The W.W.2. Story of H.M.S. Ekins K 552 Ex. D.E. 87. Mined North Sea 16/4/45.
This was one of the U.S. built " Captain "class frigates of the long hulled turbo-electric type. She was launched on September 11th. 1943 at the Bethlehem- Hingham yard at Hingham near Boston, Massachusetts( a yard well known for a consistently fast production rate for D.E's) she was completed on November 9th.1943, a building time from laying down the keel to completion of 4 months and 25 days, a very fast time but only average for yard.
She was commissioned by her Royal Navy crew at the yard, and after trials proceeded first to Casco Bay in Maine, for initial working up, then on to the R.N. working up base at Ireland Island, Bermuda, here at the old British Naval Dockyard all the U.S. built R.N. escorts went through intensive exercises. On completion she proceeded through storms to Norfolk Virginia to pick up a British Escort Carrier and escorted her to New York, then north to the naval base at Argentia in Newfoundland to refuel and rest before joining an east bound convoy from Halifax to the U.K. as part of the close escort. This convoys route ran south of another large convoy, around which Captain Walker's famous 2nd. Escort Group sank 6 U Boats in as many days. In a few days , in an effort to divert the U Boat pack, two support groups joined the southern convoy, and R/T traffic was unrestricted, the R.C.N. frigate Waskesiu sank a U Boat astern of the convoy and many more contacts were picked up but no more attacks were made on the convoy.
On arrival in U.K. Ekins went to the "Captain " class base at Pollock Dock Belfast where a number of additions were made to her equipment. Extra two-tiered depth charge racks, life rafts for north Atlantic duty and Western Approaches camouflage paint of two tones of light green etc.. She was then attached to the crack 3rd. Escort Group, Duckworth (S.O.), and carried out several six- week patrols with them, in this period the group did not make any kills, but the group ranged all over the North Atlantic supporting convoys and following up leads as far north as Iceland.
From Belfast she was allocated to the escort forces preparing for the Normandy assault ; painted in the channel camouflage, she was given assault training off Larne , which turned out to be fiercer than the real thing. On to the Thames via. the north of Scotland escorting two merchant ships, arriving at Sheerness to join the 21st. Destroyer Flotilla normally composed of "Hunt" and "V"and "W" destroyers now reinforced with Sloops, Corvettes and Frigates from the North Atlantic. She was fitted with a bow-chaser Pom-Pom, extra Oerlikons and a 3" Gun Director Tower.
She sailed on the eve of the invasion with a convoy of merchant ships through the Straits of Dover where she was shelled by the German 15" guns on the French coast, Ekins laid a smoke screen as great spouts of water rose close to the ships but happily none were damaged. The convoy carried on to the beachheads arriving offshore at dawn, the great scene presented an awesome spectacle, but starting the routine she was to follow for several months, Ekins turned round and led a convoy of empty ships back to the Thames. This routine from the Thames to the beaches and back in a week continued until September. During this period Ekins operated in areas where (at the beaches) magnetic mines had been laid in great numbers, and where one third of the flying bombs launched against the U.K. were landing in the sea, with many near misses on ships, and of course the continual shelling in the Straits of Dover. U Boats were also operating on the convoy routes, and in July Ekins and Curzon, escorting a convoy off Brighton, sank U212 on a dark and stormy night. Three frigates of the class were lost in the area during this period.
In September as the battle moved up channel after the retreating Germans, Ekins was transferred to Harwich as one of the 8 coastal forces control ships, attached to the 16th. Destroyer Flotilla of "Hunt's", "V&W" destroyers and "Guillemot"class corvettes, three fleet sweeping flotillas and numerous motor minesweepers were also based there, the big coastal forces base was over the river at Felixstowe. For this duty Ekins received extra R/Tsets and "headache" equipment. From September to the end of the war the coastal forces control frigates patrolled the convoy routes from the Thames to Antwerp and up the Dutch coast for 25 miles, in company they usually had 4-6 M.T.B's and sometimes a Hunt class destroyer with her twin 4" guns. With her superior radar and R/T the Frigate detected the German E Boats coming first from Ostend and Flushing, then from Holland, to attack shipping and lay mines. The fighting was almost continuous at night with the E Boats out several times a week. In addition the German small battle units (explosive motor boats and two types of midget submarines) operated intensively, especially off Holland. Ekins was in the forefront of this battle as one of the crack control frigates; she was attacked by explosive motor boats and sunk several midget submarines, also intercepted a German blockade runner trying to get through to Dunkirk (still in German hands). Flying bombs were frequent visitors too and at night the V2's were plainly visible being launched from Holland against the U.K..
The loss of the ship
The E boats laid many ground mines around Ostend and the convoy routes, after a pitched battle with E boats on the 14th. April 1945, in which two were seriously damaged, Ekins resumed patrolling and on the night of 16th. April 1945 , 14 miles N.W. of Ostend she ran over not one but two mines. The first holed and flooded the engine room, this was an acoustic mine, the second was a magnetic mine under the asdic dome compartment, for a while she seemed to be sinking but thanks to her design and the herculean efforts of her crew who despite many being injured stayed at their damage control stations pumping out the engine room, managed to get the engines going and keep the ship afloat. At 4 knots she headed for Sheerness until taken in tow by a salvage tug the next afternoon, down to her pennant numbers forward and aft, with little power and her back broken, from Sheerness she went to Chatham ending the war in dry dock. She was written off as a total constructive loss and was scrapped in Holland in 1946. Captain 11/43 Lt.Com. G.Bonner Davies,10/44 Lt.Com. Tordevin.
CAPTAIN CLASS FRIGATE
Displacement 1,300 tons.
Dimensions 300(pp) 306 (oa) X 36.75 X9 ft
Machinery 2-shaft geared Turbines-Electric motors,SHP 12,000 +26 knots.
Armament 3-3in.AA (3X1),1-2pdr.AA, 2-40mm.AA (1X2)and 8-20mm.AA(8X1) or 10-20mm AA (10X1) Guns.
Note from Harold Scott-Douglas, who served on Her
Here is the first and last commission of the Ekins, this is an abridged story but gives you some idea of how they were used. I stood by her and was the senior Electrical rating aboard, I was 20 years old and a P.O. L.T.O., I stayed with her till she paid off, and she was my last ship during the war.
Copyright Harold Scott-Douglas & Rob Jerrard
There is a book - "Captain Class Frigates". The story of the 78 Destroyer Escorts leased from the USA in WW2 by Don Collingwood He served in HMS Cubitt 1943-1946