The Liberation of Norway:
(L56) and HMS Wolsey (L02) 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 by Ross Kennedy 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. Ross Kennedy was aboard HMS Wolfhound
which together with HMS Wolsey was
sent to Stavanger in the county of Rogaland near the south west tip of Norway's rugged coast and "for three
glorious weeks ran a 'mailboat service' day and night through the
inner leads 400 miles north to Bergen and Trondheim, scarcely 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 Ross 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.
Norwegian 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 minesweepers 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 spray 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 home 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,
scarcely 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 Rosyth 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 of the ships had been ordered home to pay off. Wolfhound's 27th birthday had been celebrated on 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 the trim grey ships - Wolfhound, Wolsey, Vivacious, 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
The situation in Stavanger when HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey arrived
Two extracts from locally published books supplied by Carolyn Fjeld, Stavanger Library:
about German capitulation reached Norway and Stavanger on the 7th May
when 350,000 Germans were still in Norway. The newspaper Rogaland distributed a flyer with the heading PEACE. And the newspaper Stavanger Avis
wrote on the 8th May: "Thousands of people celebrated peace yesterday
evening and night ... they gathered in the centre of town. Only those
with something to be ashamed of tried to hide. People put on nice
spring clothes and from this day the blackout was repealed".
The Joyful days: pictures of the peace celebration in Stavanger, Spring 1945; by Marit Karin Alsvik, 1995
prisoners were set free. Miliray and civil leaders prepared to take
over and the Gestapo left their headquarter in Eiganesveien. Early on 8
May the police chef Chr. Benneche and his staff took control and got
rid of the NS people there. The newspapers started publishing
uncensored news. After Churchill's peace proclamation at 3 pm Crown
Prince Olav and King Haakon broadcast their thanks to the Norwegian
people and the home forces.
The resistance fight 1940-45; by Knut Stahl, 1962
The papers welcomed the allies and the British warships to Stavanger and the county of Rogaland
English warships arrive at Stavanger
"A British flotilla anchored yesterday evening in the harbour. There were
destroyers and other ships. Among those on board were the Norwegian District Commander of the South of Norway, Colonel Finn
Becker, and Information officer, Johannes Seland. Johannes Seland was editor of the newspaper Vest-Agder
in Farsund from 1934. He escaped to Great Britain in 1942, where
he was Information Secretary for the Norwegian government in London.
Some of the destroyers anchored today at the quay
and the Dockmasters' guardroom. Lots of people came to see them and
were full of joy to see the English crew. Greetings were exchanged, and
the atmosphere was very warm."
And further on:
"We have been
looking at dull grey and green uniforms in our streets for five years
and with grim faces kept our thoughts to ourselves. It is a relief to
meet allied soldiers as friends. They look stout-hearted in their
colourful uniforms, not at all dull and boring and they are very
friendly. In fact, many of these guys are soldiers who have been
fighting with the common enemy so it is no wonder that they became our
friends. It is with the greatest joy that we open our homes to them. We
know that the Norwegian boys who have been in England were met in the
most cordial way and treated by the English as best friends. They have
been invited into their homes, and warm ties of friendship have been
formed. We can now repay their friendship, not just as a duty but as a
pleasure for all Norwegian women and men.
the other hand, it is not nice to see that the children plague the
soldiers by begging for sweets and autographs. Tourists in the
Mediterranean countries experience such things, but it is not good that
the soldiers experience things like this in Norway. Parents must stop
their children from begging."
200 happy school children visited the destroyer “Wolfhound”
Chocolate, movie and “Silent Night” at a brilliant party The Officers and crew had as much fun as the children
Two hundred children from elementary school were yesterday invited to a so-called “Tea Party” aboard the destroyer HMS Wolfhound,
the first warship to arrive at Stavanger last week. After a short
trip north, it was expected to return to Stavanger yesterday afternoon.
