The Liberation of Norway:
(L00) and HMS VENOMOUS (I75) at Kristiansand Operation Conan May1945
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.
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
Lt Cdr J A J Dennis DSC RN CO of HMS Valorous at Kristiansand in May 1945
Alec 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, 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, 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.
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."
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 scuttledin 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
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
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
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 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)
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
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
John Garforth's story ...
A 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.
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 (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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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:
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 (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
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
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".
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.
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
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. Istill hope to publish A Voyage with my Father.