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

HMS Vimy
photograph from

Click on the links within this brief outline for first hand accounts by the men who served on HMS Vimy and for a more detailed chronolgy see

HMS Vimy was a V-Class destroyer ordered from Beardmore at Dalmuir on the Clyde, Glasgow and was laid down in June 1916. She was launched in December 1917 as HMS Vancouver, the first RN ship to be named after the explorer, Captain George Vancouver. She was completed in March 1918, with a minelaying capability. After service in the Grand Fleet she was deployed to the Baltic and took part in actions against Russian forces in support of countries under threat from the Red Army. Later in 1921 she served with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. in July 1922 she accidentally rammed the submarine H24 badly damaging her conning tower.

In April 1928 while in reserve she was renamed HMS Vimy, with pennant number D33, to release the name Vancouver for a new Canadian Destroyer. The new name was particularly appropriate as it commemorated the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Army in 1917.

In 1939 she was commissioned from the Portsmouth Reserve Fleet with a Reservist ship’s company, and was initially employed on convoy operations in the Channel, and later in the South Western Approaches, escorting convoys to and from Liverpool. On 23 May 1940, she was one of eight V & W Class destroyers which  evacuated 20th Guards Brigade from Boulogne, and Lt Cdr Colin G.W. Donald RN was killed by a sniper's bullet on the open bridge of his first command. HMS Vimy had five Commanding Officers in 1940, three of them during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. HMS Vimy made seven trips to Dunkirk and evacuated 2,976 troops. 

Vimy was the first V&W class destroyer to be converted into a long range escort, the work being completed at Portsmouth in June 1941. This entailed the removal of a boiler and the substitution of extra fuel tanks. Lt.Cdr. Henry G.D. De Chair, RN assumed command at the start of her new commission. On 21 September 1941 while escorting convoy HG 73 from Gibraltar to Liverpool HMS Vimy attacked the Italian submarine Luigi Torelli, which suffered serious damage, forcing her to return to base. While Vimy was based as a convoy escort at Freetown, Sierra Leone, she made her two briief sallies south "Crossing the Line" and the traditional ceremony welcoming initiates to Neptune's Kingdom was photographed by a member of the ship's company. After a successful Warships Week National Savings campaign in March 1942 the Vimy was adopted by Hucknall, Derbyshire.

The Vimy was based as a convoy escort at Freetown, Sierra Leone, until August 1942 when she escorted the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs following attack by frogmen at Alexandria. After handing her over to an American escort and setting course for Trinidad to refuel Vimy had a most extraordinary encounter with a "whale" which on closer observation was seen to be a torpedo fired by U-162 which then rammed Vimy on 4 September 1942 damaging her port propeller. De Chair described the ramming of Vimy and subsequent depth charging of the u-boat in The Navy (November 1956) and AB John A. Lucas-Garner describes it briefly but more vividly below. On the 14 September while escorting a tanker convoy to Gibraltar (with fuel for the landings in North Africa) Vimy had another encounter with what was thought to be a u-boat and opened fire on a raft carrying survivors from the West Lashaway sunk three weeks earlier on 30 August 1942. See Lucas-Garner's brief description below and the illustrated account on the linked page.

Vimy returned to Britain to have her port propeller,  damaged in the collision with U-162, repaired at Portsmouth and in November joined the 2nd Escort Group for North Atlantic convoy escort duties. On 1 December 1942  Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR  succeeded De Chair as CO and on 4 February 1943 while escorting Convoy SC.118  HMS Vimy and Beverley sunk U-187 and rescued the survivors. Vimy transferred to the 6th Escort Group in April 1943 and the Group defended convoys on the UK – Gibraltar route, in connection with the military build up in the Mediterranean, returning to North Atlantic operations in January 1944.  From May 1944 the Vimy was involved in protection of the Normandy landings and Channel operations as part of the 141 st Escort Group, returning to the North Atlantic from November 1944 to the end of the war.

The Vimy was reduced to reserve status and paid off between May and August 1945, and scrapped at Rosyth in 1948.

