A HARD FOUGHT SHIP
The story of HMS Venomous

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CHAPTER TEN
Refit and Recommissioning

December 1941 – April 1942


Repairs were completed by 29 December but the Admiralty decided she would receive a major refit and Venomous was in dockyard hands at Troon for four months. Her officers were given new apointments and her ship's company returned to barracks leaving only a care and maintenance party aboard.  It was long thought that she was converted to a Long Range Escort (LRE) able to complete an Atlantic crossing without refueling but we now know she remained a Short Range Escort (SRE) but was given the armament of an LRE including the replacement of A-Gun by the Hedgehog Anti-submarine mortar and the fitting of a one ton depth charge known as "the Brute" in one of her torpedo tubes. She was also given the improved Type 271 RDF in addition to her Type 286 RDF.

During the refit Falcon-Steward joined the Western Approaches Tactical Unit conducting courses for escort commanders and his place as CO was filled by Lord Teynham, Cdr Christopher J.H. Roper-Curzon RN. In February 1942 during Warships' Week the  town of Loughborough raised £210,000 to adopt HMS Venomous, a relationship which still exists today theough TS Venomous, the Training Ship of the Sea Cadet Unit.

Illustrations

The bronze plaque presented to HMS Venomous by the town of Loughborough

“Climbing to Victory “ sign on Loughborough’s Town Hall raising money for the war
 
Lord Teynham and his officers during the refit at Troon, Spring 1942.
From left: Lt M. Cashman RN, Lt Leslie C. Eaton RNVR, Lt H. Pead RN, Mid J T Knight RNR, Lt Cdr Lord Teynham RN, unknown, Gunner (T) A N Simms RN


Notes

1. David K Brown, Atlantic Escorts: Ships, Weapons & Tactics in World War II (Naval Institute Press, 2008).

2. Lt Walter R. Wells RN (1919-86) would serve on a new P Class destroyer, HMS Panther, before going to signal school in 1943. He commanded the 525th Landing Craft Assault (LCA) flotilla at Normandy. He returned to signals for the rest of the war and continued his service in signals until his retirement as a Captain in 1966. He served during the Korean War and received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1966. For more information on Walter Wells go to http://www.unithistories.com/officers/RN_officersW3.html

3. Lt Arthur D. “Homer” McPhee RN (1919-2006) was born in Vancouver, entered the Royal Navy as a boy sailor and after promotion to Petty Officer was commissioned in 1940. He commanded HMS Belvoir in the Mediterranean in 1942 and served on HMS Formidable in 1944. He transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1947, was promoted to Captain in 1958 and when he retired in December 1974 he was the longest serving officer in the RCN. In the Canadian Navy he was affectionately known as “High-Pockets” McPhee because he was so tall. He died at Sechelt, British Columbia, on 27 January 2006 aged 86. His obituary was published in the Vancouver Sun on 2 April 2006. See also: http://www.unithistories.com/officers/RN_officersM3.html#McPhee_A

4. Midshipman A.F. Esson RNR later commanded the submarines HMS Unbending and HMS Ultimatum. “He was blinded and lived in the care of a Scottish War Blind institution and died after a long period of poor health,” Hugh H. McGeeney RN. See: http://www.unithistories.com/officers/RNR_officersE.html#Esson_AF

5. Sabre and Venomous had worked together whilst operating out of Derry, and Kershaw would have had several opportunities to visit Sabre. After the war he ran the family business, a brewery and pub chain, and named two of his pubs “The Frigate” and “The Sabre” but decided it would not be appropriate to name a pub after HMS Venomous.

6. Anthony Preston, V and W Class Destroyers 1917 – 1945 (London: MacDonald & Co. Ltd., 1971), p. 120.

7. Peter C. Smith, Pedestal: The convoy that saved Malta, 5th Edition, (Manchester: Crécy Publishing Limited, 2002), p. 59.

8. Preston, V and W Class Destroyers 1917 - 1945, p. 90.

9. Ibid., p. 88. “The bombs were fired in a ripple, to create an elliptical pattern, and each of the four rows of spigots could be canted to one side, to allow a small amount of aim-off to allow for the submarine’s movement during the time of flight of the bombs. It wasn’t at all a bad weapon, with a high success rate, but its disadvantage was that if one bomb didn’t hit, there was no ‘bang in the water’ to discourage the enemy. Its successor, the ‘Squid’, which arrived about two years later was bigger (each bomb weighed 205 lbs), and there were three bombs from each mounting, forming a triangle, pre-set at the moment of firing to explode at the submarine’s depth. A double Squid mounting, such as most escorts carried in 1944-45, was a very effective weapon, with a much higher lethal range than the ‘Hedgehog’.” Cdr Alastair Wilson, RN (Ret), private communication.

10. PO William Leslie Collister (SSX19837) joined HMS Venomous immediately after Dunkirk and remained in her until she was decommissioned in June 1945. Shortly before his death in 2009 he wrote a long somewhat rambling account of his time on Venomous from which this and subsequent quotes are taken.

11. David K. Brown, Atlantic Escorts: Ships, Weapons & Tactics in World War II (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2007), p. 38.

12. Ibid., p. 90.

13. The events leading to the widespread adoption of the Type 271 Radar by the Royal Navy in 1941 were outlined by John Wise in an e-mail to the author on 3 September 2009. “The first trials of Type 271 took place on HMS Orchis on 25 March 1941, in the Clyde, using a small Norwegian B1 submarine as a target. Such was the success of this trial, and the following days in a rough North Atlantic, that the original order for 24 sets was increased to 150 in April then to 350 in May 1941. Unfortunately there is no indication as to how long it took to install all the 350 systems, but 50 were at sea in the North Atlantic and used successfully against German submarines by Christmas 1941.”

14. Ibid. “There were many system failures with early installations, some suggest because this set was rushed into service, but the bigger problem was the system weight. To overcome potential turtle situations in high seas, other upper deck equipment had to be removed to reduce the top weight.”

15. “The aim was for cities to raise enough to adopt battleships and aircraft carriers, while towns and villages would focus on cruisers and destroyers. The number of warships adopted was over 1,200, and this number included the battleships, cruisers, destroyers and trawlers. The total amount raised for the war effort was £955,611,589.” Wikipedia.

16. On 5 February 2012, exactly 70 years after Loughborough raised the money to adopt HMS Venomous during Warship Week, the buildings of TS Venomous on the Grand Union Canal where the cadets trained were destroyed by fire. A plaster casdt of the ship’s crest and the bronze plaque presented to Venomous to commemorate her adoption were badly damaged. For more about TS Venomous at Loughborough see: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/TSVenomous.html

17. Captain Gilbert Roberts RN and the Anti-U-Boat School by Mark Williams (London: Cassell, 1979).

18. Lt Tony Sangster was en route to join the heavy cruiser HMS York at Singapore on a troop carrier, SS Britannia, when she was torpedoed near the Cape Verde Islands on 24 March 1941. There were only nine survivors out of the 54 in his lifeboat when they were picked up by a Spanish ship and landed at Tenerife. He was posted to the destroyer HMS Montrose in September but was plagued with persistent inner ear and throat infections, the lingering after effects of his time in the lifeboat, and was eventually invalided out. You can read an account of his life and wartime service in the Navy on the publisher’s website: http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/Lt_Tony_Sangster_RN.html

19. Robert Joseph Ackerman (1920-44) was killed when HMS Mahratta was torpedoed on 25 February 1944.

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