Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS WORCESTER

Paiting by Montagu Daqson of HMS Worcester under fire duringb the CHannel Dask to intercept the German warships in the English Channel
HMS Worcester launches her assault on the pocket battle ships on 12 Febuary 1942
Pinted by by Montague Dawson

The modified W class destroyer Worcester was built by J. Samuel White at Cowes, launched on October 24th. 1919 and then towed across to Portsmouth Dockyard for completion.  She was commissioned on September 20th. 1922, the last but one of the class to be put into service.  In 1924 she was part of the 4th. Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet and apart from a brief spell in China she spent most of the interwar years in the Med. 

She was extensively refitted from 1938 onwards before recommissioning in 1940 under the command of
Cdr. John Hamilton Allison, RN in time to take part in the evacuation from Dunkirk during which she was damaged and many of the men were killed ot wounded.  The photographs below of the ship's Company and her officers and the ship's football team taken while she was under repair in Poplar Dock after Dunkirk  From then on she was based at Harwich and served most of the war escorting East Coast convoys with the occasional trip to Arctic Russia escorting  Arctic convoys

 On 12 February 1942 HMS Worcester (Lt Cdr Earnest Colin Coates RN)  was severely damaged during the Channel Dash action when the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen escaped from France to Germany via the English Channel. Click on the link to find out about the part played  by Worcester in this action and to see a PDF of the list of the men killed or wounded compiled by Surg Lt David C  Jackson. She was undergoing repairs in the naval dockyard at Poplar when she was adopted by the City of Worcester after a successful Warships Week "National Savings Programme" from 7 - 14 March. After a lengthy period in dockyard hands she returned to the North Sea and convoy escort duties. 

In December 1943 she struck a mine but refused to sink and was towed round to Sheerness but was not considered worth repairing and taken to London as an accommodation ship and source of spares for her sister ships.  She was renamed Yeoman in June 1945 probably to release the name Worcester for use on a new destroyer and finally scrapped at Grays in February 1947.

For a more detailed chronolgy see

Commanding Officers

Lt Cdr James Abernethy McCoy RN (Dec 1931 – July 1932) 
Cdr. John Hamilton Allison, RN (March - June 1940)
Lt.Cdr. Ernest Colin Coats, RN (June 1940 - July 1942)
Lt.Cdr. William Anthony Juniper, RN (July 1942 - Feb 1943)
Lt. John Anthony Hodnot Hamer, RN (Feb 1943 - Feb 1944)


This short list of officers known to have served on HMS Worcester during World War II, further names will be added later. The links are to entries on the web site.

Sub Lt. Guy Agard-Butler, RN (May 1941 - Feb 1942)
Sub Lt. William Bowmer RNVR (5 Dec 1941 -
C.Eng. Hugh Griffiths RN (June 1940 -
Sub.Lt. Ronald Hardman RNR
Sub Lt N.L. Humpreys RN (April - June 1940) killed at Dunkirk
Surg Lt David C. Jackson RNVR (Sept 1941 - Feb 1942)
Lt. A.T. Morgan RNVR (April 1940 -)
Wt Eng T. Smillie (Aug 1939 -
Lt. Anthony R.Taudevin, RNVR (July 1941 -
Sub Lt J.F.N. Wedge, RNVR (June 1941 -
Gunner (T) L.G. Wellman (Aug 1940 -
Gunner (T) E.F. Wheeler (April 1940 -
Surg Lt F. Whitwell RNVR (May 1940 -

Lt Dennis Williams RNVR (July 1940 - Dec 1941)

Lt. F.W.L. Winterbottom RN (June 1940 -
Lt. F.G. Woods RN (- April 1940)

Former Full Members of the V & W Destroyer Assoociation
H. Barnett (Portsmouth), R. Barton (London), H. Does (Salisbury, Wilts), H. Davis (Caldicot, Gwent), A.W. Eaton (Nottingham), Vic Green (Cheltenham, Glos.), Hardman (Haslemere (Surrey), J. Henley (Witham, Essex), Norman Hollis (Wrexham, Clwyd),
Dr David  Jackson (Brisbane, Australia), R. Madden (Kings Lynn, Norfolk), J.F.N. "Bill" Wedge (Carshalton, Surrey), D. Williams (Troon, Ayrshire)

