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HMS Whelp: Reminiscences of a Young Naval Officer
I was 13 and living with an aunt and uncle when on 3 September 1939 I heard the announcement that we were at war with Germany. This did not mean much to me at the time, except for the eventual prospect of some restrictions and food rationing.
Dig for victory
However, the opportunity to give up Wednesday afternoon’s sports at school (King Edward VI, Lichfield) in order to cultivate an allotment was certainly something I welcomed. I received more praise from the headmaster for producing good vegetables (in the Dig for Victory campaign) than I would have had from the sports master for playing cricket and rugby.
I left school at the age of 15, having completed a modest Cambridge school certificate. I’d decided I was not academically inclined, so I didn’t stay on in the sixth form. I went instead to work in a drawing office at the local Cannock Chase colliery.
The uncle I lived with was chief engineer at the colliery. He paved the way for my employment, although I had proved to be a capable draughtsman at a much earlier age, and I loved technical drawing.
A time of great loss
It was always a shock to read the newspaper headlines about how the war was creating so many casualties. In our locality, there were several mothers grieving for their sons, who had gone missing or been killed in action. There were also a lot of wives whose husbands were never to return or remained POWs for the duration of the war.
I had personal reasons for feeling sympathetic as my mother had lost my father when I was five as a result of injuries he had suffered in World War One. She had had to go back into nursing to afford to raise my brother and me. The uncle and aunt I’ve just mentioned looked after me, while my brother went to live with grandparents.
Mother was a nurse and became matron in the local cottage hospital. This was eventually the place I came to consider home while on leave from the navy.
Why the navy?
I organised dances and played the drums for a small dance band at a local village hall to raise money for Forces comforts. Little did I know this was an experience that would later stand me in good stead.
Coal mining was an occupation of national importance. Working as I did in the colliery, I could have stayed in the drawing office and made a contribution to the war effort there. But instead I decided to enlist in the navy.
Why the navy? I can not say. I lived landlocked in the middle of Staffordshire. I had never been to sea or even sailed inland, although I gather my father had sailed sometimes.
Covering the reservoir with railway sleepers
I joined air-raid precautions (ARP) as a messenger for a while and used to cycle to the local ARP post whenever there was an air-raid warning. I also learnt basic first aid.
Living relatively close to Coventry and Birmingham, our area was a prime location for jettisoned bombs. This was especially so because of the large reservoir that we lived alongside, which acted as a due north-south landmark when moonlit. The reservoir (Norton Pool, now Chasewater) was eventually covered with railway sleepers attached to hawser wires as a deterrent to enemy-seaplane landings.
Enlisting in the ATC
I enlisted in the Air Training Corps (ATC), seeing it an opportunity to gain experience of discipline, marching and rifle drill. I achieved the rank of corporal.
I never intended to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). I volunteered to join up in advance of conscription to make sure of getting into the navy rather than being placed where the need was considered greatest.
I enlisted as an Y-scheme entrant but not before undergoing special medical tests – ostensibly because of sugar discovered in the urine. A certificate was deemed necessary, even though I’d already had the first medical in the process of naval recruitment, during which the medical officer (MO) had discovered the symptoms.
My mother had to pay again for a specialist to say that, in his opinion, I was grade A1. I recall him commenting on how the Oxford and Cambridge boat crews always passed sugar in their urine immediately before a race as a result of being nervous and excited. I was not therefore to concern myself. On the subject of which, I remember some very well-built men keeling over at the thought of some of the jabs required by the MO prior to additional medicals.
Basic training begins
It was 60 years ago, in mid-August 1943, that I was posted to HMS Collingwood, Portsmouth, for basic training as an ordinary seaman and Y-scheme entrant. I remember parting from my tearful mother, the train journey from Birmingham’s Snow Hill Station and change at Reading. My eventual arrival at the shore-based ship was not as flamboyant as one recruit, who turned up in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
As Y-scheme entrants, we were allocated three to a hut, one of us in overall charge. The two subordinates were responsible for organising activities such as cutting the grass with a jack-knife to pass the time while the inspecting officer was doing the rounds.
Kit inspections were the order of the day. Folding bell-bottoms so that they had the obligatory (seven) creased rings was vital. We wore white headbands as a distinction and, I suppose, to attract extra attention from the chief petty officers (CPOs) and officers.
I disliked the physical training – shinning up and vaulting over scrambling nets or raising sheer-legs, the hoisting apparatus for masts or heavy loads – although sporting activities such as sailing and rowing were enjoyable.
The kit inspections, hut cleaning and not being allowed to sweep anything under the carpet eventually came to an end. I was happy to put behind me the basic training of drill, seamanship, signals and knots as well as the case of impetigo I’d contracted and the consequent unsightly treatment with gentian violet.
Sea experience and the yellow peril
We were sent to Leith, Scotland, for sea experience. This was a revelation from the start. After a long and slow train journey, we arrived at the base very early on a Sunday morning to be greeted by a breakfast of porridge and yellow peril. I was used to my porridge being made with milk, laced with golden syrup and, as an added luxury, carnation milk. The porridge on offer was thick and, horror of horrors, made with salt. The yellow peril, to give it its proper name, was smoked haddock.
We were soon to board ship, where we would learn practical seamanship. There were three training ships – two old D-class cruisers and the SS Corinthian. Thankfully, Peter Guly, a friend from Collingwood, from the same hut and the Y scheme, was allocated the same ship as me – the SS Corinthian.
Some of the seamanship instruction was qualified by the statement, ‘This is a merchant ship and some things are different from those of a Royal Navy (RN) ship.’ In other words, what we learnt had to be re-learnt when it came to naval ships.
Learning to sleep in a hammock
I had my first experience of sleeping in a hammock. Learning how to sling it and stow it in the morning was very precise. Among the more hazardous tasks was painting the ship’s side. You were very dependent on your fellow painter, and it was vital that you worked together, lowering or raising the plank simultaneously.
There were other things to learn too. One day I was leaning over the guard rail, talking to a friend and admiring the sunset, when the captain came by and started screaming at us. This was not a cruise ship, he yelled. We should get off the rail immediately and make ourselves scarce.
Gash-chutes and coal
We used to take it in turns to collect the meal for the table then clear up and wash all the plates and utensils. One day, on tipping the waste down the gash- or refuse-chute, there was a horrible clanking sound – yes, I had disposed of all the knives, forks and spoons. I don’t recall what happened by way of reprimand, or even whether I was put on a charge.
This sea time was enjoyable, although marred somewhat at the end because of the ship being coal-fired. Before we finished our training, we had to coal the ship and clean up afterwards. Of course, this was something we were not going to be faced with on proper fleet ships.
The first short leave was a relief, though I still bore the marks of the impetigo, which was an embarrassment. There was a problem on the journey from Birmingham Snow Hill to the hospital in Hammerwich, where mother nursed. It was very late at night. There were no buses to Walsall, and a taxi was only allowed to travel a few miles.
My mother and a cook from the hospital, who came along for company, met me at the station. In our attempt to get home, we found ourselves deposited in the middle of nowhere at the end of a short taxi ride. We had to walk several miles before hitching a lift in a lorry for some of the remainder of the journey. We’d been lucky, because vehicles were more likely to stop and offer a lift to someone in service uniform than in civvies.
The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
On leave, the first question generally posed by friends was ‘When are you going back?’
I was posted to HMS King Alfredat Hove, another land-based vessel. This was where I would complete my training as a possible Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) officer. Although there were the usual rifle drills – stripping down a bren-gun, for example – marching, Morse code (concentrating on a small blinking lamp in Lancing College, where we were based, and taking down messages), the training was more academic than before, and, might I say, we led a more civilised existence.
I was in Nelson division along with some 115 others, not all of whom would eventually make the grade. We were schooled by a CPO for seamanship, by a sub-lieutenant for drill – usually in the underground car park of the swimming baths at Hove – by a lieutenant schoolmaster for further education. Our commanding officer (CO) was an RNVR lieutenant.
Our ages ranged from 18 to late 20s, and we were from all walks of life. Thankfully, I still enjoyed the friendship of Peter Guly, who became a life-long friend.
Rites of passage
This was a period that tested our leadership qualities as much as extended our knowledge of seamanship and navigation – ‘If both lights you see ahead, starboard wheel and show your red’ – and appropriate further education.
At the end of term, as a display of initiative and enterprise, the outgoing division had to entertain the newer intakes with a concert or play. The division that left before us had put on a marvellous show its finale a brass band that marched through the audience. The blare of the sousaphone remains a vivid memory.
‘Red Sails in the Sunset’
We knew it was going to be a hard act to follow. However, having organised a dance band, I proved useful in this respect. I played the drums for part of an entertainment that included songs such as ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ and ‘The Stars at Night’. There must have been other acts that followed or preceded us, but the memory has dimmed. I do recall the CO complimenting us, so we must have passed that particular test.
We were allowed some leave at one stage but not permitted to travel far. I was able to spend one weekend with Peter, whose family lived within limits, in north London. I did take a risk on one occasion and go home to Staffordshire. But I did so with a great deal of trepidation in case I was challenged by military police during the journey.
The thrill of my new uniform
Eventually, the day of reckoning came when the lists of successful candidates were posted. To my great relief, I was promoted midshipman. I enjoyed the thrill of getting my new uniform. The RNVR midshipmen lapels were maroon as distinct from the Royal Navy (RN) midshipmen, who wore white lapels and would have been trained at Dartmouth Naval College.
I took a short leave before I was posted to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich for a short spell. This was a superb few weeks. We were called in the morning with a cup of tea, made and brought to our cabin by Wrens, and they served meals in the great Painted Hall. Not all the officers from King Alfredwere sent to Greenwich, and I am not sure what selection process was involved to grant me such a privilege.
War service at sea, April 1944 to August 1945
During leave from Greenwich I received my posting to HMS Whelp. I had to report to a dockyard at Hebburn on Tyne. At the time I didn’t know what type of vessel I’d been posted to and was relieved to discover it a newly built W-class destroyer. After sea trials the Whelp was commissioned on 17 April 1944 as R37 and assigned to the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla Home Fleet.
The captain was Commander G A F Norfolk, RN. He was very senior in rank and therefore second in command of the flotilla, and the ship had its funnel painted to denote this. He once remarked that he was the same age as the ship’s pennant R37. First lieutenant was Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark (later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh). There were six other officers plus a medical officer and two midshipmen. A guestimate of 135 NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and ratings made up the ship’s full complement.
In the wardroom was an original of ‘Jane’, the scantily dressed cartoon character in the Daily Express. Apparently, the ship’s captain, or his wife, knew the cartoonist. I’m sure there was a reference to Whelp, but I can not recall the caption.
Another detail I recall was that there was always a bible on the bridge as a ready reference for the quotations that, whenever it was appropriate, formed the basis of signals between ships. Competition between captains to get the best response was intense.
Exercises in Scapa Flow
We were involved in exercises in Scapa Flow to track submarines, set and drop depth charges and undertake target practice for gunnery. Both towed targets by sea, and drones towed aircraft. I was in charge of B gun deck, from where, when instructed by the gunnery officer, we fired star shells for night-time attacks.
Some modifications were made during this bedding-down period. One of my tasks was to sit and relay messages from the asdic or sonar operator (an underwater detecting device, an early form of sonar, the name derived from Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee).
I did this by way of a voice-pipe in the lower well of the bridge that conveyed information to the captain standing above. While conning the ship the captain would kick me in the backside when he wanted another reading. In due course this particular voice-pipe was extended to the binnacle, so that the captain, or officer of the watch, could simultaneously take a bearing and give instructions to the asdic operator.
An unfortunate accident
We had an unfortunate incident involving one of our destroyers. Having completed an attack with depth charges, it had come to anchor in Scapa Flow. Due to the orders fore and aft being misunderstood, the anchorage took it astern over its own depth charges.
The vessel’s stern was broken, and it was out of commission for some months. Eventually, however, it did join the British Pacific Fleet. I believe it was the HMS Wrangler, which arrived in the Far East in June 1945 and then took part in the re-occupation of Hong Kong.
On 12 May we left Scapa Flow to escort and screen a battleship (I think it was HMS Renown) for Operation Brown. This was an unsuccessful attempt to attack the German battleship Tirpitz.
Later, in early June, still in Scapa Flow, we witnessed a huge fleet being assembled prior to the D-Day landings, though we were not aware of its significance until very early on 6 June.
Scapa Flow was deserted but for us – a lone destroyer ‘to protect the northern approaches’, or so we were told – and a few boom defence ships that were permanently on station. A disgruntled ship’s company was none too pleased at not being able to take part in the landings at Normandy.
Crossing the Arctic Circle
In mid-June we left Scapa Flow in the company of the cruiser HMS Belfast and one other destroyer in Operation DB. We were to relieve the garrison in Spitsbergen, Norway. This was Norwegian territory that had been occupied by the Germans, and we were assisting by taking stores and personnel.
I was in charge of a motor boat, ferrying stores back and forth to a jetty. Although I didn’t land as such, the operation to reach Spitsbergen meant that we crossed the Arctic Circle. As a result, the ship’s company was presented with a commemorative Blue Nose certificate. Sadly, I have lost mine.
Subsequently, we also received a certificate for crossing the equator – along with the appropriate ducking for the first time across. But, once more, I’ve misplaced my certificate.
Aboard the Altmark
In Scapa Flow we had the opportunity to board the German supply ship Altmark. This was the vessel in which many merchant seamen were imprisoned as a result of their ships being sunk by the Graf Spee. It had been rescued from a Norwegian fjord in early 1940. The officers’ quarters were quite palatial, and the wide staircase to the upper deck was reminiscent of a transatlantic liner.
We were intended to join the Eastern Fleet. On the way east through the Mediterranean we covered US Army landings in Provence. We escorted capital ships (perhaps the HMS Ramilles) through the Strait of Gibraltar at night to avoid spying eyes on Spanish territory.
En routewe called at Algiers then Malta for a brief shore leave, where the famous oil tanker Ohio was berthed. It was this oil tanker that was heavily bombed in the convoy bringing desperately needed fuel for aircraft involved in defence of the island. It had achieved its mission but was badly damaged and had had to be towed into harbour.
Based at Trincomalee
We called at Alexandria en routeto the Suez Canal, then the Red Sea with a brief stop in Aden before proceeding to Bombay and Colombo (Ceylon, now Sri Lanka). On 26 August 1944 we were assigned to the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, Eastern Fleet, based at Trincomalee.
A captain (D) in Kempenfelt led this flotilla, but all the other destroyers had names beginning with W – Wager, Whirlwind, Wessex, Wrangler and Wakefuland, of course, us – Whelp. We had a brief shore leave in Trincomalee, in what could be described as a holiday camp with sheltered accommodation on the beach. The climate was sub-tropical, and it was a welcome opportunity to relax. Other officers went up to Kandy for a short leave, but either I declined or wasn’t permitted or simply couldn’t afford to go.
Lord Louis Mountbatten (Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia) visited the ship when we were in either Colombo or Trincomalee, presumably to see Prince Philip.
On being introduced he remarked to me that I was lucky to be in a destroyer as opposed to a battleship, where, in his experience, there were many midshipmen aboard in the gun room.
My other brush with fame, on a subsequent occasion, was returning from a day’s shore leave. Sea conditions were too bad to get a Liberty boat back, so I spent the night in Nelson’s cabin on board HMS Victory.
Operations Millet, Outflank, Robson and Lentil
In October 1944 we took part in Operation Millet, an intended diversion for the US landings on Leyte in the Philippines. A task force attacked the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. In mid-November we escorted the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave King, an oil tanker for refuelling ships and aircraft fuel, in Operation Outflank, an air attack on Pangkalan Brandan in north-west Sumatra.
In December there was an unsuccessful attack in Operation Robson – Task Force 67 – on Belawan Deli (north Sumatra) and Medan. Then, in early January 1945, we escorted the task force that attacked the Pangkalan Brandan oil refineries code named Operation Lentil.
Swimming at night in heavy seas
The rescue of one of the submarines (HM Sub Shakespeare) in January 1945 was memorable. This sub had been badly damaged by gunfire off the Malacca Strait, and its fellow sub (HM Sub. Stygian) stood by until we took it in tow some 320km (200 miles) east of Trincomalee on 3 January.
