HMS Windsor, a member of the Rosyth Escort Force, with pennant number L34 escorting East Coast Convoys in 1944
Photograhed by Lt Cdr John Manners RN DSC from HMS Viceroy
HMS Windsor, the 3rd
ship of that name in the Royal Navy, was an Admiralty W Class Destroyer
laid down at Scott’s Yard, Greenock, in April 1917, was
launched on 21st June 1918. On completion on 28th August 1918 she was
given the pennant number D42 and joined the Grand Fleet. She was
present at the surrender of the German
High Seas Fleet in November.
Windsor was assigned to the 6th Flotilla in the Atlantic Fleet in 1921, and was part of the Portsmouth Local Flotilla in 1928.
At the beginning of World War 2 Windsor was assigned to the 18th
Destroyer Flotilla at Portland, Dorset, for convoy escort and patrol
duty in the English Channel and Southwestern Approaches. In October
1939 she was transferred to Western Approaches Command in continuation
of these duties and was later based at Plymouth.
In May 1940 Windsor transferred to the 19th Destroyer Flotilla at
Dover, in support of operations opposing the German offensive. On the
evening of 13 May she evacuated the Government of the Netherlands from
the Hook of Holland. On 23 May she patrolled off Boulogne in company
with HMS Venetia engaging German troops and tanks and later took part
in the evacuation of the port, rescuing 600 Guards and supporting
troops. Lt Cdr Peter D.H.R. Pelly's Report of Proceedings on the evacuation of the Guards from Boulogne can be seen on the website of the publisher of A Hard Fought Ship along with the RoPs of the other V&Ws which took part in the operation.
On May 26 Windsor was assigned to Operation Dynamo, patrolling off the
Dunkirk beachhead and escorting ships involved in the evacuation. That
day she came to the aid of the passenger ship Mona’s Isle,
which had come under German air attack with 1000 troops onboard,
suffering 23 dead and 60 wounded. After rendering medical assistance
she escorted Mona’s Isle to Dover. On 28 May the Windsor herself came
under heavy and sustained attack by 15 German aircraft, which bombed
and strafed her, inflicting 30 casualties and causing significant
damage, forcing her to return to Dover. Lt Cdr Peter D.H.R. Pelly's RoP on the action is in the National Archives at Kew.
Despite the damage she remained
in action, evacuating 606 troops from Dunkirk on 20 May, 658 troops and
588 troops in two trips on 31 May, 493 on 1 June, and 644 in two trips
on 2 June. Her final visit to Dunkirk was on 3 June, evacuating 1022
men, bringing her total to 4011. Windsor proceed to Liverpool on 4 June for repairs and refit.
completion of repairs, on 1 July 1940 she and HMS Vesper rescued 111
survivors of the British merchant ship Beignon, torpedoed and sunk by
U-30 in the North Atlantic 300 nm west of Ushant.
Later in July Windsor joined the 16th Destroyer Flotilla with the Leader HMS Montrose and destroyers HMS Whitshed and Walpole,
based at Harwich for convoy escort and patrol duty in the North Sea. On
28 October Windsor towed Walpole which had been disabled by a magnetic
mine to Sheerness. On 8 December Windsor herself detonated a mine off
Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and entered Chatham Dockyard for repairs.
Windsor’s repairs were completed on 24 April. In May she detached from
her North Sea duties for service with the Home Fleet based at Scapa
Flow. She escorted major warships, including the battleship HMS King
George V, during exercises in the North Western Approaches. She
rejoined the 16th DF at Harwich in July 1941.
By January 1942 the North Sea duties had begun to include operations to
intercept German motor torpedo boats, S-Boats, known to the Allies
as E-Boats, in the North Sea before they could mount attacks on
allied ships. On 13 March the Windsor, Walpole, 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.
Following the Warship Week National Savings campaign in March 1942 she
was adopted by the civil community of the Urban District of Windsor,
In August Montrose, Windsor, Walpole and Worcester detached for duty
with the Home Fleet, and deployed in the North Western Approaches to
escort major warships and conduct antisubmarine patrols. In September
Windsor was assigned to escort Arctic convoys PQ 18 and QP 14 during
their voyages to and from the Soviet Union. She joined the escort of PQ
18 on 8 September, but on 9 September she detached from the convoy to
form Force P, consisting of Windsor, the escort destroyers Cowdray and
Oakley, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers Blue Ranger and Oligarch.
Force P proceeded to Lowe Sound at Spitsbergen to establish a fuelling
base. Windsor operated as guard ship there from 12 September, to 21
September when refuelling operations were complete and she departed for
Iceland, before rejoining the 16th DF on North Sea convoy and patrol
duties. In December 1942 Windsor again detached for a tour of duty with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.
