Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HMS Whitehaven Crew & wartime service

(Top) Model of HMS Whitehaven (J121)
By Mr Ike Curnow of Whitehaven, Cumbria
On display at the 'Whitehaven Expo', Duke Street, Whitehaven

(Bottom) Wartime crew of HMS Whitehaven
[Photograph courtesy of Jeff Wilson, WW2 researcher]

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Summary of HMS Whitehaven's wartime record
(Based on information supplied by Mr Jeff Wilson of Distington, Cumbria, WW2 researcher)

After her completion in November 1941 HMS Whitehaven was allocated to the 14th Minesweeping Flotilla (Mediterranean Fleet). She left the Scottish port of Greenock on 1 March 1942, arriving on station at Alexandria (Egypt) on 6 June 1942.

'Whitehaven' was the senior officer's ship of the group escorting convoys between Alexandria and various ports in the Eastern Mediterranean. This was also the period of the war when Malta was under siege and desperate for supplies from any convoy vessels that could get through. On 18 November 1942 one such Malta convoy vessel - the 'Arethusa' - was torpedoed by aircraft about 70 miles from Alexandria and 'Whitehaven' was sent to assist, helping to bring the 'Arethusa' safely back to Alexandria harbour.

Coincidentally, this was also an active period of minesweeping following the Allied victory at El Alamein and 'Whitehaven' led the 14th Minesweeping Flotilla in this important task. Over several months the 14th Flotilla, led by 'Whitehaven', swept the North African ports of Mersa Matruth, Bardia, Tobruk, Benghazi, Tripoli, Sousse and Sfax. In recognition of her part in the North African victory General Bernard Montgomery visited 'Whitehaven' in March 1943.

By the middle of 1943 the siege of Malta had also been lifted. During May and June of that year 'Whitehaven' joined in the clearance of the sea channels around Malta which also helped prepare for the imminent invasion of Sicily. In mid-June 1943 King George VI sailed into Valetta, Malta with 'Whitehaven' having the honour of sweeping in the 'Aurora' - with the king's party on board - into the Grand Harbour.

During the invasion of Sicily (July 1943) ‘Whitehaven’ had a particularly important role. On 12 July, with fighting still taking place in Syracuse and despite coming under fire from the air and shore batteries, ‘Whitehaven’ broke the boom into Syracuse harbour. This action enabled a naval landing party with explosives to clear the port facilities and help establish the use of the harbour for the Allies.

After additional convoy duties in the Mediterranean, ‘Whitehaven’ was sent back to Benghazi, arriving on 27 October 1943 to protect convoys in that area from U-Boat attack. On 13 November ‘Whitehaven’ was sent to Port Said, leaving there with the rest of the 14th Flotilla on 1 December 1943 and headed for home waters.

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Arriving in Plymouth on 7 January 1944 ‘Whitehaven’ was then refit to the end of March in preparation for the Normandy Landings, where she was assigned to ‘Force U’. This was part of the Western (United States) Task Force under Admiral D.P. Moon of the U.S. Navy, and made the assault on the Varreville area.

In many respects it was fitting that HMS Whitehaven assisted the US Navy given the historic close connection of the Cumbrian port of Whitehaven and to the French navy. For example, the paternal grandmother of George Washington (first President of the United States) is buried in St Nicholas Churchyard, Whitehaven. The ‘founder’ of the US Navy, the Scotsman Admiral John Paul Jones had originally served on a Whitehaven slaving ship as a young man. Later, in April 1778 (during the American War of Independence) John Paul Jones had led American marines on a highly celebrated raid – if only with limited success – on Whitehaven, at that time an important port trading with North America, the West Indies and Ireland.

John Paul Jones later died in France and was initially laid to rest in Paris. During the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, and at his personal request, the body of John Paul Jones was exhumed and returned to the United States where he was honoured as one of the earliest heroes of the United States. Among the American assault troops going into France on D-Day whose route was protected by HMS Whitehaven was Theodore Roosevelt Junior - son of the former American President.

During and shortly after the Normandy campaign ‘Whitehaven’ was employed in keeping the channels clear for the Allied supply ships and troop ships and minesweeping off Cherbourg and Brest. Between November 1944 and January 1945 ‘Whitehaven’ was engaged in minesweeping around the southern approaches to Britain and the French ports (Bristol Channel, Scilly Isles, St Malo, Channel Islands etc).

