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





The Living and the Dead

There are thought to have been 127 men aboard HMS Vimiera when she detonated a mine in the Thames estuary and sank on 9 January 1942.
38 survivors were taken off by other ships or taken from the water and of these four were dead or died in hospital.
Of the 34 survivors we have firm information on 31

Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret) represented the V & W Destroyer Association at two ceremonies
to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Vimiera

The laying of a poppy spray on the grave of Able Seaman John "Ian" Crawford Jamison RNVR at Hawshead Cemetery, Paisley and
laying a wreath on the Clyde Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve War Memorial in Graham House at 130 Whitefield Road Glasgow
in memory of the 93 men who are known to have died

The Herald newspaper's report on the wreath laying on Tuesday 10 January 2017 and a gallery of five photographs can be seen online

HMS Vimiera at speed in rough sea

Key on the link for a detailed description of events when Vimiera sank and the results of the Board of Enquiry. It was necessary to maintain a continuous mine sweeping effort in the Thames Estuary and the largest minesweeper base in the UK was at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey near Sheerness. While the convoy continued to Sheerness two minesweepers from Queenborough came alongside the after part of Vimiera to rescue survivors. MMS 19 embarked 24 men and MMS 79 took off three. The minesweeping trawler HMT Soranus rescued eight badly wounded from the water and the boat from the Anti Aircraft Ship Jeanie Deans picked up three injured.

Most of the 127 men in HMS Vimiera when she sank on 9 January 1942 are in the photograph of the ship's company taken at Rosyth in 1941.
Brief biographical details of the survivors are given below (with the number identifying them in the photograph) followed by a list of those whose bodies were recovered or who died after rescue and were buried ashore. The list of those "Missing Presumed Killed" is much longer.

If a member of your family is on one of these lists and you would like us to add further details of their life please get in touch.


Leading Seaman Stanley A. Adams
(C/JX 147711) [119]

Stanley Adams 1940 Stanley Adams was one of five men awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for crewing the whaler which rescued men from the eight ships which ran aground on the Haisborough Sands off the Norfolk coast on the 6 August 1941. When Vimiera detonated the mine on the 9 January 1942 he was on the forward mess deck.

“When she turned over I proceeded aft along the fan-shaft. It was dark and someone struck a match, and I saw the escape hatch above my head. I opened it up, took the wheel off, pushed it with my head and got out. I was followed by Able Seaman Robinson (and) Able Seaman Rawlinson ... Leading Seaman Whitney was next to come up ... but the water coming up through the mess deck and through the escape hatch met, and he disappeared again”. 

L/Sea Adams suffered lacerations of the scalp which left a permanent scar. For further details of his life and subsequent service in the Royal Navy click on the link above. 

Leading Seaman Roland Edward Averley (C/JX 171380)

Averley was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941, and received a Mention In Despatches for bravery and devotion to duty when Vimiera was sunk, as observed by the Captain.

“Some of the messdeck scuttles had been blown open, and a number of seamen appeared and called to me for assistance. I think Leading Seamen Averley was the first I spoke to and I directed him to get as many men as possible to follow him aft to the escape scuttles. I assisted him from outboard to open one scuttle. I believe Leading Seaman Averley and Adams, and A.B’s Benningfield, Kennedy and Robinson came through. A.B Burch attempted to get to the scuttle, but a heavy lurch to starboard flung him back and I did not see him again”.

Petty Officer Averley was killed on 12th June 1944 when HMS Boadicea was sunk by German aircraft 12 miles south of Portland Bill while supporting the Normandy Landings. The ship exploded after six seconds and there was very heavy loss of life. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Able Seaman Victor Reginald Benningfield DSM BEM (C/JX 136129)

He was awarded the DSM for courage and resource when Convoy FS 32 was attacked by German aircraft on 11th November 1940. According to the Captain, Lt Cdr Roger Hicks “The chief reason for the enemy’s lack of success was Vimiera’s  heavy and accurate fire which broke up the enemy formations before they had commenced their attack. Principle credit for this is due to the range taker, Able Seaman Benningield”. He was also awarded the BEM for crewing the whaler during the rescue operations on the Haisborough sands on 6th August 1941.

Mr Edgar Granville Blofield DSO, Commissioned Engineer [95]

After the explosion joined in the initial operations to save people swimming round the ship and then checked the after boiler room and engine room for damage.


Mr Blofield was gazetted as Lt(E) E. G. Blofield DSO on 21 October 1943 and appointed to HMS Opportune, a new destroyer.  In June 1944 he was serving in HMS Eaglet, the shore HQ of Commander in Chief Western Approaches in Liverpool.

