HMS Phlox/Lotus (K130) – Ship number 317

Flower Class Corvette – SS Patrol Vessel

Dimensions: 190 long, 33 beam, draught 17.6

Tonnage: 849

Machinery by Ailsa Shipbuilding and North Eastern Marine

Launched by Mrs Patricia de Chair on 6th February 1942, commanded by Lieutenant Commander M.J. Hall DSC, RNR.

Originally names Phlox, HMS Lotus was renamed after the previous HMS Lotus transferred to the Free French Navy.

She worked as an escort for convoys and on one occasion rescued survivors from the SS River Afton which had been torpedoed by a U-boat. Her first U-boat kill was in the Mediterranean in April 1943. This was followed the very next day with a second in conjunction with the “Starwort” and constituted a new Navy record at the time.

She saw service at the siege of Torbruk, worked on the Russian supply run as far north as Murmansk and then headed back to North Africa.

The crew had a bit of a penchant for pets – three eider ducks joined ship in the Arctic and a dog called Abdul from South Africa travelled thousands of miles with the crew. He, unfortunately, met his demise when ashore at Kola Julet where he was run over by the only motor lorry in the area. The crew reportedly measured their days for some time by reckoning how many it was since they had lost poor old Abdul.

Another of the stories about the crew is that they had amongst their number a peace-time classics master who described the sounds of bubbling and explosions from a U-boat breaking up underwater using the word “pompholugopaphlasnasi” which was apparently coined by Aristophanes some 2000 years previously for some other purpose. I have not been able to source this yet, but suspect it was more likely to be a phrase from one of his sayings. If anyone can enlighten me, I would be delighted! Needless to say, the crew member was dubbed “Mr Chips”.

After the war, she was returned to the mercantile fleet as “Southern Lotus”. Tom Hart in “Voices of Leith Dockers – Personal Recollections of Working Lives” recalls the Lotus being bought by Christian Salvesen Ltd to use as a “catcher”, paired with another ship called “Lily”. She was refitted as a buoy tender in 1948, and later served as a whaler until 1963 when she was towed to Melsomvik and laid up.

Records show that at a later stage, December 1966, this fine old lady was sold to Van Heyghen for scrapping in Belgium, but she and the “Southern Briar”, formerly HMS Cyclamen, had other ideas and broke from the tug Temi III off Jutland where they grounded and were wrecked.

Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2010


About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
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3 Responses to HMS Phlox/Lotus (K130) – Ship number 317

  1. Christopher Hall says:

    There is a lot of confusion regarding HMS Lotus, as one can see by looking at all the relevant websites. As far as I can gather:
    K93 was built at Hills in Bristol as HMS Lotus, but was almost immediately transferred to the FFN. My impression of the U-boat and other websites is that she was returned to the RN in 1947 and possibly sold later to the Eqyptian Navy.
    K130 built at Henry Robb’s Leith, was originally HMS Phlox, but resulting from the K93 transfer was renamed HMS Lotus.
    My father (then Lt H(arry) JOHN Hall RNR) who had been mine-sweeping the Zanzibar Channel for several months in the Sultan’s ‘motor yacht’ Al Hathera, had been recalled to Britain. This entailed a voyage via S Africa, S America, Trinidad and Boston, where my Canadian mother and I were dropped off to spend most of the war in Toronto, while my father crossed the Atlantic to take command of HMS Lotus in Leith and proceed to Russian Convoy duty, I believe picking up HMS Poppy and one other in Limerick(?) on the way.
    Lotus was involved in PQ17, details of which can be read in several locations, one occasion being the rescue of the Convoy Commodore Dowding and the River Afton crew referred to above. (An interesting governing factor in the rescue was the part played by Arctic inversion conditions, whereby although the survivors’ boats were not actually visible being well out of range, tall columns of ‘smoke’ were sighted and investigated, resulting in the rescue). Another rescue was the bombed Pan Kraft, still afloat, and which Lotus was about to try to sink by gunfire, but after a shot or two was dissuaded from so doing by the Pan Kraft’s Captain who had quickly clambered aboard and hastened to Lotus’ bridge, advising that his ship had more than x thousand tons of HE aboard!. (Pan Kraft later sank I understand following internal explosion).
    Lotus then made, as did others, for Nova Zemlya, sheltering in the poorly charted channel between the two islands. Apparently one of the crew asked another where on earth they were, to be told that he didn’t know, but with the CO being a keen fly fisherman, you could bet that there would be a river somewhere near! (PQ17 qv PQ17 by Godfrey Winn as well as other authors).
    The ‘pompholugopaphlasmasin’ incident (already noted in the book ‘Leith built Ships in War Service’) took place in the Med during or around Operation Torch. Lotus had obtained what was considered a definite ‘kill’ on a U boat, as the hydrophonic noise delivered up was of a submarine breaking up with sounds of ‘boiling and bubbling’ – very descriptive but not exactly navalese signal material. As stated above one of the officers was a classic master in peacetime, and he volunteered the exact word from Aristophanes ‘Frogs’. This was duly inserted in the ‘kill’ signal. Years later my father met a clergyman who had served in the Admiralty at the time and knew of the signal, which had been on the point of being returned to Lotus for clarification. Having been a classics scholar the eventual clergyman was able to translate and thus the signal was accepted and a ‘kill’ awarded. (I understand that after WWII, detailed analysis reallocated this ‘kill’ to the RAF, but I have no detail). The next day as noted the U660 incident with HMS Starwort was another confirmed ‘kill’.
    For other information on HMS Lotus and Lt (later Cdr, DSO, DSC*, RD) Hall see the U-boat website (amongst others).
    Christopher J P Hall (Capt RNR Rtd), currently Chairman Sea Cadet Association in Scotland
    (Son in law of Capt WNKM Crawford VRD, RNR – dec’d, coincidentally a former director of Henry Robb Ltd)

  2. Thank you for your extremely detailed comment. I will reply appropriately later in the week or at the weekend as I am currently in Scotland for job interviews.
    Regards Ruth

  3. Pingback: Voices of Leith Dockers – book review – Tom Hart part two | Henry Robb's Shipyard

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