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

HMS Wakeful
                   photograph courtesy of John Waters

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

HMS Wakeful was the first Royal Navy warship to carry that name. She was completed in December 1917 and saw service with the Grand Fleet in the final months of ther Great War and was present in November 1918 when the German High Sea Fleet entered Scapa Flow to surrender. Wakeful was part of the British Baltic Intervention Force and on the 24 December 1918 left Tallinn in Estonia with Vendetta and Vortigern and captured a Bolshevik destroyer bombarding a lighthouse. On Christmas Day Wakeful with the cruisers HMS Calypso and Caradoc forced another Bolshevic destroyer to surrender. These two Bolshevik destroyers, renamed  Wambola and Lennuk, formed the nucleus of the Estonian Navy.

HMS Wakeful was in reserve for most of the interwar years but was recommissioned in 1939 and was present at the Royal Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay in August. On the outbreak of war she joined the 17th Destroyer Flotilla at Plymouth as a convoy escort in the Western Approaches and the English Channel until May 1940 when she was transferred to Dover Command and supported the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. On the 27 May she embarked 630 troops from Dunkirk for Dover and was damaged above the waterline in an air attack. She returned to Dunkirk on the 28 May, embarked 640 troops on the 29 May and was was attacked off the Belgium coast by E-boats based at Antwerp which emerged from the mist while Wakeful was returning to Dover. She was torpedoed twice, once in the boiler room and split in two with the bow sinking immediately (ADM 358/3640). Only one soldier and 25 crew members survived and HMS Grafton was also sunk whiler attempting to rescue survivors. A complete list of the ship's Company and her passengers including the names of those who survived the sinking and those killed can be seen on the linked page.

One of sixteen W Class destroyers built under the War Emergency Programme in 1943-4 was named HMS Wakeful and served in the Home Fleet, transferring to the Eastern Fleet in 1944, and then the Pacific Fleet. She was converted to a Type 15 Frigate sfter the war and was scrapped in 1971. For further details of the reuse of V & W Class names by ships built under this programmne see the linked article by Frank Donald.

Commanding Officers

Cdr Somerville Peregrine Brownlow Russell RN (26 Nov 1917 - 19 July 1918)
Lt John R. Crothers RN (June – July 1935)
Lt Cdr M.A.G. Child RN  (17 June - 13 July 1939)
Cdr. Robert St. Vincent Sherbrooke, RN (31 July - 8 Dec 1939)
Lt. Cdr. Ralph Lindsay Fisher, RN (18 Dec 1939 - 29 May 1940)


This short list of officers who served on HMS Wakeful have entries on the web site. Further names from the Navy List will be added later.

Lt Claude Beevor King RN (Oct 1923 – Jan 1925)
Lt John R. Crothers RN (June – July 1935)
Lt Claude Beevor King RN (Oct 1923 – Jan 1925)
Lt Terence C. Robinson RN (May - July 1927)
Lt Walter Scott RN (16 Oct 1939 – April 1940)
Acting Gunner (T) S W E Townsend RN (21 Oct 1939 - 29 May 1940)

John Waters was the only veteran member of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation who served in HMS Wakeful
John Waters always attended the annual reunions of the V & W Association accompanied by Joan Walker, his faithful partner and friend for twenty seven years.
He outlived the Association which was dissolved at Derby in May 2017 and was 97 when he died at his home in Market Drayton, Shropshire, on Sunday 14 October 2018.

You can read his story on this page.

Please get in touch if you have a family member who served in HMS Wakeful

The loss of HMS Wakeful
One of the greatest naval disasters of the War

Lt. Cdr. Ralph Lindsay Fisher, RN was appointed CO of HMS Wakeful in December 1939 and his ship was lost at Dunkirk on the 29 May with 640 troops aboard. One soldier and 25 crew members survived. This description of the disaster was written by her CO, Lt Cdr Fisher RN, who retired as a Rear Admiral in 1957 and wrote Salt Horse, A Naval Life, a self published autobiography in the late 70s, which contained this vivid description of the loss of Wakeful.