Temp Sub Lieutenant Alan Frank Bull RNVR [89]

At the time of the loss of Vimiera he was Navigating Officer, but was turned in sick in his cabin. His place on the bridge had been taken by Midshipman Lacy. When the mine exploded he was being visited by the Medical Officer who helped him on deck.

On 2 February he was appointed to the Hunt Class destroyer, HMS Wilton, commanded by Lieutenant Adrian Northey who had been First Lieutenant of HMS Vimy at Boulogne and Dunkirk. When escorting Arctic Convoy PW.14 the ship had to return to Scapa Flow with ice damage. He was still in Wilton as a Lieutenant in June 1944 but in January 1945 he was serving in HMS Forte, a shore establishment at Falmouth supporting convoy operations.

Lieutenant Reginald Lacey Caple, DSC, RN, First Lieutenant [91]

After the mine exploded Caple went on deck and organised the launching of carley floats and life saving nets to assist the people in the water and the shutting of watertight hatches. After initially going onboard the minesweeper MMS 19 he returned to Vimiera with volunteers to secure a tow line. Towing by MMS 19 was not practical, and he and the volunteers were taken off by the Naval Control of Shipping Tug and taken to Sheerness. 

Lt Reginald L. Caple, DSC, RN was later appointed CO of HMS Sabre and in 1943 was portrayed with his No 1 on the bridge by the war artist, William Dring (1904-90). Lt Peter Kershaw RNVR, formerly of Venomous, was also onboard. He went on to command HMS Garlies, a Lease Lend American Destroyer (Sept 1943 - October 1944), and HMS Petard (November 1944 - mid 1946).


Stoker Petty Officer George William Chapman DSM (C/JX 127820) [68]

Bill Chapman had served in the Navy for many years. He was awarded the DSM when HMS Vimiera sank for saving the lives of two injured Stoker Petty Officers. With all lights out and a most of the occupants of the Stoker Petty Officer’s Mess dead or injured he guided them to the escape scuttle by the light of a box of matches, opened the scuttle although it was under water, and made his way to the surface accompanied by both POs who survived.  It was later found in hospital that he was suffering from serious spinal injuries.

He was invalided out and gave his daughter, who was born soon afterwards, Vimiera as a middle name. His father, Charles George Chapman, also served in the navy and was killed in action on 31st May 1916 when HMS Indefatigable was blown up at the Battle of Jutland.

Able Seaman William Gabbot Foster [61]

Foster was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941.

Stoker Petty Officer Charles Donald Fox (C/K 62740) [77]

Fox was commended after the rescue of seamen from a merchant ship which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941, "For being at his station below without respite from 0430 until 1400. The engines were in constant use throughout this time and although out of sight it was in no small way due to his efforts that the rescue was made possible".

When Vimiera sank he accompanied Mr Blofield below to the after boiler room in an attempt to shut the main steam stop valve to stop the engine room filling up with steam and save the ship.

Able Seaman Henderson, starboard Oerlikon Gunner

He was rescued by the CO - "I found AB Henderson, Starboard Oerlikon gunner, in the water; he was wearing one of the new kapok overall suits, but had both legs broken - I took him in tow. Eventually I got hold of a line on the starboard side of the floating portion of the ship and hung there for some considerable time, until hauled into a Carley float by the ship's Surgeon Lt Kidd (AB Henderson was still clinging to me and was rescued with me)."

Stoker W. Jones [4]

He had been on watch in the engine room, and went on deck and helped with the carley floats.

Able Seaman Kennedy [112]

Temp Surgeon Lieutenant John Dennys Kidd RNVR [94]

After helping Sub Lt Bull onto the upper deck he checked ABs Kennedy and Foster who had received head injuries and then took part in the rescue of survivors in the water. “I saw that there were people swimming in the oil-fuel, and realised that they could not climb up the ropes, so I climbed down into a carley float and started helping people from the water into it. Then after I got 5 or 6 of them into the float we manoeuvred it round the stern to a minesweeper (MMS 19) that was on the port quarter and got them all onboard that. I then shouted to the First Lieutenant to see if there was any object in my staying on the after part of the ship and he said “No, stay with the casualties and do what you can”. The survivors rescued by Surg Lt Kidd included the Captain and AB Henderson. He was widely praised for his devotion to caring for the injured survivors. The Captain of MMS 19 wrote “The Doctor’s work in attending the wounded both onboard and alongside the North Wall at Sheerness was magnificent”. The Senior Officer of the Thames Local Defence Flotilla reported “I was most impressed by the Medical Officer of the ship who, although wet through and obviously shaken, was attending to all injured survivors landing. I had much difficulty in persuading him to look after himself even when all the injured survivors had been safely sent off in ambulances”.

