The Broadway Museum and Art Gallery’s resident artist Doug Eyre has been working on a painting depicting an important engagements that involved HMS Broadway, a Destroyer of the Town Class that was part of the Royal Navy’s fleet in the Second World War.

A bell that once belonged to the ship has recently been returned by the museum back to Broadway’s Lygon Arms where it had been on display for several years after being salvaged when the ship was decommissioned in the late 1940s.

HMS Broadway

The bell from HMS Broadway

HMS Broadway, first launched in 1920, was originally built in the US and named USS Hunt. The ship was one of 50 US navy destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy from the United States navy as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom reached on September 2,1940.

When it first arrived in the UK HMS Broadway was taken to HM Dockyard Devonport for a refit and modification. After undergoing initial trials the ship was taken to Scapa Flow, a body of water in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, to undergoing further preparations before it commenced operations. However, the ship sustained damage and was repaired in Hull, then the Clyde Shipyard and Liverpool before work was finally completed back at Devonport. At the end of April 1941 HMS Broadway arrived in Liverpool to begin operational service and was sent up to Iceland.

The engagement featured in Doug’s painting led to the discovery of an Enigma machine and codebooks, which aided the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. It took place on 9th May 1941 when HMS Broadway, along with HMS Bulldog and HMS Aubretia, were protecting the Atlantic convoys. The German U-boat submarines targeted these convoys in order to disrupt trade routes.

The German U-boat, U-110, had successfully sunk two British ships when the commander, Fritz Julius Lemp, left his periscope up too long and was spotted by HMS Aubretia, which moved to engage U-110 with depth charges. U-110 survived this first assault but when the two destroyers HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway joined the attack it was forced to surface and Bulldog’s captain set a course to ram the U-Boat. Lemp seeing this ordered his crew to abandon ship, leaving behind the Enigma Ciphers and codebooks.

HMS Broadway

Doug Eyre’s work in progress

However, instead of being sunk the submarine was captured and a boarding party was sent from HMS Bulldog under the command of Lieutenant David Balme. A radio operator William Stewart Pollock on loan to Bulldog gathered up the Enigma machine and codebooks because he thought they looked out of place in the radio room. Once in the water, Lemp appeared to realise U-110 wasn’t sinking and attempted to swim back to her, but this was the last anyone saw of him.

The Admiralty realised the significance of the capture and the recovered equipment and information. In order to preserve the secrecy of the seizure of the Enigma Information they ordered the U-Boat scuttled and the crew were sent to Iceland to be interned.

Although the German navy (the Kriegsmarine) developed codes that were more complex after this capture, it gave the code breakers at Bletchley Park their first insight into the Enigma code it used. The Bletchley Park cryptanalysts had found this code more complex and secure than that used by the Germany’s army and airforce.

The ship continued to escort Atlantic convoys during 1942 and 1943 and on 12 May 1943 she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying another German submarine, U-89, which was sunk northeast of the Azores. After refitting at Belfast in September 1943 HMS Broadway became a target ship for aircraft and served as such at Rosyth in Scotland until the war ended in Europe. HMS Broadway was finally decommissioned and sold for scrap in May 1948.

Doug is available to provide art classes costing £50 a day with all proceeds received donated towards the museum. We also have the opportunity for other artists to rent a space at very low cost on in the 4th floor art department, to work in but also display their art, and make sales to the museum visitors.