commissioned in March 1918 and was Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes Flag Ship for the raid on Zeebrugge 22-3 April.
She also took part in the second raid on Ostend on 10 May and was
heavily damaged when a mine broke her back and she had to be towed back
to Dover by HMS Whirlwind.Warwick was at Scapa Flow in November 1918 when the Grand Fleet received the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet.She was stationed in the
Mediterranean in the 20’s before being put in Reserve in the 30’s.
HMS Warwick was re-commissioned in August 1939 and
joined the fleet at Plymouth. When the Aviemore was sunk by U-31 on 16 September 1939 in the first attack on a convoy in World War II HMS Warwickrescued eleven crew members and
landed them at Liverpool. In February 1940 she was deployed to the
Western Approaches Escort Force for Atlantic convoy defence; protecting
convoys, searching for and attacking U-boats which attacked
the convoy and rescuing survivors. In November 1940, with the
formation of distinct escort groups, she joined 7 EG. In December she
was mined and spent the next four months in dock for repairs.
In March 1941 Warwick rejoined Western Approaches Command in the Atlantic. After a successful Warship Week campaign she was adopted by the city of Warwick.
In January 1942, after the entry of the USA into the war and the
opening of the U-boat offensive off the US east coast (Operation Drumbeat), she
was transferred to the USN. From June 1942 she was in the West Indies
serving with USN and RCN ships of the Caribbean Escort Force on
anti-submarine patrol and convoy escort duty.
In December Warwick returned
to Britain for conversion to a long range escort at Dundee. One of her
boilers was removed to provide extra fuel capacity, sacrificing speed
for endurance and range. By July 1943 she was on anti-submarine
duties in the Bay of Biscay, supporting Operation Musketry, the RAF Coastal Command's Bay offensive. In November she took part in Operation Alacrity, the establishment and supply of Allied air bases in the Azores which closed the Mid-Atlantic gap.
In January 1944 Warwick returned to Britain and led an escort group operating in the South-West Approaches. On 20 February 1944, while Warwick
was patrolling off Trevose Head, near Padstow on the north coast of
Cornwall, under the command of Cdr. Denys Rayner, she was hit in the
stern by an acoustic torpedo, a GNAT, fired by U-413 which zeroed in on the noise of her propeller screws. She sank in minutes, with the loss of over half her crew.
Lt David Harries RN
Sub Lt McIndoe RNZNVR
Surg Lt Lindsay Sandes SANF
Sub Lt Peter Whinny
Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation J. Begg (Ormskirk), Lt Cdr D. Harries RN (Bath), T. Miller (Scarborough), T. Whale (New Milns, Ayrshire).
The Raid on Zeebrugge in 1918
and the Loss of HMS Warwick in 1944
The raid was an attempt to cut
off the Flanders U-Boat Flotilla's access to the sea by sinking
concrete filled block ships in the entrances to to the canal at
Zeebrugge and Ostend. It was partially successful at Zeebrugge (but the
harbour was quickly cleared) but failed at Ostend. A second attempt to
block the canal at Ostend on 10 May by sinking HMS Vindictive in the entrance also failed. The raid was seen as a glorious failure for which Rear
Admiral Roger Keyes flying his flag in HMS Warwick received a knighthood.
Block ships in the entrance to the Bruges Canal at Zeebrugge Left: Aerial view looking West. Crown Copyright IWM Ref Q 20648B
Right: HMS Thetis (top), HMS Iphigenia and HMS Intepid (bottom) Click images to view full size
His edited Despatches for the operations at Zeebrugge on 23 April and Ostend on 10 May 1918 together with the Press Bureau's narrative and the German Admiralty's account were published by Oxford University Press in 1919 and are out of copyright. The text can searched online or the whole publication (including maps and images)downloaded as a PDF and in other formats.
After the second attempt to block the harbour at Ostend on 10 May HMS Warwick was mined and needed to be towed back to Dover by HMS Whirlwind. The circumstances are described in Keyes' edited despatches. By the time the crew of the blockade ship HMS Vindictive were transferred to HMS Warwick
by motor launches ML 254 and ML 276 dawn was breaking and the tide had
fallen and it was necessary to leave Ostend by the deep-draught route
which had not been cleared of mines:
"At 4 am HMS Warwick
struck a mine which destroyed the afterpart of the ship. She took a
heavy list and appeared to be settling down. The wounded were
transferred to Velox, and Whirlwind took the flagship in tow. Velox
was lashed alongside to steer. Progress was slow and for three hours
the destroyers were within range of the enemies' batteries. Dover was
reached at 4.30 pm on May 10."