Battle Honours

Commanding Officers

Lt.Cdr. Walter James Burberry Handley, RN (22 Apr 1932 – Aug 1934)
Cdr. St John Aldrich Micklethwait, RN (Sep 1938 – Oct 1938)
Lt.Cdr. Ivo Thomas Clark , RN (15 Jun 1939 – 8 Nov 1939)
Lt.Cdr. Colin George Walter Donald, RN (8 Nov 1939 – 23 May 1940) - died of wounds after Boulogne
Lt.Cdr. Richard George Kirby Knowling, RN (23 May 1940 – 28 May 1940) - lost overboard at Dunkirk
Lt. Adrian Paul Northey,RN (28 May – 30 May 1940)
Lt.Cdr. (retd) Michael Wentworth Ewart-Wentworth, RN (30 May 1940 – 20 Jul 1940)
Lt.Cdr. Dermod James Boris Jewitt, RN (20 Jul 1940 - Dec 1940)
Lt.Cdr. Henry Graham Dudley de Chair, RN (20 May 1941 – 1 Dec 1942)
Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR (1 Dec 1942 – 28 Mar 1943)
Lt.Cdr. John Neil Kelly Knight, RN (28 Mar 1943 – 24 Jun 1944)
Lt Cdr Karl Henry John Lynch Phibbs RN (24 June 1944 - May 1945)


Lt. Roderick Ian Alexander-Sinclair, RN(10 Sep 1938 – Oct 1938)                            
Mid. J F Barratt, RNR (29 Aug 1939 - )
Lt. T Bateman, RN (22 Mar 45 - )
S.Lt. F Bedford, RN (15 Jun 1939 - )
Tempy. Lt.Cdr(E) W A Bell DSC, RNR (19 Jun 1944 - )
S.Lt. B M A Braine, RN (30 Nov 1944 - )
Cd. Engineer H T Carter, RN (14 Oct 1937 - )
Lt. Thomas Rawdon Chattock, RN (30 Nov 1929 – Jan 1932)
S.Lt. S A G Godden, RN (19 Feb 1940 - )
Gunner (T)  J H Hebron, RN (8 Jun 1939 - )
Lt. Alec Lockhart Hobson, RN (7 Oct 1931 – Jan 1932)
Tempy. Gunner(T) C H Knight (13 April 1944)
Tempy. S.Lt. R McVarish, RNVR (Oct 1943 - )
S.Lt. Robert Andrew Morgan, RN (15 Jun 1939 – Apr 1940)
A/S. Lt. Charles Rennie Cowie Morison, RN (28 Oct 1941 – Aug 1942)
Lt. Adrian Paul Northey, RN (1 Jun 1939 - )
Tempy. S.Lt Harold Norman Nutt, RANVR (27 Dec 40 – Feb 1941)
Tempy. Surg. Lt. J P Partridge, RNVR (3 Jun 1944 - )
Tempy. S.Lt. R D Perry, RNVR (17 Jun 1943 - )
Tempy.S.Lt S E Rotwell, RNVR (24 Mar 1943 - )
Lt(E) EA Taylor RN (23 May 1932 – Sep 1932)
Tempy. Surg. Lt. L D Walker, RNVR (30 Jan 1940 - )
Lt D Williams RN (10 Sep 1938 – Oct 1938)
Tempy. S.Lt. D R Webster, RNVR (26 Feb 1940 - )

Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation
V. Anderson (Kings Lynn), G. Beckett (Birkenhead), R. Challacombe (Ivybridge, Devon), S. Claridge (Hook, Hants), Leading Stoker John Edward Ellson (Wellingborough, Northants),
John Arthur Lucas-Garner, A. Muir BEM (Scone, Scotland), Peter Scudds (Bucklebury, Berks), K. Williams (Bristol).

The Training Ship of the Sea Cadet Unit at Kings Lynn is TS Vancouver
When the V & W Destroyer Association was dissolved in April 2017 its funds were distributed to the eight Sea Cadet Units with Training Ships named after a V & W Class destroyer

Please get in touch if you knew one of the men or have a family member who served in HMS Vimy

The destroyer on a voyage of blushes
by John Arthur Lucas-Garner, know to his shipmates as "Lukey"

John Lucas-Garner at the reunion of thwe V & W Destroyer Association in Worcester 1997Lt Cdr J.G.D. de Chair RNJohn Ellson, the son of Leading Stocker, John Edward Ellson, remembers "Lukey":

"I met John Arthur Lucas-Garner at the first reunion I attended in Worcester in 1997. I had heard of him long before though as he was my dads best oppo on the Vimy and dad often talked fondly of him and their escapades together and this was the first time he and my dad had met or even had any contact since my dad was transferred from the Vimy to HMS Berwick. So they had a great reunion. I remember my dad telling me how he accidentally knocked two of Lukey's teeth out whilst scrambling down a ladder on board during an action. Sadly Lukey passed away before the next reunion I believe."

