Converted to be used as a minelayer before the outbreak of war. When
used for this purpose two of the four guns had to be removed and all
torpedo tubes taken off to allow for the additional weight of the mines.
Mines ran on rails fixed to the deck on both sides of the ship, extending
to the stern, from where they were dropped.
HMS Express took part in the King's Review of the Fleet at Weymouth
in August 1939.
September 3rd 1939, mines loaded in Portsmouth
and laid that night. From then on various minelaying trips were made.
Offensive operations taking place during periods when there was no moon.
At other times protective fields were laid around the coast. Express was
also used for convoy duties in the Atlantic and to escort troop carrying
ships bound for France as part of the British Forces. One special duty was
in September 1939 to take the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from Portsmouth
Express made a number of trips to Dunkirk and was one of the first to
arrive and commence taking troops off the beaches. At first there were not
many troops on the beach, but numbers soon grew and they were subject to
continual attack by enemy aircraft. Taking troops off from a shelving
beach could only be down in small boats, although there had been an
attempt to make a pier by driving lorries into the sea for the troops to
walk out on. Later troops were taken off from Dunkirk Harbour. The artists
picture below is a good indication of the attempts the enemy made to sink
a ship as it entered or left the harbour, which would have blocked it and
made the outcome of the evacuation very different.
and Shikar were the last ships to leave with troops, before the evacuation
was ended. The Express brought out 2,795 troops, including some French.
Many ships were sunk or damaged during the evacuation. The Express was
damaged by bombing, but was repaired in time to continue taking part in
On August 31st 1940, the Express and 4 other
Minelaying Destroyers left Immingham to lay an offensive field off the
coast of the Netherlands. At around 23.00 hours almost to the pint of
dropping mines, it was reported by radio that there was an enemy convoy
near at hand, which was to be attacked after the mines had been dropped.
Before any mines were dropped, three of the ships, including Express, had
themselves struck mines. Express was the first and some of the crew were
picked up by the Ivanhoe, who then also struck a mine. Meanwhile the Esk
struck and sank almost immediately. There was a considerable loss of life
in all three ships, the Express lost 4 officers and 55 ratings.
spite of having most of the bows blown off, the Express was towed back to
port and eventually rebuilt. The Ivanhoe could not be saved and had to be
The Express came back into service as a Fleet Destroyer in
September 1941 and was part of the escort of the Prince of Wales and
Repulse when they were sunk off the coast of Malaysia and picked up many
of the survivors.
In 1943 she was transferred to the Canadian
Navy and was renamed the Gatineau serving with distinction in the
Atlantic. She was finally broken up in 1955.
Arts would like to thank Vic Evans who compiled the above text and who
served on board Express from July 1939 until she was mined. He was one of
the crew of the Express picked up by the Ivanhoe and was injured when it
struck. Later he was picked up by an MTB and taken to Great Yarmouth