The Liberation of Norway:
HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey at Stavanger

Operation Conan

Operation Conan was the Royal Navy's contribution to Operation Apostle, the liberation of Norway after the formal surrender of German forces at Oslo on the 9 May:

"On the 13 May, the Royal Navy initiated Operation Conan, sending two destroyers to each of the intended ports of entry, Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromso and numbers of MTBs from Lerwick to smaller towns along the coast. The destroyers carried with them the naval officers in command (NOIC) of the various ports, naval disarmament parties and small elements of air and military staffs from Britain".  British Policy and Strategy towards Norway; Christopher Mann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), page 209.

The entry ports and their NOIC were: Oslo (Capt C.R.V. Pugh RN), Stavanger (Capt R.St.V. Sherbrooke RN), Kristiansand (Capt Lord Teynham RN), Bergen (Capt B D Nicholson RNVR) and Trondheim (Capt J H Ruck-Keene RN). On the 12 May the Flag Officer Norway, Rear Admiral J.S.McL. Ritchie RN, left for Oslo with the cruiser HMS Devonshire, the minelaying cruisers Apollo (with Crown Prince Olav on board) and Ariadne, and four destroyers (Iroquis, Savage, Scourge and Arundel).

On the 13 May eight  destroyers in the Rosyth Escort Force were sent to Kristiansand South (HMS Valorous  and HMS Venomous with three Norwegian minesweepers), Stavanger (HMS Wolsey and HMS Wolfhound), Bergen (HMS Woolston, HMS Vivacious and the corvette, HMS Acanthus) and Trondheim (HMS Mackay and HMS Viceroy). Local surrender ceremonies were held aboard these destroyers of the Rosyth Escort Force in the harbours on Norway's west coast.


This article was published in a Glasgow newspaper in May 1946 on the first anniversary of the V & W's setting sail for the four ports on the west coast of Norway. Rose Kennedy was aboard HMS Wolfhound which together with Wolsey was sent to Stavanger and "for three glorious weeks ran a 'mailboat service' day and night through the narrow inner leads 400 miles to Bergen and Trondheim, scarecely ever seeing open sea". It is typed as published without editing but the minor errors are excusable and the style very evocative of time and place.

On the Waterfront - by Rose Kennedy


One year ago today nine old destroyers left Rosyth, slipped beneath the Forth Bridge at two-minute intervals and formed in line ahead. This was their swan-song, their last operation.

They were the old "Vs" and "Ws" mostly built on the Clyde in 1918.

All the war they and others like them had been the backbone of the Rosyth Escort Force, taking daily convoys between Methil and the Thames, latterly a humdrum, hard-work task, more concerned with mines and wrecks, [than] isolated attacks by E-boats and submarines.

Article by Rose Kennedy in Glasgow Newspaper in 1946Northwards they turned at May Island, steaming in two columns at 15 knots then east off Montrose, zig-zagging 400 miles between minefields to the coast of Norway. Their wardrooms and mess-decks were crowded.

Nowegian intelligence officers - big, grim, with rucksacks, shoulder holsters, hidden beneath their battledress, men who had been in and out of their country at the risk of their lives planning sabotage - were going home for the first time in uniform.

In every man's stomach was a mounting excitement.

I have just been to see the old ships lying in dejected lines on the mud between Bo'ness and Grangemouth, disarmed, reduced to the lowest category of reserve, one stage from the breaker's yard.

We joined a fleet of small minesweeperss wallowing towards Lister Light, in the south-west tip of Norway. Mines popped up on all sides.

Some of the destroyers turned South for Kristiansand and Oslo. We headed north for Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim.

The Norwegians stood in rain and sprasy for hours waiting for the clouds to part on the mountains around Flekkepiord and Egersund.

Off Stavanger a pilot warned secretly, had tossed for ten hours in an open boat. Munching a sandwich in Wolfhound's wardroom he reeled off first news of homne to his countrymen.

Although it was nearly midnight folk left every house along the fiord, ran shouting towards the town. The low keys were thronged in the rain with cheering, singing people as we anchored in mid-harbour.

Remember that night Scots shipmates, and the first pungent whiff of herring canneries? I wonder where today are Ritchie from Greeock, Glendinning from Hawick, Mackenzie, Ralston and Hay from Glasgow. Harley from Edinburgh, the two Robertsons from Ayr and Wick.