The Training Ship of the Sea Cadet Unit at Worcester is TS Worcester
When the V & W Destroyer Association was dissolved in April 2017 its funds were distributed to the eight Sea Cadet Units with Training Ships named after a V & W Class destroyer

Please get in touch if you have a family member who served in HMS Worcester

This web site about HMS
Worcester was researched and edited by
Vic Green, Hon Secretary of the V & W Destroyer Association

Vic's father, who had the same name as his son, was a wireman in the torpedo branch on HMS Worcester from 1940-2 and this inspired his son to spend several years researching her history:

"At that time electrical supply aboard ships was dealt with by the Torpedo branch, they covered all the low power circuits such as telephones, gunnery torpedo and depth charge  circuits, supplies to radio and so on.  Dad was rated as Wireman and his action station generally alternated between the rear of the bridge and aft at the torpedo tubes.  During the Channel Dash he was on the bridge, his opposite number was on the tubes, had it been the other way round I would not be here now!"


The name "Worcester" was first carried by a 48 gun warship as part of Cromwell’s Navy of the Commonwealth in 1650; the name was continued in 1698, 1735, 1769, 1820, 1876 and finally 1918. The third Worcester had the distinction of having a certain Horatio Nelson as Acting Fourth Lieutenant; he joined on October 1st. 1776 and spent 6 months aboard before leaving having passed the examination for Lieutenant and no doubt looking for greater glory!

The fifth and sixth Worcesters give rise to confusion since they were both training ships established to train boys for a career in the Merchant Navy. The Admiralty granted permission for them to use the HMS prefix but they did not fly the white ensign, they carried the defaced blue ensign to show their honorary Royal Naval Reserve status, all very well for them but sadly Google can’t tell the difference so an internet search will throw up thousands of irrelevant sites.

The V & W Worcester was ordered from J. Samuel White shipbuilders on March 20th 1918 as one of 44 Torpedo Boat Destroyers and Leaders most of which were cancelled when the Armistice of November 11th. 1918 was declared. Worcester, however, survived this first hurdle and in August 1919 J. Samuel White were instructed, “Work of dismantling Wrangler & Werewolf may be proceeded with at once, also work necessary to launch Worcester”, which finally took place on October 24th 1919 after which she was to be towed to Portsmouth Dockyard for completion. Fairfield Shipyard in Glasgow were instructed to send the machinery they had made for HMS Wave to Portsmouth to be fitted aboard Worcester. It must have fitted because in September 1922 the full power trials took place and presumably the engines were satisfactory since the report is mostly concerned with excessive vibration of the cupboards in the galley.  Gunnery trials took place later in the month and the ship was formally commissioned on 16 November 16 1922 with the crew from HMS Vampire.

Her first commission was with the 1st. Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet, when she was sent to Ireland to support the Irish Free State Government though it was never clear what support a destroyer could give. This was followed by a period at Gallipoli to curtail the activities of Mustapha Kummel though again how this was to be achieved was a mystery to the crew (and remains a mystery to researchers.)

Worcester spent most of the interwar years as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. This was a time of cutbacks when most orders were prefaced by W.U.E (With Utmost Economy) and destroyers went in and out of reserve on a rotation basis which at least meant that they all received a certain amount of maintainance. 1936 saw the hard up Admiralty swopping some destroyers for a liner to be used as a training ship, with her customary talent for survival Worcester avoided that fate.

As the war clouds began to loom training became ever more important and on 16 February 1937 some of the destroyers were at sea off Malta practising torpedo attacks with the cruiser Galatea as their target.  The log entries are a masterpiece of brevity:

HMS Active            11.18 collided with Worcester
                               11.19 collided with Antelope
HMS Antelope        11.21 in collision with Active
HMS Worcester      11.20 in collision with Active
                                11.21 Active in collision with Antelope

And by 7 o’clock that night Worcester and Active had discharged fuel and ammunition and were tucked up in No. 3 dock at Malta.

