The story of HMS Venomous

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The Ship's Company of HMS Venomous

Malta, 1923-4

Ship's Crest

A Hard Fought Ship is dedicated to the memory of all those who served in HMS Venomous between 1919 and 1946.

The ship's complement of 120-200 changed each time HMS Venomous was re-commissioned  but the names of  very few of the ratings who served on HMS Venomous from first commissioning at Rosyth in June 1919 to the outbreak of World War II are known. Two photographs of the ship's company of HMS Venomous have been found and both date from the 1920s. The first was taken at Hull in April  1921 after Venomous returned from the Baltic when Cdr Somerville Peregrine Brownlow Russell RN (1883-1946), her first CO  was in command.

The photograph below was scanned from a postcard offered for sale on e-bay by Ted Irwin who supplied the scan for this website. It was taken by the photographic studio of S.L. Cassell of Malta when HMS Venomous was based in Valletta between 1923-9. Please get in touch if you can provide a more precise date or identify any of the officers and men in the photograph. To display a larger image double click the image.

The Commanding Officer has now been identified by his grandson, Timothy McQuoid Mason in Australia, as Lt Cdr Donal Scott McGrath RN (1891-1978). He is seated in the centre of the front row immediately behind the capstan and the ship's crest.  He was given command of HMS Venomous, a member of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Malta, on 23 October 1923. Malta was the home of the Mediterranean Fleet and McGrath enjoyed an active social and sporting life ashore. He was an excellent polo player, good boxer and keen footballer. After leaving Venomous on 18 February 1925 he commanded six more V & W Class destroyers in the 1920s: HMS Whirlwind, Wanderer, Wild Swan, Woolston, Vanquisher and Viceroy. Details of these ships can be seen on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association. To find out more about the social and professional life of the officers and men serving in HMS Venomous during his period read A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous (2017).

The Ship's Complement of HMS Venomous, Malta 1923-9.
The officers and men who served in HMS Venomous when Lt Cdr D.S. McGrath RN was CO in 1924
Lt Francis Douglas-Watson RN
Lt William F. Hollins RN
(replaced Lt George E.C. Wood RN on 25 Oct)
Lt(E) Reginald Manton RN
(replaced Lt(E) Sydney J Russell RN on 7 Oct)
WO Gunner (T) William E. Wheele RN
Sub Lt J.D. Crossman RN
Sub Lt Richard Moore RN
Mid Peter  Barlow RN
Mid Peter Dawnay RN
The Midshipmen spent a few
weeks in Venomous training

If you recognise one of the officers or men please -

The youngest seaman in this photograph of the Ship's Company of HMS Venomous is Patrick Noel Scott McGrath, born 8 Jan 1918, the son of Lt Cdr Donal Scott McGrath RN. He visited Malta with his Mother and two sisters in 1923 - 4 and is seated on the deck to the left of the capstan. He had his own sailor's suit as small boys often did in those days but when he grew up may have disappointed his father by being more interested in planes than ships. Bad eyesight prevented him from joining the RAF but he became an engineer working in the wartime production of aircraft and obtained a pilots licence in 1946. He and his father were identified by Timothy McQuoid-Mason, the son of Myra Gwynne McGrath, Patrick's sister.

Patrick Noel Scott McGrath
Marie Josephine McGrath with her son Patrick and daughters, Myra Gwynne and Anne Josephine in the pram
Courtesy of Timothy McQuoid-Mason, the son of  Myra McGrath and Lt. Cdr Jan McQuoid-Mason of the 15th MGB Flotilla

The Tatler's report on Army v Navy Polo Match 1924
The annual Polo match between the Army and the Navy, a social and sporting highlight of the year, was reported in the society gossip magazine, The Tatler
The son of the British born Queen of Romania was serving as a midshipman in the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Medfiterranean Fleet
Capt Edward B.S. Bingham RN won his VC at the Battle of Jutland and Capt Bernard A.W. Warburton-Lee RN commanded the 2nd DF at Narvik in 1940 and was awarded a VC posthumously
McGrath's family saw him play for the Navy

HMS Venomous in Grand Harbour, Malta
HMS Venomous is moored in Vittoriosa Creek on the opposite side of the Grand Harbour from Valletta in this postcard
Malta was the centre of naval operations in the Mediterranean and the Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet had his headquarters in Vittoriosa
The building with the clock tower on the right was the naval bakery and is now the Malta Maritime Museum - note the traditional Dghaisa moored in foreground.
This postcard is reproduced courtesy of Ralph Ayre, grandson of PO Billy Walton of HMS Venomous, 1944-6

For a short biography of Lt Cdr Donal Scott McGrath RN click on the link
McGrath could be somewhat reckless in his ship handling which led to a nasty accident in the Grand Harbour at Valletta on Sunday 2 November 1924
Which had a happy outcome, the founding of the Forces charity, Veterans Aid

The story of HMS Venomous is told by Bob Moore and Captain John Rodgaard USN (Ret) in
A Hard Fought Ship
  Buy the new hardback edition online for 35 post free in the UK
Take a look at the Contents Page and List of Illustrations


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