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

Between the Wars

HMS Walker visits Manchester in 1920

The Manchester Ship Canal

The 36 mile Manchester Ship Canal linking the Mersey from near Liverpool to the Manchester Docks at Trafford and Stretford could be be used by ships of up to 15,000 tons and Manchester became the third largest port in Britain. A V & W Class destroyer was five thousand tons. The ship canal joined the Mersery at the Eastham Locks on the north bank of the Mersey and HMS Walker was photographed entering the docks at the start of this goodwill visit to Manchester in 1920.

In March 1942 HMS Walker was adopted by Sale after a successful Warship Week National Savings programme to raise money for new warships. Sale is on the south bank of the Mersey and was in Cheshire but is now in Trafford, part of Greater Manchester. I am hoping to find reports in the Manchester Evening News of HMS Walker's visit to Manchester in 1920 and find out if this influenced the decision of the Admiralty to offer Walker to Sale for adoption after its  Warship Week in March 1942.

Eastham Lock 1920
HMS Walker enters the Manchester Ship Canal on a visit to Manchester in 1920
Photographed by Frederick Garner Wilkinson

A further visit by V & Ws to Manchester took place nine years later in June 1929 when the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, with Campbell as leader, accompanied by Wakeful, Wessex, Wolfhound and Westcott navigated the Manchester Ship Canal passing through the Eastham Locks to the excitement of the people of Manchester and the surrounding district. They lined the banks of the canal to welcome the ships before their arrival at Tramroad Wharf, where they remained for seven days, enabling the crews to enjoy some shore leave and the civilian population to visit the destroyers.

Lieutenant Commander S.G.T. Ewles RN
Navy Days, 1 January 1926 to 14 May 1960

Stan Ewles 1934William Ewles in 1893 aged 18Stanley George Thomas Ewles was born at Portsmouth on 15 May 1910,  the son of William Ewles (1875-1930), a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. His father (on right, aged 18) served in HMS Murray and took part in the Raid on Zeebrugge on St George's Day 1918. Stan joined the Navy as an Artificer Apprentice on 1 January 1926 and retired as Lieutenant Commander S.G.T. Ewles RN after thirty five years service in 1975.

Stan could clearly remember the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. "A sailor on a red bicycle rode round the streets, blowing a bugle to recall all sailors to barracks". Another memory was the news of "the Battle of Coronel when we lost several old ships sunk by a superior German squadron. I can still picture three women who lived on the opposite side of the road, standing crying bitterly at their street doors: they were all made widows at the same time. I  rember vividly being taken by my father into the Dockyard to his ship HMS Murray which had a big gash in the bows after the raid on Zeebrugge."

Stan was a bright boy and passed the entrance exam to the secondery school and was awarded "a scholarship of 5 a year which almost paid the 6 fee". "It was a foregone conclusion that I should join the Navy as an artificer. I passed the entrance exam and joined as an Artificer Apprentice on 1st January 1926." After two years in the Artificer Training Workshops aboard two old 'ironclads' in Portsmouth harbour they moved to Chatham Barracks for their final two years. There were practical and theoretical exams every six months. Stan's fathere died in his last six months of training and his Mother had to get by on a 12/6d per week widow's pension but Stan could help when he 'passed out' and his pay increased to 2 16 shillings a week.

Stan joined HMS Walker in August 1930, the first of three V & W Class destroyers he served in, and left 18 months later as a Petty Officer.


Part 1: HMS Walker 1930-1
Around the UK, the Baltic and the Mediterranean in a destroyer

When I joined and went down to the Artificers' Mess, one of the Engine Room Artificers asked about my father. He had been on the Murray during World War I, and it says something that he remembered Dad after all those years - I cannot remember any of the coxswains I served with. Incidentally, at the end of World War II, when I was on the Sirius as a Warrant Officer, we entertained an Admiral who had also been on the Murray, and he asked me about my father. For a man in the Admiral's position this was most unusual, so Dad must have been a character who impressed people.

HMS Walker was part of the fleet on the autumn cruise 1930, which was the time of the Invergordon Mutiny, when sailors refused to go to sea from their base at Invergordon. The cause was a pay cut for everyone of one shilling a day. This did not mean so much to senior people, but to an able seaman earning four shillings a day, it was very unfair. It eventually blew over but the mutiny was a great blow to naval prestige.

I stayed on the Walker for about eighteen months, learning to take charge of the engine room watch and boiler rooms. It was interesting and at times exciting when the ship was going flat out at about thirty knots.

On my first cruise, a boat load of merchant seamen were rescued off Aberdeen. The ship visited Riga  and cruised around Denmark and the Baltic. We did the usual spring manoeuvres in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and Algiers. The summer cruise was around UK, including Whitby and Rosyth.

I was made Petty Officer, and left to return to Portsmouth Depot. I did not stay there in barracks very long, but joined the Hawkins, a cruiser, again built just after World War I, about 1922-24.


After 18 months service he was made a Petty Officer and served in HMS Hawkins, a "cruiser in the tropics" for three years (on left) before joining the battleship HMS Barham in the Mediterranean. "The ship wandered gently all round the Mediterranean ... it was a favourite foreign commission for married men as plenty of time was spent in Malta and wives used to come out and stay there for two years. The single fare on a P & O liner was 12 and furnished flats were fairly cheap." By the time he returned home on a months leave in 1938 he was a Chief Petty Officer, and "had passed the exams for Chief Engine Room Artificer, which was the highest I could reach on the lower deck."

Stan's next ship was HMS Iron Duke, Admiral Jellicoe's Flagship at Jutland but by now a training ship for seamen. The Iron Duke took part in the Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay in August 1939 and was then sent to Scapa Flow. War started on 3 September. There were "only two big ships at Scapa, the Iron Duke and the Royal Oak, both at anchor". HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed and sunk by U-47 on 14 October. Scapa Flow was believed to be out of range of German bombers but two days later when Stan was at work in the engine room "there was an almighty bang and the ship immediately took on a heavy list to port". The crew abandoned ship and returned by liner to Newcastle and by train to Portsmouth. Stan obtained a special licence and married Betty on Tuesday 31 October 1939.

"I reported back on the Monday after our brief honeymoon, and after a day in barracks, was detailed to join HMS Windsor, an old destroyer built at the end of World War I, berthed in Portsmouth Dockyard."
Click on the link to read about Stan Ewles time in HMS Windsor

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