This aptly named story by "Lukey" Garner (on the left) was published in
Hard Lying, the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association and republished in 2005 by the Chairman of the Association, Clifford ("Stormy") Fairweather, in the book of the same name which is out of print.

The "Order of the Whale"

Shortly after conversion to a Long Range Escort Vimy was steaming from Gib en route to Freetown, West Africa when the Asdic made a positive contact.  With a new Skipper, Lt Cdr J.G.D. de Chair RN (photographed in dress uniform on right), and a green, but enthusiastic crew, everyone dashed to action stations. A depth charge was dropped and it was reported that the target was surfacing. All guns were immediately trained on the likely spot, when up came a ruddy great whale, he spouted, looked at us reproachfully and leisurely swam away. At the later 'Crossing the line' ceremony we presented the skipper with "The Order of the Whale" with a tin replica to hang around his neck.  We later sank the Italian submarine Malaspina so the 'dress rehearsal' had proved useful. 

Rammed by a U-Boat!

Sub Lt Venables RNVR described how HMS Vimy and  "two snooty fleet destroyers", HMS Pathfinder and HMS Quentin, escorted the Battleship Queen Elizabeth to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs following an attack by frogmen at Alexandria.They were near Tobago in the West Indies when a whale appeared to blow astern of Quentin. It was a torpedo running on the surface which  "Quentin skillfully avoided and then the hunt was on".

This unusual event is described  by De Chair in an article for The Navy magazine took place on 4 September 1942 and "Lukey" gives a typical brief description of this unusual encounter below:

"Contrary to popular opinion, when a warship encounters the enemy, all is not a well disciplined calm. The story commences in Freetown, West Africa. HMS Vimy, launched in 1917 and maintained at sea after 1930 by the sweat and colourful language of the engine room staff, was ordered to escort, with two other destroyers, the battleship Queen Elizabeth to the USA for repairs.  The voyage was uneventful until a short distance from the West Indies when going alongside the battleship for fresh bread etc we came a little too close, and riding up her anti-torpedo bulges, tore open our forecastle like a tin can on her armoured side. This caused great annoyance to the watch below, who were enjoying the traditional Naval custom of an afternoon siesta.  We retired blushing, followed by the caustic comments of Queen Elizabeth's ship's company.

The same evening at dusk a torpedo attack was made on one of the escorts. The three destroyers dropped a considerable number of depth charges with no apparent effect and the search for the U-boat was spread over a wide area. Night had fallen and we had lost sight of the other ships. Suddenly a submarine surfaced on a parallel course to the Vimy and only a short distance on our beam. In a matter of seconds 'A' gun opened fire, the submarine fired a red Very signal, which was the correct recognition signal of the day, and the submarine and Vimy altered course towards each other.

The two fleet destroyers accompanying
Vimy gave up the chase and left for Trinidad to refuel intending to return at dawn to continue the search which gave Vimy the chance to sink the sub and claim the glory.

There was some doubt as to the identity of the submarine since we were close to the US Naval base at Trinidad and she could have been an Allied submarine, and as a result the order to cease fire was given. Not that this made much difference since although our gunners worked fast their aim was notoriously bad; they once bracketed a tug very nicely but missed the towed target by about a half a mile.  On this occasion, however, instead of adopting the usual roles when a destroyer encounters a surfaced U-boat  the submarine proceeded to ram us! 

During the ensuing confusion someone fired a snowflake rocket which illuminated the scene to the great satisfaction of all those present. The U-boat bounced and scraped down our port side, inflicting a certain amount of damage to both parties.  Our crew were gazing curiously at the astonishing sight of what seemed hordes of the enemy, clad in the unwarlike uniform of little black bathing drawers and rope soled shoes, busily engaged in throwing themselves into the sea.  Our Port propeller chewed into the Submarine's hull as she slid astern and not being built to withstand such maltreatment, she gracefully subsided into the depths.  After collecting the crew of the U-162, who incidentally only lost one of their number, we learnt that she had been seriously damaged by the depth charge attacks and would probably have sunk anyway.

We limped into the Port of Spain, Trinidad, where we were patched up at the US Naval Base and regaled by the Americans with ice cream and the latest Hollywood epics.  During this brief interlude I celebrated my 21st birthday with the delectable produce of the West Indies so dear to the heart of every matelot - rum!"

