Leading Seaman Ronald W.W. Rendle JX167874
first met Ron Rendle in Derby at the annual reunion of the V & W
Destroyer Association in May 2010. Clifford Fairweather, a veteran of
HMS Westcott and Chairman of
the Association, told me Ron had been torpedoed three times. Ron
indignantly corrected him and said it was only twice.
Ron suffered from cancer and was kept alive by a cocktail of chemicals injected once a year but he outlived his oncologist and was 98 when he died on the 23 December 2017. There can not be many heads of local authority housing departments who ran a night club in retirement and liked to gamble at their local casino. He was both modest and amusing and everybody liked him.
I published an account of what it was like to serve in the cramped quarters of a V & W Class destroyer during World War II and half the print run of both editions were bought by the men who served in these ships - or their children and grand children. This led to my setting up this website to keep the memory of the V & Ws and the men who served in them alive after they had all "crossed the bar".
The Association was dissolved in May 2017 but you can read Ron Rendle's story below and listen to him tell his story in an interview I recorded at Warwick in 2013.
The Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Patroclus
He was drafted to his first ship,
the Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC), HMS Patroclus at Portsmouth, on 13 January 1940. She was commanded by Capt G.C. Wynter RN. HMS Patroclus
was sent to the Med and brought back refugees and troops who had escaped to the South of France after Dunkirk and reached Gibraltar. Ron celebrated his 21st
birthday at Casablanca. HMS Patroclus
patrolled the Atlantic looking for blockade runners. She boarded a
suspicous Norwegian merchant ship and escorted her to Scapa Flow. She was torpedoed by German U-Boat but the crew
were saved and the only life lost was that of the ship's dog.
On 3 November 1940 Patroclus was escorting the 6,000 ton steamer SS Casanare and HMS Laurentic when they encountered U-99 commanded by Otto Kretschmer. Kretschmer sank more allied tonnage than any U-boat commander. The Patroclus was like a floating block of flats with its hull buoyed up by empty oil barrels. U-99 sank all three ships but it took seven torpedoes to sink HMS Patroclus. After the fourth torpedo Ron Rendle jumped into the water, went down, surfaced and was violently sick. He was picked up the next morning by the destroyer HMS Achates, drank some rum, was lent a hammock and slept for twelve hours.
After two weeks survivors leave Ron was drafted to HMS Dunluce Castle, an accommodation (depot) ship at Scapa Flow in Orkney. Most of the survivors of the Patroclus were
sent there. It was really an opportunity to recover from the trauma of
the sinking. Ron as a clerk in local government was given an office job
and quite liked his three months at Scapa. From 21 May to 20 August
1941 Ron trained to be a torpedo man at HMS St Vincent, a shore establishment in Gosport, Portsmouth.
The V & W's were built as "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBD) and
Ron was "on the tubes" but never fired a torpedo, not even in practice.
The six torpedo men
were really electricians; two on the torpedo tubes and four on the depth
charges.The depth charges were rolled off the rails at the stern or thrown from
midships. The three torpedo men
on the left are lounging in front of the triple torpedo tubes on HMS Wishart. On
one memorable occasion the skipper gave instructions that a depth
charge should be dropped when the Asdic showed a shoal of fish and
enough floated to the surface to feed the entire ship's company.
The men believed that if the Padre joined a ship she was sure to be attacked. Ron was "not pleased to see him" when he joined Wishart
and, sure enough, they were bombed. There were too many incidents to describe but Ron saw an ammo ship blown up on one
convoy, looked like "a ball of sun", it just vanished. On the 7 November 1942 Wishart towed the USS Thomas Stone into Algiers after she was torpedoed and they were paid prize money. They went ashore at
Algiers after the landings in North Africa and "had good
saw a "banana boat aircraft
carrier" come out of Algiers with his cousin Clifford on her. Ron was
shocked when heard much later that his cousin was killed with most of the crew when she sunk in the Atlantic.
Ron's best friend on Wishart was AB Arthur Crosby-Clarke who worked for Barclays Bank in Bournemouth before the war and whose regular Watch was "on the Wheel'. Cdr Scott was keen on hockey and saw the ship's hockey team beat the writers at Gib, the best team on the Rock. Scott liked Ron because he was one of the strongest players in the hockey team and when Wishart docked for repairs at Gib in May 1942 he sent Ron and Crosby-Clark on a short break at the Rest Camp in the Governor's Cottage near the Europa Point light house. Ron served in Wishart until the 13 December 1942 but has no recollection of rescuing survivors from HMS Blean which sank two days earlier. Crosby-Clarke stayed on until Wishart was mothballed in January 1945. They never met again but Ron always hoped to find out what happened to him.
Ron was relieved at Gib and sent back to Britain to qualify as a Leading Torpedoman at HMS Vernon,
the Torpedo School, at Gunwharf, Portsmouth. It had been bombed out and
taken over the former girls school, Rodean, which made him "an
old boy of Rodean". Ron spent the next four months at shore bases for
Coastal Forces: at HMS Attack in Portland from 19 - 25 May, HMS Hornet near the Haslar Gunboat Yard at Portsmouth from 26 May - 14 June and HMS Midge at Great Yarmouth from the 9 August - 14 September 1943. HMS Midge
was one of the major coastal force bases on the East Coast and several
flotillas of MTBs were based there. The details are recorded in his
service record but Ron remembers very little about his time at these
Coastal Forces shore bases.
