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

The Liberation of Norway:
HMS VALOROUS (L00) and HMS VENOMOUS (I75) at Kristiansand

Operation Conan

Operation Conan was the Royal Navy's contribution to Operation Apostle, the liberation of Norway after the formal surrender of German forces at Oslo on the 9 May:

"On the 13 May, the Royal Navy initiated Operation Conan, sending two destroyers to each of the intended ports of entry, Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromso and numbers of MTBs from Lerwick to smaller towns along the coast. The destroyers carried with them the naval officers in command (NOIC) of the various ports, naval disarmament parties and small elements of air and military staffs from Britain".  British Policy and Strategy towards Norway; Christopher Mann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), page 209.

The entry ports and their NOIC were: Oslo (Capt C.R.V. Pugh RN), Stavanger (Capt R.St.V. Sherbrooke RN VC DSO), Kristiansand (Capt Lord Teynham RN), Bergen (Capt B D Nicholson RNVR) and Trondheim (Capt J H Ruck-Keene RN). On the 12 May the Flag Officer Norway, Rear Admiral J.S.McL. Ritchie RN, left for Oslo with the cruiser HMS Devonshire, the minelaying cruisers Apollo (with Crown Prince Olav on board) and Ariadne, and four destroyers (Iroquis, Savage, Scourge and Arundel).

On the 13 May eight  destroyers in the Rosyth Escort Force were sent to Kristiansand South (HMS Valorous  and HMS Venomous with three Norwegian minesweepers), Stavanger (HMS Wolsey and HMS Wolfhound), Bergen (HMS Woolston, HMS Vivacious and the corvette, HMS Acanthus) and Trondheim (HMS Mackay and HMS Viceroy). Local surrender ceremonies were held aboard these destroyers of the Rosyth Escort Force in the four harbours on Norway's west coast.


Lt Cdr J A J Dennis DSC RN
CO of HMS Valorous at Kristiansand in May 1945

Cdr JAJ Dennis RNAlec Dennis is mainly remembered today as the young lieutenant on HMS Griffin who captured the secret papers from the German Q Ship Polares (disguised as a Dutch trawler) off the coast of Norway in April 1940 which helped crack the Enigma code. He joined HMS Griffin in January 1939 and took part in the Norwegian campaign and evacuations from the Netherlands and St Nazaire. In the Mediterranean Griffin escorted convoys to Malta and took part in the Battle of Matapan and the evacuations from Greece and Crete, where he won his DSC, and after Japan entered the war in the Indian Ocean. He became First Lieutenant on HMS Savage in February 1943, escorted Arctic Convoys to Russia and was Mentioned in Despatches (MID) in March 1944 for his part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape. In June 1944 HMS Savage supported the Normandy landings.

In December 1944 he was given command of the V&W Class destroyer, HMS Valorous, escorting East Coast convoys from Rosyth on the Firth of Forth to Sheerness on the Thames estuary. He married in January 1945, was promoted to Lt Cdr on the 1 May and MID for the third time on the 8 May for fighting off E-Boats attacking a convoy on the 21 February 1945. After the surrender of the German forces at Oslo on the 9 May HMS Valorous was one of eight destroyers selected to go to "entry ports" on the west coast of Normay as part of Operation Conan. HMS Valorous and HMS Venomous, were sent to Kristiansand South. His wartime service is well documented in his unpublished memoir at the Imperial War Museum and on six reels of recorded interviews at the IWM made in 1988.

**** **** ***

"Then word went around that the Rosyth Escort Force was to 'liberate' Norway, and there was much speculation about which ships would go. Being in Ruck-Keene's good books, I was lucky (so was Tom Boyd). On May 12th we embarked two or three tons of stores, some solders equipped with walkie-talkies and, eventually, Captain Lord Teynham, RN, who was to be the Senior Naval Officer, Kristiansand (South). Next morning, Valorous and Venomous (Guyon Prideaux) embarked a German naval pilot with charts of the minefields off the Norwegian coast, and off we set at 20 knots for Kristiansand. Early next morning. May 14th, we rendezvoused with some German minesweepers at the entrance to the swept channel and felt our way along the coast. We were, of course, at action stations, prepared for a nasty reception in case the local command wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. On the approach we could see some very large coast defence guns, reputed to have been taken from the Scharnhorst's sister ship the Gneisenau, which had been written off after mine and bomb damage. But everything went quietly as we entered Kristiansand fiord at 1800 to find a group of quite large camouflaged merchant ships at anchor, and a large number of U-boats, minesweepers and small craft at Marviken, around the corner. Hoisting a large Norwegian flag as well as our White Ensign at the fore and a Commodore's Broad pennant at the yardarm, I found a convenient anchorage not far from the jetty.

