Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS WIVERN

Warship Weeks

West Hartlepool adopts HMS Wivern

Warships Week 28 February - 7 March 1942

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’.


Furness Withy & Co and West Hartlepool

Map of West HrtlepoolWest Hartlepool owes its existence to the oppening of the Stockton to Hartlepool Railway in 1839 and the building of the West Hartlepool Harbour and Dock in 1847. It became a major centre for shipbuilding as well as a large port. In 1891 having made a large fortune in speculative shipbuilding, Christopher Furness amalgamated his fleet of 18 wholly-owned steamers and investments in 21 other ships with the West Hartlepool shipbuilding firm of E. Withy and Co, shipbuilders of Middleton Ship Yard, Hartlepool.

The new concern,
Furness, Withy and Co, was registered on 16 September with capital of 700,000. It would amalgamate the businesses of Mr. Christopher Furness, steamship owner, with that of Messrs. Edward Withy and Co, iron and steel steamship builders and repairers. By 1910 Furness Withy was one of the Big Five of British shipping, which also included Cunard, Royal Mail, P&O and Ellerman. 1921 was the last year that the company showed a profit due to the freight slump of the preceding year. The yards remained closed until 1930. 

Frederick Lewis, 1st Baron Essendon (1870–1944), a Director and majority share owner of the Company, was the principal backer for "Warships Week" in West Hartlepool. The Hatlepool Northern Daily Mail provided extensive coverage of Warships Week but consistently repeated the false statement that HMS Wivern was a former American destroyer. The explantion is that the old town of Hartlepool had its own Warships Week in March 1942 and adopted HMS Ludlow (G57), a Town Class destroyer transferred from the US Navy under the lend Lease Agreement, which was formerly the USS Stockton built in 1916.

I am hoping to locate the shield mounted with the ship's crest presented by the Admiralty to the county borough of West Hartlepool on the adoption of HMS Wivern and the plaque bearing the coat of arms of the borough presented to Wivern and to be sent photographs of visits to the ship by civic dignitaries and by the ship and her officers and men to the town while escorting east coast convoys. Do please  e-mail Bill Forster if you can be of assistance.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail

Thursday 5 February 1942

"It was announced to-day that West Hartlepool Warship Week, from 28 February to 7 March, will be opened by Lord Essendon, who has close family and business ties with the town. Lord Essendon, who is chairman of Furness Withy, and Co., Ltd., and of 26 other shipping and insurance companies associated with Furness Withy, is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Lewis, of West Hartlepool and Lady Essendon was formerly Miss Daisy Eleanor Harrison, daughter of Captain R. H. Harrison, of West Hartlepool. Lord Essendon, as Fred Lewis, attended the Wesleyan Higher Grade School at West Hartlepool, where Mr. J. Dunbavand was headmaster. His mother (Mrs. Spoor), a kind and cultured lady, was for many years a member of the School Board. The organizing committee are going ahead rapidly with their plans and today Sir William Gray, Bart., chairman of the Investments Committee, Issued special message, in which he explains that the idea of Warship Week is to stimulate the war savings campaign and raise a sum which represents the cost of building one of H.M. ships. 

Sir William writes:

The Admiralty have decided that, owing to technical considerations, it is impracticable to name the ship after the town, but arrangements have been made to adopt a ship, the cost of which would be equivalent to the target aimed at. To commemorate this association the Admiralty will present a replica of the ship’s badge, together with a history of the ship's name, for permanent exhibition in the town, and the adopting town will present a suitable plaque to be fixed on the Quarterdeck of the ship.

The West Hartlepool Savings Committee aims primarily at the cost of the hull of a destroyer 210,000 and the Admiralty have decided that the ship to be adopted shall be HMS Wivern It is hoped that the first objective may be attained early in the week, in which case a further target might the cost of the machinery, 250,000. The total cost of destroyer is about 700,000. West Hartlepool to date has raised 4,100,000 or 63/16/0 per head of population, a not unsatisfactory amount, but we must not content to rest on our oars. The need for saving is more urgent than ever, for national war expenditure must Increase as our commitments in all quarters of the world grow. The gap between expenditure and income must be filled. Whilst fully appreciating your past and valued co-operation I appeal with confidence for your renewed and continued support."