In mid-January Windsor rejoined the 16th DF, and on 24 January she and
the escort destroyer HMS Mendip drove off a German E-Boat attack
against the North Sea convoy they were escorting. On 4 March Windsor,
the escort destroyer Southdown and the corvette Sheldrake fought an
action against E-boats off Great Yarmouth. Windsor joined the
Blencathra and the motor gunboats MGB 321 and MGB 333 in driving off an
attack by E-Boats against Convoy FS1074 off Smith Knoll on 28 March.
Windsor continued her escort and patrol operations in the North Sea
until May 1944 when she was assigned to support the upcoming Allied
invasion of Normandy. At the beginning of June she joined the
corvette HMS Starwort, and two Motor Launches of Coastal Forces off
Southend as Escort Group 132 for Convoy ETC2Y. The Convoy consisted of
13 Coasters taking pre-loaded transport, 5 Water Carriers and Ten Oil
Tankers. On 4 July the Convoy took passage to the Solent, with the
Escort Group supplemented by the corvette HMS Buttercup and a Motor
The invasion was postponed from 5 to 6 June due to bad weather and on 7
June, the day after the initial landings, the convoy arrived off the
invasion beaches to discharge its cargo, and then returned to the Nore
to begin a convoy cycle supporting the build-up of Allied forces and
supplies in Normandy.
In July Windsor returned to patrol and escort duty in the North Sea with the Rosyth Escort Force,
which she continued until the surrender of Germany in May 1945.
During the summer of 1945 Windsor
was decommissioned, transferred to the Reserve Fleet, and was no longer
listed by July. After the surrender of Japan on 15 August she was
placed on the disposal list. Windsor was sold to Metal Industries for
scrapping on 4 March 1947, arriving at the ship breakers yard in
Charleston, Fife, in May 1949.
ATLANTIC 1939 – 40 DUNKIRK
1940 ARCTIC 1942 ENGLISH CHANNEL 1942 – 43
NORTH SEA 1942 – 43 NORMANDY 1944
Lt Cdr Hon. John Montague Granville Waldegrave RN (1 Apr 1941 – Dec 1941)
Lt Derick Henry Fellowes Hetherington DSC RN (13 Jan 1942 – May 1943)
Lt Lionel Robert Patrick Lawford DSC RN (May 1943 – 4 Apr 1945)
Lt John Valentine Brothers RN (4 Apr 1945 – May 1945)
Temp Lt F J E I Allen RNVR (Apr 1941 - 1942) Mid R W Anstice RN (20 Sep 1924 - Jan 1925) Temp Act Surg Lt H M Balfour RNVR (15 Oct 1940 – 7 Jan 41) Lt S H Beattie RN (14 Aug 1930 - May 1933)
Mid B J Benson Dare RNR ((29 Aug 1939 - 1941)
Wt Eng J H Bignell RN (24 Feb 1941 - Oct 1942)
Sub Lt M S Blois-Brook RNR (29 Jul 1942 - 1944)
Act Sub Lt C Bourne RN (12 Dec 1942 - 1943)
Lt CGH Brown RN (5 Sep 1939 - 1941)
Lt J A Bryant RCNVR (1 Oct 1941 - 1942)
Act Gnr (T) T C Chennell (19 Jan 1943 – Jun 1945)
Sub Lt M H Collar RN (14 Feb 1940 - 1941)
Gunr (T) L F Cook RN (28 Mar 1941 - Jan 1943)
Cmd Eng E A Court Hampton RN (Jan 1941 – 1941)
Gunr (T) C Covey RN (7 Jan 1941 - Mar 1941)
Cmd Gunr H J Dennis RN Retd (23 Sep 1939 - Jan 1941)
Temp Act Sub Lt R Dodds RNVR (6 Mar 1944 - Jun 1945)
Temp Lt J E B Drake RNVR (20 Apr 1942 - 1944) Sub Lt H D C Gibson RN (16 Sep 1944 - Jun 1945)
Lt (E) A L Green RN (9 Mar 1944 -Jun 1945)
Temp Surg Lt A C Hammer RNVR (2 Apr 1941 - 1943)
Sub Lt B C Hutchinson RN (2 Apr 1941 -1943)
Surg Lt W M Lancaster RNVR (Oct 1944 - Jun 1945)
Cmd Eng R A Marsh RN (13 Jan 1938 - Jan 1941)
Temp Sub Lt R Miller RNR (11 May 1944 - Jun 1945)
Temp Lt J G G Muir DSC? RNVR (7 Mar 1944 – Jun 1945)
Mid M A Myers RNVR (18 Aug 1941 - 1942)
Temp Sub Lt R M J O’Connor RNZNVR (21 Jan 1942 - 1943)
Temp Sub Lt R J Phelps RN (2 Mar 1944 - Jun 1945) Act Gnr(T) W A Rugman RN (19 Nov 1935 – Feb 1936)
Sub Lt R A E Sharp RN (4 Nov 1939 - 1941)
Lt A E H Sladen RN (1 Dec 1943 - Jun 1945)
Temp Act Sub Lt T L Smith RNZNVR (Jul 1943 - Jun 1945)
Lt M R S Smithwick RN (17 Mar 1941 - 1943)
Temp Surg Lt P N Shutte RNVR (12 Feb - 15 Oct 1940)
Lt D C Souter RNVR (Oct 1943 - 1944) Lt H A Stuart-Menteth RN (6 Sep 1935 - Feb 1936)
Temp Act Wt Eng W C Ward RN (6 Oct 1942 - Mar 1944)
Temp Act Sub Lt T Waldemeyer RNVR (7 Oct 1944 - Jun 1945)
Mid R Westlake RNVR (4 Nov 1939 - 1941)
Sub Lt R S Woolwrych RN (1 Apr 1941 - 1942)
Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation R. Salter (Poole, Dorset), F. Skelton (Worthing, Sussex), Tommy Vann (Leicester)
Please get in touch if a family member served in HMS Windsor
Lieutenant Commander S.G.T. Ewles RN Navy Days, 1 January 1926 to 14 May 1960
Stanley George Thomas Ewles was
born at Portsmouth on 15 May 1910, the son of William Ewles
(1875-1930), a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. His father (on right, aged 18) served
in HMS Murray and took part in the Raid on Zeebrugge on St George's Day 1918. Stan joined the Navy as an Artificer Apprentice on 1 January 1926and retired as Lieutenant Commander S.G.T. Ewles RN after thirty five years service in 1975.