HMS Valorous (L00) at Kristiansand
HMS Valorous, pennant number L00 ("Lucky Loo"), moored in the harbour with White Ensign and Norwegian flag at the mast-head
A Norwegian trawler crowded with visitors is coming alongside
Courtesy of Alan Dennis

Almost at once a stream of Norwegians appeared in small boats, giving us a pretty good welcome in rather a restrained Scandinavian way. I went ashore with Teynham, to get in touch with the powers that were - Norwegian, German or British. The latter consisted of a few hundred Special Air Service men, commanded by Brigadier Mike Calvert, long known as 'Mad Mike, with a distinguished record in the war in Burma. The SAS had been flown in about four days earlier and had already got a fair grip of the situation, though vastly outnumbered. It turned out that there was a division of German soldiers - some 15,000 men, a Lieutenant General, a Vice-Admiral with 26 U-boats, and no less that 40,000 Russian prisoners of war in a camp near by. The Norwegians were already rounding up the Quislings for summary justice, and cropping the hair of such ladies as had been over-friendly with the Germans. There were quite a lot of these and at one stage we received a rather presumptuous invitation from the U- boat base to meet some of them. No reply.

I didn't like to be away from the ship too long, so I returned on board, leaving Teynham ashore to make his contacts. In due course he returned in a Norwegian boat manned (among others) by some nice-looking blond girls. He asked them down to my cabin for a drink, together with some civic dignitaries.

Lord Teynham returns by launch to HMS Valorous, 14 May 1945
Lord Teynham, fourth from left, goes ashore to "get in touch with the powers that be"
Courtesy of Alan Dennis


Almost as an afterthought he told me that he had arranged for a German surrender delegation to repair on board in half-an-hour's time. This didn't give us much time to set up a suitable venue for such high-priced visitors, ex-enemy or no. Teynham thought they'd never make it on time, anyhow. But, being German, they were on the dot and I had to keep them kicking their heels on the quarterdeck while we cleared away the Norwegians, the girls, the drinks and the tables.

German officer piped aboard HMS ValorousOfficers kept waiting on quarter deck of HMS Valorous
Officers of the Kriegsmarine are piped aboard (left) and kept waiting on the quarter deck (right) while the wardroom is cleared for the surrender ceremony
The officer in the greatcoat on the left in the group picture appears to be in charge and may be Captain Heinz Kiderlen, the naval commander for Kristiansand

Courtesy of Alan Dennis

It was quite a moment. The Germans were, as always, punctilious, correct, straight-backed, and poker-faced though clearly crest-fallen (mixed though the metaphor may be). There was no question of resistance and they were going to co-operate. Later we found that the Navy, at any rate, were half-expecting to join us against the Russians.

In general, as had already been arranged by Mike Calvert, the Germans were to ' keep their arms, take care of their own discipline while they evacuated the town and started on the road trip to Oslo and thence back to prisoner of war status in Germany. So off they went in their trucks and lorries. The SAS being clever people, set up a road block several miles out of town, and stripped them of all forms of "loot" — liquor, fur coats, binoculars, cameras and so forth. We lived for several days on champagne and liquor from all over Europe.

Next day we had a similar surrender meeting for the U-boat flotilla. There were 26 in all. I still have some numbers: U 281, 299,369, 712,1163 (TypeVII C): U 2321,2325,2334,2335,2337,2350,2353, 2354,2361,2363 (Type XXIII): and U 2529 (Type XXI). The Type XXIII and XXI were the very latest, streamlined and very fast underwater. We were indeed lucky that they had hardly been in service long enough to affect the war at sea."

War Diary, 19 May 1945
Lord Teynham, NOIC Kristiansand, listed seventeen U-Boats in his report to CiC Rosyth on the 16 May 1945
U-2529 was a 1,600 ton Type XXI diesel electric U-Boat which transferred to the Soviet Union and remained in service until 1972
Lord Teynham's report has not been located and this brief entry is from the Admiralty War Diary (ADM 199/2318, 15/5 - 31/5 1945)

