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HMS Porcupine: The Warship That Became Two

In 1939, the British Royal Navy ordered Vickers-Armstrongs on the River Tyne to build a new P-class destroyer named HMS Porcupine. The ship was delivered in June 1941, but it wasn’t until the summers of 1942, that HMS Porcupine was placed in active service.

On December 9, 1942, HMS Porcupine was escorting the depot ship HMS Maidstone from Gibraltar to Algiers, when it encountered a German U-boat northeast of Oran. The U-boat fired four torpedoes at Maidstone and missed, but one hit Porcupine and nearly blew her in half.

The stern half of HMS Porcupine being towed into Portsmouth, where it became HMS Pine.

Porcupine was being manned by a crew of 11 at the time of the attack. Seven of them perished in an instant, but by some miracle, the torpedo missed the ship’s vital components and was left afloat. The badly damaged destroyer was towed to the port city of Oran in Algiers, where an examination concluded that the ship was unrepairable. The dockworkers then cut the ship into two, stripped her of her armament, mountings, etc., patched the holes up and towed both halves as individual ships to Portsmouth, where they were rechristened, in typical British humor, HMS Pork (the bow end) and HMS Pine (the rear end). At Portsmouth, both ships were reconfigured as accommodation hulks and commissioned as Landing Craft Bases at Stokes Bay, near Portsmouth. Two years later, they were reused as tender vessels for shore installations, and finally scrapped in 1947.

The forward section of the hulk of HMS Porcupine, known informally as HMS Pork

During the invasion of Normandy, the support merchant ship Harpagus encountered a somewhat similar fate. She struck a mine off Arromanches-les-Bains, which blew her in two. The front section sank, but the stern was salvaged and towed back to the UK, where she was repaired and nicknamed Halfpagus. Her life as Halfpagus, however, was short-lived, for she soon received an entirely new bow and was re-launched as Treworlas.

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