Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation Herbert D. Blackbourn (Boston, Lincs), K. Taylor (Sutton, Surrey) Please get in touch if you knew these men or have a family member who served in HMS Viscount
Herbert Dawson Blackbourn
Life Member of the V & W Destroyer Association
Dawson Blackbourn was born at Sibsey in Lincolnshire on 15 December
1920 and was living with his Mother, Annie Blacbourn, and working as a
tractor driver on a nearby farm when he volunteered to join the Navy on
the 11 March 1940 "until the end of the present emergency". He was just
over 5ft 7 inches in height with brown hair and blue eyes.
After basic training at HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness on the east coast and HMS Drake, Plymouth, he joined the Armed Merchant Cruiser, HMS Cilicia, as an Ordinary Seaman (JX 190674) on 15 August 1940 for six months.
Albert Cooke described the routine on the Peoples War website:
"We sailed to take up northern patrols around Iceland, Greenland, and
the Denmark Straits, with orders to stop and search any vessels which
could be carrying war supplies to Germany. We were next ordered to
escort convoys leaving Britain for 200 miles into the Atlantic, and
then return again escorting convoys bound for Britain."
Herbert Blackbourn left HMS Celicia
on the 16 February 1941 and was sent to HMS Ganges, the former boys
Training Establishment at Shotley, on the opposite side of the River
Orwell from Harwich. In 1940 the boys at HMS Ganges had moved to St George, a former holiday Camp on the Isle of Man, and Ganges
was now used for the training of Hostilities Only (HO) ratings. He may
have been acquiring the electrical knowledge needed by a future
Torpedoman on a destroyer. The V & Ws were originally called Motor
Torpedo Boats but in this war they made little or no use of their
torpedoes and the Torpedomen looked after the depth charges, the
main means of attacking the U-Boats which threatened the Atlantic
convoys. Blackbourne was rated as an Able Seaman (AB) after a month at Ganges and left on 17 February 1942 to join HMS VIscount at its base in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Herbert Dawson served aboard Viscount as an AB until 2 March 1944 and throughout most of that period she was based at Freetown as part of the Freetown Escort Force.
The service record for Herbert
Blackbourn records the dates for each of his postings and made it easy
to record his story in outline above but when it comes to putting flesh
on the bones there is almost nothing to go on. Three very poor quality
photographs plus some intriguing press cuttings about an action in
which HMS Viscount rammed and sunk a German U-boat. The cutting from the Sunday Pictorial
is dated 21 December 1942 which makes it possible to identify the
action described by Googling the names of the ships but what one always
hopes for but rarely finds is a personal account of the action by the
man himself. Herbert must have told the story to friends and family on
many occasions but memories fade and if not recorded in letters or a
journal are lost leaving only official documents such as the Report of
Proceedings which the Commanding Officer was required to write which
are preserved in the National Archives at Kew. They are normally
accurate but stripped of all emotion and fail to convey the excitement
of events as they unfold.
In October 1942 HMS Viscount was part of the escort for Convoy SC1CW when it was attacked by ten u-boats of the Wotan Wolf Pack. Viscount rammed and sank U-661. There were no survivors. Viscount was badly damaged and had to return to the UK for repair.
"When HMS Viscount
rammed a U-boat on a stormy night in Mid -Atlantic, the Commanding
Officer, knowing his ship, told his men 'If I had my choice where to
ram a submarine, I should not have picked a spot 1000 miles from home.
I cannot promise to get you home this week, but we'll get home some
day'. The ramming had torn off a great section of her bow. A head sea
or rough weather would have finished an ordinary destroyer off. Every
scrap of timber on board, even the booms and the ensign jackstaff, was
used to shore up the remaining bulkheads. Gale warnings were received.
The ship ran into a fog. Twisted plates acting as false rudders through
her off course. Five hundred miles from home the deck of yet another
forward compartment collapsed into the sea bringing the weight of the
weather against another bulkhead. Even the mainmast was rigged for
felling in case of further shoring was needed.
Five days later the Viscount came
home, and the dockyard workmen lined the dock to cheer her in.
They knew a good ship when they saw one. Their father's had built her."
Nottinghamshire Evening Post 26th September 194?
Bronze Screen Plaque of HMS Viscount Offered for sale on eBay