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

HMS Vanessa
photograph from (Mark Teadham)

Click on the links within this brief outline for first hand accounts by the men who served on HMS Vanessa and for a more detailed chronolgy see and the website of HMS Wildfire Sheerness

Screen plaque for HMS VanessaSmall copoy of painted plaque of HMS CanessaHMS Vanessa  was a V-Class destroyer ordered from Beardmore at Dalmuir, Glasgow and was laid down on 10 May 1917. She was launched on 16 March 1918 and was the first major RN warship to carry this name.  Build was completed on 21 June 1918 and on  27 July 1918 Vanessa claimed to have depth charged and sunk  U-boat 107,  the only "kill" to be claimed by a V & W in the First World War. By December 1921 she had been placed in Reserve at Rosyth and remained there until "the Reserve Fleet was taken out of moth-balls in July 1939" in time for the Royal Review in Weymouth Bay on 9 August 1939.

In September 1939 Vanessa was based at Plymouth with the 17th Destroyer Flotilla for convoy defence. In 1940 she was based at Sheerness as part of the 21st Destroyer Flotilla when she was bombed off Dover on Sunday 18 July, Ken Brown's first day at sea. On 19 June 1941 Vanessa was escorting an east coast  convoy near Cromer when she was bombed, severly damaged with eleven men killed and was towed into Yarmouth by HMS Vesper. She was under repair and conversion to Long Range Escort at Blackwall until April 1942. While she was in dockyard hands HMS Vanessa was adopted by Barry in South Wales after a successful Warship Week.

In July 1942 Vanessa joined the Mid Ocean Escort Group B2 based at Liverpool led by Cdr Donald G.F.W. Macintyre in HMS Hesperus which included HMS Witehall  and six modern covettes. On 26 December 1942 HMS Vanessa (Lieut C E Sheen, RNR) rammed U-357 which tried to escape in fading light and was rammed again and sunk by HMS Hesperus. Six survivors were picked up and the destroyers and survivors were photographed on returning to Liverpool on 28 December. Vanessa underwent repairs for structural damage before she rejoined the 2nd Escort Group.

Vanessa was withdrawn from active service in January 1944 and underwent conversion for duty as an air target ship for training air crews. She entered service as a target ship in July 1944 and continued until the armistice with Japan brought World War II to an end on 15 August 1945.

Vanessa was decommissioned and placed in reserve in 1945. She was sold on 4 March 1947 to BISCO for scrapping and arrived at the shipbreaker's yard at Charlestown, Fife, Scotland, in February 1949.

The ship's Plaque (above left) weighing 30 lbs and cast in bronze  is from the collection of Alan Dowling
and the small replica Plaque (right) belongs to the son of Lt John D Kendall RNVR

If you have stories or photographs of HMS Vanessa you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster
Find out how you can help us research this ship and build this web site

Commanding Officers

Lt Cdr Bernard  A.W. Warburton-Lee RN (9 Apr 1928 – Apr 1930)
Lt Cdr John H Plumer RN
(Aug 1939 - 12 Feb 1940)
Lt Cdr Eric Alonzo Stocker RN (12 Feb 1940 – 7 Jan 1941)
Lt John Humphry Albert Stucley RN (7 Jan 1941 – Aug 41)

Lt Charles Edward Sheen DSC RN (31 Mar 1942 – 21 Feb 1944)
Lt B.J. Anderson RN (Feb - Oct 1944)
Temp Actg Lt Cdr Arthur St George Walton RNVR (4 Oct 1944 – Jan 45)


Before refit and conversion to Long Range Escort in April 1942

Lt. Roderick Ian Alexander-Sinclair, RN (10 Sep 1938 – Oct 1938)
Sub Lt Peter R.H. Allen RN (Nov 1940 - Feb 1941)
Sub Lt P H E Bennett RN (26 Dec 1940 – Aug 41)
Lt Godfrey Noel Brewer RN (Oct 1926 – Aug 1929)
Lt A.F.B. Carey RNR (24 Jan 1939 - Jan 1940)
Midn Thomas Rawdon Chattock RN (31 Jan 1919 – Jun 1919)
Sub Lt T V A Cleeve RN (8 Jan 1940 – Feb 41)
Gnr (T) S W Cliffe RN Retd (23 Sep 1939 – Sep 1940)
Mid D Fitzroy-Williams RN (5 Mar 1941 – Aug 42)
Lt Selwyn Thorpe Cholmeley Harrison RN (14 Oct 1931 – Jan 1932)
Lt (E) Hobden RN (22 Jul 1941 – Feb 42)