Watercolour be De Chair of U-162 attacking Vimy
Watercolour painting by Lt Cdr Henry G.D. de Chair RN of U-162 just before she rammed Vimy
Reproduced from his article on "Oil for North Africa" in "The Navy"

Sub Lt Raymond B. Venables RNVR joined HMS Vimy at Falmouth when De Chair was a popular CO. She was Venable's first ship as an officer and in a rambling but amusing interview in June 2000 for the Sound Collection of the IWM which is online he describes (on Reel 7) the sinking of of U-162 and the treatment of the survivors. He had been told by De Chair to interrogate them while they were still shocked and bedraggled after their rescue but they quite correctly refused to any questions other than giving their name and number until one "poor pathetic boy spilled it all out".

The CO of U-162 was accommodated by De Chair who found him officious and unpleasant but the other officers were housed in the Wardroom and got on well with the British officers. Venables was reluctantly persuaded to do his popular impersonation of Hitler and to his astonishment they fell apart laughing. He felt they had more in common with the survivors of U-162  than civilians back home. They were all “fellow inhabitants of the North Atlantic” united by the sea, “we were all fighting the bloody sea”.

The prisoners were handed over to the Americans at Trinidad and were interrogated by them using the techniques learned from the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) of the Royal Navy and their report can be read on It includes the result of the interrogation of the survivors by Venables and other Briish officers immediately after their capture and  the names of those captured.

Open Fire!

Lucas-Garner described how Vimy attacked  a "U-Boat" which was found to be a raft carrying survivors:

"Orders arrived for us to escort a small convoy to Gibraltar with the assistance of a Corvette. On the very first day of the voyage, 14 September, we spotted what seemed to be a periscope and after closing to 'Action Stations', opened fire but on approaching closer, how glad we were at the gunners notoriously poor marksmanship. What we had mistaken for a periscope was the mast of a crude raft, crowded with pathetic survivors of a torpedoed ship. Among them were a woman and three small children. They had been adrift for some considerable time and although the men on the raft had rigged a small piece of canvas to protect the children from the fierce tropical sun, the effects of the heat and the lack of drinking water left them in a pitiable condition. Our Doctor and S.B.A. tended to their needs and they were later transferred to a tanker that was calling at the nearby island of Tobago. We resumed our duties and continued the voyage without further incident."

The survivors rescued by HMS Vimy were from the West Lashaway which had been torpedoed by U-66 three weeks earlier on 30 August 1942. Peter McQuade, the grandson of LS Arnold Ludlow who witnessed the events, sent me scans of photographs of the raft and the survivors. They include a photograph of Sub Lt Raymond B. Venables RNVR carrying 7 year old Carol Shaw in his arms after her rescue. These photographs and the first hand accounts of the survivors of the West Lashaway bring their story vividlly to life.

After transferring the survivors to a tanker Vimy reumed her escort of a small convoy of oil tankers to Gibraltar urgently needed for the allied landings in North Africa but on arrival the naval dockyard was too busy preparing for these landing to repair her damaged propeller and she had to limp her way home to Bitain and have it repaired at Portsmouth.

The sinking of U-187

After having her port propeller repaired at Portsmouth HMS Vimy joined Escort Group B2 at Liverpool with
Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR  as her new CO, and sank U-187 while esacorting SC.118 from Nova Scotia. HMS Beverley and Vimy rescued the survivors:

We sank U-187 in a combined attack with HMS Beverley and some of the U-boat survivors were placed in the various messes two of them in the E.R.A's mess, one of whom spoke perfect English, I believe he was the navigator. It seemed very strange to be living with and conversing with our bitter enemies. An amazing incident occurred one night when action stations sounded. As you can imagine everyone was dead to the world and this German went round shaking the sleepers, shouting "U-boat!, U-boat!" It was obvious that he did not want to be sunk again.

More anecdotes by Lucas Garner

A young O.D. said he was going to start smoking a pipe. His mates convinced him that he had to put in a request to the First Lieut for permission. This he did, and everyone along the line, including the coxswain fell in with the joke. The young seaman turned up at the table with the request; men and defaulters was piped and with most of the lower deck watching closely, he was told to march up to the table and produce his pipe. This was presented for Number One's inspection who asked the coxswain if it conformed to K.R.'s and A.I.'s regarding bowl size and stem length. He confirmed that this was so. The seaman was told to insert it in the correct orifice. He appeared mystified at this, but it dawned upon him what was meant and he placed it in his mouth. After being inspected at various angles, permission was granted and a pleased young O.D. went back to his mess.

