The second HMS Verulam was
adopted by St Albans during a Warship Week held in February 1942, a
year and a half before she was completed on 10 December 1943. It seems
appropriate to begin with her adoption before providing a brief outline
of her wartime service escorting Arctic Convoys to North Russia, the
invasion fleet to Sword Beach during the Normandy landings and her
dramatic part in the sinking of the Japanese cruiser in May 1945.
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.
The ships offered for adoption by the Admiralty often had no connection
with the town and the money raised would be used to build a newer more
modern warship with a different name. The first HMS Verulam had
been sunk in the Gulf of Finland by a British mine on 4 September 1919
and was not available for adoption. An appropriate alternative would
have been HMS St Albans, "the ship which fought under four flags", but she was transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy as HNoMS St Albans under the Norwegian flag and with a Norwegian crew on 14 April 1941. The Admiralty decided that St Albans should "be allocated" HMS Scimitar,
an old S Class destroyer, and this is the ship named in the souvenir
programme of events held in St Albans during its Warships Week from 14
- 21 February 1942, and reported in the Hertfordshire Advertiser the day before Warship Week began.
The adoption of HMS Verulam
by St Albans was announced on the last day of Warships Week in
Admiralty Fleet Order 4234/42 but must have been under consideration
for some time.
This article was published in the Hertfordshire Advertiser on Friday 13 February 1942, the day before Warships Week began On the last day of Warship Week the decision to allocate St Albans HMS Verulam instead of the elderly S Class destroyer HMS Scimitar was announced
Reproduced courtesy of the Herts Advertiser / Mike Neighbour
The programme for Warship Week was paid for by advertisements by local firms - some still trading today click on the front cover to view it page by page The emotive images on the front and back cover
of the souvenir proramme for "Warships Week" helped
persuade the good citizens of St Albans to dig deep into their pockets Contact Bill Forster if your family has a copy of this widely distributed publicity brochure for Warship Week in St Albans
The Mayor, John Tacchi, died in Office aged 60
St Albans Museum, Ref. 1981.3736
The National Savings programme was a safe
investment with a good rate of return for the wealthy as well as being a patriotic duty
All the photographs from the Hertordshire Advertiser are reproduced courtesy of the Herts Advertiser / Mike Neighbour
A souvenir programme of the events with an emotive image of German
troops outside the Abbey and in St Albans market place on its cover was published, paid for by advertising by local companies, some still trading today. A Miss Lucy
Silvester, the daughter of a wealthy vet who knew all the landed gentry
was involved and no doubt the Earl of Verulam whose name was linked to the first HMS Verulam would
have given his support.
The huge amount raised at the inaugural luncheon in the Assembly
Room in the Town Hall, presided over by the Mayor John Taccchi on Saturday, was
due to the backing of businessmen who saw this as a safe investment -
should the war be won. There was an exhibitions of
military equipment, model ships and photographs of the war at sea on
display in the Town Hall. On Sunday the Mayor, Mr J.
Tacchi, and civic dignitaries with military
units walked in a procession from the Market Place to the Abbey where a
service was held before returning via Sumpter Yard and Holywell Hill to
the Town Hall where massed bands played and the Mayor addressed the
assembly. There was a
"Grand Civil Defence Dance" at the Town Hall on
Wednesday, a Bridge Drive at the Town Hall on Thursday (organised by
Miss Silvester) followed by a "Celebrity Concert". Selling centres
throughout the town were open on Friday and Saturday and in the evening
there was a dance at the Town Hall organised by the "Youth
Organisations of St Albans". Schools made model warships and posters
and competed for prizes and there was a fancy dress parade at the
School of Art in Victoria Street on Saturday afternoon. The old Town
Hall in St Peter's Street was converted into a very attractive Museum and Art Gallery in 2018. St Albans School set each class the target of raising
£50 which was easily exceeded. Malcolm Mitchell described his contribution to Warships Week in an article for the Old Albanian Bulletin in November 2007:
country was being encouraged during 'Warships Week'in 1942 to save by
buying National Savings Certificates (I believe they cost 15/- each
towards the cot of buying a battleship and St Albans School was doing
its bit. Each form had a target of £50 (quite a lot in 1941) to
add to the 'War Effort'. 'Bob' Tanner had encouraged us to prepare posters for the week and my
contribution (shown here) was put on the classroom wall for the week.
The only problem was that I had underestimated the enthusiasm for the
scheme and 'Remove B' wildly over ran their target so that the 'speed
indicator' was inadequate for the speed achieved!"
