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
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
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
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
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)
Lt Keyes the "grandson of Roger Keys" (sic) but there is also a
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
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.
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 Weymouth Review"
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 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' "; fromA 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"
Pages four and five in Reg Panton's photograph album
"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 Wivern"
Pages six and seven in Reg Panton's photograph album
The caption is "HMS Vansittart" but is probably HMS Wivern (D66)
HMS Vansittart (D64)
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.
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
Pages eight and nine in Reg Panton's photograph album
"Leading in the Troopship"
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
"Vansittart at Parkstone Key" (sic)
"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