A painting of HMS Walpole presented to Ely Museum by her last CO after his retirement as Rear-Admiral George C Cowley RN Painted by L.R. Fraser
HMS Walpole was built by William Doxford at Sunderland on the Wear and commissioned on 11 July, 1918. HMS Walpole
(Lt Cdr Charles G. Naylor, RN) was one of the Guard Ships for the
German High Sea Fleet at Scapa when their officers scuttled their ships
on 21 June 1919. Walpole lowered her boats and was able to board six torpedo boats before boarding the light cruiser Nurnberg, loosing her cables and allowing her to drift ashore.The other Guard Ship, HMS Westcott, boarded the Hindenburg to close her watertight doors while the destroyer pushed her ashore.
one of thirty plus V & W Class destroyers which took part in naval
operations in the Baltic against Bolshevik forces in defence of the
newly established Baltic States. She then transferred to the 2nd
Destroyer Flotilla as part of the Atlantic Fleet. In 1936 she was
assigned to the First Anti-Submarine Flotilla out of Portland.
At the outbreak of war she joined the 11th Destroyer Flotilla of V & Ws led by HMS Mackay at Plymouth. On 28 October 1939 the 5,000 ton SS Bronte was torpedoed by U-34 some 180 miless west of Lands End and Walpole took on board 42 crew members - and shot a bull! On the 21 December Lt.Cdr. Harold Godfrey Bowerman, RN took command of HMS Walpole. He was CO of the submarine, HMS Oxley, when she was torpedoed and sank by submarine HMS Tritonon 10 September 1939, and was one of two survivors. On 8 March 1940 Walpole was escorting inbound convoy HX.22 when SS Counsellor detonated a mine in Liverpool Bay. Walpole took onboard the 78 survivors including the Commodore, Rear Admiral Harold G.C. Franklin , and his seven staff.
As German forces invaded the Netherlands HMS Walpole
was one of many V & W Class destroyers detached from Western
Approaches flotillas and moved to Nore Command at Harwich. On 13 May 1940, Whit
was charged with taking three men to IJmuiden on a secret mission to
steal industrial diamonds from under the noses of the invading German
forces. A fictionalised account of this mission by David E. Walker was
published as Adventure in Diamonds (Evans Brothers, 1955) and made into a popular film, Operation Amsterdam, starring Peter Finch, Eva Bartok and Tony Britton, in 1959. The true
story of the diamond operation has been researched by Darron Wadey who lives in
the Netherlands and can be read on this website.
On 28 August 1940 Walpole was
bombed off Dover and repaired at Chatham but on 28 October she
detonated a magnetic mine near the Sunk Light Vessel off Harwich and
had to be towed to Sheerness by HMS Windsor
and was under repair at Green & Silley Weirs' Blackwall Yard on the
Thames until April 1941. Lt.Cdr. John Henry Eaden, DSC, RN succeeded
Bowerman as CO while she was under repair. On 12 February 1942 Walpole was part of the 16DF which attacked the German Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the Cruiser Prinz Eugen on their Channel Dash from Brest to Wilhelmshaven but she was forced to withdraw by engine problems.
Following a successful "Warships Week" savings campaign in March 1942 HMS Walpole was adopted by Ely in Cambridgeshire. On 13 March Walpole and Windsor supported Light Coastal Forces in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the German commerce Raider Michel through the Dover Straits. Walpole
resumed patrol and convoy escort servicess in the North Sea until
August when with a new South African CO, Lt. Arthur Shubrook Pomeroy
RN, she was detached for duties with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and
anti-submarine operations off Iceland. She returned south to Tilbury in
September for repair to the underwater dome of her Asdic and
resumed East Coast Convoy duries with the 16DF at Harwich.
In mid December she returned to the Home Fleet at Scapa as a local
escort and on 13 January suffered weather damage taking passengers and
mail to Iceland and returned to Scaps for repairs and afterwards served
as the Emergency Destroyer until she rejoined the 21 DF at Harwich in
February 1943. From March - April she under refit at Chatham and then
resumed convoy escort duties in the North Sea.