"We anchored off Braye Sanatorium, unable to get nearer than about a quarter of a mile from the beach on which long queues of soldiers were waiting. It was comforting to be in company with plenty of friendly vessels including, next door to us, the new destroyer Jaguar with much better ant-aircraft armaments than Wakeful. However, there was low cloud and rain that afternoon and bombing attacks were few and ineffective but getting the troops onboard was painfully slow. Our boat would row into the beach only to be swamped by eager troops and immovably grounded. There were other boats about but they tended to be abandoned by soldiers who had finished with them and let them driift away. During some eight hours we got about 640 troops onboard and sailed after dark. Wisely - or perhaps unwisely as it turned out - I had insisted that all troops should be stowed as low as possible so as to preserve stability in case we should have to manoeuvre at high speed to avoid bombs. At fifteen men to the ton 600 men constituted a serious top weight consideration in a ship the size of Wakeful. Accordingly they were stuffed into engine room, boiler rooms and store rooms. The route this time was by Zuydcootte Pass, where I felt our propellers hitting the sand and then up to Kwinte Buoy where one would turn west for Dover. So as not to reveal ourselves to aircraft by a bright wake we went at only 12 knots until we neared the Kwinte Buoy where any enemy might be lurking and then increased to 20 knots with a wide zigzag. Phosphorescence was very bright.

The buoy was brightly flashing once a second and when it was about a quarter of a mile on our starboard bow I saw two tracks like white swords coming towards us from that direction. We avoided one but the other torpedo hit us on the forward boiler room with, I remember, a brilliant white flash. It transpired after the war that these torpedoes were fired by Lieutenant Zimmerman from 'E-boat' S30 hiding behind the brightly flashing buoy. A well planned attack and a good shot. Wakeful was cut in two and the halves sank immediately until their broken ends grounded on the bottom, the forepart rolled over to starboard and it cannot have been more than 15 seconds before I found myself swimming off the bridge.

There were perhaps fifty of my men, probably gun crews, in a group in the water with me. All my engine room people had been killed and all except ten of the soldiers trapped inside the ship and tragically drowned. The tide was quickly sweeping our group away fromm the grounded wreck and we must have been a mile or two down-tide when two Scottish wooden fishing boats on their way to Dunkirk came amongst us. The Nautilus picked up six, including my first lieutenant, and the Comfort sixteen, including myself. We tried for about half an hour to pick up others we could hear shouting in the dark but it was terribly slow work hauling out sodden half-drowned men. Eventually the shouting stopped. The Nautilus went on to Dunkirk and I directed the skipper of the Comfort to go up-tide to the wreck, where I has last seen men sitting on the stern portion some forty feet above the water. When we got there we found the destroyer Grafton lying stopped with her boat over at the wreck. The Grafton's deck was solid with soldiers and I went alongside her starboard quarter to tell her captain to get out of it as there were enemy about. At that moment some sort of grenade exploded on her bridge and he was killed. Nobody seems to know what this was. At the same time there was a large explosion as a torpedo hit the Grafton on the opposite side from where Comfort was lying.

Wakeful had survived twenty-seven bombing attacks before twenty-six year old Overlieutenant zur See Willem Zimmerman's S30 had caught her with a single torpedo. Casualties had been heavy: a hundred of the crew were lost and 640 soldiiers. Only forty-seven crewmen and ten soldiers were rescued. Zimmerman survived the war."

Grafton (Cdr Charles Robinson) was torpedoed by U-62 at 0250 shortly followed by a second torpedo. She had 800 troops aboard including survivors from Wakeful but could not be saved. Only one of the ten soldiers on Wakeful survived this second sinking, Stanley Patrick. Fisher had several staff appointments in the Mediterranean but was given command of HMS Musketeer in October 1943. His official report on the loss of HMS Wakeful can be seen in the National Archives at Kew, ADM  199/789.