Each school class were represented by one pupil - after a lottery - and
the 200 lucky ones, with their teachers in front, looked with
excitement out over the fjord when the destroyer came slowly towards
the town. Wolfhound seemed to
them like a ship from an adventure story. Captain Easten, First
Lieutenant, and the rest of the officers received the children at the
gangway - not to forget Santa Claus and two pirates who shook hands
with them, one by one. Yes, it was an adventure that the children will
never will forget. Once upon a time…
Carefully, the children put their little hands in the seamen’s rough
hands, looked cautiously up at the pirates and hurried on. A few of
them, a little more brave, tried a shy “How do you do” - great fun for
the officers and crew. Others had picked flowers in the garden, and
Santa Claus was standing smiling with the his arms full of flowers,
when the last had come on board.
The group went to the tables. Officers and seamen took care of one
pupil each, and at last the crowd sat down at the tables. And what a
work the “Wolfhound” men had done! All the saloons were decorated with
Norwegian and British flags and and signal flags. Big V’s were shining
from every wall, drawn and painted. On a special place could we read
“Velkommen” - written in Norwegian, in white, blue and red.
The tables were like a picture in a storybook. The tablecloths were
almost covered with white buns, bread, cakes and coffee, bread rings of
all shapes, jam. Nothing lacking. There was milk too, and real coffee.
You can guess how the enthusiasm shone out of the children's twinkling
eyes. One of the officers said that no one had to stop eating before
they were absolutely full. What was left over they could take home.
And while the tune of “Silent Night” was heard from the loudspeakers,
the children got a Christmas meal which will be remembered by them as
the greatest ever. At the end the pupils got ten chocolates each. A
movie was shown, the idea of Petty Officer John Ralph, Senior PO Pawley
and S.A. Bussens. After that, the pupils were taken on a tour of
In the meantime, there was a short solemn moment in the wardroom
aft. Bishop Skagestad and Deputy Mayor Middelthon, among other, were
present. Principal Øiestad thanked the hosts with a short speech
for their great hospitality. He emphasized the good relationship
between England and Norway in a brilliant way. Øiestad handed the
Captain a Norwegian silk flag as a memory of the occasion.
In return, Captain Easten - A/Lt.Cdr. Thomas Aitken Easton, RNVR - said:
officers and seamen have looked forward to this as much as the children
did. We have looked forward to it as if we were children. We are sorry
that not all the children could be here. The school children were
invited by Captain Eastern, Officers and seamen. Everyone have given
their own rations to give their little Norwegian friends a joyful time."
All restraint was eventually abandoned. Signal lamps were used by
Norwegian trainees with chocolate around their mouths and English steel
helmets on their heads. The big guns also. The men of the Wolfhound
took the children by storm. The feast they gave the children in
Stavanger will never be forgotten. Thank you very much, all of you!
Petty Officer John Ralph of HMS Wolfhound also managed to get British pen pals for 2,420 girls in the Stavanger area! And every Christmas, until at least the early 1950`s, Johnny Ralph
sent his annual Christmas greetings to the people of Stavanger, via the
Peter Scott's memories of HMS Wolfhound at Stavanger
felt sorry for the
German soldiers who had married Norwegians, decided to remain in Norway
and were regarded as traitors. He 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. Some, of course had,
having fought with the resistance, Millorg, and other had escaped to
Britain to join the armed forces there. Peter would not have known the
complicated history of Norway during the war years and observed the
scene with an outsider's eyes.
Scott was a telegraphist with Combined Operations during the D-Day
landings and spent spent six weeks on Gold Beach communicating between
the beach master and his ship offshore. In February 2016 he was awarded
the Légion d’Honneur "in recognition of your acknowledged military
engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France
during the second world war". Peter was 91 when he died shortly before
HMS Wolfhound, pennant number L56, berthed at Stavanger Wolfhound was the "trot boat" carrying mail and passengers through the inner leads between the ports and Rosyth. Courtesy of Susan Parson
Fred Gilleard's photographs of HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey at Stavanger
Gilleard was an 18 year old apprentice bricklayer when he joined the
Navy on the 14 December 1943 and after basic training at HMS Glendower in north Wales was posted to HMRT Bustler in May 1944. Bustler
was a 3,200 HP Admiralty Rescue Tug engaged in the laying of the PLUTO
"pipeline under the ocean" which carried oil across the seabed beneath
the English Channel to the Normandy beaches to fuel the tanks and
vehicles advancing from the beach head against German forces. In July
1944 Fred was posted from an Admiralty tug to the battleship, HMS Malaya, from one extreme to the other and joined HMS Wolfhound in October.