John Tacchi, the Mayor of St Albans, came to the School to view the posters. He sent his son to the school and was a School Governor and had started a second term as Mayor when he died on 27 November 1942 aged 60. He
was the founder of the building firm Tacchi and Burgess at 2a Lower
Dagnall Street (now a residential mews) which still trades in the city
under different owners as T and G Heritage.
Ten year old David Wade of Salisbury Avenue made a fine collection of
of model aeroplanes and ships and collected more than £4 by exhibiting
them to his friends and had his photograph published in the Hertfordshire Advertiser
on the 27th February. David Wade and his friends may still be
alive and if they are and see this page do get in touch and share your
memories of Warships Week with others.
The adoption of HMS Verulam (R28) by St Albans
The St Albans "Warships Week" on 14
- 21 February 1942 raised £635,999
(£8.12s 0d per head), three times the target figure, and the Admiralty
decided that St Albans could adopt a new destroyer being built under
the "War Emergency Programme" which would be named HMS Verulam. Pershore in Worcestershire had raised nearly £200,000, twice the cost of a new corvette, in their Warship Week from 15 - 22 November, 1941 but had not been told her name. The Tewkesbury Register reported on Saturday 18 April 1942 that HMS Scimitar, had been allocated to Pershore. John Hemmings, a ten year old schoolboy in Pershore, has vivid memories of Warships Week and has kept the memory of HMS Scimitar alive in Pershore.
Lt Cdr William Scott Thomas DSC RN, the first Commanding Officer of HMS Verulam,
wrote to James Walter Grimston (1880 -1949), the 4th Earl of Verulam, on
Wednesday 12 November 1943 requesting his permission for the ship to
adopt the family's motto and in his reply on 18 November the Earl wrote:
First Lord Verulam was Francis Bacon, who took that title as well as
the title of Viscount St Albans, and both titles died out with him, as
he had no children. His motto was “Montiti Meliora”, a free translation
of which, I suppose, is “We know there are better things in store”.
My family revived the title in the 18th century and their motto was and
is “Mediocria firma”, of which a free translation is “It is the middle
way that endures”. I should
consider it an honour for the family if you adopted for your ship
either of the above mottoes and, whilst thanking you for your good
wishes, I hope there may be many happy Christmases in store of you and
for your ship’s company in the future." Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS), Ref. DE/V F1391.
ship's crest combined the arms of the City of St Albans, a Saltire (St
Andrews Cross) with a sword laid on top pointing upwards, with
the the name of the Earldom and the motto of Francis Bacon, the first
Earl of Verulam: "We know there are better things in store”. The launch
of HMS Verulam in
October 1943 led to the establishment of the Verulam Sea
Cadet Unit in St Albans.
Admiralty Fleet Order (AFO) 4234 Warship Weeks - Ships Adopted recorded the adoption of HMS Verulam by St Albans in the week ending 21 February 1942 but the Admiralty did not permit any communication between civic
authorities adopting warships until one month after the date of
commissioning (AFO 1327/42). HMS Verulam
had been under construction at Govan on the Clyde since September 1941
but was not completed until 10 September 1943 and was commissioned on
12 December. The presentation of plaques by Admiral Sir
Lionel Halsey on behalf of the Admiralty to the City of St Albans and
the Rural District of St Albans did not take place until 11 February
1944, nearly two years after her adoption.
As a resident of St Albans I thought it appropriate to
include Verulam (R28) here on the 100th anniversary of the loss of the first HMS Verulam even though she was not a member of the V & W Class of destroyers.The second HMS Verulam was built under the War Emergency Programme whose ships all had
names beginning with V or W. Five inherited names previously assigned
to V&W class destroyers which had been sunk. The
emergency destroyers were armed with four 4.7 inch guns, one twin
Bofors 40mm or Pompom, two quadruple 21 inch torpedo tubes and depth
charges. After the war most of them were given a new lease of life by being
converted into Type 15 Class Frigates. Click on the link or further
details ofthe reuse of V & W Class names.To
find more about Warship Weeks see Peter Schofield’s article on‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’.
The exchange of plaques commemorating the adoption of HMS Verulam
The presentation of plaques by
Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey on behalf of the Admiraly to the City of St
Albans and the Rural District of St Albans and of a smaller plaque to
the Admiral for mounting and display in HMS Verulam was prominently reported in the Hertfordshire Advertiser on 11 February 1944. The crests were exact replicas of the heavy bronze screen plaque mounted on HMS Verulam but were
made of iron with "Nelson's Crown" cast in brass. From 1940 onwards
these screen plaques were always circular but before the war the screen
plaques of destroyers were shield shaped. Since HMS Verulam was
commissioned in 1943 the screen plaque was round and the crests
presented to the councils on the wooden shields were also round as
shown in the photograph below.