The names of those Killed or Missing Presumed Killed (MPK)

ANDREWS, William C, Able Seaman, C/SSX 29520, killed
ARNOLD, Frederick L, Able Seaman, C/JX 153104, killed
ASHFORD, Alfred J, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 23200, killed
AYTON, Ronald J, Able Seaman, RNVR, C/LD/X 2902, killed
BAINES, Robert, Able Seaman, C/JX 152112, killed
BALLS, Gilbert R, Able Seaman, C/SSX 28169, killed
BARTLETT, Frederick W, Stoker 1c, C/K 62829 B 23823, killed
BENNETT, Phillip F, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 29897, MPK
BRACE, Christopher, Able Seaman, C/J 78429, killed
BRAMLEY, George A J, Stoker 1c, C/K 67212 B 23817, killed
BROOKS, Herbert S J, Able Seaman, C/JX 160919, killed
BUCKLAND, Henry J, Stoker 2c, C/KX 102574, killed
BUER, John G, Signalman, C/JX 142007, killed
CAMPBELL, Harry E, Ordinary Seaman, RNVR, C/LD/X 5210, killed
CAREY, Victor, Stoker 2c, C/KX 102656, killed
CHAPMAN, Henry J, Stoker 1c, C/K 52018 B 21397, killed
CLAYTON, Walter, Able Seaman, C/J 113848, killed
COOKE, Albert H, Stoker 2c, C/KX 102658, killed
COTTERILL, Edward, Stoker 1c, C/K 65069 D 290, killed
CRANEFIELD, William L, Sub Lieutenant, MPK
CREAK, Wilfred P, Py/Sub Lieutenant, MPK
DOWNIE, John, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 169123, killed
DRAKE, Herbert Y, Chief Petty Officer, C/J 93083, killed
EASTON, Charles W, Able Seaman, RFR, C/SS 9633 B 18174, killed
EDGELEY, Charles T, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 29893, killed
FERGUSON, Richard T, Leading Seaman, C/JX 125537, killed
FITZGERALD, Denis P, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 66458, killed
FLETCHER, Arthur N J, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 168966, killed
FLOWER, John B, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 103774 B 23930, killed
FORSTER, Thomas J, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 19617 10598, killed
FORSTER, William, Chief Engine Room Artificer, C/MX 53281, killed
FRANKLIN, Douglas F, Stoker 1c, C/K 56789 B 22044, killed
FRASI, Francis J, Able Seaman, RNVR, C/LD/X 2914, killed
GIBBS, Robert A, Petty Officer, C/JX 162567, killed
GOODERHAM, William F, Able Seaman, C/J 60988, killed
GOULD, Arthur A, Canteen Manager, NAAFI, MPK
GRAVER, Charles H, Able Seaman, C/JX 152146, killed
GRAYLEY, Harry J, Leading Seaman, C/SSX 14208, killed
GROVES, Charles J, Petty Officer, C/JX 126444, killed
GUTHERLESS, Leonard F, Yeoman of Signals, C/J 50606 Pens 13512, killed
GUTHRIE, William R, Leading Supply Assistant, C/MX 57967, killed
HALL, Archibald H, Able Seaman, RFR, C/SS 9022 B 17951, killed
HALL, Edward S, Supply Petty Officer, C/M 43535, killed
HAYNES, George E, Assistant Cook, C/MX 60742, killed
HUNT, Charles G W, Leading Seaman, C/JX 134373, killed
HUTTLESTONE, Sidney J, Able Seaman, RFR, C/SS 10718 B 19554, killed
HYMAS, Albert W, Chief Petty Officer, C/M 4378 Pens No 23451, killed
INGRAM, James D, Able Seaman, C/JX 126357, killed
JACKSON, George H, Stoker 1c, C/K 60678, killed
KEFFORD, Charles P, Stoker 1c, RFR, C/K 66397 B 24344, killed
KEMP, Albert, Chief Petty Officer Stoker, C/K 57861, killed
LEVERINGTON, Ernest, Stoker 1c, RFR, C/K 66497 B 24852, killed
MATHERS, Stanley A, Sick Berth Attendant, RNASBR, C/X 7307, killed
