There is a window on the North side of the Church commemorating the valiant service of HMS HAVANT (H32) at Dunkirk, 1940.
“To the glory of God and in memory of all who served in her. Dunkirk 1940”
At the outbreak of World War II HMS HAVANT was being built at JS White & Co., at Cowes, Isle of Wight, as one of six destroyers for the Brazilian Navy, and had been named JAVARY when launched on 17 July 1939 (Ship ordered 8 December 1937 – Laid down 30 March 1938).
Following the declaration of war with Germany on 3 September 1939 the Admiralty requisitioned her on 7 September 1939 and she was commissioned on 19 December 1939 as HMS HAVANT – the other five being names HM Ships HARVESTER, HAVELOCK, HESPERUS, HIGHLANDER and HURRICANE. On 8 January 1940, HMS HAVANT went to Portland for her working up routine before joining Western Approaches Command, based at Plymouth. HMS HAVANT spent the next two months on submarine patrol before going to Scapa on detachment to the Home Fleet, following the German invasion of Norway and Denmark. In April 1940 she took part in the landing of a Royal Marine detachment on the Faroe Islands. She returned to Greenock where she undertook convoy escort duty before taking part in the occupation of Iceland in May 1940. By now the situation in France had deteriorated and the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk had started. HMS HAVANT left Greenock on 27 May 1940 and arrived at Dover on 29 May. She was immediately despatched to Dunkirk where she evacuated 500 French troops off the beaches at Braye-Dunes. Before returning, she attempted to tow HMS BIDEFORD, whose stern had been blown off, but the tow parted. HMS HAVANT arrived back at Dover at 0400 on 30 May. She sailed from Sheerness the following morning and picked up troops from Braye-Dunes before entering Dunkirk Harbour for more, finally arriving back at Dover with 932 troops on board. After a quick turn round, HMS HAVANT returned to Dunkirk and picked up 1,000 troops, arriving back at Dover at 0230 on 1 June. By 0730 she was again alongside the jetty at Dunkirk where she embarked 500 troops. As she left the harbour at 0800, a heavy air attack started and HMS IVANHOE was hit amidships. HMS HAVANT came alongside and helped take off all the troops and wounded. Moving down the channel, she was hit by two bombs and passed over a third as it exploded. She transferred all her troops to the minesweeper HMS SALTASH. Despite attempts to tow her, HMS HAVANT finally sank at 1015 on 1 June 1940 with the loss of one officer and five ratings.. From a ship’s company of 145, a further 25 were wounded and a similar number of soldiers were killed or wounded.
HMS HAVANT arriving in Dover with troops evacuated from Dunkirk
The town of HAVANT has reason to be proud of the heroism and sacrifice of the crew of HMS HAVANT which led to the saving of almost 3,000 troops.
On 1st June each year, the Royal British Legion held a memorial service to honour those who served in her until the year 2010 when the last one was held on the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk, 1st June 2010. The Royal British Legion produced a special edition to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the loss of HMS HAVANT. Click here to view HMS HAVANT Memorial Edition
Corporal David O’Connor RM