As a V&W Anti Aircraft (WAIR) conversion, HMS Vimiera’s
primary role was defence of East Coast convoys against enemy aircraft
and E-Boats. This press cutting, unfortunately undated, mentions that
the ship had, up till then, shot down three German planes.
The gun crew of HMS Vivien with shells of the type with which they plastered the enemy
during an attack on a British convoy on the 11th November 1940
IWM Non Commercial Licence (IWM A 1770)
It should be noted that each round
of the fixed 4 inch ammunition shown weighed approximately 50 pounds
(22 Kg), and supplying the guns on a rolling, pitching deck was a
considerable feat. Before the round was placed in the breech it had to
be placed in the fuse setting machine to set the time by rotating the
fuse cap. The supply number then rammed the combined shell and
cartridge into the breech using his fist. The breech block was held
open by a catch which was released by the rim of the cartridge casing
striking home, allowing the breech block to rise and push the man’s
fist clear. The twin 4 inch was a high angle mounting, and the gun
could be pointing up at a considerable angle.
One action of which we have
the details of took place on 11th November 1940, when the south bound Convoy FS.332was being escorted by Vimiera, her sister ship HMS Vivien, and the sloop HMS Londonderry. All three ships submitted recommendations for honours and awards, which are printed below.
mention of Able Seaman Benningfield as Range Taker is particularly
significant. The V&W WAIR destroyers were not fitted with fire
control radar until 1942, and while the two twin 4 inch mountings were
director controlled, the range of the target had to be measured by an
optical range finder. The range was required not just to determine the
elevation of the guns, but to set the time on the fuses of the shells
so that they would burst in the vicinity of the aircraft.
Londonderry and Vivien also submitted recommendations covering the convoy, though the Londonderry’s were for the 13th of November. Stoker King, of Vivien, showed true swashbuckling spirit, taking over an unmanned twin Lewis gun mounting and bagging a Ju87 of his own. From the recommendations for honours only one officer and three ratings
were honoured. Lieutenant Murdoch (on right) was awarded the DSC. His career
in the wartime RNVR was distinguished, including the award of a bar to his DSC while serving in HMS Paladin in April 1943. He commanded HMS Velox in the humble role of an air target ship on the east coast of Scotland with HMS Venomous and after promotion to Lt Cdr was given command of a modern frigate, HMS Rowley. He later became a celebrated Sherrif, as recounted in his obituary from the Glasgow Herald
Able Seaman Benningfield, the Range Taker of the Vimiera,was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and it is gratifying that the redoubtable Stoker King of the Vivien was similarly honoured.
This naval signal from the CiC Rosyth to the CO of HMS Vimiera is the only information we have at present about the successful anti-aircraft action on the 16th August 1941 when Vimiera and Valorous were escorting a convoy.