one of the V & W Class destroyers built in the last two years of
the Great War and used as convoy escorts in World War 2 exist today.
Within three years of the war ending they all went to the breakers
yard. The traditional two ended pulling boats known as whalers which
from davits on the port side of V & W Class destroyers and the
ships motor launch with its single cylinder inboard motor which hung on
the starboard side often outlived their parent ships and a few are
still in use today. The motor dinghy aboard HMS Vivien
between 24 October 1939 and 18 April 1941 is being restored for family
use by Jamie Williams in Portsmouth and will be relaunched in
Spring 2022. The families of the men who served in her will be welcome
to attend. The plaques presnted to V & W Class destroyers by the towns which
adopted them during Warships Weeks in 1941 - 2 were returned to the towns. Their ship's bells and massive
bronze screen plaques, the tampions which protected the muzzles of
their guns and the boat badges bearing the ship's crest mounted on
their whalers and motor launches were highly collectable and can be bought for high prices on the web.
"Montagu Whalers" were designed by Rear Admiral Victor Alexander
Montagu (1841–1915) in the 1880s and remained in use in the Royal Navy
until after the Second World War. They were intended for boarding enemy
ships but in the last war were mainly used as lifeboats, saving
survivors from merchant ships in convoys which ran aground, detonated
mines, were bombed by enemy aircraft or torpedoed by u-boats.
The ship's whaler of HMS Wren with boat badge recovering the body of the pilot of the German reconnaissance plane shot down off Narwik on 28 May 1940 "A German reconnaissance plane appeared but the Glorious sent up a fighter and clawed it out of the sky"
Ten days later on 8 June HMS Glorious was sunk by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
Photographed by Petty Officer Telegraphist Bill Baker
On the 14 May 1945 Vivien lowered her whaler to take a boarding party to the surrendered German minesweeper M607 and conduct her to the Firth of Forth Whalers were slung from davits on the port side of V & W Class destroyers - note the Carley float on the right This photograph was taken by a photographer from The Scotsman
On 7 March 1942 the ship's boats of HMS Witch were used in the heroic rescue of survivors from the American steamer SS Independence Hall which ran aground on Sable Island
on the Northumberland Banks off the coast of Canada and Leading Seaman
Bannister from Northwich was one of the men who crewed the whaler. LS
Bannister gave up a week of his leave to raise money for the adoption
of HMS Witch
by describing the rescue in talks to schools in Northwich during their
Warships Week. Sadly, the whaler and ship's motor boat from HMS Witch rotted away and were burned many years ago and even TS Witch, the Sea Cadet Unit in Northwich named after HMS Witch, is no more.
Bob Edwards joined the Northwich Sea Cadet Unit in 1952 and recalled:
"We had two dories and a couple of whalers from HMS Witch
and on Regatta Day we towed them with a motor boat up through Hunts
Lock and helped out where we could. The motor boat was an old ship's
lifeboat we built cabins into with an old petrol engine, a Ford 100 E
side valve if my memory is correct." What happened to the two whalers?
Bob Edwards recalled that the two whalers from HMS Witch 'were broken up at Hunts Lock and used for firewood, I presume by the lock keepers' ".
Vivien's Motor Dinghy
The late afternoon sun shines on the transom of the Motor Dinghy hanging from the davits on the inboard starboard side of HMS Vivien HMS Vivien berthed at Tilbury discharging the refugees she took aboard at Hook of Holland on 13 May 1940 Photographed by Sub Lt Herbert Walkinshaw RNVR and reproduced courtesy of Graham Cherry
The motor dinghy had a transom at the rear and a small diesel fueled IC
engine which made it useful as a fast rescue boat but was smaller and
less seaworthy than the 27 ft whaler on the port side of Vivien which carried a bigger crew and had no engine, being rowed or sailed when riggged with sails.
Restoring Vivien's Motor Dinghy
In September 2021 I was contacted by Jamie Williams who has recently
acquired the original 16 ft motor dinghy which hung on the
starbord side of HMS VIvien. It may have been used in the rescue of survivors from SS Voreda
when she was bombd off the Norfolk coast on 30 January 1940 and
in the retrieval of items from the HE111 bomber 6998 shot dwn by RAF
fighters half a mile from Vivien south of Kirkwall in Orkney on 9 April and survivors from the collier SS Brixton mined near Orford Ness on 15 August. These events were photographed from HMS Vivien by Sub Lt Herbert A. Walkinshaw RNVR.
