True Name                                               HMS Cape Howe

Previous name:                                        Knight Almoner
Subsequent name: 

Official Number:                                       167638                                                                          

Class:                                                       Special Service Freighter - Q ship

Pennant No:                                              X02

Laid down:                                               
Builder:                                                     Lithgows, Port Glasgow
Launched:                                                31 March 1930
Into Service:                                             15 September 1939
Out of service:                                          21 June 1940
Fate:                                                        Sunk


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:


In 1939 Winston Churchill gave authority for a number of merchantmen to be requisitioned for service as Q-ships, although for security purposes they were referred to as Special Service Freighters. A fleet of nine small mainly coal-burning vessels were acquired , six for deep-sea work and three for coastal work. All were commissioned as HM ships under their original names but were given RFA cover names and on entering harbour and while in harbour they wore the Blue Ensign, behaved as RFA’s and adopted the RFA commercial practices. None of them was really suitable for their intended roles and met with a complete lack of success. Their Q-ship service officially ended on 2 March 1941



31 March 1930 launched by Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow as Yard Nr: 830 named KNIGHT ALMONER for Ottoman Line Ltd ( Pardoe-Thomas & Co Ltd, Managers) Cardiff

1 April 1930 the Scotsman newspaper reported -

Scotsman 1 4 1930 Cape Howe


23 May 1930 mortgaged; joint mortgagees were James Shearer & Bertie Pardoe-Thomas

July 1930 completed

18 July 1930 sailed Glasgow for Cadiz in ballast

22 August 1930 arrived Montevideo from Cadiz

25 September 1930 at Montevideo

14 October 1930 sailed St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands

24 October in contact with Niton Radio reporting she was on passage to Dieppe and was 102 nmiles south west

26 October 1930 arrived at Dieppe

9 November 1930 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west bound

10 November 1930 arrived at Penarth, South Wales

During the 1930's laid up at Newport, South Wales during the depression

26 January 1931 sailed Ibicuy

2 February 1931 passed Rio de Janerio

17 February 1931 arrived Teneriffe from Ibucuy sailing later in the day for Dunkirk

11 March 1933 mortgage transferred to James Shearer Snr and John McCulloch of Lithgows Ltd.

30 January 1934 sold to Lyle Shipping Co Ltd., Glasgow

7 February 1934 renamed Cape Howe by her owner

23 February 1934 sailed Newport for Singapore

29 March 1934 sailed Port Natal for Singapore

22 April 1934 arrived Singapore

1 May 1934 sailed Singapore for Saigon

30 June 1934 sailed Rangoon

9 July 1934 sailed Colombo

27 July 1934 arrived at Suez

21 October 1934 arrived Port Said

3 November 1934 arrived at Karachi from Alexandria

27 December 1934 sailed Maderia for Londonderry

10 June 1935 arrived Singapore

15 June 1935 sailed Kohsichang

12 July 1935 arrived at Lorenço Marques

19 July 1935 arrived Table Bay from Kohsichang

27 December 1935 sailed Maderia

5 January 1936 arrived at Londonderry from Rosario

14 May 1936 sailed Pernambuco

10 June 1936 at Princess Pier, Greenock Fireman Mohammed Said discharged dead - drowned

4 October 1936 arrived Cristobal from Hamburg

1 December 1936 berthed at Liverpool from the River Plate with 1 DBS. Captain J R MacIntyre was Master

23 December 1936 passed Gibraltar east bound

6 March 1937 sailed Batavia to New York with a cargo of rubber

4 June 1936 at Greenock

15 July 1938 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east bound

September 1939 requisitioned by the Admiralty for conversion into a Special Service Freighter by Portsmouth Dockyard

19 September 1939 commissioned as HMS Cape Howe

February 1940 conversion completed. Cover name RFA PRUNELLA.Complement 90 under command of Commander Eric L. Woodhall DSO MVO Royal Navy.  Armed with 7 x single 4-inch guns, 4 x Lewis  machine guns, 4 x single 21-inch torpedo tubes, 100 x depth charges and was fitted  with Asdic

26 March 1940 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

7 April 1940 sailed Portsmouth on her first cruise

13 April 1940 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

26 April 1940 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

5 June 1940 while disguised as RFA PRUNELLA, reported sighting at 1630 two unidentified warships northwest of Norway in 64-45N, 00-24W making for Iceland on course 265 at 20 knots

21 June 1940 while hunting German submarines to the South of Ireland torpedoed and sunk at 49.54N 8.47W by the German submarine U28 (Kapitanleutnant Gunter Kuhnke) with 57 of the crew being killed. Those lost are remembered with pride on the Naval Memorials at Liverpool, Plymouth and Portsmouth. The body of one who was lost was recovered and he is buried in Pornic War Cemetery, Loire Atlantique, France - Able Seaman Gerald Barber P/SSX 23467


Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project 



                                                 HMS Cape Howe a.k.a RFA Prunella sinking


27 June 1940 Thirteen survivors were picked up off a raft in position 48.47 N 07.59 W, about 150 miles off Ushant by the destroyer HMS VERSATILE

4 October 1940 Honours awarded as a result of the sinking of HMS Cape Howe: -

Sub-Lieutenant Duncan Cameron Kennedy, R.N.R. mentioned in despatches for "seamanship, bravery and good leadership" taking command of the lifeboats from HMS Cape Howe when she sunk (see below)

Able Seaman G H Rhoades JX.136445




6 January 1948 Mr Charles Percy Smith, Chief Engineer Officer granted permission to wear, without restriction, the award of Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II with Palm and the Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm made by the King of the Belgians





  1. RFA Prunella was a cover name for the 'Q' Ship HMS Cape Howe. The name Prunella was used when the ship was in port so her true identity was not disclosed. She never actually sailed as an RFA




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