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.
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
Stanley 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 1926and 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
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
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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