The souvenir Programme for St Albans Warship Week began with a brief history of the National Savings Movement in both World Wars Courtesy of the Herts Advertiser / Mike Neighbour
Back runs of local newspapers are widely
available in most counties on microfilm in local study libraries and as
bound copies at the British Library in London.
The full text British Newspaper Archive (BNA) can be searched online
from home by key words on payment of a subscription or for free at the British Library. The Hertfordshire Advertiser,
the best known local newspaper in St Albans, is not included in the BNA
but can be seen on microfilm in St Albans Library and in print at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) in County Hall, Hertford.
HM Verulam escorted six Arctic
Convoys to North Russia and the D Day landing on Sword Beach while
commanded by Lt Cdr William Scott Thomas, DSC, her first CO, and on 16
May 1945 struck the decisive blow in the attack on the Japanese cruiser
Haguro in the Battle of the
"While operating from Trincomalee in May 1945 the Verulam took part the Battle of the Malacca Strait when the 26th Destroyer Flotilla (HMS Saumarez, Verulam, Venus, Vigilant, and Virago) sank the Japanese cruiser Haguro.
This was probably the last classic destroyer torpedo attack in naval
history. The tactic used was a "Spread Attack" where the destroyers
were deployed in a crescent formation and fired independently so that
torpedoes would arrive at the target at different times and from
different directions making it impossible to evade by "combing the
tracks". Another feature was that HMS Venus detected the Haguro at the exceptional range of 34 miles, due probably to radar ducting (anomalous propagation)." Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret)
Sub Lt Bill Wood, the Gunnery Officer in the Verulam, a member of the V &W Association, described the sinking of the Hagura and the counter attack by Kamikaze pillots in the Newsletter but the best account of the sinking of the Haguro is:
Sink the Haguro! The Last Destroyer Action of the Second World War; by John Winton. Seeley Service & Co, 1979.
Cdr William S. Thomas (1903-83) entered the Navy in 1917 and served in
four V & W Class destroyers during the 1920s and 30s: HMS Verity (China, 1925), Wolfhound(1928-30) and as 1st Lt in Vivacious (1931-3) and Walpole(1933-4).
Lt Cdr William Scott Thomas, DSC (20 Sept 1943 - 19 Sept 1944)
Lt A.K.N. Emden RN (30 Aug 1943 - )
Lt J.P. Bell RNVR (11 April 1944 - )
Temp Lt G.W. Mackenzie RNVR (14 Oct 1943 - )
Lt (E) L. Mellard, DSC RN (14 April 1943 - ) Temp Surg Lt R.H. Penny, MD (26 Nov 1943 - )
Act Sub Lt D.H. Winterton (4 Oct 1943 - )
Temp Act Sub Lt J.C. Wess RNVR (11 Nov 1943 - )
Gunner (T) E.A. Whiterhouse ( - July 1943)
Temp Mid A.E. "Bill" Wood RNR (22 Sept 1943 - )
Portsmouth Evening News,
Friday 29 August 1952
which re-commissioned at Portsmouth two weeks ago as a fast
anti-submarine frigate, received a visit today from the Mayor and
Corporation of St Albans. The ship was adopted during the war by the
City from which she takes her name. The Mayor (Alderman W Bird),
the Town Clerk (Mr. W. B. Murgatroyd), aldermen and councillors were
received onboard by Commanding Officer (Commander C. F. Parker RN) and
by the First Lieutenant (Lt. Cdr. J. F. Perowne RN) and were introduced
to the ships officers and chief petty officers, who were lined up on
the quarter deck.
After walking around the ship and lunching with
the commanding officer, Aldermen Bird spoke to the ships company and
told them how pleased he was to have the honour of renewing the bonds
of friendship between his City and Verulam. On behalf of the City
he presented a cigarette box. Boy Roy Evans, the youngest member
of the crew, made a presentation to the Mayor on behalf of the crew.
