The Domiat also known as the Damietta formally the HMS Nith
The Domiat was originally built by Henry Robb Limited at Leith Scotland for the British Navy and commissioned on the 25 September 1942 as the corvette HMS Nith K215.
The Nith saw active service in World War two, she was bombed by an experimental unmanned guided bomb (Mistal) developed by the Germans and also served against the Japanese in Rangoon.
In November 1948 she was sold to the Egyptian government in and renamed the Domiat which is the common name (or old name) for the Egyptian city of Damietta.
In 1956 the Egyptian Government were illegally blockading the Red Sea to Israel and not allowing Israeli ships through the Suez Canal (1) This instigated a secret meeting between the Governments of Israel, Britain and France. The idea was for Israel to attack Sinai and the British and French would intervene and demand that hostilities cease. The Israelis would agree but they knew that the Egyptian government under General Nasser would never agree, giving the British and French an excuse to enter with troops and take control the Suez Canal.
In preparation the British Ships HNS Newfoundland and HMS Diana were ordered to the Aden and awaited further orders.
On the 28 October they sailed in secret up the Red Sea and on the morning of the 30 October the captain of the Newfoundland, Captain Hamilton ordered to “Action Working Dress” which was a problem for some of the officers who had for a long time not bothered to pack this kit and one turned out in a silk shirt.
On the 31 October they were at Cruising stations with anti aircraft readiness and in the Evening went to full action stations. They had been tipped off that an Egyptian Warship was mine laying in the Gulf of Suez and harassing neutral merchant shipping.
Captain Hamilton pointed to a contact on the Radar and said “That one looks fishy” (2) then it was guns ready and lights on. The Egyptian Frigate Domiat was 1400 yards away (1280 Meters). She had been warned and acknowledged the signal to “Stop or I will fire” by the Newfoundland. The Domiat turned towards the Newfoundland preparing to ram them and the crew could be seen running on the deck to man their guns.
Hamilton gave the order to shoot but the gunnery officer couldn’t believe that he was being ordered to shoot at an actual ship. Hamilton had to order him to “Open Fire”, then the midshipman hesitated as he could see a ship but it didn’t look like the ones that he had been drilled to expect. His hesitation was over when the transmitting station shouted “pull the fucking trigger” There was a “WOOMFAH” as the broadside of the Newfoundland let loose, every ten seconds this was repeated. The Domiat returned fire but she was a small ship compared to the Newfoundland. The Diana had joined in and after nine broadsides the Domiat was visibly sinking. The time was 01.30 on the 1 November 1956
Sixty Nine survivors were plucked from the water and they confirmed that the Domiat had indeed been carrying mines.
The sinking of the Domiat in the Gulf of Suez is the last time that a ship was sunk by traditional warship gunfire from another ship. HMS Newfoundland was all in the press and HMS Diana didn’t get a mention.
- Image By Royal Navy official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons