HMS Hurworth Gets the Iron Cross
This was once one of Germany’s most famous military decorations – now a prized trophy aboard Portsmouth minehunter HMS Hurworth, 70 years after the ship’s predecessor shot down its holder’s bomber.
In 1943, the previous Hurworth – a destroyer – shot down a Luftwaffe Junkers 88 dive-bomber over Sicily during the month-long battle to oust Axis forces from the Mediterranean island.
The medal was recovered from the pilot by the ship’s company and donated by Cdr Royston Wright to the Hurworth Hunt, which the destroyer was named after – and then forgotten about for seven decades.
That was until it was rediscovered in its presentational box – including the original notes from Cdr Wright, who later rose to the rank of admiral and served as the Royal Navy’s Second Sea Lord – and donated to today’s ship as sailors visited the village of Hurworth, near Darlington.
The ship’s company left their minehunter behind for a weekend on Teeside to support Armed Forces Day events in nearby Hartlepool and re-affirm their ties with the Hurworth community.
In Hartlepool, HMS Trincomalee, a frigate built just after the Napoleonic Wars, was the focal point for Armed Forces Day events involving Hurworth’s crew, plus local cadets, soldiers and RAF personnel, including a parade at which the minehunter’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Eleanor Stack took the salute.
Trincomalee was used for demonstrations old and new, from heaving a line to a present-day diving display, but the highlight was the challenge to fire a vintage cannon in 90 seconds.
It’s thought the destroyer – which sank in October 1943 when she struck a mine in the Aegean, killing 134 men – was the only Royal Navy vessel to ‘win’ the Iron Cross.
Receiving it was, said Lt Cdr Stack, “a real honour – and a fitting tribute on Armed Forces Day weekend to the memory of the men of HMS Hurworth who died in the Mediterranean campaign of 943.”
Press Release, July 07, 2014; Image: UK Navy