HMS Hotspur was one of eight Destroyers of the ‘H’ class and was the fifth ship to bear the name.
The ship was laid down on February 27, 1935, launched on March 23, 1936, and completed on December 29, 1936. She was 1,340 tons light displacement, rising to 1,890 tons full load displacement, with dimensions of 323ft overall, 33ft beam and 13.5ft draught and was built by Scotts Ship Building and Engineering Co. Ltd., of Greenock.
Her machinery consisted of two Parsons Geared Turbines and three Admiralty Drum boilers generating 34,000 shaft horsepower through two propeller shafts for a speed of 36 knots (approximately 42 mph) and her crew complement was 145 officers and men.
She was armed with four 4.7” guns in single mounts, eight 0.5 anti-aircraft machine guns and eight 21” torpedo tubes in two quadruple mountings. In the early part of the war, one of the torpedo tube mountings was removed and a 3” anti-aircraft gun and 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns added.
After completion of trials, ‘Hotspur’ sailed for the Mediterranean where she joined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (consisting of her seven sister ships) based in Malta, returning to the UK in August, 1939. She then sailed from Chatham via Gibraltar and Freetown to join the America and West Indies Station arriving on September 4, the day after war was declared.
Together with the heavy cruiser ‘Exeter’ she then started escorting convoys from the River Plate area of South America.
She transferred to the West Indies in October, 1939, and returned to the UK in January, 1940. She took part in mine-laying operations off Norway on April 6, 1940, as escort to the battle cruiser ‘Renown’ and was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla which attacked the German-held Norwegian port of Narvik four days later.
The 2nd DF of five ships, led by Captain Robert Warburton-Lee in ‘Hardy’ (with Cdr H. Layman in Hotspur as second in command) entered Narvik Fjord in order to attack a flotilla of 10 German destroyers that had carried troops to capture Narvik town. On arriving in the fjord, they proceeded to fire at and torpedo any ships they saw, both destroyers and merchant vessels.
All proceeded according to plan until the British ships started to return down the fjord to escape, when ‘Hotspur’ came under fire from the German destroyers ‘George Thiele’ and ‘Bernd von Arnim’ and the wheelhouse was hit by a shell which put the steering gear out of action.
Before the emergency steering could be used, she had rammed the ‘Hunter,’ herself already badly damaged, and both ships lay locked together, under concentrated enemy fire from ships and shore.
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