The Liberation of Norway:
and HMS Wolsey at Stavanger Operation Conan May1945
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.
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
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
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
ONCE THERE WERE NINE, TRIM GREY SHIPS
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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, 15 May 1945" written on reverse Courtesy of Susan Parsons
Two views of V & W Class destroyer, probably HMS Wolfhound, berthing at Stavanger Courtesy of Susan Parsons
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
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 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
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.
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 (LO2) berthed alongside at Stavanger, Norway
"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" Probably to repel friendly civilian borders!
"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
Can anybody identify Harry Kain and his shipmates on Wolsey? Posing with the HA twin 4.6 inch Guns (left) and with the leopard crest of HMS Wolsey
named after Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530), Lord Chancelor to Henry
VIII, whose coat of arms included four leopard faces
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 Forsterat 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. Wolfhound was the "trot boat" carrying mail and passengers through the inner leads between the ports and Rosyth. Courtesy of Peter Scott
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