Sub Lt Peter G Loasby RN (31 Jul 1939 – Aug 40)
Actg Gnr (T) V R Marlow RN (3 Sep 1940 – Aug 1942)
Temp Surg Lt W J  Matheson RNVR (12 Feb 1940 – Aug 41) 
Lt James Abernethy McCoy RN (8 Sep 1924 – May 1926)
Lt Max Owens Waldemar Miller RN (4 Aug 27 – Aug 29)  
Cmd Eng F F Odds RN (22 Sep 1938 – Aug 1941)
Lt Michael P Pollock RN (Oct 1939 - Oct 1940)
Mid/Sub Lt R A Sly RNR (31 Jul 1939 – Feb 41)
Lt David Robert Wilson RN (28 Sep 1918 – 15 Apr 1919)

After refit and conversion to Long Range Escort in April 1942

Sub Lt Peter R. St.C. Abbey RNVR (Sept 1943 - Jan 1945)
Temp Gnr (T) E G Bell RN (25 Feb 1943 – Jan 45)
Lt A H C Booth RN (3 Mar 1942 -  Aug 42)
Actg Sub Lt J Collins RN (1 Feb 1943 – Feb 43)
Sub Lt F H Curry RNR (16 Apr 1942 – Feb 43)
Actg Temp Wrnt Eng R S Edwards RN (16 Feb 1942 – Feb 44)
Temp Surg Lt M L H Evans RNVR (15 Apr 1942 – Feb 43)
Temp Sub Lt J Hevey RNVR (7 Mar 1944 – Jan 45)
Temp Lt John D Kendall RNVR (24 Aug 1943 – Jun 44)
Temp Lt J B Leworthy  RNVR (Jul 1943 – Feb 44)
Temp Surg Lt R V MacKay RNVR (25 Aug 1943 – Jan 45)
Temp Sub Lt W P  MacLeod RNVR (24 Oct 1944 – Jan 45)
Temp Lt R F Merz RNVR (12 Dec 1943  - Jan 45)
Lt Roland F Plugge RN (March 1942 - October 1943)
Temp Lt (E) G B Roberts RNR (12 Feb 1944 – Jan 45)
Temp Sub Lt/LT H C Swindall RNVR (22 Mar 1942 – Jan 45)
Lt J E G Todd RN (12 Oct 1943 – Feb 44)
Temp Sub Lt Kenneth M White RNVR (22 Mar 1942 – Feb 43)
Actg Gnr (T) S Wild RN (24 Feb 42 – Feb 43)

Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation
G. Allison (Molesley, Surrey), J. Ellis (Rhyl, Clwyd), G. Ludbrook (Sudbury, Suffolk),
W. Newman (Levington, Suffolk), Geoffrey Price, E. Pritchard (Dunfermline, Fife).

If you had a family member who served in HMS Vanessa tell his story on this page

The ship's company of HMS Vanessa

Geoffrey Price, a crew member in HMS Vanessa

From Hard Lying, the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association

"It all began in 1938 when architects came off the reserved occupation list. Now I could fulfil my ambition to go to sea. There were three members of our staff who were like minded and wished to join the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, but the difficulty was getting to Newhaven to attend drills and instruction but now we had a fourth who had a car, so the problem had been overcome and we duly presented ourselves to the drill hall in Newhaven and signed on. And so with the prospect of war in the near future we all (Geoffrey Price, architectural assistant, and clerical officers Cecil Scrivener, Stanley Frost and Archie Allen) joined the Reserve. We were all good keen sailors and did our best to learn all the things necessary to make us fit to go to sea with the Fleet. 

 In July 1939, when the reserve fleet was taken out of moth-balls for the review by the King we all received our calling up papers for our annual fortnights sea training. What a fortnight that turned out to be. 