We picked up the sub in darkness and fairly heavy seas, but the real problem was securing a tow, because all her crew either wounded or too exhausted to make a line fast on deck. It was too hazardous to launch a motorboat.
A leading seaman volunteered to swim to the sub with a line attached, then haul on board a stronger line and secure a towing hawser. The volunteer was Leading Seaman Shreeves, who, for this exploit and his evident courage, was eventually awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) and promoted petty officer.
Task Force 63
We arrived back in Trincomalee on 8 January. On 16 January we left again with Task Force 63 and transferred to the British Pacific Fleet as Operation Meridian, which was to continue attacks on the Japanese oil refineries on Sumatra.
Thereafter we were transferred to the Pacific and routed to Australia, calling at Fremantle en routeto Sydney. We had shore leave in Sydney, where some alterations were made to the ship.
There was one period – I think during the journey from Trincomalee to Sydney – when we took on board several specialist officers: medical, engineering and radar. I had to give up my shared cabin for them and sleep on a camp bed in one of the cabin flats. The engineering officer usefully discovered that one of the ventilating fans in my cabin was operating in reverse.
A new assignment and identification
On 18 February we were assigned to the combined US and British Task Force CTF 113. Our identification was changed to US pennant D33.
We took on board an American lieutenant (Junior Grade or JG) United States Navy (USN), who was a signals officer. He had to interpret US Fleet signals, both visual and radio, since the RN and USN systems were different. He was a most jovial officer, not averse to slapping the captain on his shoulder with a ‘Good morning, Cap’n.’
We left Sydney for Manus in the Admiralty Islands with the battleship HMS Howe. In March we took part in Operation Iceberg (attacks against Formosa and Sakishima Gunto islands), which precluded the attack on Okinawa in support of landings by the USA.
This task force sailed in a large circular formation, with destroyers screening the outer perimeter and carriers in the centre, which, in turn, were surrounded by battleships and cruisers. Often our radar was suspect. We were detailed to station ourselves astern of the carriers – the actual centre of the fleet – and pick up aircrews that ditched on landing or were injured and couldn’t make the flight deck.
Rescues at sea
In an earlier operation we rescued Sub-lieutenant (A) RNVR Roy ‘Gus’ Halliday from HMS Victorious, who had been shot down after a second strike on the Palembang refinery. He eventually became a Vice Admiral, KBE, DSC, and commanded the British Naval Staff in Washington, DC. He was subsequently appointed Deputy Chief Defence Staff of Intelligence.
Sadly, on one occasion, we rescued a pilot who was so badly injured that, in spite of very good medical attention, he died on board later. We buried him at sea. This was our first and only experience of such a tragedy. I’ll never forget the vivid green of the water surrounding him, a result, I understood, of the shark repellent that was released by ditched aircrews on entering the sea.
We developed faults (with radar) on 25 March 1945 and rejoined the Task Force on 30 March. On 1 April we witnessed the kamikaze (divine wind) attacks on aircraft carriers. On Easter Sunday, while I was operating the plot for incoming bandits, I saw a kamikaze hit one of the carriers.
It was remarkable how the aircraft were able to fly on and off again in such a short time and maintain their position in the operational line. In contrast, when a kamikaze damaged the flight deck of the American carriers it put them out of action for a considerable time.
This resilience was an aspect of the British-constructed armoured flight decks that so impressed the Americans. In the light of it they requested Task Force 57 to strike at airfields on Formosa, where the most effective suicide units were thought to be based.
Manual and digital dexterity
At action stations I was responsible for maintaining the plot of aircraft from radio reports and for relaying the information to the gunnery officer. I always remember an Admiralty directive instructing that this task should be given to a young officer ‘who displayed manual and digital dexterity’.
In early May 1945, we left Leyte for Sydney to be refitted. However, on the way, we were re-routed to Melbourne, where we stayed until July. On shore leave there was the opportunity to meet Australian families. I remember escorting a young Australian girl around a suburb of Melbourne, wearing long ‘whites’ with the midshipman’s lapel on the tunic collar. Someone asked me if I was in the Fire Brigade. This odd remark has stayed with me 60 years.
Up the Great Barrier Reef
Later I was commissioned as sub-lieutenant RNVR and gained a full watch-keeping certificate, though there were always two officers on watch on the bridge. I recall the effort of the concentration of having to change course, in both direction and time, of having to create the zigzag patterns selected at random and agreed with other ships in the formation.
We left Melbourne for Sydney and Darwin, travelling up the Great Barrier Reef. We were to join HMS King George V (Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser) and screen her (with Wager) en route to Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender of the Japanese.
The fleet train
We oiled from KG5at one stage, at the same time as Wager. I have a photograph of this, showing the way ships oiled at sea, generally from a tanker of the fleet train.
The fleet train was vital for replenishing ships with food, ammunitions, spares, oil and, not least, mail. It was a triumph of improvisation that stretched thousands of miles from Australia to wherever the fleet was operating. It existed for only a year before the end of the war with Japan, but it was fitting that it was present in Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender.
Sinking a junk
After the war ended we came home via Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle and Hong Kong, where we spent a spell patrolling the harbour for Japanese pirates, thought to be operating under the guise of Chinese junk fishermen.
We sank one accidentally. Thankfully, I was not on watch, so couldn’t be blamed. I heard the awful crunch, however, as I was relaxing in the wardroom, on a break after having been on the bridge for my watch.
At sea or in harbour, apart from during action stations, I always kept the afternoon and middle watches. This meant that I never had any long period of unbroken sleep.
Dinner in the wardroom was usually after 8pm, when the captain joined his officers for a social drink beforehand. After the meal I had to try and get some sleep before the middle watch (12 midnight to 4am). By 8am I was expected to undertake other responsibilities – chart corrections and so on. I was on watch again from 12 noon to 4pm, when others could relax. I once complained about all this to the first lieutenant, but my complaint was just dismissed for some reason or other.
Enjoying life on board
Life on board ship had its high points, especially in harbour or alongside replenishment ships. This was when we were able to hire films, shown to the ship’s company on the forecastle. I also enjoyed the wardroom food and was introduced to savouries instead of pudding. The issue of lime juice was always very welcome. During midnight watch I became adept at making good cocoa.
I was the youngest officer on board, but eventually I reached the age at which I could have a mess account for drinks other than soft ones. After the loyal toast – traditionally given sitting down in the navy – ‘To our wives and sweethearts’, invariably, the response was, ‘May they never meet’.
One of the Forgotten Fleets
Our home coming, flying the paying-off pennant, was emotional. We arrived in Portsmouth, from Gibraltar, on 17 January 1946 – one of the Forgotten Fleets.
I finished post-war naval service in HMS Fencer, a converted US-built Woolworth escort carrier. Our task was to ferry colonials, including Belgian White Fathers, to Mombassa, East Africa, and then proceed to Ceylon to pick up personnel for demob and homecoming.
I left the ship and was demobbed before it was crewed to return to the USA. I did have the opportunity of sailing to America. It is of some regret that I did not do so, because the return journey was on one of the Queens.
I was commended for a medal. To this day, I don’t know what it was. Ultimately, it was changed to a mention in despatches, published in the London Gazette on 11 June 1946, of which I am immensely proud.
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Fitting out and working up: October – December 1942
ACTIVITY sailed for Rosyth on October 9th to complete her fitting out and for the installation of specialist Admiralty equipment she was officially completed on the 14th shortly after she sailed for the Clyde where she was to begin her work up. Swordfish from 835 Naval Air Squadron were the first aircraft to operate from her, beginning daily Deck Landing Training flying operations from RNAS Machrihanish on October 27th until November 3rd when ACTIVITY was to begin her official work-up period. . From the 3rd, aircraft from 768 Deck Landing Training (DLT) squadron began operations with ACTIVITY, trainee pilots flew out to the ship to practice landing and taking off in a variety of aircraft types, including Swordfish, Fulmar, Martlet, hooked Hurricanes and Spitfires. 835 squadron Re-embarked on November 13th for a month of intensive DLT. Flying ended on December 18th when 835 disembarked to RNAS Machrihanish and ACTIVITY returned to the Clyde on the 20th to undergo a period of post work-up defect corrections.
Two views of HMS Activity operating the Wildcats of 833 squadron. Photos: Author’s collection
The Home of the Last Tsar - Romanov and Russian History
Vice Admiral Sir Francis Pridham, KBE, CB, was the First Lieutenant of the HMS Marlborough, when it arrived in Yalta on April 7, 1919 under orders of the British Royal Navy to evacuate Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, sister of Queen Alexandra, and members of the Russian Imperial Family. He published his account of this historic event in his book "Close of a Dynasty", Allan Wingate Publishers, Ltd, London, 1956. We offer these brief excerpts and photographs for educational purposes only, and other reproduction is prohibited without first obtaining permission of the copyright holders.
On 4th April 1919, on a cold and misty morning, HMS Marlborough left Constantinople for Sevastopol, the Captain (C.D. Johson, CB, MVO, DSO), being entrusted with a letter from Queen Alexandra to her sister the Dowager Empress Marie of Russia, urging her to leave Russia before it was too late to escape from the Bolsheviks and telling her that HMS Marlborough had arrived and was ready to receive her on board and carry her to Malta and England. .
Left, Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna on board HMS Marlborough.
On his return from Yalta and his interview with the Empress Marie, the Captain gave orders for the ship to proceed to Yalta the next day, 7th April, and on her arrival to start embarking those whom Her Majesty wished to accompany her. She had only consented to this on the understanding that she would not herself leave the country until arrangements were completed for evacuation of all loyal people in the neighborhood of Yalta who wished to leave. [Until that moment, the French High Commission had agreed to help provide the ships needed for the evacuation, but had just then declined, leaving the British alone in the responsibility for the evacuation.]
The number of those who would embark in HMS Marlborough with the Empress Marie was not known, but it was evident already that we were to be asked to take many more than we had been led to expect when we left Constantinople. No special arrangements to receive a considerable number on board had been made, the intention then being to bring away only Empress Marie and a few of those closest to her in all perhaps ten or a dozen persons. Now it seemed clear that we must do our best to provide accomadtion and food for a far greater number of passengers.
For a start, all the officers' cabins at the after end of the ship were vacated, about thirty-five in all and wherever possible two or more bunks were arranged in each cabin. The Captain's apartments were, of course, set aside for Her Majesty, the Captain moving to his sea-cabin under the bridge. The officers so displaced arranged shakedowns for themselves in other parts of the officers' quarters. Unfortunately, only about thirty spare mattresses were available and such luxuries as sheets were at a premium, although all officers placed their own supplies at my disposal, for it fell to my lot to organise the accomodation of our guests. At the best of times, a man of war is not an ideal vessel for conveying passengers, and in this case it was impossible to provide even reasonable comfort and space the food and cooking presented problems which caused us some additional anxiety, that was doubtless shared by the Captain's chef.
For two weeks except during meal-times, I lived almost entirely with our guests in the after part of the ship, and consequently had frequent opportunities for talking with many of them. I had enough foresight to record my impressions of the moment as well as some details of the events as they occurred. .
After landing two officers at Yalta to help those who were to come on board HMS Marlborough, and on learning that the Empress Marie did not wish to embark at Yalta pier, we moved a few miles along the coast to a little cove called Koriez, which was within easy reach of Harax, the Empress's lovely summer palace. .
We soon learned that Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Xenia, the sister of the Emperor, and the Grand Dukes Nicholas and Peter, the Emperor's cousins, would be among those for whom we would have to arrange accomodation. .
Right, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna on board.
Fortunately, before I had let any of our guests know which cabins to occupy, I noticed that more passengers were arriving on board and left the cabin where I was working with Count Fersen (on the staff of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievich) to find out when the Empress Marie was expected. Just outside the cabin, where the light was rather dim, I saw two unaccompanied ladies evidently uncertain as to where they should go. I was about to ask them who they were when I realized that one of them, an elderly little lady dressed in black, closely resembled our Queen Alexandra and could be none other than the Empress Marie herself. At this moment, Count Fersen came forward and after saluting the Empress presented me to her and to the Grand Duchess Xenia who accompanied her.
So, the great lady who had once been the Empress of All the Russias, arrived unheralded on board HMS Marlborough. . Completely taken aback by such an unceremonious and unexpected meeting with Her Majesty, I escorted her and her companion to the Captain's quarters and was about to retire when the Grand Duchess asked me what Count Fersen and I had been doing. On hearing that I was in some doubt as to who and how many to expect on board, and when, to my great relief she said she would come with me and tell me how to allocate the cabins, it was evident that she had immediately and accurately apprised the situation and realized that if left to Count Fersen and me alone, the result was likely to be somewhat chaotic. From then on it was plain sailing. Count Fersen faded away, I think with a flea in his ear, and I found myself closeted with an extremely charming and capable woman who knew exactly what was entailed and had very clear ideas as to how the details should be settled, and that, most certainly, they would be so settled whatever Count Fersen may have schemed. So, the first list was quickly torn up and the job done in half an hour, including the impossible one for me, of giving the necessary orders to the Russian servants now beginning to arrive on board.
I was almost guilty of starting an argument with the Grand Duchess when she gave herself one of the smaller and darker cabins on the deck below, one of the many 'potted air' cabins behind the ship's side-armour. But I held my tongue on realising that she did this in order that the Empress's personal maid might occupy the cabin adjoining Her Majesty's sleeping cabin. I had selected that cabin for the Grand Duchess as being the most suitable for one of her rank. .
Another matter soon began to cause me some anxiety that of stowing the luggage. I was faced with the problem of stowing this in our very limited space, so collecting and segregating the trunks belonging to various parties, that they could be found easily should some disembark before the main party, as indeed happened. Many of those who came on board that first evening had arrived at an hour's notice and had brought little with them other than the clothes they were wearing, but driblets of trunks and packages had been brought off during the evening, mostly unlabelled or marked with Russian characters. By that night, we had literally tons of luggage aboard. A major difficulty arose from the fact that none of us could speak a word of Russian and could not, therefore give any directions to the servants. We had managed to deal with the luggage brought on board for Her Majesty quite satisfactorily since it was marked with her monogram and the quantity was small, but had it not been for Princess Marina, a tall handsome girl, and the elder daughter of Grand Duke Peter, offering to help as an interpreter, much of the rest of the luggage would have become hopelessly mixed up. Princess Marina acted as a very competent "first lieutenant", to whom I could refer any difficulties I met with dealing with Russian servants. the latter spoke no English and only rarely a little French, and being obviously dazed by their sudden upheaval and unusual surroundings they struck me at first as being rather indolent. .
Left, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievich on board HMS Marlborough.
The Marlborough left Koriez after dark and anchored again off Yalta, where we were to remain for a few days before leaving for Constantinople. We had now embarked fifty persons, of whom thirty-eight were women.
Included in this number were H.I.H. the Grand Duke Nicholas and H.I.H. the Grand Duke Peter accompanied by their Grand Duchesses. The two latter, Anastasia and Militza, once konwn as 'the beautiful Black Mountain Sisters' were daughters of that old fox King Nichols of Montenegro. .
The Grand Duke Nicholas, a magnificent looking man and six feet six inches tall, dressed always while on board HMS Marlborough in a splendid Cossack costume with the tall lambskin head-dress accentuating his great height, was an almost awe inspiring presence a strong commanding personality tempered with great dignity and courtesy. .
Another person of outstanding appearance, also wearing Cossack costume, was Prince Youssoupoff, formerly Governor of Moscow, perhaps the greatest landowner in Russia, and head of an ancient family which traces its descent from the first Caliph after the death of Mahomet. He was accompanied by his wife Princess Zinaida, his son Prince Felix Youssoupoff, his daughter-in-law Princess Irina Youssoupoff (daughter of the Grand Duchess Xenia) and his grandchild Princess Irina, aged about five. An interesting and intelligent young man, Prince Felix, educated at Oxford University, he spoke perfect English. .
Left, Prince Felix and Princess Irina Yousoupoff on board.
