George Walter Donald (1904-40) served in three V & W class
destroyers. After Osborne and the Royal Navy College, Dartmouth, and
his Midshipman's seatime in the battleship HMS Malaya he joined HMS Venomous
during her refit at Chatham in 1926 as Sub Lt Colin G.W. Donald RN.
When he left in March 1928 he wrote in his Diary that "I am sorry to
leave destroyers and more so to leave such a good ship as the Venomous".
After eighteen months as a Lieutenant in the Battleship HMS Barham keeping the peace in Palestine he joined HMS Versatile in July 1930. He met his future wife, the daughter of a former Captain in the
Imperial Russian Navy, at Riga, capital of the independent state of Latvia, while serving in Versatile. His third V & W, HMS Vimy, was his first command. He met his death on the exposed open bridge of Vimy from a sniper's bullet while evacuating the Guards from Boulogne on the 23 May 1940. The evacuation is described in Chapter Five of A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous (2017) and on this page of the V & W Destroyer Associations websit
left behind a wife and a three month old son, Frank Donald, who also
served in the Royal Navy and is the source for the information and
photographs on this page.
Versatile had four Commanding Officers between 1930 - 3
Capt Hon C A Herman-Hodge DSC RN (4 Aug 1931 – 10 Aug 1932)
Cdr R R McGrigor RN (10 Aug 1932 - )
Members of the Wardroom while Lt C.G.W. Donald RN was serving in HMS Versatile
Lt (E) T Clegg RN (31 Dec 1929 – Aug 1932)
Gnr W G Cotgrove RN (23 Jul 1931 - )
Lt C G W Donald RN (26 Jul 1930 – Jan 1933) Sub Lt R C Freaker RNR (22 Mar 1930 – 1930)
Lt Cdr (E) H S Greenlaw RN (23 Aug 1932 - ) Lt Cdr E P Hinton RN (13 Apr 1931 - )
Sub Lt W L Mayo RN (27 Sept 1932 - )
Lt H N Reid RN (12 Apr 1930 – 1931)
Sub Lt G B Rowe RN (1 Dec 1931 – 27 Sept 1932) Lt Cdr A B Russell RN (July 1929 – 1931)
Lt Cdr (E) J E Saunders RN (18 Dec 1930 – 1931) Cd Gnr (T) H A Wilson (10 Apr 1930 – July 1931)
Since their service overlapped
the CO has been provisionally identified as Capt Carslake (Nov 30 - Aug
1931) and the "Sub" (below) as Sub Lt Reid (Apr 1930 - 1931)
The Versatile is keeping
station on another ship, the 'guide'. Captain Carslake is using
the magnetic compass to check the bearing of the guide, while Sub Lt
Reid is using a Stuart's Distance Meter to check the range. The
Distance Meter would be set with the height of the guide's mast or
bridge, and using a split image the range reading would be adjusted
until the masthead/bridge top coincided with the guide's waterline. the photographs below of Versatile laying practice mines were taken in 1931.
Minelaying - click on the image to view full size The mine rails can be seen running along the port side in the
photograph on the left and the numbered practice mines are visible in
the photograph on the right.
A number of the V & W
ships were fitted with mine rails, so that they would be able act as
fast minelayers to refresh the British minefields in the Heligoland
Bight overnight. Britain acquired Heligoland from Germany in exchange
for Zanzibar in 1890. The minefields lay between Heligoland and the
mouth of the estuary of the Elbe where Hamburg, Germany's main port was
located.The mines in the photograph on the right are buoyant practice
identification numbers. The ship in the background is probably HMS Vortigern, D37, also with a deckload of practice mines."
Lowering the whaler (left) and a successful catch All photographs are reproduced courtesy of Frank Donald