Lt J.A.J. Dennis and Lt Cdr A.G.A. Prideux were mistaken in believing there was a U-Boat base at Kristiansand
but there were seventeen U-Boats moored at Marviken across the bay from Kristiansand. Captain Heinz Kiderlen had been appointed naval commander for Kristiansand South on the 6 January and may have been the senior officer at both surrender ceremonies. The surrender ceremony for the U-Boats took place aboard HMS Venomous on the 15 May. Lord Teynham, Lt J.A.J. Dennis RN and the Norwegian commander Landgraff attended. Lt Cdr A. Guyon Prideaux RNVR, described events and the ceremony in his unpublished memoir in the
Royal Navy Museum (Ref. 1997.55
). AB Fred Mercer was sent in the ship's whaler to collect the "Vice Admiral", was complimented by him on his seamanship and stayed behind in Kristiansand after Venomous left for Rosyth and returned on one of the U-Boats. The U-Boats were manned by submarine crews sent from Britain and escorted by Royal Navy ships but with a German crew member aboard to assist (except in the case of the Type XXIs e.g. U-2529 at Kristiansand). Operation Pledge planned their transfer from Norwegian ports to Loch Ryan in Scotland or Lisahally near Londonderry where they were laid up and then either allocated to allies or scuttled in accordance with Operation Deadlock.

"I walked around some of them and was tremendously impressed with their equipment, their cleanliness and the high morale of the officers and men. This was indeed remarkable considering the appalling losses they had suffered (something like four out of five of all U-Boat men). They did have a superb rest camp set-up with nothing spared in the way of comforts — far better than anything we ever saw — and were treated as heroes, something that didn't seem  to happen much at our end. They wanted to join us to fight the Russians whom they regarded as barbarians. I wonder whether they were aware of their own performance in the concentration camps. Our own SAS troops certainly were, having recently been through Belsen, which did not endear them to our present prisoners.

Thus we had no compunction in playing a rather dirty trick on them a few days later. Enough crews arrived from England to take the U-boats away. On the pretext of some announcement or other, all the German crews were got up on deck without warning. They were not allowed below again, and the boats in due course went off to the U.K. with no danger of being scuttled or destroyed, (c. f. Scapa Flow in 1919!). In fact, one went to the Russians, one to the Norwegians, the Americans and the British and the rest were eventually sunk in deep water off the Hebrides.

The Russian prisoners were another problem, fortunately not one for the Navy. 40,000 were a lot to look after. I never discovered who fed them. Many got hold of wood alcohol and drank themselves to death. German guards shot a few when they tried to break out. We were told that many had no desire to return to the USSR suspecting no doubt the fate, which waited them. But in due course they were cowed by the Commissars who wasted no time after being brought in, and I believe they were all returned to Stalin's cold embraces.


 The Norwegians were, naturally, pretty friendly. Once things settled down a bit and it was clear there would be no trouble from Germans or Russians we got little sleep. Norwegians only sleep in the winter, it seems. In a way it was hard being a recently married man. I liberated a monstrous BMW motorbike from the Germans and was able to get around the countryside a bit at the price of a few white hairs and knuckles. To tell the truth, running it on those curvy roads scared me rigid and I never got it up to full throttle.

The days were busy as we got things sorted out. But there were many parties in the evenings. One I particularly remember was a stag party at the SAS mess, which had been established on the top floor of a block of flats. There was a memorable gathering of wild men. Mike Calvert who had been a Chindit in Burma, blowing things up. Colonels Paddy Mayne, Esmond Baring and Miller-Mundy, all well known characters: and Roy Farran, a major who had once been Montgomery's ADC and after the war couldn't stop fighting and went to Israel (on whose side, I forget). I believe he later farmed in Saskatchewan, which should have cooled him down a bit. There was a lot of champagne and lobsters as usual. In some juvenile horseplay, Calvert got a large black eye, which he had to take to call on the General in Oslo the following day. I don't suppose General Urquhart minded. This was followed by some rowdy attempts to throw sandbags from the balcony onto a jeep far below. This turned out to be the Brigadier's. At this stage some sentries below, sensing a serious disturbance, fired a few shots. I retired to the inner sanctum.

It was about now that I got what was called a "Quasi-permanent" acting half- stripe, which at last lifted me out of the humble rank of Lieutenant. So many contemporaries in the other services were majors or colonels or wing commanders that it had become rather galling, especially as regards the pay, observing that many of us were in command of fair sized ships. The Admiralty were slow to do anything about it, reluctant, I am sure, to find themselves top-heavy after the war.

There were two other ceremonies of note during our stay. Norwegian National Day on May 17th was a great celebration during which we marched through the town with fixed bayonets and listened to long, incomprehensible speeches followed by some splendid parties late into the night.

HMS Valorous berthed at Kristiansand National Day
The 4 inch twin barrels of "A" Gun point menacingly at the peaceful crowd (left) and the White Ensign is held aloft as the crew parade on Norway's National Day (right)
Courtesy of Knut Męsel (left) and Alan Dennis (right)

Millaig fighter with gun Pictue Book - parade
General Urquhart and Lord Teynham, NOIC Kristiansand, inspect ratings on Norway's National Day
From A picture book of Kristiansand: Southern Norway in War and Peace, 1940-45, edited by Erik Lauritzen (Prolibro, 1988).