With Grand Duchess Xenia had come five of her six sons, the Princes Feodor, Nikita, Dimitri, Rostislav and Vassili. Prince Feodor, her second son, being about twenty, and the youngest, Vassili, twelve. The younger ones, not old enough to undrestand the full force of the tragedy in their lives quickly became absorbed in the novelty of living in a man of war. Prince Vassili soon became a great favourite throughout the ship, as as sailors always love eager and enquiring children, this one was just the type of lively youngster that appealed to them. Prince Dimitri, who looked and spoke like an English schoolboy, was full of enthusiasm for all things naval, indeed he seemed to possess as complete a knowledge of British warships as I had myself. .
I have now mentioned four generations of the Imperial Family of Russia, the Dowager Empress Marie (the Emperor's mother), the Grand Duchess Xenia (the Emperor's sister), Princess Irina Yousoupoff, and the little Princess Irina Yousoupoff. Since it is unusual for a British man of war to carry women on board for any lenght of time, HMS Marlborough recorded a unique experience in having on board for a fortnight, four ladies each of whom represented a different generation of the Emperor's family. .
Above, three generations of the Romanov family. Grand Duchess Xenia with her granddaughter, Admiral Prince Vissemsky, Empress Marie, and the author, Lt. Pridham on the right.
The next day, 8th April, we spent embarking the remainder of those who would accompany Her Majesty, and further tons of baggage, in handling which our sailors were ably assisted on shore by a party of one hundred and twenty officers of the Imperial Army. I had suggested that those who were able to do so might bring on board as much bedding as transport would permit, and to my great relief some was now arriving in each boatload from the shore.
The four summer palaces with which we were concerned, Harax (belonging to the Grand Duke George, and in which Empress Marie had been living), AiTodor (the Grand Duchess Xenia), Tchair (the Grand Duke Nicholas) and Doulber (the Grand Duke Peter) were all fairly close together and not far from Yalta. This, while no attempt was made to bring away heavy goods, enabled our passengers to obatin the bare necessities they required for their unknown future. .
That morning, I witnessed the arrival on deck of the Grand Duke Nicholas and saw for the first time the little ceremony which he observed daily while he was on board. With stately dignity, he approached the Empress, who was already seated on deck, presented himself to her with an immaculate military salute, and then paid her courtly and graceful homage by bending low and kissing her hand. .
The news from up country was serious, the Bolsheviks having overcome the feeble resistance offered in the northern Crimea were now advancing rapidly southwards. Refugees were streaming into Yalta and on to the pier in ever increasing numbers, seeking safety. Soon a state of chaos reigned amongst this throng of terrified and distraught people. Children became separated from their parents and husbands from their wives and it is doubtful whether some of these unfortuante creatures ever met again. Many arrived on the pier with no other possessions than the clothes they wore. I saw one family arrive in such a state of utter panic that on reaching the harbour they jumped out of their motor car and dashed down the pier leaving the engine of the car still running. On that quay there were enough abandoned cars to provide at least one for every officer in the ship. However, the opportunity could not be taken for we were too busily occupied on more urgent business. In the evening we were warned by the police that a rising of the local Bolsheviks might break out at any moment, and at the former's request we kept searchlights playing on the town all through that haunted night.
The evacuation of Yalta, though much interfered with by a strong wind and rough sea, continued during the following three days. . During the whole of this time a succession of people arrived on board asking to see the Empress Marie and to beg her to take them with her. I fear that Her Majesty was frequently greatly distressed by the pathetically urgent pleas which she was unable to meet. .
Shortly before the evacuation of Yalta was completed, a British sloop embarked about four hundred of the Imperial Guard, mostly officers, who had collected at Yalta, for transport to Sevastopol. On sailing, the sloop steamed slowly round the Marlborough to allow those on board to salute the Empress Marie and obtain a last sight of her. Gathered on our quarter deck were a number of our distinguished passengers, including the Empress and the Grand Duke Nicholas. The Empress, a little lone figure, stood sadly and apart from the others near the ensign staff, flying, of course, the White Ensign, while the voices of the Imperal Guard singing the Russian Imperial Anthem drifted across the water to her in last salute. None other than that beautiful old tune, rendered in such a manner, could have poingantly reflected the sadness of that moment. The memory of those deep Russian voices, unaccompanied, but in the perfect harmony which few but Russians can achieve, has surely never faded from the minds of those who were privileged to witness this touching scene. Until long after the sloop had passed there was silence. No one approached the Empress, while she remained standing, gazing sadly after those who, leaving her to pass into exile, were bound for what seemed likely to be a forlorn mission. Few are known to have survived the next period of fighting outside Sevastapol.
This proved to be the last occassion on which the Russian Imperial Anthem was rendered to a member of the Imperial family within Russian territory.
Above, Empress Marie and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievich during the singing of the Imperial Anthem for the final time.
On 11th April 1919 our promise to Her Majesty The Empress Marie had been fulfilled, the evacuation of Yalta was complete and HMS Marlborough could sail for Constantinople.
We had then on board twenty members of the Imperial family, including two small children, and in addition twenty five ladies and gentlemen of the suites of Her Majesty, the Grand Duchess Xenia and the Grand Dukes Nicholas and Peter. Maids, servants and others added a further thirty six to the number for whom accomodation, of a kind, had been found on board. I estimated that by the time we sailed that day, in addition to our passengers, we were carrying some two hundred tons of luggage.
All that morning the Empress had been receiving they many who came on board to seek her help or to say goodbye there was no more now that she could do for them, but up to the last moment she was deeply concerned for those who could not accompany her in the Marlborough.
In the afternoon the ship, unheralded and without escort, moved silently from the anchorage off Yalta and headed into the mist of the Black Sea. Our passengers stood for long on deck gazing astern with full hearts as the beautiful coast line of the Crimea faded from their view. We did not know it at the time, but with our departure all members of the Imperial Romanov family then alive had left Russia forever, and the dynasty, which came into power in 1613, was ended.
Above, the deck of the HMS Marlborough after leaving Yalta.
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Norfolk Naval Dockyard and Ferry load to UK June - July 194343
STRIKER arrived at Norfolk Navy Yard at 1900 on the 20th to undergo the installation of additional equipment before beginning a short work-up. The work included installing radar and radio equipment. Repairs to main feed suction pipe and hangers, two reducing valves, steering gear bushings, refrigerating units, F.G. transfer pump, auxiliary feed pump, UC and VF equipment, battle announcing equipment and general alarm circuit. Overhauled one train power drive for heavy Anti-aircraft Machine Gun. Once this work was completed STRIKER called at the US Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Juliens Creek, Virginia, on June 23rd to embark small arms and gun ammunition, returning to Norfolk on completion of loading.
Her dockyard work and work-up complete STRIKER left the Norfolk Navy Yard at 1945 on the 25th and moved to the Norfolk Naval Operating Base to embark more stores and a cargo of Lend-Lease airframes for ferrying to the UK. The Ferry load comprised of 10 Curtis Seamew, 10 Grumman Tarpon (Avenger), 16 Grumman Martlet V (Wildcat), 10 Grumman Hellcat, 8 Vought Corsair. She sailed for New York on the 27th to join the eastbound convoy HX246 for passage to the UK. Arriving at New York on June 28th she joined her sister escort carrier SEARCHER which was also waiting to join the convoy with a ferry load. Both carriers were taken in hand by Bethlehem Steel Co. at 28th Street, Brooklyn for voyage repairs which were completed the same day.
The two carriers Sailed from New York with convoy HX246 on June 30th, this was a large convoy consisting of 64 merchantmen and 19 escorts. After an uneventful crossing STRIKER & SEARCHER escorted by ACANTHUS, POTENTILLA & VERVAIN detached as fast section on July 11th, arriving in Liverpool Bay on the 13th.
A Russian officer on HMS Fencer - History
When Lt Cdr. Arthur Nichol Rowell RN - "Hooky Walker" - was CO 1943-4
Lt Cdr Arthur N. Rowell, RN (below, left) succeeded Cdr. James Marjoribanks Rowland, RN as CO of HMS Walker in April 1943 and was followed by Lt. Cdr. Antony Francis Trew, SANF(V) - below right - on 29 Sep 1944. Rowell took command after her conversion to a Long Range Escort (LRE) and was CO of HMS Walker when she escorted Arctic Convoys JW and RW.57 and 58 and RW.59 in 1944. He also commanded Walker during Operation Neptune escorting supply convoys to US forces on Utah and Omaha Beaches.
He was born in 1909 and educated between 1922-5 at the Nautical College Pangbourne which trained boys to become Merchant Navy officers. He must have decided on a career in the Royal Navy at Pangbourne as he entered service as a Naval Cadet in 1925 and was a Lieutenant by 1932. He has a brief entry in "Obituaries and Death Notices 1917-2016" in The Old Pangbournian Record :
Lt.Cdr. Arthur Nichol Rowell, RN
April 1943 - 28 September 1944
Departed Liverpool 20 February and arrived Kola Inlet on 28 February 1944.
Departed Kola Inlet on 2 March and arrived Loch Ewe on 10 March 1944
Departed Liverpool 27 March and arrived Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944.
Departed Kola Inlet on 7 April and arrived Loch Ewe on 14 April 1944
Departed Kola Inlet on 28 April and arrived Loch Ewe on 6 May 1944
Departed Liverpool 20 October 1944 and arrived Kola Inlet on 28th October 1944
Departed Kola Inlet on 2 November and arrived Loch Ewe on 9 November 1944
|Lt R W D Bray RN (14 Jan 1941 - Feb 1945) |
Sub Lt (E) R.R. Brooks RCNVR (14 Oct 1943 - March 1945)
Lt (E) E.C.Y. Hughes SANF(V) (18 March 1944 - Jan 1945)
Tp Sub Lt E R Lawson RNVR (May 1943 - May 1945)
Tp Sub Lt R B Mann RNR (17 April 1941 - Feb 1945)
|Tp Sub Lt A H B McClatchley RNVR (25 June 1942 - Feb 1945) |
Tp Gnr (T) A W Norish RN (15 February 1943 - March 1945)
Cd Eng G F Osborne RN (9 March 1939 - Oct 1943)
Tp Sub Lt D Payne RNVR (21 June 1943 - March 1944)
Lt Frederick V Robinson RCNVR (13 Oct 1943 - 27 Feb 1944) MPK
Their first CO, Lt Cdr. Arthur Nichol Rowell, was Royal Navy, the second "wavy navy", a South African, Lt Cdr A.F. Trew SANF(V). HMS Walker "worked up" in Scotland and was then sent to Londonderry, her base for escort duties to Gibraltar. By April 1943 the shore base at Londonderry, HMS Ferret , was responsible for 149 escort and anti-submarine patrol vessels, two thousand shore-based personnel and twenty thousand British and Canadian seamen. Derry provided much needed rest and relaxation to Allied sailors following convoy duty. On one occasion while escorting a convoy to Gib Walker ran out of fuel and had to go into Azores, a neutral country, to refuel.
In January 1944 they went to Gairloch on the Clyde to be fitted out with cold weather gear for escorting Arctic Convoys. From now on their base was Greenock (HMS Orlando ) on the Clyde. HMS Walke r with HMS Keppell, Beagle and Boadicea formed the 8th Escort Group, part of the Close Escort for convoys to the Kola inlet in north Russia. In overall command was Vice-Admiral F Dalrymple-Hamilton RN, the Flag Officer of the 10th Cruiser Squadron in HMS DIadem . The convoys of merchant ships formed up in Loch Ewe, a deep enclosed sea loch on the west coast of Scotland. HMS Walker would escort ships from Liverpool and the Clyde to the assembly point at Loch Ewe. Bill Perks and Albert Foulser were on five Arctic Convoys (JW57.JW58, JW59, JW61 and JW63 plus the return convoys with the prefix RA) to Polyarnoe, the Russian naval base near Murmansk on the Kola inlet from 1944 to early 1945. Click on the links in the table at the top of this page to see the names of the merchant ships and the escorts in each convoy.
Albert George Foulser JX 396835 (left) was born in Walthamstow, North East London, on 11 August 1924, the son of a green-grocer. He was the second of five sons and had four sisters. He left school at 14 and trained as a cabinet maker in a furniture factory but they were all made redundant when the factory changed to making aircraft. By the time he was eighteen and received his call-up papers he was "filling in" working for the father of a friend as a "bottle washer'! He "began his time" on 21 December 1942 with four months basic training at HMS Glendower at Pwllheli, a former Butlins holiday camp in North Wales. He returned to Chatham and on 22 June 1943 was posted to HMS Walker which had just been converted to a Long Range Escort (LRE). He is 95 still in good health living with his wife in Loughton, Essex.
Leslie William Perks (right) was born on 31 March 1925 at Leamington Spa and iived there all his life. He left school at 14 and became a despatch rider with the National Fire Service. He was a a few months short of his eighteenth birthday when he decided to join the RAF but was told to come back when he was older so he joined the Navy instead. He did ten weeks basic training at HMS Ganges and going up the mast in the early morning was "a frightening experience". He had to prove he could swim by putting on a big "duck suit" and floating in the pool for three minutes before he was allowed to go on the ferry to Harwich. If you couldn't swim you had to go to Ipswich for an evening out. He was sent from the depot at Chatham to Tobemory for an Asdic course but they were all "ping happy" so he deliberately failed the course. On returning to Chatham he joined HMS Walker as an OD at the start of her new Commission after conversion to a Long Range Escort (LRE). He died on Bank Holiday Monday in May 2016.
They were shipmates and close friends on Atlantic Convoys to Gibraltar and Arctic Convoys to Murmansk until Walker was paid off at Barrow in Furness at the end the war. They next met at the Cenotaph in 2005 when they were awarded the Arctic Emblem and heard their names called out. The photographs were taken by Albert Foulser whose parents bought him a Box Brownie camera in 1932 for 5/-. He was the only man with a camera on the lower deck and he gave copies of the photographs he took to his shipmates including Bill Perks. Albert took all the photographs on this page apart from the photographs of the ships company which were taken by a Royal Navy photographer. Albert Foulser is standing alongside Bill Perks in both these photographs. They were both long term members of the V & W Destroyer Association and I met them at annual reunions most years. I interviewed Bill Perks at the V & W reunion at Eastbourne in 2014 and Albert Foulser at St Ives near Cambridge in 2016.
Bill Perks, as a young rating in 1944 and wearing his Arctic Star in 2014, and a photograph of the Kola Inlet near Murmansk in Arctic Russia taken from HMS Walke
Courtesy of Albert Foulser
Lt James J Glossop RN
Lt James J Glossop RN had joined HMS Walker as a Sub on 20 May 1943 when Lt.Cdr. Arthur Nichol Rowell, RN was the CO and was promoted to Lieutenant on 16 May 1944. He took part on Arctic C onvoys JW.57 and JW.58 and the return convoys described by ABs Albert Foulser and Bill Perks .
After the Normandy landings and his promotion to Lt he served under Lt. Cdr. Antony Francis Trew, SANF(V) escorting Arctic Convoys JW61 and JW63 to the Kola Inlet in North Russia. He left HMS Walker on the 22 November 1944 to join HM Destroyer Penn on 23 November 1944 in refit at Chatham and spent the rest of the war operating with the East Indies Fleet based at Trincomallee in Ceylon. He stayed in the Royal Navy after the war until retirement at the age of 45 in 1969/70.
James Glossop is the son of an Australian naval hero of the Great War , Capt John C.T. Glossop RAN (1871-1934) , who commanded the light cruiser HMAS Sydney when she sank the Emden , a commerce raider which had created havoc in the Indian Ocean until outgunned by Sydney, set on fire and driven ashore she was forced to surrender in November 1914. The portrait of James Glossop on the left was cropped from the ship's company below and the one on the right was taken on the centenary of the sinking of the Emden by HMAS Sydney.
He is now in his mid-nineties and lives in a nursing home in Bathurst, a large rural town 200 km west of Sydney. My contact with him is via Colonel Gerry McCormack (Ret) who lives in Perth but visits him occasionally and forwards queries by phone and letter. James Glossop is thought to be the only officer who served in HMS Walker alive today.
