V & W CLASS DESTROYERS
The website of the V & W Destroyer Association



In the pre 1914 world destroyer names had been allocated somewhat haphazardly but in 1913 Churchill (at that time First Lord of the Admiralty) appointed a committee which proposed that all destroyers of the same type (or class) should have names beginning with the same initial letter. To institute this system would have meant that virtually all the destroyers then in service would have to be renamed and all documentation, fleet orders, signal books etc. would need to be scrapped and reprinted, an expensive operation bound to lead to errors and confusion. To avoid this it was decided to begin with the L class which were then under construction and as yet un-named, and then continue through the alphabet. This sensible approach was not strictly adhered to and rapidly fell apart as the M class included not only Mastiff, Manly, etc. but also names beginning with N, O, P, S and T while some of the R class were named Skate, Telemachus, Ursula and Ulster.

This peculiar approach disappeared with the introduction of the V class which set a new standard of design in that it took tried and tested components such as geared turbines, oil fired boilers, superimposed 4” guns and twin torpedo tubes and mounted them on a larger strong and seaworthy hull. The V class carried two sets of double torpedo tubes while the later W class were upgraded to carry two sets of the newly developed triple tubes though, perhaps as old habits die hard Voyager was built with the triple tubes and so should have been a W.
The design proved to be a sturdy, reliable workhorse with sufficient stability to carry a heavier gun armament which led to the Modified W’s in which the 4” guns were replaced with 4.7” to produce what were the fastest and most heavily armed destroyers in the world at that time.

The Destroyer Flotilla

As the design of destroyers developed so did ideas for their tactical use.  It was envisaged that they would be deployed in Flotillas of 16 alongside the Battle Fleet and released to create mayhem upon the enemy in concerted torpedo attacks, it would have been quite a sight to see that number of destroyers dashing off at 30+ knots to make their attack.  It was soon realised that this number of ships was difficult to control, especially given the state of communications at that time and the flotilla size was reduced to 8 and the flotilla was put under the command of a senior officer who travelled aboard one of their number along with his staff which required a larger ship to accommodate them, hence the leader.

The Flotilla Leaders

The first batch of V’s (Valentine, Valhalla, Valkyrie, Valorous and Vampire) were actually designated as Leaders, the main difference in design being the internal arrangement of accommodation for Captain D and his staff, in 1920 they were re-rated as ordinary destroyers though the internal layout was retained.

SHIP NAME
COMP'D
SUB CLASS
CONVERSION
FATE
Valentine
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader
WAIR
Bombed and abandoned in the Scheldt Estuary on 15 May 1941; broken up, Belgium, 1953
Valhalla
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Scrapped in 1932
Valkyrie (ex Montrose)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Scrapped in 1936
Valorous (ex Malcolm)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader WAIR
Scrapped 1947-8
Vampire (ex Wallace)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Transferred to RAN in 1933. Bombed and sank by Japanese, Bay of Bengal 9 April 1942.

A further batch of Leaders (Rooke, Keppel, Shakespeare, Spenser and Wallace) was built by Thorneycroft to a larger design, 1,554 tons standard displacement as against 1,188 tons for the first batch and armed with five 4.7-inch guns and two triple torpedo tubes.

Keppel
1925
Thorneycroft Class Leader
Short Range Escort
Broken up 1946.
Rooke (later, Broke)
1925
Thorneycroft Class Leader Short Range Escort
Sunk off Algiers landings, November 1942.
Shakespeare
1917
Thorneycroft Class Leader Not converted
Sold for breaking up 1936
Spencer
1917
Thorneycroft Class Leader Not converted
Sold for breaking up 1936
Wallace
1919
Thorneycroft Class Leader WAIR Conversion
Sold for breaking up 1945

A third group of leaders (Bruce, Campbell, Douglas, Mackay, Malcolm, Montrose, Scott and Stuart) were designated Admiralty Leaders and built by Cammel Laird.  Again, these ships were larger at 1,530 tons with the same armament as the Thorneycroft group.

Bruce
1918
Admiralty Class Leader
Not converted Used as a target and sunk on 22nd November 1939, off the isle of Wight
Campbell
1918
Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort
Sold for breaking up 1947
Douglas
1918
Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort Sold for breaking up 1945
Mackay
1918
Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort Sold for breaking up 1947
Malcolm
1919
Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort Sold for breaking up 1945
Montrose
1919 Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort Sold for breaking up 1945
Scott
1918 Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort Torpedoed and sunk on 15th August 1918.
Stuart
1918 Admiralty Class Leader Short Range Escort
Transferred to Australia in 1933 and sold for scrapping in February 1947

In theory we could now have a V type leader heading a flotilla of V destroyers and on occasions between the wars it did happen.  In the early part of WW2 the losses at Dunkirk and Narvik together with the ever expanding role of the destroyer as maid of all work meant that the ideal of a flotilla of 8 plus a leader became a pipe dream, perhaps the nearest example came in February 1942 when the 16th and 21st Destroyer Flotillas attacked the German Battle Fleet in what became known as the Channel Dash.  It may sound impressive but the 16th DF consisted of the Leader Mackay with Whitshed, Worcester and Walpole while the 21st DF led by Campbell had Vivacious as the rest of the flotilla, a far cry from the original concept.

