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

Anti Aircraft Operations on East Coast Convoys

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.

Press Cutting - undatedGun Crew of HMS Vivien
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.332 was 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.


GazetteLt Murdoch RNVR
The 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.

Naval Signal

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.

This was only ten days after Vimiera had rescued 27 merchant seamen from ships from Convoy FS.559 which had run aground on the Haisborough Sands.

Since the 16th August was not on a Thursday this cannot have been the third success mentioned in the press cutting. This  probably took place later in 1942.

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

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