Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS VERULAM (1917)





HMS Verulam in the Penns at Rosyth.
HMS Verulam
Top: HMS Verulam in the Penns at Rosyth (IWM Q 73943)
Bottom:
HMS Verulam (IWM Q 73949)



HMS Verulam was a V class destroyer, built by R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co Ltd at their Hebburn shipyard on the River Tyne.
She was given the name Verulam, the short form for the Roman city of Verulamium, and after the Barony of Verulam created in 1790 and promoted to an Earldom in 1815.  The ruins of Verulamium lie buried beneath the ancestral estate of the Earls of Verulam at Gorehambury, St Albans. HMS Verulam was commissioned on 3 October 1917 and assigned F19 as her Pennant Number. The photographs above are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, and were taken in 1918 after HMS Verulam transferred to the 13th Destroyer Flotilla and served as an escort and support ship in the North Sea from the naval base at Rosyth.

On 24 November 1918 HMS Verulam was assigned to the British squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair RN
which was deployed to the Baltic Sea to defend the newly created Baltic states against Bolshevik aggression. The Squadron  was based at Liepāja in Latvia from 1–4 December and was on passage to Tallinn in Estonia to repel a Bolshevik invasion when the light cruiser Cassandra was mined and sunk on 5 December with the loss of eleven lives. The squadron set off for Copenhagen on 6 December but HMS Verulam and Westminster collided in fog. Both destroyers were seriously damaged and sent back to the UK for repairs on 7 December 1918.

HMS Verulam returned to the Gulf of Finland in the summer of 1919 and struck a mine laid by the British forces near Koivisto and sunk off Seiskari Island on the night of 4 September 1919.  "Lummy", the ship's dog, refused to go aboard. Sixteen Officers and men died including Lt Charles Cunningham Dumville Lees RN whose life is well documented on the web by his family. The Commanding Officer, Lt Guy Langton Warren RN (1888-1961) was found partly responsible for her loss by the Court of Enquiry (ADM 156/178) but this did not seriously damage his career as he served in World War 2 and retired as a Rear Admiral.

The sunken destroyer was given to the state of Finland on 12 December 1919 together with her sister ship Vittoria which was
torpedoed by the Bolshevik submarine Pantera on the night of the 31st August 1919.  When salvage efforts began in 1925, it was found that both ships were broken in two and impossible to salvage and repair. In 2018 Estonia and the British Embassy in Tallinn held an exhibition in the Seaplane Harbour Museum at Lenusadem on "100 years of Friendship" to honour the contribution made by the Royal Navy to securing their independence. The exhibition gave birth to a website with the  same name.

HMS Verulam (F19) was sunk a hundred years ago but a second HMS Verulam (R29) was launched in 1943 and adopted by the City and District of St Albans
while she was still under construction as a result of a successful National Warships Week fund raising campaign from 14 - 21 February 1942 and the Verulam Sea Cadet unit, Training Ship Verulam, was formed at St Albans in the year of her launch.

Commanding Officers

Cdr Ralph W. Wilkinson, RN (21 November 1917 – 31 December, 1918)
Lt Cdr Guy L. Warren (15 April, 1919 – 4 September, 1919)
(vessel lost under his command)

Officers

Sub Lt Charles F.B. Arthur RN (8 July 1918 - ?)
Mid Percy Ashe (31 Jan 1919 - ?)
Mid Alexis William Ashley RN (? - 4 Sept 1919) MPK
Sub Lt Edgar Charles Cookson RN (5 Feb - 4 Sept 1919) MPK
Mid Arthur Wilfred Edgecombe RN (? - 4 Sept 1919) MPK
Lt Francis C. Flynn RN (24 Nov 1917 - ?)
Mid Ean C.C. Greenlees (31 Jan 1919 - )
Lt(E) Joseph House DSC RN (21 May 1918 - 4 Sept 1919) MPK
Gunner(T) George T. Jebbett (8 Nov 1917 - 4 Sept 1919)
Lt Charles Cunningham Dumville-Lees RN
Sub Lt William T. Own RNVR (30 May 1918 - ?)
Sub Lt Owen P. Powell RN (22 June 1918 - 4 Sept 1919) MPK


