- Lyons, Rex
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Quiberon
- September 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
(Extracts from a letter from Alexander (Rex) Lyons – 16.6.97)
Dear Captain Cook,
At the unveiling of the Destroyers Window, I mentioned that I could give you the address of HMAS QUIBERON’S first captain:
Captain H.W.S. Browning, D.S.O., O.B.E.,
Betsy Lane, Bransgore,
DORSET. B.H.23 8A.Q.
I wrote to him some years ago. I had a delightful reply from him; even in his nineties he seemed very content and active. He asked me to give his best wishes to QUIBERON veterans and to ensure them that they were the best crew he ever sailed with.
Captain Browning, if still alive, would be about 98, so there is a big question mark about that. May I suggest that if you wish to send on material about the window, you send it through Admiralty.
Chris Ayton, one of the commissioning crew, described Captain Browning as the best `bomb dodger’ in the business. I found some reference to bomb dodging in a copy of Report of Proceedings, which I have enclosed.
The Report of Proceedings is quite remarkable in that it lists the intense activities of the preceding month in a totally dispassionate manner – it seems that adjectives were unknown by those who wrote the reports.
I just think it is amazing that so much activity could be recounted in such a passive, matter of fact tone, e.g. the sinking of QUENTIN and the rescue of the crew by QUIBERON. Just another day at the office! And note the throw-away sentence of “Total bag for the night three destroyers and four merchant vessels, two of which were troopships”.
I will also include a profile of Captain Browning. He certainly packed a lot of living into wartime, as did so many seafarers, but I think it is of interest that he had thirteen years as a submariner before becoming a destroyer captain. It does not appear in the profile, but he was a brother-in-law of the author Daphne du Maurier, who was married to his brother, General Browning.
It is wonderful that the Destroyers Window is set in place to commemorate the deeds of such great contributors to the war effort. GIMME THE BOATS!!!
Commander Hugh Waters Shelley Browning, D.S.O.,O.B.E., R.N.,
HMAS “Quiberon”, 6.7.42 – 20.1.43
Born 1899. Went to sea as midshipman in April, 1917 in the battlecruiser Tiger and remained in her until the conclusion of the 1914-18 war.
In 1919 he took passage in H.M.A.S. Sydney to Sydney, Australia to join the battlecruiser New Zealand and upon his ultimate return to the U.K. undertook a series of short courses. He was promoted Sub Lieutenant in 1919 and Lieutenant in 1921.
On completion of these courses he joined the Submarine service of the Royal Navy and served in various Submarines from 1923 until 1936 which included 8 years as a Submarine Commanding Officer. He was promoted Lieutenant Commander in 1928.
In the latter part of 1936 he was appointed First Lieutenant of the Royal Navy Barracks at Devonport, an appointment he held for two years.
He was promoted Commander in 1938 and was appointed to stand by at the building of the first of the Hunt class Destroyers “Attentive” (sic) (Could be “Atherstone“-Eds).
In this ship he ran the channel during 1940 and 1941 and in this period became Acting Captain. During this time he was awarded a Military O.B.E. and was twice mentioned in Despatches.
Early in 1942 he joined H.M.A.S. Quiberon which was being built at Cowes, Isle of Wight and was Commanding oOfficer on her Commissioning on 6th July 1942. Under his Command Quiberon took part in Operation “Torch” in North Africa and in company with her sister ship H.M.S. Quentin sank an Italian Submarine and participated in the height of the action in the Sicily Straits. He was promoted to Captain on 1st January 1943, while in Command of Quiberon and in his own words “left Quiberon with sorrow as I loved her crew and the ship”. He was again mentioned in Despatches twice during this period. Early in 1943 he took over the 17th Destroyer Flotilla as Captain (D) in H.M.S. Onslow and ran Arctic Convoys until the end of the war in Europe. During this time he was awarded the D.S.O. for courage and devotion to duty in Arctic waters and again was twice mentioned in despatches.
