Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS KEPPEL

Warship Weeks

Rugby adopts HMS Keppel

Warships Week 28 February - 7 March 1942

Between October 1941 and the end of March 1942, Warships Weeks were organised in cities, towns and villages throughout Great Britain.  The intention was to raise a sum by investment or deposit in all types of war savings representing the cost of building one of His Majesty’s ships ranging from the smallest to the largest vessels.  Once the target had been raised the community adopted the vessel along with its crew and the bond was strengthened by presentations in recognition of the money raised. Adoption plaques were presented by the Admiralty to the community and a plaque presented by the community to the adopted vessel. Links were maintained by the writing of letters and the provision of comforts and whenever possible visits were arranged to the adopting area.

Most of the V&W Class destroyers in commission with the Royal Navy were adopted during the Warship Week scheme and in a number of cases local sea cadet units later took the name of the ship. To find more about Warship Weeks see Dr Peter Schofield’s article on ‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’.


Caldecot Park, Rugby
The Echo sculpture by Hilary Cartmel in Caldecot Park replaced a Victorian sculpture of a scantily clad girl which disppeared in the middle of the 20th century.
Pictures of England - photographed by Jenny Fairbrother

Rugby and HMS Keppel

Rugby in Warwickshire is famous for the game of Rugby and for Rugby School where the game originated but is less well known as a town. HMS Kepel was adopted by Rugby in March 1942. HMS Keppel was larger than a standard V & W Class destroyer with the extras facilities required by a Flotilla Leader. She was one of five Shakespeare Class Leaders built by Thorneycroft at Woolston, a subhurb of Southampton.  In March 1942 HMS Keppel was based at Londonderry in Northern Ireland escorting Atlantic convoys. I am hoping that a naval enthusiast or local historian in Rugby will take up the challenge of researching her history from being commissioned in 1925 to going to the breakers yard at Barrow in 1945. For further  details see the advice given here and contact Bill Forster for more information.

Warships Week in Rugby
  28 February - 7 March 1942
Rugby Urban District (UD) and and Rural District (RD) raised 471,215 to adopt the Shakespeare Class Flotilla Leader HMS Keppel
The Admiralty presented Rugby with the ship's crest mounted on a wooden shield - please get in touch if you know where it is now

The following account of Warships Week in Rugby by Patricia Webb was published in Volume 8 of Aspects of the Past by the Rugby Local History Research Group

For several weeks beforehand The Rugby Advertiser carried the slogan:

"Clearing the Decks for HMS Keppel,
Spare all you can and yet spare nothing!
The call is Urgent, the need Vital."

Originally the sum of 210,000 was the target, but the fund began with donations from local businesses to the total of 120,000 in the first few days, BTH gave 20,000, Rugby Building Society the same and in stiff competition with Leamington Spa ther target sum was upped to 350,000. A large thermometer was errected on The Clock Tower so people could see the amount increasing dailly.

The Mayor Alderman J.H. Mellor and Mr G.R. Walker the Chairman of the Rural District Council organised a huge street procession on Saturday 28th to start the week off and raise the profile. Led by the Bilton Brass, BTH Military and Rugby Steam Shed Band the parade left the Fairground (now the cattle market site) at 2,30 pm prompt and proceeded through the town. All military Groups were represented, plus Civil Defence, Youth Clubs, Church Groups, almost all Community Groups took part in some way or another, and the event was hailed as a resounding suiccess.

Spread around town were exhibits of weapons. photos in the library, Film Shows and at the Church House a Revue aptly names "All Clear". In the Temple Speech Room a wonderful concert and gymnastic display was performed by the Czechoslovakian Army Choir and gymnasts, all were trained soldiers but they did this in gratitude to Rugby for their kind hopitality. Paddy Richardson Warden of the TOC H Hostel in Hilmorton Road gave a Grand Ball on the last day and raised 80.

"Save Till it Hurts
Make your war effort help our peace aims"
Hospital of St Cross

"Put your shirt on Britain
Let us see you in vests"
Squires Men's Outfitters

"Smash the Huns you Rugby Sons
Lend lots and show your mettle
A Hull's no good without the guns
Let's BUY the good ship KEPPEL"
Harrison's Music Shop

By the end of the week the massive sum of 471,215 had been raised, this equated to about 8 per head of Rugby's population, this was said to be three-quarters of the total cost of the ship "stem to stern". The First Lord of the Admiralty and the Chancellor of the Exchequer thanked Rugby; a plaque to commemorate the week is held in Rugby Museum and the Town Hall. Despite this massive effort the only disappointment was that Leamington managed to beat Rugby by raising 649,371.

Rugby challenged Leamington Spa to see which town would raise the most money during their Warships Weeks
Leamington accepted the challenge but on the basis of money raised per head as Rugby's population exceeded that of Leamington Spa

  Warships Week in Leamington Spa
 7 - 14 March 1942
Leamington Spa raised 665,006 to adopt the Town Class Destroyer HMS Leamington which was built in the USA and "fought under four flags"
In November 1942 she was transferred to  the Canadian Navy and in 1944 to the USSR and renamed Renamed Zguchij (Burning)
She served with the Northern Fleet until 1951 when she returned to Britain and was chartered from the ship breakers by the producers of the film "Gift Horse" based on the St Nazaire Raid which can be seen on YouTube
The Admiralty presented Leamington Spa with the ship's crest mounted on a wooden shield which hangs in ithe council chamber of  the Town Hall.