A Shaggy Dog Story

We have no first  hand accounts of the loss of HMS Verulam by the survivors other than the report of the Proceedings in The National Archives at Kew which will be added later when it reopens to researchers but we do have this account of how "Lummy", the shp's dog sensing something terrible was going to happen refused to rejoin his ship. This anonymous story was published in Hard Lying, the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association, and was republished in the book of the same name, long out of print, edited and self published by "Stormy" Fairweather, the President of the Association. Stormy was, towards the end of his long life, a little careless about editing and occasionally failed to credit contributors. If anybody can identify the author of this item please contact me, Bill Forster, so that I can correct the omission on this web page.

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Russian submarines were becoming a menace and their destroyers carried out the occasional sortie but were no match for the V&Ws and made a hasty retreat whenever the British destroyers gave chase and on occasions
Versatile, Vivacious, Walker and Walrus were involved in an exchange of fire, it was also necessary for the V&Ws to carry out depth charge attacks on the menacing submarines when they came across them. However, the Bolshevik submarine Pantera torpedoed the Vittoria on the night of the 31st August.

Having been a dog trainer and handler for the past forty years, I've learned that dogs have a perception of foreboding that we humans do not possess. The following is just another example of this:-  

September 4th 1919

Officially she did not exist, but unofficially "Lummy" was as much a member of the Ships’ Company of HMS Verulam as any Officer or rating on board. Her great jaw and lumbering gait - she was a bulldog - was a familiar sight to most of the destroyers crews in the 2nd flotilla. She slept in a specially made low slung hammock in the galley flat, she had a fine repertoire of tricks, a somewhat regrettable taste for beer and a passion for football. Sporting a jersey knitted in the ships colours, white shorts and a uniform cap, she attended all the ships matches. To the crews of the other "chummy" ships which formed the 4th sub division she was an old friend. It was natural therefore that when we rejoined the Flotilla in Byorko Sound that the Wardroom of the Verulam should come over by boat to give us the gen and bring "Lummy" with them.

The situation was a strange and unreal one. Based on a not too neutral Finland, we were supposed to be giving moral and physical support to a White Russian army under a General Yudenitch advancing on Petrograd through Estonia. The difficulty was that we seldom knew the whereabouts or the identity of our "allies". Admittedly, if we steamed close to the fort of Krasnaya Gorka the Reds would open up with their 12-inch guns. If we bombarded the shore further to the west, as we were sometimes invited to do, the chances were that we might hit a red shirt, a white shirt or even a green shirt, the latter being a mysterious body of men who were apparently fighting everybody. Actually the chance of hitting anything but a number of trees in the seemingly limitless pine forest were extremely remote. Apart from the Russian Fleet at Kronstat, the main hazards other than Krasnaya Gorka were the unreliability of our charts, the suspected presence of minefields and the activities of a lone Russian aviator, known to all as Reckless Rupert, who would occasionally fly over and drop a few bombs on the anchorage. Thus when the two Wardrooms got together there was much to talk about.

It was when Verulum's boat came for them after supper that the trouble started. Lummy refused to go down the gangway and when they tried to carry her down she turned savage, broke away and, retreating under the torpedo tubes, defied all attempts to dislodge her. Eventually, it was decided to leave her alone and as Verulum was due to go out on patrol the next morning we agreed to look after her until they returned.

In the morning the dog emerged and behaved normally. She went for a run ashore with the Canteen Manager, who was buying eggs and returned in good spirits. But she was off her food and, as the day wore on became morose, lying for long periods with her head resting on her front paws. She remained on deck all evening and was lying in the same position when we came up for some air after supper. She seemed to be listening or waiting. 

It was I remember, a calm warm night, very dark and the scent from the pine forest along the shore line very strong. We were discussing what Lummy could be sickening for when a flash of light momentarily lit up the horizon to seaward. In the pause that followed we all turned instinctively and the dog raised her head. A moment later an expanding arc of yellow shot skywards and in the midst of it was the debris of a great explosion.

