- Wright, Ken
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HMS Kipling was sighted, heading towards them at full speed. The crew threw anything that would float to the men in the water and lowered the scrambling nets over the sides. While they attempted to rescue the stricken sailors, the Germans persisted with their attacks on the men in the water and on the Kipling. Included among the rescued were Lord Mountbatten and his First Lieutenant, Hugh Beresford. The slow and dangerous process of rescuing the helpless survivors under constant attack from the Luftwaffe continued but approximately three hours later, after having rescued some 279 officers and men, Kipling finally set a course for Alexandria 400 miles away.
The survivors of the two destroyers were given time to rest and recover from their horrific experience before being transferred to other ships to continue the war. Lord Mountbatten became Head of Combined Operation Command and helped plan the D-Day invasion. Later as Head of South East Asia Command he helped plan the defeat of the Japanese in Burma and Singapore. Some of his positions after the war included that of India’s first Governor General, and Aide de Camp to the Queen of England. He was murdered while out sailing with his family at his country home in County Sligo in Ireland by IRA terrorists in a bomb blast in 1979.
To summarise the story of Kelly is best done by using a quote from the foreword to Kenneth Poolman’s excellent 1954 book The Kelly which, sadly, is out of print.
The Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma wrote:
The Kelly was sunk on May 23, 1941, in the Battle of Crete. No one left their posts when the end came. She went down with all her guns firing and with all her men at their action stations. We did not leave the Kelly, it was she who finally left us; but the spirit of her ship’s company lived on, as the spirit of all our other fighting ships did, and it was this spirit that contributed more than anything else to our ultimate victory at sea. This spirit still lives today in the Fleet.