ERA Donald Frederick Kebbell
HMS Avenger

Town Memorial WWII Panel

Donald Kebble named on the Town Memorial and in the RBL Roll of Honour in the Parish Church.

Rank: Electrical Artificer 4th Class
Royal Navy : HMS Avenger
Date of Death: 15/11/1942
Service No: C/MX 72638
Son of Arthur Frederick and Edith Grace Kebbell, of Leatherhead, Surrey.
Grave/Memorial Reference: 63, 3.

Donald Kebbell has no known grave but is named on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

HMS Avenger [account A]

This vessel was built in the USA at Sun Shipbuilding, Chester, Pennsylvania, and laid down as mercantile Rio Hudson, where she was launched 27 November 1940 and subsequently converted as BAVG-2. She was transferred to the RN and commissioned 2 March 1942. Following sea trials, she left New York in a tanker convoy. On arrival in the Clyde in May 1942 she went immediately into dockyard hands to have her flight-deck lengthened by 42 feet to allow Swordfish aircraft to take off with a full load of weapons and fuel.

Avenger's war service commenced on 3 September, when she left Scapa Flow on her first official active duty, as an escort to convoy PQ18 to the north of Russia, where her aircraft sank the German submarine U589 on 14 September with the assistance of the destroyer HMS Faulknor.

She arrived back in Scapa Flow on 3 October after a very active first operation. Her Swordfish had flown 32 sorties and attacked 6 of the 16 U-Boats sighted, while the Hurricanes had destroyed and damaged 26 aircraft in 31 combats during 59 sorties. They had engaged German U-Boats, flying boats, Junkers Ju88 bombers and Heinkel He111 bombers. In all 13 merchant ships were lost, but the convoy claimed 42 German aircraft destroyed.

In her second operation, Avenger took part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. She left the Clyde on 22 October with her sister-ship Biter and the Fleet Carrier Victorious, to join the slow assault convoy KMS1. On 7 November, Avenger left the convoy and sailed to join HMS Argus off Algiers. From here, the combined ships' 30 Sea Hurricanes and Seafires would provide fighter cover for landings planned for dawn on 8 November. No airborne opposition was encountered on 8 or 9 November and the Vichy French in Algiers surrendered earlier than expected. The Royal Air Force assumed responsibility for air defence, and with her aircraft ashore, Avenger was excused from duties. On 10 November she entered Algiers harbour to undertake repairs to problems with her engines, which had reduced her maximum speed to only 14 knots.

After taking part in the Operation Torch landings of North Africa in November 1942, she departed Gibraltar with convoy MFK 1(Y) on 14 November, heading home to the Clyde in the UK. The Convoy consisted of HM ships Almaak, Argus, Avenger, Dempo, Etterick, Letitia, Macharda, Orbita, Samuel Chase, and Ulster Monarch.

At 0305 on 15 November, Avenger was torpedoed by the German U-Boat U-155, along with two other escorting merchant ships, Ettrick which sank, and Almaak, which was damaged. Avenger was hit on the port side amidships, which in turn ignited her bomb room, blowing out the centre section of the ship. Her bow and stern sections rose in the air and sunk within 2 minutes, leaving only 12 survivors. The wreck is located in the North Atlantic, 45nm S of Cape Santa Maria, Portugal.

HMS AVENGER (November 15, 1942) [account B]

British escort carrier (13,785 tons) built in the United States as the passenger liner Rio Hudson. Transferred to the United Kingdom under Lend-Lease and later converted to an auxiliary aircraft carrier in March, 1942. While in convoy from North Africa to the Clyde in Scotland, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-155 just west of the Rock of Gibralter (87 kilometers south of Faro, Portugal). The Avenger had been taking part in the North Africa landings before sailing for home.

At approx. 0307hrs the Avenger, part of Convoy MKF-1, was hit on the port side causing her bomb magazine to explode and blowing out the center section of the ship. Enveloped in flames and black smoke, the Avenger sank in less than two minutes after the torpedo hit. Sixty seven officers, including her captain, Cdr. A. P. Colthurst, and 446 ratings went down with the ship, a total of 514 men. Twelve survivors were picked up by the escorting destroyer HMS Glaisdale.

The U-155 (Korvkpt. Adolf Piening (1910-1984) survived the war and was scuttled during Operation Deadlight.

Chatham Naval Memorial

After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided. An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. After the Second World War it was decided that the naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead without graves of that war, but since the three sites were dissimilar, a different architectural treatment was required for each. The architect for the Second World War extension at Chatham was Sir Edward Maufe (who also designed the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede) and the additional sculpture was by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. Chatham Naval Memorial commemorates more than 8,500 sailors of the First World War and over 10,000 from the Second World War. In total 18613 casualties are named.

Information on his time in the Leatherhead area is being sought - please contact the editor if you can help.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry

Fleet Air Arm Archive - HMS Avenger (from which the above account A is summarised)

George Duncan's Maritime Disasters of WW2 - 1942, 1943 (from which the above account B is quoted)

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him , his name on Chatham Naval Memorial
and of any recollections within his family.

last updated 22 November 2005: CWGC links updated 7 Nov 17