A HARD FOUGHT SHIP
The story of HMS Venomous

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN
A Last Hurrah
May 1945


The war ended on the 8th May but there were nearly 400,000 troops in "Festung Norwegen" and German naval ships refused to surrender to Norwegian forces.  Venomous was one of eight V & W Class destroyers at Rosyth selected to "liberate" four "ports of entry" on the west coast of Norway (Operation Conan). HMS Valorous and HMS Venomous were sent to Kristiansand South on a fjord off the Skagerrak, the strait between Norway and Denmark. Lt Cdr J.A.J. Dennis in Valorous was the senior officer and Lord Teynham the designated NOIC at Kristiansand. The ships left on 12 May and arrived on the 14th. This chapter describes the warm welcome the ships received on arrival,  the surrender ceremony aboard Valorous on the day they arrived and the surrender of the German U-Boats by their Admiral aboard Venomous the following day. Lt Cdr Dennis described the U-Boats and the high morale of their crews despite heavy losses. Venomous was ordered back to Rosyth on the 17 May as the band was striking up for the procession through the town on Norway's National Day.

Illustrations

Two very different portraits of Sub Lt Miroslav Stanley Lansky RNVR
Courtesy of Tamara Lansky

Lt Cdr J.A.J. Dennis RNVR, the CO of HMS Valorous
Courtesy of Alan Dennis

HMS Venomous anchored in Kristiansand harbour soon after arrival on the 14 May 1945.
Courtesy of Lt Cdr Guyon Prideaux RNVR

HMS Valorous anchored in Kristiansand harbour.
Note the crowded deck and the fishing boat pulling up alongside. With more guests.
Courtesy of Alan Dennis

“Greggo” Greggersen, the nom de guerre of Gunnar Arnfinn Gundersen
Courtesy of Lt Col. Børre R Gundersen (Ret)

Lord Teynham and Brigadier “Mad” Mike Calvert of the SAS go ashore in Kristiansand
Courtesy of Alan Dennis

German naval officer is piped aboard HMS Valorous for the surrender.
Courtesy of Alan Dennis

German naval officers waiting on the quarterdeck whilst preparations for the surrender ceremony are made.
Courtesy of Alan Dennis
 
SAS driving through Kristiansand in their jeeps are welcomed by children and adults alike.
From A picture book of Kristiansand: Southern Norway in War and Peace, 1940-45; edited by Erik Lauritzen (Prolibro, 1988).

Sailors from HMS Valorous join parade with the Army through Kristiansand on Norway’s National Day, 17 May 1945, whilst HMS Venomous returns to Rosyth.
Courtesy of Alan Dennis.

Children wave the national flag as they watch the parade on National Day, 17 May 1945.
From A picture book of Kristiansand: Southern Norway in War and Peace, 1940-45; edited by Erik Lauritzen (Prolibro, 1988).
 
HMS Valorous berthed with twin barrel guns
Courtesy of Knut Maesel, Kristiansand

Thomas Henry Poole K62202 (1899-1987) served in HMS Venomous from 1939-45
Courtesy of Christine Smith, grand daughter of Thomas Henry Poole
 
A commemorative scroll signed by Crown Prince Olav was presented to each member of the crew of HMS Venomous
Courtesy of Christine Smith, grand daughter of Thomas Henry Poole


Notes

1. From a scroll presented by the Norwegian Government to all those British servicemen that participated in the liberation of Norway from German occupation.

2. The Illustrious Class carriers, Illustrious, Victorious, Formidable and Indomitable, together with the Implacable Class carriers, Implacable and Indefatigable, formed the centrepiece of the British Pacific Fleet’s (BPF) fast carrier force. The carriers’ FAA pilots flew Barracuda TBR as well as US Corsairs and Avengers.

3. The Norwegian force came from Sweden.

4. Events at each of the entry ports are being researched and recorded by the name of the destroyer on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association. Events at Bergen are described here: http://www.vandwdestroyerassociation.org.uk/HMS_Woolston/Bergen.html

5. John Henry Ruck-Keene (1902-67) was Captain of the Rosyth Escort Force, October 1944 – May 1945.  His elder brother, Philip Ruck-Keene (1897-1977), was Commanding Officer HMS Ferrett, December 1940 – March 1942.