HMS Bickerton, an American built Captain Class destroyer commanded by Capt G.F.W. Macintyre, RN
On 15 September Ron was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on a troop carrier and from there halfway across Canada by train before heading to New York and Boston where HMS Bickerton, a diesel-electric Captain Class destroyer, was being built. He joined the Bickerton on 5 November 1943. After commissioning at Boston she left for Halifax, Nova Scotia, on a shakedown cruise. They returned to Boston which Ron liked (he had a girl friend there) and then headed south to Norfolk Virginia which he did not care for at all. On her way to Britain the Bickerton spent the morning of Christmas Day in Bermuda and then continued to Liverpool. The skipper of the Bickerton "was very fond of his alcohol" and his 'No 1' more or less ran the ship on the way over. The wiring on US ships was different from ships in the RN and when Ron made a mistake testing a circuit he was temporarily blinded and hospitalised at HMS Pegasus, Belfast, from 24 February to 12 March 1944.
Capt G.F.W. Macintyre,
RN, a brilliant u-boat hunter on Atlantic convoys, took over as CO of Bickerton. He was "an absolute tyrant but the best skipper I ever had". Ron Rendle recalled that the survivors they rescued after sinking U-765
were "much the same as us, they mixed in, had good jokes and got on well with us". Ron had a camera and was
able to get film from "an old school pal", Robert Patience, who worked at
Selo, part of Ilford. Bob had been the tail gunner on a bombing raid
over Hamburg in 1943 as part of Operation Gomorrah to destroy Germany's second largest city. Their plane was badly shot up and the entire crew
invalided out. Ron soon had a good business going, selling film
his friends on Bickerton, taking their photographs, developing the
film and making prints. Bickerton
patrolled the entrance to the Channel during the D-Day landings and sunk U-269. Ron photographed the frigate HMS Mourne (K 261) blowing up after she was hit by a GNAT torpedo from U-767 on the 15 June 1944.
When MacIntyre heard that Ron had a
camera he transferred him from his action station with the depth
charges at the stern (there were no torpedos on Bickerton) to the
Bridge where he would be on hand to photograph the
sinking of his next u-boat. In August 1944 Bickerton was sent Scapa Flow to escort two carriers, HMS Nabob and Trumpeter, part of Convoy JW.59, to Tromso in Norway to attack the Tirpitz. On the 22 August HMS Nabob was hit by an acoustic torpedo, a GNAT, fired by U-354 and soon afterwards Bickerton
was hit in the stern and all of Ron's friends at his former action
station were killed. Macintyre knew the danger of a
GNAT zeroing in on the acoustic noise of a ship's propellors and had
"cat" to be streamed from the stern. This device vibrated like the screws of a destroyer and lured acoustic torpedoes
away from the stern of the ship. They were too late getting it out
and the man sent from the bridge to speed things up was killed along
with all the men in the depth charge team.
Rescuing survivors from the carrier HMS Nabob was
given priority and Macintyre told Ron to stay aboard until a
launch was sent (one did not last long in Arctic waters) by the
Captain Class destroyer, HMS Aylmer. Donald Macintyre described what happened in Chapter 12 of his autobiography, U-Boat Killer
(1956), where Ron Rendle gets a brief mention: "A Leading Seaman Rendle
and an Electrical Artificer Robinson both set good examples, I
money Ron made from photography was in the ship's safe and
went down with the ship along with all of his photographs.
His family think he met his wife Elaine in Belfast and they may have got married while he was on survivor's leave. Ron spent almost three months at HMS Victory and HMS Vernon before being drafted to HMS Lanka, the shore base in Ceylon, on 13 December 1944 to await a posting to another ship. HMS Lanka
occupied the site of St Josephs College, Colombo. Ron was given
the job of organising the guard. He never received another posting and
on 2 October 1945 he returned to Britain on the Town Class destroyer, HMS Rotherham.
He really liked the ship's company and they wanted him to stay on. They
had fought in the Pacific war against Japan, been attacked twice by Kamikaze pilots but last minute evasive
action by the CO saved the ship. On 4 September Rotherham was the
first RN warship to enter Singapore after the dropping of the Atom bomb
and the surrender of Japan. The
crew were shocked by the condition of the POWs in the city. Ron returned to England in the Rotherham on 12 November 1945.
After the war was over
Ron Rendle was released from the Navy on 31 January 1946 and returned to his prewar career in local government. He also went into business running the Barn nightclub in Braintree with his old
friend, Bob Patience, who had supplied him with film when he was in HMS Bickerton. Bob started the Ranch House in the 1950s and the Barns in the 1960s. Bob would not allow proceedings to get under way
until Ron arrived from daytime job in local government when he would announce "now that Ronald Walter
William Rendle is here we can start". All
the stars of the day played at the Barns and Ron knew them all.
Ron Rendle retired as Housing Chief at
Tonbridge and Malling Council in Kent on a full pension at 55 when
local government was reorganised in 1974. Until 2016 he continued to drive, visited
the casino once a week and never missed an annual reunion of the V
& W Destroyer Association.
He was a regular at the Buckingham Palace Garden Parties for veterans hosted by the Queen and Prince Philip who served in the V & W Class Leader HMS Wallace and always made a beeline for the V & W veterans. Amongst those he met at the garden parties was Vera Lynn who like Ron was born in East Ham and is now a 100. Despite being a keen photographer he has no photographs of himself in naval uniform. They were all lost when HMS Bickerton was torpedoed. He never forgot the names of his shipmates at the stern of HMS Bickerton who were killed and could see them clearly in his mind's eye for the rest of his life. Ron had four children, ten grand children and eighteen great grandchildren but admitted to not being able to remember all their names.
funeral is on Thursday 8th February at the Three Counties Crematorium
in Halstead Road, Bocking End, Braintree, CM7 5PB, at 12:00.
Bill recorded an interview with Ron
Rendle at the Reunion of the V & W Association at Warwick on 20
Click on the link to listen to Ron describe his wartime service in HMS Wishart
be patient - it takes a couple of minutes before the file opens and Ron starts speaking
The IWM made their own recorded interview which can also be heard online