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Saturday 7 March 1942

West Hartlepool Warship Week total last night stood at 557,601 - 142,399 short of its revised objective of 700,000. It will not be known until Monday whether the balance is subscribed to-day, but at any rate it seems likely that the original aim of 210,000 will be trebled by then. Yesterday’s investments amounted to 74,486 and included Sir Robt. Ropner and Co., 50,000, J. W. Baird and Co. Ltd., 4,000: P. Leach and Son and West Hartlepool Boilermakers' Institute, each 500; West Hartlepool Masonic Hall Co. Ltd., 250. and Mr, Harry Clark Robson, 100 guineas. The total to date comprises 2 1/2 per cent War Bonds 387,110, 3 per cent Savings Bonds 99,150, National Savings Certificates 41,422, 3 per cent Defence Bonds 25.197. Post Office Savings Bank deposits 4,319, savings stamps 303, and loan free of interest 1OO.

It is interesting to note that since the commencement of the savings campaign, West Hartlepool has subscribed a grand total of 4,863,466, which is an average of more than 7O per head of population. Last week’s investments amounted to 124,306, made up of Defence Bonds 3,810, Savings Certificates 4,893, 2 1/2 per cent War Bonds 114,000, and Post Office Savings Bank deposits 1.603. 

Savings groups connected with firms, schools, streets, and other organizations have all made special efforts during Warship Week For example, the staff of the L.N.E.R. District Goods and Dock manager’s office set themselves the task of investing this week. They have actually subscribed more than six times that amount, their total to date being 465 10s.  An example of thrift among schoolchildren is at St. Joseph’s School, where the children have far exceeded their target figure of 45, and an equally fine effort has been made by the senior girls of Class 2A at Jesmond Rd. School, who made a gift of 3 5s.  to buy a boats anchor, a signal flag, a hammock and a chart for West Hartlepool’s destroyer HMS Wivern.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
 Monday 9 March 1942

The Original Target Figure Trebled - The final result of West Hartlepool Warship Week, announced by the Mayor at mid-day, is 656,012, which is more than treble the original target figure and is regarded as very satisfactory.  Saturday’s Investments amounted to 98,411 and Included an additional investment of 50,000 by Sir Robt. Ropner and Co. The final total comprises: 2 1/2 per cent War Bonds. 441,660; 3 per cent Savings Bonds, 115,250; National Savings Certificates, 55,045; 3 per cent Defence Bonds, 36,032; Post Office Savings Bank deposits, 5,705; Savings stamps, 2,220, and loan free of interest, l00.  The investment by Mr. Harry Clark Robson, announced on Saturday, was 1.000 guineas.  More details are now coming in of the many special efforts made during the week by the small savers. The children set a good example through their school groups, and the Yorkshire Penny Bank, which handles the schools’ savings, reports that the total subscribed was 690. In addition to the 500 invested in 3 per cent Defence Bonds by the Boilermakers' Institute, the savings groups connected with the Institute, which consists of about 40 members and is organized me secretary Mr. J. P. Williamson), subscribed during the week savings 378 in Savings Certificates. The value of certificates purchased by the group since its formation in June, 1940, is 2,508 15s.  A variety of competitions and sales were held to help the campaign funds, and a substantial sum was raised in this way.  Misses S. and A. Prestedge J. Cameron and J. Smith raised 1 by selling books and toffee; West Hartlepool Loco, Shed staff subscribed 1 1s.; Miss J. Waudby of Ryehill Homes, made a cake which realized 1 5s.; Miss Leng, the matron at Howbeck, handed over 8 10s. as a result of a savings competition; Mrs. Hogg, of Avenue Road, made kettleholders which were sold by Mary and Margaret Culley and Vera Layton for 1 5s.; the Central Marine women workers sent 3 7s.; Mrs. N. Lithgow raised 2 6s. as a result of a whist drive at Seaton Carew; Miss K. Longstaff sold posies for 17s.. and the residents of Colwyn Road and district (per Mrs. Garbutt and Mrs. Green) raised 6 Is. 3d. by selling "odds and ends.” Graythorp people were very enthusiastic. The inhabitants number only 224, of whom 146 are over the age of 16, and they raised the sum of 225 during the week

