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





Lt Cdr A.R. Trew SANF and his officers on Arctic Convoys in 1944

Lt Cdr Anthony R Trew SANF(V) was appointed CO of HMS Walker on the 29 September 1944 after a few months as First Lt on HMS Versatile. Tony Trew was born in Pretoria in 1906 and  left school at 16 to go to sea as an officer cadet with the Union Castle Line before bring commissioned in the South African Naval Service from 1926 to 1929. He was in the Reserve when he left and in 1933 joined the  Automobile Service of South Africa. He married Nora Houthakker in 1931 and they had three sons.

Called up at the outbreak of war he commanded various mine-sweeping and patrol vessels, then, from December 1940, served for a year as Lieutenant-Commander in the 22nd A/S Group, the first South African armed forces unit to enter the Mediterranean theatre. After two years in a staff job back in South Africa, overseeing the repair of naval vessels at Cape Town, and anxious to get back to sea, he asked to be seconded to the Royal Navy. After another spell in the Mediterranean he attended the Senior Officers' Staff Course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, before his appointment to HMS Versatile and HMS Walker, his first command of a destroyer.

HMS Walker Ship's Company (trew as CO)
Lt. Cdr. Antony Francis Trew, SANF(V) and the ship's company of HMS Walker in October 1944
First Lt Derek William Napper is sitting on the right of Lt Cdr Trew, the CO, and Lt Sandy Powell on his left
Arthur Dodd's copy of this photograph is dated February 1945

Courtesy of Albert Foulser

Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte
Shipmates in HMS Walker
From left to right: Sub Lt Arthur Dodd RNVR, Lt Derek W. Napper RN and Sub Lt Dacre "Sandy" Powell RNVR
Are the three young officers posing as Napoleon Bonaparte or as Britain's naval hero Horatio Nelson?
Taken at the Tail of the Bank, Gourock, at the mouth of the Clyde in 1944

 Courtesy of Philip Dodd
Horatio Nelson, Naples 17988
Horatio Nelson
                                                

Derek Napper was born in 1922 at Abu Road, a railway town in Western India where his father was a civil engineer working for the Bombay, Baroda & Central India Railway (1920-1938). He was 14 when he was sent to Dartmouth and by the time he joined HMS Walker as First Lt on the 3 October 1944 he had been Mentioned in Despatches while serving in HMS Havock as a Midshipman at the Battle of Matapan and served in the battleship HMS Valiant and the destroyers HMS Ilex and HMS Calpe. The two junior officers were both RNVR called up for service for the duration of the war but Napper stayed on and in 1971 was Cdre D.W. Napper RN, Chief of Staff of the Far East Fleet.

All three endured several Arctic Convoys to Northern Russia in HMS Walker and a charming little book written by Roxane Houston based on the diaries she kept during her time as an officer in the WRNS vividly depicts this period in their lives together. Roxanna was based at the HQ of the Senior Officer Assault Ships and Craft (SOASC) Greenock on the Clyde and was friendly with Jane Price who worked in the Convoy Routing Office dealing with the merchant ships at nearby Gourock. Derek Napper was the brother of a friend of Jane's which resulted in an invitation from Lt Cdr Tony Trew to bring some friends aboard Walker for a party. Derek Napper met his future wife, Isobel Cowie, at this party.

"It was a great evening, full of laughter. Tony Trew was a charming host, Derek Napper, the brother of Jane's friend, showed us all over the ship, and Dacre Powell (usually called Sandy Powell after a current popular comedian) a shy but attentive companion. We all got on very well, and Jane promptly arranged a reciprocal evening in the guest room at Belleaire [the WRNS quarters in Greenock]."
Changing Course - The Wartime Experiences of a Member of The Women's Royal Naval Service 1939-1945; by Roxane Houston. Grubb Street, 2005.

Later that month HMS Walker left as part of the escort for Convoy JW61 Liverpool (20th Oct) to the Kola Inlet (Oct 28th) and return convoy RA61 to Loch Ewe (Nov 2nd to Nov 9th).

There is no first hand account of these two convoys to Arctic Russia by any of the officers or men in HMS Walker but there is a vivid description of the convoys by Laurence (Laurie) Downey, a 16 year old Australian from Perth, who  joined a Norwegian tanker Marathon.