MCCLUNE, Angus, Engine Room Artificer, C/MX 52403, killed
MCCULLOUGH, Stanley, Stoker 1c, C/KX 76209, killed
METCALF, John R, Ordinary Seaman, RNVR, C/TD/X 2215, killed
METCALF, William B, Ordinary Seaman, RNVR, C/TD/X 2100, killed
MILLGATE, Herbert W, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 95898 B 23309, killed
MOUNT, Aubrey G E, Stoker Petty Officer, C/K 67097, killed
NIXON, John L, Able Seaman, RNVR, C/TD/X 1789, killed
PARKER, Robert F, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 103074 B 23864, killed
PATTERSON, John R, Leading Steward, C/LX 21537, killed
PERCIVAL-JONES, John S, Sub Lieutenant, MPK
POTTER, William, Ordinary Seaman, RNVR, C/TD/X 1962, killed
REDFERN, William, Able Seaman, D/SSX 20993, killed
RICKETTS, William E, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 89429 B 21747, killed
RILEY, Bert, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 30064, killed
SARGEANT, James E, Leading Stoker, C/KX 79842, killed
SARGENT, Frank G B, Chief Engine Room Artificer, C/M 765 Pens No 24963, killed
SHARMAN, Edgar A, Leading Steward, C/LX 21668, killed
SIMMONDS, William A, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 98779 B 22251, killed
SMITH, Leonard, Able Seaman, C/JX 128251, killed
SPACKMAN, John F, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 29889, killed
SPARKES, Robert G R, Leading Seaman, RFR, C/J 109740 B 25020, killed
STEARN, Victor G, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 29761, killed
STILES, Richard L, Act/Leading Telegraphist, C/JX 138350, killed
STRATFULL, Prince C, Stoker 1c, RFR, C/K 58307 B 21952, killed
STURGEON, Frank H, Able Seaman, RFR, C/J 100661 B 23484, killed
SWAIN, George, Leading Stoker, RFR, C/KX 75596 B 24608, killed
TALLENT, Ernest J, Act/Leading Stoker, D/KX 85419, killed
TAYLOR, Edward A, Able Seaman, RFR, C/JX 125588 B 25274, killed
TAYLOR, Joseph T, Able Seaman, RNVR, C/LD/X 2203, killed
TAYLOR, Percy E, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 182647, killed
THURSTON, James, Petty Officer Telegraphist, C/J 34496 Pens 11534, killed
TILLEY, William E, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 29623, killed
TOHILL, John, Able Seaman, RFR, C/JX 126123 B 25318, killed
TOMPSETT, Leslie C, Able Seaman, C/JX 149097, killed
TUCKER, Harold J, Warrant Engineer, MPK
TURNER, John, Stoker 1c, C/KX 76796, killed
TURNER, William, Leading Signalman, C/JX 131943, killed
VICKERY, Leonard F, Chief Engine Room Artificer, C/M 7055 Pens No 2202, killed
WALKER, Douglas G, Py/Ty/Surgeon Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
WILLIAMS, William, Leading Steward, C/L 14593, killed
WINSTANLEY, Joseph R, Leading Stoker, RFR, C/KX 76786 B 24918, killed
WOOD, Henry R, Stoker 1c, RFR, C/K 59956 B 23316, killed
WOODROFFE, Walter, Leading Signalman, RFR, C/J 13387 B 19290, killed
WORRELL, Stanley F, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 171313, killed
WRIGHT, Joseph W, Ordinary Seaman, RNVR, C/TD/X 1775, killed
FORSYTHE, Donald C, Greaser, T.124, killed
HORNE, George J W, Fireman, T.124/40996, killed
LEWIS, George E, Ordinary Signalman, C/SSX 28150, killed
POOLE, Denny W L, Greaser, T.124/38521, killed
WATT, Joseph, Seaman, RNR (PS), LT/JX 167169, killed
WOOD, Herbert, Seaman, RNR, P/JX 167164, killed

