HMS WISHART




Lord Louis Mountbatten

CO of Wishart on the China Station and in the Med

1934-6


Louis Mountbatten was born in 1900 at Frogmore House in the grounds of the Home Park Windsor, the son of Prince Louis of Battenberg. His father was born in Austria and brought up in Italy and Germany but joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at 14 and was First Sea Lord in 1912. Anti-German feeling forced him to resign at the outbreak of war and the family changed their name to Mountbatten in 1917.

“Dickie” Mountbatten was 13 when he went to Dartmouth and served as Midshipman on the battleships HMS Lion and Queen Elizabeth in the war. In 1920 he was a Lt on HMS Renown during the Prince of Wales tour of Australia and New Zealand, formed a close personal relationship with the future King and accompanied him on the Royal Tour to India, Japan and the Far East in 1921. He married Edwina Ashley the following year. She was already wealthy and was to inherit the immense fortune (valued today at 49m) of her maternal grandfather. Dickie Mountbatten was earning 600, the equivalent of 20,000
today.

1916
Wdding
Edwina and Louis Mountbatten
Louis Mountbatten's "private life": the 16 year old Midshipman in the Royal Navy, marriage to the wealthy socialite Edwina Ashley, the young couple
The Prince of Wales was best man at his wedding at St Margarets Church Westminster on 18 July 1922

He did not allow his friendship with the Prince of Wales or his marriage to distract him from pursuing his career in the Navy which he took very seriously. He had a special interest in wireless telegraphy, attended the Signal School at Portsmouth and by 1931 was Wireless Officer for the Mediterranean Fleet. He was regarded with suspicion by some fellow officers because of his privileged family background and his unfashionable interest in wireless but was always popular on the lower deck. In 1934 he was given his first command and found himself "a bit dazed but feeling rather grand" on the bridge of HMS Daring, a modern D Class destroyer which had just entered service.

HMS Daring was completed at Woolston, Southampton, in November 1932 and assigned to the First Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean. Cdr Louis F.A.V.N. Mountbatten RN took command when she was recommissioned at Chatham on 25 October 1934 and on Saturday 27 October he drove to Rochester airport to meet the Prince of Wales who had flown from Windsor to inspect his friend's new ship; "His Majesty remained on board for his usual light luncheon, and returned by air in the early afternoon."

Daring
returned with her sister ships in the 1st DF to the Mediterranean. She left Sheerness for Gibraltar with Diana and Duchess on 31 October and on 1 November was joined by Duncan, Delight and Dainty from Portsmouth and by Decoy, Defender and Diamond from Devonport. Immediately on arrival in the Mediterranean the 1st DF left for Singapore via the Suez Canal, Aden and Colombo to relieve the ships of the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla on the China Station.

Britain was not the only foreign power to take advantage of Chinese weakness to secure rights to trade and settle in treaty ports, concessions and enclaves along the coast of China and major rivers. The process began with the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the First Opium War (1841-2) and the ceding of Hong Kong to Britain and accelerated with the fall of the Quing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. Russia, France, Germany and Japan acquired treaty ports from the weak government. By 1920 there were 60,000 foreigners living in the International Settlement at Shanghai, China's largest city on the delta of the Yangste, China's longest river. All these powers had warships on the China coast to protect their ports and citizens. The situation became even more volatile when
Sun Yat Sen's Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist Party lost control in Peking and regional war lords seized control of much of the country. The KMT split with the Communists. In 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria from Korea and by 1934 Mao was leading the Communist Party on the Long March North to escape the Nationalist KMT.

The Royal Navy had a strong presence on the China Station throughout the interwar year. HMS Wishart may have been on the China Station with her sister V & Ws in the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla from 1926-8 and we know she was there from 1929 to 1932 as her First Lt Ralph Lindsay described his time on anti-piracy patrol in his memoir. The V & Ws returned to the China Station as the 8th Destroyer Flotilla from February 1932 to December 1934 and left when when they swopped ships' companies with the D Class destroyers at Singapore and took over the duties of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean. HMS Daring remained on the China Station with the former ship's company of HMS Wishart until 1939. She was torpedoed off the coast of Norway on 18 February 1940 by U-23 commanded by Otto Kretschmer. There were five survivors out of the crew of 157.

