HMAS Nestor
N Class
Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Govan, Glasgow
3 February 1941
16 June 1942
Lost in action on 16 June 1942
Dimensions & Displacement
  • 1,760 tons (standard)
  • 2,550 tons (full load)
Length 356 feet 6 inches
Beam 35 feet 6 inches
Draught 16 feet 4 inches
Speed 36 knots
Crew 249
Machinery 2 Parsons geared turbines, 2 shafts
Horsepower 40,000
  • 6 x 4.7-inch guns
  • 1x 4-inch gun
  • 1 x 2-pounder 4 barrel Pom Pom
Torpedoes 10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes (2 pentad mounts)
Other Armament
  • 4 x 20mm Oerlikons
  • Depth Charges
Battle Honours
HMAS Nestor Badge

HMAS Nestor was one of eight N class destroyers laid down in British shipyards during 1939 to the order of the Royal Navy. Five (Napier, Nestor, Nepal, Nizam and Norman (I)) were transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, two to the Royal Netherlands Navy and one to the Polish Navy.

Nestor was commissioned on the Clyde on 3 February 1941 under the command of CMDR George S. Stewart RAN. She joined the Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow and spent the first months of service escorting North Atlantic convoys, on patrol and screening the fleet capital ships at sea.

Nestor's commissioning bell now on display in the HMAS Cerberus museum.
Nestor's commissioning bell now on display in the HMAS Cerberus museum.

Nestor was a unit of the force which hunted and sank the German battleship Bismark, although having been diverted to Iceland to refuel she was not with the force when the Bismark was sunk on 27 May 1941.

In July 1941 Nestor entered the Mediterranean for the first time when she operated as one of the escorts for the passage of important Malta convoys (Operation Substance). In August she saw further Mediterranean service before proceeding on escort duties in the South Atlantic. In October 1941 she returned to England for repairs and refit.

Escort duties were resumed on 5 December 1941 when she sailed from Devonport to rendezvous with a Gibraltar bound convoy. On 15 December, off Cape St Vincent, she sighted the German submarine U-127 on the surface at a distance of about seven miles. Nestor opened fire with her main armament, forcing the U-boat to dive, and after gaining contact made a successful attack with depth charge. She has since been officially credited with the destruction of U-127.

HMAS Nestor was one of 5 N Class destroyers transferred to the Royal Australian Navy from the Royal Navy
HMAS Nestor was one of five N Class destroyers transferred to the Royal Australian Navy from the Royal Navy

On Christmas Eve 1941 Nestor returned to Malta. Two days later she proceeded as one of the escorts of a convoy bound for Alexandria and on 30 December, sailed from that port on the screen of the heavy ships for the bombardment of Bardia in Lybia, prior to it's capture by the British 8th Army.

In January 1942 Nestor left the Mediterranean theatre to support operations to reinforce Malaya. On reaching Aden, she was ordered to join the escort of the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, engaged on ferrying aircraft to the Malayan / Java theatre. The operation successfully concluded, the carrier and her escort proceeded to Port Soudan to load a second flight of planes. Too late to land them in Malaya (Singapore had fallen), they were flown off some 100 miles off Colombo in time to take part in the defence of that port against the first Japanese air attack. Parting from Indomitable, Nestor proceeded to Trincomalee and after docking at Colombo joined the Eastern Fleet, then being reformed under Admiral Somerville.

In late March and early April Nestor was engaged on patrol and escort duties in the Indian Ocean and on the screen of the Fleet. Following a visit to the temporary base of the Eastern Fleet at Kilindini (East Africa) she proceeded on an exercise cruise to Zanzibar and in June returned to the Mediterranean.

At Haifa in June 1942, in company with HMAS Norman (I), she was joined by HMA Ships Napier (Captain S.H.T. Arliss DSO RN) and Nizam, forming the 7th Destroyer Flotilla for Operation Vigorous, the passage of an east to west Malta convoy. The total covering force comprised eight cruisers and twenty-six destroyers supported by corvettes and nine submarines.

Enemy air attacks carried out almost exclusively by land based aircraft began almost as soon as the convoy left Alexandria. Early attacks were concentrated on the cruisers and the eleven ships of the convoy but later the destroyers became the principal targets.

On the afternoon of 15 June a signal was received intimating that a second convoy had succeeded in reaching Malta from the west (Operation Harpoon), but in view of the strength of enemy air attack and the presence of the Italian fleet, it was finally decided to break off the westward passage and return to Alexandria.

Survivors from HMAS Nestor onboard HMS Javelin with their salvaged ship's bell.
Survivors from HMAS Nestor onboard HMS Javelin with their salvaged ship's bell.

At about 1800 on 15 June 1942, when the convoy was off the south west corner of Crete (33°36´N, 24°30´E), Nestor was straddled by a stick of heavy bombs which caused serious damage to her boiler rooms. She was taken in tow by HMS Javelin but at about 0530 the next morning (16 June), with the destroyer then going down by the nose, permission was requested to scuttle. After the crew had been transferred to Javelin she was sunk at about 0700 by depth charge.

Other losses in the attempt to reach Malta from the east included one cruiser, two destroyers, and two merchant ships sunk. Three cruisers, one destroyer and one corvette were damaged.

Further Reading

  1. 'N' Class: The Story of H.M.A. Ships Napier, Nizam, Nestor, Norman & Nepal by L. J. Lind and M. A. Payne - published by The Naval Historical Society of Australia, Garden Island 1974