Fred Gilleard was an AB on HMS Wolfhound from October 1944 to June 1945. HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey berthed
at Stavanger on the 15 May 1945 and were greeted by crowds of
enthusiastic Norwegians. The photographs below 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.
"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
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.
But we are still trying to identify the:
"Norwegian 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 - who were
going home for the first time in uniform and stood in rain and spray for hours waiting for the
clouds to part on the mountains around Flekkepiord and Egersund" when HMS Wolfhound brought them home to Stavanger.
According to Eric Ettrup, an authority on the wartime history of Stavanger:
must have been part of the Special Forces attachment that travelled
with the first ships to Stavanger. Most of these were SOE agents
trained at SOE's Special Training School STS 25. They were mainly radio
operators, many with experience from earlier operations in Norway.
There were also British and Norwegian “Civil Affairs” officers on the
destroyers, they were the ones who were most welcome. Wolsey and Wolfhound
brought some 40 tons of supplies including coffee, milk and canned
beef, which hadn`t been sold in Norway for years.They also brought
medicine for the local hospital. This must have been very welcome to a
city close to starvation."
U-901, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans Schenk, was
forced to surface by a Coastal Command B-24 aircraft off the Norwegian
coast and ordered to Stavanger, where Schenk surrendered to the Royal
Navy (Admiralty War Diary) on the day HMS Wolfhound and Wolsey
at Stavanger. These photographs were provided by Eric Ettrup, a member
of a small group of researchers in Stavanger who have been researching
the occupation of Stavanger for many years with a view to publishing a
book. Further details will be added later. Can anybody identify the
officers in the photographs?
Top: HMS Wolsey (L02) and the surrendered German U-Boat U-901 which entered Stavanger harbour on 15 May 1945 Below:
The senior naval officer (left) is believed to be Kapitänleutnant
Hans Schenk, the commanding officer of U-901, with an RNVR
Lieutenant guarded by paratroopers from 1st Airborne Division Courtesy of Eric Ettrup
Harry Kain and his 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 from Alzheimer's and had to move from his former
address at 6 Lewman Close, Probus, Truro, into the Belmont House
Nursing Home in Bodmin. 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-coordinator at the care home where Harry spent his last years, emailed
me digital copies.
The photographs were fascinating but raised more questions than they
answered. The ones of most interest to me were those of HMS Wolfhound and HMS Wolsey
at Stavanger but they included a few family photographs and a
photograph of Harry with friends taken at a pub in Lostwithiel (below).
On the 17 April this year the Cornish Guardian
published an 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 was hoping readers of that article or a visitor to this web page
would contact me before the anniversary of the "nine trim
grey ships" arriving at the ports on the west coast of Norway on the 15 May 1945.
Marion Gould read the article in the Cornish Guardian
and got in touch. She had known Harry for twenty years and was with him
when he died. Marion is the lady with her arm round Harry’s neck
sitting between him and the bearded gentleman in the photograph at the
Royal Oak in Lostwithiel. She told me that Harry had lots of friends
and lived in a bungalow at Probus, Truro, before Alzheimers robbed him
of the life he loved. He was a fanatical Arsenal fan and Marion gave
him a bed cover in the Arsenal colours and he was wrapped in it and
buried with his Mother in St Pancras cemetery, Camden, London. Jim Turner was in Portugal and did not see the article in the Cornish Guardian
until he returned home. Jim had known Harry since he came to Cornwall
after his Mother died and rented the Blue House in Portloe near Veryan
where he went camping. Harry was a keen sportsman all his life. He
played football up to the age of 67, played cricket in Summer and went
swimming every morning when living in Veryan. He had worked as a
commercial traveller selling tools and exhibited at trade fairs around
the country. Harry liked nothing better than sitting in front of a fire
with friends in the local pub roasting chestnuts and drinking a pint of
Doom Bar while watching Arsenal play on TV. Harry never married but he
was engaged to “Doreen” before the war and they stayed good friends all
their lives. Doreen was too infirm to travel to Cornwall for the
funeral but her sister came instead.