*****************

1st Destroyer Flotilla, 1934-6The King as Prince of WalesI was lent a copy of the "Souvenir Book of the 1934 - 1936 Commission of HMS Ships Daring & Wishart in the First Destroyer Flotilla" by John Wittleton.
The inscribed portrait of the Prince of Wales, soon to be King Edward VIII, appears at the front.  There were 160 numbered subscription copies of the leather bound edition printed by the Times of Malta at the end of the Commission. There is a copy in the Imperial War Museum.

HMS Daring arrived at Singapore at 0930 on the 11 December to find "8th Destroyer Flotilla, with whom ships were to be exchanged, already there".  On the 15 - 16 December the two Flotillas carried out a joint exercise "Attack on Singapore". Wishart came alongside Daring at 1200 on the 16th and the following day the officers and crews were transferred. The Flotilla Leader was HMS Keppel with Captain Baillie-Grohman D.S.O., O.B.E as CO and Captain (D). The First Division consisted of Wild Swan, Whitehall, Veteran and Verity. HMS Wishart was in the Second Division with Witch, Whitshed and Wren.

The names of all the officers and men who served in Daring and Wishart are given in the Commissioning Book. Mountbatten, three officers and 106 ratings transferred from HMS Daring to Wishart. Two officers and 12 men remained in Wishart on transfer. The 8th Destroyer Flotilla exchanged its elderly V & Ws for modern D Class destroyers but retained most of the officers and crew experienced in the conditions on the China Station. Wishart and the 1st DF got the worst of the exchange but conditions on the China Station were more challenging and less predictable than in the Mediterranean.

Wishart and the 1st DF left Singapore for Colombo, Ceylon, on the 18th December and arrived on the 23rd. The Commissioning Book records that the officers were at home to the Ship's Company on Christmas Day. The Diary records the arrival of Wishart at Aden on 5 January ("Wishart played Aden W/T Station's crew at football and won by 3 goals to nil"), at Suez on 9 January and Malta on the 17th. 

Ten days of Gunnery and torpedo firings were followed by the C-in-C of the Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Sir William Fisher, and the RA(D), Rear Admiral A.B. Cunningham, inspecting the Ship's Companies of the First Destroyer Flotilla on Manoel Island and the departure on the Spring Cruise to Gibraltar and the Canary Islands for Combined fleet manoeuvres, Mediterranean Fleet versus the Home Fleet. On 10 March the "Fouth Sub-Division" (Wishart and Wren) refuelled at sea from RFA Brambleleaf off Gomera island.  The ability to "replenish at sea" (RAS) from RFA oilers and Escort Oilers chartered by the Trade Division of the Admiralty would be essential for convoy escorts with "short legs".

Still to do:

1935

7 May
HM Silver Jubilee Parade
Captains of Wishart and Wren competed for Destroyers against Regiments at Polo and won the Silver Cup

Rufus the "honey bear" and Ruff the dog, ship's pets

The Band

The Talkies
Cinema projctor acquired (all ships except Keppell in favour) and on 26 August performance given in presnce of HM the King.

21 May Navy beat Army by 21 goals to 1 in annual Polo Match at Marsa.

June
Wishart win the Gunnery Trophy

2 July Summer Cruise to Sicily, Italy and Monaco

August

During the summer of 1935 HMS Wishart  paid a visit to Cannes and Lord Mountbatten welcomed aboard his friend HRH the Prince of Wales accompanied by his mistress, Mrs Wallis Simpson (left).

HM the King visits Wishart & Whitehall at Cannes for coctail party and film

4 September Wishart wins the Regatta

"It is no exageration to say that the Regatta occupies the first and foremost thought of lmot every officetr and man, in every sghipp of the Navy during the Summer months."

A ship that "embarks on the Regatta" with "the will to win", ids a ship who has a healthy morale bred in her, and one who posseses that "guts" which has been found to be so valuable in time of War".