Although the Flotilla system broke down in World War II the V & Ws frequently operated together and in order to avoid too much duplication we are trialling the use of pages about these operations with links to more detailed pages about the role of individual ships. An example of how this might work in practice is the visit of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla and the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron to the Spanish port of Tarragona in September 1924. This experimental page about the visit is in response to a request from a Spanish researcher who writing a book about Foreign Navies in Tarragona and appealed to the V & W Destroyer Association for photographs and memoirs about this event.


SHIP NAME
COMP'D
SUB CLASS
CONVERSION
FATE





Valentine
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader
WAIR
Bombed and abandoned in the Scheldt Estuary on 15 May 1940; broken up, Belgium, 1953.
Valhalla
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Scrapped in 1932
Valkyrie (ex Montrose)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Scrapped in 1936
Valorous (ex Malcolm)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader WAIR
Scrapped 1947-8
Vampire (ex Wallace)
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Leader Not converted
Transferred to RAN in 1933. Bombed and sank by Japanese, Bay of Bengal 9 April 1942.





Vanessa
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Converted to Air Target Ship, 1944. Sold for disposal 1947
Vanity
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class WAIR
Sold for disposal 1947
Vanoc
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Wrecked, salvaged and scrapped 1946.
Vanquisher
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947
Vansittart
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp
Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1946
Vectis
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Sold for disposal 1936
Vega
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class WAIR
Sold for disposal 1947
Vehement
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Mined 1 August 1918 in North Sea, wreck sunk by gunfire next day.
Velox
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class Front boiler removed.
Converted to Air Target Ship, 1944. Sold for disposal 1947
Vendetta
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Transferred to the Royal Australian Navy - scuttled off Sydney 2 July 1948.
Venetia
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Mined 19 Oct 1940 and sank in the Thames Estuary.
Venomous (ex Venom)
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp
Front boiler removed.
Converted to Air Target Ship, 1944. Sold for disposal 1947
Venturous
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Handed over for disposal in 1936.
Verdun
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class WAIR (Chatham, 1938-9)
Sold for disposal 1946.
Verity
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Versatile
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1946.
Verulam
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Mined and sunk, Gulf of Finland 1919.
Vesper
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Veteran
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp
Short Range Escort
Torpedoed and sunk by U-404 SW of Iceland 26 Sept 1942. Lost with all hands.
Viceroy
1918
Thorneycroft 'V & W' Class
WAIR
Sold for disposal 1948.
Vidette
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Vimiera
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class WAIR
Mined and sunk 9 January 1942 off the Nore, Thames Estuary.
Vimy (ex Vancouver)
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class  
Long Range Escort (1941)
Sold for disposal 1947.
Violent
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Handed over for disposal 1937.
Viscount
1918
Thorneycroft 'V & W' Class
Long Range EScort (1941)
Sold for disposal 1945.
Vittoria
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Torpedoed and sunk by Bolshevik submarine Gulf of Finland 1919                             
Vivacious
1917
Admiralty 'V' Class Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Vivien
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class WAIR
Sold for disposal 1947.
Volunteer
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Vortigern
1918
Admiralty 'V' Class Not converted
Torpedoed by E-Boat off Cromer, 1942.
Voyager
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Not converted
Transferred to Royal Australian Navy. Bombed by Japanese aircraft and beached 1942.
Wakeful
1917
Admiralty 'W' Class
Not converted
Torpedoed and sank during the Dunkirk evacuation
Walker
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Not converted
Sold for disposal 1946
Walpole
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Short Range Escort
Mined North Sea 6 Jan 1945 and written off and sold for disposal.
Walrus
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Not converted
Stranded in North Bay, Scarborough, 12 Feb 1938 and written off.
Wanderer
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1946
Warwick
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Long Range Escort
Torpedoed and sunk by U-413 off Trevose Head 20 Feb 1944.
Watchman
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945
Waterhen
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Not converted
Transferred to the Australian Navy in 1933. Bombed and sunk off Libya 30 June 1941.
Wessex
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Not converted
Sunk by Luftwaffe off Calais 24 May 1940.
Westcott
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945
Westminster
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class WAIR
Sold for disposal 1947
Whirlwind
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Not converted
Torpedoed and sunk by U-34 SW of Ireland 5 July 1940.
Whitehall
1924
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945
Whitley (not Whitby)
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class WAIR
Bombed by the Luftwaffe and beached off Ostend Belgium 19 May 1940.
Whitshed
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp
Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947
Wild Swan
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp
Not converted
Bombed and sunk by the Luftwaffe in Bay of Biscay 17 June 1942.
Winchelsea
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Long Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945.
Winchester
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
WAIR
Sold for disposal 1946.
Windsor
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947.
Wishart
1919
Thorneycroft Modified 'W' Class
Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945
Witch
1924
Thornycroft Modified 'W' Class
Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1945
Witherington
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947 but wrecked enroute to breakers.
Wivern
1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp Short Range Escort
Sold for disposal 1947
Wolfhound
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
WAIR
Sold for disposal 1948.
Wolsey
1918
Thorneycroft 'V & W' Class
WAIR (Malta, 1938-9)
Sold for disposal 1945
Wolverine 1919
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp Short Range Esxcort
Sold for disposal 1947
Wooolston 1917
Thorneycroft 'V & W' Class WAIR
Scrapped in 1947
Worcester
1922
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 2nd Grp Short Range Escort
Mined 23 Dec 1943, written off & used as accommodation hulk, Yeoman.
Wren
1923
Admiralty Modified 'W' Class, 1st Grp Not converted
Sunk by Luftwaffe off Aldeburgh, North Sea 27 July 1940.
Wrestler
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
Long Range Escort
Mined off Juno Beach on 6 June 1944 and written
Wryneck
1918
Admiralty 'W' Class
WAIR
Bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe on 27 Apr 1941 during evacuation of Crete.










