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







Warship Weeks

Barry adopts HMS Vanessa

Warships Week 29 November - 6 December 1941


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 Peter Schofield’s article on ‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’.

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Barry - and Barry Island

Barry is nine miles south west of Cardiff on the Bristol Channel. It was no more than  village on Barry Island with a population of about a hundred until the building of the docks in the 1880s. The Barry Railway brought coal from the South Wales Valleys to the new docks whose trade grew from one million tons to over nine million tons by 1903. The port was crowded with ships and had flourishing ship repair yards, cold stores, flour mills and an ice factory. By 1913, Barry was the largest coal exporting port in the world. The Railways also helped make Barry Island a popular resort. Until the building of the docks Barry was an island separated from the mainland by a tidal estuary but is is now on a peninsula. Barry had a population of 50,000 in 2011.

Aerial view of Barry; Copyright David Goddard
Aerial view of Barry, Glamorgan, South Wales
Copyright David Goddard



Western Mail and South Wales News
Thursday, 4 December 1941

Warships Week at Barry would have received extensive coverage in local papers and in Cardiff but, sadly, these papers have not been added to the nationally available Newspaper Archive and this advertisement is the only item I have found. I am hoping that local historians will search back runs of local papers for the period from 29 November to 6 December 1941 and send me scans or photocopies of articles about Warship Week in Barry and the adoption of HMS Vanessa.

And the good news below will be reported in local papers and yield new stories about the events held during Warships Week and the links between the people of Barry and the men who served in their adopted warship.

Advertisemen for Warships Week
Barry Warships Week raised 214,825

The inscribed platew

The Sjips Crest of HMS Vanessa

The plaque presented by Barry to HMS Vanessa

I was sent these photographs of the brass plate commmemorating the adoption of HMS Vanessa by Barry and the colourful crest of the ship plus the Plaque presented by Barry to HMS Vanessa by Emily Forbes, the Town Clerk. They were discovered at HMS Cambria, the Royal Navy Reserve Unit at Barry in Spring 2020 and transferred to Barry Council for safe keeping.

The inscribed brass plate and an iron replica of the ship's crest with a bronze "Nelson's Crown" above was mounted on a wooden shield when it was presented to the town by the Admiralty. The inscribed brass plate and the butterfly crest have been removed from the shield which is assumed to have been lost. The crest should measure 388 x 248 mm (just over 15 inches high by nearly 10 inches across) if authentic. The Council are planning to put them on public display in the foyer of the Town Hall.

Vale of Glamorgan Archives

Glamorgan Archives have a folder, Reference BB/C/8/252, containing one hundred pages of documents about Warships Week and the adoption of HMS Vanessa by Barry. The Archive is closed to the public due to the Corona pandemic but arrangements could be made to  have these documents scanned. I am hoping that an individual or organisation will cover the cost of this or make notes and take copies when the Archive re-opens and provide further details for this web page and, perhaps, a leaflet for display alongside the crest in the Town Hall.

"The file mainly contains the Council’s correspondence regarding the setting up and administration of the Warships Week and the subsequent adoption of the ship by the town of Barry, including forming a committee in 1941, organising a parade in November 1941, arranging the design of the plaque to mark the adoption and organising the public meeting for an exchange of plaques with the ship in September 1942.  The file also contains a list of names and addresses of the National Savings Committee and Group Secretaries in Barry. It also has a few mentions of the decommissioning of the ship and return of the plaque from the ship to the town in the 1950s (this plaque was to be hung in the Council Chamber). Much of the correspondence deals with the administration of meetings and events and does not go into much detail.  In some cases you would probably find out more information in local newspapers."

Glamorgan Archives would provide scans of the entire contents for 60, significantly less than their standard fee of 2 per scan. For futher details e-mail: Glamro / Swyddfa Cofnodion Morgannwg <Glamro@cardiff.gov.uk>


If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Vanessa you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/servicerecords.html


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



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