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’.


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

The Porta, gateway to Ely Cathedral
Walpole's Gate, the "Porta", is now part of King's School

The Porta is also known as Walpole`s Gate which may explains why HMS Walpole was  chosen as the warship for Ely to adopt during its 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.

Over 300,000 was raised by Ely in 1940 for War Weapons Week, and during during Warship Week in March 1942  a further 259,000 was raised. The Ely Standard carried stories on Warship Week and the adoption of HMS Walpole on 20 February, the 31 July and the 2 and 23 October 1942. The Ely Standard no longer carries a backrun of previous issues but copies are held in the Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard. I am hoping to be sent copies of these articles so that I can provide further details on this page of the events held during Warships Week to raise this huge sum of money. I would also like to hear rfom elderly school children in their eighties and nineties who remember Warship Week and the efforts made by their school to raise the money to adopt HMS Walpole.

The "Great and the Good" of Ely visit HMS Walpole at Harwich
8 December 1943

The adoption of the "Wallop", as she was affectionally known,  was cemented by a visit to the ship on 8 December 1943 which led to a real warmth of feeling between city and ship as described by Lt Cdr George C Crowley RN:

"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 could 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 each 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 delegation of ten citizens from Ely Urban and Rural District Councils included the Dean of Ely Cathedral and the Editor of the Ely Standard was headline news in Ely. The photographs below are from the personal album of Lt Cdr George C Crowley DSC and although they may have been taken by an official naval photograher (some are also in the collection of the Imperial War Museum) copyright has expired. Crown Copyright lasts fiifty years from the date a photograph was taken.

can read Lt Cdr Crowley own personal account of his time as CO of HMS Walpole escorting Coastal Convoys along the East Coast and the English Channel and at the Normandy Landings between September 1943 and January 1945 when she detonated a mine off Flushing in the Netherlands and was declared a "constructive loss" not worth repairing.

The Chairman of Ely Urban District Council aboard HMS Walpole at Harwich in December 1943
"Mr Clarke, Chairman of the Urban Council"
The sailor on the right is holding the plaque presented by Ely to HMS Walpole on her adoption in 1942
The gentleman on the right in not named but is thought to be Mr Heber G. Martin, the Chairman of Ely Rural Council
The ship's bell and the plaque are now in Ely Museum
Courtesy of Patrick and Roger Crowley

"Dean in clutches of the GM"
The caption in Lt Cdr Crowley's Album is "Dean in clutches of the G.M."
The Gun Master is demonstrating Y Gun to Lionel Blackburn, the Dean of Ely Cathedral
Courtesy of Patrick and Roger Crowley

Dean Blackburn receiving the Bosun's Call
"The Chief Boatswain's Mate presenting a Boatswain's Call to the Dean", the Very Rev Lionel Blackburn
Courtesy of Patrick and Roger Crowley

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: From left  to right: Henry Wallis, Bill Wilson (Editor of the Ely Standard), Sid Covill and Dean Blackburn being shown the working of Y Gun (Crown Copyright: IWM A 20857)

Editpr of the Ely Times aboard HMS Walpole at Harwich, December 1943
Bill Wilson, the "Editor Ely Times" on the bridge of HMS Walpole
“the editor of this newspaper, Bill Wilson, went out on her during a tour of duty” when this photograph was taken
 The correct name of the paper was the Ely Standard and Cambridgeshire Times and it is still published today
The front page story of the visit (below) was published on Christmas Eve 1943
Courtesy of Patrick and Roger Crowley

Ely Standard
Christmas Eve 1943 - the rest of the lengthy article by the Editor of the Ely Standard can be read in a separate window by clicking on the link
Cortesy of Patrick and Roger Cowley

After the visit "arrangements were made for HMS Walpole to receive copies of the Ely Standard each week and a batch of Ey guide books has been despatched to the ship". Forty-five years later the ensign of HMS Walpole was laid up in the Cathedral where it hangs today - see the report in the Ely Standard on the right below. These press cuttings and many more were retained by Lt Cdr George C. Crowley. The Ely Standard no longer has a complete run of its publication but bound copies can be seen in the Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard.