In September Lt. George Clement Crowley, DSC, RN was appointed as her
fifth and final wartime CO. He had served as 1st Lt in four
destroyers, the previous two, HMAS Nestor and HMAS Norman, being N Class destroyers on loan to the RAN. He took a special interest in Walpole's links to Ely and in December hosted a visit to the ship at Harwich led by the Dean of the Cathedral.
HMS Walpole was his first command and his two sons have provided a chapter from his unpublished memoir written after his retirement as Rear Admiral George C Crowley DSC, RN on 18 November 1968, describing his time in command escorting East Coast convoys and supporting the Normandy landings. HMS Walpole
hit a mine off the Dutch coast 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.
Lt Cdr Charles G. Naylor, RN (19 June, 1918 – 15 April, 1921)
Lt Cdr Hugh B. Wrey, RN (15 April, 1921 – 23 June, 1922)
LLt Cdr James C. Colvill, RN (23 June, 1922 – 14 August, 1925)
Lt Cdr William S. Moor, RN (14 August, 1925 - 30 March, 1926)
Lt Cdr Bernard A. W. Warburton-Lee, RN (30 March, 1926 – 5 April, 1928)
Lt Cdr Richard F. Jolly, RN (5 April, 1928 – c. April, 1929)
Lt Cdr Eric B. K. Stevens, RN (1 April, 1930 -
Lt Cdr Harold W. Seaman, RN (22 April, 1932 -
Sub Lt P.R.A. Brown RN (2 May 1940 - 6 January 1945)
Wt Eng T.F. Clunn RN (15 June 1939 - 6 January 1945)
Lt Michael R.E. Faning RN (4 April 1938 - February 1941)
Lt Surg K.S. MacLean RNVR (11 Jan 1940 - 6 January 1945)
Lt J.S. Truscott RNVR (28 November 1939 - 6 January 1945)
Sub Lt R.M.E. Varley RN (3 Jan 1940 - 6 January 1945)
Mid R.J. Watson RNR (28 Aug 1939 - 6 January 1945)
Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation P. Cable (Romford, Essex) and R. Thrift (Thetford, Norfolk)
The scuttling of the German High Sea Fleet in 1919
"Kit" Granville Naylor was born at Lichfield, Sussex, on 26 April 1888,
the son of Charles Topham Naylor and his wife Katherine Eleanor
Granville.He entered Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth in
January 1903 and was appointed Lieutenant on 15 November 1908 and given
command of a torpedo boat TB33 on 6 September 1912. He took command of
the River Class Destroyer HMS Moy on 24 October 1914, part of the 9th Flotilla at Hartlepool during the German raid on the Yorkshire Coast 15-16 December. He commanded the destroyer HMS Milbrook at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and on 15 November was promoted to Lt Cdr. He was made CO of HMS Walpole on 19 June 1918 and looks very youthful in the photograph on the right wearing the stripes of a Lt Cdr.
Lt S.B. de Courcy-Ireland RN witnessed the 72 ships in the German High
Sea Fleet escorted into the Firth of Forth to surrender from the
deck of HMS Westcotton the 21 November 1918 and
was part of the escort taking them to Scapa Flow in Orkney
to be interned while the allies argued about what to do with them. My
19 year old father was stationed at Houton Bay Air Station on Scapa Flow as an
Observer Gunner on anti-submarine patrol in Short 184 seaplanes and saw
them enter the Flow and anchor between Houton Bay and Hoy on the 24th
November. Their crews were demoralised and mutinous but made no trouble
and when the Home Fleet was at sea two destroyers were left behind as
On 21 June 1919 HMS Walpole and her sister ship HMS Westcott were the two Guard Ships while the Home Fleet was at sea. At about noon Lt Cdr Charles G. Naylor, RN, the CO of HMS Walpole,
saw the German ships hoist the Imperial German Ensign at their masts and their officers and men lower boats and abandon their
sinking ships. He deployed Walpole's boats to assist in beaching the torpedo boats in Gutter Sound before they sank and then boarded the light cruiser Nurnberg to release her cables to enable her to drift ashore on Cava. Charles Naylor took possesion of her ensign, measuring ten foot by six, and a hundred years later it is still a much prized family treasure (on left). Brian de Courcy-Ireland (below left) in HMS Westcott describes events in A Naval Life (Englang Publishing, 1990 and 2002), self
published by the family. The Captain was Lt
Cdr C R Peploe "who had done well at Jutland in another destroyer when
his captain was killed and he had taken over - a jovial extrovert" ...