He was Mentioned in Despatches  for bravery and devotion to duty and awarded the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society for rescue work following the mining of the Vimiera. In December 1943 he was serving in the destroyer HMS Raider, but by June 1944 he was working at the Devonport Dockyard Sick Bay. He was still there in January 1945.

Lieutenant Commander Angus A Mackenzie RNR [92]


Angus Mackenzie took over from Lt Cdr Roger B.N. Hicks DSO RN as CO of HMS Vimiera on 26 February 1941. She was his first command having formerly been "No 1" to Lt Cdr John McBeath on HMS Venomous when both ships took part in the evacuation of the Welsh and Irish Guards from Boulogne on 23 May 1940.

He was born in Jamaica where his father's regiment was stationed in 1905 and went to sea as an apprentice with the Cairn Line in 1922. He was a junior officer with the Bibby Line when he joined the RNR in 1931 and in 1936 distinguished himself on "temporary service" aboard the Battleship, HMS Hood, and served for four months on HMS Whitshed, a V & W Class destroyer. He was mobilised at the outbreak of war and appointed First Lieutenant on HMS Goodwin, a converted merchant ship escorting East coast convoys.

Less than a year after joining HMS Vimiera as her CO she detonated the mine and sunk in the Thames estuary on 9 January 1942, his 37th birthday. You can read his description of the disaster and find out more about his life and naval service by clicking on his name above.

ERA (3rd Class) H.T. Mansfield DSM [79]

He was on watch in the engine room and thrown on his back by the explosion. “I thought it had caught the engine room so I said “abandon” and we went up amid clouds of steam”.

Telegraphist Meadows [20]

He was on watch in the Wireless Office at the time of the explosion and escaped with PO Telegraphist Whitworth.

Lieutenant David Dennis O’Sullivan RN OBE [90]

Lt O'Sullivan was in charge of the whaler’s crew which rescued the seamen from the eight merchant ships which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on the 6 August 1941 while Vimiera was escorting Convoy FS.559 and was awarded the OBE. He was injured and thrown from the bridge when Vimiera was mined on 9 January 1942 and was probably rescued by the Minesweeping Trawler HMT Soranus.

He was appointed to the new destroyer HMS Quail in November 1942. The ship was damaged by a mine in the Adriatic on 15th November 1943, and sank while under tow for Malta in May 1944. He was appointed to the sloop HMS Fowey in January 1944 and was in command by January 1945.

Able Seaman Rawlinson

Able Seaman Robinson [33]

Mr Sidney Gordon Rodwell, Gunner, RN [88]

He was in the Wardroom at the time of the explosion and on going on deck was ordered by the First Lieutenant to close the after hatches, which he did with the assistance of some ratings.  He then went back on the upper deck and started lowering the life-saving nets.

In March 1943 Mr Rodwell was serving in the Destroyer Depot Ship HMS Woolwich, and had transferred to the Depot Ship Blenheim by June 1944.

Ordinary Seaman Rounce

ERA C.R. Smith

At the time of the explosion he was in the engine room at the throttle of the port engine.

Sub Lieutenant Derek Cecil Spring RNR [96]

He was in the Officers’ bathroom at the time of the explosion and went on deck as quickly as possible, and aft to assist in launching the carley floats.

He was appointed to the Destroyer HMS Matchless on 26 January 1942 and became First Lieutenant of HMS Deane (American Lease Lend Destroyer) in October 1944.

AB Frank Stubley

Frank Stubley, HMS VimieraFrank Stubley, JX 148205, was born at Holbeach in Lincolnshire, on 30 December 1920, and went to HMS Ganges as a boy sailor in 1936. He enlisted in the Royal Navy for 12 years on his 18th birthday in 1938 and served as OD on the Revenge Class Battleships, HMS Revenge and HMS Royal Sovereign. He joined the I Class destroyer HMS Imogen on 24 August 1939 and took part in the Norway campaign. On the 21 January 1941 he joined HMS Vimiera and a year later was one of the survivors when she sank.

His next ship was the Ocean Boarding Vessel, HMS Corinthian (1942-3). He joined the C Class destroyer, HMS Cambrian, in March 1945 while she was being refitted before being sent to the Pacific but she arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon, after VJ Day. He was discharged on completing his 12 year engagement in 1952 with a gratuity of £105. His son, Frank Stubley, won the lottery and bought him a bungalow on the Isle of Sheppey where he died in 2013. They were both keen supporters of the appeal fund for HMS Cavalier, the National Destroyer Memorial at Chatham.



J H Westcott

Branch and rank not known. He wrote to Sheila Mackenzie (daughter of Lt Cdr Mackenzie) on 9 January 1975, and was then living in Felpham near Bognor Regis.
 