Then there was the funeral of some German soldiers whose car had overturned on a bend in the road. It was very well done by the Norwegians at a little, simple chapel with a violinist playing some haunting music from Grieg. That tune stays with me still. We all felt sad for those fellows who had survived everything else. Otherwise one hadn't much sympathy for the rest of them as one walked around the various barracks and posts, littered with the debris of a defeated army and smelling as always of stale cigar smoke. I picked up a Luger and a radio as a bit of loot. The radio never worked very well and eventually I threw away the Luger, which I could see no use for. It would fetch a good price today.

On May 26th we left Kristiansand for Bergen, having embarked our friends the 2nd SAS. Starting at 0300, the trip took all day and was most enjoyable. The fiords were lovely although some of the channels were tricky. Next day, it was back to Kristiansand. I was glad to be back as I had made some good Norwegian friends there, especially Asbjorn Asbjornsen, with whom sadly, I have lost touch."

Alec Dennis' memoir of his wartime service in the Royal Navy in the library of the Imperial War Museum in Londonwas published in November 2017 as
Action with Destroyers 1939-1945:The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN
edited by Anthony Cumming (Pen & Sword Maritime, 2017). ISBN 1526718499

Officers on HMS Valorous at Kristiansand

Lt. J.A.J. Dennis, RN - Commanding Officer
Surg Lt C.R. Redwood RNVR
Lt. A.E.P. Deane, RN - First Lieutenant
Sub Lt S.E. Brine, RNVR
Lt R.W.Wallis, RNVR  -  Sub Lt  R.K. Wylie, SANF
Lt G.F. Pettit, RNVR - Sub Lt(E) J. Bedford, RNVR
Lt(E) W.F. Galletly, RN - Engineering Officer

John Garforth's story ...

Grego GregsenJohn Garforth - in old ageA young seaman, AB John Garforth, was lookout on the bridge when HMS Valorous entered the harbour at Kristiansand South on the 14 May 1945. Once moored he went down on the "iron deck" (amidships) to look at the boats drawing alongside, their passengers calling out greetings and asking for cigarettes, chocolates, and other luxuries not seen for years.

As he leaned on the guard rail a launch drew alongside and a one handed man with a gun at his waist leaped aboard and headed for the wardroom. John chatted with his secretary, Kari, who was having a drink in the cabin and she explained that he was a leader of Milorg, the Norwegian resistance, who went by the name of Greggo Greggersen. I was told by Greggo's son that his father's real name was Gunnar Arnfinn Gundersen (on left) but not even Milorg knew this. He had escaped to England, been trained by the Kompani Linge and worked for the SIS. He had made about fifteen trips from Peterhead or Shetland to the West coast of Norway by fishing boat. At the end of April he came from Stockholm by fishing boat and was landed at Hovag near Kristiansand to organise a sabotage campaign code named Polar Bear. Milorg had given him eighty men and by the time the two British destroyers arrived he had taken control of the harbour. When Greggo returned to the launch John was invited to join them for a drink in the cabin and encouraged to visit them ashore.

As soon as HMS Valorous had berthed John Garforth and two ratings were sent to man a telephone exchange at a communication centre abandoned by the "Stappo" (state police) at 30 Festningsgaten to provide communication for the military and civil authorities. They were joined by a soldier from a Welsh regiment of Engineers who shared their watches. Paddy Mayne, a "huge bloke with a ginger beard", and the officers of the 1st SAS (Special Air Service) Regiment occupied an upper floor and held wild parties every night, dropping the empty bottles out of the window.

John organised a dance at the Soldatenheim, the social centre for German troops, with music provided by a gramophone found in the basement and records from Valorous. Greggo was there with friend and Karli, his secretary, and John joined them afterwards on his launch and they went up the fjords drinking. John was proud to have also organised the first football match between a team from HMS Valorous (see below) and a team from Milorg, the Norwegian Resistance, on the local sports ground known as "Idda" (Idrettsplassen). The visitors won 3-2 in front of a crowd of 1,500.

John Garforth was in Kristiansand for three weeks before rejoining HMS Valorous to return to Rosyth and in 1990 returned there with many other veterans and met some of the many friends he made. On a later visit in 2006 he met one of the members of the Milorg football team, Per Rosanda, and recalled that "our captain, a bloke called Dalglish, presented their captain with a bouquet of flowers, and I was surprised to be given orange juice after the match.” He made many more visits to Kristiansand until his death in 2010 aged 85.