During the afternoon the party visited HMS Victory and made a short
tour of Portsmouth Harbour, before returning to Verulam for tea in the
St Albans City Councillors,
W.S. Jepp, F.J. Reed and with Miss Betty V. Entwistle, the first lady Town Clerk in England (left) and
the Sea Cadets of Training Ship Verulam (right) visit HMS Verulam in September 1965
Midshipman Martin Dismore who lives in St Albans shows them round
Courtesy of the Hertfordshire Advertiser
In 1965 St Albans City Councillors and cadets of the Sea Cadet Unit in St Albans, TS Verulam, came aboard HMS Verulam
Portland for an overnight voyage to Portsmouth. Betty Vivian Entwistle,
the Town Clerk, was born in Lancashire, the daughter of the Town Clerk
of Middleton, in 1912. After a law degree at Manchester and qualifying
as a solicitor she came to St Albans as a Legal Assistant in 1939, was
appointed Town Clerk in 1960 and became the first Chief Executive of St
Albans District Council in 1973 but died at home in York Road two years
later. A distant forbear Sir Bertine Entwistle died of his wounds
the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 and is interred in the nave of St
The visitors from St Albans were photographed with 19 year old
Dismore, who sent me these photographs in July 2020 after reading the
article in the Hertfordshire Advertiser aboutthe adoption of HMS Verulam and her part in the sinking of the Japanese Cruiser Haguro.
Lt Cdr D.F. Watts and his officers were invited on a
three day visit to St Albans by the Mayor, Alderman H. Child, as reported in the Herts Advertiser
on 17 September 1965. Martin Dismore retired from the Royal Navy in
July 1996 as a Lieutenant Commander but did a seamless transfer into
the Defence Intelligence Staff in Whitehall and moved from Bushey to St Albans where he lives today.
In October 1970 the CO and officers of HMS Verulam made a second visit to St Albans and presented the City with the report of
her CO when she sunk the Japanese cruiser Haguro in the Battle of the Malacca Strait (HALS Ref. SBR/3887). HMS Verulam was paid off in December and
scrapped in 1972. Her bell
was presented to the City and is on public display outside the Council
Chamber on the first floor of the Council Offices in St Albans
and is struck before each session of the full Council begins. An oak tree is planted in the National Arboretum in her memory.
HMS Verulam after her refit and recommissioning as the ASWE Trials ship for the 2001 Sonar system later fitted to all HM Submarines Note the change of Pennant Number from R28 to F29
The Ship's bell and the Ship's Crest
When the ship's bell of HMS Verulam hanging
outside the Council Chamber is rung at the beginning of each full
session it reminds the members of the links
between the ship and the city of St Albans.
The bell was presented to the City in 1970 when HMS Verulam was decommissioned
but the ship's crest mounted on its wooden shield
presented by the Admiralty to commemorate the adoption of HMS Verulam
by the City was not hung alongside the bell. The original crest presented by the Admiralty was an exact replicas
of the heavy bronze screen plaque mounted on HMS Verulam but made of
iron with only "Nelson's Crown" cast in brass.
The most likely
explanation for why the ship's crest mounted on its wooden shield was
not hung with the bell was that it had been lost (or stolen) by
the time the time the bell was presented to the city and an aluminium
replica was purchased but was found to be smaller than the original and
was not mounted on the shield. The significance of the shield commemorating the adoption of HMS Verulam may have been
forgotten when the council officers were brought together in the new Civic Centre in the 1980s. The
replica of the ship's crest and the original heavily tarnished inscribed brass plate were transferred
to Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) at County Hall in
the late 1990s along with several hundred other items but without the wooden shield on which the original
crest and inscribed plate were mounted.
In the course of my research into the adoption of V & W Class destroyers by villages, towns and cities during Warship Weeks throughtout
the UK I have come across far worse examples of neglect. I
know of cases where these crests mounted on their wooden shields were
thrown into skips for disposal or sold at auction to collectors in this
country or abroad. I was told of one case where an interested person
went to their museum and asked to see the shield and crest presented to
the town and they denied all knowledge of it until it was found by the
janitor in a cupboard with the mops, brooms and buckets used for
cleaning the floor. Recent history is always at risk of being ignored -
and lost to future generations - but when that relates to the adoption
of warships during the war it seems particularly scandalous.
The 75th anniversary of the end of the war seems a good time to put
things to right. I hope local historians throughout Britain
will trace the crests awarded to their cities and towns and make
sure they are on public display in an appropriate place. The Summer 2020 issue of Local History News published by the BALH
contains an appeal to local historians throughout Britain to locate the
crests presented to their towns and cities and see they are treated
with respect. There
were, of course, two shields and plaques. The one presented to the City
has been lost or stolen but the
identical plaque presented by the Admiralty to the Rural Councils may
yet be found in a former council building or in private ownership. The rectangular wooden or metal plaque presented by the
City to the
ship was probably returned to the City when the ship went to the breakers yard but that has also not been
traced. Can you help find them?