By the end of 1937 Worcester was back in U.K. waters as part of the Portsmouth Local Flotilla for Gunnery School duties before paying off into dockyard control at Chatham for a lengthy refit. She recommissioned as part of the 11th. Destroyer Flotilla, Western Approaches on May 9th. 1940 with Cdr. J.H. Allinson in command and Lt. F.G. Woods as First Lt.  Lt. Woods was one of the four who escaped from the submarine Thetis when she went down in Liverpool Bay in June 1939.  Many people blamed him (unjustly in my view) for the  catastrophe which cost 99 lives and as a result the other officers sent him to Coventry so orders had to be passed to him via a signalman, not a pleasant position to be in.

May 25th. 1940 saw Worcester some 120 miles north of Lands End when she received orders to proceed to Dover, the evacuation from Dunkirk was about to begin.

The evacuation of the troops from Dunkirk
Worcester made six trips to Dunkirk and brought back 4,350 troops

The Wardroom of HMS Worcester
Sub Lt John F.N. "Bill" Wedge, RNVR

Bill Wedge was the last officer alive who took part in the Channel Dash when he died aged 98 on the 7th January 2020

Officers serving in HMS Worcester in 1940
This photograph of the new CO, "Dreamy" Coats, and his officers was taken in Poplar Dock, East London, while she was undergoing repairs after Dunkirk
Back row left to right:  Sub. Lt. Dennis Williams RNVR, Sub.Lt. Ronald Hardman RNR, C.Eng. Hugh Griffiths RN, Lt. F.W.L. Winterbottom RN, Gunner (T) L.G. Wellman
Seated left to right:  Lt. F.G. Woods RN ,  Lt.Cdr. E.C. Coats RN, Lt. Morgan RNVR
Two officers killed at Dunkirk are missing:  Sub Lt Humpreys joined on the 20 April and died from his wounds on 2 June 1940 and 
26 year old Wt Engineer Thomas Smillie from Dumbarton who served in several V & W destroyers
Courtesy of Vic Green

Bill Wedge wrote this informal account of his fellow officers in the Wardroom of HMS Worcester in 1941-2

"Much has been written about service in the V and Ws, and 'Hard Lying' very successfully covers almost every aspect except perhaps life in the wardroom, which I joined in Worcester in May  1941 as a very green midshipman after service as the telegraphist in a magnetic-minesweeper, HM Trawler Norse, based in the Thames estuary. Wardroom was a term used to describe the officers as a group as well as the actual room.

Bill Wedge's Mess Bill, 1941Bill WedgeThe wardroom was overseen by the First Lieutenant. The catering was run by a Petty Officer steward and the three shillings a day messing item on my bill from 1941 (on right) must have been paid to him to enhance the basic food allowance. The steward reported to the Mess Secretary and the signature on the Mess Bill is that of the Commissioned Engineer, Hugh Griffiths, who was awarded the DSC for getting us home safely after the Channel Dash action. He kept the accounts, issued the monthly bills and bought the duty-free drinks and cigarettes from a firm called Saccone and Speed whose representatives had access to HM Ships.

Officers and men were also entitled to buy cheaply monthly tins of cigarettes or pipe tobacco supplied by the Navy. Pipe smokers could instead take bunches of tobacco leaves which were placed on a piece of cloth, sprinkled with rum from someones ration and bound very tightly with thin rope. After some weeks this produced a hard block of tobacco from which were shaved pipe fillings which were very strong and, to me, a very unattractive smoke.

The captain had his own cabin in which he ate alone and only came into the wardroom if invited. On the other hand he would occasionally ask officers to join him, in my case to play chess, rather unwillingly.

The other officers ate and spent much of their spare time in the wardroom, where there was a gramophone fed by members’ own records. Probably deliberately to encourage physical activity the First Lieutenant  would sometimes initiate a “rough house” - some sort of game involving wrestling.

