Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tragic Collision at Sea between HMS Glorious and SS Florida 1931

I bought his postcard, showing a collision at sea, on a market stall many years ago. The liner on the left, down by the bows, is the French liner SS Florida, which has recently collided with the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in the centre. The identity of the destroyer on the right is something of a mystery.
You can read a detailed account of this collision at this web site but, briefly this is what happened. The date was 1st. April 1931 and after leaving Gibraltar HMS Glorious had flown off some of her Fairey Flycatcher fighters but had steamed into a fog bank and was unable to recovered the aircraft. Contemporary accounts say that the pilots of her airborne fighters could see the tips of her masts above the fog bank and were horrified to see the mast tops of another ship – the SS Florida, inbound for Genoa – on a collision course. Glorious struck the Florida just forward of the bridge. There were 33 fatalities, all but one on the liner. Both ships limped made it into port and were repaired. The airborne fighters were instructed to fly the thirty miles to Malaga airfield but four didn’t make it and ditched.
After repairs HMS Glorious sailed on until 8th. June 1940 when, together with her escorting destroyers HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta, she met her fate under the guns of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau while steaming from Norway to Scapa Flow, with the loss of 1531 crew in the three ships. The exact circumstances of her loss have never been fully explained and will remain classified until 2040.
The SS Florida was repaired and continued to ply her trade but also continued to have an up-and-down career. She was bombed and sunk during a German air attack on Bougie in Algeria in 1942. In 1944 she was salved and repaired and in 1955 was sold and sailed under the Italian flag as the SS Ascania, but I can find no further reference to her after that.
 So what of the destroyer standing by on the right of the picture? One web source, that has many more pictures of the collision, identifies her as HMS Gypsy but this cannot be so, since HMS Gipsy wasn’t launched until 1935. I think it more likely that she is HMS Verity, a modified W class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean fleet with the pennant number D63 between the wars and then had an eventful war, at Dunkirk and on North Atlantic convoys, before being broken up in 1947.

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