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







Warship Weeks

Hucknall in Nottinghamshire adopts HMS Vimy

Warships Week 2 March 1942


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.

Most of the V&W Class destroyers in commission with the Royal Navy were adopted during the Warship Week scheme and in a number of cases local sea cadet units later took the name of the ship. To find more about Warship Weeks see Peter Schofield’s article on ‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’.

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Hucknall - a coal mining town
Linby Colliery, Hucknall

Hucknall, formerly known as Hucknall Torkard, is situated seven miles north-west of Nottingham on the west bank of the Leen Valley.  Its prosperity was based on coal mining. Maureen Newton, a local historian in Hucknall, told me:

"We had two pits in Hucknall itself. Hucknall No.1 (Top Pit) and Hucknall No.2 (Bottom Pit) which employed the most men. Hucknall men did work at Linby Colliery as it was within walking distance - but - quite a few others were as well. My mum said she could stand on the top of the local Misk Hill and see nine collieries. I have not yet worked out if this is true but there were a lot in easy reach. In 1861 Hucknall No.1 was the first colliery in the Leen Valley coalfield and the others followed afterwards."

At its peak in 1963 the Linby Colliery (above) employed 1,113 men and claimed to be the most productive coalmine in Europe. The last pit closed in 1986. The "Flying Bedstead", the prototype of the first Jet-powered Vertical Take-off and Landing Plane (VTOL) , was researched and tested at Rolls Royce in Hucknall. Rolls Royce still employ some people but there are no other large scale employers and most people work out of town in Nottingham or elsewhere.

The start of Warships Week in Hucknall was reported by the Nottingham Evening Post on 14 March 1942
Ordinary Seaman R.D.F. Hodgkinson, a Hucknall naval rating on leave was chosen to open Hucknall Warship Week today
Next to him is Councillor G. Smith Chairman of the Hucknall UDC
The ceremony took place in the Byron Cinema


Nottingham Journal

Hucknall had its own local paper, the Hucknall Dispatch, but the Nottingham Journal and the Nottingham Evening Post (above) began publishing stories about plans for Warships Week in December of the previous year by which time the name of the ship to be adopted was already known and regular updates were published. The following articles are all from the daily  Nottingham Journal.

Monday, 15 December 1941 - For the Hucknall and District Warship Week, HMS Vimy a destroyer has been adopted.  The target is 210,000, and 14-21 March 1942, the week allotted to raise the sum.

Wednesday, 18 February 1942 - Seeing the “big guns" are difficult to get for the opening of Hucknall Warship Week to commence 14 March, the committee have agreed upon a novel ides tor the occasion. All the naval man who happen be on furlough at the time will be marched to the ceremony at the Byron Cinema, and the person to declare the decks cleared for action will be determined by a draw. Mr. F. Seymour Cocks, MP, and local councillors will be present with military units, sea  cadets, and other branches of the Services.

Friday, 13 March 1942 - Hucknall WW opens tomorrow.  The target is 210,000, representing the hull of a destroyer.  The ship adopted is Vimy and the town is gay with displays linking ‘Vimy with Victory’.  The area covered by the week is Hucknall, Papplewick, Bestwood and part of Annesley.  The opening ceremony will be performed by a local naval man home on leave, but the actual personage will not be decided until a short time beforehand.

Press cutting from Nottingham Newspaper asbout  award of DCM to Petty Officer ShawSaturday, 14 March 1942

The opening ceremony was on unusual lines. Conspicuous in front of the platform were six local naval men, along with a lady of the. Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD)  attached to the Royal Navy. From this list Ordinary Seamen R. D. F. Hodgkinson was selected to declare the Week open, and he wished success to the effort. Another boy was called upon to announce the promises so far, and these amounted to 105,250. The target is 210,000 for the adoption of HMS Vimy. To each of the men in the silent service, Councillor G. E. Goodall, chairman of the Committee, presented a Savings' Certificate. The chair was occupied by Councillor O. Smith, who said that the target meant 30,000 a day, but by pulling their weight he felt they would achieve their object. During the afternoon there was a parade of various detachments through the town. Up to last night the Carlton campaign had realised 105,000. A Comforts Fund dance the Western Tennis Club, Derby Road, last night, was well attended.