John Garforth gives a more detailed first hand account of his time in Kritiansand on the home page for HMS Valorous

Lt Cdr Arthur Guyon Prideaux RNVR
CO of HMS Venomous at Kristiansand in May 1945

"Our only expedition of interest in Venomous was, immediately after the German surrender, to Norway, which we visited with a squadron of our Rosyth destroyers under Captain Ruck-Keen, our Captain (D). There was keen competition among commanding officers to be included in this party and I stressed to Captain (D) my considerable experience of carrying stores in destroyers during the Tobruk and Leros affairs. I doubt if he was impressed, but Venomous was eventually among those selected and was detailed, with Valorous, to proceed to Kristiansand South. Valorous embarked Captain Lord Teynham, DSC, who was NOIC [Naval Officer in Command] designate of the port, and we both had a number of British and Norwegian army officers, as well as stores.
The squadron split up on arrival off the Norwegian coast, and our party steamed up a narrow fiord, passing close by several large German guns, whose crews were gathered round their weapons. We hoped none of them would suddenly decide to repudiate the surrender. In Kristiansand's large natural harbour we found a number of German merchant ships, each with the Swastika flag at the stern. These were sullenly dipped as we passed, but they were soon hauled down for good and confiscated. As in the case of the Italian destroyer at Bizerta it felt like stepping through the looking-glass to see the enemy's ensign openly displayed by ships peacefully anchored.

HMS Venomous at Kristiansand, Norway
HMS Venomous (I75) moored in the harbour at Kristiansand on the 14 May 1945
The Norwegian flag and the White Ensign are flying at the masthead and a fishing boat is moored alongside with a boatload of visitors
The photograph was given to Bob Moore by Lt Cdr A.G. Prideaux RNVR

The shores of the harbour, despite the cold wet weather, were crowded with cheering Norwegians, and as soon as we had anchored a tender came alongside us crammed with highly excited children, who rushed the ship and were soon swarming everywhere. The sailors, always in their element on such occasions, cleared the canteen of its stocks of sweets and chocolate for our young guests (many of whom had never seen chocolate before and at first regarded it with some doubt). The din was terrific.

Later in the day the wardroom entertained a party of more mature visitors. They were all anxious to celebrate the occasion, largely by consuming alarming quantities of whiskey in the gayest and most rapid possible manner. Most of our visitors spoke English and we had plenty to talk about. As the evening wore on I found myself in conversation, on a wide range of subjects, with a most disarming Norwegian Journalist. Next day this gentleman came alongside with a local paper carrying a headline, "The captain of the Wanamoos (sic) speaks.” As we had strict orders to make no statements to the Press I was quietly disturbed, but luckily NOIC apparently did not see that particular journal and I heard nothing about it officially. As I lost the article before I could get it translated I shall now never know exactly what I did say that evening.

On the day after our arrival, we were at luncheon, the quartermaster came in and announced the arrival or a boatload of Norwegians. As visits from the shore had by now been forbidden he was told to send them away. He looked worried and said he had already tried to do this but they refused to go without seeing the captain personally. I decided to deal with them myself and went sternly up the ladder to do so. On the upper deck I was taken aback to find a bevy of lovely blondes waiting for me, carrying flowers, and surrounded by an appreciative crowd of sailors. As soon as I appeared the leading lady dashed forward, thrust a large bouquet into my arms and embraced me warmly. The sailors were delighted.

The ladies turned out to be a hospitality committee of the local residents, but unfortunately we were unable to attend any of the parties they arranged for Valorous and ourselves, as we were ordered back to Rosyth after two days. We did manage to get ashore one afternoon to the little wooden-housed town, and it was more than strange to walk round the streets rubbing shoulders with German soldiers, who still carried side arms while we were as usual quite unarmed. Their officers, too, were driving round in staff cars while we had to walk. It occurred to us that things would have been different if our roles had been reversed.

Caudle's photographs of Kristiansand, 15 May 1945

A photocopy of a page from the album of  Lt Derek Caudle RNVR - the original has been lost
A photocopy of the album was found in the papers of Robert J Moore after his death in 2007

On returning to Rosyth I found orders waiting to take Venomous up the river to Grangemouth to pay off, and not long afterwards we said a sad farewell to the old ship, whose days of active service were obviously over for good.

From Venomous I went straight back to Rosyth to take command of Havelock, which was one of four destroyers that had been in course of building for Brazil when the war started and which the Admiralty then took over. In this comparatively modern and very comfortable ship I spent the rest of my active service in great ease trying to get used to the strangeness of meeting ships at sea with navigation lights burning again and of lying in harbour with a 'spine' of blazing electric."