German merchantmen, E-boats, and armed trawlers, their crews still aboard, lay within a cable-length. Round the decks that night patrolled, like grey ghosts with rifle and bandolier, the bolds-eyed disciplined youths of the Resistance, hunted no longer, in the open at last.

For three glorious weeks we ran a "mailboat service" day and night through the narrow inner leads 400 miles to Bergen and Trondheim, scarecely ever seeing open sea. Fishermen stopped hauling their lines and rowed to greet us: every coaster and herring carrier dipped ensign as painted to the last rivet we swept at 20 knots through the narrow fiords a big Norwegian flag at the fore-masthead.

With Service VIPs, mails and stores we sped across to Rosytgh overnight each week.

Yes, the old V's and W's would have made you proud, men of Fairfield's, Stephen's, Yarrow's, Brown's, Beardmore's, Denny's and Scotts' who helped to build them.

For three more weeks the Wolfhound lay at Stavanger as base ship. Our lads vied with each other to be jetty sentries, turned themselves out like Guardsmen.

Already some oif the ships had been ordered home to payy off. Wolfhound's 27th birthday had been celebrated onb VE Day.

Last thing the friendly people of Stavanger did was to find us enough white bunting to make a magnificent paying-off pennant. The whole town turned out when we cast off.

I like to think they'll never see these ships lying rusting on the mud at Grangemouth.
The children we gave chocolate to will tell their grandchildren of trhe trim grey ships -
Wolfhound, Wolsey, Vivacous, Valorous, and the rest - which swept into their harbours on the day their country was liberated.

Booklet for celebration of Norway's Nsational Day, 17 May 1945, at Stavanger Leaflet Leaflet, Stavanger 17 May 1945.
Documents brought back from Stavanger by AB Fred Gilleard, HMS Wolfhound, and treasured all his life
On left and right the front and back cover of the programme for the celebrations on the 17 May 1945, Norway's National Day.
Centre a momento of the arrival of Wolsey and Wolfhound at Stavanger on the 15 May 1945

Fred Gilleard's photographs and documents of HMS Wolfhound at Stavanger

HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey berthed at Stavanger on the 15 May 1945 and were greeted by crowds of enthusiastic Norwegians. The photographs may have been taken by journalists on local papers but were found amongst the papers of Fred Gilleard after his death on New Year's Day 2016 and sent to me by his step-daughter, Sue Parsons. Fred Gilleard was an AB on HMS Wolfhound from October 1944 to June 1945.

HMS Wolsey, Stavanger, May 1945,
"HMS Wolsey, Stavanger, 15 May 1945" written on reverse
Courtesy of Susan Parsons

HMS Wolfhound berthing at Stavanger HMS Wolfhound at Stavanger

Two views of V & W Class destroyer, probably HMS Wolfhound,  berthing at Stavanger
Courtesy of Susan Parsons

HMS Wolfhound, Stavanger.
HMS Wolfhound,  pennant number L56, berthed at Stavanger
Courtesy of Susan Parson

The 21st Independent Parachute Company took part in the liberation of Norway in May 1945. CSM Stewart, along with Captain Spivey and Lieutenant Page of the Royal Corps of Signals was made responsible for the Stavanger area and came to Stavanger aboard HMS Wolfhound and helped her prevent a German u-boat, U-901 commanded by Kapitšnleutnant Hans Schrenk, from leaving the harbour.

Harry Kain's photographs of HMS Wolsey at Stavanger

Harry Kain Henry John Kain, known as Harry Kain, died at a Rest Home for the elderly in Bodmin, Cornwall, on 31 July 2017 without any known family. His few possessions included a briefcase containing an album of photographs taken aboard HMS Wolsey at Stavanger and a framed portrait of a young naval rating which is thought to be of Harry. The emblem resembling a butterfly (a pair of wings crossed by a lightning flash) on his lower right arm identifies Harry Kain as being an Ordinary Telegraphist in the Communications Branch of the Navy. Telegraphists used wireless telegraphy to communicate securely between ship and shore. They were known by their friends and shipmates as "sparkers" and you can find out more about them by clicking on the link.

