Click on the links within this brief outline for first hand accounts by
the men who served on HMS Worcester and for a more detailed chronolgy see www.naval-history.net
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
in time to take part in the evacuation from Dunkirk during which she was damaged. After repairs she went to Harwich and served most of the war escorting East Coast convoys with the odd trip north covering Arctic convoys.
She was severely damaged during the Channel Dash action against Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen
on 12 February 1942 and after a lengthy period in dockyard hands returned to the North Sea
and convoy escort duties. In December 1943 she struck a mine but
refused to sink, was towed round to Sheerness but was not considered
worth repairing so was taken to London as an accommodation ship and
source of spares for her sisters. 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.
This photograph of the officers of HMS Worcester was taken in Poplar Dock, London, while she was undergoing repairs after the Dunkirk evacuation 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 Courtesy of Vic Green
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.
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
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, f course sometimes
entertained and, rather surpisingly, so non commissionerd 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.
Pen portraits of my fellow officers, 1941-2
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. 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. 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
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 is the only officer alive today who took part in the Channel Dash on 12 February 1942 and describes 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.
This photograph of the Ship's Company of HMS Worcester was taken in Poplar Dock, London, while she was undergoing repairs after the Dunkirk evacuation Courtesy of Vic Green
This web site about HMS Worcester
is researched and edited by Vic Green.
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:
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
Vic Green is
the Secretary of the V & W Destroyer Association and organiser of
the annual reunions of the V & W Destroyer Association.
In the beginning ...
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
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:
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
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.
Conditions on V & W Class
destroyers were so bad in rough weather that the men who served on them
were paid hard-lying money. These stories by veterans who served on
HMS Woolston were published in Hard Lying,
the magazine of the V & W Destroyer Association and republished in
2005 by the Chairman of the Association,
Clifford ("Stormy") Fairweather, in the book of the same name which is
now out of print. They are reproduced here by kind permission of
Clifford Fairweather. Copyright remains with the authors and
photographers who are credited where known.
With the Home Fleet in Iceland and escorting QP.14 from Arctic Russia in September 1942 H.L.T. Davis, Sick Berth Attendant
was in East India Dock, Poplar, London where she had been repaired
after the 'Channel Dash'. On leaving Poplar Docks she headed for Scapa
Flow for trials, etc. In August Worcester
received orders to rendezvous with HM Ships Ashanti, Victorious and Rodney
and escort them back to Scapa. During this voyage to rendezvous with
them we sailed through the Minches in a howling gale, pitching,
rolling, corkscrewing and hitting a milestone every inch of the way.
Off the North West coast of Ireland, the sea was so rough that a member
of the crew was washed overboard. Lifeboats were manned, but we were
unable to rescue our shipmate.
Worcester soon rendezvoused
with her charges, it was then that the Victorious
decided to do flying exercises. 'Curses!' - Worcester was detailed
as 'Crash Boat'. Back to Scapa from where we carried out U-boat sweeps
patrols and then headed for Iceland with a passenger on board, a
regulating P.O. (Crusher) bound for HMS Norfolk.
Our crew were at day defence stations and this 'crusher' went round the
ship shouting "Put that cigarette out". It was not long before he was
missing. On the mess deck with his head over a bucket.
On arrival at Hafnarfjordhur while lying alongside the Duke of York, No. 2 Boiler flashed
up and a pall of black smoke blew across her uperstructure. Worcester received a signal from
the Admiral stating that if there was a repeat performance, the Worcester crew would have to scrub
down the superstructure. A large number of the Home Fleet were also in
the fjord, King George the Fifth,
Norfolk, Cumberland, plus a number of destroyers.
The Norfolk challenged the Worcester to a game of darts. Three
legs of 1001. A team was hurriedly recruited and went aboard the Norfolk.
Our team beat them! Liberty men had a few hours in Reykjavik, made a
few purchases and drunk a few bottles of beer. One per cent alcohol.
Iceland was a prohibition country. Worcester
the fjord and dropped anchor in Seydhisfjordhur on the East Coast, to
take on fresh food. All that came aboard were crates of tinned potatoes
- two crates per mess. The contents of quite a number were rancid and
there must have been a trail of tins from Seydhisfjordhur to
Worcester rendevoused with two
oil tankers and joined the 'Home Fleet' escorting the Russian Convoy
QP14. This convoy was bringing home survivors of that disastrous convoy
PQ17 and had sailed from Murmansk on 13 September. On the 20th the
minesweeper Leda was
torpedoed and sunk, later that day HMS Somali was also torpedoed, however,
she did not sink immediately, and was taken in tow by HMS Ashanti but she broke
in two during rough weather and sunk four days later. The Worcester was
ordered to sink a merchantman whose bows and stern had been blown off,
this vessel was carrying a cargo of timber which was preventing her
from sinking, thus the Worcester
had to sink her by gunfire. This ship
was the Grey Ranger which had
been torpedoed by U-435 which had penetrated the screen and sank two
other ships on the 22nd September. On the 23rd a Liberator of Coastal
Command found and sank the U-253. The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the
Next a signal was received saying that the enemy, in the shape of the Von Hipper
was out from her Norwegian fjord. I thought 'Here we go again, if it is
not the Scharnhorst and Co;
It's the Von Hipper. December
1942 Worcester, was in action
again in the English Channel against two
German supply ships, plus escorts. This was to be my last spell of
action in the Worcester.
I left her in Pompey harbour. I was on a stretcher. A
S.B.A. I turned out to be, knocked out in the first round. There was a
rating who lived in the city of Worcester, he was severely
wounded in, I believe, the right arm.