After the conclusion of the war in Europe he left Onslow and took over Command of the new Tribal class flotilla in H.M.S. Cossack where he served in Japanese waters until the end of the war in the Far East.
He returned to the U.K. in 1946 and served for two years as Captain of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. He was then appointed Naval Liaison Officer to General McArthur and once again saw service in Japan. While in Japan he was appointed A.D.C. to H.M. King George VI. He subsequently returned to the U.K. and retired from the Royal Navy in 1952.
At the writing of this precis Captain Browning was still living in Dorset, England and is the only surviving Wartime Commanding Officer of H.M.A.S. Quiberon.
H.M.A.S. QUIBERON – Extracts from Report of Proceeding from 16th November to 3rd December, 1942.
Saturday 28th November, 1942
Ship was in action from midnight onwards against bombers; a fair number of bombs were dropped, some very close to Force “Q”.
During the forenoon there were more raids and the few fighters left at Bone had their hands full to deal with the raiders. At 1330 H.M.A.S. Quiberon slipped and proceeded to assist H.M.S. Quentin”who was hunting a U Boat.
On arrival H.M.S. Quentin reported that the U Boat had surfaced out of control and gone down stern first and contact had been lost. After a search of 25 minutes H.M.A.S. Quiberon made contact and this contact was confirmed by H.M.S. Quentin as a submarine.
H.M.A.S. Quiberon attacked after a careful investigation during which there was slight closing doppler, pronounced “whistle effect” and an irregular sound of hammering as if someone was trying to shut a W/T door or hitting the hull.
After Quiberon attacked whistle effect and the hammering ceased and a huge bubble of air which smelt of fuel and later a gradually spreading film of diesel oil which eventually covered several miles. H.M.S. “Quentin” then carried out a further attack and more oil came to the surface. Samples of oil were taken and are diesel oil and a thicker crankcase oil.
Unfortunately H.M.A.S. Quiberon and H.M.S. Quentin had to be recalled to take part in an operation with Force “Q” and could not wait for bodies etc. to be washed out. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham made a signal confirming the “kill” T.O.O. 1415 A/30/11.
Returning to Bone at 1700 one J.U. 88 was shot down into the sea by a Spitfire.
At 1715 a fairly heavy raid was made on Bone aerodrome and the runway was badly damaged and big fires were burning. It is believed that 6 J.U.88s were shot down.
Force “Q” sailed at 1730 to intercept an Italian convoy. This operation was cancelled later and Force “Q” was ordered to proceed to Algiers.
During the night enemy aircraft flew over the Force and several were actually sighted but no attempt was made to attack Force “Q”.
Tuesday 1st December
Force “Q” arrived at Bone at 0800. 4 J.U. 88s flew over the harbour at 0845 and one was shot down. Bone had a heavy raid last night but there does not appear to be much damage.
Destroyers fuelled from R.F.A. Brown Ranger.
At 1730 Force “Q” sailed to intercept a convoy between Sicily and Tunis.
Speed 27 knots through a supposed enemy minefield. At 0055 Force “Q” made contact and went into action. H.M.A.S. Quiberon was following H.M.S. Argonaut.
At 0059 sighted an enemy destroyer break through smoke screen and turn to fire torpedoes; H.M.A.S. Quiberon increased to 25 knots and turned to engage. Fire was opened at 5000 yards and second salvo hit as did successive salvoes at 0101. Enemy destroyer (SIRIO class) was badly damaged and turned into smoke screen.
Two “E” boats attacked out of the smoke screen and fired torpedoes; these were avoided by going hard over, but passed uncomfortably close.
H.M.A.S. Quiberon then rejoined the line passing a blazing troopship which was sunk. There were about 1000 – 1500 men struggling in the water and H.M.A.S. Quiberon passed through them at 25 knots, I judged them to be Italians.
At 0117 H.M.S. Quentin and H.M.A.S. Quiberon sank another troopship which had already been fired at by the cruisers. At 0147 sighted a destroyer lying on her beam ends. Three salvoes were fired into her bottom but it is not known if she sank.