The Sussex division was Portsmouth based and to the famous HMS Victory. A large contingent from the division mustered, duly equipped with hammocks, additional items of uniform, given a five pound note and allocated to a mess for the night with instructions to muster in the morning for transport to various ports throughout the country to join the ships to which we had been appointed.  

I was to go to Rosyth to join the old V&W class destroyer Vanessa, Scrivener to Verity, Frost to join Wren while Allen went to a tug HMT St Fagan.   After our first night in hammocks we went our separate ways, I to board a train at Portsmouth docks, the next stop Rosyth.  

As this story is mine it would be as well now to relate the ways of my office companions. It is a sad story. Stan Frost and Archie Allen were both killed in action in 1940. Allen died during the Dunkirk evacuation when his tug received a direct hit from a bomb and shortly after this Frost, was killed when  Wren was bombed and sunk off Aldeburgh. Cecil Scrivener became an Asdic operator in destroyers and frigates in the battle of the Atlantic and was awarded the D.S.M.  


On arriving alongside the quay at Rosyth I found  three or four dirty old destroyers were berthed. One was HMS Vanessa, her complement had about fifteen seamen from the R.N.V.R. Sussex division, most of us ordinary seamen or A.B's (Able Bodied) and not very knowledgeable about the routine of running a ship. This we soon learned. We also found that the mess decks were going to take some while to get used to. The seaman's mess was on a level with the upper deck and crowded. Each individual mess, which had one of the four corners of the area, was comprised of one leading seaman and 18 seamen, these were in turn divided into four parts of watches. Each day, in rotation one part of the watch became cook of the mess and was responsible for cleaning the mess deck and preparing the food which was cooked by the galley cooks. Each individual mess was responsible for its own catering for which some provisions were provided. The rest had to be bought from the N.A.A.F.I and accounted for by the leading hand, for this there was an allowance of one shilling and three pence a day per man. The food was good and eatable and, when we got used to it, conditions were good.  

An O.D. was paid thirty shillings a week, plus one and three pence kit allowance. (We were fully kitted up in the first place and from then on we had to maintain a full kit on this allowance. Also in those ships we received a shilling a day "Hard Lying" money.  Incidentally when I was a full Lieutenant and in command of a minesweeper I received the princely sum of thirty shillings per day with an additional two shillings hard lying and an additional two shilling command pay.  

"Painting Ship" can be dangerous!

Having been allocated our watches and messes we duly boarded the ship and were given tea with bread and jam, then we changed into overalls and were at once put to work painting ship. Here started the first of many incidents which were to enliven what could have been a rather dull routine. Another rating and I were put to work painting the ships side.  The deck level to the water was about ten feet. I had noticed on the train that one very young Volunteer Reserve, by the name of Bishop, was very frightened indeed at the thought of the whole business of preparing for war. He had been given the job of painting the stanchions and to do the outside meant standing outside the guard rail. He had an Epileptic fit and fell into the water alongside my companion and me as we were busy on a stage at water level, we realised  what was up and went in after him. Anyone who has had to cope with a person having an epileptic fit will know how hard it is to restrain him, fortunately we had the stage to hold on to and the boat attending the painters was close at hand. Bishop was duly revived and put on lighter duties until he could be fully examined and assessed. We dried off and changed into dry clothes and took our wet ones into the boiler room to dry. Then it was back to the stage and the paint pot after a short break when a much needed rum ration was served up. This was the first tot of my naval career. But all was not over. During the afternoon Bishop repeated the performance  exactly as before, except that he fell from the forecastle which was much higher than the after part of the ship. We duly pulled him out and again were soaked to the boots. This time when we had dried out we were summoned to the First Lieutenant's cabin and after a short talk during which he wanted to find out our occupations etc; he rewarded us with a large scotch. This I think, helped me to get ahead and gave me a more interesting job aboard than sweeping the deck, polishing the stern light and the handrails to "Y" gun. Later on I was put to doing some chart correcting and assisting the navigating officer.  