Executive officers never drank at sea, though the ship’s company still had their rum, so almost as soon as we were back in harbour we were likely to send or receive a signal “RPC ” - Request the Pleasure of your Company [for a lunch time drink]. The reply was “WMP”, With Much Pleasure [or occasionally “MRU”, Much Regret Unable. Those free to accept almost always  drank gin and Rose’s lime juice which cost the mess twopence a time. Whisky was three pence, and few risked the unpopularity of asking for a sixpence-a-glass beer. Wren officers were, of course sometimes entertained and, rather surpisingly, non commissioned officers and I married a Plymouth boats' crew member. I think the cost of mess entertainment was shared equally between the members of the Mess. Runs ashore for the then youthful, non-drinking virtuous me, at base at Dovercourt, were for a cinema visit, a café or a little shopping.

Away from the social side, each officer was responsible for a part-of-ship and its men [forecastle, quarterdeck etc.] but the First Lieutenant was responsible for the daily allocation of work, among other things. Wardroom members were allowed the services of a volunteer seaman to do their dhobeying, polish shoes, bring hot water to cabin washstands, etc. He also filled the wardroom bath as required - this was in the ship’s office and had a wooden cover which served  as the desk top. The office was my responsibility and moistened papers were not unknown.

Lt Cdr E. Colin Coats RN
Had served in first war. Greying rather curly hair, reddish complexion. Light blue eyes. Wife Swedish. Two children - girls, I think. He often had a pleasant half smile, but was rather taciturn and difficult to know. Was certainly keen to get into action and during my time with him collected a Mention in Despatches, a DSC and a DSO. At sea he rarely left the bridge, where he sat, muffled in a heavy woollen jersey, seaboot stockings, an old reefer jacket and duffel coat. He drank gin, of course and liked Wrens [didn’t we all?] He had been called back as a reservist, having been into some sort of antique dealing, which he probably continued after the war. Lived in Kensington.

Lt. Morgan RNVR
First Lieutenant. Broke fingers in collapsed  deckchair very soon after I  joined, April /May 1941 [Morgan joined Worcester in April 1940].

Lt Anthony R Taudevin RNVR
First Lieutenant, bearded, dark haired. Hard-working, efficient. Popular. Was, I think, In some sort of market gardening in Cheshire.
NB Taudevin joined Worcester 23 July 1941 (Naval List) so could not be the bearded officer in the photograph taken while Worcester was under repair after Dunkirk. He was probably Lt F G Woods RN who joined in April 1940; Bill Wedge's memory may have let him down.

Sub Lt. Dennis Williams RNVR
Glaswegian. Left soon after I joined. Amusing, cheerful, rather raffish. Grew hair rather longer than most and had a certain style. Survived the war though wounded  in Malta.

Sub Lit. Ronald Hardman RNR
Left soon after I joined. Was taught in  the Conway, a Merchant Navy training ship.  A cheerful  and able man, survived the war and worked in the city.                                         

Lt. F.W.L. Winterbottom RN
Tall, good looking. Typical RN young officer Efficient, friendly. Volunteered for submarine service and was killed in one.

Surg. Lt. David C. Jackson RNVR
An Australian , always keen to point out that he was not RANVR having joined the British Navy after gaining paediatric experience in London. Average build, dark hair, slim. Good company. Became absorbed in “Worcester” history. Wrote an article about the Channel Dash for Blackwoods magazine and later published a book, “One Ship One Company” about the seven Worcesters, 1650-1950. Following the channel action he worked in HMS Dolphin on the development of midget submarines and human torpedoes. After the war he returned home to Brisbane where he practised as a  consultant paediatrician and was president of the Australian College of Paediaterics. He was made a member of the Australian Order (AM) for his services to medicine.

Sub Lt. Guy D. Agard-Butler RN
Slim, dark haired, good looking, charming. Believed to be a vicar’s son. Switched to Fleet Air Arm and was killed flying from Gibraltar.