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Tuesday 5 May 1942

The former American destroyer, HMS Wivern, is to be presented with a suitable plaque commemorate, the fact that the ship has been adopted by West Hartlepool as a result of the recent Warship Week campaign. The campaign had as its minimum object the raising of 210,000, and the total actually raised was 656,012 In a letter to the Mayor, the Secretary of the Admiralty writes:

“I am commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to express their pleasure on learning that, as a result of the successful Warship Week campaign, West Hartlepool reached its financial objective, thus enabling it to adopt H.M.S. Wivern. My Lords are causing the Commanding Officer and the ship’s company to be informed in the hope that a lasting association may established "between the ship and the inhabitants of West Hartlepool. Instructions have been given to prepare a replica of the ship’s badge for presentation to the district. If your Council has in mind to present in return a commemorative plaque to the ship, my Lords request that they may be informed in order that an occasion for the exchange may be arranged.”

The order for suitable plaque for presentation by the town to the ship was already been placed by the Savings Committee.

Press cutting about the presentation of crest and plaque on adoption of HMS Wivern Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Tuesday 14, September 1943

On behalf of the Admiralty Rear-Admiral Sir Wellwood Maxwell presented to the Mayor a replica of the badge of HMS Wivern and in return the Mayor handed Sir Wellwood a plaque suitably inscribed and bearing the town’s crest.  The Mayor said he was certain the replica of the ship’s badge would be looked upon with great regard by the future citizens of West Hartlepool.  The inhabitants are proud to exchange the town’s crest of a replica of this badge.  We fully realize what the country owes to the RN and should they ever pay us the honour of a visit the officers and crew of HMS Wivern will receive a real welcome.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Tuesday 28, September 1943

A sequel to the recent exchange plaques between West Hartlepool and HMS Wivern, which was in commemoration of Warship Week, is a letter from the commanding officer to the Mayor acknowledging the town's gift to the ship. The commanding officer says that the crew will see to it that the plaque has place of honour in the ship, and will know' that the goodwill and wishes of the citizens of West Hartlepool go with them in any encounters with the enemy. 

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Monday 24 July 1944

The Town Clerk of West Hartlepool (Mr. E. J Waggott) has received this letter from the commanding officer HMS Wivern, the former American destroyer which the town adopted following warship savings week:

“After the long interval since you last heard from us, I know you will be glad to hear that HMS Wivern is once more the job. I am, therefore, writing to express the hope that the happy connection between your town and this ship, well evidenced by your presentation plaque and previous correspondence, may continue in the future as it obviously has in the past. Most of our ship’s company are new since those days, but some the old hands ' remain and we shall take the story from where the others left off. They are a grand bunch of boys and full of fighting spirit, and are all looking forward to the coming bang that drives the final nail into Hitler's coffin! Then, perhaps, we may have the pleasure of paying you visit to help our mutual victory celebrations! Till then we send you all our very best wishes."

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail

Wednesday, 27 December 1944.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Wivern, the ship adopted by West Hartlepool, in Warship Week, has sent the following message to the Mayor:
"Our greetings to you and citizens for Christmas and a victorious New Year, We hope to see you soon."

Hartlepool is the location of the northern branch of the National Museum of the Royal Navy where the U.K’s oldest historic fighting ship still afloat, the 200 year old HMS Trincomalee, built at Bombay, India, has been restored and s a major attraction

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

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