V & Ws can be identified and dated by the pendant numbers painted on their hulls. For example, the pendant (pennant) number of HMS Venom (renamed Venomous by June 1919) was G98 from September 1918 until September 1919 when it changed to D75. In early 1940 it changed again from D75 to I75.

All the V & Ws carried Screen badges on the superstructure of the bridge, boat badges on their whalers and tampion badges on the plugs which sealed the barrels of their 4 inch and 4.7 inch guns. Click on the link to see a selection of these from the collection of Alan Dowling, an Associate member of the V & W Destroyer Association.

Reuse of 1917 V&W Class Names

A number of destroyers built under the War Emergency Programme had names beginning with V or W, and five inherited names previously assigned to WW1 V&W class ships which had been sunk.

The U and V class
The U and V class was a batch of 16 ships launched in 1942 and 1943; seven were given V names, of which two (Valentine and Verulam) were inherited.

The W and Z class
The W and Z class was a batch of 16 ships launched in 1943 and 1944; seven were given W names, of which three (Wakeful, Wessex and Whirlwind) were inherited.

Most of these destroyers were converted after the war into fast Type 15 ASW frigates and their appearance was very different from that of the V & W Class destroyers whose names they inherited. To avoid any possible confusion further details and a photograph of HMS Vigilant are given by Frank Donald who served in HMS Vigilant.



Wartime Conversions of V & W Class destroyers

The experience of World War I showed that in the destroyer the Royal Navy had a maid of all work, a ship suitable for screening the Grand Fleet, escorting convoys, engaging enemy destroyers, (hopefully) detecting and dealing with submarines and mine-laying together with any other odd jobs that could be found for them.

Between the wars it was realised that this multiplicity of roles demanded some changes in destroyer design leading to two main types – the fleet and the escort destroyer. As the name suggests the fleet destroyer would work with a fleet of larger capital ships acting as a screen against attack and engaging enemy destroyers before they could get within range to release their torpedoes – hence the earlier name of Torpedo Boat Destroyer (TBD).

When the V & W’s were designed battleships were relatively slow, the Royal Sovereign Class had a speed of 21 knots and the Queen Elizabeth Class was a little faster at 25 knots.  The destroyers were likely to spend much of their time at reduced (and therefore more economical) speeds and so have an ample range; for example the V’s had a radius of action of 1,000 miles at full speed but more than three times this at 15 knots, travelling quickly takes a lot more fuel!

Between the wars technology advanced, improvements in boiler and turbine design led to faster battleships, the King George V Class achieving 28 knots while Hood, Repulse and Renown were nearer 30 knots so the fleet (and its screen) could be expected to move more rapidly; the V & W’s had the speed to keep up but lacked the fuel stowage to maintain it for long.

Aircraft were also improving in design and in numbers and it was recognised that ships would need some defence against air attack. The anti-aircraft provision of the V & W’s consisted of one or two 2 pounder pom-poms mounted on a platform between the funnels. The main armament had a maximum elevation of 30 degrees and was only of use against surface targets.