In his 70s he decided to write an account of his life in the Navy from
a boy of 15 in 1926 to a man of 50. He called it "Navy Days" and wrote
it by hand in blue ink on a pad of ruled A4 paper kept in a ring binder
which his daughter Linda Ewles still has. Stanley Ewles died in 1994
and his widow, Betty (born Beatrice Lilly Morris), typed it up and
copies circulated around the family. Linda Ewles produced an audio
recording for an elderly aunt whose eyesight was too poor to read the
story of her bother's life. Betty Ewles died in 2004 and two years later when Linda
Ewles turned 60 she decided to edit her father's
memoir and publish it. Navy Days (2009) is out of print but available as part of a longer family history, 'Navy Days' and other tales: people and places in the Ewles family history (ISBN ISBN 978-0-9570857-3-2), for £13 including p&p in the UK (e-mail Linda Ewles).
Stan Ewles joined his first ship, HMS Walker,
a V & W Class destroyer, in August 1930. He found that one of the
Engine Room Artificers had served with his father on HMS Murray during World War 1. After 18 months service he was made a Petty Officer and served in HMS Hawkins, a "cruiser in the tropics" for three years (on left) before joining the battleship HMS Barham
in the Mediterranean. "The ship wandered gently all round the
Mediterranean ... it was a favourite foreign commission for married men
as plenty of time was spent in Malta and wives used to come out and
stay there for two years. The single fare on a P & O liner was £12
and furnished flats were fairly cheap." By the time he returned home on
a months leave in
1938 he was a Chief Petty Officer, and "had passed the exams for Chief
Engine Room Artificer, which was the highest I could reach on the lower
Stan's next ship was HMS Iron Duke, Admiral Jellicoe's Flagship at Jutland but by now a training ship for seamen. The Iron Duke took part in the Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay in August 1939 and was then sent to Scapa Flow. War started on 3 September. There were "only two big ships at Scapa, the Iron Duke and the Royal Oak, both at anchor". HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed and sunk by U-47
on 14 October. Scapa Flow was believed to be out of range of German
bombers but two days later when Stan was at work in the engine room
"there was an almighty bang and the ship immediately took on a heavy
list to port". The crew abandoned ship and returned by liner to
Newcastle and by train to Portsmouth. Stan obtained a special licence and married Betty on Tuesday 31 October 1939.
"I reported back on the Monday after our brief honeymoon, and after a
day in barracks, was detailed to join HMS Windsor, an old destroyer
built at the end of World War I. It was berthed in Portsmouth Dockyard."
Part 2: HMS Windsor 1939 - 1940
"I was detailed to join HMS Windsor, an old destroyer built at the end of World War I"
Convoy duty in the Western Approaches
We left for the Western Approaches, that is, across the Bay of Biscay,
to pick up and escort convoys. We had very rough weather at times
when we picked up survivors from sunken ships: on one occasion half a
dozen men sitting on an upturned boat. I still have a letter thanking
me for the attention we gave some survivors: clothes, warm drinks,
cigarettes. This particular young man had paid for his passage from
Argentina to come back to UK to join the RAF.
Stan Ewles received this letter
from John King one of the men picked up from an upturned boat after
their ship was bombed and sunk He had paid for his passage from
Argentina to come back to UK to join the RAF
We occasionally got four days' leave from Plymouth for boiler cleaning
and maintenance work. I used to go up to Rhyl, north Wales, to join
Betty. The first time was on New Year's Day 1940. I arrived at 4
am when her landlady was having a party. Betty thought she was joking
and drunk when she knocked on her door with the news that I was
The routine of two or three weeks at sea in the south west area
followed by a few days in Plymouth went on until May, when we were
suddenly ordered to go full speed ahead to Dover. This of course
presaged the fall of France, although I did not realise it at the time.
