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



HMS Worcester
photograph from Wikipedia



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.

Officers serving in HMS Worcester in 1940
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

Commanding Officers

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)

Officers

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 unithistories.com web site.

Sub Lt. Guy Agard-Butler, RN
Sub Lt. William Bowmer RNVR
C.Eng. Hugh Griffiths RN
Sub.Lt. Ronald Hardman RNR

Surg Lt David C. Jackson RNVR (Sept 1941 - Feb 1942)
Lt. Morgan RNVR
Lt. Anthony R.Taudevin, RNVR
Sub Lt J.F.N. Wedge, RNVRGunner (T) L.G. Wellman
Lt Dennis Williams RNVR (July 1940 - Dec 1941)

Lt. F.W.L. Winterbottom RN
Lt. F.G. Woods RN

The Wardroom
by Sub Lt J.F.N. Wedge, RNVR

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, 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 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 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.
Bill Wedge

Ship's company of HNMS Worcester
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:

"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!"

 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 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.

HARD LYING

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 (SBA)

HMS Worcester 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 and 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 left 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 Spitzbergen.

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 26th.

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 fine 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.  



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: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/servicerecords.html


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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