HMS Ashanti (G51) (F51)

Casualty List

Navy: RN
Type: Destroyer
Class: Tribal 
Pennant: G51/ F51 
Built by: William Denny & Brothers (Dumbarton, Scotland) 
Laid down: 23 Nov, 1936 
Launched: 5 Nov, 1937 
Commissioned: 21 Dec, 1938 
  On 3 May 1939, Ashanti and her sister Tribals arrived at Cherbourg, France for a good will visit. With war looming, it seemed likely that British and French destroyers would be working together very closely. It was important that they be friends, not just allies. As part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla (D.F.), Ashanti was ordered to the Irish Sea on 1st June when it was reported that the submarine HMS Thetis had failed to surface during her sea trials. The submarine was located with 18 feet of her stern sticking out of the water. Four had escaped but ninety-nine men were still trapped inside. A salvage attempt failed and the submarine disappeared beneath the sea. When war began, the 6th D. F. was cruising with the Home Fleet and French ships in the North Atlantic. Gradually the ships saw less and less of each other as wartime patrols and new missions developed. Over the next several months, Ashanti's main responsibilities were anti-submarine patrol followed by some brief escort duties in December. Ashanti began 1940 with more anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort duties and supporting capital ships. Seawater began seeping into her boiler feedwater tanks so she was dry-docked for repairs at Cowes, England on 21 March . Later on 9 April, she returned to the Home Fleet in time to participate in the Norwegian campaign. She shared in the fruitless sweep of the North Sea and the enemy air attacks which accompanied those missions. While exploring a Norwegian fiord with HMS Nubian, she was attacked by German bombers. One near miss bounced off Ashanti's side and exploded beneath her. The main turbo-generator was blown off its bedplate by the resultant shock and naturally, the power failed. Steering by hand from the tiller flat, Ashanti zigzagged out of the fjord at 26 knots for a successful escape. For most of June, July, August and September, she took part in fleet escort duties and anti-submarine patrols in the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. By 16 October, the new British battleship HMS King George V was nearing completion at the Vickers-Armstrong yard on the Tyne river. That ship would need a powerful escort of cruisers and destroyers to take her up the coast to Scapa Flow, Scotland. Ashanti and five other destroyers were ordered to carry out a high speed run through the channel leading to the Tyne river. Collectively, it was hoped that these ships would produce enough magnetic and acoustic disturbance to simulate a battleship’s passage and detonate any mines which may have been sowed in the channel by the enemy. Surrounded by secrecy and steaming at speed in a murky drizzle, HMS Fame ran straight onto the beach at Whitburn Rifle Range. Ashanti, doing six knots and slightly behind her, struck Fame a glancing blow. The shock shattered The shock shattered fuel oil pipes in both ships and HMS Fame caught fire. HMS Maori also came too close to shallow water and sheared off her ASDIC dome. The other ships stopped in time and no further damage occurred. No one new why they were there or the purpose of the entire exercise. When daylight came, it became obvious that the destroyers were left high and dry by the receding tide. As the tide rose, the bows of many of the destroyers held fast. The swell lifted and swung their free sterns dropping them unto the rocks and damaging the bottom plates. Ashanti, in particular, sustained such severe damage, that Vickers-Armstrong sent a crew to her aid. They stripped off all armament and sealed off what they could at low tide. On 9th of November, after two weeks of effort, Ashanti was re-floated and taken to Sunderland, England for extensive repairs and hull stiffening. The winter of 1940/41 proved to be a trying period for Ashanti. A shortage of armament and numerous new defects beset the ship and caused the re-commissioning date to be continuously postponed. At last, at the end of August 1941, she was ready for action again but a propeller shaft that was found to be out of alignment caused another delay.

After a boiler clean on 10 January 1942, Ashanti arrived at Scapa Flow and spent January and February escorting capital ships on exercises besides convoy escort on the Murmansk run. By the beginning of August, she and the other ships of Force 'Z' set sail for Gibraltar. There, they would provide cover for a massive convoy being assembled to support Malta. After the exhausting heat of the Mediterranean, the Tribals were sent back to the bitter cold of the Arctic for convoy duty. Later in the war, surviving Tribals would be 'arcticised'. Steam or electric heating was supplied to the gun mountings and torpedo tubes and special insulation was fitted to critical machinery to ensure it would not be affected by the freezing temperatures. On 24th September, while providing cover for convoy PQ-14, a German submarine was detected. Depth charging did not produce any results and the contact was lost. Ashanti, running low on fuel, interchanged positions with HMS Somali on the inner screen and awaited a favourable opportunity to refuel. Somali took up Ashanti’s position and was immediately hit amidships by a torpedo from the German submarine U-703. The damage was very extensive. Only the upper deck was holding the ship together. Most of Somali's crew was transferred to other ships except for 80 who remained aboard for damage control. Somali was then taken in tow by Ashanti. After towing the crippled ship for nearly 420 miles, Somali's remaining plates buckled and she folded in half and sank. Only a few men survived.

In January 1943, Ashanti returned to Gibraltar for repairs to her feedwater tanks. While berthing along HMS Renown, the destroyer chipped one of her propellers on the battlecruiser’s bilge keel. After repairs were completed, more North African coastal patrols were assigned to the ship. By March, Ashanti, was pronounced unfit for operations and was sent to Malta to have the defects rectified. Following that, she sailed back to England for a major refit and more work on the chronic problems with the feedwater tanks.

In 1948, she was used in damage control tests in Loch Striven. Ashanti had survived North Atlantic gales, the Norwegian Campaign, running aground, Arctic convoys, the invasion of North Africa, U-boats, aircraft, and some of the toughest destroyer fighting of the Second World War. On 12 April 1949, she could no longer hold on and was destined to be broken up at Troon. She was an absolute nightmare from a maintenance and engineering viewpoint, yet she never let anyone down while in action. What more could be asked of a warship? The old witchdoctors’ spells had proved stronger than the hazards of the sea and the violence of the enemy. 


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