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

Captain Richard Stannard, VC, DSO, RNVR
Peter Tipler, Chairman of the Loughton Branch of the Royal Naval Association
This article was first published in the Loughton & District Historical  Society Newsletter 144  in April - May 2000

Lt Richard B Stannard RNR won the first VC of the war commanding HM Tug Arab during the evacuation of Namsos, Norway, and Lt Cdr Stannard the CO of HMS Vimy in 1943 the DSO for sinking U-187. He lived in Loughton, Essex, between 1937 and 1949 and Loughton Town Council unveiled a blue plaque on the wall of his former house in The Avenue in 1999. The photographs have been downloaded from the website of the Imperial War Museum. Crown Copyright in photographs expires fifty years after they are taken and these wartime photographs are now in the public domain. The Loughton Branch of the RNA is no longer active and I have been unable to contact Peter Tipler to ask for consent to republish his article but would like to hear from him - or anybody in contact with him. Please e-mail BIll Forster at the V & W Destroyer Association.

Lt Cdr Richard B Stannard VC on HMS Vimy
Press Cutting of Lt Cdr Stannard (Vimy) & Guy Gibson RAFThe Norway Campaign was not one of the successes of the War and the Navy was called in to evacuate troops from several points, among which was Namsos, about 100 miles north of Trondheim, where troops had been landed on 14 April 1940. Amongst the ships sent there were the 15th and 16th Anti-Submarine Striking Forces.

These splendidly named forces were actually composed of four trawlers each, with Royal Naval Reserve officers and crews from the Royal Naval Patrol Service. Their duty was to patrol the fjords for submarines, but slow and lightly armed as they were, they made easy targets for the Stuka dive bombers, who soon made it impossible for them to operate in daylight. The 15th Anti-Submarine Striking Force, under Commander Sir Geoffrey Congreve, arrived at Namsos at 0200 on 28 April 1940. Lieutenant Richard Been Stannard, RNR, commanded HM Trawler Arab. A merchant seaman, he wore the interwoven gold rings of the Royal Naval Reserve on his jacket.

Arab was ordered alongside the cruiser Carlisle to ferry stores and equipment from the ship to the shore. The first air raid began at daybreak when Arab was cast off from Carlisle and later secured alongside a jetty astern of a French ammunition ship Saumur. She was still there when another air raid began. A bomb landed on the jetty and set fire to many tons of hand grenades which had been disembarked.  Lieutenant Stannard ran Arab's bows against the jetty and held her there by running the engines slow ahead. He sent all but two of his crew to comparative safety aft and then tried for two hours to put out the fire with Arab's hoses. He succeeded in saving part of the jetty, which was invaluable in the later evacuation.

Arab spent the night of 28–29 April ferrying a battalion of 850 French troops from shore to ship before facing a long day of air attacks in which 16 near misses damaged Arab's rudder and propeller and cracked her main engine castings. Stannard had to find shelter by running Arab under the cover of some cliffs. The air attacks continued the next day. Stannard took his own crew and the crew of the damaged trawler Gaul ashore and set up an anti-aircraft gun position on the cliffs, where he beat off a succession of dive-bombing attacks. The next morning many of the men, including Stannard, were suffering from frost-bitten feet and Stannard had been wounded by a bullet. However, when a bomb hit the trawler Aston Villa and set her on fire, Stannard went back on board Arab and had moved her about 100 yards, just far enough off, before Aston Villa blew up.

At last on 2 May, when the Namsos evacuation was almost complete, they were ordered to leave and as Stannard set Arab with her damaged engines gingerly going down the fjord, another vessel received a hit from a bomb and caught fire. Stannard took Arab alongside and took off her crew. At day break when they had barely cleared the entrance to the fjord a Heinkel 111 bomber appeared on the scene. The pilot signalled ‘steer east [back to Namsos] or be sunk’. Stannard said later ‘he appeared to be a novice’ and he flashed back what he called ‘a suitable answer in reply’. Stannard held his fire until the unwary pilot made a pass, banking over them at a range of 800 yards. Arab opened fire with every gun and the first burst brought the Heinkel spinning down into the sea. Stannard then brought Arab safely home in spite of her damaged engines.

A few weeks later he would be at Dunkirk and again in the thick of the action. In his own words: ‘Dunkirk was a picnic compared to the hell of Namsos.’ As his citation of 16 August 1940 said: ‘his continuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy was magnificent and his enterprise and resource not only caused losses to the Germans but saved his ship and many lives.’ Arab survived 31 air attacks in five days at Namsos and, in a way, it was appropriate that when Stannard went to Buckingham Palace to receive his Victoria Cross from King George VI on 3 September 1940, the first anniversary of the outbreak of war, the ceremony was switched from the quadrangle to the great hall – because of an air raid!

