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

HMS Vansittart

HMS Vansittart was built by William Beardmore & Company at Dalmuir on Clydebank but was not commissioned until the 5 November 1919 so took no part in the First World War. She served with the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla (4DF) with the Atlantic Fleet until 1925 when 4DF was transferred to the Mediterranean and acquired the nickname "Fancy Tart".

In the early 1930s after a refit she was placed in Reserve at Rosyth until 1939 when she recommissioned and took part in the Royal Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay in August. At the outbreak of war she joined the 15DF at Portsmouth escorting troop carriers taking the BEF to Brest and Le Havre but transferred to 17DF and Western Approaches Command at Plymouth as an Atlantic Convoy Escort. Vansittart had five Commanding Officers in the first twelve months of the war.

A small album of photographs taken aboard HMS Vansittart between the Royal Review in Weymouth Bay and January 1940 were lent to me for scanning by Philip Watkins whose Grandfather was a stoker in Vansittart. The quality is excellent and I would like to hear from the families of the men photographed. On 17 January 1940 Lt Cdr Bushell (Vansittart) and Lt W. Evershed (Wivern) exchanged commands with Bushell taking command of HMS Wivern and Evershed taking command of Vansittart. On 10 May Vansittart was bombed at Narvik, during the German invasion of  Norway with two officers killed (ADM 358/81 and 3659) but on 20 May she was taking part in Operation Ordnance, the evacuations from Rotterdam and Hook of Holland during the one week war in the Netherlands.

On 1 July 1940 HMS
Vansittart (
Lt Cdr Walter Evershed, RN) sunk U-102 with depth charges in the Atlantic south west of Ireland and picked up 26 survivors from U-102's last victim, the British merchant ship Clearton. Lt Cdr Walter Evershed was awarded the DSO for this action. He left Vansittart on 30 August to take command of HMS Jersey under repair at Hull

In 1941 an official RN Photographer took several photograph the ship's mascot, a bulldog named "Venus", at the wheel and peering from a porthole. HMS Vansittart was adopted by Kidderminster in Worcestershire after a successful Warships Week 6 - 13 December 1941 which raised 400,00 in National Savings. Alderman Osman W. Davies, the Mayor  of Kidderminster, visited HMS Vansittart on 13 June 1942 and presented her CO, Lt Cdr Thomas Johnston, DSC with a plaque bearing the Coat of Arms of the town and received
in return the ship's crest mounted on a wooden shield and the ship's ensign.

On 17 July 1942 Vansittart rescued 133 survivors from HMS Wild Swan which was bombed and sunk on 16 June by Ju 88 bombers while escorting Convoy HG84 in the Western Approaches. In August HMS Vansittart joined Force Z, the escort force for Convoy WS21S, the relief convoy to Malta (Operation Pedestal) and defended the aircraft carrier HMS Indomiable against air attack after the convoy became dispersed on the evening of 12 August. A typescript of the talk given by Lt Cdr Thomas Johnston DSC to the ship's company during Operation Pedestal is in the Imperial War Museum (IWM Document 3617).

In January 1943 she was paid-off and taken in hand for refit and conversion to a Long Range Escort (LRE) at a commercial shipyard in Middlesbrough

Commanding Officers
Lt Cdr Charles F. Bush, RN (18 Oct. 1919  – May, 1921)
Cdr Cosmo M. Graham, RN (14 July, 1921 – July, 1923)
Lt Cdr Edmund F. FitzGerald, RN (9 July, 1923 -
Lt Cdr Frederick L. Cavaye, RN (10 March 1925 – 9 March 1927)
Lt Cdr John H. Young, RN (8 Feb. 1927 – 1929)
Lt Cdr Theodore F. A. Voysey, RN (1 May 1929  – March 1930)
Capt Thomas B. Drew, RN (March – 13 Oct. 1930)
Lt Cdr Colin C. L. Mackenzie, RN (2 May 1934 – c. June 1934)
Lt Cdr Richard G. K. Knowling, RN (31 July  – 1 Oct. 1939)
Lt Cdr Michael Culme-Seymour, RN (1 Oct. – 6 November, 1939)
Lt Cdr William C. Bushell, RN (6 Nov. 1939 – 17 Jan. 1940)
Lt Cdr Walter Evershed, RN (17 Jan. – 30 August, 1940)
Lt Cdr Richard L. S. Gaisford, RN (30 Aug. 1940 – 28 April 1942)
Lt Cdr Thomas Johnston, RN (28 April 1942 – 13 Dec. 1943)
Lt Cdr John D. Hayes, RN (13 Dec. 1943 – 20 March, 1944)
Lt Harry Edgecombe, RN (30 May 1944 – mid 1944)
Temp. Lt Walter J. Parker, RNR (mid 1944  – 15 July 1945)
Temp Lt Cdr Kennedy B. S. Brown, RNVR (15 July 1945 – late 1945)