One reacts automatically on these occasions. Before the sound had reached us across the water the First Lieutenant and the Quarter Master were racing forward, the Chief Engineer making for the Engine Room hatch and I was scrambling down the ladder to the Captain's cabin to report. When I made my way up to the bridge a few moments later the cable party were already on the foc'sle shortening in the cable and the Leading Signalman reading out the signals as they were made by the Leader’s shaded lantern.

 D2 General. Following from Walpole. Immediate, Verulam mined or torpedoed, position 175 Niki Point 2 miles. After magazine blew up ship sank in two minutes. Am searching for survivors.  

D2 general. Raise steam with all dispatch and report when ready to proceed, cover Walpole. 2nd Division will take up patrol line 155 Niki Point. 1st Division remain at instant notice. Acknowledge.

A dark shape slid by, heading for the entrance, the stand by destroyer. We waited impatiently for the engine room to report ready. The parts of ship were closing watertight doors and securing for sea, the gun crews were clearing away their mountings.   I worked my way along the upper deck to check as best I could in the dark that all was secure. Just abaft the break of the foc'sle I bumped into a little procession. It was headed by the mess decks Petty Officer, with Lummy next, and the ships butcher bringing up the rear. They were coaxing the dog along and above the roar of the engine room fans I could hear snatches, "come on old girl, got to get below, action stations, doing all we can." As they reached the blackout screen leading into the mess decks the dog stopped and looked up into their faces. Then she moved slowly on through the gap in the screen, and was lost to sight. The mess deck Petty Officer wiped his face, and said something. I didn't hear what it was. I made my way back to the bridge.


The Men who died
when HMS Verulam was mined
on 3 September 1919

Lt Charles Cunningham Dumvill-Lee RNNewspaper cutting about loss of HMS VerulamCharles Cunningham Dumville-Lees was born on 20 March 1894 at the village of Trefonen in Shropshire near the Welsh border three miles from Oswestry. He was the youngest son of George John Dumville Lees and Ann Dove Dumville Lees. George's father had bought Woodhill, a country mansion,  in 1852 having made his fortune in the cotton and wool trade in Lancashire.

Charles was educated at Mill Mead Preparatory School Shrewsbury followed by Osborne and Dartmouth. He served in two Battleships before the Great War, HMS Formidable and HMS Commonwealth. At  the outbreak of war he was a Sub Lt in  HMS Fervent, a Torpedo Boat Destroyer (TBD). When first introduced all destroyers (including the early V & Ws) were known as TBD since their principal weapon, the torpedo, was designed for launching high speed attacks on enemy ships. His subsequent service was in destroyers. He was a Sub with a single stripe on HMS Redpole but a full Lieutenant when he joined HMS Morning Star, part of the screen for the main fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

His father died and his widowed Mother bought the Manor House at Fowley Cross near Okehampton, Devon. When the war ended he was serving in the Flotilla Leader HMS  Nimrod and returned to Trefonen for the lighting of beacons and a bonfire at Woodhill Park, Trefonen, to celebrate the Peace. After the celebrations he left to join his new ship, HMS Verulam, for a tour of duty in the Baltic where he was killed when she detonated a mine in a British minefield on the night of 4 September 1919.

He was 26 years of age and unmarried. His life is documented on the website of Trefonen village where he was born illustrated with copies of his service records and letters from his ships to his former Nanny, a Mrs Mellor, to whom he remained very close.