Able Seaman P.H. Whitehead

PO Telegraphist L. Whitworth [53]

He was lying down in the Wireless Room in forward section at the time of the explosion, and picked himself up in darkness with the ship turning over. “I reached out to the door and pulled myself out. Telegraphist Meadows left the Wireless Office with me. On getting out of the office I saw daylight ahead. We both walked down the passage for about five yards, and then got into the water, and I swam round until picked up by a motor boat. Telegraphist Meadows was picked up by a float.

Lieutenant Ronald J. Hanson RN


He was a passenger in the Vimiera when she was mined, having been appointed CO of the Hunt Class destroyer, HMS Albrighton, whose build was nearing completion at John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde.  He had been reading a confidential book in the Captain’s Day Cabin and after the explosion he ran on deck and helped to get a Flotanet over the side, and closed some of the doors to the Wardroom flat. He then went onboard MMS 19 with the other survivors but returned to Vimiera to assist the First Lieutenant with an attempt to take the after part in tow.

Lieutenant Van Kleeck, Royal Canadian Engineers

He was a passenger in the Vimiera, and after the explosion provided valuable assistance in both the engine room and after boiler room. He was a big man, possessing great physical strength. After the survivors had been transferred to MMS 19 there seemed to be a reasonable chance of towing the after part clear of the swept channel and the First Lieutenant called for volunteers to return to secure a line. Lt Van Kleeck was one of the first to offer his services. The Commander in Chief, The Nore, wrote a letter of commendation to his Commanding Officer.

The total of 31 includes the two Stoker Petty Officers rescued by Stoker PO Chapman. There were seven further men recovered and it is believed that of these one died of wounds in hospital and three were dead on landing. At present we do not know the names of the other three but it is probable that one was the Chief ERA.

In addition there was one member of the ship’s company on leave:


Petty Officer James Henry Thompson Errington (C/J.3111786) [48]
Petty Officer James Henry Errington, one of the men awarded the BEM for the rescue work off the Haisborough Sands, had with the Captain's permission swopped shore leave with another PO and was at home when the Vimiera struck the mine. He lived with his wife at Strood in Kent and they heard the explosion. The next day two Navy personnel arrived to advise his wife that her husband had been killed (he was working in the garden at the time). I am indebted to their son, also named James Errington, for this story.



For whom the bell tolls

Presentation of the bell of HMS Vimiera to HMS Graham, 1957
Presentation of the bell of HMS Vimiera to HMS Graham, the RNR shore base at Govan, Glasgow, in 1957 as a memorial to the men who died
The bell was presented by Capt Roger B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN (centre), her CO when Vimiera brought the Welsh and Irish Guards back from Boulogne in May 1940
On the left is Lt Lt W.R.M. Murdoch RNVR (the units training officer and ex Vimiera) who drew the key identifying the men in the photograph of the ship's company
On the right is Capt W.S. Dobson RNVR, CO of Clyde Division RNVR, who was a newly promoted lieutenant in Vimiera when she brought the Guards back from Boulogne
Copyright The Herald, Scotland

Ship's Company of HMSD Vimiera, Rosyth 1940
The ship's company of HMS Vimiera at Rosyth in 1941
At least 49 of the 119 men in this photograph died when Vimiera detonated a mine in the Thames estuary on the 9 January 1942
Lt Cdr Angus Mackenzie took command of Vimiera on the 26 February 1941 and is No. 92 on the key to the photograph below
The photograph is courtesy of John Knott

Plan identifying men in photograph of the ship's company of HMS Vimieraa

The names of the men in the photograph of the ship's company are listed from left to right in five rows to aid identification
Some correections have been made based on information received from family members
Use the numbers and refer to the key drawn by
Lt Lt W.R.M. Murdoch RNVR to identify individuals
                                                   
1- Sto Duffy   2 - O.sea   3 - AB Ireland   4 - Sto Jones   5 -
O. Sea    6 - Ldg Sea Daglish   7 - Sto Buchanan

8 - Sto Fielding   9 - Sto Dye   10 - AB Flaherty   11 - Ldg  Sto Sale  12 - Sto Kelly  13 - AB Kemp  14 - Sto Harris  15 - O. Sea  16 - AB Brown RNVR  17 - Sto Jackson  18 - Tel Moses  19 - O. Sea Smith  20 - Tel Meadows
21 - O.Sea   22 - AB Green  23 - AB Ashby  24 - AB Dyball RNVR  25 - AB Nugent RNVR  26 - AB Smith  27 - AB McDougall RNVR  28 - AB Edelston RNVR  29 - AB Chalmers  30 - O.Coder Foster 31 - SA Smith