There was plenty of work to do to get these ships into full working condition and much training of the raw crews. We were at it from dawn to dusk  After the final trials of the ships the small flotilla sailed from Rosyth through the North Sea and the Channel to Weymouth Bay. There were many seasick sailors when we first set out, but after a few days things settled down and a quite efficient crew seemed to emerge.  

I give a fuller description of these ships and our crew further on in this account, but I did hear one Admiral say that he considered that the seamen in Nelson's ships had better living conditions.  

The Royal Review of the Reserve Fleet in August 1939

July moved into August with the review by the King in Weymouth Bay, then came some really intense and concentrated training with gunnery practice, depth charge and anti submarine work, torpedo firing, boat work and flotilla manoeuvring etc; The ship’s company had settled down to a pretty fair body of men and one had to admire the chiefs and petty officers whose job it was to knock us into shape. Our duties rotated in order to give us the feel of the many tasks. I had turns as crew of the motor boat, an ancient relic powered by a petrol/paraffin engine  and all other parts of the ship. My daily task was as quarter deck man which entailed washing down the deck at the crack of dawn and keeping it clean during the day unless some other excitement intervened. I concentrated on the stern light and "Y" gun. They were always bright and gleaming. We did have plenty of time ashore and were able to see the lights of Weymouth and the Salvation Army hostel and to take walks to the hillside and through the town.  

August moved into September and by the third of September
when war was declared we were at anchor in the Clyde. On this day I learned one of the rules of survival. The Bosun came into the mess deck at about noon and asked if anyone could ride a bicycle, he got two offers, I and another V.R. found ourselves up the funnel painting out the flotilla markings. After this I was instructed to use the paint and paint the stern light grey and also the hand rails up to "Y" gun. War had really come to us.  

The first alarm came that very day. The Athena was torpedoed somewhere off the Irish coast and we joined in the search for possible U-boats. The ship was soon back in the Clyde and a day or two later we went out to join the escort of a large troop convoy.  

From then on the work was all convoy escort. Based in Devonport or Milford Haven we took convoys out into the Atlantic and then met the homeward bound ships, escorting them to the Channel ports, sometimes as far as Dover. It was on one of the Channel runs that an amusing incident occurred which made me realise how well the officers knew the crew.  

Francis Drake -
"never mind, eh"

One of our Sussex seamen was a young carpenter called Drake. In a very patriotic moment his parents had christened him Francis. He was a quiet lad, not the brightest of the bright, and when things were not going too well he would comment "never mind eh". It became the "in" expression in the mess if things were not going well to say "never mind eh". I was on watch as a bridge lookout as we moved up the Channel in thick fog and were passing Beachy Head. I knew this as I had done some sailing in this part of the Channel having lived in Hastings. I knew that Beachy Head sounded a bell in foggy weather and we could also hear the Royal Sovereign light ship which had a distinctive, grunting fog horn. The Captain was on the bridge and turned and asked the navigator our position. He told the Captain that the fog horn was Beachy Head, whereupon I had the nerve to butt in and correct the navigator, explaining my local knowledge. The navigator checked the chart and then confirmed that I was correct; the Captain commented "Well, as Drake would say, Never mind eh".  

During this period of the "phoney war" we had one trip with a troop ship to Quiberon Bay on the Atlantic coast of France. The ship was anchored off a small fishing harbour and as we had been at sea for quite a while we had run out of fresh meat. There was no refrigeration in those old ships. I was in the duty watch and a party was to go ashore and buy some meat. To ensure that I was in the shore party I told the duty officer that I spoke French fluently. We went ashore with the liberty men in the whaler towed by the motor boat and, with the help of my fluent French bought four and a half carcasses of beef which had to be carried on our backs to the landing stage, a distance of about two miles. After a wait of about two hours in the local tavern the boats came for us and picked up the liberty men. A fairly strong off shore wind had risen and on the return journey to the ship the motor boat broke down. The whaler then took the motor boat in tow and we all manned the oars and eventually returned to the ship. After the boats were unloaded the whaler had to be taken to the port side of the ship and to do this it was drifted round on its painter but someone forgot to keep a firm hold of this painter, which saw myself and O.D Buxton drifting fast out to sea.  We tried hard to pull the boat back to the ship but two oars do not make headway in a heavy boat and the ship had to "up anchor" and come and get us before we got to America. Two very cold and wet seamen were very happy to get "home".  

