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HMS ONSLOW shell casing cigarette lighter lid

Date: 1943
Dimensions:
143 x 50 mm (1.97 in)
Medium: Wood, copper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from David Horne
Object Name: Trench art
Object No: 00040489

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    Description
    HMS ONSLOW was an O class destroyer that participated in the Battle of the Barents Sea in December 1942, protecting a large convoy from a German heavy cruiser and pocket battleship. This carved wooden lid fits a cigarette lighter that was made from a spent shell casing fired from ONSLOW's anti aircraft guns. The cigarette lighter (00040488) accompanys this lid.

    SignificanceThis is a common example of the types of trench art made by servicemen or civilians and kept as souvenirs. This item's association with the Battle of the Barents Sea may have had personal significance for its maker. The Museum's Oberon class submarine HMAS ONSLOW takes the destroyer's battle honours and name in its honour.
    HistoryHMS ONSLOW was built by John Brown Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd, Clydebank, Scotland as an O class destroyer and was laid down in 1940. Completed in October 1941, the destroyer joined the Home Fleet along with seven other O class destroyers. ONSLOW spent most of the war with the Home Fleet undertaking Arctic convoy duties, but also saw action during the invasion of North Africa and at the Normandy landings, and served for some time in the Mediterranean. Service in the post-war fleet ensued until 1951 when it was transferred to the Pakistan navy and renamed TIPPU SULTAN.

    On 31 December 1941 the German submarine U-87 torpedoed the British merchant ship CARDITA - HMS ONSLOW picked up 23 of the surviving crew members. On 14 September 1942, ONSLOW along with a Swordfish aircraft from HMS AVENGER dropped depth charges on U-589 - resulting in its sinking.

    On 31 December 1942, ONSLOW and five other destroyers defended Convoy JW.51.B against attack by the German ships LUTZOW and ADMIRAL HIPPER and six other German destroyers. Bound for Russia, the convoy was steaming through the Barents Sea when the Germans targetted them. Action ensued when ONSLOW, OBEDIENT, ORIBI, OBDURATE, ORWELL, and ACHATES engaged the German ships. Fire from the ADMIRAL HIPPER hit the ONSLOW hard in the funnel and bridge area, partially blinding the commander, Captain Sherbrooke - who continued directing the battle. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery under fire in defending the convoy.

    The convoy was made up of 14 merchant ships carrying 54,321 tons of general cargo, 11,500 tons of fuel, 12,650 tons of aviation fuel, 33 bombers, 87 fighters, 202 tanks and 2,046 vehicles.

    ONSLOW's armament included four single 4.7-in guns, one x 4-inch anti-aircraft gun, four x 20 mm Oerlikons, two depth charge throwers, four x 21-inch torpedoes. This shell casing was retrieved from one of the anti-aircraft guns.

    Life on the Arctic convoy on board HMS ONSLOW by Able Seaman David Evans*:
    'We met ice and hail full on. Daylight became progressively shorter, between 10.30 am and 2.30 in the afternoon it was like a sort of twilight. Sea spray froze on the ship decks and weapons; if you stood too long, you would experience a numbing of your mind as well as of the limbs. On the morning of the 30/31st December the weather abated, we settled down to a steady swell of the Arctic Ocean, still very cold. We could see some of the convoy escorts, the familiar Red Duster of the Merchant Fleet, some American Liberty ships, and two armed trawlers, all heavily laden with vital food and war supplies for the Russian Front.'

    'Around 10.15 am the Germans were back again and they had found Onslow's range, she was hit by 8" shells to the funnel and it was reduced to metal ribbons. Two of Onslow's forward guns were put out of action, and one shell exploded on the mess deck causing a serious fire. A near miss resulted in considerable flooding of the lower decks, causing a considerable number of dead and other casualties among the crew.'

    'HMS Onslow now presented a dramatic sight, with gusts of flame coming out of a hole in the mess deck, whilst steam and smoke shot up into the sky. The flooding causing the ship to take a heavy list, we were down at the bows.'

    'The convoy entered the Kola Estuary unharmed, we ourselves slowly limped into port at dawn on 1st January, 1943. The preceding night had been one of unremitting effort to save our ship, shoring up bulkheads, extinguishing fires and trying to keep warm.'

    * From BBC- WW2 People's War - an archive of World War Two memories.

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