HMS Broke was a Thornycroft type flotilla leader of the Royal Navy. She was the second of four ships of this class that were ordered from J I Thornycroft in April 1918, and was originally named Rooke after Rear Admiral Sir George Rooke of the Dutch Wars and the Battle of Vigo Bay.
The naturalist Peter Scott, among the ship's crew in 1940, conducted experiments in ship camouflage, having the two sides of Broke painted in different patterns.
She was laid down in October 1918 at Woolston, Hampshire by J I Thornycroft and launched on 16 September 1920. Her name was changed to Broke in April 1921, after Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Broke (/ˈbrʊk/). Broke was moved to the Royal Dockyard at Pembroke Dock for completion, but was not completed until 1925. She was commissioned on 15 April 1925.
On 2 September 1937, Broke, based at Plymouth, was sent to investigate an SOS signal from the South African merchant ship Sherard Osborn in the Bay of Biscay. The Captain of Sherard Osborn had sent the signal fearing an imminent mutiny owing to an overtime dispute and poor conditions aboard the ship, but invervention by Broke was not needed.
At the outbreak of war, Broke was part of the 29th Division, 15th Destroyer Flotilla. She was assigned to convoy protection duty, transferring to the Western Approaches Command at Plymouth in October. During this period, she escorted merchant ships on the north- and south-bound Gibraltar and South Atlantic routes.
In June 1940, Broke was involved in the evacuation of France, assisting in Operation Cycle, the evacuation and demolition of St Nazaire and the French Biscay ports.
In July 1940, she joined 6th Escort Group, and returned to escort duty, on both the Gibraltar and South Atlantic, and the east- and west-bound North Atlantic route. In this role, Broke was engaged in all the duties performed by escort ships; protecting convoys, searching for and attacking U-boats which attacked ships in convoy, and rescuing survivors. She operated in this role the next two and a half years. During this time, she escorted 30 north-south convoys, two of which were attacked. Among the crew in July 1940 was naturalist, artist and camoufleur Peter Scott. He had the ship experimentally camouflaged, differently on the two sides. To starboard, the ship was painted blue-grey all over, but countershaded with white in naturally shadowed areas. To port, the ship was painted in "bright pale colours" to combine some disruption of shape with the ability to fade out during the night, again with shadowed areas painted white.
She also escorted 27 east-west convoys, seven of which were attacked. In October 1941, Broke formed part of the escort for Convoy ONS 29 when she collided with the destroyer Verity. Badly damaged by this collision, Broke was converted to a short-range escort while being repaired. When Broke emerged from repair in March 1942, three 4.7 inch guns were removed, to be replaced by a hedgehog anti-submarine projector and six 20 mm Oerlikon cannon, with Type 272 radar and HF/DF also fitted. Broke was involved in one major battle on the North Atlantic route in August 1942; when SC 94 was attacked. SC 94 saw 11 ships sunk and two U-boats destroyed in a six-day running battle; Broke joined the escort on 9 August, her commander, Arthur Layard, assuming command for the last three days of the battle. Although attacked by the U-boat U-595, the U-boat's torpedoes missed and Broke was undamaged.
On 8 November 1942 Broke, together with the destroyer Malcolm took part Operation Terminal, part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. In "Terminal", the two destroyers, which were under the overall command of Captain Henry Fancourt were to attempt to land infantry directly onto the portside in Algiers in the hope of capturing the port facilities and preventing their destruction by the Vichy French forces. It was hoped that either complete surprise would be achieved or that the defenders would support the invasion to the extent at least of refusing to fire on the attackers. However, the Vichy forces opened fire on the ships, damaging them heavily. Malcolm was forced to withdraw, but Broke had better luck. On her third attempt, she sliced through the boom and succeeded in landing her troops under fire on the Quai de Fécamp, four hours after the operation started. Broke continued to receive heavy fire and was forced to withdraw at 10:30. Broke was again hit by shore batteries when withdrawing which compounded on earlier damage. She was taken in tow by the destroyer Zetland, but sank two days later on 10 November at position 36.50N 00.40E.
During her service Broke was awarded four battle honours:North Sea 1939
North Africa 1942