"We were secured to a buoy in Gutter Sound (among the German
destroyers) by a slip rope. Most of us were in the Wardroom having a
drink before lunch when the Officer of the Watch came tumbling down
with the startling news that all German ships had hoisted a flag signal
and some appeared to be abandoning ship".
After the initial shock and confusion: "we decided to concentrate on
trying to save a few ships, and started on a couple of destroyers. We
blew their cables to save time, and pushed them into shallow water
where they settled pretty well upright. We then turned our attention to
the great Hindenberg. No 1
and myself with a party of about 25 men with a young Engineer Officer
got on board, and while the Captain tried to push her into shallow
water we closed as many watertight doors, hatches and scuttles as we
could. I thnk we closed about two hundred but it was hopeless. we were
working largely in the dark in a ship we didn't know; many of the clips
were rusty and stiff and we were being forced back all the time.
No 1 and I were the last to leave as she sank under us,
fortunately upright, climbing higher as she settled, finally coming to
rest with bridge snd funnels, etc above water."
"Our final task was to salvage the two destroyers we had pushed into
the beach. The water was cold and we had to swim and dive to close the
scuttles and hatches. It was a dirty job too as they had oppened up a
oil fuel tank and everything was coated with a film of oil. I was
inspecting the Wardroom of one of the destroyers ... and found a signed
oil painting of a scene in East Prussia perfectly preserved by the oil;
"I have it still".
The official report on the Sinking of German Fleet at Scapa Flow (ADM 116/2074) and the efforts made by the two Guard Ships to prevent the SMS Nurnberg sinking is in the National Archives at Kew. HMS Walpole and HMS Westcott
both served in the "forgotten war" in the Baltic which preserved the
independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the twin perils of
Bolshevik naval forces based at Petrograd and a German General with
substantial land forces trying to repulse the Bolshevik forces while
seizing command of the Baltic States.
Charles "Kit" Naylor left Walpole on 14 April 1921 and joined the Danae Class Light Cruiser HMS Dragon as second in command and was promoted
to Commander on 31 December 1921. He was given a shore posting in April 1922 and, tragically, died of a long
standing heart condition aged 36 on 27 January 1924. Sub Lt Brian de
Courcy-Ireland was born in 1900 and died in his sleep in the early
morning of Remembrance Day 2001. He was a Lieutenant in HMS Venomous from 1920-1 and figured prominently in A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous
(Holywell House Publishing, 2017). After retiring as Cpt S. Brian
de Courcy-Ireland in 1951 he served as Naval ADC to the King. The Imperial War Museum have a copy of his 454 page personal memoir A Naval Life and eleven reels of recorded interviewsmade in 1991 which can be listened to online.
The first month of a new War against Germany
Twenty years later at the beginning of September 1939 HMS Walpole was involved in the very early detection of U-boats as Leading Seaman William Hutchins relates:-
"Saturday night on the 2nd of September 1939 we were in asdic contact
with two submarines and assumed that they were German U-boats. Contact
was lost with one and on hearing of the sinking of the SS Athenia on
the 3rd September we believed that this was the U-boat that had sunk
her, as it was not too far away from where the Athenia was attacked. War had
not been declared therefore Walpole
did not drop depth charges. We
remained in contact with the second submarine until the announcement of the
declaration of war at 1100 hrs on 3rd September. At 1103 we attacked with
depth charges and assumed that these attacks had been successful (never
verified). The other destroyers which were in company with us were
Vanquisher and Wolfhound and another."