Commissioned Engineer Hugh Griffiths RN
Tall, well-built, greying hair. Very sound, pleasant man who won a DSC for bringing Worcester back from the channel.

Gunner [T] L.G.C. Wellman
Average build, sturdy, dark haired. Responsible for torpedoes and 12 pounder gun. Pleasant but a little reserved.

Sub Lt. W. Bowmer RNVR
Joined just before channel action. Was later killed in HMS Martin off North Africa.

Bill Wedge was the last survivng officer in HMS Worcester when she took part in the Channel Dash on 12 February 1942 and described his memory of that day on this website. He joined Worcester in May 1941 and Sub Lt J.F.N. Wedge RNVR left while she was under repair after the Channel Dash. He served in HMS Mistral, an Air Target Ship for the FAA, from March to July 1942. After breaking his leg playing rugby he joined HMS Iron Duke, a depot ship at Scapa. In August 1943 he was sent to USA to join the newly built Captain Class frigate HMS Garlies, based on Belfast until June 1945. He joined HMS Wheatland in Plymouth and went into reserve with her at Saltash. In April 1946 rejoined Barclays Bank. Bill Wedge was 98 when he died at Carshalton on 7 January 2020.

Sub Lt John F.N. "Bill" Wedge, RNVR was the last officer alive who took part in the Channel Dash when he died aged 98 on the 7th January 2020
For more about Bill Wedge's life read Ron Crompston's obituary of his father-in-law

The Ship's Company of HMS Worcester after Dunkirk

Ships Company of HMS Worcester after Dunkirk
In all probability all the men in this photograph of the ship's company of HMS Worcester would have had a copy of this photograph.

This copy was supplied by Alan Cowburn, the son of Harry Cowburn whose story is told at the foot of this page. If your family has  better copy do please let me know.

If you can you identify any of the men in this photograph I shall add their names and hope to add further details of their service in the Navy.

The ship's company of HMS Worcester after Dunkirk 1940

This photograph of the Ship's Company of HMS Worcester was taken in Poplar Dock, on the Isle of Dogs in East London, while she was undergoing repairs after the Dunkirk evacuation
The officers can be easily identified by comparison with the photograph below but only six ratings have been identified so far - it is hoped that further names can be added later
Lofty Childs and Tom King are third and second from the end of the long row top right with a smiling Harry Cowburn fifth from right and his friend Charlie Hill, face partly hidden, in. the row in front
Harry Cowburn and Charlie Hill were in the HMS Worcester football team - see the photograph below
Stoker Eddie Hill who was badly wounded in he left arm is on the left in the long row at the back and Harry Philips is sitting crosslegged to the left of the capstan in the front
Courtesy of Vic Green

When I am contacted by the families of the men in this photograph of the ship's Company of HMS Worcester I shall add brief details of their lives with photographs supplied by their families. If you woukd like to add an entry for a member of your family please mail details to me, Bill Forster by clicking on this link, for adding to the website.

Edward "Eddie" Hill, Stoker

Eddie Hill aged 16, cropped from a studio photographEddie Hill in 1940 aged about 40What little I know about Edward Hill was sent to me by his Great Grandson, Ian Parsons. Eddie Hill was born in Rotherham, Yorkshire, on 26 September 1900 and died there in 1992.  If his Service Certificate can be traced it will provide exact details of his service in the Navy, including the names of the ships in which he served.

Ian told me that his Great Grandfather lied about his age when he joined the Royal Navy as a "boy sailor" during the Great War and was 16 when the photograph on the right was taken. Ian was told that:

"He was a stoker on HMS Iron Duke, the flagship of the Grand Fleet, at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. Possibly served on Repulse and Renown during the 1920s. I think he retired from the RN in the early 30s and entered the merchant navy."

He was recalled to the Royal Navy at the outbreak of World War 11 and may have served in another ship before joining HMS Worcester as:

"He was in Norwegian fjord and took a skiff out to do some fishing. Stukas attacked their ship,while out on the water. Apparently all the bombs missed but hundreds of fishes floated to the surface, so the crew had fish for a few weeks. Eddie loved the rough waters off the Bay of Biscay. The new recruits always got sea-sick so he always got their ration of rum."