A request was put in for a 'Grudge Fight' and when asked why, the aggrieved matelot said "One of my mess mates had pinched my banger". Permission was granted as such a heinous offence could only be expiated by the shedding of blood. The fight was held on the foc'sle during the first dog watch under the close supervision of the G.I. After a few blows had been exchanged, honour was satisfied, the boxing gloves removed, hands shaken and everyone returned to their respective messes, knowing that justice had been done.

When Vimy was entering Falmouth she ran aground on a sand bank. Despite going 'full astern' she wouldn't shift. The skipper was desperate, as running your vessel aground meant big trouble for a Captain. He had 'Clear lower deck, hands lay aft' piped and all proceeded to the stern. The order was given for everyone to jump simultaneously (all together, at the same time, for the uninitiated). After several jumps by all concerned and with the engines going full astern, the suction of the sand was broken and we became unstuck. It must have been an unusual sight for the people ashore to see so many matelot's behaving in such a peculiar manner. Although on second thoughts I don't know.

During daylight hours on convoy escort duty a torpedo attack was made on the Vimy. I was on deck at the time and could see this torpedo heading right for the spot where I was standing. I was petrified and thought the ship would be finished. Fortunately the ship was low on fuel and supplies and was high in the water, the torpedo passed beneath the hull. My 'Oppo' in the engine room swore he heard the torpedo scrape the keel as it passed under us! Anyway the helm was put hard over so we could get to the position where the attack originated. The wheel was moved so quickly that the rudder jammed in the hard over position and the steering engine shaft that actuates the rudder mechanism sheared. The Vimy proceeded at high speed to run in ever decreasing circles and everyone knows what can happen in such circumstances! It took us about six hours to rectify the damage. Until then we had to steer by engines and with the rudder hard over we proceeded in a crab like manner, strange to behold.

At the end of one arduous convoy (although they were all like that) we were cheered into Liverpool docks by other escorts tied up alongside. Our skipper was so taken up by all this public admiration that he forgot that we were still underway and in full view of all the top brass and the assembled ships company Vimy rammed the lock gates and put a two foot dent in the stem of the ship. As can be imagined the cheering intensified, but the skipper refused an encore!

One of the stokers had a nice little side-line. He made badges and brooches for his mates to give to their girl friends. This hobby entailed the use of a blow lamp and he used the small forward store as his workshop. The blow lamp got knocked over, the store being full of 'Bluebell' metal polish, cotton waste etc; it began to burn like mad. Being a well drilled stoker, he pulled the water tight door closed and once he was out side he raised the alarm. The smoke spread rapidly and the ships side glowed red hot. The fire was situated beneath the Hedgehog ammunition lockers and panic ensued in trying to get the projectiles removed. The ship was in the middle of Wembury Bay in the middle of a large portion of the invasion fleet ready for 'D Day'. Fire boats came from everywhere and water and foam poured down on us. Surprisingly the damage was slight and did not affect the ship's operations.

Finally I came off the middle watch one night and entered the mess, which was in darkness with the exception of the blue night light. I poured myself a drink from the carafe and failed to notice the glass contained a number of cockroaches which had fallen in and could not get out. I swallowed the lot and it wasn't until I felt them going down my throat that I realised what was happening. I was so tired I paid no attention, I just climbed into my hammock and slept.  
AB John Lucas-Garner
photographed top left in 1997 



A rise, a fall, a long suspense
A word just spoken, in the air.
A reel, a swerve, a time intense 
As eyes rest on uneaten fare.  

A sigh, a gulp, a quick upheave, 
A dash to parley with a wave. 
Too late! The deck does now receive 
What I had fondly hoped to save.   

O God! O Christ! How I blaspheme! 
Your sea, your waves, your windy sky! 
O man of earth! How I do scream 
Oh let me be, Oh let me die. 

Of steel, of men, of gun and shell
Seasick I care for no such strength.
Give me the earth, a cool green dell. 
I'll give you all the ocean's length.  

What man, can stand, the bile so vile 
That slimy coming from inside? 
It pains, it strains, Oh rasping file, 
In regions of the unseen side!  

I fling my soul to tide and wind,
God, do your worst with it, or give 
Ease to my tummy full of wind;
Or let me die where fishes live. 