Harry KainHarry suffered fom Alzheimers and had to  move from his former address at 6 Lewman Close, Probus, Truro, into the Belmont House Nursing Home in Bodmin. Details of his death were posted in the London Gazette but no claimants had registered an interest in his estate by the expiry date and Harry Kain's photographs would have been thrown out had not Sgt C J Manning of RAF St Mawgan, the husband of the the Activities Co-ordinator at the care home where Harry spent his last years, emailed me digital copies.

Nothing further is known about Harry but I am hoping that somebody will get in touch who knew him and will tell me more about his life so that his story can be told here.

With friends in pub in Lostwithiel
If you recognise Harry Kain (third from left) in the photograph in the Royal Oak Lostwithiel please contact  Bill Forster.

On the 17 April this year the Cornish Guardian published a full page article by Olivier Vergnault appealing to its readers to get in touch  with me if they recognised Harry Kain or any of his shipmates in HMS Wolsey.
 I am hoping readers of that article or a visitor to this web page will contact me before next month's anniversary of  the "nine trim grey ships" arriving at the ports on the west coast of Norway.

Lasrge group of Army & Navy inc Harry Kain
Where and when was this photograph taken?
And can you recognise Harry Kain or anybody else in the photograph?
To view full size double click the image

HMS Wolsey berthed alongside at Stavanger
HMS Wolsey (LO2) berthed alongside at Stavanger, Norway

View from bridge of HMS Wolsey of Fleet mine sweepers, Stavanger, May 1945
"At Stavanger. Taken from the bridge of HMS Wolsey looking down on the Fleet sweepers."
The two inboard ships are probably Canadian built Bangor Class minesweepers, rigged for wire sweeping. The outboat ship has an anti-magnetic loop sweep on a drum.
HMS Wolsey and HMS Vivacious (D36) escorted the minesweepers as they cleared the entrance to Stavanger

HMS Wolsey behind barbed wire at Stavanger, May 1945
    "HMS Wolsey behind barbed wire at Stavanger"
    Probably to repel friendly civilian borders!

HMS Wolsey at Stavanger "Skipper", the ship's dog
"Spider", the ship's dog, wearing his Sailor's Suit
"In the roundel  on the left is the ships mascot, a small whippet/terrier type dog. He used to go on leave with one of the ratings. Someone held him till the rating was on the train, just before the train left he would whistle him up, he jumped the barrier, went to the carriage then slept in the luggage rack to dodge the ticket collecter, travelled everywhere for free. When the Wolsey was paid off he left with a sailor from Lincolnshire. My dad, AB C. Horton,  Quarters Rating A Gun, told me this many years ago." Cyril Horton
Shipmates pose with ship's crest, HMS Wolsey

Can anybody identify Harry Kain and his shipmates on
Posing with the HA twin 4.6 inch Guns  (left) and with the leopard crest of HMS Wolsey
was named after Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530), Lord Chancelor to Henry VIII, whose coat of arms included four leopard faces

Ship's Company of HMS Wolsey marching through Stavanger on NOway's National Day
The ship's company of HMS Wolsey marching through the streets of Stavanger on Norway's National Day

Peter Scott's memories of HMS
Wolfhound at Stavanger

The Commanding Officer of HMS Wolfhound when she was sent to Stavanger was
A/Lt.Cdr. Thomas Aitken Easton, RNVR (Dec 1944 - July 1945). Peter Scott, a telegraphist on Wolfhound, describes the three months they spent at Stavanger from May to July in an interview recorded by Bill Forster at Easbourne in 2014. Wolfhound stopped at Bergen before continuing to Stavanger. He felt sorry for the German soldiers who had married Norwegians, decided to remain in Norway and were regarded as traitors. He also described how liberated Russian POWs sang in a choir before being returned to an uncertain future in Russia and how young Norwegians returning to Norway from neutral Sweden behaved as if they had liberated their country.

HMS Wolfhound flying the Norwegian Flag at Stavanger
HMS Wolfhound flying the Norwegian flag at Stavanger.
Wolfhound was the "trot boat" carrying mail and passengers through the inner leads between the ports and Rosyth.
Courtesy of Peter Scott

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

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HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey

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