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Posted on Jan 13, 2007 in Armchair Reading

Depth charge mystery

By Rick Smallman

Sirs,

I am researching my late father’s World War Two ship the HMS Prins Albert and I have just started to research the ‘sisterships’.  These ships were L.S I’s, or Infantry Landing Ship (Small).

According to the reference books "British and Empire Ships of the Second World War" and "Ships of the Royal Navy" by J J Colledge (two volumes, 1989 – ISBN: 0-947898-75-1) some vessels retained their none-English names, they were:

All HMS
PRINS ALBERT
PRINCE BAUDOUIN
PRINCE LEOPOLD
PRINCE CHARLES
PRINCE PHILIPPE
  These five retained their original names whilst in the Royal Navy.

QUEEN EMMA (originally KONINGIN EMMA) I know about,

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but these four:
PRINSES ASTRID
PRINSES MARIE-JOSE
PRINSES JOSEPHINE-CHARLOTTE
PRINSES BEATRIX

are causing a bit of a problem as the Royal Navy themselves and several original crew members say that PRINSES was changed to PRINCESS.  The U.S. Rangers also sent me some information that the English name was used.

The PRINCE LEOPOLD is also causing a problem as she was carrying depth charges when she was torpedoed just after D-Day. I have video of the wreck and it clearly shows depth charges and Mark 3 racks on the stern. The Royal Navy’s sonar scan also states that she was carrying the depth charges.

Getting the sonar scans of the Prince Leopold took six months and the Freedom of Information Act. But the classic one was the Submarine Museum that stated that depth charges were nothing to do with them. I thought the major enemy of the submarine was the depth charge. But no one can tell me WHY she was carrying depth charges.

Any help or ideas would be appreciated

Regards

Rick Smallman
Port Macquarie
Australia

* * *

Mr. Smallman,

Thanks very much for your email to Armchair General.

My guess as to why the Prince Leopold was carrying depth charges and racks is that early in the war, Britain had a  critical shortage of convoy escort vessels and convoy protection was abysmal and a serious problem. For one example of this, the St. Nazaire commando raid in March 1942 was cut back at Royal Navy insistence to employ only one obsolescent US destroyer as the other one originally planned for use during the raid was desperately needed by the Royal Navy for convoy escort. The Brits were using everything that could float and mount guns, depth charges, etc, to impress into convoy escort duty. That’s my guess, anyway.

I would recommend that you visit the Armchair General website forums (http://armchairgeneral.com/forums/) and post a request for information on an appropriate web forum thread and see if any of our readers can help with any more information on this.

Thanks,

Jerry Morelock
Editor in Chief, Armchair General Magazine

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