Donald Frank Wright (left) was born at Norwich on 8 August 1925. He was living at home with his father and working as an "errand lad" when he volunteered to join the Royal Navy on 15 February 1943 "for the period of the present emergency".
After ten weeks basic training at HMS Ganges at Shotley Gate, on the north bank of the River Stour opposite Harwich, Ordinary Seaman Donald F Wright JX 407954 was sent to HMS Valkyrie at Douglas on the Isle of Man. This was the Navy's main shore base for training RDF operators.
The technology was top secret and the five week training course was too short to teach men fully: "Commanding Officers must appreciate that Ordinary Seamen (RDF) newly drafted to sea cannot be considered fully trained either in practical operating or in sea sense. The training must be continued afloat and every help and encouragement must be given to operators to learn" ( Churchill's Navy by Brian Lavery).
OD Donald F Wright was posted to HMS Walker at Chatham on 18 June 1943 and remained aboard her until the end of the war. Throughout most of this period HMS Walker was escorting Arctic Convoys but she also played her part in the Normandy landings. Donald Wright was rated as an Able Bodied Seaman (RDF) on 15 February 1944 when the Navy created a separate Branch for Radar Control Ratings. AB Wright was initially rated as RC3 but promoted to RC2 in December 1945. Throughout most of his time in HMS Walker she was based at HMS Ferret in Londonderry.
He was discharged 10 September 1946. His Grandson, Stephen Wright, briefly described his life after the war: "I believe he worked or completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter and later on started his own construction company. He actually built his own and our family home in Taverham Norfolk. He basically remained in the building trade until retirement. He passed away in early 2001."
HMS Walker escorting a convoy in choppy conditions
Crown copyright IWM 4593
Arctic Convoy JW.57
20 - 28 February
In January 1944, Walker was transferred to the Home Fleet to escort Arctic convoys to and from the Soviet Union. In February 1944, she was part of the close escort group for Convoy JW.57 during its voyage from the United Kingdom to the Soviet Union along with Keppel , the destroyers Beagle and Boadicea , and four Flower-class corvettes. The convoy left Liverpool on 20 February and although it endured German air and submarine attacks during its passage, no merchant ships were lost but on the night of 25 February the destroyer HMS Maharratta was torpedoed by U-990 and only 17 were saved out of a crew of just over200.
Photographs taken on Arctic Convoy JW.57 by Sub Lt Dennis W Foster RN from HMS Wanderer
Water froze on the superstructure, guns, guard rails and focsle and had to be chipped away to prevent the ship becoming unstable and capsising. A safety line with a sling was slung the length of the ship to make it easier and safer for officers and men going on watch to move along the icy deck without slipping and being washed overboard. On 27 February, the day before they arrived at the Kola Inlet at the end of their first convoy to Arctic Russia the Canadian Gunnery Officer failed to turn up for the middle watch (0000 - 0400) and was found to have left the wardroom at the stern, slipped and been washed overboard on his way to the bridge. Lt. Stuart W M Farquharson-Roberts RN, the Navigator in HMS Westcott , describes how this could easily happen when making the the perilous journey from the officers flat on the quarterdeck at the stern to the open bridge at the bow in his account of Christmas at sea in HMS Westcott while escorting return convoy RW.55A on 25 December 1943.
LtJames Glossop RN remembers the night well. He was due to go on watch at 0800 and went to bed at midnight expecting to sleep the whole night through but was woken at 0400 and asked to relieve the First Lt who had conducted an unsuccessful search for the missing officer. Neither Bill Perks or Albert Foulser could remember the name of the Canadian officer but a search on naval-history.net identified him as Lieutenant Frederick Victor Robinson RCNVR who was lost, Missing Presumed Killed (MPK), on 27 February 1944, the day before HMS Walker arrived at the Kola Inlet. He was a 28 years old former school teacher from London, Ontario, a city north of Lake Eyrie near the US border. He had volunteered for the Navy in August 1940 and trained at HMCS Stadacona at Halifax, Nova Scotia, before being sent to Britain for officer training at HMS King Alfred . In June 1941 he was sent on a two months course at HMS Quebec , the No 1 Combined (Operations) Training Centre (No 1 CTC) at Inverary on the remote shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland before being posted to HMS Ferrett , the shore base for Atlantic escorts at Londonderry where he may have met his future wife, Elizabeth Wilson from Belfast. She was two years younger than him, the daughter of a deceased Captain in the Black Watch. He joined his first real ship, an elderly Town Class destroyer, HMS Clare , on 5 November 1941 and married Elizabeth at the Registry Office in Islington on 23 February 1942.
During his two years in HMS Clare in 1941-3 she was intially based at Liverpool with the 41st Escort Group for defence of West African convoys but after a refit escorted convoys to Gibraltar and was sent to the Mediterranean and took part in Operation Torch , the landings near Syracuse in Sicily. Lt Frederick V. Robinson RCNVR joined HMS Walker on 13 October 1943 with Sub Lt (E) R.R. Brooks RCNVR when she was part of the 4th Escort Group based at at Londonderry. Frederick Robinson's death was confirmed in a letter from the Canadian Navy Board to his father on 13 April 1944. By the time of his death Elizabeth had a daughter, Patricia Robinson. They were repatriated by the Canadian Navy aboard an elderly liner the SS Letitia in September 1946 and joined her father-in-law, Ernest Walter Robinson, a schoolmaster in London, Ontario.
Return Convoy RA.57
2 - 10 March 1944
The Russians provided air cover as the Convoy left the Kola Inlet and took a long detour eastward to avoid detection. The tactic worked and only one merchant ship was lost at the cost of three u-boats sunk by aircraft from the escort carrier HMS Chaser. Convoy RA.57 reached Loch Ewe on 10 March 1944.
Arctic Convoy JW 58
29 March - 4 April
On 29 March 1944, Walker joined Beagle, Boadicea and Keppel of the 8th Escort Group together with the sloops of the 2nd Escort Group – Magpie, Starling (commanded by Cpt Frederic "Johnny" Walker), Whimbrel, Wild Goose , and Wren provided a strong close escort for Convoy JW58. It came under German air and submarine attack, but arrived at the Kola Inlet on 4 April. The senior officer of the combined force was the Rear-Admiral in command of the cruiser, Diadem , a comparatively new ship and leader of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. The escort carriers Tracker and Activity provided air cover. The convoy included USS Milwaukee which was being loaned by the US to the Russian Navy.
During this convoy six shadowing aircraft were shot down by aircraft from the carrier. On the 2nd April carrier aircraft carried out attacks on submarines causing damage and shooting down a Ju88 aircraft. On the next day Submarine U288 was sighted and attacked by Swordfish Aircraft of 819 Squadron. U288 was sunk North of North Cape by rocket attacks despite intense AA fire and manoeuvers by the submarine to avoid being hit.
Arctic Convoy JW.58 arrived at the Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944. "Walker Morning News" was received as naval signals by George Walker, Telegraphist in the Wireless Office, and posted on the ship's notice board. It was retrieved and kept by AB Donald Frank Wright, an RDF operator in HMS Walker and sent to me by Stephen Wright, his Grandson.
Arctic Convoy JW.58 arrived at the Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944
These messages were retained by AB Donald Frank Wright,
RDF operator in HMS Walker , June 1943 - Jan 1945
Courtesy of Stephen Wright, his Grandson
HMS Beagle (H30), a member of the 8th Escort Group, in the Kola inlet near the Russian naval base of Polyanoe
HMS Beagle (H30) and HMS Boadicea (H65) were B-Class destroyers built around 1930 which together with the V & W Class Leader HMS Keppell and HMS Walker made up the 8th Escort Group in 1944
HMS Boadicea , commanded by Lt. Frederick William Hawkins RN, a former CO of HMS Woolston, was torpedoed and sunk two months later on 13 June 1944 during the Normandy landings
Courtesy of Albert Foulser
Return Convoy RA.58
7 - 12 April 1944
Walker and the 8th Escort Group and the return convoy of 36 empty ships left the Kola Inlet on 7 April but the enemy did not learn of their departure until the following day. Ten u-boats attempted to block the passage between Bear Island and North Cape but the Convooy passed south of their patrol line, escaped unnoticed and returned to Loch Ewe without loss .
20 - 23 April 1944
The supply route to the USSR had switched to the "Persian Corridor" to Azerbaijan via the Persian Gulf and Iran for the Summer months but although there were no more ships waiting to be escorted north there were empty ships in Russian ports waiting to be escorted south. In addition, the crew of the USS Milwaukee were waiting for a lift home and the Russian crew of the Battleship, Royal Sovereign, which was being transferred to the USSR, needed taking to Britain (Operation FZ) . She would be renamed Archangelsk.
A strong escort force including the Activity, Diadem, Fencer , 14 Home Fleet Destroyers and 4 Canadian Frigates attached to the Home Fleet headed North to bring back the empty ships. The troop ship, TSS Nea Hellas , was taking passage to embark the Russian and USN crew members but mechanical defects forced her to turn back and they had to be accomodated on the merchant ships and warships. The Convoy reached the Kola Inlet unobserved on 23 April.
On the day of his arrival at Vaenga on the Kola Inlet Rear Admiral R.R. McGrigor commanding the 1st Cruiser Squadron along with the CO of the escort carrier Diadem , Captain D and the SBNO attended a party given by the CiC of the Northern Fleet, Admiral Levenchenko, and on the day of his departure he invited the CiC and a number of Russian officers to lunch but "the CiC did not attend either function on a plea of urgent business with Commissars from Moscow, his Chief of Staff deputising for him".
Return Convoy RA.59
28 April - 6/7 May 1944
Admiral Levchenko and his staff were riding in the escort carrier HMS Fencer to take command of the USSR's new battleship, Archangelsk. There were some 2,300 "passengers" distributed between the 43 merchant ships and the 23 escorts in the return convoy. The numbers aboard each of the merchant ships are given in brackets in the plan of the convoy below.
RA.59 was routed as far north as possible, the actual track being limited by the ice edge. At 2000 on the 30th April 1944, when the Convoy was 50 miles south of Bear Island, the United States Liberty ship William S Thayer , third ship in the third column (see warsailors.com below), which was carrying 164 Russian and American personnel was torpedoed. Whitehall and HMS I nconstant swept up the port side of the convoy and then joined HMS Boadicea hunting a contact on the port quarter of the convoy.
The dedicated rescue boat, the Liberty Ship SS Robert Eden, reported that there were many men in the water and that the bow section had sunk. William Chisholm, an engine cadet on the Robert Eden , described his part in the rescue: "I ended up in a motorized life boat. A sea painter wrapped around the propeller and we couldn’t use the motor. The crew was forced to row. Being from Gloucester, Massachusetts I could handle the oar. We rowed over to the aft section of the Thayer and boarded a number of the crew. The rest returned to the Eden with survivors."
Meanwhile Walker joined Keppel searching for the attacking u-boat in the vicinity of the wreck (Operation Observant). At 2107 Whitehall was ordered to close and pick up survivors. As the after part did not appear to be in any danger of sinking it was decided to rescue men from the water first. Whitehall proceeded to windward of rafts and wreckage, all floating in thick oil. The whaler was lowered and Whitehall went alongside the rafts. Twelve men were rescued, and the whaler returned with 10 more.
Boadicea joined Walker alongside the wreck. Boadicea lowered a boat and also embarked some survivors over her bows on the lee side. Walker went alongside on the weather side and embarked the remaining 49 survivors, in about 4 minutes with little difficulty. All were Russians. Walker and Boadicea were ordered to sink the derelict. Boadicea set it on fire with gunfire, while Walker steamed past and lobbed two depth charges from the Port Throwers set shallow. A beautiful straddle was achieved and the wreck sank a few minutes later.
Click on the links to read Lt Cdr A.N. Rowell's Report of Proceedings and the Report of Proceedings by the CO of HMS Whitehall . Admiral Levchenko and his staff were riding in the escort carrier HMS Fencer to take command of the USSR's new battleship, Archangelsk. He requested that the ships assisting in the rescue of survivors from the William S Thayer telegraph the number of Russians saved. Walker's ROP includes the log of signals received in reponse to this request: Walker rescued 49, Whitehall 6 named survivors (plus two dead) and the rescue ship, Robert Eden , 34 making a total of 89 saved plus those who died after rescue and were buried at sea. In addition Whitehall rescued 10 Americans (plus four who died) and the Robert Eden 29 plus 4 who died.
The most accurate figures are probably those in "The names of those lost from the personnel of the ship squadrons of the Northern Fleet" issued by the Staff of the Ship Squadrons of the Northern Fleet on 16 September 1944, Ref No 011P Vaenga. This document gives the names of 23 who died out of the 164 Russian crew members known to be on the William S Thayer . It was standard practice in both Navies to record the names of those who died so that their families could be notified but less common to record the names of those saved and returned to their units. We have been contacted by the grandson of Snr Lt Valentin Aleksandrovich Martinov, a submariner, who died from exposure soon after his rescue by HMS Whitehall and shall be telling his story on the website of HMS Whitehal l. We are hoping to hear from the families of some of the other Russian sailors aboard the William S Thayer when she was sunk. If a member of your family is on this list or you recognise one of the men in Albert Foulser's photographs you can e-mail details in Russian to his grandson, Alexander Kovalev.
The William S Thayer was the only ship lost on return convoy RW.59 and the Germans paid a heavy price for her sinking. The Russian Admiral Levchenko in HMS Fencer had the satisfaction of seeing three u-boats sunk by her Swordfish aircraft within two days of the loss of his men in Thayer . And HMS Westcott and HMS Wrestler made two depth charge attacks at 2130 on the 30 May on a submerged u-boat but reported this as inconclusive.
Albert Foulser's photographs of the Russian survivors aboard HMS Walker after their rescue bring this story to life. Walker already had some American sailors onboard as passengers so must have been quite crowded.
Lt James Glossop had an amusing memory of the Russians rescued when the William S Thaye r was torpedoed. One of them, a large, overbearing fellow with a big boozer’s nose, was never in uniform. He was less well educated than the others and not at all comfortable at sea but was rumoured to be a master chess player. The Ward Room arranged for six of its chess players to play against him. The agreement was that he would be blindfolded and the six players from HMS Walker would have their moves described and translated to the blindfolded Russian. Within 12-15 moves he had demolished four of the Walker team. The other two, including James Glossop, were saved when the rattles sounded an anti-sub alarm.
The friendly relations between the Russians rescued from the William S Thayer and the officers and men of HMS Walker did not last. James Glossop recalled that on Arctic Convoy JW.59, the first convoy back to the USSR after D Day, Walker escorted the Royal Sovereign now renamed Arkhangelsk to Murmansk. Even though Walker had played a crucial role in getting part of her crew to the UK, there was no cordiality in signals or chatter from the Archangelsk to Walker during the voyage.
On another convoy the stanchions above the focastle were washed away and mess deck badly damaged and they went into Iceland where the Mess Deck was shored up with timber instead of being repaired.
Albert Foulser is on the left in this photograph of his shipmates in HMS Walker with USN sailors taking passage to Britain and Russians rescued from the William S Thayer
This photograph was taken on Kodak 620 film in Albert Foulser's box Brownie camera and the image has been scanned from the negative carefully kept by Albert
Some of the USN sailors who crewed the USS Milwaukee on her voyage north to Murmansk (Operation FZ) in April 1944 and returned to Britain aboard HMS Walker
They are easily identifiable by their USN peacoats and the USN tally on their caps and were photographed on arrival at Greenock by Albert Foulser
Please let us know if you recognise a mermber of your family in this group
HMS Walker escorted convoys from Milford Haven to the D-Day beaches in June but returned to escorting Arctic Convoys in August
Arctic Convoy JW.59
15 – 24 August 1944
Vice Admiral F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton was the senior officer in the Convoy flew his flag in the escort carrier Vindex . Enemy aircraft located the Convoy on 20 August and U-344 sank the Sloop Kite with only 9 out of the crew of nearly 200 saved but Swordfish aircraft from Vindex gained revenge by sinking the u-boat the following day. Two days later ships of the 20th Escort Group sunk U-354 which had earlier that day sunk the frigate HMS Bickerton commanded by Walker ’s former CO, Donald Macintyre, and badly damaged the escort carrier Nabob . An abortive attack was made on Archangelsk by U-711 but the flagship of the Northern Fleet with Admiral Levchenko in command and all the merchant ships in JW.59 arrived safely at the Kola Inlet on 24 August 1944.
