Ministry of Defence
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British Legion
The Royal British Legion

H.M.S. COVENTRY

HMS Coventry was built by Swan Hunter and launched 6th July 1917. She was converted to an Anti-Aircraft cruiser in 1937 and finally sunk in an air attack in the Mediterrranean 14th September 1942.

HMS Coventry was in the 5th Light Cruiser squadron from February 1918 till May 1919, and served in the Baltic in this time. Commissioned with the pennant (D43) in May 1919 she was accepted into the Atlantic fleet, until in 1920 when HMS Coventry became the HQ ship for naval Inter allied Disarmament Commission. She went into refit in late 1920 and once the refit was completed she joined the 2nd Light cruiser squadron and she became flagship to the Rear admiral Atlantic Fleet, Andrew Cunningham. A Torpedo explosion while in Malta in March 1923 caused the death of two of her crew.

At the outbreak of World War II HMS Coventry was serving with the Home Fleet between 1939 and 1940, and was damaged on 1st January 1940 in a German air attack on the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland. She was assigned to the Mediterranean fleet in 1940, and was torpedoed and damaged by the Italian submarine Neghelli in the eastern Mediterranean. HMS Coventry also participated in the Battle of Cape Spartivento.

On 18th May 1941 the first Victoria Cross of the Mediterranean campaign was awarded poshumously to Petty Officer Alfred Edward Sephton for "great courage and endurance" while on HMS Coventry as she was being attacked by Geman Stuka dive bombers while off Crete. HMS Coventry had gone to the assistance of a hospital ship which was being attacked by German dive-bombers. When the enemy engaged HMS Coventry, raking her with machine-gun fire, Petty Officer Sephton was mortally wounded, a bullet actually passing through his body and injuring an able seaman beside him. Although in great pain and partially blinded, he stuck to his instruments and carried out his duties until the attack was over. He died of his injuries next day. Petty officer Sephton was buried at sea. His V.C. was on display at Coventry Cathedral but was stolen on 25 September 1990.

HMS Coventry (Capt. Ronald John Robert Dendy, RN) was taking part in Operation "Agreement", a Commando raid agains Tobruk harbor which ended in a complete disaster for the British due to the unexpectedly tenacious resistance of Italo-German troops and the prompt reaction of Axis' air units in the area. At 1140 hrs, 14th September, HMS Coventry was north of Marsa Matruh with her escort group (Force "D"), consisting of destroyers Belvoir, Dulverton, Hursley, Croome. The cruiser became the main target for a German group of 16 Ju-88s of I/LG.1 (X° Fliegerkorps) from Iraklion (Crete), under Capt Joachim Helbig. Each plane carried 1 x 500- and 3 x 250 kg bombs.

In a dive-bombing attack, HMS Coventry sustained 4 direct hits, 3 of the bombs detonating in the engineering spaces, while the 4th wrecked the bows. HMS Coventry went dead in the water, badly on fire, with 63 killed. At 1515 hrs, in position 32º48'N, 28º17'E. the ship was scuttled by HMS Zulu. Sadly, Zulu herself was sunk barely one hour later by 19 Ju-87s.

Last updated 12 April, 2009
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