Strangely, Prideaux made no mention of the surrender ceremony on HMS Venomous described by Bog-Tobiassen, a young Norwegian visitor at Kristiansand who later became a Captain in the Royal Norwegian Navy:

On the 15th of May German Officers came on-board Venomous – they had to row their own boat – to sign over the necessary handover documents. Present on board on the occasion were the Allied Naval Area Commander, Capt Lord Teynham, and the Norwegian Navy District Commander, Commodore Landgraff, who actually followed Venomous from England.

Fred Mercer, a rating on Venomous, was cox of the whaler which brought the German Admiral at the Marvika U-boat base to Venomous for the surrender ceremony and was congratulated by him on his seamanship. He returned to Britain on one of the surrendered U-boats.

Officer on HMS Venomous in May 1945
The officers on HMS Venomous at Kristiansand
From top left: Jimmy Blair (No 1), W.R. Forster (Chief), Martin, Prideaux (CO), Thorp (Guns), Caudle (Pilot), Mirolslav Lansky (centre)
To find out about the officers on HMS Venomous when it accepted the surrender of German naval forces click on the links below:

Lt Cdr A.G. Prideaux RNVR  - Commanding Officer
 Sub Lt Thorp, RNVR - Gunnery Officer
Lt James Blair RNVR - First Lieutenant
Sub Lt Martin RNVR
Lt Derek Caudle RNVR - Navigating Officer Sub Lt  Miroslav S. Lansky RNVR
Lt (E) W.R. Forster RNR - Engineer Officer

A complete list of the officers and men on HMS Venomous on the 14 May 1945 can be seen and downloaded as a PDF.

The list includes officers despatched for service at Kristiansand:

Lt Cdr C.P. Evenson RNVR
Lt Cdr N.A. Hayman RNR           
Lt Cdr O.H. Pulman RNR     
Sub Lt D.G. Staniland RNVR                   
Lt R.J. Phelps RNVR

There were also nine Marines, four members of the RAF and four members of the Army aboard HMS Venomous when she arrived at Kristiansand.

The removal of one of its two boilers had freed up space for HMS Venomous to carry stores. The Civil Affairs Unit established by the Army st Kristiansand reported that the two destroyers brought "21 tons 10 cwt of coffee, chocolate, soap, canned meat and tinned milk. Also on this shipment were six cases of medical supplies, a gift from Scotland" (NA Ref WO. 171/8449).

Sub Lt Miroslav Stanley Lansky RNVR

Sub Lt. Miroslav S. Lansky RNVR in June 1945
Sub Lt Miroslav Lansky RNVR was posted to HMS Venomous at Rosyth on the 20 February 1945 in response to a puzzling but urgent request for an officer who could speak Russian. Venomous was an elderly V & W Class destroyer built in 1919,  twenty five years before HMS Cassandra. Stripped of most of its armament and with one of its two boilers (and funnels) removed she had spent a dull six months in the Irish sea towing targets for Barracuda aircraft based in the Isle of Man to attack with unarmed torpedoes before nearly being lost
with all hands in a hurricane on the East coast of Scotland.

Lt Cdr Arthur Guyon Prideaux RNVR had replaced Lt Cdr Derek Lawson RNVR, both lawyers in civilian life, as the commanding officer of HMS Venomous on the 6 February 1945 and Miroslav joined his new ship on the 20 February, replacing Sub Lt Wilfred Beckerman RNVR whose alertness helped save Venomous from disaster during the east coat hurricane. There was also a new "No. 1", "Jimmy" Blair who replaced Greenaway and was surprised to find himself at thirty-one the youngest officer in the wardroom.

Miroslav had joined an elderly V&W Class destroyer destined for the breaker's yard but she had one more mission to perform. Germany formally surrendered on the 8 May 1945 but the German Naval Commander in Norway would only surrender to the Royal Navy. The decision was taken to send destroyers from the Rosyth Escort Force to accept the surrender of German naval forces in four coastal towns: Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Kristiansand South. There was a lot of competition amongst the commanding officers to be selected by Captain Ruck Keene, Captain (D) of the Rosyth Escort Force, for this last wartime mission, Operation Apostle. Lord Teynham, appointed as Naval Officer in Command (NOIC) at Kristiansand, briefly commanded HMS Venomous in 1942 and may have used his influence to see Venomous was selected along with HMS Valorous to go to Kristiansand South on an inlet off the Skagerak the strait between Norway and Denmark.

The photograph on the left is dated June 1945 on the reverse.