The Sinking of the Bronte
The British merchantship SS Bronte was torpedoed and badly damaged on
27 October 1939 180 miles SW of Lands End by U-34 and eventually after attempting to tow her back to harbour had to be sunk by HMS Whirlwind and HMS Walpole with their guns. Walpole took onboard the 42 crew members. Leading Seaman Henry Martin
recalled what happened:
"on one trip to 13 degrees West (actually 10.52 West) a
torpedo passed under the Walpole. I saw it as clear as if it were
daylight although it was night time. The torpedo ran on and struck a
ship called SS Bronte and she settled down at the bow. Before the dust
had settled the crew of Bronte were alongside us. Our Commanding
Officer was none too happy but he sent over a crew from Walpole and
they, in true matelot fashion, purloined a lot of their navigational
equipment. The boarding party returned and reported that the
Bronte was fit to sail. So, back went the crew of the Bronte and the
C.O. decided to take her in tow. We secured the Bronte's hawser from
her stern and took the strain but - guess what? These hawsers had
"Liverpool splices" in them and pulled straight out. Our skipper went
berserk, so we employed our own wires and once again took up the strain
and proceeded to tow her. After towing her for some time the weather
deteriorated and the SS Bronte broke up and sank, taking the remains of
a prize bull with her. We rescued Bronte's crew and returned
them to Liverpool. While going to and fro from Liverpool we had
an asdic contact and dropped twenty five depth charges, we had to fit
pistols with detonators flying about and load them into carriers; on
the bridge the skipper was going mad but we managed it."
PO Stoker Arthur Suffolk writes:
"The Bronte was
carrying a prize bull destined for Argentina. Walpole's First
Lieutenant went over to the Bronte to shoot the bull as it was felt
that it would be more humane than to leave the poor beast to drown.
Unfortunately, the officer failed to take any ammunition for the
revolver with him and had to return for some! Eventually, with mission
accomplished the Bronte was sunk."
A few days after the sinking
of the Bronte the C.O, Lt. Cdr A.F Burnell-Nugent RN DSC, wrote to a
"My Dear Hoar, Thank you very much for your letter which I was
pleased to get and hear all your news. I sympathise with you not being
at sea but no doubt it would be fatal if everybody in important jobs
like yours all left at once. I suppose I am damned
lucky to be in command of a destroyer in war time, which is the job
that I have always wanted. But I had no idea what a hell of a sweat it
would be. We are employed entirely on convoy work in the Atlantic and
do seven days out and two days in harbor and so on. It would be
grand if the weather at this time of year was not always so bloody
awful. I am writing this in my sea cabin. Last night we had the worst
gale that I have ever met, hove to all night quite helpless and
everything getting bust; thank God in the morning we met another
destroyer whpch took charge of me, otherwise I should have no idea which
way to go to find the convoy again.
My Officers are a
Lieutenant RNR, two acting subs (sub lieutenants), an acting Gunner and
a Midshipman. Very decent fellows, but not very experienced at keeping
station at night without lights, but they do it damn well on the
whole. Crew are almost all reservists, mostly men who left after
twelve years, but there are a few who are pensioners, the oldest is 54.
We also have a few very young RNVR seamen aged about 18, very willing
but it is absolute cruelty to send the very young, or the very old on a
job like this.
What rather gets me down is the paper work -
when one gets back to harbour and expect a 'stand easy' about twenty
bags of different official mail arrive - mostly ticking us
One has incredible adventures. Last trip we brought
back 42 survivors from a British ship [the Bronte] that had been
torpedoed. I tried to tow it back to harbour stern first, but a gale
came up and the bloody thing sank only 60 miles from harbour after two
days towing. Maddening, for I had hoped for a spot of salvage
I have shared a U-boat; I thought it was U-34, the U-boat that attacked Bronte, but I was mistaken as U-34 sank HMS Whirlwind off Lands End in July 1940. By chance, Whirlwind was one of the destroyers escorting
the convoy it attacked, but it is not a pleasing business as I felt sorry for
the fellows trapped inside.