Patrolling the English Channel
We patrolled in the Channel, and in mid-May were heavily attacked by
Stukas and suffered many casualties, but not much damage to the
ship, just splinters and bullet holes mainly in the forward part on the
starboard side. But I traced a series of nicks on machinery in the
engine room and found one shrapnel piece which had missed my face by a
few inches; I was unaware of it because the attacks were so noisy.
We were ordered to Holland - Ijmuiden - and went inland up a long
narrow canal. The German invasion of Holland had started. We waited for
a couple of hours, then a large number of civilians, men and women,
appeared carrying briefcases and suitcases. I remember some standing by
the break of the fo'castle looking sad. I don't suppose they landed in
their own country again for at least another four years. The rumour was
that the cases were full of diamonds! We went astern out of the canal,
thankful that it had kept quiet, and landed these people at Tilbury the
next morning. After we left Holland a destroyer was bombed in the canal
but got back safely.
We went straight back to Dover. We oiled and watered at every available
opportunity and now patrolled off Dover to Boulogne, where we picked up
some soldiers in a rowing boat who were trying to cross the channel.
From them, we began to realise the seriousness of the situation, and
later in the afternoon, engaged some tanks and transport moving along
the cliff top near Boulogne. I think it must have been one of the
earliest occurrences of a warship at sea engaging enemy tanks ashore.
That same evening, we were ordered into Boulogne to take off soldiers.
There must have been two to three hundred, and some Royal Marines, who
I remember were very steady whereas the soldiers were nervous. Whilst
loading this lot and still tied up alongside the jetty, the ship's guns
engaged enemy tanks, and quite well too, for after a few rounds they
retreated. We were able to complete embarking troops and got out of
harbour stern first, though still firing the light machine guns (0.5"
calibre) from the bridge to the harbour walls. Click on the links to read the Report of the Proceedings by the CO of HMS Windsor.
The soldiers were landed at Dover and we returned fully expecting to
have to go into Calais. Fortunately, that never happened, and I doubt
whether we would have got out of Calais.
Next began the evacuation of Dunkirk, six trips in all. The first day,
we anchored off the beaches, but embarkation was terribly slow, as we
had only our own ship's boats to go to and from the shore. We spent all
day drifting near the beach, at the same time ready to move and
(hopefully) dodge air attacks. We returned to Dover arriving at dawn,
unloaded the soldiers then oiled and took on water, slept for a very
few hours and started back to Dunkirk.
This time we arrived whilst it was still daylight, about 6.30 in the
evening, and went alongside a wooden jetty to embark as many soldiers
as possible. It was all very haphazard, using mess tables as gangways
to slide down and any ladder that was long enough, while firing at
enemy aircraft that came near. It was extremely tricky handling the
ship for there were sunken ships with masts and funnels sticking up out
of the water quite close to the jetty. We took on seven or eight
hundred soldiers at a time and as most had to remain on the upper deck,
it made the ship rather top heavy, so we could not manoeuvre at speed
We made six trips in all and I read that we were officially credited
with 3,990 soldiers; on the last trip some were French. This trip was
especially hazardous as whilst manoeuvring on the way out, one of the
shafts struck a wreck, so we were only able to steam back on one engine.
During these trips, I had kept spare socks, vests and other items in
case I encountered Murray. On one occasion, on an early trip, we
went alongside a stricken ship in the Channel and offered help. As it
turned out, they did not need us but I found out afterwards that Murray
was aboard that ship, but on the other side, and so crammed in that he
could not move to see what was going on.
All the trips were scary and very tiring and we knew ships were being
sunk, so we wondered when and if our turn would come. But it gives some
idea of the morale at that time that when we were ordered back to
Portsmouth for repairs the ship's company, through a few spokesmen,
volunteered to do another trip. It was refused, as the last big
embarkation had been arranged.
So back on one engine to Portsmouth, into dry dock for repairs to the
propeller and shaft, and four days' leave each watch. I went up to
Rhyl. Betty and I spent the four days in Llandudno, where I slept for
most of every day in a deck chair on the beach! The weather was
fine, as indeed it was throughout the Dunkirk evacuation.
Convoy duty in the Dover Straits
The ship put out to sea again and we moved from Dover to
Sheerness. Our duties were convoying through the Dover Straits as
far as the Isle of Wight and back again. We invariably received
attention from enemy aircraft, guns from France, and E boats
between Ramsgate and Dungeness. We seldom saw our own aircraft. Our
other duty was to escort minesweepers which kept the Channel clear.
This went on for about six weeks, and then while we were escorting two
minesweepers, we were attacked. The ship fired every possible gun, and
a German aircraft got in the way of some of the shells and came down.
