of H.M.S. Newcastle and Bridgewater in addition to Jasmine. An A.A. shoot was carried out by all ships, and Jasmine was commended on her performance, as well as her station keeping by the Commanding Officer of Newcastle.
We proceeded to St Helena for oil and to land mail, and sailed for Cape Town independently. The "tavern of the seas" was a welcome change from Freetown, and after a short trip with a very full ships company we had a boiler clean and a few days leave. The ship was adopted by the people of Fish Hoek, who gave the boys a very good time.
Soon we were outward bound again, this time for Durban, in company with Nigella, Cyclamen, Genista, Auricula, and Thyme. Freesia and Fritillary proceeded independently. On the morning of our arrival at Durban we saw the Mauritania leaving at high speed. We were soon on our way again, this time something was in the wind. The Captain and Mr Scrivener explained that we were on our way to Madagascar, which island was to be occupied by our troops, given good fortune. The ship's first birthday was passed at sea on our way North. The corvettes job was to escort the supply ships. These consisted of Bacherquero and Derwentdale, carrying invasion equipment, tanks etc. City of Hong Kong, Thalatta, Empire Kingsley, Mahout, Martand, and the Captain's old ship, Nairnbank. The Devonshire was in this convoy and the oiler Easdale. We oiled from this latter ship at sea.
Signalman Pye was transferred to Devonshire at sea for treatment to his arm. The afternoon of May 4th, 1942 was the most interesting that the writer has spent aboard Jasmine, watching the forming up of the first successful landing operation by British troops in this greatest of wars.
The troopships consisted of many famous vessels, Franconia, Winchester Castle, Sobeiski, Karanja, Keren (ex Kenya), Oronsay, Duchess of Atholl, Royal Ulsterman. The naval force, in addition to Jasmine, comprised Illustrious, Indomitable, Devonshire, Hermione, Ramilles, Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Pakenham, Paladin, Panther, Javelin, Inconstant, as well as several minesweepers and the corvette group mentioned previously. The landing was sucessfully carried out, but the French continued to resist inland. Before entering Diego Suarez we patrolled in Courier Bay and this brought us excitement. The French submarine Heros, approaching to attack us, was sunk by aircraft. We took in four officers and thirty nine ratings, who were prisoners of war. We landed them, or transferred them to Keren.
Before the prisoner-survivors were transferred, news came through of French resistance ceasing. We then made our way with the supply ships from Courier Bay to Diego Suarez. This was on May 7th, 1942. On the voyage round we had the misfortune to run into a reef, remaining fast for a few hours7. Fritillary stood by but later she too suffered a similar experience. We were useless as an anti-submarine ship, but a job was soon found for us. The unloading of the larger troopships was proceeding very slowly8 with the use of A.L.C's so the corvettes were used for the transhipment of essential stores. Jasmine went alongside Oronsay and Duchess of Atholl on successive days and her decks presented an unusual spectacle to say the least. On another occasion troops were ferried from the jetty to the Franconia. Yet again Jasmine was sent out to search for some airmen reported crashed in the sea off Cape Amber. We experienced heavy weather in our fruitless search. Then one day we were ordered away from Diego Suarez. We sailed at sunset to the "jeers" of Freesia's ships company, in company with Fritillary.
Many guesses were made as to the ultimate destination of Jasmine. As it happened we went no further South than Durban. Here one saw the hull of the ship for the first time. Leave was given and many friendships formed which have been made stronger in recent months. A church service was held on the Forward mess deck, the first of its kind to held in a corvette in Durban. When our recovery was complete we went on patrol in the bay, and escorted some very fine ships. These included Ramilles, Orcades, Viceroy of India, Chateau-Thierry, Warwick Castle, and the futuristic Cristobal. On one occasion we were in company with H.M.S. Carnarvon Castle. One made the acquaintance of Weir's Tinhow and Cabarita and also of the small Darica, which, it is said, was reported to the Officer of the Watch as the Rodney.