32 - Ldg Sea Ritchie  33 - AB Robinson RNVR  34 - Sto Kelly  35 - O.Sea Watts  36 - AB Faizey  37 - Sto Franks  38 - O.Sea Thomas  39 - O. Sea Bucklitch?   40 - O. Sea   41 - Sig Gibbons 42 - CPO Chiverton   43 - O. Sea 
44 - SBA Kidson   45 - A/PO Clark  46 - Ldg Sto Wilson  47 - AB Mills  48  - PO Errington  49 - AB Shields  50  - O. Sea Doughty  51 - SPO Hayward  52 - Sto Gasson  53 - PO Tel Whitworth   54 - AB Wearmouth  
55 - AB Coyne RNVR  56 - O.Sig Clark  57 - CPO Dean DSM   58 - AB Rowlandson  59 - AB Husband RNVR  60  - PO Cannon  61 - AB Foster  62 - Ship Wrt Thomson  63 - AB Moffat RNVR   64 - AB Ruchley 
65 - EA Anderson  66  - O.Sea   67 - AB Tudor  68 - PO Chapman  69 - AB Wilson  70 - Ch Sto Shipp DSM   71 - Writer Lunn  72 - AB Clark RNVR    73 - A/PO Stoner  74 - O.Sea  75 - Std Cunningham  76 - CERA Gabitass   77 - SPO Fox   78 - ERA Hodgson   79 - ERA Mansfield   80 - Ldg Sea Simpson   81 - ERA Freeman   82 - A/PO Archer   83 - ERA Barker   84  - Ck Harris  85  - Ldg Ck Tomkins   86 or  119 - AB Adams*


 87 - Mid D F Lacy RNR   88 - Gnr S G Rodwell RN 89 - Ty S/Lt A F Bull RNVR   90 - S/Lt D D O’Sullivan  91 - Lt R L Caple DSC RN  92 - Lt Cdr A A Mackenzie RNR   93 - Lt W R M Murdoch DSC RNVR
 94 - Ty.Surg Lt JD Kidd RNVR   95 - Cd.Eng E G Blofield DSO RN    96- Ty S/Lt  Spring RNVR


97 - Sto   98 - O.Sea   99 - O.Sea   100 - AB Watkins   101 - AB Jeans?   102 - Sto Vaughan   103 - AB Gould   104 - AB Ashworth   105 - AB McCormack RNVR   106 - blank   107 - AB Elliot RNVR   - 108 Sto Halmond? 
109 - AB Farrell  110 - Tel O’Connell   111 - AB Milne RNVR   112 - AB Kennedy RNVR (holding 120 Andrew cat/dog)  113 - AB Johnson RNVR   114 - Sig   115 - AB Thomson  116 L- dg Sto Simpson  117 - Ldg Sea Hale  118 - AB  119 -
AB Adams       


This key identifying the 119 men in the photograph (plus "Andy", the skipper's family dog) was drawn by Lt W.R.M. Murdoch RNVR (see 93) and is reproduced here courtesy of his widow, Sylvia Murdoch.

double click on the photograph and its key to view full size and zoom in to identify faces


Buried Ashore
The names of the four men whose bodies were recovered or who died after rescue are listed here.
Their position in the photograph of the ship's company as shown by the Key drawn by Lt Murdoch is given in square brackets.


HUSBAND, John, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2700, killed [59]. Buried in Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetary, in Naval grave 1442.

"Jack" Husband came from Glasgow and was 29 when he died. He was the son of John and Florence Husband, of Glasgow and married to Margaret Kerr of Carntyne, Glasgow.

JAMISON, John D C, Able Seaman, C/JX 240190, RNVR, DOW (Died of Wounds) 10 January 1942. Known by his family as "Ian", the name recorded on his gravestone. Buried in Paisley (Hawkhead) Cemetary,  in Section H grave 528.

LACY, David, Midshipman, RNR, killed [87]. Buried in Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetary in Naval grave 1436.

Mid Lacy was commended for his contribution to the rescue of survivors from the ships which ran aground on Haisborough Sands off the Norfolk coast on 6 August 1941 by

"Carrying out the task of plotting the Ship's position under exceptionally difficult conditions for 14 hours without respite, thereby allowing the Commanding Officer to concentrate on handling the Ship. Due to his organisation of the Echo Sounder and hand lead the Ship was able to be brought sufficiently close to render assistance to the stranded Merchant Seamen on Haisborough Sands."

David Lacy was the adopted son of Annie M. E. Lackersteen, of Chatham. He was 19 when he died.

SIMPSON, Frederick G, Leading Seaman, RFR, C/J 110567, killed [80]. Buried in Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetary, in Naval grave 1439



Missing Presumed Killed (MPK)
and commemorated on the Naval Memorials at Chatham and Portsmouth

The names of 89 men who died but whose bodies were not recovered are listed below
Their position in the photograph of the ship's company as shown by the Key drawn by Lt Murdoch is given in square brackets.