Our humane skipper manoeuvred the ship to see if there were any
survivors - there were none - when we were attacked again and hit. One
bomb went down through the magazine, and out the ship's bottom, leaving
the fin within the ship, but the bomb exploded outside. You could call
this a near miss! We took a heavy list and eventually retired
back to Sheerness.
There were other excitements. On one occasion during a convoy a thick
fog came about; there was no radar on ships then. We had twenty ships
of all sorts, colliers, trawlers, coasters, travelling at about five or
six knots, all going down the Channel to the Isle of Wight. But the
visibility was so poor that it was decided to edge in a bit towards the
coast, and anchor. Unfortunately, another convoy coming up channel
decided to do the same thing in the same place, so here were forty
ships going their different ways in a thick fog, visibility about five
yards, bells and sirens and hooters sounding all over the place from
different directions. It was quite frightening to see ships suddenly
loom out of the fog and missing by only a few yards. I was off watch
and on deck looking, until we anchored. It was not until the fog lifted
that we realised just what had happened.
But to continue about the bomb damage: we put into Sheerness with the
heavy list to starboard. Shortly there came instructions to go up the
Thames to Green and Silley Weirs, off East India Dock Road. They had a
docking facility for us, so we were finally towed up the Thames and
into dock, where the holes were stopped up. I don't remember getting
leave on that occasion but we came out of dock and tied up in one of
the basins there.
Sheerness and Harwich
Many merchant ships used London as a port at that time. The
first night we were tied up in the basin was also the first night of
the heavy night air raids on London, and was concentrated on the East
End. We only stayed there for a night or two, and we were up all night
with fire hoses running. We escaped without damage, though there were
ships and buildings on fire all around.
On returning to Sheerness, the ship made up one of a flotilla of
destroyers, all of them boats built at the end of World War I. This was
about the time when the invasion was expected, and we were in the
front line. Late evening all the ships put out to sea and after an hour
or so steaming, when darkness came we were all anchored, steam on the
engines, everyone waiting, gun crews at their stations: the ships were
ready to slip the anchor and engage the invasion force. This routine
carried on for many nights, but eventually as we now know, it was
The ship was then stationed at Harwich for a while then we were sent on
Atlantic convoys. So up around the north of Scotland we went, and after
a day or so encountered heavy weather, which we did not mind because it
made it difficult for submarines to get to periscope depth to view
ships. But leaks started developing, and we were showing a nice oil
slick so we were not much good as an ocean going escort. We were
ordered back to the North Sea again, to Grimsby, where we went in dock
to repair the hull and I had a few days' leave.
On coming out of dock, we were transferred back to Sheerness and
Harwich. This was late 1941 and the area was unpleasant. Ships were
being damaged and you began to wonder when your turn was coming. Many
ships, merchant in particular, were sunk by acoustic mines being
laid at night by enemy aircraft. We still carried out night patrols and
one night we were in company with another destroyer which struck a
mine. She did not sink and we towed her back to port.
The very next night when we were on patrol on our own, I saw an enemy
float plane fly over us, very low. I then went below - it was my watch,
eight to twelve midnight - and had just reached the bottom of the
engine room ladder to the control room when there was an almighty bang.
The ship lifted and dropped, the lights faded and I saw a wall of steam
coming at me. I was up the ladder fast, where someone had already
pulled the emergency stop valve to the engines. There was nothing we
could do: the ship was afloat but could not move because the rudder was
jammed; we were at an angle which prevented being towed;
all the supporting castings (the feet of the main engines) were cracked
and broken, as were the dynamos and boiler room fans. No steam, no
lights and unable to be towed from ahead or astern: it was a long, long
The next morning a tug came out and secured itself alongside so it
could tow us in. Portable petrol driven dynamos were put aboard
and about two thirds of the crew were sent by rail to Chatham. The
remainder, which included me, remained aboard and the next day the ship
was towed from Harwich to Chatham; it was not a pleasant journey. We
were then sent back to Portsmouth. I lost the box of tools which I had
carefully assembled since the loss of the previous one on the Iron
Duke. It went down into the engine room bilge and that was that!
But my clothes and personal things were all untouched. So there I was,
back in Portsmouth. I was there about two nights, and I remember a
heavy raid on one of them.
Stan Ewles left HMS Windsor while she was being repaired and was sent to Liverpool to join HMS Tulip,
a brand new Flower Class Corvette, as Chief Engine Room Artificer
(CERA) on 6 January 1941. The previous "Chief", appointed while the ship was being built
and for her sea trials at Tobemory, was sentenced to a spell in prison
for smuggling on the day Stan Ewles joined.
These sturdy long range corvettes could escort a convoy across the
Atlantic without refueling and had a crew of 70 - 80. Each convoy lasted
two to three weeks and was followed by about four days in Albert Docks
at Liverpool before going out again. After a long slow convoy to
Halifax Tulip was sent to
Charleston on the eastern seabord of America to have her well-deck
covered in to make the ship a little drier for the crew in the
forecastle. "The American were very generous and we were overwhelmed
with invitations during the three weeks we were there."