Reunion in June 1989 of Old Comrades who served together in HMS Walpole
from a report in the Ely Standard on 8 June 1989

Ely Standard 1989
HMS_Walpoler Reunion Weerkend 8 June 1989

Although very few of the veterans who took part in the parade and attended the dance will be alive today I would like to hear from their familiies and add their names so they will show up in Google searches. And should they have photographs taken aboard HMS Walpole I would like to add hem to this website where they can be seen by the families of their former shipmates as well as the people of Ely. The plaques exchanged by HMS Walpole wth the City of Ely and the ship's bell are in the recently restored and reopened Ely Museum and the ship's ensign hangs in the North Transept of Ely Cathedral.

The people of Ely are still interested in the history of the ship they adopted in wartime eighty years ago and the story of the seizure of industrial diamonds from Amsterdam in May 1940 under the the noses of invading German forces, the event celebrated in book and film for which HMS Walpole is best remembered today, is told on this website and was published in the Ely Standard in June 2020 and can be seen here as a PDF.

Click on the link to read
 Rear Admiral George C Crowley description of his time as Commanding officer of HMS Walpole
illustrated with photographs from his album

Courtesy of his two sons, Patrick and
Roger Crowley

Ely Museum

Ely Museum first opened on Ely High Street in 1975, later moving to its present home in the old Bishop's Gaol on Market Street in 1997. The collection held there is focused on Ely and the surrounding district and spans from the Jurassic to the 21st Century. The Museum reopened in May 2021, following a 2.2m 2-year redevelopment project that included completely new galleries and displays throughout the building, as well as improved facilities and a new events/education room. The displays, based around many of the Museum's objects, chronologically tell the story of Ely, the Fens and its residents throughout history. Included in the various displays is a detailed explanation of how the drainage of the Fens came about, how it was carried out and the impact this had on the landscape and the people.

The upstairs galleries cover the history after the drainage of the Fens and include two displays relating to the area's recent military past. Alongside various objects, including French armour brought back from Waterloo, 19th Century field surgeon's medical instruments and a First World War era King's Colour, is the bell of HMS Walpole with information explaining the significance of the object and War Ship Week.

The new galleries also include a dedicated temporary exhibition space that enables the Museum to put on more focused displays relating to a specific subject than they would normally be able to in the main galleries. Recently this space has been home to an exhibition relating to the local 2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment during the Second World War, including the terrible years that many of the men spent as Far East Prisoners of War. Hopefully, before too long, it will be HMS Walpole's turn in the spotlight and this space can be used to display all the Museum's objects relating to the ship and its crew.

Ely Museum in September 2021

The crest of HMS Walpole pesented to Ely by the AdmiraltyPlaque presented to HMS Walpole by Ely

The ships crest mounted on a wooden shield presented to the town by the Admiralty
(left) and the plaque presented to the ship (right) and returned after the war are in the Ely Museum together with the ship's bell and  a fine painting of HMS Walpole commissioned by her last CO, Lt Cdr George C Crowley RN, and presented to Ely.

The crest mounted on the wooden shield presented by the Admiralty is a replica cast in iron of the original  screen plaque with only "Nelson's Crown" made of brass but the Museum also holds the original massive bronze screen plaque which was mounted at head height on the superstructure of HMS Walpole. It was bought by Ken Kelly who lived in the USA but did his National Service in the Royal Navy and spotted it in a general  antique store in the Catskill Mountains in the North East of New York State. in October 1989, on his next trip back to the UK, he came to Ely and presented the plaque to Ely Museum but it not at present on display. Click on the link to find out more about screen plaques, boat badges and the ships' bells of V & W Class Destroyers.

The inscribed plate on the Admiratly shield

The shield bearing the crest of HMS Walpole presented to Ely by the Admiralty
Walpole's Bell in Ely Museum
The items related to HMS Walpole in Ely Museum are scattered throughout the collection and not all are on public display
In some cases they are displayed in glass fronted cabinets and partly obscured by the reflection of light from the glass

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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