"After joining HMS Worcester he sustained a serious injury during the Channel Dash. He had a lump of tissue blown off his arm around his elbow. Pieces of shrapnel remained in him until his death. Apparently his second wife removed a piece from his foot ten years later. His first wife died of pneumonia in 1942. He married again around 1949.

Unsure if he continued in Royal Navy or returned to the Merchant Navy but am aware he was in convoys to Russia as I used to wear his old heavy duty naval duffel coat as a boy. He was a career seaman, spending forty years at sea from the age of 16. Two of his sons are still alive, Ian Parson's Grandfather lives in England aged 94 and a son by his second marriage lives in Australia. I am hoping that they will provide further details of his naval service, including his Service Certificate and photographs of HMS Worcester and his shipmates."

The ship's Football team
The football team on the deck of HMS Worcester in Poplar Dock, London 1940
This photograph of the ship's football team was taken on the deck of HMS Worcester while she was being repaired after Dunkirk
It is taken from the same position as the one of the officers above and may have been taken on the same occasion by the same photographer
Harry Cowburn (P/JX 177814) is second from right seated and his  best friend Charlie Hill (P/JX 175343) stands behind him second from right - their story is told below
Courtesy of Alan Cowburn who tells their story below

Harry and Charlie’s Story

Harry Cowburn was born on 29 August 1919 at the mill town of Leigh in Lancashire and left school when he was fourteen. His son Alan Cowburn told me "there were two choices for working class lads in Leigh, coal mine or cotton mill". Harry Cowburn  was working in the cotton mill when he was called up for "the period of the present emergency" on 17 January 1940 and told his son he joined up "to get out of the Mill". He was assigned JX177814 as his service number and after basic training at HMS Royal Arthur, a former Butlins Holiday Camp at Skegness, he joined HMS Worcester as an Ordinary Seaman on 16 April 1940, shortly before the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from Dunkirk.

"Harry joined his first ship HMS
Worcester in April 1940 and quickly struck up a friendship will fellow ‘Northerner’ Charlie Hill (P/JX 175343); they  shared a love for football and both were accomplished amateur players. Charlie lived in Crosby, Liverpool, and Harry some 20 miles away in the mill town of Leigh. Charlie and Harry would travel together to Liverpool on leave and Harry would catch a train for the short journey to Leigh to see his parents. Charlie's girlfriend, Lilian Joyce Levell, but always known as Eileen, proposed to him in a poem (1940 was a leap year, when the lady could propose to the gentleman) and Charlie accepted.

It wasn’t long before they saw action in the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. When I asked Harry about Dunkirk, he said it was undescribable, unless you were there you couldn't comprehend it. He never really mentioned what he was doing, but what impressed him most was howthe Beach Masters operated, the way the soldiers followed orders under the bombing and strafing was awe inspiring. Soldiers, sometimes up to their necks in water, wading out in lines and when they were told "That's it Lads" they just turned around without a word and went back to the beaches.

They both came through the experience unscathed but never forgot what they had seen. When they had disembarked the soldiers after their last trip, the crew slept wherever they happened to be; many years later Harry would say if “you’re tired enough you can sleep on a clothes line”. When
Worcester was being repaired after Dunkirk in Poplar Dock, London, a football match was arranged with another ships’ crew - I don’t know which.  Harry and Charlie were both in the team and this photograph was taken aboard HMS Worcester. Football matches were encouraged in port to boost morale and restore some form of normality.

By now Harry and Charlie had become firm friends and after  Harry had visited his parents in Leigh he would return to Liverpool a day early to have a night out with Charlie, Eileen and one of her friends. He would stay at Eileen’s parents house overnight ready to catch the train South to re-join the ship. When Charlie and Eileen married on 18 June 1941 at St. John Parish Church, Waterloo, Liverpool, Harry, attended the wedding. They continued to meet up whenever they got shore leave.