There is a good deal of semi-confidential stuff in this, but as you are in the reserve I reckon it
will be all right. Anyhow, I will censor it myself, but don't show it to
everyone you know. It is still blowing like stink but clear
weather. My job certainly teaches one to rely on oneself
and I have learnt more since this war began than in years of
Always delighted to hear from you. I hear that your
sister has married some nice Naval Officer but I'm ashamed to say that
I don't know who it is".
Lt. Cdr A.F Burnell-Nugent RN joined Walpole
as CO on 9 January and left on 21 November 1939 when Lt Cdr Harold
Bowerman RN took over as CO. Burnell-Nugent took command of HMS Havant (H32)
which was bombed off Dunkirk on 1 June 1940, the last day of the
evacuation of the BEF and she had to be sunk by the minesweeper, HMS Saltash. He went on to command four more destroyers: HMS Jervis, Hostile, Jersey and Racehorse.
A wonderful start to 1942!
An anonymous contribution to Hard Lying, the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association:
"Without wishing to appear too
dramatic, we have managed to survive up to now, and as you will see
1942 was quite an eventful year for HMS Walpole.
From the 1st of January to the 11th we saw continuous convoy escort duties
and further E-boat patrols, if the weather was too rough the patrols
would be cancelled, E-boats did not sail if the sea was at all
left Sheerness on the 11th to escort convoy FN88, all the way
to Rosyth, then on the 14th escorted the county class cruiser HMS Suffolk to Aberdeen.
The next day we joined convoy FS 100 to act as close escort with the Hunt class destroyer HMS Waddon.
On the 17th January FS 100 and escorts approached the Thames Estuary in the
late afternoon and the merchant ships prepared to anchor. At this time,
convoys were not allowed to trade up the estuary during the hours of
darkness on account of enemy mine laying. As Walpole
slowed down at the rear of the convoy to protect stragglers and
advise on anchoring, a Dornier 217 bomber attempted to strafe and bomb Walpole - possibly a dummy run?
Each convoy is given a
code name as well as a number. In the event of imminent danger to a
convoy, as assessed by shore radar, a plain language message is flashed
by ship-shore radio to the convoy escorts. For air attacks the
word 'Blue' followed by the convoy code name is given. At this time I
was on ship-shore frequency watch and knowing the FS 100 code word I
was able to pass the 'Blue' warning to the bridge within
minutes of receiving it. This gave the Captain and the crew a few vital
moments to be fully prepared, as they would normally be at stand by, not action
stations, and our Captain, Lt Cmdr J.H. Eaden, exercised great skill and
coolness in these moments.
The Dornier made another run, machine gunning Walpole and making several holes in the funnel, as well as shooting away one of our W/T aerials. Walpole
had by now almost stopped at the rear of the convoy and the enemy must
have mistaken us for a merchantman. The Dornier made a low-level run
from astern, and when the bomb doors opened, our Captain ordered, 'Full
ahead both', to the engine room. As we picked up speed quite quickly
the bombs exploded in our wake. After releasing her bombs the enemy
aircraft turned away and presented us with a perfect target.
Excellent shooting from our gunners made sure that the enemy did not
escape. The plane crashed in flames, there were no
Lt Cdr Eaden was mentioned in despatches and one of our gunners received the DSM - a wonderful start to 1942!"
HMS Walpole and Windsor attack the Commerce Raider Michel in the Channel
On 13 March the Walpole, Windsor and the escort destroyers Blencathra, Calpe, and Fernie deployed in the English Channel to intercept the German merchant raider Michel sailing from Flushing in the Netherlands to German occupied France under escort by five torpedo boats and nine minesweepers. Windsor
exchanged gunfire with the German ships on 14 March and made a torpedo
attack, sustaining superficial damage from German gunfire.
