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




Hereford adopts HMS Volunteer

Herefordshire Warship Week
29 November - 6 December 1941


Between October 1941 and the end of March 1942, Warships Weeks were organised in cities, towns and villages throughout Great Britain.  The intention was to raise a sum by investment or deposit in all types of war savings representing the cost of building one of His Majesty’s ships ranging from the smallest to the largest vessels.  Once the target had been raised the community adopted the vessel along with its crew and the bond was strengthened by presentations in recognition of the money raised. Adoption plaques were presented by the Admiralty to the community and a plaque presented by the community to the adopted vessel. Links were maintained by the writing of letters and the provision of comforts and whenever possible visits were arranged to the adopting area. Herefordshire was a bit different as the seven towns and villages which adopted warships held their Warship Weeks as the same time from 29 November to 6 December 1941.

Most of the V&W Class destroyers in commission with the Royal Navy were adopted during the Warship Week scheme and in a number of cases local sea cadet units later took the name of the ship. To find more about Warship Weeks see Peter Schofield’s article on ‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’  and the county guide to towns which adopted V & W Class destroyers throughout Britain.

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Hereford Cathedral on the River Wye by (Pictures Of England)
Hereford Cathedral from the River Wye
Photographed by Martin Humphreys
Courtesy of Pictures of England


Hereford is the County town of Herefordshire and has a population of 61,000. It is located on the River Wye which rises in mid Wales and flows south of Hereford through Ross on Wye to meet the  Severn at Chepstow near the Severn Bridge. It has a beautiful cathedral which was established in the 7th century and a medieval bridge over the River Wye. David Garrick (1717 - 1779), one of the most influential and popular figures in British theatre history was born there, as was Nell Gwynne, the mistress of Charles II. She was one of thirteen mistresses but the most popular with the public and there is a pub named after her on Monkmoor Street. The Special Air Service (SAS), a unit of the British army specialising in  counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, direct action and covert reconnaissance is based in Hereford. The area is also  famous for its cattle, the white faced Herefordshire Bull which is often used as an emblem symbolising Herefordshire.


Warship Week in Herefordshire
29 November - 6 December 1941

Tin Bage for Warship Week in HerefordshireHerefordshire Tmes, December 1941
The same tin badge could be sold in all seven towns and villages
The target set for the County was 660,000 but Hereford got off to a slow start
See cutting from the Hereford Times for Saturday 6 December 1941

Warship Weeks were held in most towns and cities in Britain  but with a few exceptions on different dates. Herefordshire decided that its seven towns would all hold theirs in the week from 29 November to 6 December 1941. The towns may express a preference but the ships allocated to them were chosen by the Admiralty. In most cases the choice was based on the size of the town since they had to raise a sum equal to the cost of building the hull of a similar class of ship and were also encouraged to raise double this sum to cover the cost of fitting out the warship.

Leominster was the largest town after Hereford with a population of 11,700 followed by Ross-on-Wye (10,500), Ledbury (10,000), Bromyard (4,700)  and Kington (3,300). The villages of Bredwardine with Dore (600) and Weobley (1,250 ) also adopted ships. Hereford and Bromyard were allocated V & W Class destroyers but Leominster and Wigmore were rather surprisingly allocated a minesweeper but raised more than Bromyard.

Competition between neighbouring towns to see which would raise the most money was always fierce but especially so in Herefordshire where all seven Warship Weeks were held at the same time. The size of ship allocated was usually based on population, a good indicator of the amount of money a town could raise and it was rather surprising that Leominster was allocated a minesweeper and the smaller town of Bromyard a destroyer. Bromyard expected to be allocated a Corvette for which the target figure was 50,000 but the Admiralty slipped up and through an administrative error they received a destroyer. By 1943 Bromyard had doubled their target figure but that was still only half the amount raised by Hereford to adopt HMS Volunteer. These figures were supplied by Peter Schofield, my advisor on Warship Weeks and ship adoptions.

