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

Reg Panton's photograph album tells a moving story
From Royal Review in Weymouth Bay on 9 August 1939 to
Bombed of the Dutch coast on 14 May 1940

Philip Watkins sent me a small pocket album of photograph which belonged to Reg Panton in March 2020. The name of the photographer is not recorded in the album. Philip Watkins’ Grandmother married Reginald Edward Panton (1902-75) after the death of her husband in 1921 and Reg became Philip’s step Grandfather. Reg Panton joined the Navy for 12 years in 1920 and on being discharged in 1932 he joined the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) and was recalled in 1938. He was mobilised on 28 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis, demobbed a week later and  recalled again on 31 July 1939. He was drafted to HMS Vansittart as a Stoker but joined HMS Wivern on 26 January 1940. Most of the officers in HMS Vansittart transferred to HMS Wivern on 17 January 1940.

Officers in HMS Vansittart and HMS Wivern
Naval Lists
HMS Vansittart, Naval List February 1940
February 1940
HMS Wivern, Naval List December 1939
December 1939

On 17 January 1940 all the officers in HMS Wivern changed.
The new CO, Lt Cdr Bushell, Sub Lt Keyes, Warrant Officer Walker Gunner(T) and Mid Briggs were posted from HMS Vansittart

HMS Wivern, Naval List May 1940
May 1940

All the photographs may have been taken on HMS Vansittart - but some may have been taken on Wivern. The first photographs were taken from Vansittart on 9 August 1939 at the Review of the Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay by King George VI and page six is of HMS Wivern (D66) so must also have been taken from Vansittart. They were all taken before 14 May 1940 when Wivern was bombed off the coast of the Netherlands with 25 ratings killed and 32 wounded. The last photograph in the album was taken at Le Havre in Northern France and non were taken off the coast of the Netherlands. This limits the time period covered to the "phoney war" before Germany swept into the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and on into Northern France. Reg Panton is unlikely to have taken the photographs but he may have acquired the album after after the owner was killed. It was the custom to sell the possessions of a rating killed in action and send the money raised to his family.

If one looks at the captions written beneath each photograph one can learn much more. They must have been written after the bombing since the death of Midshipman Briggs in that action is mentioned. There are no photographs of ratings apart from the "captain's servant" standing alongside Mid Briggs. The only named persons are the Captain, Lt Cdr William Charles Bushell RN, Midshipman Briggs (four photographs) and Sub Lt Keyes  the "grandson of Roger Keys" (sic) but there is also a photograph of an officer taking sights on the bridge whose name is not given.

The omission of the e in Sir Roger Keyes name and the fact that the Sub Lt was his son and not his grandson suggests the captions were written by a rating, probably Reg Panton. They must have been added later as they are often misleading, sometimesa quite wrong so have to be treated with caution. The photographs may have been mounted in the album by the photographer - or later by Reg Panton. The camera was capable of taking sharp photographs in poor light conditions so had an excellent lens. I think the owner of the camera was Midshipman Briggs since there are more photographs of him than anybody else and the album was found on HMS Wivern after his death but they could have been taken by a fellow officer.
The photograph of Midshipman Briggs are particularly poignant and I would like to trace his family and find out more about his short life.

Reg Panton
Reg Panton, Stoker
Page 1 in Reg Panton's photoograph album
Page one in Reg Panton's Photograph Album: "Flag ship at Weymouth Review"
Midshipman Briggs, HMS Wivern
Midshipman Briggs

The pictures and captions in the album tell the story of the men in HMS Vansittart and HMS Wivern during the first ten months of the war. There are 17 pages in the album and each page measures 6 x 4.5 inches with one photograph per page and a hand written caption beneath as shown above. I scanned each double facing page in the album  at 1200 dpi so that they could be enlarged. If details were obscured at the corners I removed them from the album and scanned them again.

I decided to link from a thumbnail scan of each double page to cleaned enlarged images on a separate page with further details added mainly obtained by Googling the web since libraries and archives are closed during the Cornona pandemic. You can view cleaned up enlarged images with the results of our research below or return to the thumb nail scans on the index page.  If you can add further details of the individuals and the events shown please contact me by e-mail.