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Arctic Convoys JW.61 and return Convoy RA.62

The Norwegian ships which had not returned to their ports after the Nazi invasion in 1940 were always short of crews and even a teenager could find a job on one of them. Laurie served on this ship for two years. She traded between the Caribbean Islands and the American fuel ports Houston, Galverston, Corpus Christie before joining Arctic Convoys JW.61 and RA.62 (HMS Walker returned to Loch Ewe as an escort for RA 61). This is an extract from Laurence Downey's unpublished autobiography:

Laurie DowneyLaurie Downey"We left anchorage on the Clyde for a small inlet to the North of Glasgow called Loch Ewe. This was a convoy assembly area. There were about thirty ships in all that made up convoy number JW 61 and just as were making ready to sail, a small launch came alongside with the captain who was returning from the Commodore’s meeting with all the ship captains, a briefing on procedures to follow during the trip to Russia. As the captain climbed aboard, the two Scotsmen jumped onto the launch as it pulled away. Obviously the stories of the fate of many ships on the Russian run had scared them to the point of desertion.

Convoy JW 61 comprised thirty ships plus escorts and departed from Loch Ewe on October 20th. The escort ships included three carriers and several destroyers. The Russian Navy also provided six corvette type escorts.

Rounding the North of Scotland by Scapi Flow, where the North Sea meets the Irish Sea the weather became extremely bad, to the point where nearby everyone on board got sea sick, including the captain who had been at sea for some twenty five years. Once the first attack of sea sickness had passed the subsequent ones were easily shrugged off with but one visit to the side of the ship, and then carry on without interruption to one’s duties. They lasted only an hour or so. We were heading at an angle of about forty five degrees into the enormous waves, and Marathon, being a fully laden tanker was very low in the water, she would ride out two waves and plough through the third with a resounding thud that shook all the windows around the bridge. The decks were constantly awash and an occasional wave would throw spray over the funnel. It was the roughest weather I had thus far encountered. In the wheelhouse the floor was wash from spray and the helmsman’s wooden mat slithered from side to side of the room if no one was standing on it. I came on the night to do my stint at the wheel only to find the binnacle and the wheel all cover by vomit … I sloshed them down with water from the floor cupped in my hands. Such rough weather made it more difficult for the U-boats to get an accurate line on a potential target. This at least was encouraging. The weather relented after we had passed the Northern tip of the British Isles, and the convoy once again resumed the normal speed of ten knots.

With the strongest escort ever for a Russian convoy, we suffered no casualties, we saw and heard many depth charge explosions and spotted a Dornier reconnaissance plane circling the convoy giving our position to the land based torpedo bombers, but they never arrived. Our triple escort carriers must have been an effective deterrent.

The convoy was about four days out from Loch Ewe when our forwarded bunker tank ruptured, flooding he manila rope locker. Some of the ropes were saved but two had to be discarded and the Chief mate told the bosun to throw them overboard, naturally he assumed the bosun would throw them off the stern, but instead he threw them over the side thinking they would sink immediately. One of them was caught up in the propeller, but no one was aware of this. Suddenly the ship lost speed and slowed from ten knots to about six knots. Then an argument took place between the Chief Engineer and the captain who wanted more revs and was informed he couldn’t have them. So there we were looking disaster in the face as we dropped back from the convoy and became a “straggler” easy pickings for the trailing submarines. A British Navy destroyer was despatched to come alongside with a loud hailer telling the Captain to keep up with the rest of the convoy. It was getting towards evening, but visibility was still good enough to see the other ships in the distance. Suddenly, the destroyer that had now become our special escort despatched a salvo of depth charges as she raced across our bows no more then fifty meters away. The following explosion gave everyone on board a sense of security in that we were not being left at the mercy of the U-boats. The destroyer returned three times to loud hail the Captain to keep up. As luck would have it, the weather deteriorated and the sea became quite rough causing the convoy to slow down to seven knots. Thus we were able to keep up, also because the entangled rope was beginning to wear away from the propeller allowing us to gain a few more knots.