They were in
the West Indies hunting u-boats when America entered the war after the
attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941. Stan Ewles lost two of his
three POs and a third of his stokers to sickness, they were all hard
pressed and morale deteriorated.
They were ordered to Freetown in West Africa, 'one of the most worrying
trips ever ... as we only had 300 tons of fuel ... and eventually
arrived with only five tons left". They went from there to Colombo,
Ceylon, via Cape Town and Mauritius, Diego Garcia and the Maldives.
After the fall of Singapore most of the Eastern Fleet withdrew westward
but Tulip remained, escorting convoys from Bombay to the Persian Gulf.
health gradually deteriorated and ship's morale too. There were no
fresh foods ... Alterations to the ship's structure which had been made
for heavy Atlantic weather did not help in the terrific heat of the
Gulf. Stokers were put on twenty minute shifts in boiler rooms and the
coolest engine room temperature was at 4 am when it dropped to 105F!
With my shortage of engine room staff I began to feel the strain. One
incident I recall was storming up on the bridge and telling the captain
he must get rid of me or the first lieutenant. To my surprise, the
latter left a few days later! I
collapsed on more than one occasion, and once I found myself in the
sick bay of a cruiser ... a doctor sat up all night watching me. Our
ship did not carry any medical staff. I began to develop boils and
ulcers and began treating myself. We eventually reached Bombay and I
went ashore to the sick bay. I was promptly whisked away to hospital
and later to a sort of nursing home. I protested to the doctor that I
did not want to leave my ship but was told that if I ever wanted to get
home alive I had better stay there. So I never saw the ship again."
Stan Ewles was invalided home on New Year's Day 1943 aboard the Britannic which was full to capacity of invalids, nurses and Italian POW. After leave Stan was posted to HMS Indefatigable, an aircraft carrier being built at John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde. With 2,000 men it was very different from HMS Tulip with 70. Stan was alloted Flight Deck Machinery, the arrester and barrier wires used in take off and landing. Indefatigable and an escort carrier took part in a successful attack on Tirpitz
in a Norwegian Fjord. On returning to Rosyth Stan took the exam for
Warrant Engineer Officer and "left the ship on the same day that King
George VI visited her, but we missed one annother!" While waiting for
his promotion to come through Stan was appointed Chief ERA on HMS Vega, his third V & W, which was escorting east coast convoys from Rosyth to Sheerness and back. To continue Stan's story of his "Navy Days" click on the link.
13 May 13th
Admiral Ramsey ordered HMS Windsor and HMS Codrington
to go to a small jetty west of La Panne to evacuate some civilian
personnel. Both destroyers approached the area with caution, as it was
not known if the group would still be there or not, it was also getting
dark. As the two destroyers approached the jetty they could see some
civilians, so they came alongside the jetty and took the passengers
aboard. We wasted no time in getting away. Later, when approaching
Dover we found out that our passengers were the Dutch government and
members of the Dutch Royal Family. They had with them a nanny who was
carrying a small baby. That baby is now Queen Beatrix of
At 2130 hours Admiral Ramsey ordered Windsor who, at the time was off
Calais to proceed to Boulogne. She arrived almost an hour after the
others had departed. Despite the confusion she managed to get alongside
and take aboard some 600 troops as well as all the wounded and the rest
of the demolition party without damage to herself there were still more
troops there so Ramsey ordered two more destroyers, the Vimera and
Wessex to assist.
May 25th. Windsor and Verity left Dover to cover the withdrawal of small vessels waiting off Calais to carry out the evacuation when ordered.
0140 Windsor picked up three soldiers from a raft off Calais.
At 0300 it was decided not to evacuate Calais, so assisted Verity to escort small craft back to Dover.
0645 An attack by dive-bombers, no hits due to the expert handling of the ship by the skipper.
0745. Anchored in the Downs disembarked the three soldiers into a boat from the Fervent.
1700 Returned to Dover.
May 27th 0635
Left Dover to patrol: 0904, closed Mona's Isle who was loaded full of
soldiers, she had been machine gunned so we escorted her back to Dover
then resumed patrol at 1515.
May 28th, 1145.
We were close to number one buoy (near south Goodwin light house
vessel) with several hundred soldiers aboard when we were attacked by
fifteen dive-bombers supported by ten fighters. No direct hits but we
received extensive damage from bomb splinters and bullets, the wireless
telegraph was out of action, the violent evasive action made things
rather precarious, again we were attacked but managed to avoid all the
bombs aimed at us, but a near miss caused some damage to the boiler
room and there were between twenty and thirty casualties on her crowded
decks. We made Dover harbour and repairs were put in hand
immediately. Lt Cdr Peter D.H.R. Pelly's RoP on the action is in the National Archives at Kew. May 30th 0930
We sailed from Dover for Dunkirk arriving at La Panne at 1330 and
proceeded to embark troops from small boats for the journey to
1530: Rear Admiral Dover transferred his staff from M/S Hebe to the Windsor, and he was landed at La Panne to visit Lord Gort to discuss the situation.