Page one in Reg Panton's photograph album

Flagship at Royal Review of Reserve Fleet on 14 August 1939
"Flagship at Weymouth Review"
The review at Weymouth was not as impressive as the Coronation Review at Spithead in May 1937 but it was the last review when the Royal Navy was still the world’s largest. There were 133 ships at the Review by King George VI in Weymouth Bay including two V & W Class Leaders, HMS Malcolm snd HMS Keppel and 28 V & W Class destroyers. Most had been in Reserve for many years with an engineering officer in command to see they were kept in condition. Vice Admiral Sir Max Horton had been given the task of bringing the Reserve Fleet to a state of readyness and assembling it in Weymouth Bay for the Royal Review. All the ships were dressed overall, with their signal flags running from stemhead to masthead, from masthead to masthead and down to the taffrail. Vice Admiral Max Horton's Flagship was HMS Effingham, a Hawkins Class Cruiser. Effingham ran aground and was lost on 18 May 1940 during the Norwegian Campaign. The Review was filmed and can be seen on the Reuters website.

Pages two and three in Reg Panton's photograph album

16 DF from HMS Vansittart
"16 DF at Weymouth from HMS Vansittart"

These two photographs on facing pages in Reg Panton's photograph album were taken from HMS Vansittart at the Royal Review as evidenced by the flags flying from stem to stern. Reg Panton joined Vansittart on 31 July 1939 and left to join Wivern on 26 January 1940 but is not thought to be the photographer. HMS Malcom was the Leader of the 16th Destroyer Flotilla which included HMS Venomous (D75) commanded by Ltd Cdr D.G.F.W. Macintyre DSO, DSC, RN known as 'D Mac'.

"Maclntyre was one of sixty commanding officers introduced to the King aboard the heavy cruiser HMS Effingham and 'particularly noticed the glowering, surly face of Admiral Darlan, head of the French Navy. At that time I had no idea that he had such an implacable hatred for the Royal Navy' "; from A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous; by R.J. Moore and J.A. Rodgaard (Holywell House Publishing, 2017).

The other ships in the 16th Destroyer Flotilla were HMS Wivern, Vansittart, Verity ....

Destroyer Leader HMS Malcolm
"Destroyer Leader HMS Malcolm"

Pages four and five in Reg Panton's photograph album

HMS Venomoous (D75) on patrol, mistakenly captioned as HMS Verity
 "Verity on patrol"

Pennant numbers changed over time but no two ships would be given the same number at the same time. The caption beneath the photograph is "Verity on patrol" but the Pennant Number D75 identifies it as being HMS Venomous. It seems strange that whoever wrote the caption made such a fundamental mistake but it may have been written years later and without access to the Internet or a specialist library it would not have been easy to differentiate between the V & Ws in the 16 DF. The mistake is repeated in the photograph of two destroyers on the facing page (below). Jim Bryce provides a valuable guide to identifying ship's penannt numbers on the website of the Royal Navy's Communications Branch.

HMS Verity and HMS Venomous (D75) on patrol
  "HMS Verity and HMS Wivern"

Pages six and seven in Reg Panton's photograph album

HMS Versatile
The caption is "HMS Vansittart" but is probably HMS Wivern (D66)
Midshipman Brigg in Wivern in smart uniform
"Midshipman Briggs"

HMS Vansittart (D64)

HMS Vansittart had D64 as its Pennant Number in 1939 (later I64) but the number painted on the hull of this V & W appears on close examination of a larger image at high contrast appears to be D66, the pennant number of Wivern! Perhaps the caption indicates the name of the ship from which the photograph was taken? Reg Panton was a stoker on HMS Vansittart in 1940 so would not have made a mistake about the pennant number of his own ship. The photographs are a valuable source of information but the captions are not always to be trusted.