Monday, 16 March 1942

The Hucknall Warship Week, the target for which Is 2l0,000 - opened on Saturday at the Byron Cinema on unusual lines.  Conspicuous in the front the platform were six local naval men along with a member of the VA.D. attached to the Royal Navy. From this group O/S  R. D. F. Hodgkinson was selected to declare the Week open and wished success to the enterprise. Another naval man was called upon to announce the promises, and so far these totalled 105,250. To each of those in the “Silent Service,” Councillor G. Goodall, the chairman of the committee, presented a Savings Certificate. The chair was occupied by Councillor Oliver Smith, chairman the Council.  Councillor. W. Reynolds described the Navy as ‘Their Salvation’ and he hoped that Hucknall would raise the money not only for the hull of the destroyer Vimy, but a good deal of its equipment.  Mr. F. Seymour Cocks, M.P. tor the Division proposed vote of thanks to the committee, the group secretary and the various helpers.

Monday, 26 March 1942 - Including a few interest-free loans, the latest returns show that 192,350 was realised by the Hucknall Warship Week against a target of 210,000.  Last May during War Weapons Week the town and district reached 230,000 or 80,000 beyond its target, so to raise nearly 423,000 within ten months is regarded as a notable contribution.

Friday 27 March 1942 - Hucknall C of E (Mixed Department) National Savings Association succeeded in raising 4,180 17s during Hucknall Warship Week.
 
Thursday 18 June 1942 – Mr G. E. Goodall presided last night at the final meeting of the Hucknall Warship Week Committee.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer sent a letter expressing thanks for the free gifts amounting to 32 5s 10d.  The expenses of the selling centre were 13 19s 9d, all of which was met by various efforts, and left a balance of 9 10s.


The exchange of plaques by the Admiralty and Hucknall Urban District Council

The Nottingham Jouurnal reported on the exchange of plaques in its issue dated Saturday 29 February 1943 (see below) and in all probability the plaque presented by the Admiralty to Hucknall UDC was proudly displayed in the Council Offices until Hucknall UDC was swept away by Local Government Reorganisation in 1974. This replaced 1,086 urban and rural districts with 296 District Councils and was one of the main reasons why so many of these war memorial to adopted ships and the men who served in them were lost sold or scrapped.

Hucknall has no museum and when Hucknall UDC became part of  Ashfield District Council and the Council Offices in Hucknall were cleared the Hucknall Heritage Society retrieved the more interesting items to save them from being scrapped. These included the engraved wooden plaque bearing the arms of Hucknall which was returned to the town before HMS Vimy went to the breakers yard but did not include the plaque bearing a cast iron replica of the "screen plaque" mounted on the front of her bridge. This may have been transferred to the District Council Officers in Ashfield which later moved to Kirby or, perhaps, sold to a collector as they were thought to be made of bronze  and fetched a good price.

I am hopeful that the plaque will be found and reunited with the plaque presented to the ship and displayed in a public place as a war memorial where they  can be seen by the families of the men who served in HMS Vimy and the families of the men, women and children who raised 192,430 in National Savings during Hucknall's Warship Week to pay for the cost of the hull of a new destroyer.

Frank Donald was two months old when his father Lt Cdr Colin Donald was killed by  a sniper's bullet on the bridge of HMS Vimy, his first command, while evacuating the Welsh and Irish Guards from the besieged port city on 23 May 1940. Four days later his successor as CO was swept overboard and killed during the Dunkirk evacuation. Frank Donald followed his father into the Navy and has been helping me build this website from the beginning.

It was not all death and destruction aboard HMS Vimy. About the time when Hucknall adopted this elderly destroyer her crew awarded their Commanding Officer with the "Order of the Whale" for depth charging a surfacing whale. The presentation was made during a "Crossing the Line" ceremony with officers and men dressed for the occasion photographed by AB Robert Holland and sent to me by his grandson.

