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Object in Focus: No. 23

The sinking of HMS Tynedale

Items from the 50th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Tynedale

The tragic sinking of HMS Tynedale and the surprising arrival at the 50th anniversary memorial at Hexham Abbey...

HMS Tynedale Hexham’s lost warship

On the 12th December 1943 a torpedo from German U-Boat 593 (commanded by Kapitänleutnant Gerd Kelbling) ripped through the boiler room of the Hunt class Destroyer HMS Tynedale (Captained by Lieutenant Commander J.J.S. Yorke) tearing the ship in half and sadly killing over 70 of its crew members. A devastating end for a ship adopted and loved by the people of Hexham, which one year earlier had nearly sunk the same submarine that would eventually send it to the bottom of the sea.

For most of HMS Tynedale’s service the destroyer was used as an escort ship around the UK and eventually transferring to the Mediterranean fleet, it was while she was based on the south coast of England that the destroyer would be involved in one of the most famous raids in British military history. The raid on St Nazaire.

HMS Tynedale on manoeuvres.

During the raid, in addition to engaging with multiple German torpedo boats along with another destroyer, HMS Tynedale discovered and attacked U-593. Using depth charges and eventually, after the submarine had surfaced, a deck gun HMS Tynedale had U-593 marked as another kill before the submarine dived and escaped. The raid itself has become famous for the ramming of the dockyard gates by HMS Cambletown and the shore attack by the British commandos battling against withering German fire.

U-593 did not have a long career after sinking HMS Tynedale however as on the 13th December 1943, one day after torpedoing the destroyer, U-593 was captured and sunk by the USS Wainwright and HMS Calpe. All crew survived.

But why does this ship have such strong connections to Hexham? Digging through information found about the 50th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Tynedale we’ve discovered the real reason why.

As money was needed to maintain the war effort, special events and themed months would be used to raise funds for the replacement of materials lost during the evacuation from Dunkirk. Plays, Raffles and other special occasions would be held as part of the fundraising and in April 1942 ‘Warships Week’ began.

Hexham had a target of around £200,000 to raise and managed to reach that target earlier than expected, so strong was the support for the war effort that HMS Tynedale was adopted by the region. News reports would regularly tell the people of Hexham the status of their adopted destroyer and her exploits at sea, so long as it did not risk the secrecy of ongoing operations, and the public were encouraged to give money to comfort funds for the sailors. It must have come as an incredible shock to hear that this beloved ship had been sunk with such a large loss of life.

In 1993, 50 years after the sinking of HMS Tynedale and the capture of U-593, a commemoration event was held in Hexham Abbey where survivors of the sinking and their families were invited to attend. One of the attendees had a different experience when it came to the sinking, this man was none other than K.L. Gerd Kelbling captain of U-593 during the sinking of HMS Tynedale. Thanks to the amazing help from a survivor of the sinking, Ron Babb, Kelbling had been contacted and invited to the service.

Kapitänleutnant Gerd Kelbling portrait photograph and aboard U-593. 

Within the collection of files and objects relating to the event we have also found pictures believed to be of Kelbling during the war, a tankard and glass with a picture of a U-Boat on the side and a small bell with a little ship wheel and a tiny Swastika. ‘In memoriam H.M.S. Tynedale U.-593  12.12.1943’ is engraved on the side of the bell, all of these items were gifted by Kelbling for the service.

Objects gifted by Gerd Kelbling.

This find would not have been made possible without the John Ellerman Foundation for helping with the discovery of so many fascinating objects hidden away at Musems Northumberland.

collections@museumsnorthumberland.org.uk

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