In February 1945 the 14th Flotilla was dissolved and ‘Whitehaven’ joined the 15th Flotilla, based on the eastern coast of Britain around the Humber. After VE Day (8 May 1945) ‘Whitehaven’ was employed in clearing the outer channels to Germany ands the Netherlands, and general mine clearance around the British coastline. In October 1945, as seen in the above photograph, HMS Whitehaven and its crew paid a goodwill and thanksgiving visit to the port that gave its name to the vessel. ‘Whitehaven’ was finally decommissioned and scrapped in 1948. It had been deemed her useful life had come to an end.

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

This is the crew list of HMS Whitehaven during the goodwill visit to Whitehaven in October 1945 (including, in brackets, their home town).

Lt. Cdr W.J. Haughton, D.S.C. & Bar, RNVR (Redruth)
Lieut. G.A. Moritz, R.N.V.R. (Glasgow)
Lieut. W.M. Kilshaw, R.N.V.R (Blundellsands)
Lieut. J.S. Girvan, R.N.V.R. (Derby)
Surg. Lieut. S.D. Moss, R.N.V.R. (Streatham)
Sub Lieut. C.L. Morrow, R.N.V.R.
(Killyleagh, Co. Down)
Warrant Eng. J.W. Taylor, R.N.R.
(New Orleans, U.S.A.)
Midshipman C. Janiak, Polish Navy
(Stanislawow, Poland)

Leading Cook G.T. Allport
Chief Stoker H.A. Brooks, D.S.M. & Bar (Bristol)
Stoker 1st Class H.C. Bryant, (Rhondda)
Able Seaman W. Bootle, (Wigan)
Ordinary Seaman J.M. Bodesson, (Liège, Belgium)
Ordinary Seaman A. Bouyer,
(Houdeng Goegnies, Belgium)
Leading Seaman C.L. Briggs,(Alton)
Able Seaman R.F. Beddoes, (Bridgnorth)
Able Seaman W.E. Clarke, (Salford)
Leading Stoker C. Cook, (Inverary)
Stoker Petty Officer A.J. Court, (Aldershot)
Coder G.S. Davie, (Brixham)
Able Seaman T.C. Davies, (Cardiff)
Leading Stoker P.F. Drew, (Plymouth)
Able Seaman P. Dobney, (Torquay)
Able Seaman O.C. Davey,
Able Seaman C. Daniels, (Manchester)
Able Seaman F.W. Evans, (Rugby)
Stoker 1st Class W.T. Evans, (Neath)
Stoker 1st Class W. Fletcher, (Great Harwood)
Able Seaman A.L. Gregory, (Birmingham)
Steward W.S. Hanby, (Barrow-in-Furness)
Engine Room Artificer J.O. Hilton, (Timperley)
Stoker Petty Officer E. Howells, (Ynyshir)
Able Seaman J. Hill, (Standish)
Ordnance Mechanic J. Jones, (Bethnal Green)
Engine Room Artificer J.R. Jones, (Plymouth)
Stoker 1st Class W. Joyner, (Birmingham)
Leading Stores Assistant T. Keenan (Whiston)
Signalman R.W. Kerr, R. (Kilmarnock)
Stoker Petty Officer B. Kirkham, (Stockport)
Leading Stoker J.A. Monaghan, (Manchester)
Able Seaman F.J. Mann, (Chiswick)
Able Seaman S. Moore, (Liverpool)
Leading Seaman J. Marlow, (Bradford)
Stoker 1st Class Moger, (Bradford)
Stoker Petty Officer F.W. Morton, (Plymouth)
Leading Telegraphist W. McArthur, (Glasgow)
Stoker 1st Class A. McCord, (Belfast)
Able Seaman A. McPherson, (Edinburgh)
Able Seaman D. McGinley, (Dumfries)
Chief Petty Officer G.H. McKinley, D.S.M. (Polruan)
Stoker 1st Class D.V. Nobbs, (Crayford)
Stoker 1st Class S.A. Phipkin, (Walsgrave)
Officers’ Cook F. Potter, (Liverpool)
Canteen Manager J.G.D. Pursglove, (Peterborough)
Able Seaman J. Purcell, (Prescot)
Sick Berth Attendant F. Raby, (Preston)
Telegraphist D.W. Richards, (Bristol)
Able Seaman D.W.C. Rowland, (Dunstable)
Petty Officer W. Ruddock,
(Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin)
Petty Officer R.T. Roberts, (Liverpool)
Steward W. Salter, (Weymouth)
Stoker 1st Class P. Sheridan, (North Cheam)
Stoker 1st Class M. Spellman, (Keighley)
Able Seaman R.C. Sykes, (Stratford, London)
Able Seaman S. Scull, ( Leeds)
Engine Room Artificer J.R. Tait, (Castle Douglas)
Engine Room Artificer K. Taylor, (Blaenavon)
Engine Room Artificer A. Templeton, (Middlesborough)
Able Seaman B. Thomson, (Lemington-on-Tyne)
Telegraphist J.S. Tyler, (Chesterton)
Stoker 1st Class G. Walters, (Sturminster Newton)
Able Seaman G.W. Webber, (Truro)
Stoker Petty Officer D. Whalley, (Doncaster)
Able Seaman R.M. Whitfield,
(Willington Quay on Tyne)
Stoker Petty Officer R.G. Williams, (Pontypridd)
Leading Steward F.G. Wills, (Plymouth)
Signalman J.D. Webb, (Greenford)
Able Seaman J. Watson, (Aberdeen)
Stoker 1st Class W.J. Warren, (Plymouth)