On Thursday 23 July 2020 HALS formally transferred the crest of
and the engraved plate back to St Albans District Council where it was in
the care of the Mayor's Office while arrangements were made for it to be
mounted on a wooden shield similar to the original in the
photograph from the Hertfordshire Advertiser and hung beneath the ship's bell outside the Council Chamber in the Civic Offices in the city centre.
The reverse of the crest of HMS Verulam
The crest is smaller than the original
and cast in aluminium
The inscribed plate (left) is genuine But where is the original crest?
And the shield on which it was mounted?
THE INSCRIPTION ON THE PLATE
Presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to the
CITY OF ST ALBANS
to commemorate the adoption of
during Warships Week Feb 21st 1942
The replica of the crest of HMS Verulam
has been repainted in the colours specified
in the original Admiralty design
The design and the colours are those used by
St Albans City and District Council as its Coat of Arms
THE SHIP’S BELL OF HMS VERULAM
Presented to the Corporation of the City of St Albans
and the Rural District Council of St Albans by the
Commanding Officer and Ship’s Company on
16th December 1970
When the ship was finally paid off.
To commemorate the close link between the City and
Rural District and the Ship since her adoption in 1943
Councillor Anthony Rowlands, arranged for the transfer of the crest of HMS Verulamfrom
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) at County Hall to
St Albans District Council in July 2020 and the Chief Executive
authorised its mounting on a wooden shield similar in shape but
reduced in size to match the proportions of the aluminium copy. The St
Albans District Council was fortunate to secure the services of Dave Palmer
in repainting the crest in the colours specified by the Admiralty and
making a wooden shield based on a tracing of the shield on which the crest of HMS Vanity was mounted when it was adopted by Scunthorpe
Dave Palmer is a fomer submariner, diesel and nuclear,
who started making badges for the submarine museum in 1979 when he was
in charge of the Alliance before she came out of the water and was put on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.
Over the years he has supplied badges to museums, ships and ship
associations. He had a special interest in the unofficlal badges
produced before 1918 when the Admiraty specified their design and has
the largest data base of them in the country. For health reasons
he has largely given up casting reproductions of ships crests but still
supplies bare badges for people to finish themselves.
Alison Orde in the Mayor's Office of St Albans Council liaised with Dave
Palmer and arranged for it to be mounted on the wall beneath the ship's bell of HMS Verulamoutside
the Council Chamber in the Civic Offices where it will not only
be seen by the Councillors but will also be on public view once the
Corona Pandemic is over. I met Alison Orde and Martin Dismore outside
the Council Offices in April 2021 and Martin was photographed ringing
the bell of his former ship. He has lived in St Albans since he left
the Royal Navy in 1996 and made a seamless transfer to working for the
Ministry of Defence in London.
Martin Dismore rings the ship's bell 56 years after he showed the cadets of TS Verulam around HMS Verulam The replica crest of HMS Verulam hangs beneath the bell presented to St Abans when HMS Verulam was decommissioned in 1970
The names of children baptised in the inverted bell are engraved inside the rim
Engraved on the inside of the rim of the bell, difficult to photograph but still legible, are the names of the infants baptised in the inverted bell aboard Verulam:
John Harding, Julie Higginbotham .... Where are these children now?
This photograph of the baptism of Berenice Lee Harper, the daughter of
CO of HMS Versatile, Lt. Alfred Lee Harper, at Chatham in October 1944
was sent to me by the widow of one of his officers. Lt Cdr John Manners RN, CO of HMS Viceroy in 1944, baptised his daughter in the bell of HMS Eglington. He was the last CO of a wartime destroyer when he died on 7 March 2020 aged 105. The only remaining wartime destroyer is HMS Cavalier, preserved at Chatham Naval Dockyard as the National Destroyer Memorial. Prince Philip, the Patron of the V & W Destroyer Association
who gave his support for the development of this website "crossed the
bar" on 9 April 2021. All the V & W Class destroyers built at the
end of World War 1 went to the breakers yards at the end of World War
II but the crests of the ships adopted by towns and cities thoughout the UK are proudly displayed in town halls, museums and civic offices and help keep their memory alive.
Bill Forster V & W Destroyer Association St Albans AL1 1DH
Please contact Bill Forster if you can provide further details of the links between the City and District of St Albans and HMS Verulam (F19) sunk in 1919 and HMS Verulam (R28) commissioned in 1943 The plaque presented by the Admiralty to the Rural Councils and the rectangular wooden or metal plaque presented by the City to the ship have not been traced I also wish to find out about visits by civic dignitaries to the ship and by the officers and crew to St Albans
Read about the short and tragic life of the first HMS Verulam, commisioned in 1917 and sunk by a British mine in the Gulf of Finland in 1919