 ALDRIDGE, Albert W, Engine Room Artificer 3c, C/MX 61768, MPK

 ANDERSON, Andrew, Electrical Artificer 2c, C/MX 47576, MPK [65]

 ASHBY, Frederick, Able Seaman, C/JX 189695, MPK [23]

 ASHWORTH, Albert R W, Able Seaman, C/JX 193031, MPK [104]

 BAKER, James W B, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 277401, MPK

 BALES, Thomas G, Stoker Petty Officer (Pens), C/K 61934, MPK

 BASS, James, Able Seaman, C/JX 131596, MPK

 BENJAMIN, Herbert G, Supply Petty Officer, C/MX 46778, MPK

 BIRD, Kenneth C, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 269073, MPK

Robert Briggs 1940BRIGGS, Robert William, Able Seaman, BEM RFR, C/J 98193, MPK [106]

Briggs was one of five men awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for crewing the whaler which rescued men from the eight ships which ran aground on the Haisborough Sands off the Norfolk coast on the 6 August 1941. Robert William Briggs was 36 years old whe he was killed,  married and living in Dunfermline with his wife and child not far from Rosyth where his ship was based.

He was the son of Thomas Charles and Emily Ada Rose Briggs; husband of Margaret Doris Briggs, of Walthamstow, Essex. His widow was left with a three month old son and went to live with her parents in Walthamstow and lost contact with her husband's family. She was presented with his BEM at Buckingham Palace.



BROWN, Archibald Sinclair, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2688, MPK [16]

Brown was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941.

 BURCH, Henry B, Ordinary Seaman, P/JX 257054, MPK

 CANNON, Arthur A W, Chief Petty Officer, C/J 112131, MPK [60]

 CARROLL, John, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 258530, MPK

 CARRUTHERS, Thomas L, Ordinary Coder, C/JX 230272, MPK

 CHALMERS, David S, Able Seaman, C/JX 169545, MPK [29]

 CLARK, Francis, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2598, MPK [72]

 CLARK, Robert G H, Ty/Act/Petty Officer, C/JX 134241, MPK [45]

 CURTIS, Leonard, Leading Seaman, C/J 102494, MPK

DEAN, Henry G, Chief Petty Officer (Pens), DSM, C/J 28737, MPK [57]

Dean was awarded the DSM for "good services in Operations off the Dutch, Belgian and French Coasts", the action at Boulogne on 23 May 1940 when Vimiera brought back 1,955 troops from the harbour city on the day it fell to German forces.

 DYBALL, James, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2867, MPK [24]

 DYE, Albert E G, Stoker 1c, C/KX 97653, MPK [9]

 EDELSTON, Frederick, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2870, MPK [28]

 ELLIOTT, William S, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2384, MPK [107]

 FARRELL, James, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 1557, MPK [109]

FASEY, William H, Able Seaman, C/JX 158935, MPK

Fasey was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941.

 FEARON, Matthew E, Ordnance Artificer, RNSR, C/SR 8027, MPK

 FIELDING, James N, Stoker 1c, C/KX 91729, MPK [8]

 FORBES, William L, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 270833, MPK

 FOWLER, Stephen H, Leading Telegraphist, C/JX 135864, MPK

 FRENCH, Edward W, Canteen Manager, NAAFI, MPK

 GIBBONS, John D, Signalman, C/JX 211604, MPK [41]

 HAMILTON, Malcolm G, Ordinary Signalman, C/JX 228967, MPK

HAND, Harry, Ty/Act/Leading Stoker, C/K 64335, MPK

Harry Hand was born in 1900 at a workhouse in Cornwall and ran away ran away to join the Navy as a boy sailor in 1914.

Large group aboard unidentified ship
Harry Hands is the boy kneeling on the left in this photograph taken aboard an unidentified ship around 1916-18
Courtesy of Bruce Webster

In 1924 when he sent the Christmas card home he was serving in HMS Canterbury, a member of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in the Atlantic. What little is known of his life at sea is derived from the letters he wrote home to his wife Mildred Hands (née Heather) known as Milly.

Leading Stoker Harry HandChristmas 1924 in HGMS Canterbury, 2nd Cruiser Squadron


In December 1939 he was in HMS Ajax at the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval engagement of the war. He was sent home on compassionate leave when his wife developed long term schizophrenia from which she never recovered. Despite this he decided to resume his wartime service in the Navy and is believed to have joined HMS Vimiera in 1941 after the photograph of the ship's company was taken at Rosyth in July.

When he died on 9 January 1942 he left behind his sick wife, two daughters and a son. His grandson, David Webster, supplied the photograph and will, we hope, provide further details of his grandfather's life and wartime service in HMS Vimiera.