The V & W’s had proved to be fast, seaworthy and rugged but the world had changed around them and it was recognised that in any future conflict their duties would also change, for instance escorting convoys of merchant ships long distances would not require high speed but would need increased fuel capacity, also lessons had been learned from the use of aircraft in the Spanish Civil War which demonstrated the need for improved anti-aircraft defence.

Long Range Escorts

The lack of endurance (range) was more easily corrected in the earlier V’s and some of the W’s. All the V & W’s had three boilers in two boiler rooms but in these early ships the forward boiler room contained a single boiler (hence the forward thin ‘woodbine’ funnel), the removal of this boiler (and funnel) would allow an additional 130 tons of oil to be carried and also provide much needed accommodation and storage space. The reduction in power reduced their speed to 24 knots but this was felt to be sufficient for their duty as Long Range Escorts (LRE) for convoys. Ships so converted were Vimy, Viscount, Vanessa, Winchelsea, Whitehall, Volunteer, Vidette, Vanquisher, Vesper, Walker, Wrestler, Warwick, Wanderer, Vansittart, Versatile, Verity, Vanoc, Watchman and Velox. It was long thought that Venomous was converted to an LRE since its front boiler and tall thin front funnel were removed in 1944 but the Admiralty cancelled plans to use the space freed for storing fuel to extend its range and she spent the last nine months of the war towing targets for air launched torpedoes in the Irish Sea and off the east coast of Scotland.

WAIR Conversion

The airborne menace was countered by the WAIR conversion where High Angle (HA) 4 inch guns replaced the original Low Angle 4 inch or 4.7 inch and a variety of close range machine guns, pompoms and Oerlikons were fitted together with improved fire control and ranging systems. They retained all three boilers making them fast short-range anti-aircraft escorts. WAIR conversions were the Leader Wallace and Whitley, Wolsey, Valorous, Vivien, Winchester, Valentine, Woolston, Vega, Vimiera, Wryneck, Verdun, Westminster, Vanity, Viceroy and Wolfhound. All the V&Ws in the Rosyth Escort Force were WAIR conversions. Their HA guns provided defence against German aircraft attacking the East Coast convoys.

Short Range Escorts

Some of the V & W’s, particularly the later Modified W’s were unsuitable for conversion to Long Range Escorts due to the disposition of the boiler rooms. They had two boilers in the forward room as opposed to the one boiler in the earlier ships and were easily identifiable by having a short stubby front funnel instead of the tall thin “Woodbine”. The loss of two thirds of the boiler power would have resulted in too great a reduction in speed and the use of the after boiler room for fuel stowage was not possible as it would have led to problems of stability so they were reclassified as Short Range Escorts (SRE). This group consisted of the Leaders Broke, Campbell, Douglas, Keppel, Mackay, Malcolm, Montrose and Stuart together with Whitshed, Witherington, Wivern, Veteran, Wolverine, Windsor, Walpole, Wishart, Witch, Worcester and Vivacious. These ships retained their high-speed and tended to be used as convoy escorts in areas such as the North Sea where long periods away from refuelling bases were unlikely.


Armament

The armament of all V & W’s changed throughout their Second World War service as new weapons became available; for example Westcott became the guinea pig for the Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar fitted in place of A gun and eventually it was added to most of the LRE conversions. Worcester emerged from a 1938 – 40 refit largely as built but after Dunkirk one set of torpedo tubes was removed and replaced by a 3 inch anti-aircraft gun. Early 1943 saw her undergo major surgery when twin 6 pounder guns were fitted in place of a 4.7 inch, the searchlight platform removed and a larger radar array fitted making her better able to deal with E-Boats.

Vic Green
Honorary Secretary, V & W Destroyer Association



Sea Cadet Units named after a V & W Class destroyer
Click on the Training Ship (TS) to link to the Sea Cadet Unit and click on the name of the V & W after which it is named to find out more about the ship


TS Vancouver 
Kings Lynn
HMS Vimy
TS Vanquisher 
Nuneaton & Bedworth
HMS Vanquisher
TS Venomous
Loughborough
HMS Venomous
TS Veteran New Romney 
HMS Veteran
TS Whirlwind
Orpington HMS Whirlwind
TS Whitley  Whitley Bay
HMS Whitley
TS Worcester
Worcester
HMS Worcester
TS Wyvern  Sittingbourne & Milton
HMS Wivern

We are hoping the Sea Cadet Units whose Training Ships are named after a V & W Class destroyer will help us research these ships




If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on a V & W Class destroyer 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 about a V & W destroyer you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Bill Forster or post on

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