Memorial Window in All Saints Church, Okehamppton
The stained glass of the West Window of All Saints Church at Okehampton, Devon,  commemorates the memory of the sixteen men who died


The names of the men who died on 3 September 1919
are recorded on th Chatham Naval Memorial and and the memorial in Portsmouth Cathedral
their Service Certificates can be downloaded from The National Archives
Click on the links below for further details of their lives

1. ASHLEY, ALEXIS WILLIAM (18), Midshipman, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of John George and Frances Amelia Ashley, of Lincoln House, Fairfax Rd., Teddington, Middx, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

2. BOULTON, JOHN (20), Able Seaman (no. J/45039), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Frederick and Elizabeth Boulton, of Wood Farm, Flixton, Bungay, Suffolk, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

3. CLARK, THOMAS JOSEPH (23), Stoker 1st Class (no. SS/117078), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Mary Ann E. Martin, of 192, Queen's Rd., Plaistow, London, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

4. COOKSON, EDGAR CHARLES (19), Sub-Lieutenant, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of George and Sarah Elizabeth Cookson, of 2, Northcote Rd., Clifton, Bristol, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

5. EDGECOMBE, ARTHUR WILFRID (18), Midshipman, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Wilfrid Edgecombe, M.D., and Jane Edgecombe, of 17, Victoria Avenue, Harrogate. Served 2 years in H.M.S. Agamemnon in the Mediterranian, 1917-1918, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

6. ELLIOTT, JOHN (27), Stoker 1st Class (no. K/13388), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, (Buried Styrsudd Point Cemetery), Memorial: Archangel Memorial

7. HOUSE, JOSEPH (40), Engineer Lieutenant, D S C, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Husband of Mrs. House, of 25, Siss Rd., Southsea, Hants. Born at Portsmouth. (Buried Styrsudd Point Cemetery), Memorial: Archangel Memorial

8. JACKSON, ARTHUR FREDERICK (21), Able Seaman (no. J/41800), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of William Walter and Dora Mary L. Jackson, of 25, Pember Rd., Kensal Green, London, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
9. JARVIS, HAROLD WILLIAM , Leading Stoker (no. K/488), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Husband of Ada Jarvis, of 70, Belmont Park Rd., Leyton, London, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

10. KING, WILLIAM (42), Chief Stoker (no. 286715), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Husband of Ethel May King, of 21, Gwynne Rd., Dovercourt, Essex, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

11. LEES, CHARLES CUNNINGHAM DUMVILLE (25), Lieutenant, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of George John Dumville Lees and Anne Dove Dumville Lees, of The Manor House, Fowley Cross, Okehampton, and Woodhill, Oswestry, Salop. Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

12. PARSONS, RANDALL ROBERT (28), Leading Seaman (no. 238893), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of George Alfred Parsons, of 8, Crampton Rd., Penge; husband of Lavinia Parsons, of 8, Crampton Rd., Penge, London, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

13. PENDRILL, REGINALD JOYCE , Able Seaman (no. J/38465), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Mrs Martha E Pendrill of 46 Neath Road, Ilford, Essex, Memorial: Plymouth Naval Memorial

14. POLLEY, FRANK ALFRED RICHMOND (21), Able Seaman (no. J/32369), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Albert Henry and Annie Caroline Polley, of 196, Woodhouse Rd., North Finchley, London, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial

15. POWELL, OWEN PHILIP (21), Sub-Lieutenant, HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Owen Markham Powell and Harriet Powell, of Harmer Green, Welwyn, Herts. (Buried Styrsudd Point Cemetery), Memorial: Archangel Memorial

16. RUFFELL, WILLIAM FREDERICK (19), Ordinary Telegraphist (no. J/84918), HMS Verulam, Royal Navy, †03/09/1919, Son of Charles S. and Rose Anna Ruffell, of 20, Surrey Grove, Surrey St., Norwich, Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial


Twenty four years after the loss of HMS
Verulam a second HMS Verulam was commisioned and took part in the last major naval engagement of World War II when four V Class destroyers  in the 26 Destroyer Flotilla torpedoed  the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro in the Malacca Straits in May 1945. The second HMS Verulam was one of five destroyers built under the War Emergency Programme which inherited names previously assigned to V&W class ships which had been sunk. Find out more about these destroyers built in 1943.  HMS Verulam was adopted by St Albans in Hertfordshire and remained in service until 1970. Her ship's bell hangs outside the Council Chamber in the council offices in the town centre. Read about the history of the second HMS Verulam and her adoption by St Albans.



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



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