HMS Freesia K43 was a Flower Class corvette which was adopted by Hungerford in 1940-41.
£90,000 was raised in Hungerford and district in "Warship Week" in 1941 to pay for the Freesia.
The Freesia was laid down on 18th June 1940 at Harland & Wolff in Belfast, launched just 15 weeks later on 3rd October, and went into service on 19 Nov.
Flower class corvettes were small convoy escort boats, capable of being built quickly, of mounting the then available anti-submarine equipment, of surviving the heavy seas around the British Isles, and of matching U-boat speeds. They were armed with one 4 inch gun, a crew of 70, and reached a speed of 16 knots. 145 Flower-class corvettes were eventually built, and they inflicted considerable damage to attacking U-boats, sinking over 50 enemy submarines.
In May 1942 HMS Freesia took part in "Operation Ironclad". Following the successful operation, her Captain wrote to the crew:
"Freesia had the honour to lead in Force "F" to Courier Bay through mined and narrow waters which were commanded by hostile battery of guns. Complete surprise was achieved and the gunners were captured all asleep in the battery by our commando troops. I believe it is necessary to go back in history as far as General Wolfe and Quebec to find a case of complete surprise in a combined operation. I was very proud of you."
On 12 Dec 1942, HMS Freesia (under Lt. R.A. Cherry, RNR) helped to pick up 44 survivors when the British merchant Empire Gull was torpedoed and sunk west of Maputo, Portuguese East Africa.
The sinking of SS Mangkalihat:
The sort of exemplary help given by HMS Freesia can be seen from the article on the sinking of SS Mangkalihat, 1 Aug 1943.
A personal view:
Jenna Vos (from Australia) emailed the Virtual Museum (August 2022) to add her thanks to the crew of HMS Freesia:
"I would very much like to thank your researchers regarding the sinking of SS Mangkalihat on the 1st Aug 1943 during World War II. It put to rest a family myth.
My father Bernhard Vos b.1921 was a Dutch Merchant Marine Third Officer on this particular ship when it was torpedoed by the U-198. He was one of the survivors.
He had married my mother Marjorie Apsey b.1921 in Cape Town in 1942 and returned to Cape Town after the war and commenced studying medicine at Cape Town University and became a General Practitioner initially but ended his career as a hospital administrator. He passed away in 1997 from a motor car accident. He is survived by three sons and a daughter plus several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A great thank you to HMS Freesia captain and crew for their valiant rescue."
Crew of HMS Freesia visit Hungerford:
The original captain Commander Crick lived to the age of 95 years, and died in 1997. Follow this for the letter from P. G. Crick Commander RN to the ship's company on leaving HMS Freesia to assume command of HMS Keren.
The crew of HMS Freesia visited Hungerford in April 1946: "In reply to an invitation sent to them, Mr E L Tye has received notification that the Captain and members of the crew of HMS Freesia, the corvette adopted by Hungerford Rural District in Warship week, are visiting Hungerford this Saturday. An address of welcome will be given by Mr A G Turner from the Town Hall Steps at 3.45pm to which the commanding officer of HMS Freesia will reply. Tea will be served in the British restaurant and anyone in the district who has served in the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy or the Royal Marines is invited...."
One of the sailors on HMS Freesia was Archie Coverdale, who served for three years from 1941-1943. Archie was born in Southwark London in 1920 and moved to Boxted a small village near Colchester in Essex when he was 4 when his father took up an agricultural job. We are grateful to Archie's son Les Coverdale who has kindly contacted the Virtual Museum to offer a large number of photographs taken on board ship during this period, some of which are shown in the Photo Gallery.
What happened to HMS Freesia in the end?
In July 1946 HMS Freesia was sold to the merchant fleet and was sunk on 1st April 1947.
- H.M.S. Freesia K43 1940-1947.
- Archie Coverdale back row 2nd from right and crew mates from HMS Freesia.
- Archie Coverdale on HMS Freesia firing the twin Lewis gun during target practice
- HMS Auricula, another corvette, which struck a mine during operation Ironclad, the. taking of Madagascar to prevent a Japanese flanking movement. Fortunately there were no casualties.
- Archie Coverdale on HMS Freesia (with HMS Frittilary in the background).
- Picking up some of the 44 survivors after the sinking of the Empire Gull by a torpedo off Maputo, Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) on 12th December 1942.