HMS Argonaut was a Dido-class cruiser built at Cammell Laird under the 1939 War Emergency Programme and commissioned into Royal Navy service on 14th July 1942. Following a workup with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and a convoy to Murmansk, Argonaut was nominated for service in the Mediterranean.
On 14th December 1942, while operating with Force Q from Bone, Tunisia (HMS Aurora, HMS Eskimo and HMS Quality), Argonaut was hit by 2 torpedoes fired from the Italian submarine Mocenigo off Galita Island in position 37.30N, 08.13E.
Argonaut sustained heavy structural damage. One torpedo blew off her bow. One torpedo blew off her stern. Miraculously, only 3 crew members lost their lives in the explosions.
According to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Francis Henely, the following exchange took place.
The forward lookout reported:
“Ship torpedoed forward. Sir”.
At the same time the aft lookout reported:
“Ship torpedoed aft. Sir”.
To these reports the Captain replied:
“When you two chaps have made up your minds which end has been torpedoed , let me know”.
Perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not… but a measure of sangfroid is expected in the most extreme of circumstances.
Despite sustaining heavy damage, Argonaut managed to make its way to Gibraltar thanks to the efforts of her damage control parties, sheer bloody willpower, and the undoubted the grace of God.