Hereford MB and RD 61,000
Volunteer V & W Class Destroyer
253,499 See below
Bromyard UD and RD 4,700
Vivien
V & W Class Destroyer 125,000
Kington 3,300
Gentian Flower Class Corvette 59,393 Both Plaques are in Kington Museum
Leominster and Wigmore 11,700
Fitzroy (i) Albury Class Minesweeper 128,146 Lost June 43, adopted HMS Arcturus
Ross-on-Wye UD and RD 10,500
Ross
Albury Class Minesweeper 128,451
Bredwardine and Dore 600
HM ML 102 Motor Launch
27,047
Weobley 1,250
HM ML 105 Motor Launch 38,378



The adoption of
HMS Volunteer by Hereford



The Mayor's Officer told me that Hereford was the second city in Britain to receive a Royal Charter (the first was Ely which adopted HMS Walpole) and although its population was only 61,000 it exceeded its target figure of 210,000 and raised 253,499 (5 1s 6d. per head) to adopt the destroyer HMS Volunteer. Today the adoption of HMS Volunteer by Hereford is almost completely forgotten by the people of Hereford, so much so that at first even the Town Clerk had no memory of having seen the ship's crest mounted on the traditional wooden shield with an inscribed brass plate recording its adoption after a successfull Warships Week in December 1941. Later, he was good enough to admit that it was "hidden in plain sight" hanging above the door into the Mayor's Parlour in the splendid Edwardian Town Hall.

This year is the 80th anniversary of the holding of Herefordshire's Warships Week and I am hoping that local historians and former Sea Cadets living in the city will find out more about the events held in Hereford during Warships Week and trace the plaque presented to HMS Volunteer by the City when she was adopted. It would have been returned to Hereford after the war when Volunteer was decommissioned and went to the breakers yard. In my view it should be on public display alongside the Ship's crest presented to the City by the Admiralty. It may be hidden in a cupboard for safe keeping or given by the City to the Sea Cadet Unit whose first Training Ship was TS Volunteer. I am hoping it can be relocated before this year's 80th anniversary of her adoption.

Today Hereford City Council is a Parish Council with a small tourist office with a small tourist office in the entrance to the Town Hall and a Mayor's Officer to assist the elected Mayor who has his office in the Mayor's Parlour and a strong room to keep secure the silverware acquired by the City over the centuries. It has no more power that a Parish Council. Herefordshire is governed by the County Council which is based in the nearby Shire Hall and it is an attractive city with a beautiful cathedral and a splendid location on the River Wye which is well worth a visit. The Mayor’s Parlour and Silver Museum are open to the public, free of charge, on Wednesdays from 10:00 to 16:00 for guided tours.  At other times by appointment through the Mayor’s Office.  These are all within the splendid Edwardian Town Hall.

Bill Forster in the MayorsParflour of Hereford Town Hall on Thursday 9 September 2021
I visited Hereford on Wednesday 8 September to see the ship's crest of HMS Volunteer mounted on a wooden shield presented to Hereford in December 1941
The shield and its crest hang above my head to the left of the door with a framed photograph of HMS Volunteer hanging nearby
This photograph of Bill Forster was taken by John Marshall, the Officer for the Mayor


In most towns throughout Britain the local papers reported the events held to raise funds to adopt a warship during their Warships Week and this was also the case in Herefordshire with the exception of Hereford where only a single reference to Warship Week has been found in the
online digital edition of the Hereford Times. And that makes no reference to HMS Volunteer!

The Admiralty were often slow to reach a decision on which ship to allocate for adoption by a town in its Warship Week or made changes after the week had began and this could impede the raising of funds to adopt a ship whose name might not have been announced or even changed after publicity material had been printed. HMS Volunteer was originally going to be adopted by Rowley Regis, a town in the West Midlands which is now part of MB of Sandwell:

Evening Despatch,
Tuesday 17 March 1942
HMS Tumult is to be allocated to Rowley Regis in connection with its Warship Week effort next week instead of HMS Volunteer as originally intended.

In most towns and cities which adopted warships after successful Warships Weeks they are on public display in the Town Hall or Council House but have occasionally been moved to a Museum. The main visitors to this website are the families of the men who served in HMS Volunteer and I am hoping that some of them may decide to visit the City which adopted their ship during this year's 'staycation'.

