Rendel, Reginald Aubrey

He was the elder son of Commander (retired) Herbert Leopold Rendel RN, JP, of Brook House, Appleton Thorn, Warrington, Cheshire. His mother, (Marjorie) Rowan Rendel, was the daughter of Evan Powell of Mapperley, Nottinghamshire. He was the brother of Guy Dacres Rendel (G1939-43) and came to Sergeant’s in January 1935. He was a keen photographer and was Secretary of the Photographic Society. He reached the highest division on the Science side, and afterwards was a School Prefect.

He left Winchester in July 1940 and soon afterwards began his training as an Ordinary Seaman, for which he had previously volunteered.   In January 1941 he went to the Mediterranean in HMS Queen Elizabeth, and after a period of active service returned to the take the Officers’ Course in HMS King Alfred. On passing out as Sub-Lieutenant in February 1942, he was appointed to HMS Edinburgh, in which he served until she was lost in action on convoy operations to Russia. He was wounded in this action, and was for a time in hospital in Russia. He subsequently saw much service in HMS Scylla, both in Northern and in Arctic waters, and was in her on D-Day off the coast of Normandy in her role as a flagship of the assault forces. He was promoted Lieutenant in May 1944, and, being anxious to gain small ship experience, he was appointed to the frigate HMS Capel, in which he served until killed in action on December 26th 1944.

The Capel was one of the vessels which escorted SS Leopoldville across the English Channel on Christmas Eve 1944, as part of convoy EG1. The Leopoldville was a passenger liner, launched in John Cockerill Shipyards, USA, on September 26th 1928. Until May 1940 she had plied a route between between Antwerp and the Belgian Congo. When Belgium was invaded, the Leopoldville was requisitioned by the Allies to serve as a troop transport. By the day of her loss, she had carried 125,000 Allied soldiers.

On December 24th 1944, 2235 soldiers of the US 66th Infantry Division came aboard the Leopoldville at Southampton, bound for Cherbourg. During the trip, no practice was given by the crew to the soldiers concerning evacuation regulations, life boats or life-jackets. A few minutes before 1800, a torpedo, launched by the German submarine U486, struck the ship in the middle of her starboard side. Despite the fact that the Leopoldville was only five nautical miles off Cherbourg, her captain prefered to moor rather than to enter the harbour. The crew began to abandon ship, but most of the troops did not know that she was sinking. At 1900 the destroyer HMS Brilliant came alongside and rescued numerous people. The others vessels escorting the Leopoldville – including the Capel – lost precious time searching for U486, and coastal rescue vessels came late and in small numbers.  At 2030, when the Leopoldville went down by the stern in 180 feet of water, 808 men, mostly soldiers (763), were lost with her. It was the single worst loss of US troops from U-boat attack.

Capel and HMS Affleck continued the hunt for U486 for two days. U486, a Type VIIc U-boat captained by Oberleutnant Gerhard Meyer, and on her first operational patrol, then also sank both British ships. These sinkings – like that of the Leopoldville – were not publicized, because the Allied authorities were embarrassed at being caught off-guard in an area which they controlled; the true story of the sinkings was not fully revealed until 1996. Capel, commanded by Lieutenant B.G. Heslop DSC, was torpedoed at 1237 on December 26th 1944, and sank by the stern. The torpedo struck the forward magazine, the explosion removing a large section of the bow. One crew member later recalled that, as a result of the explosion, the mast collapsed over the funnel, trapping the two sailors (both Welshman) who had been in the crow’s nest as lookouts. Unlike the Leopoldville, which sank in darkness, the Capel sank during daylight; photographs exist of her sinking. When it was clear that the ship was sinking, sailors made safe the depth charges by dismantling the fuses before the Capel went down (there have been recent concerns about the danger that her unexploded munitions might cause). Some survivors were in the water for about three hours until picked up by American coastal vessels and taken to the former German Naval Hospital in Cherbourg. Nine officers – including Heslop and Rendel – and sixty-eight sailors died. The Affleck was also sunk by a torpedo fired by U486. The U-boat used ‘Gnats’ (acoustic homing torpedos). U486 returned safely to her base in Bergen, Norway, on January 15th 1945. She was finally sunk with all forty-eight hands (including Meyer) on April 12th 1945, in the North Sea, north-west of Bergen by torpedoes from the British submarine HMS Tapir.

Rendel was twenty-two when he was killed, and with no grave is commemorated in panel 88, column 1 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Rendel
  • Forenames or initials: Reginald Aubrey
  • House: G
  • Years in School: 1935-1940
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
  • Date of Birth: 18th February 1922
  • Date of Death: 26th December 1944
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner B1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 88, Column 1