Trevor Howard on the bridge of Leamington Spa's adopted ship
HMS Leamington (G19)
HMS Leamington (G19) prior to her transfer to Russia
HMS Leamington in Gift Horse
Trevor Howard on the bridge of HMS Ballantrae in the film "Gift Horse" (1952) after her return

The Rugby Advertiser and the Leamington Spa Courier
 reported on the competition between their towns

Rugby Advertiser
Friday 19 December 1941

In just over two months-time Rugby will begin its challenge match against Leamington.  The match is to raise the largest amount during the respective Warship Weeks.  Rugby’s week will be 28 February to 6 March, a week before their opponents.  Rugby’s target is 210,000, the hull of a destroyer.  When Leamington accepted Rugby’s challenge they did so on the basis of the amount per head of the estimated population, and not on the total raised.  As Rugby’s population is bigger, it means they must raise about forty per cent more than Leamington to win.

Leamington Spa Courier
Friday 6 February 1942

Rugby Follows Our Lead – Writing to the Chairman of the Rugby Warship Week Committee: You will probably interested to know that, following your lead, we have decided to raise our ‘target’ to 350,000, and that our challenge still stands.  I hope the friendly rivalry benefits both our Warship Week efforts.

Rugby Advertiser
Tuesday 3 March 1942

We had to close the ranks, and one way of doing that was by making certain that Rugby Warship Week was a great success, and that the target was not only reached but passed.  Rugby had thrown down a challenge to Leamington, and must make the race so hot that they would doubt their chance of success.  If his audience redoubled their best efforts, they would make it three-quarters of a million, and would be able to buy two Keppel’s.  Or if that was beyond them, they would buy one Keppel and one corvette.  

Leamington Spa Courier
Friday 13 March 1942

By Wednesday, Leamington’s Warship Week target of 350,000 had been exceeded, and a new objective was being aimed at.  Up to 1100 this morning 477,000 had been subscribed; thus, Leamington has beaten Rugby, whose figure was 464,574 (471,215 final).  Leamington final figure 665,006.

Rugby Advertiser
Friday 20 March 1942

Messages of congratulation on Rugby and District’s (UD and RD) Warship Week total of 471,215 have been received from the Regional Commissioner for Saving.

Rugby Advertiser
Friday 27 March 1942

Rugby Warship Week result revealed the highest proportion of small savings in the region.  Rugby’s figure was nearly 50 per cent, and Bedworth the next highest was forty percent.  This result is due to excellent work by schools, village groups, and industrial and street groups.

Rugby Advertiser
Friday 10 April 1942

The Mayor of Rugby has received a letter from Lord Kindersley, President of the National Savings Committee:

"I am writing to ask you to accept personally, and to convey to all others who contributed to the success of Rugby Warship Week, my warmest thanks and appreciation.  ‘This fine effort, resulting in the adoption of HMS Keppel, will not only forge a closer link between the people of Rugby and the Royal Navy, but will also provide a lasting record of their patriotism."

The outcome of the contest was a convincing win for Leamington Spa which raised 15 15s 10d per head, twice as much as Rugby.
Rugby r
aised 7 14s 9d per head but  had "the highest proportion of small savings in the region".
The people of Leamington Spa were wealthy and invested their money wisely in the booming war economy.

"The large savers were the ones who could invest in National Savings Bonds at higher rates of interest and this included Councils.  The small saver was Joe Public who bought National Savings Certificates and Stamps. Warship Week Targets would never have been met without the investment of the large concerns.  The idea was to stop people squandering money as the government needed all they could get their hands on for the war.  The 'Squander Bug' was constantly seen in papers and on posters.  Schoolchildren bought Savings Stamps and were an influence on their parents to save, it was all driven by propaganda;" Dr Peter Schofield.

Rugby's Small Savers were not "Squander Bugs"

Shield with Crest of HMS Keppel
The crest of HMS Keppel on a wooden shield presented to Rugby Rural District Council
The shield and the bell of a later HMS Keppel are on display in the Town Hall
The Squander Bug - A poster tio promote National Savings for the War
This propaganda image of the "Squanderbug"  created by Philip Boydell to boost the National Savings programme was created in 1943 but the sentiment reflects the spirit behind Warship Weeks and similar programmes.
IWM PST 3406
The bell of HMS Keppel 1956
The bell of the Frigate HMS Keppel (F85) 1956
Her bell was given to Rugby when she was scrapped

The villages also played their part and their parish councils were awarded certificates


Marton, a village midway between Rugby and Leamington Spa, hung its certificate in the Village Hall but it seems to have been 'mislaid' Does anybody know where it is?

Rugby Advertiser
Friday 15 October 1943

This week a certificate presented by the Lords of the Admiralty was received by the civil parish of Marton to commemorate the adoption of HMS Keppel during Warship Week, March 1942.  When framed this  certificate, measuring 13ins, by 8 ins, will make a valuable addition to the certificates already hanging in the village hall.


