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’.
Cheltenham's Garden of Remembrance Copyright David Reynolds
Cheltenham held a very successful Warships Week in November 1941 which
raised £1,046,951 to adopt the modern L-Class destroyer HMS Legion
commissioned on 19 December 1940 at a total cost of £445,684. It was a
wealthy area and Cheltenam Rural District and Charlton Kings Urban
District helped raise this large amount, more than twice the cost of
the adopted ship.
Three months after she was adopted she was bombed and
sunk in Malta harbour on 25 March 1942.
"On 23 March HMS Legion was detached to join Eridge in escorting the merchantman Clan Campbell. During this operation, the vessels came under air attack and Legion
was damaged by a near miss. The ship proceeded on one engine after
successful damage control prevented her from sinking and she was
beached at Malta. She was then towed to the docks on 25 March and tied
up alongside the Boiler Wharf the next day. Whilst awaiting repair, the
docks were the target of an air raid. Legion
was hit by two bombs and sustained further serious damage when her
forward magazine exploded. She rolled over and sank in the harbour,
with her bridge and funnel lying on the jetty. She was cut in two
during 1943 and attempts were made to refloat her. They were
Wartime censorship rules prevented negative news being reported in the
press but the traditional presentation of plaques to the three councils
whose combined efforts raised more than a million pounds went ahead and
was reported at length in the Gloucestershire Echo
on 12 December 1942, nine months after her loss. The Admiralty was
represented by Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Hernell RN at the presentation
of the ship's crest of HMS Legion mounted on a wooden shield to the three Councils but no reference was made to the loss of the ship nine months earlier. The shield still hangs in the Town Hall at Cheltenham alongside a bronze plaque recording the names of the eleven men who died when she was sunk.
It was customary for civc dignitaries to visit the adopted ship and her
officers and crew to visit the town which had adopted their ship and
for "comforts" to be sent to the ship, items such as warm
clothing or, perhaps, cigarettes, but in this instance there could be
no such contacts. The news must inevitably have become common knowledge
over time and parents would have had to tell their children what had
happened to the ship on the tin badges they had bought with
precious pocket money and proudly worn. Two years went by before the
situation was resolved and the people of Cheltenham read in the Gloucestershire Echo on 6th April 1944 that HMS Legion
had been "withdrawn from the adoption scheme" but it was not until
December that they read that its place was taken by the destroyer HMS Whitehall.
The Gloucestershire Echo now had something more positive to report.
The adoption of HMS Whitehall "Cheltenham has a new ship"
6 April 1944
27 October 1944
3 August 1944
Where is Cheltenhams's
A "Bluenose Certificate"
awarded to a crew member in HMS Westcott
Gloucester Echo, Friday 20 December 1944 Cheltenham in 1944 - The town in conjunction with Charlton King’s formally adopted the destroyer HMS Whitehall instead of HMS Legion, reported lost.
Cheltenham can be proud of HMS Whitehall
Sergeant G.H. Kelly of 7 Oxford Parade, Cheltenham, was rescued by HMS Whitehall from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. Click on the link to see rare film taken from the deck of Whitehall during the Dunkirk evacuation.
Snr Lt Valentin Alexandrovich Martino, a Russian submariner taking
passage from Murmansk with Arctic Convoy RA.59 to Britain in the
Liberty Ship William S Thayer to become the Navigator of a RN submarine being transferred to the USSR, was rescued by HMS Whitehall on
30 April 1944. You can read his story illustrated with photographs
never previously published in the West in the "Special Feature on VED
75" in the combined June - July issue of Warships International Fleet Review on sale now in branches of WH Smiths and Sainsbury's.
Does Cheltenham have a red face?
- for loosing its "Blue Nose Certificate" -
Where are: "ship's badge made by the destroyer's crew and the
ensign flown when the ship was last in action" (Gloucestershire Echo 6th April 1944) and the "Bluenose Certificate sent by the ship's Commanding Officer to the Town Clerk" (Gloucestershire Echo 27th
October 1944) and
"the censored photographs showing some of the ship's
activities" taken on "the pocket camera" presented by Cheltenham to the
ship (Gloucestershire Echo 3rd August 1944)?
I have made extensive enquiries in Cheltenham - but nobody seems to know! Cheltenham has a beautiful Garden of Remembrance
but by VED 75 the adoption of HMS Whitehall by Cheltenham had been forgotten I appeal to the people of Cheltenham to trace the plaques exchanged when Whitehall was adopted and these other memorials and send me photographs.
Please contact me,Bill Forster, if you know where they are or have anything further to contribute to this page about the links between Cheltenham and HMS Whitehall.
I would like to acknowledge David Reynolds and Pictures of England for the photograph of the Garden of Remembrance in Cheltenham
And Shiela Lewer (War Memorials Online) fot the photographs of the
wooden shield and crest given to the city on the adoption of HMS Legion and the bronze plaque recording the names of the men who died when she sunk
you have stories or photographs of HMS Whitehall you would like to
contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster
to the Home Page for HMS Whitehall Return to the Home Page of the V & W Destroyer Association Return to the Index Page for the 69
V & W Class Destroyers
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