Christmas Cheer in the Wardroom, Rosyth 1941

the story behind the picture

The destroyers of the Rosyth Escort Force escorting convoys from Rosyth to Southend on the Thames estuary were subject to attack by German aircraft and E-boats and also at risk of detonating mines in the narrow channels behind the east coast minefield. The convoys of up fifty ships in two columns took about three days to reach Southend and turned round immediately to escort a north bound convoy to Methyl on the Firth of Forth before returning to their base at Rosyth upstream from Edinburgh.

Photographers often joined a convoy escort and their photographs appeared in the local papers of East Coast ports as well as in the national Press. Little is known about the photographers but their photographs are mostly in the collection at the Imperial War Museum. They are Crown Copyright which expires fifty years after they were taken and the IWM has made many of them available for use without charge under the terms of the IWM Non-Commercial Licence. They can be located by ship name and subject via Collections Search on the IWM web site.

The photograph below (IWM Ref A 6484) was taken by Lt J.H. Smith RN, a Royal Navy official photographer and is unusual because we also have a press cutting from one of the newspapers which used it and the story of how the photograph was staged (several weeks before Christmas) written by the CO of HMS Westminster, Lt.Cdr. Aymé Arthur Carrington Ouvry, RN, and the names of the officers in the photograph (with links to their service histories on

Christmas Dinner on HMS Westminster, 1941For families at home

The press cutting is from the Evening Dispatch for Wednesday 24 December 1941
Click on the pictures to zoom in - for the story behind the press cutting read below

IWM Non-Commercial Licence

This photograph was taken for the benefit of the "Great British Public" and I hope they like it

It was taken one forenoon early in December - the photographer arriving with all the "properties" in a suitcase (crackers, streamers, hats, etc!). The turkey "Number One" was carving was the scrag end of a joint of mutton!

Reference caption underneath, the privilige does not include drinking HM's health in the manner shown or in the paper hats! The vacant place is more "hooey"! There are about five vacant, only about half our people were onboard that morning.

Champagne (?) rescued from Dunkirk was consumed many moons ago - it was only six and I think chiefly celebrated our safe return to Pompey in May 1940!.

There are other photos which were not published that I may be able to send you to laugh at sometime.

The whole thing was done with Admiralty approval though not altogether mine!

Lt.Cdr. Aymé Arthur Carrington Ouvry, RN
CO of HMS Westminster, December 1939 - August 1942

The officers - from left to right (as numbered)

1. Our new Sub RNVR, Sub. Lt Edwin Whitnell RNVR
5. Michael, Lt Michael Cashman RN
2. Doctor - from next ship 6. "Teddy", Sub Lt A.R.H. Tedford RNVR
3. Our Doc, Surg Lt D.A. Daly RNVR
7. "Snotty", Mid H.P. Janion RN
4. "Number One", Lt John A.H. Hamer RN
Ldg Steward Simonds, Steward (name not known)

Lt Michael Cashman RN joined his next ship, HMS Venomous, "A Hard Fought Ship", in April 1942 in time to escort Arctic Convoy PQ.15 to Murmansk. Escorting a convoy off the coast of occupied Norway was very different from escorting East Coast Convoys between Rosyth on the Firth of Forth and Southend on Sea on the Thames estuary though both had their dangers. Sub Lt Alfred R.H. Tedford RNVR joined HMS Urania in April 1945 and was 26
when he fell overboard in Sydney harbour on 17 April 1946 and was drowned. Midshipman Janion stayed on in the Navy and retired as Rear Admiral Sir Hugh Penderel Janion in 1981.

"Number One", Lt John A. Hamer RN

There are many stories told about this popular but eccentric First Lieutenant with the bushy beard who had been known to crunch up fragments of an empty wine glass when drinking. Derek Tolfree recalled that he gave his fellow officers nick names: “Crackers”, “Brickwork”, “Teddy”, “Rough Tough”,  “Pull Through” (me), “Dizzy”, “Titus”, “Guff” and “The Gooner”. He was popular with the men and wagered a bottle of whisky on them winning football matches against other ships (Herbert Dyer, Asdic Operator) and Jeremy Ouvry, the five year old son of the CO, remembered him as "as great fun who had no less than 2 small monkeys as mascots not included in the crew lists". He succeeded Jeremy's father as CO of Westminster and went on to command HMS Worcester.

For more about some of the officers who served on HMS Westminster see "Wardroom Characters"

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Westminster 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 Westminster you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster

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