Venomous loaded supplies into the space freed by the removal of one of its two boilers, took onboard a number of non naval personnel including Marines, Army and Leading Aircraftsmen (RAF), embarked German pilots to conduct them through the coastal minefield and left Rosyth in company with Valorous and accompanying minesweepers on the 12 May. The two destroyers reached Kristiansand's large natural harbour on the afternoon of the 14 May and were greeted rapturously by boatloads of Norwegians who clambered aboard. In later years a young Norwegian recalled the atmosphere:

"To anyone who was not there it is impossible to understand what the sight of these ships meant to the Norwegian people of the town, and for me it is impossible to describe the enthusiasm that greeted the ships and ships' companies - it was all joy."

The events of that day made a big impression on the officers and crew of Venomous: children tasting chocolate for the fist time and more mature visitors emptying the wardroom's supply of Scotch, young Norwegian women making a sailor blush when directed by his shipmates to where he was bathing, the handsome lady leading the official welcoming delegation who embraced Lt Cdr Prideaux RNVR to the delight of his men made a fitting end to five long weary years of war.

HMS Venomous at Kristiansand

HMS Venomous  (I75) moored in the harbour at Kristiansand on the 14 May 1945
The Norwegian flag and the White Ensign are flying at the masthead and a fishing boat is moored alongside with a boatload of visitors
Can anybody identify the German merchant ships?

The photograph is from the collection of Robert J Moore

The first surrender ceremony was held aboard HMS Valorous on the day the destroyers arrived and the following day AB Fred Mercer was sent in the ship's whaler to bring the Admiral from the Marvika U-Boat base to HMS Venomous for a second ceremony. It was the proudest moment of Fred's life when the Admiral congratulated him on his seamanship. Several officers acquired Mauser's, the standard handgun of officers in the Kriegsmarine. Sub Lt Miroslav Lansky RNVR taking a stroll through the small town of timber buildings met a "terribly shy figure", a "decent looking soldier" with the rest of his platoon hanging back behind, who handed over his two hand guns as a symbolic act of surrender. Miroslav still has them today. His German came in useful but the Russian he picked up while stranded in Murmansk after HMS Cassandra was torpedoed was not required. There were thousands of starving Russian POWs in camps at Kristiansand and one was smuggled aboard by a rating and fed with food from the ship's Galley but Miroslav was not asked to act as an interpreter.

HMS Venomous was ordered back to Rosyth after two days but her sister ship, HMS Valorous, with Lord Teynham aboard and commanded by Lt Cdr J.A.J. Dennis RNVR remained at Kristiansand for three weeks. Fred Mercer also stayed behind and returned on one of the German U-Boats with a Royal Navy crew. Venomous left on the 17 May, Norway's National Day,  as the bands were striking up for the parades in which the officers and men of HMS Valorous marched with the SAS unit commanded by Brigadier "Mad" Mike Calvert. Some months later the officers and crew of Venomous and the other Royal Navy ships sent to Norway were presented with a handsome scroll signed by King Olaf thanking them "for restoring Freedom to our Land".

Kristiansand - Parade and Scroll

Soon after Venomous returned to Rosyth she was towed up river to Grangemouth, flooded and left in the shallows no more than a hulk with Lt(E) William R Forster RNR as the sole officer aboard. The breakers yards were busy and it was November 1948 before she was scrapped at Charlestown. Her name is kept alive by the Sea Cadet unit at Loughborough, TS Venomous.

The officers and crew of HMS Venomous transferred to HMS Havelock which took over from Venomous towing targets for Barracuda aircraft to attack with practice torpedoes. The war in Europe was over and attention shifted to the war in the Pacific against Japan. The ability of the young Sub Lieutenant with the foreign sounding name to master obscure languages had been recognised and in July the Admiralty sent him to the US Navy’s Japanese language school at the University of Colorado. At its peak there were 600 students and 125 teachers, mostly women born in the US of Japanese parents. For most students this was the most intense period of study of their lives. The murderous schedule focussed on reading, conversation and dictation - including Japanese calligraphy - and they faced a three hour exam at the end of every week. The atom bomb and the surrender of Japan brought an end to his studies at the University of Colorado and he returned to Britain, a drab country after America, and was discharged from the Royal Navy in March 1946.

Lt (E) William R. Forster RNR

My father joined HMS Venomous at Falmouth in March 1944 while she was awaiting a refit as an Air Target Ship (ATS) for Barracuda Torpedo Bombers Reconnaisance (TBR) planes on the Isle of Man. Her refit was delayed by preparations for the landings in Normandy and Venomous was not recommissioned umtil August 1944. My father had been commissioned in the RAF in the First World War and served as an Observer Gunner in Short 184 seaplanes based at Houton Bay Air Station on Scapa Flow, Orkney, on anti-submarine patrol. He must have though his life had gone full circle.