HMS Warwick on arrival back at Dover Crown Copyright IWM Ref. Q2846
The ensign flown by Rear Admiral Sir Roger Keyes from HMS Warwick,
his flag ship for the raid on Zeebrugge in April 1918, was gifted by
him to the town of Warwick and hangs in St Mary's Church as a memorial to the men who died when HMS Warwick was torpedoed. This year's centenary of the raid will be commemorated in the town by an exhibition in the Visitor Centre from 19 - 23 April.
The inscribed board in St Mary's Church, Warwick, where the ensign flown by Rear Admiral Sir Roger Keyes from HMS Warwick, his flag ship for the raid on Zeebrugge, now hangs The adoption of HMS Warwick by Warwick and the town links between ship and town Photograph courtesy of Zinat Bennett
The Loss of HMS Warwick
The ensign flown by Rear Admiral Sir Roger Keyes was presented to the town to honour the memory of the sixty six men who died when HMS Warwick was torpedoed and sunk by a
German submarine in the Bristol Channel on 20 February
1944. In 1984 eighteen of the eighty five survivors
wrote down their memories of thar day. Some can be seen online as PDFs and Jim Gold tells his story on the Peoples War website. The others can be seen in the Imperial War Museum
This story by Ordinary Telegraphist Ken Holmes was first published in Hard Lying,
the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association and republished in
2005 by the Chairman of the Association in the book of the same name which is
out of print. It is reproduced here by permission of
Clifford Fairweather and his publisher, Avalon Associates, but copyright
remains with the author, Ken Holmes.
I was on board HMS Warwick on Sunday 20th February 1944 at the age of twenty.
I was in my mess at about 1145 when an explosion shook the ship
violently and a cloud of dust fell from the overhead pipes that ran
through the mess. My first thoughts were to get my life belt and head
for the upper deck. My life belt was the type that had to be blown up
like a car inner tube, was rolled up and hung on a hammock hook near
the door. I grabbed the life belt and made for the door. The mess was
on the starboard side of the ship and the only access to it was by a
ladder that lead upwards to a hatch which opened out on the upper deck
aft of the forward superstructure. This ladder also served the ERA's
mess which was on the port side.
I was first to the doorway of my mess but was beaten to the ladder by
one of the ERA's. On looking up I could see some burning wreckage
across the hatch top. The ERA went ahead of me and either him or
someone on the upper deck cleared the wreckage away. I proceeded on to
the upper deck where I found oil, some of it burning on the deck, and
seemingly spurting up somewhere near the funnel.
The wireless office was at the rear of the forward superstructure and
as I came on to the upper deck. I saw the P.O. Tel' who was my boss,
shouting for people to go their action stations. Mine was in the H/F,
D/F office in the stern of the ship, and when I looked in that
direction, I could see that the stern was no longer there. I was
actually standing on the port side of the ship by the whaler, and
efforts were being made to lower it. Unfortunately, burning oil had
dropped into it and it was obvious that it would not float when it got
into the water. I had, by this time donned my life belt and was in the
process of blowing it up, and seeing that the whaler was useless, I
moved to the starboard side where efforts were being made to lower the
motor boat. This was also proving fruitless as it appeared that the
lowering gear had jammed. I was standing next to a P.O. Who said, if I
remember correctly, that this was the third time this had happened to
him. As he said this the ship heeled over to port and I grabbed the
wire hand rail that went round the ship. I was fortunate, as I got hold
of it, but some of the others waiting by the rail didn't and they slid
down the oily deck out of my sight. I climbed over the rail and on to
the side of the ship which was now almost level, I slid down it and
jumped off the bottom of the ship into the water. I was fully dressed
in overalls and wearing boots, but my life belt was inflated and I
remembered during my training being told that if such an emergency
happened to me, that I should hold my life belt down to prevent it
striking me under the chin when I hit the water. This I did, and I
arrived in the water amid a flurry of arms and legs belonging to the
others who had jumped with me.
The water was icy cold and came as a bit of a shock, but my first
thought was to swim away from the ship before she sank and pulled me
down with her.