The provenance of the motor dinghy
is well established by records in the library of the NMRN at Portsmouth
and confirmed by the Admiralty's broad arrow, boat number 3830 and the
year 1938 carved on her stem. 3830 is a 16ft Motor Surveying Dinghy,
16ft x 5ft 7 ½” x 1ft 3” ordered on 16 March 1938 and built by Boats
& Cars (Kingston) Ltd. of Kingston on Thames. She was allocated to HMS Scott (J79),
a Halcyon Class survey ship, on 10 June 1938 and despatched to
Caledon Shipbuilding Co on the Clyde on 3 November 1938. HMS Scott
was employed on survey work in connection with the proposal to lay a
Channel Mine Barrage during the first two months of the war.
October 1939 the motor surveying dinghy was transferred to HMS Vivien and remained aboard Vivien until 18 April 1941 when she was allocated to HMS Bishopsgate.
She was "landed and reported for disposal on 24 August 1948" and
was at Rosyth until 12 July 1957 when "she was deemed beyond economic
repair" and sold to a Mr A Jackson for £30 on 18 August 1959. She was
at Huntington for 33 years until August 2007 when she was offered to
Portsmouth Naval Dockyard Property Trust in February 2013 but was
turned down and offered again in May 2015 but rejected.
These are the dry facts as recorded in the Admiralty records but
one gets a far more vivid picture of her activities during the eighteen
months she was aboard HMS Vivien
from the photographs of Sub Lt Herbert Walkinshaw RNVR and the reports
of her Commanding Officers. Unlike the Montagu whalers the design of
the ships motor boats on V & W Class destroyers changed
significantly during the war. In keeping with their more usual role as
a lifeboat the length increased to 25 ft and they were fitted
wiith a cabin. Frank Donald recalled that at Dartmouth in the
1950s "we had 25 foot motor cutters and the coxn used a whistle to pass
engine orders to the "stoker", a fellow cadet or midshipman". They continued in use after the war until they were replaced by inflatables in the 1960s.
Admiralty drawing dated 1967 of a 16 ft motor launch
I have been sent several photographs of the original motor dinghy alocated to HMS Vivien as she is now by Jamie
Williams. He plans to restore her but not to her original condition as
he has four small children and he wants to use her as a family boat.
The original single cylinder Enfield diesel engine had been replaced by
a previous owner with an Enfield twin diesel. He will fit a small fore
and aft deck and install a Stuart Turner P66 engine. I shall give
reports on progress on this page. Jamie Williams hopes to complete the
restoration by Spring 2022 and hold an informal launch at Portsmouth
and would welcome members of the families of the men who served
in HMS Vivien to the launch.
Jamie also sent me several
photographs of very similar dinghies in use along the British coast.
The basic design was adopted by boat builders for small leisure boats
after the war which are still in use today. Some of them may, indeed,
be wartime Admiralty dinghies previously used on warships and only
identifiable by the Admiralty's marks carved on the stem. Whalers were
unlikely to find a new market and as we have seen most were left to rot
and burned as firewood.
Monty was about to be burnt on the banks of the Tamar when Burney Bruan
and Colour Sergeant Fiddler saved her in 1978. She was reportedly built
in 1936 in Malta but sadly no ships history with her. We think she was
used by the local command in Malta and somehow found her way to
UK no doubt on the side of a serving ship. We saved her
once again and brought her back from Falmouth four years ago. We got
her sailing and rowing with an original set of sails and rowed her in
the great river race in London as well as sailing her in the Gold De
Morbihan Brittany France. She is now undergoing further hull repair in
our shed next to the Sea Cadet TS Adventure centre in Bristol City Docks."
One of the last Montagu whalers restored and still afloat is in Tasmania and can be seen on the website of the Living Boat Trust.and there is a restored Montagu whaler in the Museum of the
Historic Naval Dockyard at Chatham.
At present I am not aware of any other whalers in museums or private ownership in Britain and
would like to be contacted by anybody who is.