Bill Forster recorded an interview with Bill Perks at Eastbourne in 2014 and Albert Foulser (Reel 2) at St Ives in 2016
They cover similar ground but Bill Perks gives a clearer account than Albert's
You can click on the links to hear them describe their wartime service on HMS Walker
be patient - it takes a couple of minutes before the file opens and they start speaking
See more of the photographs taken by Albert Foulser aboard HMS Walker on his 5/- box Brownie camera
and at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005
A Russian officer on HMS Fencer - History
HMS Whitehall after her conversion into a Long Range Escort (LRE) in 1942 by removing a boiler to free up space for more fuel
She lost her "Woodbine", her tall thin front funnel, along with the boiler
About one third of the V & W Class destroyers were converted to Long Range Escorts (LRE) by removing one of their boilers to free up more space for fuel oil to extend their range at the cost of speed. The aim was to enable them to complete an Atlantic crossing without refueling at Havelfjord in Iceland or being refueled at sea by Royal Fleet Auxilliary (RFA) tankers ("oilers"). The distance is sea miles from Glasgow to Murmansk in Northern Russia was six hundred miles less that an Atlantic crossing from Liverpool to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, but still exceeded the range of a V & W Class destroyer. Despite this more than half the V & Ws which formed part of the close escort for Arctic Convoys were unconverted.
The RFA did not have the capacity to refuel all the escorts for convoys and the Trade Division of the Admiralty chartered commercial tankers as escort oilers. They were built as conventional oil tankers not as "oilers" and had to be adopted and the merchant seamen who manned them had to be trained. They also carried a normal commercial load of oil which was discharged on arrival at Murmank or Molotovsk (now Severodvinsk), the deepwater port for Archangel in the White Sea.
The table lists the V & W Class destroyers which escorted one or more Arctic Convoys in the left hand column with links to pages about these convoys on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association. Where no link is provided there is no page about Arctic convoys on that ship's website. The return convoys will be added later. The top row gives the code for convoys escorted by V & Ws with links to details of these convoys on the convoyweb and warsailors sites. If your family has photographs, letters, journals or stories by a man who served on these destroyers while escorting Arctic Convoys please get in touch by e-mailing Bill Forster.
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|WRESTLER (LRE) - see also NHN ||X||X|
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|Wren (U28) ||X|| |
To complete the links to Arctic convoys on Convoyweb select the convoy from the left hand column (return convoys will be added later)
A further source worth checking is www.naval-history.net (NHN) - links are only given where there are significant differences from Convoyweb (CW) and Warsailors (WS)
Between November 1943 and February 1945 HMS Whitehall was part of the close escort for Arctic Convoys from Loch Ewe to Murmansk on the Kola Inlet in North Russia. Return Convoy RA.59 which left the Kola Inlet on 28 April 1944 and arrived on 6 - 7 May was returning to Britain the American crew of the USS Milwaukee which was lent to the USSR by the USN and taking 2,300 Soviet sailors to Britain to crew a whole armada of ships ranging from the Battleship HMS Royal Sovereign to submarines and Town Class Destroyers down to MTBs being transferred to the USSR.
Only one ship was lost from the Convoy, the Liberty Ship William S Thayer . The rescue of Russian and American survivors is described below and on the website of HMS Walker. The story of the Russian submariner, Snr Lt Martinov, told to us by his grandson was published in the current issue of Warships International Fleet Review but a more detailed account will be provided on a linked page.
But this is only a small part of a much larger story on the surrender of the Italian fleet in August 1943 and the discusions between the allies on how it should be allocated. This complicated story extending over several years required 2,300 Russian sailors to go to Britain on the warships in Convoy RA.59 and spend three months familiarising themselves with the former RN nd USN warships being lent to he USSR as an interim arrangement before returning with them to Murmansk as part of Arctic Convoy JW59. On returning these elderly warships to Britain and the USA after the war ended the Soviet Union finally received its share of the surrendered Italian Fleet.
Click on the "chapter numbers" in blue to go to the page you want
At a conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow at the beginning of November 1943 the Russians demanded a third of the Italian Fleet, amounting to 1 Battleship, 1 Cruiser, 4 submarines and 40,000 displacement tons of Merchant shipping. to which President Roosevelt agreed without reference to Churchill, who himself considered that, as the Royal Navy had defeated the Italian Navy, the British should retain control of the Italian ships. At the Tehran Conference between November 28 and December 1 1943, Stalin repeated the demand. In anticipation of this the American Chiefs of Staff had drafted a memorandum to dampen the President’s enthusiasm for the deal, which pointed out that the Soviet Navy would be unable to man the ships, the effect on Italian cooperation in the war in Italy would be adverse, the Italians might scuttle the ships rather than hand them over, and the Italians ships would not come with spare parts and ammunition.
Discussions continued, and it was eventually agreed the Italian Battleship to be transferred would be the old Giulo Cesare , and due to the impracticality of making her ready and getting her out of the Mediterranean, Churchill offered to transfer a British Battleship. Stalin agreed but demanded a modern King George V Class ship. In the end he accepted the old British Battleship Royal Sovereign and a cruiser, “In order not to delay the settlement which is so vitally important to our common fight against Germany”.
The destroyers would be chosen from the 50 four-funnelled United States destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy under Lease Lend. These Town Class destroyers were named after towns common to the US and Britain. One British admiral called them the "worst destroyers I had ever seen" but their transfer contrary to the Neutrality Act contributed to America’s later entry into the war. The submarines transferred were small British boats.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Battle, East Sussex
Lincoln, Lincs (but changed to Wakeful )
Wanstead & Woodford, East London
Chipping Sodbury & Filton, Glouc
Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire
Russian - English
Dostoiny - Worthy
Zharkiy - Hot
Zhyvuchy - Tenacious
Derzky - Audacious
Zhgouchy - Burning
Doblestny - Valiant
Zhostky - Hard
Druzhny - Friendly
Deyatelny - Active (sunk 16 Jan 1945)
V-1 (sunk 27 July 1944)
A synopsis of their service with the Northern Fleet after their transfer based on the Russian book The Grim Barents Sea by Captain Polyakov is being prepared and will be published on this site for the benefit of naval historians and residents of these towns.
Transfer of USS Milawaukee
USS Milwaukee with an American crew joined Arctic Convoy JW.58 for her voyage to Murmansk where she was to be handed over to the USSR and become part the Northern Fleet. HMS Whitehall was part of the Close Escort from 27 March with Westcott (Senior Officer of the Escort) Wrestler and corvettes Bluebell, Honeysuckle and Lotus. On 29 March they were joined by HMS Walker, Beagle, Boadicea and Keppel of the 8th Escort Group together with the sloops of the 2nd Escort Group – Magpie, Starling (commanded by Cpt Frederic "Johnny" Walker), Whimbrel, Wild Goose, and Wren .
The senior officer of the combined force was the Rear-Admiral in command of the cruiser , Diadem , a comparatively new ship and leader of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. The escort carriers Tracker and Activity provided air cover. During this convoy six shadowing aircraft were shot down by aircraft from the carrier and four u-boat were sunk. On the 2nd April carrier aircraft carried out attacks on submarines causing damage and shooting down a Ju88 aircraft. On the next day Submarine U-288 was sighted and attacked by Swordfish Aircraft of 819 Squadron. U-288 was sunk North of North Cape by rocket attacks despite intense AA fire and manoeuvers by the submarine to avoid being hit.
Arctic Convoy JW.58 arrived at the Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944 without loss and four escorts of the Russian Navy escorted the remainder of the convoy as it continued to Archangel on the White Sea. On 20 April 1944 Milwaukee was formally transferred on loan to the Soviet Union under lend‑lease and commissioned in the Northern Fleet with the name Murmansk . Her American crew were stranded in Murmansk to wait for a life home on a return convoy. Murmansk performed convoy and patrol duty along the Atlantic sealanes throughout the remainder of the war.
HMS Whitehall left the Kola Inlet as part of the escort for Convoy RA59 on 28th of April 1944. She was a member of the 8th Escort Group led by HMS Keppel , Cdr Ismay James Tyson RNR, which included HMS Beagle, Waker, Boadicea, Whitehall, Inconstant, Wrestler and Westcott. The Convoy was formed in into 12 columns with up to 5 ships to a column. A substantial number of passengers were embarked, with USN personnel mainly onboard the escorts and Russians onboard the merchant ships.
The convoy was routed as far north as possible, the actual track being limited by the ice edge. At 2000 on the 30th April, when the Convoy was 50 miles south of Bear Island, the United States Liberty ship William S Thayer (Master Daniel A. Sperbeck), third ship in the third column which was carrying 164 Russian and American personnel was torpedoed. Whitehall and HMS Inconstant swept up the port side of the convoy and then joined HMS Boadicea hunting a contact on the port quarter of the convoy.
The 8th Escort Group comprised HMS Keppel, Beagle, Walker, Boadicea, Whitehall, Inconstant, Wrestler and Westcott
The Russian officers and crew of the Dostoiny ( Worthy ), the former Town Class destroyer HMS St Albans, and the submariners appointed to V3, the former British submarine, HMS Unicorn, were in the William S Thayer . They described what happened to Capt G.G. Polyakov and he included their accounts in his book about the transfer of allied warships to Russia, In the Grim Barents Sea (Murmansk, 1978) :
The dedicated rescue ship, the Liberty Ship SS Robert Eden , reported that there were many men in the water and that the bow section had sunk. William Chisholm, an engine cadet on the Robert Eden , described his part in the rescue:
Meanwhile Walker joined Keppel searching in the vicinity of the wreck (Operation Observant). At 2107 Whitehall was ordered to close and pick up survivors. As the after part did not appear to be in any danger of sinking it was decided to rescue men from the water first. Whitehall proceeded to windward of rafts and wreckage, all floating in thick oil. The whaler was lowered and Whitehall went alongside the rafts. Twelve men were rescued, and the whaler returned with 10 more.
When Whitehall arrived the men had been in the water for about 85 minutes and great difficulties were experienced in rescuing them. No one could help himself owing to the cold, none had any rope or attachment round himself that would hold a hook or rope, all were thickly coated with oil, and those that had consumed quantities of oil struggled hard when rescuers tried to hitch them to a lifeline. A few sank alongside before they could be hoisted inboard.
All those rescued by Whitehall came from the forward half of the ship. The American survivors were on the bridge when the ship was torpedoed and reported that there were two hits, one forward and one amidships, both on the starboard side. Just before the torpedoes hit a periscope was sighted about 400 yards away to starboard. This would indicate that the U Boat was well inside the convoy.
Boadicea joined Walker alongside the wreck. Boadicea lowered a boat and also embarked some survivors over her bows on the lee side. Walker went alongside on the weather side and embarked the remaining 49 survivors, in about 4 minutes with little difficulty. All were Russians. Walker and Boadicea were ordered to sink the derelict. Boadicea set it on fire with gunfire, while Walker steamed past and lobbed two depth charges from the Port Throwers set shallow. A beautiful straddle was achieved and the wreck sank a few minutes later.
Great credit was due to Surgeon Lieutenant G C Foster-Smith RNVR whose strenuous efforts saved many lives. Sadly six men died from exposure within an hour of rescue, and were buried at sea at 2320. For the ten years before his appointment as CO of HMS Whitehall Lt Cdr Patrick J. Cowell DSC had been in submarines and must have been especially pleased to save the Russian submariners in the William S Thayer but saddened that Snr Lt Martinov died after rescue and had to be buried off the stern of Whitehall.
The William S Thayer was the only ship lost on return convoy RW.59 and the Germans paid a heavy price for her sinking. The Russian Admiral Levchenko in HMS Fencer had the satisfaction of seeing three u-boats sunk by her Swordfish aircraft within two days of the loss of his men in the Thayer . And HMS Westcott and HMS Wrestler made two depth charge attacks at 2130 on the 30 April on a submerged u-boat but reported this as inconclusive.
Valentin Alexandrovich Martinov died of exposure shortly after he was rescued by HMS Whiehall and was buried at sea. He was on passage to the UK to become the Navigator of the British Submarine HMS Unison, which was being loaned to the Soviet Navy as V3. He had previously been Navigator and Head of the Steering Department of Submarine K21 from July 1941 to December 1942 and was sent on the advanced training courses for commanding officers at the S.M Kirov, Baku, from December 1942 to September 1943, and promoted to Senior Lieutenant.
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Lt Cdr Patrick J. Cowell DSC was a former submariner himself and must have been saddened by the death of Snr Lt Martinov
In addition to Senior Lt Martinov, 22 Russian Officers and Ratings lost their lives. These included the Staff Electrical Officer to the Admiral, an Officer for Submarine V-4 (the former RN submarine HMS Ursula ), three Officers for the Destroyer Dostoiny (the former HMS St Albans ), and a Kapitan Lieutenant from 'SMERSH", well know to fans of Ian Fleming (who worked in Naval Intelligence so should know) as the Soviet counter espionage agency.
Admiral Levchenko and his staff were riding in the escort carrier HMS Fencer to take command of the USSR's new battleship, Archangelsk , the former Royal Sovereign . He requested that the ships assisting in the rescue of survivors from the William S Thayer telegraph the number of Russians saved. Walker 's ROP includes the log of signals received in reponse to this request: Walker rescued 49, Whitehall 6 named survivors (plus two dead) and the rescue ship, Robert Eden , 34 making a total of 89 saved plus those who died after rescue and were buried at sea. In addition Whitehall rescued 10 Americans (plus four who died) and the Robert Eden 29 plus 4 who died.
"The names of those lost from the personnel of the ship squadrons of the Northern Fleet" was issued by the Staff of the Ship Squadrons of the Northern Fleet on 16 September 1944, Ref No 011P Vaenga. It contains the names of 23 who died out of the 164 Russian crew members known to be on the William S Thayer . We are hoping to hear from the families of some of these Russian sailors aboard the William S Thayer . If a member of your family is on the list of those who died when the William S Thayer was torpedoed or you recognise one of the men in the photographs taken by Albert Foulser on HMS Walker please e-mail details in Russian to Snr Lt Valentin Aleksandrovich Martinov's grandson, Alexander Kovalev .
Lt Martinov’s story might have been forgotten had he not left a two-month old son, Valentin. His Mother remarried Aleksander Yakovlevich Kovalev, a Soviet Naval Air Force Pilot, and Valentin took his name and became Valentin Alexandrovich Kovalev. His Mother told him his birth father’s story when he was 13. He is proud of his father and was deeply moved to learn from this website of the circumstances under which he died. His son, Alexander Kovalev, contacted us in May and sent a 51-page dossier in Russian on his grandfather’s naval service in submarines researched by his father. This has been read and translated by Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret) who learned Russian from his Mother and served in submarines for 14 years. Alex also sent some truely staggering photographs from Russian sources of Lt Martinov and Submarine K-21 which have never been published outside Russia.
The full story of Snr Lt Martinov and his service in K-21 which made an unsuccessful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz on 7 July 1942 shortly before the disaster of Arctic Convoy PQ.17 will be told on this website by Frank Donald. In the meantime you might like to read the two page illustrated article by Bill Forster, the man behind this website, which was published in a "WW2 75 Special Feature" in the the combined June - July issue of Warships International Fleet Review which can be bought from W H Smiths and Sainsbury's or ordered online from the publisher.
Soviet Sailors in Scotland and the transfer of the Battleship
The Russian crews arrived at Rosyth by train from Greenock on 7th May. HMS Royal Sovereign was berthed there, and some of the Russians were to live onboard. The submariners were to be accommodated in the aircraft carrier Chaser which was under repair. The rest of the Russians, including destroyer crews were onboard liner SS Empress of Russia , an inspired choice made by the previous Captain, who had taken up an appointment in the Trade Division of the Admiralty. Captain Polyakov, a staunch communist who was then a watchkeeping Lieutenant apponted to Tenacious/Zhivuchy , wrote that on going alongside the Empress of Russia the new arrivals were surprised to meet a group of Russian speaking British sailors onboard. They turned out to be survivors from the William S Thayer, reclothed onboard the rescuing ships.