There was a heavy swell on the sea and I found that I would go up on
one rise, and then down, but I didn't come up quick enough before the
next rise, consequently that one came over my head. So, half the time I
was in the water I seemed to be under water as well. The oil that
covered the top of the water was a problem as well, it meant that I had
to make sure it did not get into my eyes. At first I could hear men
shouting, but from the time I jumped into the water I never saw another
soul. For all I knew I could have been the only survivor.
Having swam away from the ship as far as I thought safe, I turned to look behind me. The bows of the Warwick
were still above water and I could see a man sitting on the capstan on
the forecastle. Who he was I didn't know (the lad was Jamie Norburn -
he could not swim, thought he might be rescued, but went down with the
ship). I was treading water or doing a bit of breast stroke whilst
looking round to see if any help was in view, when I saw a destroyer
heading our way. I began swimming towards it and I could see some of
the crew lowering scrambling nets down the side. Then just when I
thought I was going to be saved the destroyer sped away. To make
matters worse, a few minutes later she started dropping depth charges,
although I was a good distance away, as each one exploded it was like
being punched in the stomach. I swam away to increase the distance from
the explosions, and, after some time (I don't know how long) still not
having seen any other person in the water, or the Carley floats, which
I found out later had been launched, I sighted on one of my upliftings
on the swell what appeared to be three boats heading in my direction. I
started to swim towards them. At first I thought that I had done too
well as it appeared that I was going to be run down by one of them,
but, I adjusted my direction and found myself alongside one of them. I
raised myself up in the water and shouted. There seemed to be no one on
deck, but as I shouted a man came out of the deck house. How he saw me
I don't know as the water was covered in oil and so was I. He did see
me though and threw me a rope. I grabbed it gratefully but was dismayed
to find that because of the oil it was sliding out of my hands. I
promptly took a turn round my wrists and hung on. My saviour must have
been a very strong man because he hauled me up the side of the ship
with no help from me and threw me on the deck. He said something to me
in a language I did not understand and for a few minutes thought that I
was going to end up in a prison camp! He realised that I did not
understand, and then in English he told me to go down below. I went to
a cabin with a roaring stove blazing in it, and I began stripping off
my clothes. I could not do anything with my boots, which were of course
wet through, then a man came down and cut them off for me. At that time
there was no one else in the cabin, and I stood over the blazing stove
and was unable to feel the heat. I was so exhausted that I got into a
bunk. I must have passed out, because I don't remember any more until I
was awakened by another survivor still in his wet and cold clothes!
This was quite a shock as I was in the nude and was just started to get
warm. I looked round and saw that there were a number of the Warwick's
crew aboard, but they were unrecognisable to me as they were all
covered in oil. I understood by this time that we were on our way to
Padstow, but I lost all track of time and have no idea how long it took
On arriving at Padstow a member of the fishing vessel's crew gave me a
pair of trousers and an old blanket to go ashore in. I climbed up the
ladder to dry land and the realised how lucky I had been to still be
alive. I owed grateful thanks to the man who had hauled me out of the
water. It seemed that most of the survivors had been landed by this
time and we were directed to get into a lorry which was standing by and
we were transported to the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) at St Merryn.
We were greeted by a P.O. With a basin full of rum and given a cup
full!! It was only after that I began to feel human again! We were fed,
kitted out in Battle dress, and given a bed for the night before being
transported to the R.N.B at Plymouth. There we went through the joining
routine, issued with new kit and eventually sent on survivors
Postscript By Shipmate J. Wood HMS Whitshed.
Nearly half of the Warwick's
crew were lost. Ken was rescued by a Belgian fishing trawler whose
skipper was Marcel Bacquaert. At six foot two inches tall and wearing a
size eleven boots, that fisherman must have been one hell of a strong
fellow. When I think of him St Peter always come into my mind.
The ship that turned away was the Hunt Class destroyer HMS Wensleydale - six months later to the very day she sank U-413, the U-Boat which sunk Warwick.
There was only one survivor, the engineer. In the 80's we learned from
his son, that for the rest of his life he spoke nothing but praise for
the men of HMS Wensleydale who picked him up. They could not do enough for him! Funny Old War.
In 1984 Ken Holmes planted one of the six trees in St Merryn Churchyard, Padstow, in memory of the sixty six boys lost when Warwick
sank. There is also a plaque on the harbour wall at Padstow. Ken went
to this big event in 1996. At the back of the Church in St Merryn there
is a plaque dedicated to HMS Warwick.