In January 1945
Venomous was ordered to join the Rosyth Escort Force on the Firth of Forth as an ATS for Baraccuda TBR based at RNAS Crail. According to my father her "engine was shot" and she had to call in at Loch Ewe on the West Coast of Scotland for urgent repairs before hazarding the ship rounding the North of Scotland. Later that month she was almost lost when caught on a lee shore in a hurricane force gale in Lunnan Bay. She survived but lost her mast. Soon after this Lt Cdr Guyon Prideaux RNVR took over as CO from Lt Cdr Derek Lawson RNVR. They were both lawyers in peacetime and the first RNVR officers appointed to command HMS Venomous.

was fortunate to be selected as one of the eight V & W Class destroyers sent to the four entry ports on the West Coast of Norway to accept the surrender of German naval forces. The removal of one of her boilers had cleared space for taking stores aboard but her selection may owe more to Lord Teynham, Cdr C.J.H. Roper-Curzon RN, the 19th Lord Teynham, being appointed as the Naval Officer in Command (NOIC) at Kristiansand. Lord Teynham has been the CO of HMS Venomous while undergoing a major refit at Troon after her collision with HMS Keppell in November 1941. My father's only previous contact with Norway was in 1929 when he was a marine engineer on MV Skyterren, a Norwegian  factory ship for Antarctic whalers.

HMS Venomous and HMS Valorous arrived at Kristiansand on the evening of the 14 May and Venomous left at 7 am on the morning of the 17 May, Norway's National Day, missing the parade and parties but Valorous remained in Kristiansand for several weeks and enjoyed the hospitality of the grateful Norwegians. A surrender ceremony was held aboard Valorous on the evening of the day they arrived and on 15 May a surrender ceremony was held aboard HMS Venomous for the U-Boats stationed across the bay at Marvika. Fred Mercer, a rating on Venomous, was cox of the whaler which brought the German Admiral at the Marvika U-boat base to Venomous for the surrender ceremony and was congratulated by him on his seamanship. Present on board for the surrender were the Allied Naval Area Commander, Capt Lord Teynham, and the Norwegian Navy District Commander, Commodore Landgraff. Fred Mercer returned to Britain on one of the surrendered U-boats.

It may have been on this occasion that a German officer surrendered to my father by handing him his standard issue Luger pistol. I remember my father firing off the amnumition in the loaded Luger pistol into the lawn of the back garden of our house near Stockport at night. I was told by my Mother that he handed it in to the Police but my brother, seven years older, told me he sold it to a junk shop for £5. The only other story told me by my father of his brief stay in Kristiansand was that a Norwegian gave him a beautiful hand carved model of a traditional open boat as a gift for his five year old son. That summer my father joined us for our family holiday at Whitley Bay on the Northumberland coast and I was given this beautiful gift to play  with at the water's edge. Within half an hour it was stolen from me by an older tougher kid who ran off with it leaving me in tears.

I abandoned work on a book telling the story of my father's "Forty Years at Sea" to spend ten years researching and publishing A Hard Fought Ship (2010, 2017), a ship biography of HMS Venomous.
I still hope to publish A Voyage with my Father.

Some references

British Policy and Strategy towards Norway; by Christopher Mann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament, 1942-1947
; by Chris Madsen (Psychology Press, 1998)

En Billedbok fra Kristiansand: Sor-Norge i Krig og fred, 1940-45 (Prolibro, 1988)
Translation: A picture book of Kristiansand: Southern Norway in War and Peace, 1940-45, edited by Erik Lauritzen (Prolibro, 1988).
Two eggs on my plate; by Oluf Reed Olsen (Allen & Unwin, 1952)

Imperial War Museum

Bound copy of a 312 page memoir of Cdr J.A.J. Dennis RN (ID Number: 95/5/1)
Recorded interview with Cdr J.A.J. Dennis RN on six reels; reel five covers the liberation of Norway (ID No. 18378, 1995)

The Liberation of Oslo and Copenhagen: a Midshipman's memoir; by C.B. Koester. The Norther Mariner / Le Marin du Nord 1993 3(October) 48-60.
Command structure for the German Kriegsmarine, North West coast of Norway
U-boats That Surrendered - The Definitive List; by Derek Waller and Dr Axel Niestlé

U-Boats that Surrendered - Operation Pledge; by Derek Waller
The U-Boats that Surrendered: Operation Deadlight; by Derek Waller
Norway's Liberation; by Tom Dagre.
Commander Alec Dennis; Obituary, The Telegraph, 20 July 2008.

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Valorous or HMS Venomous 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 Valorous or HMS Venomous  you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster

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