The next day the story emanating from the radio room was that during our escapade as a “straggler”  the destroyer’s asdic had picked up sixteen torpedo firings during the night. The rough weather no doubt made it extremely difficult for the U-boats to get accurate bearings on prospective targets. Thanks be to God.

So far so good, but the worst was yet to come. As we approached the Northern most part of Russia the sea narrowed into a bottle neck type entry into the White Sea, this was called the Kola inlet and the German submarines would lie in wait just outside this narrow section and attack the ships as they moved in single file towards Murmansk. JW 61 was extremely lucky not to lose any ships at this point, due to the strong escort and the adequate air-cover at that time.

The oil terminal at Molotovsk

The majority of the ships steamed into the harbour at Murmansk whilst the tankers sailed further south to the port of Archangel where the oil dock was located. By this time the harbour entrance had frozen over so we were obliged to follow the ice breaker Stalin into port.

The icebreaker Stalin tied up alongside and we had a good look over her and were amazed to discover that one single family ran the whole ship. The Captain was the head of the family, his wife in charge of the domestic side of running the ship, supplies, galley etc., while all the sons and daughters, with their respective wives and husbands filled all the other positions. It was also a great opportunity for them to look over Marathon and I wondered afterwards, if the decision to tie up alongside was not influenced by shortage of food and provisions ashore.

The shore crew or longshoremen were mostly female, as their menfolk were away at the front fighting the Germans; they clambered all over the ship coupling the valves and the pipes for the unloading process. A female worker was found dead one morning down between the two ships where she fallen in a drunken frenzy after having sampled the power alcohol from one of he tanks. She had managed to extract the lethal liquid by lowering a bucket down into the tank and then drinking from it.

The fuel dock where we were unloading was at the entrance to Archangel and was called by the name of Molotovsk. About one kilometre’s walk through the snow took us to the centre of the village where the authorities had established an entertainment facility for the visiting foreign seamen. The locals were nor permitted to fraternize with us except within confines of the centre, which they called the Interclub. There was music and dancing, a small sparsely equipped kiosk where we could buy a biscuit and a cup of coffee or a glass of vodka. Thee was also a small cinema adjacent to the man hall. I became friendly with the projectionist and she invited me up into her tiny little projection room above the maddening crowd below.

I began to feel sorry for the Russian people for the way they had to live in order to survive and the rigors of winter made things even more difficult. Another example of fund raising I experienced a day or two later when a few of us were taken to a house by one of the hostesses from the Interclub, she was obviously a “pimp” working n commission. I was curious to go along an was surmised to find on entering a large room four girls, one in each corner of the room in bed. My mates made their selection and as the lights were extinguished. I excused myself with the “pimp” who quickly disappeared down the road n far that I might have selected her. These girls were not prostitutes in the strict sense of the word, they were, probably, married women trying to earn a living for their hungry families.

 It was while we were still in Molotovsk that  had a little accident on deck, the Captain had asked the bosun to fill a drum of petrol from one of he tanks by using a small hand pump and he asked me to help him to lift the drum onto two parallel pipes that ran along the deck, a short lift of about twelve inches. We were both wearing heavy leather fleece lined gloves and as we lifted the dum it sipped on the ice and the rim came down hard on my had amputating the tip of my middle left hand finger. Seeing my blood on the snow made me feel a little squeamish in the stomach. Whereupon the third mate who witnessed the whole thing told me to follow him up to the first aid room on the bridge here he poured me a small glass of brandy. Mindful of my pledge not to touch alcohol until I was twenty five years of age, I pretended to drink t, but on turning to one side I put my hand over my mouth and spat the brandy down the front of m shirt and no one was any the wiser, because the smell alone revived me immediately. At least that I what I thought, but deep down I felt it was rather miraculous.

 One of the female workforce took me to the village hospital to the out patients reception area where there were some thirty or forty people lined up in a queue. An old lady stepped forward and took me by the hand to the head of the line. I think she felt sorry for this baby face kid from the foreign ships. She referred to me as “malinki” small child. In response to this act of kindness I took out a few packs of American cigarettes m y pockets, we always carried them as bargaining currency and dished them all out down the line. It made me feel great to see the looks of appreciation on their faces.

