Between October 1941 and the end of
March 1942, Warships Weeks were organised in cities, towns and villages
throughout Great Britain. The intention was to raise a sum by
investment or deposit in all types of war savings representing the cost
of building one of His Majesty’s ships ranging from the smallest to the
largest vessels. Once the target had been raised the community adopted
the vessel along with its crew and the bond was strengthened by
presentations in recognition of the money raised. Adoption plaques were
presented by the Admiralty to the community and a plaque presented by
the community to the adopted vessel. Links were maintained by the
writing of letters and the provision of comforts and whenever possible
visits were arranged to the adopting area.
Most of the V&W Class
destroyers in commission with the Royal Navy were adopted during the
Warship Week scheme and in a number of cases local sea cadet units
later took the name of the ship. To
find more about Warship Weeks see Peter Schofield’s article on‘National Savings and Warship Weeks’.
Worcester Cathedral and the River Severn, Worcester
Source Pictures of England Copyright Luc Hermans
HMS Worcestermade six trips to Dunkirk between 28 May and 6 June 1940 and brought back 4,350 men including members of the Worcestershire Regiment, and at least one of them, Lance Corporal Pethord, came from Worcester. Despite this the most notable event in the life of HMS Worcester was
the part she and her sister ships, all V & W Class destroyers,
played in the attempt to intercept and torpedo the German Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the Cruiser Prinze Eugen on their Channel Dash from Brest to the mouth of the River Elbe during which HMS Worcester
was nearly lost.
The Channel Dash is mainly remembered today for the
heroic attack by six "stringbags", biplane Swordfish torpedo bombers,
on the German ships but more lives were lost aboard HMS Worcester. The Channel Dash took place on the 12 February 1942 and HMS Worcester was still in the naval dockyard under repair when Worcester held its Warships Week a month later from 7 - 14 March.
The Order of Service
Sunday 8 March, the day after the commencement of "Warships Week" in
Worcester, a service was held in the Gaumont Cinema, conducted by the
Chaplain of the Fleet.
Why was the service held in a
cinema instead of the city's cathedral? The most obvious explanation
which comes to mind is that it was wartime and fuel needed to be conserved for warships rather than heating
large drafty buildings.
But a good turnout was needed
to get Warships Week off to a good start and a service did not seem
likely to attract a large crowd of potential lenders. One does wonder
whether the service was followed by the showing of a patriotic film
about the wartime Navy?
Questions without answers! The answers my be found in the pages of the Worcester Evening News which can be viewed on microfilm in the Hive, the Local Studies Library in Worcester.
I would like to appeal to
local historians in Worcester to answer this conundrum and come up with
further contributions to this page about Warships Week in Worcester and
the links between the City and HMS Worcester.
Worcestershire Archives hold the key documents related to "Warships Week" in their collection at The Hive:"two
printed programmes and timetables of events for the week, one official
and one lightly annotated draft outlining instructions for the
organisers and a sheet showing amounts raised" (Reference 496.5
BA9360/Cab 22/Box 44/2). I would like to make them more easily
accessible by providing PDFs of scans or photographs on this website
which is mainly accessed by the families of the men who served in HMS Worcester.
I am hoping a local historian in Worcester will be willing to copy them for me.
city of Worcester raised £769,173 during its Warship's Week from 7 - 14 Match 1942 to adopt HMS Worcester. The
Admiralty presented Worcesterwith the crest of the ship mounted on a
wooden shield to commemorate the adoption of HMS Worcester by he City and the City presented a plaque bearing the crest of the City and its motto "In Bello in Pace Fidelis". HMS Worcester
adopted this motto "in war and peace a faithful city" as her own. The
ship's crest and the plaque hang alongside the bell of HMS Worcester in the Randall Room at the Guildhall.
The story of the part played by HMS Worcester
in the Channel Dash was the reason the V & W Destroyer Association,
formed in 1993, held its annual reunion at Worcester in 1997. A
reception was held for the veterans and their wives in the lower
Hall of the Guildhall, built in 1772 to replace
the medieval merchants house of 1225, and "Stormy" Fairweather, the Chairman of the Association, presented the oil painting of HMS Worcester which hangs alongside the ship's bell and the crest and plaque exchanged after her adoption in 1942.
Please e-mail Bill Forster if you are interested in helping research HMS Worcester and her links to the city which adopted her in 1942
V & W Destroyer Association was formed in 1993 and the veterans and
their families held their annual reunion in the Guildhall in Worcester
in 1997 BIll Wedge (HMS Worcester), Ken Foster (HMS Viceroy), Ron Rendle (HMS Wishart) and "Stormy" Fairweather (HMS Westcott) have been identified in the photograph and their stories are told on this website along with many others Copyright Newsquest Midlands Ltd Negative 97/2708 /-9a
The painting of HMS Worcester (I96) presented by the V & W Destroyer Association to the Mayor of Worcester on 7 June 1997
It hangs alongside the ship's bell of HMS Worcester in the Randall Room at the Guildhall, Worcester Painted by G. Garwood who served in HMS Valorous
The plaque presnted to HMS Worcester after her adoption by the City in March 1942
The crest of HMS Worcester mounted on a wooden shield was presented by the Admiralty to "the citizens of Worcester"
The plaque and shield hang alongside the bell of HMS Worcester in the Guildhall
PO Cook, Thomas Herbert McGee (P/MX 51049), the son of George and Alice McGee of Yew
Tree cottage Harvington, joined the Royal Navy in 1934 and married
Grace Turner of Feckenham early in 1940. He was 26 when he died and is buried in Shotley Royal Naval Cemetery.
This memorial to his memory
was errected in St James Church, Harvington, fifteen miles north of
Worcester, two years after the war in November 1947. See also: Harvington's War Dead
The Dean of Worcester Cathedral was present and the service was
presided over by the Vicar but the tablet was unveiled by Lieut James
McGee with these words:
"We present this memorial to
St James Church in memory of of Thomas Herbert McGee and ask the Rector
and the Church Wardens to accept it from his family to the Glory
The Evesham Standard & West Midland Observer published a lengthy report on the unveiling of the tablet in their issue of 29 November 1947.
At present nothing more is known of Thomas Herbert McGee. If his family
still lives in Harvington I would like to hear from them in the 80th
Anniversary year of the Channel Dash in which he and 26 of his
shipmates in HMS Worcester died.
Two officers and four men in HMS Worcester were killed during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in 1940. Lance Corporal Pethord ofthe 8th Batallion of the Worcestershire Regiment was picked up from the beaches at Dunkirk by a boat from HMS
Worcester and brought to Dover by Worcester and - since he came from Worcester - "felt quite at home". The Worcestershire Regiment Museum provided first hand accounts of the rescue of the Batallion which can be read as a PDF by clicking on this link.
I would like to acknowledge Aimee
Allen of Worcester City Council for taking the photographs of the
ship's bell, the crests and the painting in the Randall Room at the Guildhall in Worcester And Luc Hermans and Pictures of England for the photograph of Worcester Cathedral
And Carl Jukes for researching the story of Thomas Herbert McGee
you have stories or photographs of HMS Worcester you would like to
contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster
to the Home Page for HMS Worcester Return to the Home Page of the V & W Destroyer Association Return to the Index Page for the 69
V & W Class Destroyers
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