Mid. Kenneth Theodore Briggs RN (31 July 1939 - 17 May 1940)
Sub Lt Peter John Cardale RN (27 Aug - Oct. 1940)
Lt Reginald Gregory Charman Haines RN (Jan - April 1940)
Lt Edward Hurry RN (1922)
Sub Lt R.G.B. Keyes RN (31 July 1939 - 24 Jan. 1940)
Warrant Eng A.H. Lavington, RN (20 Sept. 1938 -
WO J.Walker, Gunner (T) (24 Oct. 1939 -
Lt Selwyn J.P. Warrand RN (27 April 1927 - June 1928)

Former full members of the V & W Destroyer Association who served in HMS Vansittart
N. Walker (Coventry)

Reg Panton's album of photographs tells a moving story
From Royal Review in Weymouth Bay on 9 August 1939 to
the bombing of HMS Wivern of the Dutch coast on 14 May 1940

Philip Watkins sent me a small pocket album of photograph which belonged to Reg Panton in March 2020. The name of the photographer is not recorded in the album. Philip Watkins’ Grandmother married Reginald Edward Panton (1902-75) after the death of her husband in 1921 and Reg became Philip’s step Grandfather. Reg Panton joined the Navy for 12 years in 1920 and on being discharged in 1932 he joined the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) and was recalled in 1938. He was mobilised on 28 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis, demobbed a week later and  recalled again on 31 July 1939. He was drafted to HMS Vansittart as a Stoker but joined HMS Wivern on 26 January 1940. The entries in the Naval Lists for the two ships show that most of the officers in HMS Vansittart transferred to HMS Wivern on 17 January 1940.

Officers in HMS Vansittart and HMS Wivern
Naval Lists
HMS Vansittart, Naval List February 1940
February 1940
HMS Wivern, Naval List December 1939
December 1939
On 17 January 1940 all the officers in HMS Wivern changed.
The new CO, Lt Cdr Bushell, Sub Lt Keyes, Warrant Officer Walker Gunner(T) and Mid Briggs were posted from HMS Vansittart
And Lt Cdr W. Evershed, the CO of Wivern, took command of HMS Vansittart
HMS Wivern, Naval List May 1940
May 1940

All the photographs may have been taken on HMS Vansittart - but some may have been taken on Wivern. The first photographs were taken from Vansittart on 9 August 1939 at the Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay by King George VI and page six is of HMS Wivern (D66) so must also have been taken from Vansittart.  On 17 January 1940 Lt Cdr Bushell (Vansittart) and Lt W. Evershed (Wivern) exchanged commands with Bushell taking command of HMS Wivern and Evershed taking command of Vansittart. The reason for the change of command is not known but Lt  Cdr Bushell took most of his officers with him. The photographs were all taken before 14 May 1940 when Wivern was bombed off the coast of the Netherlands with 25 ratings killed and 32 wounded.

The last photograph in the album was taken at Le Havre in Northern France and non were taken off the coast of the Netherlands. This limits the time period covered to the "phoney war" before Germany swept into the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and on into Northern France.
Reg Panton is unlikely to have taken the photographs but he may have acquired the album after after the owner was killed. It was the custom to sell the possessions of a rating killed in action and send the money raised to his family.

If one looks at the captions written beneath each photograph one can learn much more. They must have been written after the bombing since the death of Midshipman Briggs in that action is mentioned. There are no photographs of ratings apart from the "captain's servant" standing alongside Mid Briggs. The only named persons are the Captain, Lt Cdr William Charles Bushell RN, Midshipman Briggs (four photographs) and Sub Lt Keyes  the "grandson of Roger Keys" (sic) but there is also a photograph of an officer taking sights on the bridge whose name is not given.

The omission of the e in Sir Roger Keyes name and the fact that the Sub Lt was his son and not his grandson suggests the captions were written by a rating, probably Reg Panton. They must have been added later as they are often misleading, sometimes quite wrong so have to be treated with caution. The photographs may have been mounted in the album by the photographer - or later by Reg Panton. The camera was capable of taking sharp photographs in poor light conditions so had an excellent lens. I think the owner of the camera was Midshipman Briggs since there are more photographs of him than anybody else and the album was found on HMS Wivern after his death but they could have been taken by a fellow officer.
The photograph of Mi  dshipman Briggs are particularly poignant and I would like to trace his family and find out more about his short life.