The new Captain of the Royal Sovereign , in charge of the transfer, was Captain Alan Thomas George Cumberland Peachey , who had been selected on the basis that he would stand up to the Russians. A group of interpreters was provided, whose duties included translating technical turnover information, and the brass tallies on machinery controls into Russian, so that replacements could be made in Rosyth Dockyard.
Peter C. Smith in his book Battleship "Royal Sovereign" and her Sister Ships (Pen & Sword Maritime, 2009) recorded the impressions made by the Soviet sailors:
Alison Campsie's weekly column in The Scotsman on Sunday 19 July 2020 described the "cuture clash" between the allies - see on right.
Captain Polyakov tells a somewhat different story in his book, The Grim Barents Sea (Murmansk, 1978):
The joke of using the Empress of Russia had backfired, as the Russians knew that the remnants of Wrangel's White Army troops had escaped from the Crimea onboard the ship after the Civil War. They were not impressed by the worn-out decor either.
The officers were puzzled by the formal meals in the wardroom. They were baffledby the layout of cutlery for a four course dnner, and did not like the alternation of savoury and sweet courses. Lt Lisovsky put his sweet to one side to eat after the savoury, and it was promptly cleared away by the steward. He was teased about this later on.
After three days the destroyer crews moved to North Shields on the Tyne, where they lived onboard their new ships in the Albert Dock. The destroyers had been mustered at Newcastle in January 1944, and following repairs and training they were to be formally transferred to the Soviet Northern Fleet in July.
Polyakov remained in touch with events in Rosyth, and wrote that the British plans for the handover were far too slow for the Russians, and that Admiral Levchenko insisted that the crews should be immediately accommodated in their ships. This was opposed by the British, and the Chief of Staff of Rosyth Naval Base suggested that the Admiral and Staff should move to the Empress of Russia , as Captain Peachey had complained of interference. The suggestion was ignored.
The employment of White Russians as Liaison Officers was not a success. They were despised by the Russians as, allegedly, former industrial proprietors.
The massive bulk of the former HMS Royal Sovereign now renamed Archangelsk dwarfes the four elderly British submarines being transferred.
Some of the former Town Class destroyers, the "four-stackers", can also be seen on the right in this photograph taken at Rosyth
Following the transfer of the renamed Royal Sovereign June and July were spent on familiarisation of the Russian crew and trials and workup exercises in the Firth of Forth. They may not have had a common language, but that did not prevent the British Gunnery Instructors and Torpedo Anti-submarine Instructors from getting the Russians up to speed on the new equipment. For security reasons, particularly with respect to details of state of the art radar aerials, the ship was anchored overnight well to seaward of the Dockyard.
In mid July the Arkhangelsk moved to Scapa Flow for to continue workup, where she was joined by the destroyers.
T raining on Tyneside & handover of the Destroyers
As related by Captain Polyakov of HMS Richmond ( Zhivuchy ) in his book , The Grim Barents Sea
The destroyers had been on the Tyne since January and after three days at Rosyth their Russian crews travelled by train to North Shields at the mouth of the Tyne and joined their ships. Polyakov wrote that the ship’s company were not impressed by the layout, armament and state of the Richmond . She was lightly armed, with one 102 mm (4 inch) gun and Hedgehog forward, four 20mm Oerlikons and three tubes amidships, and one 76 mm (3 inch) gun and Depth Charge racks and throwers aft. The beam 10.9 M (36 ft) was narrow relative to the length of 95 M (311 ft) and the maximum speed was only 26 Kts. “The upper deck was in an extremely neglected state, and the sides and superstructure were covered with rust in many places”. The ship did have Radar and ASDIC, which like the Hedgehog was new to the Russians. The Hedgehog fired a pattern of bombs ahead of the ship which enable them to attack a U-Boat without running over the top of it, losing contact in the process. The Chief Boatswain compared their “new” ship to a steamer in the comic film “Volga-Volga” (1938) and there were satirical chants of “America Gave Russia a Steamboat”, a play by N V Carol, which was performed in London as late as February 2020!
Captain 3rd Rank Ryabchenko summoned the officers together and instructed them to tell the crew that she was now theirs and they must get her ready for battle. He told them that the destroyers had forged keels but did not explain its significance, that they would be particularly suitable for ramming submarines. The ships become known as “Thorns” since “ship” means thorn in Russian.
The Russians were shocked by British attitudes to waste. Polyakov asked the Gunner of the Richmond to replace a torn bag for collecting spent Oerlikon cartridges. He was asked “Why do you need to collect casings? Let them go overboard.” The Russians were also shocked by the short working hours – 0900 to 1600 with two hours for lunch. As a result, there were difficulties in getting access to all parts of the ship. The Russians turned to at 0600, worked with the British when they arrived, and tidied up and did exercises and combat training after they left. There were also problems of communication, as the British specialists and Translating Officers refused to work with Ratings. There was little technical documentation onboard, so the Russian technical officers produced their own drawings.
Admiral Levchenko inspected the Zhivuchy at the end of May and announced that “the spirit of a Soviet sailor is beginning to be felt onboard” which encouraged the crew.
As the Russians became familiar with the equipment they made greater demands on the British crew who resented it. One night when Polyakov was duty some British sailors, having done their washing, tipped their soapy water into the hold, which had been painted by the Red Navy the day before. It had to be drained and repainted, and Polyakov got it in the neck from the First Lieutenant.
When the Naval Officer in Charge at Newcastle, Rear Admiral Maxwell, visited the ship, Captain Ryabchenko informed him of the slow pace of repairs. The Admiral was not pleased but had to admit the remarks were justified, particularly as the other destroyers were in no better shape.
Two Radiometrists were sent to the International Radar School in Glasgow, which was attended by Greeks, French, Poles and Canadians. They went to the Cinema and when it was announced that “There are Russian Sailors here”, they received a thunderous ovation.
Sea trials revealed major defects requiring additional work. The Russian Ratings got on well with the British workers, but relations with the Officers were difficult as many of them were from the privileged classes. The First Lieutenant of the Richmond , Lt Wright, allegedly owned large factories and an estate in Scotland. Warrant Engineer Liddicoat, and the Gunnery Officer, Gunner Heisterman, belonged to the ordinary people and did not enjoy privileges even after 20 years in Navy. They got on much better with the Russian Ratings.
One day when Polyakov was on duty the White Russian Liaison Office Lt Grim (formerly Grimov) appointed by the British complained that the Russian sailors had gathered the workers together on the quarterdeck and were inciting them to strike. Polyakov took Grim to the Wardroom and instructed the Duty CPO to find out what had really happened. Meanwhile, the Russian Duty Messenger, who was aware of Grim’s tastes, provided two glasses of rum. Apparently, some English workers had asked the Senior Boatswain about working conditions in Soviet shipyards. He only had a dozen words of English and had tried to answer their questions with gestures. It became apparent that Lt Grim would do anything for a glass of rum, which was useful when looking into delays with spare parts or ammunition or translations of labels on equipment.
The Head of the Electro-Mechanical Engineering Group, Senior Lt Nikolai Ivanovich Nikolsky, got on well with Warrant Engineer Liddicoat, who was devoted to his specialisation. Liddicoat was impressed by the high professional training of Russian technical ratings and told Nikolsky that he had "brought engineers to England, not sailors". In time, those English and Russian speakers with an aptitude for language were able to communicate in a sort of pidgin Russian/English. Ryabchenko and Lt Wright sorted out problems over lunch using an unofficial translator.
After the transfer of the Battleship on 31st May Admiral Levchenko and the Detachment Command moved from Rosyth to Newcastle. The Admiral had a predilection for touring machinery spaces, and Ryabchenko ordered that Levchenko’s overalls should be kept in the Control Room.
Visitors from the Soviet Military Mission in London brought the latest war news and, sometimes, letters. Some included news of the deaths of relatives and friends which featured in a special issue of the ship’s radio newspaper “On the atrocities of fascist bandits against the family and friends of the crew.” Rear Admiral Kharlamov (the head of the Soviet Military Mission to the United Kingdom) visited in early June and briefed the crews on Operation Overlord , which he had witnessed from the cruiser HMS Mauritius . Polyakov commented:
A rather prejudiced observation when one considers that the Soviet People had allied with Germany in September 1939, and were rewarded with Eastern Poland, the Baltic States and Finland.
Some French sailors were so thrilled by the Normandy landings that they presented a monkey and a bag of bananas to HMS St Albans / Dostoiny though how they got bananas in wartime Newcastle is not recorded. Fortunately, the monkey could be taught to eat fresh cabbage as the banana supply did not last long.
The Admiral wanted to acquaint the Russians with the cultural and historical sights of England. Some officers went to London, and after a planned visit to Madame Tussauds they persuaded the organisers to take them to Karl Marx’s grave at Highgate cemetery. Polyakov went with a party to Durham Cathedral and, as a good atheist, was somewhat scornful about the grave of St Cuthbert. The guide told them that criminals could claim sanctuary in the precinct, possibly tongue in cheek.
After two months hard work the Russian crews had made the ship’s equipment and weapons combat ready, and also chipped off 8 – 10 layers of paint and repainted, starting with red lead primer. Polyakov suggested that some of the British thought that they were painting their ships in Bolshevik colours.
The final stage was a Sea Inspection. The night before there were meetings of Party activists with the Ship’s Company. On 29 June Admiral Levchenko came onboard the Richmond , and the ship went to harbour stations. Lt Cdr Stackpole, the British CO of HMS Richmond was on the bridge, and invited Captain Ryabchenko to take command.
After leaving the Albert Dock Richmond / Zhivuchy (on left after transfer) headed down river towards the sea. Senior Lt Nikolsky was in charge in the Engine Room with Warrant Eng Liddicoat at his side. One British rating was in each Engine and Boiler Room, for safety reasons, in an advisory capacity. On reaching the mouth of the Tyne the ship increased to full speed. The guns, the Hedgehog and Depth Charge throwers were fired successfully.
The ship spent the day steaming to and fro at different speeds looking for defects. The bearing of the circulation pump in the second Engine Room began to over heat and was changed by the Petty Officer in charge. In the third Boiler Room a sight glass burst and the compartment began to fill with steam. The British “safety number “, instead of offering advice headed for the ladder to the upper deck. The Senior Red Navy rating disconnected the sight glass and stopped the steam escaping.
The serviceability of all systems, machinery and weapons had been checked. Admiral Levchenko was pleased with the crew, but had noticed some shortcomings, and others were reported by Officers and Senior Rates. The Admiral gave Ryabchenko two weeks to rectify them.
Two weeks later:
The discussion would have been inspirational, covering the history of the Soviet Navy and its flag. The Political organisation onboard was led by the Political Officer Lt Cdr Fomin, and the Party Organiser Senior Lt Lysiy. Their duty was to motivate the ship’s company through a network of Communist Party agitators and activists. They are never mentioned in an operational context and seem to have left the Captain to get on with his job without interference. Polyakov and Lysiy were close friends, and when Lyisy took over from Lt Cdr Fomin, Polyakov deputised for him when required.
In attendance were the Ambassador F T Gusev, the Head of the Military Mission Vice Admiral Kharlamov, Vice Admiral Levchenko, Rear Admiral Maxwell, and the Mayor of Newcastle.
Among the toasts was one proposed by Warrant Engineer Liddicoat, “I christened my youngest daughter in the bell of the Richmond . This, according to English tradition, will bring happiness. I drink to the unsinkability of the destroyer Zhivuchy ”.
“The Mayor of Newcastle, after a few toasts, was in a rather ‘cheerful’ state. Some of his compatriots tried to persuade him not to drink any more, to which he replied, smiling good naturedly ‘I have nothing to lose but this chain’, touching his massive gold chain of office”. Polyakov seems to have totally missed this Marxist allusion.
After dinner everyone poured onto the pier, where the band was playing. Admiral Kharlamov, in full dress, approached a group of Soviet sailors. As if on command several of them picked him up and tossed him in the air. Then, lowering the smiling Nikolai Mikhailovich to the ground, they surrounded Captain 1st Rank Fokin but Vitaly Allekseevich guessed their intentions and managed to dodge them.
After the celebrations the Division were given a month for operational training west of the Orkneys, based at Scapa Flow. The first to leave the berth was the Derzky , flying the Broad Pennant of the Division Commander. The ships were given a warm farewell by crowds of spectators. At the mouth of the Tyne a combat alert was declared, as U-boats were patrolling the North Sea. The destroyers head north in line ahead, with ASDIC pings audible on their bridge loudspeakers – a sound the bridge watch keepers would soon get used to.
The Handover of the Submarines and the loss of V-1, the former HMS Sunfish
The four submarines were handed over at Dundee on 26th July. The first boat to sail was V-1 (ex Sunfish) . While on passage she was bombed by a Liberator of No. 86 Squadron RAF on 27 July and sunk. It was claimed initially that she had not conformed to the agreed route. However, both the RAF and Royal Navy held Boards of Enquiry into the loss of V-1 and her 50 Russian and one British Crew. Both Boards were clear that Captain Fisanovich was almost exactly where he was supposed to be, that he did not open fire on the aircraft, and did not crash dive on its approach. Coastal Command were searching for a U-Boat believed, from Enigma decrypts, to be outbound from Trondheim.
It was further found that the Liberator was at least 80 miles off track, and well inside V-1’s "Moving Haven", and that the crew ignored unmistakable signs that the submarine was friendly. Captain Fisanovich was cleared of all blame, and the RAF aircrew were held fully responsible for the incident., which was then hushed up to save diplomatic embarrassment ahead of the Yalta Conference. (National Archives files AIR 2/9279 and ADM 1/16390). The dead are listed on the Dundee Submarine War Memorial.
The fact that the V-1 had 50 Russians onboard a submarine that was complemented for 32 would indicate that the Russians had brought a number of spare hands, and that the loss of life in the William S Thayer had not been critical.
Passage to the Kola with JW59
To ensure the safe and timely arrival of Arkhangelsk (aka “Royal Rouble”) at Murmansk she was allocated a station in Convoy JW 59, which left Loch Ewe on 15 August. Arkhangelsk and her group of former Town Class destroyers left Scapa Flow on 17 August to join the convoy. A group of Russian manned Submarine Chasers (PC Boats) being transferred from the USA also joined the Convoy. Initially the Russian group proceeded independently, joining the convoy as it approached a U-Boat danger area on 20th August as shown on the chart below. Arkhangelsk took up her position as second ship in column five, in the centre of the ten column convoy .
No merchant ships were lost from the convoy but at 06.04 hours on 21 August (21 0604), the day after Arkhangelsk joined the convoy, the sloop HMS Kite (Lt Cdr A.N.G. Campbell, RN) with 226 men aboard, was struck by two torpedoes from U-344 on the starboard side. The stern broke off, floated for a few seconds, then sank followed a minute later by the bow. HMS Keppel (D 84) stopped to pick up survivors but only 14 of the 60 or so survivors in the water could be rescued from the ice cold water, five of them died on board and were later buried at sea. Several eye witness accounts of her loss are linked to from Mike Kemble's website about HMS Kite.
U-344 was part of Wolfpack Trutz (Defiance) which consisted of seven U-Boats. The next day pack member U-354 sank HMS Bickerton and put the Escort Carrier HMS Nabob out of action, 170 miles south of Bear Island. They had been providing cover for JW 59, and were to have attacked the Tirpitz in Altenfiord, but were withdrawing when sighted by U-354 in search of the Convoy. Ron Rendle, a popular member of the V & W Association, was on the bridge of HMS Bickerton with Capt Donald G.F.W. Macintyre and described her sinking by an acoustic torpedo, a GNAT, before they could stream their "cat" from the stern.
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U-344 and U-354 were both sunk a few days later. U-344 was sunk west of Bear Island on 22nd August by a Swordfish aircraft from HMS Vindex (see Track Chart). U-354 was sunk north east of North Cape on 24th of August after a lengthy ASW action by the Sloop HMS Mermaid and the Frigate HMS Loch Dunvegan.
