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

Warship Weeks

Ely adopts HMS Walpole

Warships Week 14 March 1942

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.

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’.


Painting of HMS Walpole presented to Ely by her CO

Lt Cdr George C. Crowley RN
Lt Cdr George C Crowley DSC RN
Photographed on HMS Walpole in 1944
Crown copyright IWM A27016
This painting of HMS Walpole by L.R. Fraser was presented to Ely Museum by Rear Admiral George C. Crowley CBE DSO,  the Commanding Officer of HMS Walpole 1943-45.

The Porta, gateway to Ely Cathedral
The "Porta", also known as Walpole's Gate, the entrance to Ely Monastery

The crest of HMS Walpole pesented to Ely by the AdmiraltyPlaque presented to HMS Walpole by ElyEly Porta - Gateway to Ely Monastery
Walpole's Gate

The Porta is also known as Walpole`s Gate which explains why Ely choose HMS Walpole as the warship to adopt during Warships Week. It was named after Prior Walpole, dates from the 14th century and was once the main entrance to the monastery. For many centuries travellers, pilgrims, monarchs and other nobility passed through the Walpole Gate. The gate was begun in 1396, completed in 1417 and is now part of the King's School, a public school.


In response to a ‘War Weapons Week’ in 1940, over 300,000 was raised in Ely alone, and during during the National Warship Week in March 1942  a further 259,000 was raised. A year later a delegation of Ely citizens led by Ely Urban District Council, Ely Rural District Council and the Dean of Ely Cathedral visited the ship in Harwich to meet the crew as reported in the Ely Standard below.

HMS Walpole hit a mine on the 6th January 1945, was beyond repair and was sold for scrap the following month. A ceremony to commemorate HMS Walpole was held in Ely Cathedral in June 1949. It was attended by the whole crew and the ensign of the HMS Walpole was laid up in the North Transept of the Cathedral where it can still be seen.

Ely Standard
Christmas Eve 1943 - click on the link to view the rest of the article  as a PDF

Dean of Ely visits HMS Walpole 1943Demonstrating Y Gun to the Dean of Ely and Councillors
Citizens of Ely visit their adopted ship at Harwich on 8 December 1943 as reported above in the Ely Standard
The Dean of Ely with with the CO of the Walpole, Lieutenant G C Crowley, DSC, RN, talking to men and drawn up at Divisions Crown Copyright: IWM A 20860
Right: The Dean of Ely and Councillors being shown the working of Y Gun Crown Copyright: IWM A 20857

In this extract from his unpublished mermoir, Lt George C Crowley RN, explained how the adoption of HMS Wapole was cemented by a visit to the ship which led to a real warmth of feeling between ship and city:

"Apart from the exchange of plaques from them and the gift of the ship's crest from us the matter appeared to have died a natural death, This was not so, however, as I and the Wardroom in consultation with the ship's company, agreed that we should ask for a small team from Ely, possibly led by the Bishop or the Dean, to come and visit the ship, talk to the ship's company and stay for lunch. I first of all asked Captain (D) if it would be possiblee for the Walpole to be in on a certain date and he assured me that, provided there was no dire emergency, this coulkd be arranged,. We then sent the invitation which was accepted with alacrity and in due course the great day arrived. Led by the Dean a party of ten came to Harwich and were welcomed onboard. The ship was at Divisions and the Ely team were first of all led round the Divisions and at eaach stop the Dean gave some stirring words of encouragement and thanks. After this there was an opportunity for our visitors to look at the ship more closely and there was a deonstration of gun drills and suchlike. The Chief Boatswain's Mate - a Petty Officer - then gave the Dean a boatswain's call which I really believe he was delighted to receive. Then, after half an hour or so, we gave the party drinks in the wardroom, but how we all got in I cannot think, followed by what in those days was a very nice buffet lunch. After lunch, as always I suppose, I did say a few words of thanks and appreciation. Finally, the party broke up and we wished our guests great good fortune."

The Ely Standard described the impression formed by the visitors from Ely of their adopted ship (on left below) and in 1989 seventeen crew members attended the service in the Cathedral at which the Ensign of HMS Walpole was laid up in the North Transept (on right below).

Ely Standard 24 December 1943Ely StandardEly Standard
Ely Standard 1989

An extract from the unpublished memoir of Rear Admiral George C Cowdrey
Courtesy of his two sons, Roger and Patrick Cowdrey

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

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