Members of the Wardroom on 29 May 1940

Cdr W L Fisher RN  (Appointed 18 Dec 39)
Lt W Scott RN  (6 Oct 1939)
Lt L C Williams RN  (3 Nov 1939)
Temp Surg Lt  D G Walker RNVR (10 Apr 1940) MPK
Sub Lt  John S Percival - Jones RN  (8 Jan 1940) MPK
Sub Lt (proby) W P Creak RN  (19 Feb 190) MPK
Sub Lt William L. Cranefield RN MPK
Temp Sub Lt F W H Mayo RNVR (12 Feb 1940)
Act Gnr (T)  S W E Townsend RN  (21 Oct 1939)
Wrt Eng  Harold J Tucker RN  (16 Sep 1938) MPK
Mid    M M Petterson RNR  (31 Jul 1939)

Click on the link to see a full crew list of officers and men serving in HMS Wakeful and her passengers on 29 May 1940
Contact Bill Forster if you ca provide further details of the ives of the men on this list
Please get in touch if you have a family member who served in HMS Wakeful

John Waters

John Waters who served in HMS Wakeful before she was torpedoed by E-boats and sank with heavy loss of life during the Dunkirk evacuation on the 29 May 1940 died on Su nday 14 October at the age of 97. I interviewed him at the reunion of the V & W Destroyer Association at Harrogate in 2015 and these notes are based on that interview and many other converations at annual reunions. John was only in Wakeful for a few months as he broke both his wrists descending the focsle ladder in a heavy sea three months before she was torpedoed. This accident almost certainly saved his life.

He went on to serve in HMS Warspite at Narvik in Norway and at the Battle of Matapan in the Mediterranean and was left severely deaf after Warspite was bombed off Crete. He volunteered for Combined Operations and served in LST 9 at the landings in Sicily and Salerno. After the success of the Normandy Landings he was part of  Naval Party 1730 which followed the troops to Hamburg towards the end of the war and stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, the Vier Jahreszeiten, still the best hotel in Hamburg. He describes his experience below and in the interview which can be listened to online via a link below.

John WateraJohn WaterJohn Waters was born on the 5 March 1921 at Easington Lane, ten miles South of Sunderland in Co Durham. His father was a miner but when John left school at 14 he was determined not to follow him down the pitts. Since there was no work in Co Durham he moved to Leicester and started an apprenticeship as a bricklayer. He was bored and at eighteen joined the Navy and was sent to  Chatham for shore training, passed out as an OD and was posted to HMS Wakeful at Devonport, Plymouth, in September.

He was on B Gun as part of Blue Watch and was in the Seamens Mess in the foc'sle with 40 - 50 others where his best mates were LS Robinson and his two class mates at Chatham, Dick Staines and Walsh. After a month on the Dover Patrol Wakeful escorted convoys from Liverpool to Canada, leaving halfway to escort an incoming convoy. They sometimes escorted the Queen Mary carrying military personnel to Canada for training but on leaving the British Isles  the liners continued unescorted relying on their speed. In January 1940 he fell descending the foce'sle ladder in rough seas, broke both his wrists and was put ashore at Milford Haven. This accident saved his life as three months later on the 29 May 1940 HMS Wakeful was sunk by e-boats from Antwerp during the Dunkirk evacuation with 640 soldiers aboard. John's three shipmates were killed and only 25 crew members and one soldier survived.

In March 1940 John was posted to the battleship, HMS Warspite and took part in the second Battle of Narvik. Warspite and nine destroyers attacked eight German destroyers in the landlocked fjord on the 13 May. Nobody expected them to enter Narvik but they entered in the morning and left at 5pm and "had a really good day". All the German destroyers (low on fuel and ammunition) and the German merchant ships in the harbour were sunk or scuttled. Warspite was too far out to take part in most of the action but fired a broadside at a destroyer trying to escape and it ran aground.