As can be seen from the above list there were Americans, Poles, Irish and Belgians serving on board HMS Whitehaven. Although Whitehaven has traditionally had many sea farers none of the wartime crew of HMS Whitehaven came from the port whose name it had adopted. The seaman with a hometown near Whitehaven was Steward W.S. Hanby from Barrow-in-Furness (then in Lancashire) which is about 40 miles from Whitehaven.

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

HMS Whitehaven: Wartime Thanksgiving Service & Goodwill visit

The following information about a wartime thanksgiving service and a goodwill visit of HMS Whitehaven to its adopted home port of Whitehaven has been supplied by Mr Stuart Nicholson, Whitehaven Parish Archivist (Church of England). It has been used with permission.

“There was a Service of Thanksgiving, Prayer and Dedication in St. Nicholas’ Church at 3pm on 3rd September 1944 (the fifth anniversary of the war), when the ensign which had flown on her mast throughout the “Longest [Mine]Sweep on Record” from Alexandria to Sousse, was laid up.

It was placed on the altar during the service, and then hung in St. George’s Chapel.

The Order of Service is at Whitehaven Record Office, reference SMBWH 1/3/192. The service was conducted by the Vicar of the Parish (Reverend Charles Euston Nurse M.A.) and the Mayor’s Chaplain, the Methodist Minister (Reverend J. Angell James M.A.).

In that file there is the card which was to be displayed alongside the ensign.

The collection taken at the service, amounting to £11, was divided between the HMS Whitehaven Welfare Fund and the Border Regiment Benevolent Fund.

The address given by Revd Nurse, on the text Isaiah 43:16 and 57:14 is also in the envelope. The Church of St. Nicholas was chosen because St. Nicholas is the patron saint of seafarers.

Some months earlier, on 25th May 1944 a photograph of the ship was provided to the town. Also in the envelope there is a complete crew list during the visit by the vessel to the town 13th to 20th October 1945.”


Thanks to Mr Stuart Nicholson, Archivist of the Parish of Whitehaven for clarifying the details of the thanksgiving service for HMS Whitehaven and the goodwill visit in October 1945.

For the record, from information supplied by Mr Bill Agnew (the official historian of the Whitehaven Sea Cadets) in 1950 two other warships of the Home Fleet visited the town for goodwill visits and some "R & R" (rest and recreation). They were HMS Battleaxe (a weapons-class destroyer launched in 1945) and HMS Myngs (a Z-Class Fleet destroyer launched in 1943).

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Goodwill visit programme of HMS Whitehaven to Whitehaven, Cumberland
(October 1945).

This is the programme of events for the crew of HMS Whitehaven during its goodwill visit to the port that gave the vessel its name in October 1945. The information has been kindly supplied by Mr Stuart Nicholson, Archivist for the Parish of Whitehaven (Church of England).

Sunday 14 October 1945 (Day One):
19:00 h - HMS Whitehaven arrives.
After dark, the crew gives an impromptu fireworks display.