"Owing to Mussolini's war like attitude" ... "The Inter flotilla regatta was cancelled and the Fleet Regatta was to take place at Alexandria in the absence of the First Flotilla"

1936

20 January
King George V Died at Sandringham

24 January
At
Marseilles: "Capt left the ship to proceed to London to attend the funeral of His late Majesty"

26 Aril
Cocktail party aboard Wishart attended by over 200 people at which the ship's band played throughout.

28 April
"the Captain addressed the ship's company prior to relinquishing command of the ship having completed his full two years on the station. He was then pulled ashore in the whaler manned by officers, while the entire ship's company "cleared lower deck" of their own accord, and cheered him as he left".

Mountbatten was appointed a Personal Naval Aide-de-Camp to King Edward VIII on 23 June.

The King abdicated on 10 December 1936 and married Wallis Simpson on 3 June 1937.

In September 1939 Mountbatten brought the Duke and Duchess of Windsor back from exile in France in HMS Kelly.



Photographs

Youthful photographs of Mountbatten?
Officers and ship's company of Wishart November 1935
HMS Wishart Officers
Commanding Officers of the Fist Destroyer Flotilla





Continue account of the life of Mountbatten until his appointment as CO of HMS Kelly.


The main source I consulted for this brief account of the early part of Mountbatten's life is Mountbatten: Apprentice War Lord 1900-1943; by Adrian Smith.
(New York: I.B.Tauris, 2010).




[In 1930-31 she was in reserve at the Nore, followed by a refit at Chatham.  She then joined the 8th Destroyer Flotilla in China.  In December 1934 she became Lord Louis Mountbatten's second command and transferred to the 1st Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet.  His inspired leadership won her crew the "Cock of the Fleet" award at the 1935 naval regatta.  Mountbatten is said to have raised his crew's spirits by telling them that their ship had been named after the Almighty Father, to whom we pray daily "Our Father, Wishart in heaven ..."] Wikipedia

Cock of the Fleet Award: https://www.trinitymarine.co.uk/shop/original-royal-navy-cock-of-the-fleet-crest-badge/
See also: http://hmsgambia.org/fleet-cock.htm

Water Polo team, 1935
The Regatta 1935: The First Destroyer Flotilla Water Polo Team

"My Grandfather Eric Sturgess is in the front row far right and in the front row second from the left is Lord Louis Mountbatten;" Ian Hickman.
Front row: PO Hutton, Cdr Lord Louis Mountbatten,  Captain Baillie-Grohman D.S.O., O.B.E, CO of Flotilla leader HMS Keppell and Captain (D) 1st DF, Lt Cdr Gordon, PO Sturgess
Second row: Ldg. Sea Holden, AB Antliffe, AB King, AB Martin, AB Yates
Back row: Ldg. Sea Bashford, Ord. Wodehouse, AB Barry, Ldg. Sea Waite
A team consisted of six players and one goal keeper in the water at any one time - the senior officers were not members of the team.

"Many of the old V&Ws were now being put into reserve, others had been earmarked for alterations and modifications to convert them into the "Wair" type of destroyer. From December 1934 to February 1936 HMS Wishart was commanded by Cdr Lord Louis Mountbatten and future generations of officers have good reason to be grateful to him for having installed a bathroom;" J.A. Jolliffe  D/MX. 52106.

Lord Louis Mountbatten and Wallis Simpson on HMS Wishart in 1936

During the summer of 1935 HMS Wishart  paid a visit to Cannes and Lord Mountbatten welcomed aboard his friend HRH the Prince of Wales accompanied by his mistress, Mrs Wallis Simpson (left).

On 20 January 1936, George V died at Sandringham and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. Mountbatten left the Wishart in February 1936 and was appointed a Personal Naval Aide-de-Camp to King Edward VIII on 23 June. The King abdicated on 10 December 1936 and married Wallis Simpson on 3 June 1937.

In September 1939 Mountbatten brought the Duke and Duchess of Windsor back from exile in France in HMS Kelly.

1936
, February
General Sir Charles Bonham-Carter was appointed Governor of Malta, and was transported there in the liner Strathmore escorted by the destroyers Wishart and Wren. The courtesy visits were becoming fewer. Royal Navy warships were no longer welcome in Italian ports and because of the fear that Malta would be an early target for the enemy anti-invasion exercises were carried out. The Spanish civil war put an extra burden on the destroyers carrying evacuating British citizens and refugees.




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



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