He was mentioned in dispatches in December 1940 for gallantry in command of Arab during an air raid on a convoy he was escorting when the SS Statira was bombed. By now he was Lieutenant Commander RNR.
King Haakon awarded him the Norwegian War Cross on 19 October 1942 for his bravery at Namsos Wharf on 28 April 1940. Stannard was promoted Lieutenant Commander RNR on 29 June 1940 and then commanded HMS Ramsay, one of the 50 ex American destroyers, in 1941. In May 1943 he was back at Buckingham Palace to receive from the Queen the Distinguished Service Order for his part as captain of the destroyer Vimy which with Beverley sank U18 during a three-day and night running battle in the Atlantic beginning on 4 February 1943.

Lt Cdr Richard Beenn tannard in his  cabin aboard HMS Vimy
Lieut Cdr R B Stannard, VC, RNR, in his cabin on board HMS Vimy
On returning to Liverpool after sinking U-187 on 4 February 1943
IWM A 15018

Lt Cdr Stannard with his two brothers, both officers in the Merchant Navyy.
Lieut Cdr Stannard, VC, RNR, on HMS Vimy at Liverpool with his two brothers, both in the Merchant Navy
Left to right: Chief Engineer Noel Stannard, Lieut Cdr R B Stannard, VC, RNR, and first officer John Stannard

Photographed by Lt H.W. Tomlin  (IWM  A 15025)

Stannard went to sea as an apprentice in the Port Line ship Port Victor in 1918 and advanced from Fourth to Second Officer from 1922 to 1928. In March 1929 he joined the Orient Line and also became a probationary Sub Lieutenant RNR. Promoted Lieutenant RNR in 1932 and Second Officer in the Orient Line in 1937. After Arab and Vimy he commanded Peacock, Prince Henry and Stanley. He was promoted Commander RNR on 30 June 1947 and left the Reserve in September, rejoining the Orient Line as Chief Officer and Staff Commander in 1949. He was promoted Captain RNR in May 1952.

About this time the RNR (twisted and knotted) and the RNVR (wavy Navy) became one as the RNVR Permanent Reserve, so Stannard became Captain RNVR not RNR as throughout his wartime career. He survived a car crash in 1945 and moved to Australia and became Marine Superintendent of the P & O Orient Lines of Australia.

The Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum at Lowestoft was opened by his surviving two daughters with his actual Victoria Cross in their possession. I believe one daughter lives in Australia and the other daughter lives in Surrey.

Richard Been Stannard was the first RNR VC winner of the Second World War. He was born on 21 August 1902 at Blyth, Northumberland, one of three sons of Captain George Davis Stannard, Master Mariner, and Elizabeth Jane Stannard (née Knowles). His father's ship, Mount Oswald, was lost with all hands on a voyage from Baltimore in February 1912 and Richard and his brothers went to the Royal Naval Merchant School (in Essex and later in Wokingham, Berkshire) which was founded in 1827 for the orphans of merchant seamen.

In 1928 at West Ham he married Phyllis May Tomkin, the daughter of G P Tomkin, a printer of Leytonstone, Essex. He lived at 33 The Avenue, Loughton, from 1937 till 1949 and at Balmoral Heights, Sydney, New South Wales, where he died on 22 July 1977.

Find out more about Lt Cdr Stannard's time as CO of HMS Vimy and the battle to sink U-187 and the rescue of her surviving crew members

See also Capt Richard B. Stannard's entry on at

When the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association was founded in 1977 to unite the veterans who served in the Royal Naval Patrol Service 1939-1946 it occupied some of the buildings of HMS Europa, the former HQ of the RNPS and established a Museum in the Stannard Room, named after Captain Richard Been Stannard RNVR. It contains a full length portrait of him, his medals and many other unique items relating to his service. It also includes the wheel of HMS Vortigern which was presented to the Museum by the V & W Destroyer Association in 1996. The escorts for East Coast Convoys included HM Tugs from the RNPS as well as destroyers. When HMS Vortigern was torpedoed and sank off Cromer on 15 March 1942 she suffered the greatest loss of life of any of the east coast escorts.  The photographs of the wheel and a first hand description off her loss by one of the twelve survivors out of the 159 men aboard can be seen on the Home Page of the website about HMS Vortigern.

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