HARRIS, Reginald J, Ty/Leading Cook (S), C/MX 60132, MPK [84]

Reg Harris 1940 Reginald John Harris  was born on 21 June 1921 and enlisted in the Navy on his eighteenth birthday in 1939. He was a "brewey hand" at Elgoods Brewery in his home town of Wisbech when he signed on as an OD (Ordinary Seaman) for twelve years. After basic training he was drafted to HMS Vimiera as Assistant Cook on 25 January 1940. Less than a moth later he was rated as Cook and by the 7 September 1941 he was a Leading Cook in HMS Vimiera. He was in HMS Vimiera during the evacuation of the Welsh and Irish Guards from Boulogne on the 23 May 1940.

In December 1941 he returned to his home in the market town of Wisbech in the Cambridgeshire Fenns to spend Christmas with his Mother and stepfather and within two weeks of returning to duty on 30 December his mother received a telegraph informing her that he was missing after Vimiera detonated a mine and sank in the Thames estuary.

HAWES, Frank, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 248318, MPK

HILLSON, George W, Engine Room Artificer 5c, C/MX 76798, MPK

HODGSON, William H, Engine Room Artificer 2c, RNR, C/X 919 EB, MPK [78]

Hodgson was commended after the rescue of seamen from a merchant ship which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941 "For being at his station below without respite from 0430 until 1400. The engines were in constant use throughout this time and although out of sight it was in no small way due to his efforts that the rescue was made possible" William Henry Hodgson was the 39 year old son of William Henry and Margaret Hodgson and was married to Kathleen Hodgson, of Wallsend, Northumberland.

HURLEY, James E, Able Seaman, C/JX 191570, MPK

HUTCHINGS, George V, Signalman, RFR, C/J 90136, MPK

Hutchings was commended for "Continual vigilance. He was instrumental in locating men in the water and in directing the operations of the lifeboats" during the rescue of seamen from a merchant ship which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941. George Victor Hutchings was 40 when he died. He was married to Vera E. M. Hutchings, of Wood Green, Middlesex.

 INGLIS, Alfred J, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 279994, MPK

 INGRAM, William J, Stoker 2c, C/KX 130677, MPK

 IRELAND, Eric L, Able Seaman, C/SSX 32901, MPK [3]

 JOHNSTON, James D C, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2885, MPK [113]

 KELLY, William, Stoker 1c, C/KX 117545, MPK [12 or 34]

 KEMP, Frank E, Able Seaman, C/JX 150664, MPK [13]

 KIDSON, John T, Sick Berth Attendant, C/MX 57851, MPK [44]

LEE, John T, Able Seaman, C/JX 155588, MPK

Lee was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941. John Thomas Lee was the son of Ernest Thomas and Ethel Jane Lee, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, and was 21 when he died.

LEMON, Leonard, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 260559, MPK

Leonard Lemon was 32 and living with his wife Phyllis in Colindale, north London when he died. He was the youngest of four children and was born at Carlingford, near Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland, on 21 July 1909. His father, David Lennon (1877-1919) was in the Navy and Leonard and his older brother Alexander also joined the Navy. We do not know his trade but he could not have been in the service long as he was still an Ordinary Seaman (OD). Leonard and Phyllis had no children and she remarried. His great nephew, David Lennon, has provisionally identified him in the photograph of the ship's company. His body was not recovered and his name is recorded on the Chatham war memorial.

 LITTLEWOOD, William J, Stoker 2c, C/KX 134156, MPK

 LORD, Matthew, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 260968, MPK

MCANNA, Francis, Act/Leading Signalman, C/JX 144324, MPK

McAanna was commended for "Continual vigilance. He was instrumental in locating men in the water and in directing the operations of the lifeboats" during the rescue of seamen from a merchant ship which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941.

MCCORMACK, Andrew, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 1995, MPK [105]

McCormack was one of the ratings commended for "Jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale" when several merchant ships ran aground on Haisborough Sands on 6 August 1941. Anrewq McCormack was the 27 year old son of Thomas and Annie McCormack, of Glasgow.

 MCDOUGALL, Duncan A, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2890, MPK [27]

 MILLER, William, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2705, MPK

 MILLS, Earton F, Able Seaman, C/JX 174174, MPK [47]

 MILWAY, Charles J, Able Seaman, C/JX 174169, MPK

 MOFFATT, John H, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2873, MPK [63]

 MORRIS, Ronald D T, Stoker 1c, C/KX 107878, MPK

 MOSES, Francis V, Ordinary Telegraphist, C/JX 197846, MPK [18]

 NUGENT, Joseph, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 1547, MPK [25]

 O'CONNELL, Arthur, Telegraphist, C/JX 181097, MPK [110]