Able Seaman Richard B. Wright 
Submitted by A Muir BEM, HMS Vimy

HMS Vimy in Atlantic gale
HMS Vimy in an Atlantic gale
Photographed by Richard Holland

Hardships! Hardships! You don't know what hardships are!
So say's Harold "Joe' Beckett, a  CW Candidate for officer training in HMS Vimy

I'll come clean, I was born into a middle class family. My father was a bank official. My older brother and I went to Birkenhead Institute, this was a grammar school and my father paid ten guineas a year for each of us.  When WW2 broke out I was thirteen and evacuated to Oswestry in Shropshire. I left school when I was sixteen in 1942 and entered Martins Bank at their head office in Liverpool.

Very unfortunately and tragically my brother John was killed whilst serving as a Sub Lieutenant Observer in the Fleet Air Arm. Quite naturally my parents were devastated, and from then on, all their love and affection was centred upon me.

I was a corporal in the ATC (Air Training Corps) as I had always wanted to fly in the RAF. Because of my brothers death whilst flying, my mother was very insistent that I did not fly. Consequently I volunteered for the Royal Navy through a system called the 'Y' scheme, which was supposed to be a short cut to obtaining a commission, so I got my papers in June 1944 a couple of months before my eighteenth birthday. I entered the RN in HMS Royal Arthur, 'Skeggy' (Skegness). One of the things I remembered there, was going on a run ashore and booking at a theatre to see nude females in the show. They had boa feathers and were not allowed to move!

Joining the Navy

During my interview by a RN Lieutenant I was asked why I wanted to join the Navy. In my utter stupidity, I said, "I really wanted to join the RAF and fly, but my mother wouldn't let me, so I joined the Navy as second best".  The RN Lieutenant went puce and nearly bust a gut. He said in no uncertain terms that I'd better make the Navy "Bloody first best from now on!"

Amazingly I wasn't thrown off my course and was drafted to HMS Excalibur near Crew for my initial training, which was very demanding, both physically and mentally, but an absolutely super for a fit eighteen year old. We weren't even tired by the second dog watch, we had enough energy to play very competitive soccer and hurley in the evenings.  

After twelve weeks, half of Effingham Division passed out and half failed, but there were three of us about whom they could not make up their minds. We were interviewed by four officers chaired by the C.O. Capt. Figgins RN, a very formidable character.  I can't remember much about it except that the final question was: "Did I think I had done well enough in the interview to pass?"  Of course I didn't know, but I figured if I said "No" I was bound to fail, so, I said "Yes", and they passed me!  

I was then drafted to Dauntless for eight weeks sea training. We were taught everything, seamanship, navigation, how to cox a whaler, how to fire a six inch gun etc. We all had to wear an arm band with a number on it, so we were observed all the time. The only time that you felt private was when you were having a Ess-Aitch-Eye-Tee! After eight weeks I was told that I was too immature to continue officer training, and was sent to sea as a matelot to see if I could mature enough to have another bite at the cherry at a later date. This was considered the "Kiss of death".

The next step was a draft to HMS Vimy based at Sheerness. The draft was routed via Chatham barracks and an overnight stay in the infamous tunnel. Any minute one expected to meet the artful dodger or Fagan from Oliver Twist! On the trot boat taking me to Vimy, we passed a ship with a hole in the side. This was Wallace that had hit a mine off Ostend.

Joining HMS Vimy at Sheerness in December 1944

When we arrived on Vimy they were piping "Hands to stations for leaving harbour" and I was told we were taking a convoy to Ostend! I was shit scared. So there was this young eighteen year old in December 1944, who thought that everyone lived in a semi-detached and voted Conservative, plonked into number one mess in the forecastle of a V&W, the youngest and greenest OD imaginable. If you have never lived in number one mess of a V&W destroyer you have never lived. Talk about "See Naples and die".

When the sea was rough, the mess deck was awash. The heads (toilets) had no doors, the washing facilities were primitive beyond belief! The Captain had a bath, the officers had one between them, about 30-40 PO's had six wash basins between them (no taps) the rest of the crew had six between them. To fill them with hot water, you pumped cold water into a tank over the coal fired galley, when hot, filled a bucket and carried it to the wash place.

Like all V&Ws, number one mess contained a steam winch which was used when weighing anchor, around this was a hammock netting where we kept our hammocks when not in use. It emitted so much steam that our hammocks soon became sodden wet. No wonder that TB was rife in the pre-war Navy. So this was to be my home for the next six months, and unbelievably I enjoyed myself.  I had my first alcoholic run ashore with the two Geordies who had befriended me, taught me how to drink pints of mild, and generally looked after me.

Our job was to escort convoys half across the Atlantic and swap them with the Canadians. I had two action stations. One was part of the depth charge party aft. This was exciting but hard work, dangerous too. The other was as telegraph man in the wheel house, a real cushy number; at times I was allowed to take the wheel and steer the ship, this was a real thrill.  