These days soon came to an end and a move was made to Kilindini9. We took a very slow convoy and on arrival off the port saw Erebus exercising with Freesia and Fritillary. After a few days we were on our way to Seychelles, alone and carrying mail. We stayed at Mahe long enough to play football matches with the local Army team and maintained an unbeaten record. Then we sailed with the Clan Forbes to Diego Garcia in Chagos Archipelago. This ship is of the large fleet of Cayzer, Irvine & Co. She was built in 1937, and her peace time speed was 16 knots. We did not stay long at this desolate spot. H.M.A.S. Bathurst and the British India Egra were in the bay. We returned to Seychelles for oil and after a visit from the Governor left for Kilindini. Then began the most monotonous part of the career of the ship. This consisted mainly of patrols outside or else a listening watch at the boom. The most interesting feature was the visit to Nairobi by part of the ships company. This will long be remembered by those who took part, especially the outward journey. The whole visit was a grand experience and will not easily be forgotten.
The ship was visited by the Flag Officer in Charge, and he was very lavish in his praise of Jasmine. Two jobs of interest were the escorting of Khandalla and the fast American motorship Thompson Lykes.
Many units of the Fleet were at Kilindini10 including H.M.S. Warspite, Valiant, Resolution, Royal Sovereign, Mauritius, Gambia, in addition to numerous destroyers. The ship sent, on many occasions, cinema parties to Resolution and the depot ship Adamant. The activities of the enemy11 brought us back in haste to Durban, and then began a very busy time for the ship. We were at sea almost continually throughout November. On one occasion we were in contact with the U-boat which damaged the Adviser. We attacked and the enemy was reported on the surface for a moment. On this occasion we were in company with Inconstant and Nigella. It hoped that we ended the activities of this pest.
A boiler clean brought leave, a renewal of former friendships, and at its conclusion more work for Jasmine. We had many convoys and escorted the Empress of Russia, Empire Trooper, (ex Cap Norte), City of Canterbury, and a large number of "liberty ships". On one occasion we rescued six survivors of the tanker Scottish Chief.
While all convoy work is important, some are more important than others. From Durban we had a very large convoy of troopships12 in February. This included the Dominion Monarch, 27,000 tons which is the largest vessel Jasmine has escorted to date. The Awatea from Freetown is the fastest, 24 knots. Other ships included the Stratheden, California, Mooltan, Maloja, Dempo, Highland Chieftain, Arundel Castle, Lancashire, City of Paris, Selandia, and H.M.S. Resource.
After this we did have some real excitement. Contact was made with a submarine by asdics and Jasmine steamed in to attack. After our second pattern of depth charges had been dropped torpedo tracks were reported. Some said twelve others nine13, no matter how many it was they all missed. This was due entirely to the masterful handling of the ship by our Captain, who took the ship into the attack again and again. Everyone pays tribute to the Captain for a magnificent demonstration of how to handle a ship. Everyone is quite sure that this marauder of the seas was given a knockout blow14, and it is part of the revenge of Jasmine for those hard days on the run from Liverpool to Gibraltar.
One disturbing feature is the fact that news of Jasmine sinking a submarine was known to Durban people before anyone had landed from the ship. A boiler clean followed after this exploit with still more leave, and then more convoy work. Night operations with Erebus and Catterick was an unusual diversion. The escorting of H.M.S/m Trusty was also an event of interest, if on one occasion a trifle alarming. So she goes on to the end of her second year by escorting first the Ulster Monarch, then the Selandia.
She has a fine record of service to sailors in distress, two burials have taken place from her deck, one, a survivor from Springbank, as already related, the other a French prisoner from Heros who passed away after rescue at Madagascar. He was consigned to the deep in the presence of his officers and the Captain and First Lieutenant of Jasmine.
She has been well looked after in the matter of comforts by people who have "adopted" her. From Exmouth, Devon, came saving certificates, from Fish Hoek, Cape Town, sweets, toothpaste, and other goods, for the "Rotary Anns", Durban, books, records, cricket set, and the means of making a second Christmas at sea more enjoyable. From her original base at Liverpool, a gramophone and records.
In the world of sport Jasmine has a record of which she can be proud, after all she cannot help the "transfer system" which operates in the Royal Navy which has deprived her of some of her stalwarts.
As a unit of the corvette fleet of the Royal Navy, she is second to none. Never yet has she been unable to carry out an assignment. Here a tribute must be paid to the Chief E.R.A. who has done everything possible to keep her machinery in first class condition so that she can always leave her contemporaries well behind. She has never known an involuntary stop at sea for any machinery defect, and her total mileage steamed is 85,500 miles.
For your third year, Jasmine "Good luck and Good hunting". Others may sail in you but none will hold you in greater affection than those who have known you longest.