Express file photo [6559]


CountryUnited Kingdom
Ship ClassE-class Destroyer
BuilderSwan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, England, UK
Launched29 May 1934
Displacement1,350 tons standard; 1,940 tons full
Length329 feet
Beam33 feet
Draft13 feet
Machinery3 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared turbines, 2 shafts
Bunkerage471 tons oil
Power Output36,000 shaft horsepower
Speed35 knots
Range6,000nm at 15 knots
Armament4x120mm Mk.XVIII guns, 1x76.2mm gun, 2x20mm Oerlikon cannon, 2x4x12.7mm Vickers machine guns, 5x7.7mm machine guns, 1x4x533mm torpedo tubes, two depth charge racks with 60 depth charges
Transferred to CanadaJun 1943


ww2dbaseHMS Express was originally built as a minelayer, and it was in this role she entered the European War in Sep 1939. As a member of the 20th (Minelaying) Destroyer Flotilla, she spent 1939 and 1940 laying mines in British and enemy waters, but during this time, she embarked on two special missions. First, in Sep 1939, she transported Duke and Duchess of Windsor from Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom to Cherbourg, France. Then, in 1940, she evacuated 2,795 men of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, France to England. On 31 Aug 1940, while laying offensive mines off the Dutch coast, Express struck a mine during the night time hours, destroying how bow. Friendly ships Esk and Ivanhoe attempted to approach to assist, but they each struck mines as well. Express was eventually towed back to Britain; 4 officers and 55 men were lost. Esk and Ivanhoe sunk.

ww2dbaseRepairs on Express lasted until Sep 1941 when she emerged as a fleet destroyer. In Oct, she escorted battleship Prince of Wales to Cape Town in South Africa, arriving on 16 Nov. They departed Cape Town on 18 Nov and reached Colombo, Ceylon on 28 Nov. On the subsequent days, they were joined by various warships, including the battlecruiser Repulse. The group was moved to Singapore

ww2dbaseOn 8 Dec 1941, Singapore was attacked by Japanese aircraft. At 1730, Prince of Wales and Repulse, escorted by Express, Electra, Vampire (Australian ship), and Tenedos. At 1830 on 9 Dec, Tenedos returned to Singapore due to lack of fuel. At 2055, the task force began to turn around and sailed for Singapore, but was spotted by Japanese submarine I-58 around that time. On the next day, Express was detached to investigate a rumored Japanese invasion at Kuantan, Malaya, which turned out to be false. The task force was attacked by 85 Japanese aircraft during Express' absence, resulting in the sinking of both Repulse and Prince of Wales. The two accompanying destroyers, joined by Express that returned shortly after, rescued more than 1,000 survivors. After the Battle off Kuantan, Express remained in the Indian Ocean as part of the Eastern Fleet until late 1942.

ww2dbaseIn Jun 1943, Express was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and was renamed HMCS Gatineau. Under the Canadian banner, she served in the Atlantic Ocean for the remainder of WW2. She was broken up for scrap in 1955.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Nov 2008


Attack on Prince of Wales and Repulse, 10 Dec 1941, photo 2 of 2; photo taken by a Japanese pilot; note destroyer Electra or Express in foreground

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
18 Sep 2014 02:56:21 AM

Hi I'm looking for information on someone called Andrew Patterson from Scotland who may of served on this ship in 1936.. Any information would be great.
2. Alan Harris says:
7 Oct 2014 12:15:04 PM

iI am trying to find out information about my Grandfather
Who was killed in 1940 on board HMS Express.
His name was Charles Brown.
3. Anonymous says:
11 Dec 2014 01:17:24 AM

My great grandfather Thomas geall was on board when the express, when it was hit in 1940 his grave stone is in hull north cenmatory anybody who was killed aboard is there. There is also a maritime museum in hull and everybody aboard who died in action I also belive is there too hope this can be of any help.
4. David Owen says:
1 Oct 2015 12:21:31 PM

My dad, I G Owen, served as Lieutenant on the Express and was on the bridge when the Prince of Wales sank. He told me many stories about the war before he died in 1995 but I can't piece them together. I'd like to know what happened to HMS Express after the fall of Singapore. I'm sure he said she was damaged and limped into Batavia (now Djakarta) for repairs while his parents thought the crew had been lost at sea. Can anyone help?
5. Sylvia Butt says:
11 Oct 2015 09:20:00 AM

My father was a Chief Petty Officer on board HMS Express when it was struck. He had turned to blow up his Life Jacket and was blown into the sea. His best friend who was standing next to him did not survive. My father was picked up by one of the other ships but it too was hit. He was again picked up by a small boat and taken to hospital in Grimsby with burns. My mother said his breath smelled of oil fuel for a long time! He was also on the Express at the evacuation of Dunkirk.
6. Lee Bryant says:
28 Feb 2020 04:58:54 PM

My grandfather Edward T Lander was a Gunner and Able Seaman and Was aboard the HMS Express at Dunkirk and when it struck the mine Sept 1940. It turned out that he was one of the seaman who served 3 days adrift on rafts to be picked up by the Germans and made. POW, she received ( and I’ve still got) the Telegram saying that he was lost believed killed dated 3/9/1940, and a further Capture Card dated 23rd September 1940 saying he had been captured, and maxing story as he was on the March out of stalag 344 for 12 weeks and returned back in the uk in May 1945. He was born 1900 in the Royal Navy as a career , a true gent who died warm in his bed aged 86.
7. David Rudd says:
5 Apr 2021 04:33:38 AM

I live in Hull and walk through Chanterlands Avenue Cemetary on a regular basis. Around 12-15 of the Express crew are buried there, 2 unknown. If anyone thinks they a relative buried in Hill, I would be happy to send you a photo of the grave. Respect to them all

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More on Express
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of France and the Low Countries
» Invasion of Malaya and Singapore

Destroyer Express Photo Gallery
Attack on Prince of Wales and Repulse, 10 Dec 1941, photo 2 of 2; photo taken by a Japanese pilot; note destroyer Electra or Express in foreground

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