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’.


The Porta, gateway to Ely Cathedral 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
Walpole's Gate and 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 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.

The crest of HMS Walpole pesented to Ely by the AdmiraltyPlaque presented to HMS Walpole by Ely
Over 300,000 was raised by Ely in 1940 for War Weapons Week, and during during their 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 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.

The adoption of HMS Wapole was cemented by a visit to the ship on 8 December 1943 which led to a real warmth of feeling between ship and city 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 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 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 photograph album of Lt Cdr George C Crowley DSC
They may have been taken by an official naval photoraher since some are also in the collection of the Imperial War Museum
Crown Copyright lasts fiifty years from the date the photographs are taken

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 seen on the left below.
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.

Ely Standard
24 December 1943

Ely Standard 1989
Ely Standard
6 June 1989

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

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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