HMS W hitehall and HMS Walker , the two V & Ws which had rescued survivors from the William S Thayer were part of the escort for their return convoy to the Kola Inlet with their new ships. The friendly relations between the Russians rescued from the William S Thayer and the officers and men of HMS Walker did not last. Lt James Glossop in HMS Walker was disappointed that there was no cordiality in signals or chatter from the Archangelsk to Walker during the voyage. In view of the size of the operation and the number of ships involved it is perhaps not surprising but one can be sure that the Soviet sailors rescued would never forget the two elderly V & Ws which had saved their lives.
Once past Bear Island the Arkhangelsk group detached to make a ceremonial entry to join the Northern Fleet on 25th August 1944.
Their contribution to the War
Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret) whose father served in three V & W Class destroyers and whose Mother was born in St Petersburg with Russian as her native language has drawn on the following sources to give an account of the contribution the Town Class destroyers made after their transfer to the USSR to winning the war at sea in Arctic Russia. The main focus is on a "case study" of Dostoiny , the former HMS St Albans , but it is also covers the other destroyers and to reflect their multiple identities is titled The Ships which fought under four Flags.
Captain G.G.Polyakov (left) served with the Northern Fleet as the CO of Tenacious , the former HMS Richmond, and described the contribution made by the foreign warships to the war in his book The Grim Barents Sea (Murmansk Book Publishing House, 1978). Sadly, it has not been translated since he conveys the atmosphere of the time, the suspicion of the Soviets for their Western Allies as well as including input from Admiral Leverchenko and other prominent officers in the Northern Fleet. Russian speakers can read the book online and Google translate conveys something of its style and content to others. Peter Smith's book on the Royal Sovereign mirrors Polyakov by recording western prejudices and suspicions of our Soviet allies.
It seems that the C in C Northern Fleet, Admiral Arseni Golovko, did not entirely appreciate the largesse that Stalin had bestowed on him. In the introduction to chapter fourteen of his memor With the Red Fleet , he wrote:
Despite these disparaging remarks by the C in C of the Northern Fleet the Germans took the threat of these two large outdated warships seriously and were determined to sink Arkhangelsk in the same way that Gunter Prien in U-47 had sunk the battleship Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. On a dark night in September 1944, Herbert Zoller took his Snorkel fitted U-315 towards the entrance to the Kola Inlet but found, to his horror, that the Soviets had strung an anti-submarine net across the entrance to the Inlet, in which U 315 became firmly entangled. They tried to break free again and again, all through the night, but to no avail. The submarine was trapped but a last try was made, and the submarine finally broke free. Zoller decided it was impossible to penetrate the defences, and returned to base.
It would appear that while the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk were of little use to the Northern Fleet, the destroyers and submarines were a valuable addition. Even if you are unable to read Russian you could research the story of these Town Class destroyers transferred to the Northern Fleet by searching the Google translation of the Russian text online for the name of the ship, in both Russian and English e.g. search for Dostoiny and Worthy if you want to know about the former HMS St Albans. Her CO was Yevgeny Adrianovich Kozlov, who who was relieved by Captain 3rd Rank Nikolai Ivanovich Nikolsky in November 1944. Kozlov went on to become an Admiral.
Regretfully, Google has withdrawn their translation service for websites but I downloaded the translation as a Word document days before its withdrawal and Frank Donald has used his knowledge of Russian to tell the story of the part played by HMS St Albans after she joined the Northern Fleet at Murmansk.
Report on the receipt of ships from the English fleet (1944)
The most authoritative source on the transfer of the warships to the USSR and the part they played in the war after they joined the Northern Fleet at Murmansk is in the Central Naval Archive of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation which contains over two million documents and is one of the largest archives in Russia on the Great Patriotic War. The whole document is 110 pages in length and is not available on the Internet and access to the archive is restricted. Russian speakers with a serious interest in consulting original source material on the transfer of the warships to the USSR should contact the Archive to enquire about access.
The front cover and nine further pages, relating to the torpedoing of the William S Thayer and the death of Russian sailors was supplied to Alexander Kovalev, the grandson of Senior Lt Martinov, by the Russian historian and author, Miroslav Eduardovich Morozov, and can be seen as a PDF by clicking on the image of the front cover on the right:
Pages 16 - 17 (pages 18 - 19 are omitted)
The outfitting of the transports for passage of the complete Command of personnel for the ships being transferred.
Preparation and departure of the Command for England.
Passage of the Command to England
Pages 21 - 26
Torpedoing of the William S Thayer at 2010 30 April 73 53N 18 30 E, followed by an analysis of the ASW operations of the convoy (including mention of two Bluhm and Voss A/C, ineffectiveness of asdic search)
Followed by description of sinking of the William S Thayer , help given by Robert Eden and two destroyers, analysis of losses and list of dead.
Their return and disposal after the war
HMS Royal Sovereign remained on loan to the Soviet Navy until 9th February 1949, when she was handed back at Rosyth, and reverted to her original name. She was sold for scrapping at Inverkeithing. Between 1955 and 1957, part of her gun turret mechanism was reused in the construction of the 250 foot (76 Metre) “Mark 1” Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. The Murmansk was returned to the USN at Deleware on on 17 March 1949 and her crew were returned to the USSR on the Russian freighter Molotov. She was scrapped in December 1949.
The tug, USS Achigan (YTB 218), at Lewes, Delaware, is taking Soviet sailors from the USS Milwaukee (CL 5) on 17 March 1949.
The crew is being transferred to the Russian freighter Molotov for transport back to Russia.
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, George D. McDowell Collection.
HMS Churchill ( Deyatelnyi ) was the only one of the former Town Class destroyers which was sunk. On 16th January 1945 she was torpedoed and sunk by U-956 while escorting a White Sea convoy. The others were returned to Britain between 1949 - 52, reverted to their former names, put on the Disposal List, sold to the British Iron & Steel Corporation (Salvage) Ltd. (BISCO) and then allocated to a ship breaker's yard.
HMS Leamington (above) had a brief reprieve when she was chartered from the breakers and refurbished to take part in a British film ’ Gift Horse’ starring Trevor Howard and Richard Attenborough being shot in the English Channel. She was renamed HMS Ballantrae for her role in the film based on the St Nazaire Raid of March 1942 when HMS Campbeltown , sister ship of the Leamington, rammed and blew up the lock gates at St Nazaire. It can be seen in full on YouTube. HMS Leamington was adopted by Leamington Spa after a successful Warships Week in 1942
The USSR finally receives its share of the surrendered Italian fleet
Why Alexey Navalny Returned to Russia
Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition politician, has been in prison for almost two months and on hunger strike for two weeks. His lawyers’ regular updates chronicle his steady physical decline. After visiting Navalny in prison on Monday, the attorney Olga Mikhailova said that he had lost fifteen kilograms (thirty-three pounds). He is losing sensation in his hands he has already lost partial use of his legs. He is coughing and running a fever. Navalny continues to refuse food and other nutrients until his demand to be seen by a medical specialist of his choice—a right guaranteed by Russian law—is granted. In response, the prison administration is threatening to start force-feeding him.
On January 17th, Navalny was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. He was returning from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He knew that he was going to be arrested, because Russian authorities had broadcast their intentions via state media, apparently in hopes of persuading him to stay out of the country. Navalny also knew what conditions he was likely to experience behind bars. Since the Kremlin cracked down in response to the 2011-12 protests against rigged elections, Russian activists have become well acquainted with the country’s prison system. In 2014, members of the protest-art group Pussy Riot—the first of many activists to be jailed for peaceful protest—marked their release from prison by starting an online news outlet that documented human-rights violations inside Russian prisons. (The newspaper, Mediazona, is still operating, but it has broadened its focus in the last few years.) One of the pillars of the protest movement that began in 2011 is a group called Russia Behind Bars, which has helped scores of nonpolitical prisoners. Its leader, Olga Romanova (who is living in exile in Berlin), has written extensively about the workings of the prison system.
Navalny’s anti-corruption work has also prepared him for imprisonment. In a recent letter posted to his Instagram account, he wrote, “The meat was stolen from our rations before they ever left Moscow. Butter and vegetables were stolen in Vladimir [the regional center]. Finally, on location, in Pokrov, the staff took home the last of the crumbs. All that remained for the inmates was glue-like porridge and frostbitten potatoes.” This is what Navalny does: he follows the money—or, in this case, the contents of prison rations.
He knows the system better than anyone he knows that human life has no value in it, and he never imagined that the system would make an exception for him. Within weeks of his arrest, he sent a note to his friend and mentor, the journalist Yevgenia Albats. It read:
Zhenya, everything is O.K. History is happening. Russia is going through it, and we are coming along. We’ll make it (probably). I am all right, and I have no regrets. And you shouldn’t, either, and shouldn’t worry. Everything will be all right. And, even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives. Hugs!
Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, has no illusions, either. Last week, she sent a letter to the head of the prison colony where Navalny is serving time. The letter, which Navalnaya posted to her Instagram account, concluded with a reminder: “If the worst happens to Alexey, then you’ll have his death on your conscience, and Putin will have it on his conscience, but your Putin will eat you alive and lay the blame on you, too.” It’s chilling to see Navalnaya use the word “death” when she is writing about her husband, but this note didn’t require a leap of the imagination. She had already spent weeks sitting by Navalny’s bed, not knowing whether he would talk or walk again.
Back in the days of the U.S.S.R., the pro-democracy dissident movement lived by the rule that, given the choice between prison and foreign exile, one should choose exile. Early in the Putin era, when some former dissidents were still around, they passed this wisdom on to members of the new opposition. The late dissident Yelena Bonner, for example, persuaded the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky to leave the country rather than risk arrest. The notion was that one could do more good alive abroad than dead at home. This argument rested on the assumption that the Soviet totalitarian state would last forever, or at least a very long time, and that the battle against it would be eternal.
Putin, who became prime minister in August, 1999, and President at the start of 2000, has held power longer than any Soviet leader except Stalin. Yet Navalny, who was fifteen years old when the Soviet Union collapsed, understands that Putinism will not last forever. During his arrest hearing in January, Navalny told the judge that she would likely outlive Putin, and go to prison for sanctioning Navalny’s arrest (the judge then reprimanded him). Navalny’s note to Albats makes clear that he is not certain he will live to see a post-Putin Russia. But he believes that Russia after Putin will be—or at least can be—a fundamentally different place. Unlike his dissident forebears, who believed that they were fighting for principle and personal integrity but could never defeat the system, Navalny thinks that his actions can help shape a future Russia. He also believes that, by acting with courage and determination, he can inspire others to set aside their fears. And then, as he almost invariably says in public statements and private notes, “everything will be all right.”
At a court hearing in February, during his closing statement, Navalny talked about his vision for this future Russia:
I want Russia to be as wealthy as it has the potential to be. I want this wealth to be distributed more fairly. I want us to have normal health care. I want to see men live long enough to retire: these days half don’t make it. I want us to have a normal education system, and I want people to be able to get an education. I want people to make as much money as they would for comparable work in a European country.
For a decade, the slogan of the anti-Putin movement has been “Russia will be free.” Now, though, Navalny suggested rethinking it.
We should fight not only against the lack of freedom in Russia but against our total lack of happiness. We have everything, but we are an unhappy country. . . . So we should change our slogan. Russian should be not only free but also happy. Russia will be happy. That is all.
Last week, police raided the Navalny organization’s office in St. Petersburg and confiscated a number of large stickers bearing the phrase “Russia will be happy.” According to Leonid Volkov, who runs Navalny’s political organization, the police removed the stickers to conduct an expert analysis of whether the slogan constitutes extremist speech, which is illegal in Russia.
On Tuesday, Yulia Navalnaya visited her husband in prison. In an Instagram post, she wrote that he was weak, and thinner than he had been after weeks in a coma. “He said to say hello to everyone,” she wrote. “He didn’t have the strength to add that everything will be all right. So I’ll add that. He is the best. Everything will definitely be all right.”
It Was Brutal: Press Ganging, Keelhauling & Flogging in The Royal Navy
The British Royal Navy was, from around the middle of the 18th century up until the Second World War, the largest and most powerful military fleet in the world.
Numbering well over a thousand vessels in 1859, finding enough men to serve on the ships of this vast fleet meant that methods that were often questionable – such as press ganging, in the 17th and 18th centuries – were regularly used to essentially coerce, and on some occasions virtually kidnap, men from the poorest and roughest segments of society into service.
Having a crew full of essentially unruly, unwilling men from the dregs of society on board a ship that was essentially its own isolated island when out on the open sea, physically distant from the laws of king and country, meant that the dangers of rebellion and mutiny were ever-present.
To negate these risks and instill a strong sense of obedience and discipline among the crew, extremely harsh punishments were meted out to any man who stepped out of line.
HMS Victory (1765), Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, is still a commissioned Royal Navy ship, although she is now permanently kept in dry-dock.Photo: Jamie Campbell CC BY 2.0
The Neglected Tar, c. 1800, evokes the effects of impressment on a seaman’s family and home.
The Press-gang, oil painting by Luke Clennell
Press gang, British caricature of 1780
The most common punishment was flogging, and most Royal Navy sailors in the 18th and 19th would likely have been flogged at least once during their time at sea. The usual instrument used to administer a flogging was the notorious cat o’ nine tails – a whip made of nine strands of knotted rope (which were sometimes waxed, to maximize its brutal impact) tied together.
The offender’s shirt would be removed, and he would be tied to a secure part of the ship in preparation for the flogging. Each blow of the cat would open up numerous wounds, enough of which could prove fatal, on the unfortunate sailor’s back.
British sailor, tied to the grating, being flogged with cat o’ nine tails
In the early days of the Royal Navy, flogging sentences were handed out for anything from drunkenness and insolence to neglect of duty or minor theft. The starting amount, for minor infractions, was usually a dozen lashes, but for serious offenses this could go all the way up to 36 strokes.
By 1750 a rule had been instated that limited floggings to a maximum of twelve strokes. However, some captains got around this by dividing men’s crimes into separate infractions, each of which could earn twelve lashes. For minor infractions, or to punish young boys, caning with a rattan or birch cane was used instead of flogging with a cat o’ nine tails.
Sailor being flogged with a cat-o’-nine-tails while four sailors are waiting for their turn to flog him.Photo: Fæ CC BY 4.0
For an especially severe infraction, the offender could be “flogged around the fleet.” Once the naval ship reached a British port, the offender would be tied to the mast of a small boat, which would then visit every other naval ship in the harbor.
A representative from each ship would deliver a number of lashes to the man with a cat o’ nine tails, and the total number of lashes could end up being in the hundreds, if the punishment was taken to its extreme conclusion. Such a punishment was likely to be fatal.
A sailor is stripped to the waist and tied to a grid by his wrists while being flogged with a cat-o’-nine-tails with the captain looking on.
Certain offenses carried the death sentence: striking an officer, mutiny, murder, or desertion. At sea, this was usually carried out by hanging the offender from the yardarm. While hanging from the gallows on land, where a trapdoor would drop out from under the feet of the victim, was often a relatively quick death, being hanged from the yardarm of a ship was neither a quick nor a pleasant way to die.
After the (blindfolded) offender’s wrists and ankles were bound, a noose, attached to a long rope, was slipped over his head and tightened. The other end of the rope, after having been tossed over the yardarm, was held by a group of strong sailors.
The English were not the only ones to hang by the yardarm, this American ship, the Somerset, is shown with two offenders hanging off of her mainmast in 1842.
A gun was fired to mark the start of the execution, whereupon the sailors gripping the rope started pulling. The victim would slowly be pulled up into the air, being agonizingly throttled to death, and would be left to hang from the yardarm for at least half an hour – to make sure he was dead – before being cut down.
One of the cruelest punishments a seaman could receive – keelhauling – was never an official Royal Naval punishment, and was far more likely to have taken place on pirate ships. Nevertheless, it may have been used once or twice on British naval ships for particularly egregious offenses, and it was an official punishment used by the Dutch Navy.