1700 The Rear Admiral and his staff were transferred to the Worcester so Windsor proceeded back to Dover, landing 606 more troops.
May 31st 0200 Windsor sailed from Dover once
again bound for Dunkirk arriving at 0600 and began embarking more
troops, returning to Dover at 1000 and disembarked another 658
Within two hours she was once again on her way back to Dunkirk and on arrival secured alongside the Icarus which was alongside the East Pier taking aboard yet more troops, returning to Dover with 588 of the tired out soldiers.
June 1st ; 0545
Departed from Dover on the now familiar run to Dunkirk this time tied up alongside the Vanquisher and Icarus and the P/V Maid of Orleans.
June 1 - 2, overnight.
The German heavy guns had now the control of all three routes into
Dunkirk, which meant that the final stages of the evacuation had to be
carried out under the cover of darkness on the night of the 1st-2nd
June. Admiral Ramsey reported that there were many more troops
ashore, and more ships were required, but there would never be
enough. During the night, the destroyers Codrington, Sabre, Whitshed, Windsor and Winchelsea
managed to bring out a large number of those stranded troops of which
there was a large assortment, French and Belgian besides our own, it
was impossible to tell which regiments they belonged.
The German U-boats were still at work and one of their victims was the anti-submarine trawler Blackrover. She was torpedoed and sunk near "T" buoy at 1618. Her sister ship Westella went
to her rescue, and whilst picking up survivors she too received the
same treatment by the same U-boat. Because of the urgency of the
operation accidents were bound to happen and sure enough two of the
destroyers were damaged when they were in collision damaging the bows
and propeller of the Malcolm, Whitshed collided with the Java but both carried on with their desperate task despite the damage they had received. Eleven destroyers, which included Venomous, Winchelsea and Windsor with the help of thirteen personnel ships which included the King George V, the Rouen, Royal Sovereign and St Helier
between them they brought back to Dover 26,257 men. Sadly some ships
had to return empty as the troops failed to show up. BY 2330 Capt
Tennent who was ashore was able to send the signal "B.E.F
HMS Windsor herself brought
back 8,991 troops in seven trips across the channel. She was one of the
first to go to Dunkirk and one of the last to leave. An achievement to
be proud of.
Skirmish with German commerce raider Michel in the English Channel
14 March 1942
In July 1940, Windsor with the destroyer leader HMS Montrose and HMS Walpole, and HMS Whitshed was assigned to the 16th Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich for convoy escort and patrol duty in the North Sea. On 28 October 1940, Windsor towed Walpole to Sheerness after Walpole detonated a magnetic mine and became disabled and on 8 December Windsor herself struck a naval mine off Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and entered Chatham Dockyard for repairs.
returned to the 16th Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich in July 1941 and
resumed her North Sea convoy and patrol duties. On 13 March 1942,
Windsor, Walpole, and the escort destroyers HMS Blencathra, HMS Calpe, and HMS Fernie intercepted the German merchant raider Michel. during her voyage from Flushing in the Netherlands to German-occupied France. She was being escorted through the English Channel by five torpedo boats and nine minesweepers. Windsor
exchanged gunfire with the German ships on 14 March and made a torpedo
attack against them, sustaining superficial damage from the German
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. Fire was opened on a destroyer bearing 130. 'B' gun
illuminated with star shell. Short range weapons opened fire on
destroyer and E-boats.
0555.. Walpole was observed to
turn away to Port. At the same moment a merchant ship was sighted
bearing approximately 100, range 4000, approximate course
230. Tubes were 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 at 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.
Michel was "on the loose" until she was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine Tarpon
on 20 October 1943 within 50 miles of Japan. Her Captain and 290 crew
members were lost. The 116 survivors reached safety in Japan after a
three-day journey in open boats. Her loss marked the end of the cruises
of German auxiliary commerce raiders.
Tea for the Town
Whilst in convoy in the Channel during 1942, a thick fog descended upon
us. We were therefore making our way slowly when there was a tremendous
crash, one of the merchant ships that we were escorting the Methol Hill
had collided with us and made a fourteen hole in the side of us.
Fortunately the water tight doors were closed so only the store room
Our nearest port was Hull so we
made our way there as fast as possible. While underway Chief E.R.A.
Standing DSM went down to retrieve the rum, he was heard to say "Sod
the rest of the stores". On arrival in Hull, the only dock that could
possibly accommodate us was a large Arctic trawler dock, we managed to
get in with approximately a foot to spare each end.
Half the ships company was sent on
fourteen days leave subject to recall. I had the second leave, that is
if the ship would be in that long. Being an engine room rating I had to
turn to and clean ship. All damaged stores were to be put on the jetty.
When going ashore one night I noticed four tea chests drying out on the
jetty with the rest of the stores. I said to my 'oppo' (mate), Chopper
Charman, (you've probably guessed why he was called 'Chopper', need I
say more) "I'm going to play a little joke". So I put my mother's name
and address on the chest. Low and behold, I received a letter telling
me that it had arrived by an R.N. Truck that had been to our Naval
Stores in town, Leicester. I just could not believe it.
