Following the abdication of King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972), Mountbatten continued his Naval career against the back-drop of the changing circumstances in Europe and the fear of another World War. In 1939 (just 10 days before Britain declared War with Germany) Mountbatten was promoted to the rank of Captain and took command of HMS Kelly – a new K-class destroyer, of which he would be forever associated with. One of his first missions was on 12th September 1939 to go to and collect his cousin 'David' - The Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and his wife from Le Harve, France and return them to England under the specific personal orders from the then Prime Minister, later The Rt Hon. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
The Ship's badge
of HMS Kelly
A painting of HMS Kelly in 1939 by Montague Dawson
A short film by British Movietone News
about HMS Kelly being torpedoed in 1940 during the Battle of Norway
Mountbatten on the bridge of HMS Kelly
Mountbatten’s time on board HMS Kelly was often dangerous and eventful. During one of her first missions – to escort rescue tugs from mines off the Tyne estuary, HMS Kelly was struck by a mine and she sustained damage to her hull and in the end was towed back to port by one of the very tugs she was employed to escort.
In May 1940 during the Battle of Norway, HMS Kelly was torpedoed and severely damaged and whilst being towed back was attacked by E-boats and bombers. The Navy Controller stated in his report that she survived “not only by the good seamanship of the officers and men but also on account of the excellent workmanship which ensured the water tightness of the other compartments. A single defective rivet might have finished her." HMS Kelly was repaired and was not fit again for active service until December 1940 and during this time Mountbatten led his flotilla in other ships including HMS Javelin – until she too succumbed to damage. HMS Kelly re-joined the flotilla and sailed for the Mediterranean with Mountbatten in command, arriving in Malta in April 1941.
During the evacuation of Crete, HMS Kelly was bombed and sunk on 23rd May 1941, with half her crew killed. The survivors were deeply affected by the loss of their ship. Their Captain - Mountbatten, shared their loss and tried to console the ship's company by reminding them that "we didn't leave the Kelly, the Kelly left us!"
Among the graves in Hebburn Cemetery is the collective grave of 20 sailors who were killed on 9th May 1940 when HMS Kelly was torpedoed whilst in action against German E-boats in the North Sea. Mountbatten wrote - “none of us will forget how members of the Yard contributed to the Memorial which was put up in the Hebburn Cemetery, or the kindness and sympathy of those who tended the grave. There is a strong mutual bond between the men who build our ships and the men who sail in them and fight in them; and this has perhaps never been more clearly shown than it was between us in the Kelly and you in the Yard”.