© Sue and Julian Owen. Terms and conditions.
Herbert Spillett was the son of Henry and Mercy Emma Spillett, and the husband of Irene May Spillettt, of Dunkirk.
His grandson Ian Spillett has kindly made available extensive research, and further information from the Firedrake Association’s website www.firedrake.co.uk.
Petty Officer Spillett is remembered with honour at the Chatham Naval Memorial, panel reference 61,1. He is also remembered with honour at the War Memorial at Dunkirk Church.
A 1979 document from the Naval Historical Branch summarised Firedrake’s service and Battle Honours. She is described as a destroyer of the “F” or Fearless class, launched in 1934.
The document tells how her main duty from 1941 was as part of the Western Approaches convoy escort force until on the evening of 16 December 1942, 550 miles west of Cape Clear …
” Her luck finally ran out when she was struck by a torpedo from U211 (Kapitanleutnant Karl Hause). The torpedo struck the starboard side, probably abreast the forward boiler room.
The forward bulkhead of No 3 boiler room remained intact. The ship listed heavily to starboard, righted herself momentarily and then broke in two about a minute after the explosion.
The bow section from which there were no survivors floated away, capsized to starboard with about 20 feet of the fore-end remaining out of the water, and sank about half an hour later. The stern section remained afloat on an even keel with the bulkhead of the after boiler room pounded by heavy seas.
About 35 crew members on this section attracted the corvette HMS Sunflower’s attention with starshell, and jettisoned depth charges and torpedoes. At 0045 on the morning of 17 December the weather deteriorated, the bulkhead collapsed and the ship sank. The Sunflower, in poor conditions, managed to rescue six officers and 20 ratings from a complement of more than 140.”
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website: CWGC.org