Back on board with my finger stitched and bandaged there was not a lot I could do in regards to work around the deck. So I decided to pass the time by reading and trying to learn Norwegian language. The Third mate, who was in charge of the first aid room, was responsible for changing my bandages. He offered to help me learn the language. At least it was his excuse for having me visit his cabin on daily basis. I was still very na´ve and rather slow to wake up to the fact that his intentions were to develop a much more intimate relationships with me. Finally I got the message when he offered me money. That was the end of my Norwegian studies in his cabin and  my hand didn’t really need to be attended to every other day

The tanks emptied we set sail behind he ice breaker Stalin for the days trip back to the docks at Murmansk and there to wait for the next convoy back to the United Kingdom. Being a tanker, Marathon unloaded quickly, the cargo ships took much longer. Shore leave in Murmansk was not much different than Molotovsk, all the buildings seemed to be of wood and many still bore  scars of German bombing raids. Earlier in the war the place was virtually levelled. Here they also had an Interclub for the visiting foreign seamen. It was somewhat larger on account of the majority of ships unloaded here, only the tankers went down to Molotovsk.

During the stopover in Murmansk there was a rumour going around the Interclub that two Merchant seamen had been arrested for fighting with a Communist official and one of his deputies. Apparently this official had passed a rude remark about the British being reluctant to open a second front in Europe and this led to fistcuffs which resulted in these two Russians coming off second best. It was forty years later that I read an account of this incident in Winston Churchill’s History of the Second World War. When Churchill heard these two seamen had been gaoled for seven years for striking a Communist official, he made immediate contact with Stalin and told him in no uncertain terms that unless these two sailors were released immediately and put on board a British cruiser and sent back to the United Kingdom, he would suspend the Russian convoys. Rather strong language for the Russians who depended desperately on these convoys. The story ended happily and the two sailors were released and returned to England, thanks to Mr Churchill.

 Return Convoy RA 62

The return voyage was in convoy number RA62 which left Murmansk on December 10th 1944 with 29 merchant ships, two escort carriers, a cruiser and several destroyers. The escort left ahead of the convoy to clear the assembled U-boats waiting at the mouth of the Kola Inlet for the ships to file out before forming into the convoy sailing pattern. The second day out U-365 torpedoed HMS Cassandra and blew her bows off with great loss of life, but she was able to make it back to Murmansk for repairs by sailing stern first. Then on December 12th the Norwegian ship Tunsberg Castle was sunk by a mine. That same evening the Luftwaffe entered the fray with a attack by nine torpedo bombers, to no avail with the loss of two planes, one of which came down only hundred meters from Marathon’s Port bow. This particular raid was my first experience of surface action, up until now everything had happened was below surface. During the attack the sky was lit up from horizon to horizon with bursting shells and tracer bullets from every ship in the convoy. It was very frightening to say the least because some of the tracers were to close to comfort. My action station was on the bow as ammunition passer to the Bofors gun crew, who claimed to have shared the honour of having shot down one of the two torpedo bombers. I remember standing on the deck that night trembling something terrible, my knees shaking and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I have never been so scared in all my life. When I arrived at my post I was temporarily distracted from my fear when I witnessed the final plunge of the German plane so close to our port bow. It as also the fist time I had witnessed someone getting killed. This incident was to have a lasting effect on me and would on day be instrumental in teaching me a great lesson. During this battle one of the carrier escort planes sank U-365. The U-boat sunk during the passage of convoy RA 62 was U-387 by depth charge attack  from HMS Bramborough Castle. With the loss of only one ship the convoy had accounted for to submarines and two planes.

 The remainder of the voyage was uneventful and we arrived back at Loch Ewe on December 19th 1944."

Laurie Downey's decision to join a monastery after the war was influenced by what he experienced on these two convoys: "I decided to become a monk and to take  vow of silence in a European monastery as there were no such monasteries in Australia back then. I was expelled from the monastery five years later due to my quarrel with one of my superiors.

After life as a Trappist monk at a monastery in Rome in the 1950s  he became a tour guide at the Portuguese shrine to Fatima where his obsession with the story of the third secret disclosed to the three children by an apparition of the Virgin Mary led  to his life taking a most extraordinary turn which attracted world wide media attention in 1981. Until his death in 2006 Downey "still maintained his beliefs which he explained in his book Russia 2000: the white communist manifesto (Fremantle: Ploughshares International, 1999).