Keelhauling in the Tudor period (1485–1603)
The very unfortunate man condemned to undergo a keelhauling would be stripped naked and tied to two ropes. He would be thrown overboard, and then dragged via the ropes under and across the entire width of the ship’s underside, which, after months or years at sea, would be covered with thousands of razor-sharp barnacles.
Supplice de la cale, whereby a sailor would be dunked into the sea up three times in a row, with a 30-pound cannonball tied to his feet keelhauling was regarded as barbaric in the French Navy.
If the keelhauling didn’t drown him, the horrendous lacerations all over his body from being dragged across the barnacles certainly would. If by some miracle the man survived, he would be horribly scarred for life.
HMS Leven, a gunboat of the Algerine class
The last man hanged from the yardarm in the Royal Navy was Private John Dalliger, who in 1860 stole brandy and then shot two officers on board HMS Leven.
Floggings were eventually banned from Royal Navy ships in 1881, but caning continued as an official punishment until 1967. As for keelhauling, while never an official punishment of the Royal Navy, it was nonetheless outlawed in the early 18th century.
Russian Navy WW2 (Soviet Navy)
Voyenno-morskoy flot SSSR, literally "Naval military forces of the USSR") was the naval arm of the Soviet armed forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have been instrumental in any perceived Warsaw Pact role in an all-out war with NATO when it would have to stop the naval convoys bringing reinforcements over the Atlantic to the Western European theatre. Such a conflict never occurred, but the Soviet Navy still saw considerable action during the Cold War. The Soviet Navy was divided into several major fleets Northern Fleet, the Pacific Ocean Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Baltic Fleet. The Caspian Flotilla was a semi-independent formation administratively under the Black Sea Fleet command while the Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron drew its units from and was under the jurisdiction of the Pacific Ocean Fleet. Other components included the Naval Aviation, Naval Infantry (their equivalent of marines) and coastal artillery. The Soviet Navy was reformed into the Russian Navy after the end of the Cold War in 1991.
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1.1 Early history
1.2 The Great Patriotic War
1.3 Cold War
1.4 Recent history
2 Commanders-in-Chief of the Soviet Naval Forces
Russian Navy WW2 History
The origins of the Russian navy may be traced to the period between the 4th and the 6th century, when Early East Slavs were engaged in a struggle against the Byzantine Empire. The first Slavic flotillas consisted of small sailing ships and rowboats, which had been seaworthy and able to navigate in riverbeds. In the 9th-12th century, there were flotillas in Kievan Rus' consisting of hundreds of vessels with one, two or three masts. The citizens of Novgorod are known to have conducted military campaigns in the Baltic Sea (e.g., the siege of Sigtuna in 1187). Lad'ya ( in Russian, or sea boat) was a typical boat used by the army of Novgorod (length - 30 m, width - 5 to 6 m, 2 or 3 masts, armament - battering rams and catapults, complement - 50 to 60 men). There were also smaller sailboats and rowboats, such as ushkuys for sailing in rivers, lakes and skerries, kochis, and nosads, used for cargo transportation.
In the 16th-17th century, the Cossacks conducted military campaigns against the Tatars and Turks, using sailboats and rowboats. The Cossacks of Zaporizhian Sich used to call these boats either chaika, or cheln. The Don Cossacks called them strugs. These boats were capable of transporting up to 80 men. The Cossack flotillas numbered 80 to 100 boats.
The centralized Russian state had been fighting for its own access to the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Sea of Azov since the 17th century. By the end of this century, the Russians had accumulated some valuable experience in using riverboats together with land forces. In 1667-1669, the Russians tried to build naval ships in a village of Dedinovo on the shores of the Oka River for the purpose of defending the trade routes along the Volga, which led to the Caspian Sea. In 1668, they built a 26-cannon ship Oryol or Eagle, a yacht, a boat with a mast and bowsprit and a few rowboats
Russian Navy WW2 - Soviet history
Aurora was unofficially the first Soviet Navy vessel, after it mutinied against Imperial Russia in 1917.The Soviet Navy was formed in 1917 out of the ashes of the Imperial Russian Navy. Many vessels continued to serve after the October Revolution, albeit under different names. In fact, the first ship of the Soviet Navy could be considered to be the rebellious Imperial Russian cruiser Aurora, whose crew joined the bolsheviks. A previous bolshevik uprising in the fleet had occurred in 1905 involving Potemkin, an Imperial Russian battleship.
The Soviet Navy, then referred to as the "Workers' and Peasants' Red Fleet", Raboche-Krest'yansky Krasny Flot or RKKF) existed in a dilapidated state during the interwar years, possessing a few obsolescent battleships but no aircraft carriers. As the country's attentions were largely directed internally, the Navy did not see much in the way of funding or training. A telling indicator of the perceived threat of the Navy was that the Soviets were not invited to participate in the Washington Naval Treaty, which served to cap size and capabilities of the most powerful navies.
WW2 World War 2 - The Great Patriotic War
The Winter War (which was largely an extension of the Great Patriotic War) in 1939 saw some minor action on the Baltic Sea, mainly artillery duels between Finnish forts and Soviet cruisers and battleships.
When Adolf Hitler launched WW2 Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Soviets began to realize that a Navy was more important, after all. Much of the Soviet Navy during World War II was comprised of ex-U.S. Navy Lend-Lease destroyers. They were critical in defending convoys from Kriegsmarine U-boats. Unfortunately for the Soviets, much of their fleet on the Baltic Sea was blocked in Leningrad and Kronstadt by Finnish and German minefields during 1941 and heavily maimed by mines and air attacks. Some units survived on the Black Sea, defending Sevastopol against siege.
Russian Navy WW2 - Cold War
A Whiskey Twin Cylinder class guided missile submarine, an important platform for launching anti-shipping strikes.After the war, the Soviets concluded that they must be able to compete with the West at all costs. They embarked upon a program to match the West, if not qualitatively, then at least quantitatively. Soviet shipbuilding kept yards busy constructing submarines based upon World War II Kriegsmarine designs, and were launched with great frequency in the immediate post-war years. Afterwards, through a combination of indigenous research and technology "borrowed" from Nazi Germany and the Western nations, the Soviets gradually improved their submarine designs, though always staying a generation behind NATO countries, primarily in noise dampening and sonar technology.
The Soviets were quick to equip their surface fleet with missiles of various sorts. In fact, it became a hallmark of Soviet design to place gigantic missiles onto relatively small vessels - and fast missile boats - where, in the West, such a move would never have been considered tactically feasible. Nevertheless the Soviet Navy also possessed several very large guided missile cruisers with awesome firepower, such as those of the Kirov class and the Slava class cruisers.
Kiev, a helicopter carrier and the rest of her class constituted an important component of the Soviet anti-submarine warfare system.In 1968 and 1969 the Soviet helicopter carriers Moskva and Leningrad appeared, followed by the first of four aircraft carriers of the Kiev class in 1973. The Soviets attempted to compete with large American supercarriers by constructing Project OREL, but this was cancelled on the drawing board due to changing priorities. In the 1980s the Soviet Navy acquired its first true aircraft carrier, Tbilisi (subsequently renamed Admiral Kuznetsov). In another sign of the Soviet Navy's desire to be unique, the Kiev class and Admiral Kuznetsov carriers possessed their own offensive missile component in addition to the organic air arm. In the latter half of the 1980s, the Soviets attempted yet again to construct a supercarrier, Ulyanovsk, and the vessel was mostly completed, when the end of the Cold War forced the vessel to be scrapped.
Despite these efforts, the Soviet Navy was still short of a large aircraft carrier fleet, as the U.S. Navy possessed, therefore the Soviet Navy was unique in deploying large numbers of strategic bombers in a maritime role by the Aviatsiya Voenno-Morskogo Flota (AV-MF, or Naval Aviation). Strategic bombers such as the Tupolev Tu-16 'Badger' and Tu-22M 'Backfire' were deployed with high-speed anti-shipping missiles. The primary role of these aircraft were to intercept NATO supply convoys traveling the sea lines of communication, acting as part of Operation REFORGER, en route to Europe from North America.
The large Soviet attack submarine force was geared towards the same role, but also targeted American aircraft carrier battle groups. In addition, the Soviets possessed numerous purpose-built guided missile submarines, such as the Oscar class, as well as multitudes of ballistic missile submarines, including the largest submarines in the world, the Typhoon class.
The Soviets encountered issues with safety, particularly with nuclear-powered vessels. They suffered several incidents with nuclear-powered submarines during the course of the Cold War. This included famous examples such as the K-219, and Komsomolets, which were lost to fire, or more ominous examples such as K-19, which leaked radiation, resulting in the death of several crewmembers. Inadequate Soviet nuclear safety and damage control techniques were typically to blame. The Soviets often blamed collision with U.S. submarines, the assertion of which may hold some truth. This may not be known for some time, as the U.S. Navy has a policy of not speaking about accidents unless they result in deaths or involve a nuclear incident.
Nevertheless, in 1991 at the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Navy was still operating many of their first-generation missile submarines. The reason for this was that Soviet submarines were less precise in missile targeting in addition, it was perceived that many of them were being shadowed by quieter Western attack submarines, and would be picked off at an early stage in any conflict. This forced the Soviets to adhere to the philosophy of "safety in numbers."
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Navy went neglected once again, and was eventually divided among several former Soviet republics. The Black Sea Fleet, in particular, spent several years in limbo before an agreement was reached to divide it between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian Navy WW2 - Commanders-in-Chief of the Soviet Naval Forces
Vasili Mikhailovich Altfater (October, 1918 April, 1919)
Yevgeny Andreyevich Berens (May, 1919 February, 1920)
Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Nemits (February, 1920 December, 1921)
Eduard Samoilovich Pantserzhansky (December, 1921 December, 1924)
Vyacheslav Ivanovich Zof (December, 1924 August, 1926)
Romuald Adamovich Muklevich (August, 1926 July, 1931)
Vladimir Mitrofanovich Orlov (July, 1931 July, 1937)
Mikhail Vladimirovich Viktorov (August, 1937 January, 1938)
P.A. Smirnov (January August, 1938)
Mikhail Petrovich Frinovsky (September, 1938 April, 1939)
Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov (April, 1939 January, 1947)
Ivan Stepanovich Yumashev (January, 1947 July, 1951)
Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov - (July, 1951 January, 1956), second term
Sergey Georgyevich Gorshkov - (January, 1956 - December, 1985). Considered the officer most responsible for reforming the Soviet Navy
Vladimir Nikolayevich Chernavin - (1985 - 1992)
Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Ru ssian Soviet Navy Destroyers 1/2
* Kashin class destroyer
o Komsomolets Ukrainy (1960)
o Soobrazitelnyy -Adaptable(1961)
o Provornyy -Agile(1962)
o Obraztsovyy -Exemplary(1964)
o Odarennyy -Gifted(1964)
o Otvazhnyy - Courageous(1964)
o Steregushchiy -Watchful(1966)
o Krasnyy Kavkaz (1966)
o Reshitelnyy -Decisive(1966)
o Strogiy -Severe (1967)
o Smetlivyy -Resourceful(1967)
o Krasnyy Krym (1969)
o Sposobnyy -Capable(1970)
o Skoryy -Fast(1971)
* Mod Kashin
o Ognevoy -Fiery(1963)
o Slavnyy -Glorious(1965)
o Stroynyy -Harmonious(1965)
o Smyshlenyy -Humorous(1966)
o Smelyy - Valiant(1968)
o Sderzhannyy -Restrained(1972)
o Rajput (built for Indian Navy) (1980)
o Rana (built for Indian Navy) (1982)
o Ranjit (built for Indian Navy) (1983)
o Ranvir (built for Indian Navy) (1986)
o Ranvijay (built for Indian Navy) (1988)
* Kara class
o Nikolaev (1969)
o Ochakov (1972)
o Kerch (1972)
o Azov (1973)
o Petropavlovsk (1974)
o Tashkent (1975)
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Russian Soviet Navy Destroyers 2/2
o Vladivostok (1976)
* Gnevny class destroyer (Project 7 class)
* Leningrad class destroyer
* Marashti class
* Novik class
o Derzky class
o Orfey class
o Izijaslav class
o Fidonisy class
*o Bystryy - Quick (1989)
o Rastoropnyy - Prompt (1989)
o Bezboyaznennyy - Intrepid (1990)
o Bezuderzhnyy - Tenacious (1991)
o Bespokoynyy - Restless (1992)
o Nastoychivyy - Reliable (originally Moskovskiy Komsomolets) (1993)
o Besstrashnyy - Fearless (1994)
o Vazhnyy - Eminent (not completed)
o Vdumchivyy - Thoughtful (not completed)
* Town class, ex Royal Navy, ex United States Navy
* Udaloy I class
o Udaloy -Bold(1980)
o Vice-Admiral Kulakov (1980)
o Marshal Vasilevskiy (1982)
o Admiral Zakharov (1982)
o Admiral Spiridonov (1983)
o Admiral Tributs (1983)
o Marshal Shaposhnikov (1985)
o Severomorsk (1985)
o Admiral Levchenko (1987)
o Admiral Vinogradov (1987)
o Admiral Kharlamov (1988)
o Admiral Panteleyev (1990)
* Udaloy II class
o Admiral Chabanenko (1995)
o Admiral Basistyy (not completed)
o Admiral Kucherov (not completed)
Russian Soviet Navy Cruisers
* Diana class (1898-1945?)
* Kynda-class cruiser
o Grozny ("Terrible")
o Admiral Fokin
o Admiral Golovko
o Soviet cruiser Varyag (1965)
* Komintern, ex Pamyat Merkuriya
* Chervona Ukraina
* Karsnyi Krym, ex Profintern
* Krasnyi Kavkaz
* Kresta I
o Admiral Zozulya
o Vize-Admiral Drozd
* Kresta II
o Admiral Isakov
o Admiral Nakhimov
o Admiral Makarov
o Marshall Voroshilov
o Admiral Oktyabrsky
o Admiral Isachenkov
o Marshal Timoshenko
o Vasily Chapaev
o Admiral Yumashev
* Kirov class (1937-1974?)
o Kirov (1973)
o Maxim Gorky
* Murmansk (ex USS Milwaukee)
* Chapayev class, an upgrade to the Kirov class (1939-1981)
* Sverdlov class, an enlargement of the Chapayev class(1949-1991)
o Alexander Nevski
o Admiral Nakhimov
o Admiral Ushakov
o Admiral Lazarev
o Alexander Suvorov
o Admiral Senyavin
o Dmitry Pozharski
o Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia
o Mikhail Kutuzov
* Slava class, a non-nuclear, reduced-size version of the Kirov battlecruisers
o Marshal Ustinov
o Lobov later taken over by Ukraine as Vilna Ukraina
o Chervona Ukraina, renamed Russian cruiser Varyag (1983)
Russian Soviet Navy Amphibious assault
* Ivan Rogov class
o Ivan Rogov
* Alligator class
Russian Soviet Navy Battlecruisers
* Kirov class (1980-)
o Kirov, later Admiral Ushakov (1977-)
o Frunze, later Admiral Lazarev (1984-1994)
o Kalinin, later Admiral Nakhimov (1988-1999)
o Yuri Andropov, later Pyotr Velikhy (1996-)
o Dzerzhinsky (incomplete)
Russian Soviet Navy Battleships
* Arkhangelsk, HMS Royal Sovereign on loan 1944-1949 from the UK.
* Conte di Cavour class
o Novorossiisk, the Italian Giulio Cesare ceded as war reparations (1949-1955)
* Gangut class
o Marat formerly the Petropavlovsk (1914-1955)
o Oktyabrskaya Revoluciya formerly the Gangut (1914-1952)
o Parizhskaya Kommuna formerly the Sevastopol (1914-1956)
Russian Soviet Navy Aircraft carriers/Aviation cruisers
* Moskva class (1964)
o Moskva (1964)
o Leningrad (1968)
* Kiev class (1972)
o Kiev (1972)
o Minsk (1975)
o Novorossiysk (1978)
o Admiral Gorshkov (1982)
* Admiral Kuznetsov class (1985-)
o Admiral Kuznetsov (1985)
o Varyag (incomplete)
* Ulyanovsk class
o Ulyanovsk (incomplete)