The village of Wibtoft is on the A5 ten miles north of Rugby; the county line between Warwickshire and Leicestershire runs through the parish.

The incribed scroll presented to Wibtoft hangs on the wall at the west end of the Chapel of St Mary where it was photographed by LeicesterPhoto.
The scroll presented to Wibtoft on the adoption of HMS Keppel by Rugby in 1942
Many of the certificates were  scripted by John Buchanan, an artist born without hands
Marton and Wibtoft are unlikely to be the only 'civic parishes' presented with scrolls for their contributions to Rugby's Warship Week

Keppel was the third ship in the Royal Navy to be named after Admiral Augustus Keppel (1725 - 86) who was ten years old when he joined the Navy and nineteen when he became a Captain
The ships crest of a golden cockle shell on a red field is based on the coat of arms of Admiral Keppel and the motto No Cede malls - Yield not to Evil - is taken from Virgil and is the Keppel family motto

HMS Keppel
HMS Keppel
Copoyright reserved

Commander "Jack" Broome was the CO of HMS Keppel in March 1942 when his ahip was adopted by Rugby. He was the best known of the COs of Keppel, not only as an anti-submarine specialist and Leader of the First Escort Group for Atlantic Convoys, but also as a cartoonist whose cartoons it up the dull pages of the Western Approaches Convoy Instructions (WACI) and made "those clots at sea look at the bloody book" (Sir Percy Noble, CiC WAC).

In  July 1942 Jack Broome, Cdr John E Broome RN, was unfairly  blamed for ordering Arctic Convoy PQ17 to scatter which led to the loss of 34 of the 37 ships in the convoy. In 1970 when David Irving wrote his book about the biggest convoy disaster of the Second World War he was sued for slander by Jack Broome. He won his case but never collected the 30,000 damages awarded.
Two years later Jack Broome gave his own account of Convoy PQ.17 in Convoy is to Scatter (Kimber, 1972).

Keppel returned to escorting Arctic Convoys in 1943 as Leader of the 8th Escort Group and in June 1944 escorted convoys to the D-Day Landings in Normandy. In  August 1944 HMS Keppel led the close escort for Arctic Convoy JW59 which included the former Battleship HMS Royal Sovereign renamed  Arkhangelsk (but known as the 'Royal Rouble') and nine former Town Class destroyers manned by Russian sailors which had been transferred to the USSR and were joining the Northern Fleet at Murmansk. One of these was HMS Leamington which had been adopted by Leamington Spa a week after Rugby adopted HMS Keppel in March 1942 and was now named Zhgouchy - Burning.

In 1944
Cdr R.N.R. Ismay J. Tyson, RN, the CO of HMS Keppel, with Lt M.R. Simpson RN and six ratings including Able Seamen Pritchard who had been to the town before visited Rugby for a weekend in March 1945 and were entertained by the Mayor, Cllr W.R. Davis. Thery were shown around Rugby School by the Headmaster. They brought with them a somewhat tattered "white ensign flag" that had been flown during many of their Murmansk convoys which was presented to  the Mayor. A lengthy report on the visit appeared in the Advertiser on the 25th March. The Coventry Telegraph also mentioned the presentation of the ensign flown by Keppel on Arctic Covoys but got the dates wrong:

Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday 29 January 1970 – The current High Court hearing of a libel action arising from David Irving’s book about the biggest convoy disaster of the Second World War, must have rung a bell in the minds of many older Rugby people.  Captain Jack Broome, who is suing the author and publishers of ‘The Destruction of Convoy PQ 17,’ was known in the town and his destroyer, HMS Keppel, was Rugby’s adopted warship at the time.  After a successful National Savings drive, Rugby adopted Keppel shortly before the ill-fated convoy sailed from Hvalfjord, Iceland, on 27 June 1942.  Only a fortnight before a large number of merchant seamen and their ships met their end in the icy waters of the Artic, Captain Broome sent two of his men to Rugby with gifts – a White Ensign and a replica of Keppel’s crest.  Some dignitaries visited the destroyer in harbour.

A glass case in the Town Hall contains the crest of the ship mounted on a wooden shield presented by the Admiralty to Rugby Rural Council with a short history of the ship adopted by Rugby in March 1942 but the white ensign presented to the Mayor has not been traced. If you know where it is today do  get in touch with Bill Forster by e-mail.

The inscribed plate on the shield presewnted by thge Admiralty to Rugby ion adopting HMS Keppel afteer Warships Week in March 1942

Click on the link to hear Joseph Bennet, a stoker in HMS Keppel,
describing Keppel's time on Arctic Convoys and at the D-Day Landing in Normandy
on reels 4 - 9 of a sound recording in the the Imperial War Museum, London.

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Keppel you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link:

If you have stories or photographs of HMS Keppel you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster

Return to the Home Page for HMS Keppel

Return to the Home Page of the V & W Destroyer Association
Return to the Index Page for the 69 V & W Class Destroyers
Return to the Home Page for Warship Weeks