HMS Acasta file photo [31603]

Acasta

CountryUnited Kingdom
Ship ClassA and B-class Destroyer
Hull NumberH09
BuilderJohn Brown & Company, Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom
Ordered6 Mar 1928
Laid Down13 Aug 1928
Launched8 Aug 1929
Commissioned11 Feb 1930
Sunk8 Jun 1940
Displacement1,370 tons standard; 1,801 tons full
Length323 feet
Beam32 feet
Draft12 feet
MachineryThree Admiralty 3-drum boilers, two Parsons geared steam turbines, two shafts
Power Output34,000 shaft horsepower
Speed35 knots
Range4,800nm at 15 knots
Crew143
Armament4x120mm QF 4.7-inch Mk IX guns, 2x40mm 2-pdr Mk II anti-aircraft guns, 2x4x21in torpedo tubes, 3x depth charge chutes, 6x depth charges

Contributor:

ww2dbaseLaunched in Aug 1929 and commissioned in Feb 1930, destroyer HMS Acasta spent most of her service prior to the outbreak of the European War with the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, seeing some action aiding refugees and making non-intervention patrols off of the Spanish coast during that country's civil war. When the war began in Sep 1939, she was assigned to the 18th Destroyer Flotilla at Plymouth, England, United Kingdom and escorted convoys and warships in the English Channel and the Western Approaches. After the German invasion of Norway in Apr 1940, she was transferred to the Home Fleet. On 31 May 1940, along with other destroyers, she was assigned to escort aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious from the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom toward Norway; the carriers' aircraft were to conduct air operations in support of the Allied evacuation during Operation Alphabet.

ww2dbaseThe Norwegian campaign had begun with destroyer HMS Glowworm's gallant attack on the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and ended in like manner with another encounter in which a single destroyer succeeded in inflicting critical damage, against all the odds, on a German capital ship before herself being sunk. The engagement took place during the final evacuation of the Allied forces from northern Norway, on the afternoon of 8 Jun 1940, when the German battlecruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, sighted HMS Glorious at extreme range. How it happened that the British aircraft carrier, with too many aircraft on board and too little fuel, escorted by just two elderly destroyers, suffered a surprise interception by the German battlecruisers is too complex a story to recount. For whatever reason, neither force had reconnaissance aircraft in the air at the time, and indeed, this encounter very nearly did not take place.

ww2dbaseIt was Midshipman Goss, on watch in the foretop of Admiral Wilhelm Marschall's flagship, Scharnhorst, who spotted on the horizon a tell-tale puff pf smoke on a day of extreme visibility. But for his keen eyes both sides would have continued unknowingly on their separate ways. No one else had seen the smoke but the midshipman stuck to his guns and the Admiral decided to turn and investigate with fatal consequences for 1,500 officers, men and RAF pilots on-board Glorious and for all but two survivors from the destroyers HMS Ardent (Lieutenant Commander J. F. Barker DSC) and HMS Acasta (Commander C. E. Glasfurd), one from each.

ww2dbaseThe two German ships opened fire at maximum range. Their SEETAKT Radar accurately directing the 11-inch shells scored vital hits before Glorious had had enough time to raise sufficient speed to escape and when still far beyond the range of her own 4.7in guns. The two destroyers secured a brief stay of execution by laying a smoke-screen but in the process Ardent was sunk by gunfire, leaving only Acasta to continue the fight. It would have been legitimate in the face of such overwhelming odds to withdraw to a safe distance and shadow the enemy force, but such action would not have been sufficient for Commander Glasfurd who was determined to do something at all costs to avenge the sinking of Ardent, their "chummy" ship, and Glorious.

ww2dbaseWith smoke floats and funnel smoke Glasfurd succeeded in approaching the enemy warships unseen to within short range. Emerging from the Smoke-screen, HMS Acasta turned to starboard and fired torpedoes on the port side. The enemy taken by surprise, failed to open fire before Acasta had dodged back behind the smoke, but not before a jubilant ship's company had seen the orange flash, unmistakeable evidence of a hit, glowing brightly against the dark background of the Scharnhorst's side. A more prudent man might have decided that honour was satisfied at that, but Glasfurd had no thought of retiring with torpedoes remaining and turned back out of the smoke for a second attack. This time the enemy was ready for him with the inevitable result. Acasta was hit by several 11-inch shells and quickly brought to a standstill. Even so, her guns continued firing and Leading Seaman Carter, the sole survivor, off his own initiativem when all communications with the bridge had failed, and surrounded by fallen shipmates, fired the remaining torpedoes. Later, clinging to a raft, he had his last sight of his captain on the bridge as the ship was sinking. He called to him to join them but Glasfurd only waved back, then taking a cigarette from his case he tapped it firmly two or three times as people used to do in those days, and lit it, his last action, his duty done.

