Town Class Destroyer HMS Broadway (H90) was first launched on 14th February 1920 and was the first ex-American destroyer involved in the capture of a U-boat during in the Atlantic during the Second World War.
The ship, originally commissioned and launched by Miss Victoria Hunt as USS Hunt (DD 194), was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. in Virginia in the United States. She was one of 50 US Navy destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy from the US Navy as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 2nd September 1940.
On 8th October 1940, USS Hunt was commissioned as HMS Broadway in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for use by the Royal Navy. Like all the other ex-US Navy destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940, her name was common to a village/town in England and a town in the US. HMS Broadway arrived at HM Dockyard Devonport on the south coast on 29th October for a refit and modification to be used as a Royal Navy convoy escort in the Atlantic.
Following the commissioning of the destroyer, Broadway’s Parish Councillor, Gordon Russell, agreed to give a talk to the BBC on the village of Broadway. However, the Chairman of the Parish Council, Arthur Williams JP, strongly objected to the talk on the grounds that ‘the enemy is likely to vent his wrath in a particular village that has given its name to one of His Majesty’s ships’. On 2nd January 1941, Williams sent a telegram to the BBC who replied that they could not stop the programme going ahead as it had already been publicised. Williams then sent a wire to Herbert Morrison, Home Secretary to the wartime coalition, stating that the airing of the programme would give ‘unnecessary publicity, and possible menace to the village’ and he also sent a telegram to the local Evesham MP, Mr Rupert De la Bère. Following discussions between the two, it was decided that the BBC programme should go ahead as it would not adversely affect Broadway or endanger the village or its residents in any way.
HMS Broadway, Convoy Escort and the Capture of an Enigma Machine
After undergoing initial trials HMS Broadway was taken to Scapa Flow for further preparations and to join the 11th Escort Group. However, she sustained damage during the trials and was repaired in Hull, then at the Clyde and Liverpool shipyards before work was finally completed on her back at Devonport and she was finally ready to go to war as an escort of convoys in the mid-Atlantic passage. HMS Broadway returned to Liverpool from where on 28th April 1941 she joined the 7th Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, in Iceland.
On 9th May 1941, whilst under the command of Lt. Commander Thomas Taylor, RN, and whilst protecting the Atlantic convoys with the help of destroyer HMS Bulldog and corvette HMS Aubretia, she assisted in the capture of German U-boat U-110 between Greenland and Iceland.
U-110, commanded by U-boat ace Lt. Fritz-Julius Lemp1, had successfully sunk two British ships during the Battle of the Atlantic. On the 9th May the U-boat was first detected by HMS Aubretia’s listening device and the corvette subsequently moved to engage the U-boat with depth charges. U-110 survived this first assault but when the two destroyers HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway joined the attack the U-boat was forced to surface and HMS Bulldog’s captain set a course to ram the the boat. Lemp seeing this ordered his crew to abandon ship.
U-110 was captured (the first U-boat capture during the Second World War) and a boarding party was sent from HMS Bulldog under the command of Lieutenant Commander David Balme. On board, Radio Operator William Stewart Pollock noticed a unusual looking typewriter. He unscrewed it from the desk, gathered it up and later discovered he had taken a German Navy Enigma decoder machine and codebooks, the first operational Enigma machine captured during the war.
Once in the water, Lemp attempted to swim back to the U-boat when he realised that the scuttling charges were not going to detonate and that his boat might be captured and this was the last anyone saw of him.
The original plan was to tow the U-110 to Iceland. Fortuitously, the U-boat sank whilst under tow. Had the boat reached Iceland, it seems certain that German spies would have seen it and passed word back to Germany.
Although the German Navy (the Kriegsmarine) developed codes that were more complex after this capture, it gave Alan Turing and the code breakers at Bletchley Park their first insight into the Enigma code. The Bletchley Park cryptanalysts had found this code more complex and secure than that used by the Germany’s army and airforce.
Four officers and men of HMS Broadway were mentioned in dispatches and Lt. Commander Thomas Taylor received the DSC and Chief Stoker Arthur Harry Capelin P/K-46363 was awarded the DSM.