6. In November 1943, while First Lieutenant in HMS Beaufort, Prideaux was MID for his part in the evacuation from Leros in the Deodecanese. See his memoir in the Royal Navy Museum, Portsmouth (Ref. 1997.55
) and the account of his life on the publisher’s website.

7. As a junior officer, Cdr J.A.J. Dennis was awarded his DSC for his part in the heroic action that resulted in Britain obtaining the key that broke the Germans’ famous ‘Enigma’ encryption system. His description of events at Kristiansand in May 1945 in his memoir can be read on the publisher's website. Cdr Dennis DSC, RN (Ret.) died in July 2008 at the age of ninety and an obituary was published in the Telegraph.  His unpublished memoir is in the Imperial War Museum (IWM Ref. 3129).

8. German Navigational Information – Norwegian Waters. Supplied by German representatives of the German CinC Norway to the Chief of Staff, CinC Rosyth, at a meeting held HMS Renown, 11 May 1945 (NA ADM 1/18665).

9. For a first-hand description see The Liberation of Oslo and Copenhagen: a Midshipman’s memoir by C.B. Koester; The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du Nord 1993 3(October) 48-60.

10. Thomas Russell’s account of his time on Venomous has been deleted from the BBC’s WW2 People’s War website but can be seen on the publisher's website.

11. Opcit. Prideaux, 6.

12. The Batterie Vara (Marvik Fort) is now the Kristiansand Cannon Museum.

13. Opcit. Russell, 10.

14. Gunnar Arnfinn Gundersen (1908-88) is almost certainly the Gundersen described by David Howarth in The Shetland Bus (Thomas Nelson, 1951) as “a cheerful merchant service man who had travelled the world and spoke English with a delightful Hollywood accent." He had lost four fingers from his left hand and always carried a Colt revolver in a holster specially made for him. Read more about "Greggo" Gregersen and John Garforth on the publisher’s website.

15. From Collister’s account of his time on Venomous written in December 2006.

16. Christian Bogh-Tobiassen would later become a Captain in the Royal Norwegian Navy. His account of the liberation of his hometown was taken from his letters to Robert Moore.

17. Christianstands Tidende 1945 63(6) Tuesday 15 May.

18. From the unpublished memoir of Cdr Dennis in the Imperial War Museum (IWM Ref. 3129).

19. Ibid.

20. War Diary of 2/19 Civil Affairs Unit (Christiansand Sub-Zone) from 10 May 45 to 30 May 45 with Appendices A to O (NA Ref. WO 171/8449).

21. This information was supplied by Captain Peter Monte, German Navy, a volunteer researcher at the Horst Bredow Deutsches U-Boot Museum in Cuxhaven, Germany. The Museum and Archive was founded by Horst Bredow (1924-2015) who served in U-288 and was a school teacher after the war.  For more about the German Naval Command in Norway see http://www.axishistory.com/axis-nations/6072-kommandierender-admiral-der-norwegischen-westk%C3%BCste

22. From Lord Teynham’s naval signal to CiC Rosyth, 16 May. U-2529 was given to the Soviet Union and remained in service until September 1972 when she was broken up for scrap. The only Type XXI boat to survive intact is Wilhelm Bauer (ex U-2540) at Bremerhaven, Germany.

23. From Russell’s account of his time on Venomous.

24. The photographs of the parade on Norway’s National Day, 17 May, are from Sør Norge i krig og fred, 1940 - 45; en billedbok fra Kristiansand by Erik Lauritzen (Kristiansand: Forlag Prolibro, 1988). For more about HMS Valorous see: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/Kristiansand.html

25. Air Commodore Derek Waller has been researching the fate of all the U-boats surrendered at the end of the war for fifty years. The results of his research have been published in a series of articles on uboat.net at: http://www.uboat.net/articles/

26. The information about Thomas Henry Poole was supplied to the publisher by his daughter, Joyce Smith, grand daughter Christine Smith and grandson, Trevor Hodges.




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