Midshipman Briggs

Midshipman BriggsMidshipman Briggs"Kenneth Theodore Briggs RNR, 19, the son of Charles H. and Edith Okell Briggs, of Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire was killed 15 May 1940 and buried at sea"; Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Western Times, Axminster
Friday 24 May 1940

"News has been received from the Admiralty that Midshipman Theodore Briggs, son of Mrs. Okell, of the Cobb Arms, and step-son of the licensee, Mr. W. Okell, had been killed in action.  Midshipman Briggs has been serving aboard one of HM destroyers.  He was 19 years of age, and joined the Navy two months before the outbreak of war.  Previously he had served as an apprentice seaman wth the Elders and Fife Line.  He was educated at Wyggeston School, Leicester, and Bournemouth School."

Charles Briggs married
Edith Boynton in 1918 and Kenneth was born at Shardlow, Derbyshire, in 1921. He was their only child and the marriage did not last. They divorced and his Mother married a William Okell in 1930 when her son was nine but there were no children from this second marriage. By the time of his stepson's death William Okell was the landlord of the Cobb Arms in Lyme Regis. 

Kenneth Briggs name is on the war memorial in
St Marys Churchyard Wall - Queniborough, Leicestershire. Nina Challenor has began a family tree for him which can be seen on Ancestry. I am hoping to trace his family so that I can send them scans of his photographs in Reg Panton's album. There are several more photographs of Midshipman Briggs on the bridge of HMS Wivern.

When the National Archives at Kew re-opens I shall photograph the official report into the death of the two young officers killed in the bombing:

Temporary Sub-Lieutenant Richard S Brown, RNVR and Midshipman K T Briggs RNR: report of deaths;
HMS Wivern attacked by enemy aircraft, 14 May 1940

National Archives, Reference ADM 358/87

Pages eight and nine in Reg Panton's photograph album

Lea"ding in the troop ship"
"Leading in the Troopship"
Sub Lt R.G.B. Keyes, the son of Sir Roger Keyes, reading on stern of HMS Wivern with Midshipman Briggs on right
The caption "Sir Roger Keyes Grandson" is misleading

"Leading in the Troopship"

The caption is quite wrong, the ship is another V & W Class destroyer, most likely HMS Wivern or Vansittart.

"Sir Roger Keyes Grandson"

Sir Roger Keyes, famous for the daring raid on Zeebrugge in March 1918, flew his flag in HMS Warwick during the raid and it now hangs in St Marys Church, Warwick, the town which adopted HMS Warwick  in 1942. The V & W  Association Destroyer held its annual reunion there in 2013. But it is Sir Roger Keyes son, Sub Lt R.G.B. Keyes, not his grandson in this photograph.  He is on the left with Midshipman Briggs siitting alongside him, both relaxed and at ease in deck chairs reading books during "the phoney war". There is a better photograph of him in Reg Panton's photograph album. He served in Wivern,  from January to June 1940, changed to Coastal Services and commanded three MTB in the Mediterranean. He was only a Lieutenant when he left the Navy but succeeded to his father's title as  Baron of Zeebrugge and Dover.

Pages ten and eleven in Reg Panton's photograph album

HMS Wivern
"Vansittart at Parkstone Key" (sic)
HMS Wivern
 "Searchlight Platform and for'd torpedo tubes"

"Vansittart at Parkeston Quay" and "Searchlight Platform and for'd torpedo tubes"

Parkeston Quay is west of Harwich on the south bank of the River Stour, opposite Shotley Gate. and HMS Ganges where generations of new entrants for the Navy trained. Ferries used to run from Psarkestonn QWuasy to Esbjerg in Denmark and to Hamburg and the Stena Line still runs twom ferries a day to the Hook of Holland.

It is clear from the positioning of these two photographs on facing pages in the album that they are both of HMS Vansittart and it seems likely that all the photographs were taken fromm Vansittart before the photographer transferred to HMS Wivern.

Pages twelve and thirteen in Reg Panton's photograph album

Caption: "Depth charging"
"Depth charging"
Caption: "and another for luck"
"Another for luck"

to be continued on this page
Return to thumbnail index of the photographs in Reg Panton's Photograph Album

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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