HMS Broadway continued to escort Atlantic convoys during 1942 and 1943 and on 12th May 1943, commanded by Lt. Commander Evelyn Henry Chavasse2, she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying another German submarine, U-89, which was sunk northeast of the Azores.
After undergoing a refit at Belfast in September 1943, HMS Broadway became a target ship for aircraft and served as such at Rosyth in Scotland until the war ended in Europe, retiring from service during the summer of 1945. HMS Broadway was finally decommissioned and sold for scrap in May 1948.
HMS Broadway received the battle honours, Atlantic 1941-43 and North Sea 1944 for taking part in the sinking of two U-boats and the attacks on many others during which she covered nearly 100,000 miles on duty. She was known for her ‘Magic Eye’ which she had painted on her bows to ward off evil.
Support for HMS Broadway from the Broadway Branch of the British Legion
During the war HMS Broadway was one of two ships adopted by the village (the other being HMS Terrapin3). The Broadway branch of the British Legion undertook to supply HMS Broadway with comforts from the branch’s special war fund. Records, books, games, irons, writing paper, cards and envelopes and a box of football gear from Broadway United Football Club (the club had been suspended for the duration of the war) along with cheques to be spent by the ship’s commanding officer on the crew were amongst items sent. Several fundraisers were held in the village during the war: on Boxing Day 1941, Broadway United Football Club held a dance at the Lifford Memorial Hall to raise money for the crew and £284 was sent to the fund to provide further sports equipment for those on board the destroyer.
In June 1943, a badge made of pear wood was presented to the HMS Broadway by the Broadway branch of the British Legion on behalf of the village (see photo above). The shield was designed by the officers of the ship and partly by the artist, Major W.T. Hart of Chipping Campden. The badge, surrounded by the Naval Crown represents the albatross, being the badge of the US Navy, Broadway Tower and crossed anchors being common to both Navies. The badge was initially on view in J.B. Ball’s shop window on the High Street but is now on the wall in St Michael’s Church. A cast brass shield was also presented by the village to the ship for the ship’s bridge.
HMS Broadway’s Bell
The bell from HMS Broadway was salvaged when the ship was decommissioned. In 1951, in a ceremony at City Hall, the bell was presented by the Admiralty to Mayor Impelliteri of New York along with a leather bound volume relating the exploits of the destroyer after she joined the Royal Navy. The bell was later put into safe keeping at the the Lygon Arms Hotel, in the village, which was under the management of Donald Russell at the time. It was presented to the citizens of Broadway by Captain R.G. Mackay, British Naval representative on the United Nations Military Staff Committee, on behalf of the Admiralty.
The bell is currently on display at the Lygon Arms Hotel, High Street, Broadway, and will shortly be moved to Broadway Museum and Art Gallery, Tudor House, 65 High Street, Broadway.
Talk on HMS Broadway – 18th November 2019
To find out more about HMS Broadway, on Monday 18th November 2019, Doug Eyre, will be giving an illustrated talk entitled 1941, HMS Broadway and the Capture of the German Naval Enigma Machine in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. All welcome. Non-members of the Society £3.
Doug Eyre is Broadway Museum and Art Gallery’s resident artist and he has painted a picture depicting the important 1941 engagement that involved HMS Broadway and the discovery of the Enigma machine and codebooks.
Broadway History Society
1. Fritz-Julius Lemp commanded U-28, U-30 and U-110 and sank the British passenger ship SS Athenia, in violation of the Hague conventions in September 1939.
2. Reverend Evelyn Henry Chavasse, DSO, DSC (1906-1991) served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 1st February 1937 and to the rank of Commander on 30th June 1943. He was ordained in 1954.
3. HMS Terrapin was a British submarine of the third group of the T class. She was built as P323 by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow and Belliss and Morcom Ltd, and launched on 31st August 1943.
4. The Boxing Day Dance raised £55 14s 6d. £28 went to HMS Broadway and the balance to the football club fund.