HMS Portchester Castle K-362

Type:
Corvette
Class:
Builder:
Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd.
Wallsend, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England
Pennant Number:
K-362
Ordered:
February 6, 1943
Launched:
June 21, 1943
Keel Laid:
March 17, 1943
Completed:
November 8, 1943
Fate:
Sold in 1958 to West of Scotland Shipbreaking, Troon, Scotland and scrapped.
Paid off in 1947, but used in several films between 1947 and 1958 using
pennant number F-362.


Commanding Officers
From
To
Name
Aug. 4, 1943
May 20, 1943
Lieutenant Alexander Gordon Scott, R.N.
May 20, 1945
Unavailable
T/Act. Lt. Commander William Leslie Turner, D.S.C., R.N.
     
Notes:
Information on post war commanders is not available.


Battle Honours
Atlantic 1944


Combat Victories
     
Date
Name
Type
Tons
Nationality
Notes
Sept. 9, 1944
U-484
Submarine
871
Germany
(a)
           
Total Sunk:
1
Total Tons:
871
   
Notes
(a):
Assisted by HMS Helmsdale K-253.
*In post war assessments Portchester Castle and the 30th Escort Group were credited with sinking U-1200 on Nov. 11, 1944 south of Ireland in position 50.24N-09.10W. In 1999 a wreck was located in the English Channel about midway between Weymouth, England and Cherbourg, France in position 50.02N-02.01W. This wreck was identified as U-1200. Presuming that the wreck is U-1200 the credited attack obviously did not directly sink the boat. It is possible that if U-1200 was the boat attacked by the escort group on Nov. 11th, that some kind of damage received in the attack could have caused the boat to sink at a later date. There were no survivors from U-1200 and to date the cause of the loss is unknown.
(Click here for a map showing the two positions.)
   
May 29, 2020
I have conducted further research into the sinking of U-1200. Using original German documents
(Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote Kriegstagebuch) the Admiralty War Diary and internet searches,
I have found the following. U-1200 was supposed to have passed through the area where the 30th
Escort Group attacked a submarine on Nov. 7-9, a full two days before the Nov. 11 attack. U-1200 departed Bergen, Norway on Oct. 19th so it is possible that the boat had been delayed on the voyage, which could place the boat in the area of the attack. The 30th Escort Group reported a 57 hour attack
beginning on Nov. 11th. They reported oil and debris coming to the surface.

A wreck was located in 1999 (see above) which was identified as U-1200, but there has been a
claim made that the wreck found may be that of U-672, which is thought to be in the same area.
I have not been able to contact the team that found the wreck, so I have no first hand knowledge
about the condition of the wreck or how they identified it. It should be pointed out that both boats
were of the Type VIIc.

According to information I have from 2014, the wreck of U-672 had not yet been found, but there
was a wreck at a position near where the reported wreck of U-1200 is supposed to be.

According to the BdU War Diary U-1200's operational area was in the English Channel between
Cherbourg and the English coast. This at least gives credence to the theory that the boat could be
in that location.

There is also an interesting entry in the BdU War Diary for Nov. 15, 1944;
"Agent reported from Cherbourg that according to an English sailor there was an oil patch covering
several square miles in mid-Channel. It was said to be from a German submarine that had been
sunk."

No further direct mention of U-1200 is made in the BdU War Diary until the end of Dec. 1944 when
it is acknowledged that the boat was lost.


Ship's History
Built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. at Wallsend-on-Tyne, the 1,010 ton corvette HMS Portchester Castle, K-362, was laid down on 17 March, launched on 21st June and commissioned on 3rd November, all in 1943. She had a complement of 120. Allocated to the Western Approaches Command from Christmas Day 1943 until the end of the war, she served initially with Escort Group B1, B7 from February 1944, B4 from late April 1944 and finally with the 30th Escort Group from 8th September 1944 until the end of the year, based throughout at Londonderry.

Engaged in escorting Atlantic convoys until September 1944, she took no part in a successful anti-submarine action until the day after she joined the 30th Escort Group. On September 9th 1944, HMS Portchester Castle, along with the frigate HMS Helmsdale, depth charged and sank U-484 off the north west of Ireland. Some reports state the U-743 was destroyed in this action, but the wreck was found in 2001 and is now thought to have been lost due to collision with an unknown vessel. The following month, on 11th November, she is also credited with taking part in the sinking of U-1200 off Cape Clear, south of Ireland. (See note above for more information on the sinking of U-1200.)

HMS Portchester Castle
underwent a lengthy refit from 1st January until 1st May 1945 and saw no further action. In mid-June she was allocated to the West African Command as an Air Sea Rescue vessel and served from early July until 1st October 1945, when she left for Gibraltar to take up similar duties, leaving Gibraltar in the New Year 1946. She proceeded to Harwich where she was laid up in reserve.

In 1945 HMS Portchester Castle was in Freetown, Sierra Leone when she was called upon to assist in the sinking of the Union Castle Line, Edinburgh Castle, which had been used in the port as an accommodation ship for naval personnel and survivors of sunken vessels. As towing back to England would not be cost effective, the Edinburgh Castle, built in 1910, was towed 60 miles out to sea and sunk by gunfire and depth charges from the armed trawler Cape Warwick and the corvettes Portchester Castle and Lancaster Castle.

In April 1951, she was prepared for service and after commissioning on 15th May was allocated to the 2nd Training Squadron, based at Portland for anti-submarine warfare and general seamanship training. It was whilst at Portland that the ship was chosen to portray the fictional frigate HMS Saltash Castle in the film The Cruel Sea. The pennant number, changed to F-362 in 1948, was still retained during filming. The film starred Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Denholm Elliot and Virginia McKenna in a documentary style account of life onboard a British warship during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. I corresponded with a lady whose father joined the Royal Navy in 1951 as a National Serviceman and served on the Portchester Castle during the filming. The filming was done at Portland and in the Channel and at one time several members of the ship's company were sent over the side, covered in grease, to play shipwrecked survivors. He doesn't believe they received any royalties!

Another crew member, John Miller served on board from March to September 1955. He recalls Albert Broccoli, the producer of the Bond films, coming aboard with his film crew to shoot scenes for his film The Cockleshell Heroes. He said “We had to don German sailors uniforms whilst we depth charged the submarine carrying the cockleshells and their crews. They were make-believe but the submarine and depth charges were not. On leaving the ship, he (Albert Broccoli) donated forty pounds to our welfare fund, a considerable sum in those days. This resulted in the Ship's dance being held in, I think, the Grand Hotel in Weymouth. But that's another story!

Wikipedia also quotes, “In 1955 the ship was seen in the film The Man Who Never Was. HMS Portchester Castle was also seen in the film The Navy Lark(1959) showing her profile with her pennant number F-362."

The Portchester Castle served with the flotilla, re-named the 2nd Training Squadron in January 1952, until June 1956 when she was relieved by the Type 14 frigate HMS Keppel. In 1956 the ship was in reserve at Devonport. She was destined for scrap in 1958 but on the 15th May, while in tow of the tug Brigadier, she broke adrift but was later brought into Milford Haven. On the 17th May 1958 she arrived at Troon for scrapping. The ship's bell today hangs in Cobham Hall, the Sea Scout Hut in White Hart Lane, Portchester, Hampshire.
Paul Woodman, R.N.
May 2020



Page published May 23, 2020