VE day we were alongside Sheerness docks. Half the ships company had twenty-four hours leave, including yours truly and the two Geordies, Green and Laverick. We went up the smoke (Naval slang for London) for the day. It was wonderful, it is hard to describe, it was so packed with people, it felt as though the whole of the UK were there, singing in the streets, pubs ran out of beer, male and female strangers were snogging each other, and more, wherever you went. I often wondered how many babies were born in the first half of February 1946. It must have been a record.  

I was a C.W. Candidate and unless you have been one you cannot imagine what it is like, not being accepted by either the lower or upper deck, it was like being a sea leper. Nevertheless, as long as I kept my place and did my job I was tolerated. There was another C.W. Candidate aboard whose name was Jacques. He was known to the matelot's as Jack Hughes!

Before I left Vimy I was made A.B. And was very proud of this. Also my sea time aboard entitled me to the Atlantic Star of which I am extremely proud. On reflection, when I think of the sailors that did four or five years on Atlantic convoys covering the dark days of 1942-3, I feel very humble.  Eventually Vimy was paid off and I was drafted to HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, this was more pre-officer training. Quite hard work and very different to being at sea in a V&W.

I would like to express our thanks on behalf of the H.O. Ratings and the RNVR officers to the regular RN men, both officers and ratings. I appreciate that we were often cack-handed and bloody useless but by and large you tolerated us in your typical RN way. Thank you most sincerely. 


"The 'Y' scheme recruited educationally qualified (School Certificate holders or better) young men whilst still at school and were 'potential officer material'. Upon call up they completed basic new entrant training as naval ratings before joining
HMS King Alfred. CW (Commission and Warrant) scheme candidates were specially selected men from the lower deck, serving ratings with a minimum of 3 months' sea experience assessed as having officer potential by their commanding officers. CW and 'Y' scheme cadet ratings comprised the majority of the trainees to pass through King Alfred; they were not afforded the title 'officers under training' until the final two weeks of the 12 week course." Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (ret)

The launch of HMS Vancouver (1917) and the bell of HMS Vimy (1928)

HMS Vancouver
HMS Vancouver (G04) soon after coming into service in 1918
Credit Ken Macpherson / Naval Museum of Alberta [Public domain]

Mallet with dent where it hit the chisel at the launch
When a ship is launched a mallet and chisel cuts the cord which releases the champagne which smashes against the bow of the ship. The mallet and chisel are presented in a wooden casket to the person who launched the ship but often get separated. The mallet which launched HMS Vancouver belongs to Alan Dowling

With this mallet I
Mrs R.N. Marshall
Successfully launched
From the Naval Construction Works of
William Beardmore and Co Ld DALMUIR
28th December 1917

Brass polate on the mallet used to launch HMS Vancouver in 1917
Brass plate on the Mallet used at launch of HMS Vancouver in 1917

Badge of HMS Vancouver


Left: a ship's badge of HMS Vancouver launched in 1917.

Right: a ship's badge of HMS Vimy after the name change.

Both badges are the property of Alan Dowling, an avid collector of ships' bells badges and crests. To find out more about their design and use on warships of the Royal Navy click on the link to visit his web page.

If you have items which you think may be of interest to the families of the men who served in HMS Vimy please get in touch and it may be possible to add them to this page.

The scale of the two badges is the same
Badge of HMS Vimy

hip's Bell of HMS Vimy

The Ship's Bell of HMS Vimy

In April 1928 while in reserve HMS Vancouver was renamed HMS Vimy, to release the name for a Canadian Destroyer, HMCS Vancouver. The new name HMS Vimy commemorated the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Army in 1917.

The ship's bell of HMS Vimy was bought by Rodney Scott Moncrieff who lives in the former mining town of Hedley 200 miles east of Vancouver, British Columbia. It was rededicated and is rung on Remembrance Day at cenotaphs and war memorials throughout the state in memory of the Canadians who did not return home.

The bell will be rung 100 times on the 11 November 2018 at the Princeton Branch of the British Legion.

Rodney served in the Royal Canadian Navy on destroyers and his grandfather, Max Collins was a machine gun captain at Vimy Ridge.

From Stoker to "Flunkey" to the CO - and back again!