ww2dbaseAgainst all the odds, Acasta's gallant action had a considerable effect on the tactical situation. The torpedo caused considerable damage, flooding two engine rooms leading to a reduction on Scharnhorst's speed to 20 knots and putting the after turret out of action. Two officers and 46 ratings were killed. In the face of all this Marschall set course for Trondheim and abandoned his chance, which subsequent analysis of the track charts shows to have been a very good one, of intercepting the convoys then crossing the North Sea with the best part of 25,000 troops evacuated from Northern Norway. None of the Home Fleet's capital ships capable of dealing with the German battlecruisers were anywhere near at the time and so an interception of the evacuation convoys could have had traumatic consequences. No single torpedo fired during the whole of the war can have had more important consequences than this one.

ww2dbaseSources:
Gregory Haines & Commander B. R. Coward RN: Battleship, Cruiser, Destroyer (The Promotional Reprint Company Ltd., 1994)
Donald Macintyre: Narvik (Pan Books 1962)
John Winton (Editor): The War at Sea (Book Club Associates 1974)
Len Deighton: Blitzkrieg
Wikipedia- HMS Acasta

Last Major Revision: Dec 2021

Destroyer Acasta (H09) Interactive Map

Acasta Operational Timeline

6 Mar 1928 The order for the construction of Acasta was issued.
13 Aug 1928 The keel of Acasta was laid down by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom.
8 Aug 1929 Acasta was launched by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom.
11 Feb 1930 HMS Acasta was completed at Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom.
14 Feb 1930 HMS Acasta was commissioned into service at Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom.
30 Aug 1932 HMS Acasta began a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
29 Oct 1932 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
24 Nov 1933 HMS Acasta began a period of refitting at Gibraltar.
20 Dec 1933 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at Gibraltar.
12 Jun 1934 HMS Acasta accidentally collided with 3rd Destroyer Flotilla leader HMS Codrington during an exercise off Malta; she was sent to port for repairs.
27 Jul 1934 The repairs for damages suffered by HMS Acasta during an accidental collision in Jun 1934 were completed.
29 Apr 1935 HMS Acasta began a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
3 Jul 1935 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
1 May 1937 HMS Acasta arrived at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom and began a period of refitting.
11 Apr 1938 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
3 Nov 1938 HMS Acasta began a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
17 Jan 1939 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
2 Mar 1939 HMS Acasta began aiding Vickers-Armstrongs in testing ASDIC equipment for the Argentinian light cruiser La Argentina.
13 Mar 1939 HMS Acasta completed ASDIC testing work with Vickers-Armstrongs.
20 Dec 1939 HMS Acasta began a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
5 Jan 1940 HMS Acasta completed a period of refitting at HM Dockyard, Devonport in Plymouth, England, United Kingdom.
31 Jan 1940 HMS Acasta escorted HMS light cruiser Ajax into Plymouth, England, United Kingdom as Ajax returned from her engagement with German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in the South Atlantic.
14 Feb 1940 German submarine U-48 sank British merchant ship Sultan Star 200 miles west of Land's End, southwestern England at 1700 hours, killing 1 man. Destroyers Whitshed, Vesper, and Acasta retaliated with 22 depth charges but they did not hit U-48. 72 survivors were rescued by Whitshed and delivered to Plymouth, England on the next day.
13 Apr 1940 HMS Acasta joined the escort force for Convoy NP1, transporting troops toward Narvik, Norway.
9 May 1940 HMS Acasta began escorting the badly damaged light cruiser HMS Penelope toward the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom.
15 May 1940 HMS Acasta completed escorting the badly damaged light cruiser HMS Penelope to the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom.
31 May 1940 HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Acheron, HMS Highlander, and HMS Diana escorted aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious from the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom to the Norwegian coast to carry out air operations in support of the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway during Operation Alphabet.
8 Jun 1940 During Operation Juno, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau opened fired on British carrier HMS Glorious and her escorts HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Acheron, HMS Highlander, and HMS Diana about 170 miles west of Narvik, Norway at 1627 hours. British destroyers made smoke, but did not prevent the Germans from hitting the carrier, causing her to list. In an attempt to save Glorious, destroyer HMS Acasta charged at the German ships, firing two salvos of torpedoes while being struck by German gunfire. One torpedo in the second salvo struck Scharnhorst, tearing a 12-meter (39-foot) hole, at 1734 hours, disabling her starboard engine room. Shortly after, commanding officer Commander C. E. Glasfurd gave the order to abandon ship. Acasta sank stern first at about 1820 hours. Meanwhile, HMS Ardent sank at 1720 hours (killing 151). As for the HMS Glorious, the main German target, Captain Guy D'Oyly Huges of HMS Glorious was blamed for the attack being a surprise, for that he had failed to launch scouting aircraft ahead of the task force. As the flight deck became damaged during the battle, the carrier could not launch any of her aircraft to participate in the engagement. She was ultimately sunk at 1910 hours; 1,474 naval officers and ratings and 41 RAF personnel were killed, 43 survived. Scharnhorst suffered one torpedo hit by HMS Ardent.
11 Jun 1940 Norwegian trawler Borgund rescued 37 survivors of sunken HMS Glorious and 2 survivors of sunken HMS Acasta.

Photographs

HMS Acasta, 1930s




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Event(s) Participated:
» The Spanish Civil War
» Invasion of Denmark and Norway

Destroyer Acasta (H09) Photo Gallery
HMS Acasta, 1930s


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