The Worcester was in action on North Sea convoy escort duty between the Thames estuary and the Firth of Forth where German E-Boats were the main hazard until Worcester was one of the six V & W Class destroyers from the 16DF and 21DF assembled at Harwich for the attack on the German  ships on their dash through the Straits of Dover from Brest to Germany on 12 February 1942. On the day before the action Charlie Hill wrote to Eileen and some brief extracts are given below:

11th February 1942
Wednesday 8:45pm

My Dearest Darling Wife,
Thanks sweet for the lovely letter received today ... Remember me telling you we sunk an E-Boat, well a few of the boys have been awarded the DSM and few have been mentioned.

The next time we get leave I’ll ask Harry if he would like us to go down to his place this time, it would be a nice change if we do, wouldn’t it?

Harry went ashore tonight, I was ok so I’m hoping he’ll bring me a “pint” back, so keep your fingers crossed for me love ... Harry has just come back and good enough he’s brought me a bottle ...

Lots of Love

This was the last letter Charlie wrote before he died on the 13 February from his injuries sustained in the Channel Dash action the previous day. The next correspondence Eileen received was the dreaded telegram from the naval Barracks in Portsmouth informing her of his death. Eileen had been married eight months and was a widow aged 21. Charlie was buried alongside his shipmates in Shotley Cemetery, Eileen and Charlie’s parents attended, as did Harry and those who were able from Shotley Sick Quarters.

Harry was more fortunate, he was hospitalised) for minor injuries to his elbow and thigh and shrapnel abrasions to his head, which he told me everyone got to varying degrees. After Harry was discharged from hospital he was transferred to HMS Vanessa on 29 April 1942 and his ‘home’ shore base changed from Portsmouth to HMS Eaglet in Liverpool. The Vanessa was seconded to long range escort duties in the North Atlantic where Harry encountered what he described as the worst enemy, the weather. Harry served out the war on HMS Vanessa encountering German U-Boats and raging seas; he wasn’t one for talking much about his wartime, he had seen his fair share of action and he would tell the odd story but it was mainly the funny ones which stuck in my memory. When one of his shipmates went missing he was presumed to be ‘lost at sea’ but they found him alive, though not well, two days later; he had fallen over while being violently seasick, into a locker full of wet duffle coats, others sailors then chucked their wet coats into the locker, covering him up!

When sailing out of Liverpool, Harry took every opportunity to either ‘nip home’ to Leigh or visit Eileen and her family to check how she was coping. Harry was doing what Charlie had asked him; that if anything happened to him to make sure Eileen was ok, “to look after her”.  Finally, Harry wrote to Eileen telling her of Charlie's request and asked her to marry him; they had known each other for over three  years and had always got on together when Charlie was alive and since his death. Harry and Eileen married on 10 April 1943 at St.Thomas’s Church Leigh, they managed a short trip to Blackpool to celebrate before Harry had to report back to his ship. Harry and Eileen lived with her parents in Sandon Street, Waterloo, her parents house where she had lived with Charlie.

Eileen Hill became Eileen Cowburn, my mother. Harry and Eileen had two sons; my older brother, Brian Charles Cowburn (1944-2015), named after Charlie, joined the Royal Navy and served in destroyers, including HMS Cassandra, a sister ship of HMS Cavalier, the only surviving wartime destroyer, in Chatham Naval Dockyard.  Harry returned to Leigh in 1951 but not to the Mill; he worked for Anchor Cables (BICC) until he retired and played football for them well into his forties. Harry and Eileen were married until Harry's death in 1989 aged 69, Eileen died in 2012 aged 92, sixty years after the death of her first husband. She had two wedding photographs on her dressing table until the day she died. It seems appropriate to remember their marriage on the 80th anniversary of the Channel Dash.

Eileen and Harry never forgot Charlie; I never heard him mention any other shipmate by name, I am guessing that he did not want to get that close to anyone again during his wartime service."

Alan Cowburn
Son of Harry & Eileen Cowburn

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Worcester 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 Worcester you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Vic Green
Find out how you can help us research this ship and build this web site

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