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Roxane and her friends were shocked to see the state of the ship when HMS Walker returned and even more so by the exhausted look of the young officers they invited to an early Christmas dinner. Derek Napper would tell his son of 60ft waves and having to clear ice from the superstructure to avoid the ship becoming top heavy.

On the 30 December HMS Walker joined joining Keppel, Westcott, and the sloops of the 8th Escort Group on 30 December 1944 as the close escort of Convoy JW 63  which arrived at the Kola Inlet on 8 January 1945 after an uneventful passage. From 11 to 23 January, Walker, Keppel, and Westcott escorted Convoy RA 63 during its voyage from the Kola Inlet to the Clyde, a passage made in very bad weather that allowed only slow progress. Walker returned to Atlantic convoy duty in February 1945. In March, she was assigned to antisubmarine warfare operations and convoy defence in the waters around the British Isles, continuing in this role until the German surrender in early May.

In that month Tony Trew was given command of  five gun sloop HMS Cygnet and took Derek Napper with him as his Executive Officer. Derek Napper married Isobel Cowie, the girl he met at the party organised by Roxane Houston, at Glasgow
on the 1st November and they had four sons. One of them John Napper, told me their story.


Lt Cdr Tony Trew was awarded the DSC in 1945 and left HMS Walker in May to take command of a six gune Bird Class sloop, HMS Cygnet, until JulyAfter the war he rejoined the Automobile Association of South Africa and retired in 1966 as Director-General. He had his first book published in 1964 and for nearly thirty years he publishd a string of well crafted thrillers many with a nautical setting.

The book likely to be of most interest to readers of this website is Kleber's Convoy (London: Harper Collins, 1974) the setting for which is an Arctic Convoy. U-Boat commander Kapitanlieutenant Johan Kleber was the first to sight Convoy JW 137 bound for Murmansk  and it was given his name. Lt Cdr Redman was the CO of HMS Vengeful, a V & W in the close escort. Their lives were crossing paths for the second time.

But, disappointingly, Tony Trew wrote that: " those who served with him in that ship who try to link what they read in the book to their experiences and shipmates do so in vain."


Lt Cdr Anthony R Trew DSC SANF(V) Ret
Tony Trew
Anthony Trew signed this copy of Klebers Convoy for Athur Dodd, his former Anti-Submarine Control Officer in HMS Walker,
at  Weybridge on 10 July 1974

Klebers Convoy

 
He kept in touch with his former shipmates in HMS Walker and incribed a copy of his book for Arthur Dodd, his former Anti-Submarine Control Officer (ASCO) responsible for the Asdic and RDF team on Walker.

Shipmates 1981
"The Middle Watch" 1981
From left to right: Arthur Dodd, Tony Trew, Derek Napper and Sandy Powell
Courtesy of Philip Dodd


He moved to England and died at Chertsey in the borough of Runneymede on 12 January 1996. Tony Trew's Editor at Harper Collins summed up Tony Trew's character in the obituary he wrote for him the Independent:

"I first met Antony Trew in 1987 at the offices of his publisher, Collins (now HarperCollins), and soon regarded him as a friend. His immaculate scripts arrived promptly and needed little work; he was a craftsman, whose skill at building character, plot and dramatic suspense in novels such as Yashimoto's Last Dive (1986) had not dimmed with age.

Spry for his years, and endearingly courtly in his manners, Trew was lively company. Having spent some time in Mozambique (formerly Portuguese East Africa), he revealed a compassionate understanding of black Africa's problems, and described movingly his son Antony's imprisonment for activities in the South African resistance. (He is now a civil servant in Nelson Mandela's private office.) His wife Nora was his lynchpin, and he spoke with pride of his other sons, Peter (Conservative MP for Dartford, 1970- 74) and Robert, an architect.

Part of Trew's charm was his good-humour, and he seemed wrily aware of his diminished status at Collins now that his book sales were in decline as fashions in thrillers changed. Lunching an author is the traditional way a publisher shows appreciation, but with Trew's wide-ranging sympathies and air of mischievous amusement the treat was invariably mine." Obituary in the Independent, 23 January 1996.





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



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