Admiralty Shield presented to Hereford on the adoption of HMS Volunteer in Warships Week December 1941
Inscribed plate recoeding tghe adoption of HMS Volunteer by Hereford
The Admiralty shield bearing the crest of HMS Volunteer presented to Hereford
The inner shield is a lion's head mounted on  waves symbolising the bravery of volunteers
Photographed by John Marshall in the Mayor's Parlour at the Town Hall

When I first contacted Hereford City Council nobody could tell me where the wooden shield bearing the crest of the ship presented by the Admiralty to the city and the plaque presented to the ship by the City were now. The only physical evidence of the adoption of HMS Volunteer by Hereford was a framed photograph of “HMS Volunteer in the Firth of Clyde” dated 1941 which had hung unregarded on the wall of the Mayor's Parlour for decades but rather to my surprise the Town Clerk e-mailed me in July 2021:

"I am obviously so familiar with the Mayor’s Parlour I have stopped noticing things! Above the doorway where you only see it if you have reason to look up we have a wooden shield with HMS Volunteer’s crest and a plaque from the Admiralty thanking the City for raising funds for the ship."

The adoption of HMS Volunteer became a forgotten detail of Hereford’s History, with the commemorative shield with the ships crest unnoticed among the many artifacts on display in the Mayor’s Parlour. I received a photograph of the shield and ship's crest from John Marshall, the Mayor's Officer, but the lettering on the plaque was difficult to read and I obtained a much better photograph when I visited Hereford on 8 September 2021 but the plaque bearing the crest of Hereford presented to HMS Volunteer by the City has not been found.

In far too many cases these war memorials, for that is what they are, have been sold or even thrown in a skip for disposal but I would like to think that most of those which have "gone missing" have simply been forgotten and still hang on the wall of a civic building or lie hidden in a cupboard for safe keeping. December 2021 will be the 80th anniversary of Herefordshire's  Warship Week, and an appropriate time to rediscover them and the history of the ships adopted and the story of the men who served in them.

The Town Clerk is trying to establish whether records still exist of events held during Warships Week which raised a quarter of a million pounds to build a new ship. It seems unlikely there were reciprocal visits of Councilors to HMS Volunteer and her officers and crew to Hereford as happened in other towns (see, for example, the links between Ely and HMS Walpole) as these visits would surely have been reported in the pages of the Hereford Times, but perhaps I shall be pleasantly surprised and find I am wrong. The Hereford Guild of Guides has contacted its members to see if they can provide further details of the link between Hereford and HMS Volunteer, the V & W Class destroyer the city adopted eighty years ago in December 1941.

The memory of HMS Volunteer seems to have been almost totally eclipsed by the adoption of HMS Antelope in 1972 which was sunk in the Falkland War in 1982. The members of the Hereford Branch of the Royal Navy Association met in the Antelope pub until its demolition twenty years ago and I am hoping that some of their former members can tell me about the earlier adoption of HMS Volunteer.

Click on my name (below right) to e-mail me if you can help.

Bill Forster
V & W Destroyer Association

Hereford Sea Cadet Unit
Sea Cadet Unit 180

It seems too much of a coincidence that the Hereford Unit of the Sea Cadet Corps was established in 1942 for it not to be connected with the holding of Herefordshire Warship Week in December 1941. Surely, its first Training Ship (TS) must have been named TS Volunteer? Thirty years later the Hereford Sea Cadet Corp, Unit No 180,  adopted HMS Antelope (F170) which was launched in 1972 and sunk in 1982 during the Falkland War. I am still waiting to hear from CPO Emma Drew, of Hereford Sea Cadet Unit, whether the name of their first Training Ship (TS) in 1942 was TS Volunteer. The crest of HMS Antelope is hanging near that of HMS Volunteer on the wall of the splendid Mayor's Parlour in Hereford's Town Hall. Next year will be the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Hereford Sea Cadet Unit in 1942.


I  am also hoping that a naval enthusiast or local historian in Hereford will take up the challenge of researching the history of HMS Volunteer from her first commission in 1919 to going to the breakers yard.
For further  details see the guidance given here then contact Bill Forster for more information.

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Volunteer you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/servicerecords.html


If you have stories or photographs of HMS Volunteer you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster





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