Anyway the tea was shared with the
neighbours in the street and sometime later I received a letter from
one of those neighbours, thanking me for the tea, they enjoyed it very
much, even if it did taste a bit salty, One dear old lady said that it
must have been the sea air that had made it taste like that. I of
course knew better.
How Many Lumps of Sugar?
After completing my training at the new barracks at Gosport and also at St Vincent I was drafted to HMS Windsor.
She was laying alongside at Parkestone quay near Harwich.
We soon set sail for Rosyth, it was a fairly rough passage, any way I
felt rough, so much so that I gave my packet of 20 'Players' with 19
still in it away, that was the end of smoking for me. I found drinking
much better, 'an eighteen year old trying to grow up'.
Later we found ourselves in Scapa
and preparing to escort two tankers to Spitzbergen in order to fuel
North bound convoys to Russia. Shortly after sailing one of the
generators packed up, so there was no heating on the mess decks. As we
approached the Arctic circle and among the ice, the ship of course went
stone cold and never seemed to warm up. Windsor and Worcester took the tankers up the fjord to Spitzbergen where we lowered the whaler and a party went ashore.
They came back with various
articles, including boxes of lump sugar. One 'Jolly Jack' had a fur
coat and a spear. What he hoped to do with the spear, heaven only
knows. On the way back we met up with a south bound convoy
(QP14). The Worcester lost a man overboard, also a Tribal class destroyer, HMS Somali, was sunk. The sugar was divided among the lads when we got back to Chatham.
Unfortunately some of the lads in
my mess lost out when the dock yard matey's loosened the pipe gland
leading to the 'heads' (toilets) and sprayed the sugar that was left in
First out and Last Home
Traditionally, the destroyer is the
first of all fighting ships to leave port, the first to fight and the
last to return to the relative inactivity of an anchorage. There is the
vivid instance of HMS Vimy which
lost a screw when ramming a U-boat, and escorted a convoy 6,000 miles
to North Africa before putting in for repairs. Again there is the
amazing mileage of the old Windsor,
one of the first destroyers to reach Dunkirk for the evacuation of our
troops from France. In eight months she steamed 30,000 miles and in one
month completed 4,060 miles. In 1941 a six month commission involved
16,000 miles and in 1942 she logged another 24,000. One of her sister
ships HMS Woolston celebrated
her 25th birthday by escorting a convoy towards the landing beaches in
Sicily. "The army is dependant on us. We will not let them down".
Lieut. F. W. Hawkins had told his ships company. For nine days the Woolston patrolled for lurking U-boats off Sicily, brought enemy planes crashing in flames, and of 62 days, spent 60 of them at sea!
D-Day landings in Normandy
In May 1944 Windsor was assigned to support the upcoming Allied invasion of Normandy. At the beginning of June she joined the corvette HMS Starwort,
and two Motor Launches of Coastal Forces off Southend as Escort Group
132 for Convoy ETC2Y. The Convoy consisted of 13 Coasters taking
pre-loaded transport, five Water Carriers and ten Oil Tankers. On 4
July the Convoy took passage to the Solent, with the Escort Group
supplemented by the corvette HMS Buttercup and a Motor Minesweeper.
I was sent these photographs by Philip Donald, the Grandson of AB
Thomas John Cork, who was born at Neath in South Wales in 1922 and
served in HMS Windsor as a Gunner for several years. He was the "Communications Number" on B-Gun wearing the headset with the ear phones.The names of the other members of the Gun Crew were written on the reverse but at present we are unable to put names to faces. Windsor retained her original 4.7 inch guns unlike HMS Vanity which
was fitted with twin high attitude 4 inch Guns when she was converted
into an anti-aircraft escort, a WAIR conversion, in 1939. The
communications number manned the telephone to the Director and
Transmitting Station on the bridge. You can find out more about the
role of the 14 man gun crew on HMS Vanity by clicking on the link.
A studio portrait of AB Thomas John Cork of B Gun crew (left) and relaxing with the Gun Crew on right
Thomas Cork is on the left and the names of four of the other members of the crew crew are written on the reverse: C.J. Young, E.G. Bird, Francis McCall, W. Fishcroft and G. Clark Courtesy of Philip Donald
The invasion was postponed from 5 to 6 June due to bad weather and on 7
June, the day after the initial landings, the convoy arrived off the
invasion beaches to discharge its cargo, and then returned to the Nore
to begin a convoy cycle supporting the build-up of Allied forces and
supplies in Normandy.
We are hoping to find out more about the wartime service of Thomas Cork as a Gunner in HMS Windsor. Towards the end of the war he left Windsor
and joined a ship which was ordered to join the Pacific Fleet in the
war against Japan. After the war he worked for Handley Page, including
work on the Victor Bombers.