Christmas 1939 saw us in Dover at anchor. I went ashore to a dead town, no pubs open and nowhere to go. However Buxton and I were outside an army drill hall where there was a party starting when the officer in charge turned up to join in the Christmas dinner. He was a good friend of mine from my hockey playing days in Folkestone and we were invited inside and well dined and wined. We returned to our ship with a large bag of left overs for our mess shipmates.  

Winter clothing for Atlantic Convoys

The winter of 1939/40 was to be one of the coldest and stormiest for many years and convoy work in the North Atlantic was pretty grim. Very rough, very wet and cold is all that I can say about it. At that time in the war the earnest ladies had not yet sharpened their knitting needles and the ship was desperately short of warm clothing. I happened to mention this to my brother Peter who was serving as an instructor (sergeant pilot) with the air force. He told his wife who in turn told a rich aunt and shortly after this I received 50 parcels in the post. Each one contained one Wolseley  woollen vest and a pair of matching long johns. I had friends for life. These were sold on a ballot for five pounds a set and the money went into the ship’s fund  which bought such things as football boots and hockey sticks.  

We did get some games in when in port, especially when in Milford Haven and I was in both the football and hockey teams.  

Our new CO, Lt Cdr
E. A. "Full Ahead Both" Stocker RN

Around about Christmas, we had a change of commanding officer. Lt Cdr. Plumer who had commissioned the ship left and Lt Cdr. (full ahead both) Stocker took over as CO
and the first Lieutenant also transferred: Lt Michael Pollock replaced Lt Carey RNR as "No 1", 1st Lieutenant. Both officers were popular with the crew and knew their jobs. Both our commanding officers were on the reserve prior to the war. Lt Pollock was a regular officer and gunnery officer. I met him again in 1942 in Port Said when he was gunnery officer of the Arethusa. I have had intermittent correspondence with him during the past years. He named his daughter Vanessa and finished his service as Admiral of the Fleet Sir Michael Pollock.

Battle with U-Boat in a "howling gale"

Just after Christmas, I'm not sure of the date, Vanessa had a desperate battle in a howling gale on a very dark night when on escort duty. This is the story of that attack on a U-boat in a winter gale in the North Atlantic January 1940. We were escorting a West bound convoy. We were well out from the coast North of Ireland, the wind was at gale force with the sea running very high. Although still an OD, which is the very lowest of the low I had been put into the torpedo party and my watch station was on the bridge where the duties generally were to renew lamp bulbs and, when they blew replace the fuses. In action I handed over to the Chief Torpedo Officer and in the event of depth charging I worked with the party aft or at the throwers. In gun actions I was part of the supply line to "X" gun at the aft end of the ship where, being tall, I stood on a table in the ward room with my head and shoulders just above the deck and passed the ammunition up to the loaders for the gun.  

The action started with an old merchant ship astern of the convoy being torpedoed and sunk and we were able to pick up an echo which turned out to be a U-boat. We went to depth charge stations but before I was relieved on the bridge we had dropped a pattern which involved increasing to full speed,  dropping one charge astern, then the two throwers and followed by a further charge astern before turning and sweeping again to pick up the echo. We dropped a lot of charges, after the first pattern I was relieved from the bridge and went aft where a slight amount of pandemonium reigned.  

Reloading the throwers and the stern charges is quite a performance even when the sea is calm, but with the ship rolling at 30 or 40 degrees and the sea coming aboard waist high it is anything but easy.  A depth charge weighs about two hundredweight and has to be hoisted up from the magazine, fitted with a primer, then have the pistol placed and at the last moment the pistol pushed up to the primer and fixed and be ready for dropping or firing from the throwers, all in about five minutes and the throwers have to be armed. Hard work. With the charges to be dropped aft  there was not time to fix them in the chutes and then carefully position the pistols just before dropping. We armed them fully as they came out of the magazine, rolled them across the moving deck, held them in position with two rope ends, kicking them over when we got the word, all very unsafe with the fulminate of mercury pistol already in contact with the primer. 