0552 Altered course in succession to 135, and received 'Enemy in sight to Starboard'.
0553 Received "Stand by to turn to Starboard to fire torpedoes" Tubes were brought to the ready Port
0554 Received "Enemy in sight to Port" While altering
back in succession to 100 degrees, tubes were trained for and aft, as
it was not clear at this stage on which side the torpedo target lay.
opened on a destroyer bearing 130. 'B' gun illuminated with star shell.
Short range weapons opened fire on destroyer and E-boats.
was observed to turn away to Port. At the same moment a merchant ship
was sighted bearing approximately 100, range 4000, approximate course
brought to the ready Starboard. Enemy sped was estimated at 15 knots.
Speed was increased to 25 knots.
0557 Windsor turned to Port and fired torpedoes at an estimated range of 2,500 yards and enemy inclination m090 right.
0559 Ship was steadied up on a retiring course 315, with Walpole on the Starboard beam, distance 2 cables.
0600 A large explosion was seen amidships in the merchant ship. Fire was ceased after torpedoes had been fired Calpe and Fernie were by this time somewhere between Windsor and the enemy, and a large amount of smoke made it impossible to select targets.
0605 Windsor took station astern of Walpole. Windsor
was under erratic fire from 0554 to 0559, a number of shells fell close,
at 0556 she received a direct hit, a shell estimated as 3 or 4inch
caliber demolished the motor boat and caused superficial damage.
The German auxiliary cruiser Michel (HSK 2),
known to the Kriegsmarine as Schiff 28 and to the Royal Navy as
Raider-H, was a converted German auxiliary cruiser or commerce
raider.Post war details indicate that no serious damage was done.
During the war the Commerce Raider Michel spent 358 days at
sea, during which she sank or captured 18
ships totaling 126,632 ton and by the time she berthed at Kobe for
repairs on 2
March 1943 she was the last operational raider. Her CO,
Korvettenkapitän Helmuth von Ruckteschell, requested and was granted
relief of command on medical grounds. Michel was sunk by US submarine Tarpon east of Yokohama on 17 October 1943.
East Coast Convoys and the Normandy Landings
Lt Cdr George C Crowley RN
Lt George C Cowley was appointed as CO of HMS Walpole in September 1943. He had joined the Navy as a 17 year old cadet in 1933 and this was his first command and although Walpole
was an old ship he was very proud of her. In the 1970s, after his
retirement as Rear Admiral George C Crowley DSC and bar, he wrote an
unpublished account of his life at sea and this month I succeeded in
tracing his two sons, Roger and Patrick Cowley, and they sent me a copy
of the chapter dealing with his time as CO of HMS Walpole which will be added to this website.
The Commanding Officer, Lieut Cdr G C Crowley, DSC, RN, officers and ship's company of the Walpole at Harwich, December 1944 Click on the iink to view the names of officers in the Navy List for January 1945
Please e-mail Bill Forster if you can identify any of the officers or men in this photograph Courtesy of Vic Green
On 6 January 1945 HMS Walpole
detonated a mine off Flushing in the Netherlands killing two of the
crew. She was taken back to Kent where she was declared a
constructive total loss not worth repairing and was sold to be broken
up for scrap on 8 February 1945. Her CO, Lt Cdr G C Crowley, DSC,
retired as Rear-Admiral George C Cowley in 1968. He presented this
painting of HMS Walpole to Ely, the town which adopted her as their own after a successful Warships Week in March 1942.
In June 1949 a ceremony was held to Commemorate the ship in Ely
Cathedral and the Ensign she flew was laid up in the North Transept.
The entire crew attended the ceremony. Rear-Admiral Crowley died on 14
December 1999 in Gloucester and an obituary was published in the Old Pangbournian Record of the Nautical College, Pangbourne, and in The Telegraph.