Press Cutting abut HMS Vimy (undated)
HMS Vancouver was renamed HMS Vimy in 1928
Courtesy of Peter Mcquade, grandson of LS Arnold Ludlow
Crest of HMS Vimy
The crest of HMS Vimy was mounted on the wooden shield
presented to Hucknall by the Admiralty after her adoption
Courtesy of HMS Wildfire, Sheerness
The plaque presented to  HMS Vimy by Hucknall UDC and RDC
The "plaque" presented to HMS Vimy by Hucknall
Courtesy of Peter Butler and the Hucknall Heritage Society



The Nottingham Journal

Saturday, 20 February 1943
Plaque For Hucknall - First 1OO for HMS  Vimy’s Crew

“Presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Hucknall Urban District
to commemorate the adoption of HMS Vimy during Warship Week, 2 March. 1942."


"Such was the inscription upon plaque given to Hucknall last right by Admiral Sir William E. Goodenough in exchange for one from the town.  There was a good muster of towns people at the Church Hall to witness the ceremony which was presided over by the chairman of the District Council Mr. Oliver Smith,' who spoke of the successive efforts made by the town since the commencement of the war, and handed to the Admiral the first cheque of 1OO for comforts for the crew. Mr. G. E Goodall, who is chairman of the Savings Committee, also eulogised Hucknall people for their contribution of 239,000 and 194.000 in respective weeks, added to which there were weekly Savings to the extent of 5,000.  After the exchange of plaques, Admiral Goodenough gave an address in which he mentioned that the Navy was bringing across the water 13oz out of every lb of flour.  A dance followed the presentation."

Hucknall raised 229,332 (10 19s 8d per head) during War Weapons Week and 192,430 (7 8s 2d per head) in Warship Week.

But where is the Admiralty plaque now?



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The "unofficial" adoption of HMS Vimy in 1940 by the
"Woolgatherers" of Heswall
on the Wirral in Cheshire


Liverpool Echo
Wednesday 1 May 1940

"By a praiseworthy effort made by people associated with the Liverpool liner Apapa, led by Mr S Broadbridge, the Chief Steward, a Wirral organisation called the Woolgatherers, which exists to provide comforts for men in the Services has been able to adopt the destroyer HMS Vimy, and have sent the crew, comforts, books and games."

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Informal adoptions of ships by schools were not uncommon but this example of an unofficial adoption does seem a little unusual and it would be nice to find out more. Today the "Woolgatherers of Heswall" is a theatre company in small town on the Wirral peninsula in Cheshire not far from Birkenhead. It was formed in 1940 which suggests that it may indeed have been formed "to provide comforts for men in the Services" and developed quite differently in later years. Kevin Roberts, the Chairman of the Woolgatherers of Heswall e-mailed me this brief description of how it all began.

"The Woolgatherers of Heswall is an amateur dramatic society based in Heswall, Wirral. We can trace our name back to 1940 when a group in Heswall gathered wool to knit into balaclavas and mittens for troops. They raised money for this, and also for the British Red Cross Heswall Branch, through performing revues at Heswall Parish Hall. One such revue over two nights in November 1941 raised 130 (roughly equivalent to 5000 in today's terms) to buy surgical dressings. This continued until the end of the war. After war ended, with an increase in membership and an influx of ideas, the group performed its first full play "For the Love of Mike" in 1946 and every year since has performed at least one full play. Nowadays three plays are produced each year at Heswall Hall.

The name "The Woolgatherers" was coined by a member of the group called Tony Newland. Tony's wartime job was with a Liverpool Shipping Company and "he never knew whether he would be called away to report casualties".

The MV Apapa was an Elder Dempster passenger liner based at Liverpool on the West African run to Lagos in Nigeria. In June 1940 she rescued military personnel from the Gironde River below Bordeaux. On 15 November 1940 she was part of a convoy from Freetown to Liverpool when she was bombed 300 miles west of Northern Ireland and 24 out of the 261 passengers and crew were lost. The SS Mary Kingsley came so close alongside that many of the passengers were able to leap from one ship to the other. The remainder took to the boats and were picked up by other ships. We hope to find out more about the role of Mr Broadbridge, the Chief Steward in the MV Apapa, in the adoption of HMS Vimy by the "Woolgatherers".


If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Vimy you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link: http://vandwdestroyerassociation.org.uk/Service_Records.html



If you have stories or photographs of HMS Vimy you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster



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