However the charges all went off as required and we dropped about six patterns of four charges each then, much to everyone's surprise, the U-boat came to the surface quite close to the ship and "A" and "X" gun opened fire. I do not think we hit the U-boat as the ship was dancing about like a jack rabbit. Anyway, she went down again and after a few more depth charges to help her on her way we continued on after the convoy. All very exciting, but we were very wet. The ship was given a possible, but later in the war it was found that although badly damaged the U-boat got back to Germany and went into service again."

Lt Geoffrey R. Price, RNVR


Geoffrey Price was commissioned in the RNVR and served on minesweepers. A quick search on the web located this humorous letter from a Lt. G.R. Price RNVR and two fellow officers -

Ist May 1943
To the Mess President of 244 Wing


It has been observed by various individuals of unimpeachable character that Spitfires are making use of valuable dan buoys as targets.

These dans which mark a way through a minefield have been laid at enormous expense and with great skill and daring in order to safeguard the shipping bringing you your bully, pickles, biscuits and booze. Should the unlikeky event occur of one of these buoys being sunk or damaged by one of your planes no more booze will be forthcoming. Calamity!!!

For a fee we could lay a very large-sized beacon for you to practice on and perhaps hit.

Should this pernicious habit of buoy straffing not cease, no further pennies will be contributed to buy you new Spitfires.

Geoffrey R. Price, Lt RNVR
Robin Bell, Lt RNVR
C.W. Pierce, Lt RNVR

If you know more about the subsequent service of Geoffrey Price in the RNVR and his later life please get in touch.

The sinking of U-357
With Lt Charles E. Sheen RNR in Command

On 26 December 1942 HMS Vanessa (Lt C E Sheen, RNR) rammed U-357 which tried to escape in fading light and was rammed again and sunk by HMS Hesperus. Six survivors were picked up and the destroyers and survivors were photographed on returning to Liverpool on 28 December. Vanessa underwent repairs for structural damage before she rejoined the 2nd Escort Group.

Lt C.E. Sheen RNR, CO of HMS Vanessa,
Lt Charles E Sheen, RNR, CO of HMS Vanessa from 31 Mar 1942 – 21 Feb 1944, was awarded the DSC
Crown Copyright (IWM A210559)

Admiral Sir Max Horton, KCB, DSO, Commander in Chief, Western Approaches, was photographed congratulating the officers and crew of the HMS Hesperus and HMS Vanessa after they berthed in Gladstone Dock, Liverpool.
You can see the photographs and read a more detailed description of the sinking of U-357 and the rescue of survivors see Ken Brown's first hand description received after his death from his son.

Aberdeen Journal
3rd February 1943

U-Boat Cut In Two

A convoy which arrived in Britain in the early days of January, was saved from attack by the prompt action of two of the escorting destroyers, which rammed and sank the only Uboat sighted during the voyage, says the Admiralty.

The U-boats periscope was sighted by H.M.S Vanessa (Lt C.E. Sheen RN) senior officer of the escort. Cmdr D.G.F.W MacIntyre, DSO RN in H.M.S Hesperus, joined H.M.S Vanessa, and the U-boat was forced to the surface by a series of heavy depth charge attacks.

On surfacing the emeny was engaged at almost point blank range, and then rammed by H.M.S Vanessa. By this time darkness was falling and the Uboat, although damaged, attempted to escape on the surface. After a breif chase it was overhauled by H.M.S Hesperus and rammed amidships. The U-boat broke in two and sank. Survivors were picked up and are now prisoners of war. The convoy was not again molested and arrived in this country without loss or damage. On the morning after the attack H.M.S Hesperus steaamed through the lines of the convoy flying the signal “U-boat destroyed”  Merchant seaman seeing the destroyers bows damaged and the German prisoner's on her deck, lined the rails of their ships to cheer, while every merchant ship sounded their siren and signalled congratulations.

HMS Vanessa
HMS Vanessa "making smoke" - view a RN instructional film about creating smokescreens
This photograph was the property of William Arthur Booth (1901-77) an engineer in the RAF
Courtesy of his grand daughter Nikki Bennett

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:

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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