She quickly discovered that Harry was an only child born in Mile End,
London, in 1921 the son of a stevedore’s labourer. His Mother, Rosina
Dye (top right) was the daughter of a dock labourer, who lived in
Gladesmuir Road, Islington, a few doors away from her sister, Emily
Louisa Zimmer (nee Dye).
Harry's Aunt, Emily Dye, married Conrad Zimmer whose grandparents were
born in Germany. Their two sons married the Drablow sisters and I was
able to contact their daughters, Harry Kain’s closest living relatives.
Neither knew anything about Harry’s wartime service in the Navy but I
am hoping that one of them will apply to the Admiralty for a copy of
his service record. The cousin who knew him best is Yvonne Porter, born
on VE Day 1945, the daughter of Maisie, one of the Zimmer sisters.
Harry never spoke about the war but one of his photographs shows him as
a seventeen year old Lance Corporal in a "Dad's Army" unit of old men
and young boys which was included in a full page article in the Cornish Guadian on 15 May.
He joined the Navy when he was eighteen in 1942. He reminisced with Jim
Turner about playing cricket in
West Africa which suggested to me that in 1943 he may have served in
one of the destroyers of the Freetown Escort Force or in the
depot ship at Freetown,
You can see Harry Kain's wartime photographs below
Please contact Bill Forster if you knew Harry Kain and can tell me more about his wartime service in the Royal Navy
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 outboard 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 boarders!
Can anybody identify Harry Kain's 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 Chancellor to Henry
VIII, whose coat of arms included four leopard faces
Ordinary Signalman Henry John "Harry"
Kain JX401063 is on the left in the photograph on the right. The only other
seaman to be identified in Harry's photographs is "Spider", the ship's
dog, wearing his Sailor's Suit who is visible peering out through the
roundel on the left below Harry.
Cyril Horton, the son of an AB in HMS Wolsey, told me
"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 collector, traveled everywhere for
free. When the Wolsey was paid off he left with a sailor from
Lincolnshire. My dad, AB Cyril Horton, Quarters Rating A Gun, told me this
many years ago."
Cyril Horton's Photographs
Cyril Horton's father, also called Cyril, was a member of the Crew for "A" Gun on HMS Wolsey:
"Wiggy" Bennett smiling at the camera and
Cyril Horton with his back to the camera Click to view full size
The Crew of A Gun HMS Wolsey
Back row L/R: Murphy, White, my dad Cyril Horton, "Trader" Horn
front row L/R: Murphy and "Wiggy" Bennet; the next 2 the names escape me Courtesy of Cyril Horton who identified his father's shipmates
Celebrations ashore in Stavanger on Norway's National Day
The ship's company of HMS Wolsey marching through the streets of Stavanger on Norway's National Day, 17 May 1945
The parade is led by Sub Lt John Mervyn Tommey RNVR, the Gun Control Officer (GCO) in HMS Wolsey I hope to hear more from Mervyn Tommey who is 94 and e-mailed me in September
Velkome Tilbake - Welcome Back Left: King Haakon VII Right:
Princess Astrid, Crownprince Olav V (later King Olav V), Prince Harald
V (later Crownprince, now King), Crownprincess Märtha, Princess
Illustrations from the celebratory leaflet brought back from Stavanger by Fred Gilleard Courtesy of Susan Parsons
While these events were taking place at Stavanger my father, Lt(E) William Redvers Forster RNR, was in HMS Venomous at Kristiansand South on the Skagerack with HMS Valorous A German officer surrendered to my father by handing over his Luger pistol and a Norwegian gave him a beautiful hand made model of a traditional open boat as a gift for me, his five year old son
you have stories or photographs of HMS Wolfhound you would like to
contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster
you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your
family who served in HMS Wolfhound
you should first obtain a copy of their service record