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




HMS Warwick
              

Warwick was 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 Warwick
rescued 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.

Commanding Officers

Cdr Victor L.A. Campbell RN (March - June 1918)
Cdr Algernon U. Willis RN (Oct 1927 - Aug 1929)
Capt Henry H. Harwood RN (Aug 1929 - April 1930)
Cdr John W. Durnford RN (Jan 1933 - Jan 1934)
Lt.Cdr. Miles Ambrose Gregory Child, RN (14 Jul 1939 - 14 Jan 1942)
Cdr. York McLeod Cleeves, DSO, DSC, RD, RNR (14 Jan 1942 - 30 Oct 1943)
Cdr. Denys Arthur Rayner, DSC, RNVR (30 Oct 1943 - 20 Jan 1944)

Officers

Surg S. Lt George F Abercrombie RNVR (1918)
Cd Eng Sydney E. Adams RN (April 1940 - Feb 1941)
Sub Lt J.W. Anthony RN (Feb - April 1940)
Lt Dickinson RN
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 at Zeebrugge
Photocopy in the IWM
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 under tow by HMS Whirlwind after being mined at Ostend on 10 May 1918 HMS Warwick after bing mined
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.

Isciribed standsar for HMS Warwick (1918)
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 London.

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 us.

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 leave.    

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.


If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Warwick you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/servicerecords.html


If you have stories or photographs of HMS Warwick you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster



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