Monday 15 October 1945 (Day Two):
10:50 h - Whitehaven Sea Cadets (T.S.Bee) form a Guard of Honour at the harbour (in front of the Old Customs House).
Steward W.S. Hanby from the nearby north-western port of Barrow-in-Furness, the youngest member of crew, presents the Mayoress with a bouquet of flowers.

11:00 h - The Mayoral party boards HMS Whitehaven, followed later by the Sea Cadets.

16:30 h - The ship’s company visit Whitehaven Town Hall, followed by tea in "Batty’s cafe".

19:30 h - Civic Dinner in British Restaurant.
(£80 was given from the HMS Whitehaven Welfare Fund to distribute among the crew).

Tuesday 16 October 1945 (Day Three):

10:30 h - Coach trip to Lake District.

17:00 h - High Tea in the British Restaurant.

20:00 h - Civic Dance in Empress Ballroom.

Wednesday 17 October 1945 (Day Four):

10:30 h - Coach trip to Lake District.

Afternoon - [Rugby Match] HMS Whitehaven XV vs Whitehaven Secondary School

17:00 h - High Tea in British Restaurant;

20:00 h - Dance in Empress Ballroom (free for the HMS Whitehaven crew).

Thursday 18 October 1945 (Day Five):

09:30 h - Two parties from HMS Whitehaven visit local schools.

13:30 h - A party from HMS Whitehaven visit Haig Pit, followed by tea at the Kells Community Centre.

20:00 h - Second Civic Dance in Empress Ballroom

Friday 19 October 1945 (Day Six):

13:30 h - Another party from HMS Whitehaven visit Haig Pit followed by tea at the Kells Community Centre.

19:00 h - Swimming gala and polo match at Whitehaven Baths.

20:00 h - Yet another dance in the Empress Ballroom! (free to the ship’s company at the invitation of Messrs H Edgard & Sons)

Saturday 20 October 1945 (Day Seven):

Free Day (to say farewell)

20:00 h - Dance at the Kells Welfare (free to the crew)

Later - Fireworks display from the ship.

Sunday 21 October (Departure)

HMS Whitehaven departs on the morning tide, in heavy rain.
Her flags bear the signal “Home Port".


During the visit, the Whitehaven swimming baths (then at the end of Duke Street next to the harbour) were free to the crew.

The British Restaurant served free lunches to the crew daily, plus tea on Thursday and Saturday.

The three town cinemas (Gaiety, Empire and Queen's) were free to the crew.

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011  
Blogger Vic said...

Very interesting reading - my father WS Hanby returned to Barrow and latterly Preston after the war. He sadly lost his life in a tragic accident off the coast of Guernsey in 1986. Would be pleased to hear from any former crew or family.

Victor P Hanby

Thursday, 10 November, 2011  
Blogger Vic said...

Very interesting reading...my father WS Hanby returned to Barrow and latterly Preston after the war. He sadly lost his life off the coast of Guernsey in 1988. I would be interested to hear from any former shipmates or family.

Victor P Hanby

Thursday, 10 November, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I served in Whitehaven between August or September 1943 and when she was de-commissioned at Milford Haven in (?)1946. This was my first appointment as a newly commissioned and rather green Sub Lieutenant. Not long after I was promoted, I finished as the First Lieutenant, under Willie Haughton.
I am now 89 which means that any contemporary would now have to be at least 85. Is ther anyone out there who remembers me ?
Charles Morrow

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012  
Anonymous V Hanby said...

Hello Charles

Nice to hear from you. I was in touch with TC Davies and Harry Brooks family around 6 years ago but have unfortunately lost contact. Mail me if you would like to stay in touch:

Best Regards

Thursday, 26 January, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks very much for your comments, Vic and Charles, and it is nice to hear your respective personal connection with HMS Whitehaven. I presume you have also seen the other article I posted to this site about HMS Whitehaven, which has photographs of the ensign and bell?

If not, click on the following link:
HMS Whitehaven remebered.

From the photographs you can see HMS Whitehaven is still remembered in the town after which it was named.

If you have any of your own photographs and memories of HMS Whitehaven and would like to post them here, please get in touch. It would be good to learn more about what it was like serving on her in the war.

Best wishes to you.

E-mail: ritsonvaljosephATgmail.com

(Replace AT with @ for the e-mai).

Thursday, 26 January, 2012  

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