 ORD, Ralph W E, Ty/Act/Petty Officer, C/JX 125038, MPK

 READING, Leslie W H, Stoker 1c, C/KX 86194, MPK

 RITCHIE, James, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/JX 153195, MPK [32]

 ROWLANDSON, Samuel R, Able Seaman, C/JX 143413, MPK [58]

 RUCHLEY, John H, Able Seaman, C/JX 197599, MPK [64]

 RUFFELL, Henry A G, Signalman, C/JX 268941, MPK

 SHIELDS, Thomas D C, Able Seaman, RNVR, P/CD/X 2443, MPK [49]

 SHIPP, Robert I, Chief Petty Officer Stoker (Pens), DSM, C/K 59747, MPK [70]

 SMITH, Frank, Able Seaman, C/JX 199235, MPK [26]

 SMITH, Lewis E J, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/J 113758, MPK [31?]

 STEVEN, John S, Telegraphist, C/JX 154841, MPK

 STONER, Reginald E, Ty/Act/Petty Officer, C/J 109677, MPK [73]

 SWINTON, Thomas, Stoker 2c, C/SKX 1523, MPK

 THOMAS, Robert M, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 277180, MPK [38]

 THOMPSON, Harry H, Shipwright 1c, C/MX 47080, MPK [62]

 THOMSON, Owen E, Able Seaman, RNVR, C/LD/X 5206, MPK [115]

 TOMKIN, John W, Ty/Petty Officer Cook (S), C/MX 48337, MPK [85]

 TREEN, Gerald F, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 277640, MPK

 TUDOR, Norman A, Able Seaman, C/JX 187106, MPK [67]

 WATKINS, Thomas, Able Seaman, C/JX 184904, MPK [100]

 WATSON, David, Stoker 1c, C/KX 100077, MPK

 WAUGH, Joseph A, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 266912, MPK

 WEBSTER, Stanley A, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 183323, MPK

 WHITNEY, Sydney, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/JX 152423, MPK

WILKINSON, Charles R, Stoker 2c, C/SKX 1525, MPK

These details are taken from the web site of the Scotter Parish Council: "Charles Roy Wilkinson was 19 when he died. He was born on 12th November 1922, 11th of the 13 children of William and Annie Wilkinson who lived at 14 The Green, Scotter, in Lincolnshire. The family called him Charlie and to friends he was known as 'Channy'. Charlie became a lorry driver's mate and seems to have been a likeable young man who was quite popular with the ladies. He had a reserved occupation but chose to serve his King and Country by joining the Royal Navy."

 WILSON, Archie W G, Leading Stoker, C/KX 84427, MPK [46]

 WINSLEY, Charles E, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 67136, MPK




"A SHIP'S BELL WAS THEIR MEMORIAL"

The ship's bell was presented to HMS Graham by Capt Roger B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN in 1957 as a memorial to the men who died

Lt Cdr Hicks was the CO of HMS Vimiera during the action at Boulogne on the 23 May 1940 when she brought 1,955 troops back home
HMS Graham was the shore base for the Clyde Division of the RNR and many of the ship's company came from Clydeside
HMS Graham closed in 1993 but the Clyde Division RNR Old Hands Association keeps memories alive

Image credit (on right): Jamie Simpson/Herald and Times Group


RNR War Memorial at Graham HouseLaying the wreath in Graham House on 9 January 2017For whom the bell tolls ...

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

No Man Is An Island

John Donne, 1572 - 1631




"Within weeks we had painted, polished and equipped, stored, watered, ammunitioned and in double quick time left Pompey and made our way up to the West coast of Scotland. Here in comparative safety we could do our 'rubbing up' period. A time when everyone has to learn their action station and the next man's. Gun firing, torpedo firing, anti-aircraft firing, depth charges, water tight doors, fire drills, these things went on day and night. We had to get the crew up to a decent standard. Problem was most of these lads had just been 'called up'. Many came from Scotland, weekend sailors, who had never been to sea before and it didn't help matters not understanding their Scottish brogue." Stanley Adams.


Where is the ship's bell from HMS Vimiera?
When HMS Graham closed in 1993 the bell disappeared
The Herald Scotland published a story on the loss of the bell on 13 December 2016
A former RNVR officer at HMS Graham who read the story in The Herald has told us that when HMS Graham closed
the bell was sold by Defence Sales through Phillips the Auctioneers

The bell could not be struck on the 75th anniversary of her loss on 9 January 2017
in memory of the 93 who died
but a wreath was laid on the war memorial in Graham House by Lt Frank Donald RN (Ret) on behalf of the V & W Destroyer Association

And we are hoping that somebody will come forward with information about its present whereabouts


If you have information about the men who served in HMS Vimiera or the ship's bell please contact Frank Donald





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: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/servicerecords.html



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