HMS Warspite
HMS Warspite

Courtesy of John Waters

HMS Warspite was sent to the Mediterranean. Italy had not entered the war and the Med was still at peace and John was surprised to find everything floodlit. Warspite  joined HMS Resolution and HMS Barham as part of the battle fleet at Alex. When Italy entered the war in June Warspite was busy escorting convoys to Malta and bombarding German positions in North Africa. John Waters was aboard Warspite at the Battle of Calabria in July 1940 and the Battle of Matapan in March 1941.

HMA Valiant, HMS Illustrious and HMS Warspite bombed off Malta
HMS Warspite, her sister ship, HMS Viscount, and the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious being bombed near Malta by Ju 87 in 1941 during Operation Excess
These photographs were taken by John Waters on his Box Brownie camera from his action station on the Oerlikon.
Double click the images to zoom in and view full size - Courtesy of John Waters

HMS Warspite, HMS Barham and HMS Valliant (with Prince Philip aboard) sank three Italian cruisers at Matapan on the 29 March. The Italians did not know they were there. The destroyers fired a star-shell which illuminated the cruisers and assuming they were under attack from the air the cruisers fired their guns at the flares and were sunk in twenty minutes by broadsides from the British battleships. "It was war but it was murder", John said. They tried to pick up the survivors at daylight but the Italians bombed, killing their own men in the water and rescue attempts had to be abandoned.

On the 22 May Warspite was an ant-aircraft battery off the coast of Crete during the German invasion and John was at his action station on the pom-poms when a German bomb exploded under the 4.7 inch gun turret on the upper deck blowing it overboard and killing 38 men. John and the pom-pom crew a hundred foot away were caught in the blast and lost their hearing. He was put ashore at Alex and Warspite went to the West Coast of the United States for repair. The blast John left John almost stone deaf but he learned to lip-read and had no problem understanding me when interviewed.

After leaving hospital John was sent to HMS Woolwich the destroyer depot ship at Alex where he became the “skimmer driver”, driving the fast motor boat taking signals to the destroyers. He had been in the Med for two years and returned to Britain on leave at the end of 1942. He volunteered for Combined Operations and was sent on a draft to New York with fifty others to bring back LST 9 (Landing Ship Tank) under construction at New Orleans. The journey from New York to New Orleans by train took four days and they stopped in sidings at mid-day and were taken to hotels for lunch. After sea trials they took LST 9 back to New York where the internal deck was lined with timber "like a dance floor" and loaded with two thousand 5.5 inch shells. There were seven LST in their Convoy UGS8A of 40 to 50 ships which left New York on the 14 May for the Mediterranean. Their base was to be Tripoli and they were to take part in the invasion of Sicily.

Landing Ship Tank, LST 9
Courtesy of John Waters

LST 9 embarked the 51st Highland Division plus tanks, truck and water carriers and landed them at a small fishing village on the coast of Sicily and also took part in landings at Catania and Messina which became their base. John was on the bow Oerlikon but did not fire a shot at any of the landings in Sicily. On the 8 September 1943 LST 65 and LST 9 landed at Vibo Valentia on a long narrow twisting inlet 40 miles north of the main beacheads on the Calabrian coast. The Italians must have thought they were crazy. LST 65 went in first, was hit twice, beached and came under heavy small arms fire. The bow doors jammed but were freed by a bulldozer on the upper deck. LST 9 followed at 2 pm. The  Italian’s big 88 mm guns could not be depressed to hit the LST on the beach but they would have been sunk if they tried to make their escape and after unloading they were ordered to abandon the LST and join the Italian refugees taking cover in a railway tunnel. They were sure they would be captured. John was on duty with Lt Cdr Campbell RN at 3 am when he saw a light, shouted out and a Canadian, an army major entered the tunnel. The British troops had broken through.

They missed the landings at Salerno in September but took part in the Anzio landings in January 1944 but after that the Americans took over and LST 9 returned to Britain. John applied to be made a Leading Seaman and was sent to HMS Ganges for training and one of his duties was taking the boy sailors out sailing in the cutter, an enjoyable two months. From Ganges he returned to Chatham for further training to be rated as AA2 Gunner.