This anecdote is part of a longer account of Daniel Currie's wartime service told on the BBC People War website

"After I left the Warspite I was drafted to the HMS Vimy (1944), on the North Atlantic convoys, it was a very old ship which rattled along at 25 knots, when I first came aboard the Lt Cdr [either Lt.Cdr. J.K. Knight, RN or Lt Cdr K.H.J.L. Phibbs RN who took over on 24 June 1944] picked me as his "flunkey" (batman).  I had to call him every morning at 7am with a cup of coffee and a jug of water to shave, during the day i'd do odd jobs for him eg: washing and ironing; he was supposed to give me a couple of bob a week ... but he never did!!

One evening the officers were having a drink. The enginering officer had just had a bath when the rest of the officers started messing around; when I went to clean the bath all the towels I had washed were in the bath which was full of thick soapy water, so I just wrung them out and hung them in the boiler room to dry out; they dried out like hard board, I put them back in to the commanders chest of drawers. The next day he sent for me, he wanted an explanation as to why his towels were hard, I told him the truth I said I'd washed them once and didn't want to do them again. He gave me a right telling off, I thought he was going to put me on a charge, he didn't, he sent me back to the boiler room, I was happy to be a stoker again."

Peter Scudds - another Vimy Story

Sheerness is surely the most miserable and depressing of places for a draft to 'clew up' four CW candidates straight from school and we joined HMS Vimy there in mid winter. The atmosphere on the old V&Ws was always friendly and we received a warm welcome
and it was not without misgivings that we welcomed the end of the German war six months later.

Those six months were full and rewarding. First as 'Hedgehog' sweeper; what an unfortunate weapon, more lethal to HM ships than U-boats. The Gunner 'T' (head of the anti submarine department) sought me out in the mess. Was I going to be on Defaulters? Not a bit of it - I was congratulated for my industry in making it possible to train the Hedgehog (ahead throwing anti submarine weapon) left and right, which had not been previously achieved.

Then as dinghy sweeper; the CO, Lt Cdr Karl Henry John Lynch Phibbs RN, was a passionate sailor and I began to enjoy Sheerness and the Thames Estuary since as an extension of my usual duty I was a crew member of the whaler dropped at Deal and sailed to Sheerness.

The best fish and chips ever tasted arose out of provisioning a ship for the North Sea patrol when orders changed to escorting an Atlantic convoy. An 'Asdic Ping' resulted in us depth charging a shoal of cod, scrambling nets were rigged and the cod hauled aboard - big eats.

Another occasion illustrated British over confidence. We were very suspicous of Spanish fishing boats in the convoy lane which ignored orders to heave to. 'B' gun put a shot across their bows, the gun crews changed into number threes [a blue serge sailor suit with red badges, worn for normal occasions], we manned the whaler and boarded what we imagined to be the boat of the senior officer, the vessel was subjected to an abortive search and ordered South. It was only when we returned to Vimy that we realised that we had carried no arms which was certainly not the case with the Spanish!

Our motor boat was useless so once again 'B' gun's crew manned the whaler and this time, when slipped, we fell into the trough of a wave instead of the crest, shipping an enormous amount of Atlantic water. We were taking the doctor to an American Liberty ship, as a crew member had suspected appendicitis. The doctor and S.B.A. grasped the climbing ladder as the whaler turned turtle; the bottom boards had split and 'B' gun's crew were in the drink but managed to board the liberty ship quite quickly despite the Americans throwing both ends of the line to them!

That was the first time 'B' gun's crew had seen drink dispensing machines and they finally returned to Vimy with excellent warm clothing and sea boots. That was not the end of the story because we manoeuvred alongside the whaler, hooked on and manned the falls. The weight of the whaler and water caused the davits to buckle, twenty eight years had taken their toll. A jury rig from the top of the mast enabled the whaler to be shipped - with care. The main complaint of the whaler's crew was that the weather had became calm and the motor boat was able to collect the doctor and S.B.A. who had been looking forward to a hero's welcome in the United States.

We were senior officer of the last Atlantic convoy of the war. As Quarter Master I was able to swipe the White Ensign flown from Vimy, sadly now mislaid.   At Sheerness we de-stored and de-ammunitioned ship and thence to Immingham. Whilst the CW's were excused duty pending drafting, this Quartermaster was required to take the wheel. Vimy well lightened did not take kindly to being 'paid off' and showed her displeasure by bobbing around like a cork in a mill race.

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:
If you have stories or photographs of HMS Vimy you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Frank Donald
Frank is the son of Lt.Cdr. Colin George Walter Donald, RN, CO HMS Vimy, 8 Nov 1939 – 23 May 1940


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