Reg Panton Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR)
Reg Panton, Stoker (K59045)
Page one in Reg Panton's photograph album
Page one of Reg Panton's Photograph Album: "Flag ship at Weymouth Review"
Midshipman Briggs, HMS Wivern, killed 14 May 1940
Midshipman Briggs

The pictures and captions in the album tell the story of the men in HMS Vansittart and HMS Wivern during the first ten months of the war. There are 17 pages in the album and each page measures 6 x 4.5 inches with one photograph per page and a hand written caption beneath as shown above. I scanned each double facing page in the album  at 1200 dpi so that they could be enlarged. If details were obscured at the corners I removed them from the album and scanned them again.

I decided to link from a thumbnail scan of each double page to cleaned enlarged images on a separate page with further details added mainly obtained by Googling the web since libraries and archives are closed during the Cornona pandemic. You can click on the links to view cleaned up enlarged images with the results of our research.  If you can add further details of the individuals and the events shown please contact me by e-mail.

Click on the links above the thumbnail images to view full size with the results of our research.
If you can add further details of the individuals and the events please contact Bill Forster by e-mail.

Pages two and three in Reg Panton's Album
Page 2 & 3 in Reg Pantons Photo Album
Left: "16 DF at Weymouth from HMS Vansittart"
Right: "Destroyer Leader HMS

Pages 14 to 15 in Reg Panton's Album
Page 11 in Reg Panton's Photo lbum
Left: "Mid Briggs and Capt. servant"
Right: "Taking sights for navigation purpose"

Pages four and five in Reg Panton's AlbumPages 4 & 5 in Reg Panton's Album
Left: "HMS Verity on patrol"  Right: "HMS Verity and HMS Wivern"HMS Verity and HMS Venomous (D75) wrongly identified as HMS Wivern
Error:  Both photographs are of HMS Venomous (D75) not Verity

Pages 16 to 17  in Reg Panton's Album
Page 12 in Reg Panton's Photo Album
Left: "Mid Briggs Navigator Killed in Action 14th May"
Right: "Captain William Charles Bushell, Lt Cdr in Command of Wivern Dutch Coast"

Pages six to nine in Reg Panton's Album
Page 4 in Reg Panton's Photom AlbumPage 6 in Reg Panton's Photo ASlbum
Left 6 & 7:  "Vansittart" and "Midshipman Briggs"
Right 8 & 9: "Leading in the Troopship" and "Sir Roger Keyes Grandson" (sic)

Pages 18 to 19 in Reg Panton's Album
Page 13 in Reg Panton 's Photo Album
Left: "HMS Vansittart at Harwich"
Right: "Mid Briggs"

Pages 20 to 21 in Reg Panton's Album
Page 14 in Reg Panton's Photo Album
Left: "Sub Lt Keys Sir Roger Keys Grandson"
Right: "Slewing to avoid subs"

Pages ten to thirteen in Reg Panton's Album

Page 7 in Reg Panton's Photo AlbumPager 11 in Reg Panton's Photo lbum
Left 10 & 11:
"Vansittart at Parkstone Key" and "Searchlight Platform and for'd torpedo tubes"
Right 12 & 13: "Depth charging" and "Another for luck"

Pages 22 to 23 of Reg Panton's Album
Page 15 in Reg Panton's Photo Album
Left: "On the Lookout Trooping"
Right: "French vessel bombed at Le Havre"

Pages 24 to 25 of Reg Panton's Album
Page 16 in Reg Panton's Photo Album
Left: "Another view of Liner"
Right: "French Liner at Le Havre"

The final  page of Reg Panton's Photo Album
The final page is a bit of an anomaly!
I have my own theory as to what it is but perhaps you have a better idea?
If you do please let me know

The ship's mascott was no "Fancy Tart"

Venusa, the bulldog mascott of HMS VansittartVenus, Shiops mascott of HMS Vansittart
HMS Vansittart was derisively known on the lower deck of her sister ships between the wars as HMS "Fancy Tart" but her choice of mascott in 1941 put a scotch to that!
Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, Ref A4002 and A3997

HMS Vansittart in 1943 after conversion to an LRE
HMS Vansittart in 1943 after conversion to a Long Range Escort

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

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