He was still in Combined Operations and was put into khaki (with a naval hat) and prepared for the D Day landings but went ashore at Antwerp two weeks after the landings at Normandy as part of Naval Party 1730, consisting of the Skipper, a Lieutenant, a Royal Marine guard and a naval gunner with a Bren. They were in jeeps and stayed 20 - 30 miles behind the troops as they advanced towards Hamburg to take over the U-Boat pens but were 14 miles from the city when the war ended and the Royal Engineers took over the U-Boats.

Hamburg was almost completely destroyed but they on the Binnen (Inner) Alster, a large lake not far from the two main stations. The Germans had camouflagued the Alster by covering it with barges planted with small fir trees so that allied planes could not find the stations and the hotel was completely undamaged. LS John Waters and his four ABs lived like royalty on the second floor at the rear of the hotel while the "Skipper" and his lieutenant were at the front overlooking the Alster. The skipper represented the Royal Navy at the signing of a peace treaty at the Reichshof Hotel near the central station. NP 1730 was sent to Alsterhof eight miles north of the city to take over the SS Hindenburg Barracks. The six large blocks had Red Cross markings on their roofs and escaped being bombed. John stayed in Hamburg until demobbed in May 1946.


John had married by special licence on four days leave in 1944. He returned home and worked in London as a brickie on war damage work employed by the government and still had a year to go before completing his apprenticeship when a Union man gave him his card and he was free to practice his trade and support his family. He retired when he was seventy.

John Waters always attended the annual reunions of the V & W Association accompanied by Joan Walker, his faithful partner and friend for twenty seven years. He outlived the Association which was dissolved at Derby in May 2017 and was 97 when he died at his home in Market Drayton, Shropshire, on Sunday 14 October 2018. His funeral was held at 12.00pm  on Tuesday, October 30th at Our Lady and St John the Baptist Church, Ashley, Nr Market Drayton.

Bill Forster recorded an interview with John Waters at the V & W Association reunion at Harrogate in 2015
You can click on the link to listen to John describe his wartime service in HMS Wakeful, HMS Warspite and LST 9
be patient - it takes a couple of minutes before the file opens and John starts speaking


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 Wakeful 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. Copyright remains with the authors and photographers who are credited where known.

The Baltic

The Bolshevik conflict of 1918-1919 brought them into action again, where the 13th Flotilla was deployed and, once more, casualties would occur but not without first showing their mettle. On Boxing Day 1918 one of the large Russian destroyers began bombarding Tallinn where the British ships were at anchor. Many of the British officers were ashore attending a banquet given in their honour by the Estonian officials. Wakeful however soon raised steam and set out to investigate. At the sight of the British destroyer bearing down on her  firing her guns  the Russian immediately turned and fled at high speed, sending a signal saying "All is lost. I am being chased by the British." In her haste the Russian vessel ran over a shoal damaging her propellers and rudder. The Russian crew must have been very inexperienced for they caused much damage to the ship and she slowly began to sink. The Vendetta who had come up in support, sent a party of seamen to board the stricken vessel and remove anything of value. One of the items removed was the ships bell, this was duly installed on the Vendetta where it remained until the end of her days. Aboard the Russian ship  the Vendetta's engine room artificer examined the situation in the engine room and concluded that she could be kept afloat simply by closing the sea-cocks and pumping out, this was done and she was towed back to Tallinn to great victory celebrations.

Manchester, 1929

One of the goodwill or courtesy visits was when in June 1929 the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, with Campbell as leader, accompanied by Wakeful, Wessex, Wolfhound and Westcott navigated the Manchester canal passing through the Asthma Locks to the excitement of the people of Manchester and the surrounding district, who lined the banks of the canal to welcome the ships before arriving at Tramroad Wharf, where they remained for seven days, enabling the crews to enjoy some shore leave and the civilian population enjoyed visiting the destroyers.

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Wakeful 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 Wakeful you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster
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