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 www.naval-history.net
was a V-Class destroyer ordered from Beardmore at Dalmuir, 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 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
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 she also took part in the Dunkirk
rescuing 2,976 troops. She was the first V&W class destroyer to be
converted into a long range escort, the work being completed in June
1941. This entailed the removal of a boiler and the substitution of
extra fuel tanks. After a successful Warships Week National Savings
campaign in March 1942 the Vimy
was adopted by Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.
Following conversion 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 repairs to damage sustained in collision with
U162 in the Western Atlantic, Vimy
joined the 2nd Escort Group for North Atlantic convoy escort duties in
November 1942, transferring to the 6th Escort Group in April
1943. From June 1943 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 141st Escort Group, returning to the North
Atlantic from November 1944 to the end of the war. Noteable
events involving the Vimy
21 September 1941 – The Italian submarine Luigi Torelli was heavily damaged
by depth charges from Vimy
(with HMS Wild Swan) while
escorting convoy HG-73
3 September 1942 – The German submarine U-162 was sunk in the
Atlantic north east of Trinidad by depth charges from HMS Vimy, HMS Pathfinder, and HMS Quentin.
4 February 1943 – The German submarine U-187 was sunk in the North
Atlantic, by depth charges from HMS Vimy
and HMS Beverley.
The Vimy was reduced to
reserve status and paid off between May and August 1945, and scrapped
at Rosyth in 1948.
Battle Honours ATLANTIC 1939-45, DUNKIRK 1940,
ENGLISH CHANNEL 1944-45, NORMANDY 1944, NORTH SEA 1944-45
Lt. Roderick Ian Alexander-Sinclair, RN
1938 – Oct
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
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
Tempy. Gunner(T) C H Knight (13 April 1944)
Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation V.
Anderson (Kings Lynn), G. Beckett (Birkenhead), R. Challacombe
(Ivybridge, Devon), S. Claridge (Hook, Hants), A. Muir BEM (Scone,
P. Scudds (Bucklebury, Berks), K. Williams (Bristol).
Conditions on V & W Class
destroyers were so bad in rough weather that the men who served on them
were paid hard-lying money. These stories by veterans who served on
HMS Vimy were 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
now out of print. They are reproduced here by kind permission of
Clifford Fairweather and his publisher, Avalon Associates. Copyright
remains with the authors and
photographers who are credited where known.
The destroyer on a voyage of blushes;
Lucas Garner, HMS Vimy
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
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
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.
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
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
We limped into the Port of Spain 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!
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 we
spotted what seemed to be a periscope and after closing to 'Action
Stations', opened fire but on approaching closer, how glad we were of
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 Tabago. We resumed our duties and
continued the voyage without further incident.
After leaving Gibraltar we made our way to Portsmouth and from there
continued her work in the North Atlantic, taking part in other actions
including the Normandy Landing. In 1945 like the rest of the V&Ws
she was decommissioned and scrapped after having played a gallant part
in two wars.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Able Seaman Richard B. Wright Submitted by A Muir BEM, HMS Vimy
Hardships! Hardships! You don't know what hardships are! So say's Joe Beckett, 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!
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
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
I was the 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.
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
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
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.
Whilst aboard Vimy
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.
Note "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."
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
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.