Sub Lt Miroslav Stanley Lansky RNVR
Part 1: From Schoolboy to the Battle of the North Cape, Christmas 1943, and the sinking of the Scharnhorst
Stanley Lansky was born in Marylebone, central London,
on the 19 June 1925 but his parents, Joseph and Olga Lansky (ne้
Zajieck), were born in the Austro Hungarian Empire, came to England on
Czech passports and were registered as aliens. They married at London
in 1920 and Miroslav, their only child, was named after Stanley Baldwin,
the Prime Minister. Joseph Lansky was born at Kladno sixteen miles north west of Prague in 1893 but Olga Zajieck, a strong willed determined woman, was
five years older, born at Negotino in present day Macedonia in 1888 and
her father was reputed to have been a doctor to the Serbian Royal
Family who was paid in gold for his services. Joseph
was 21 at the outbreak of the Great War and was bound to have been
conscripted. Miroslav somewhat evasively admitted that his father
"waved a gun about a bit".
His parents were successful and prosperous but as foreigners found it difficult to be accepted into the British society. This
was not a typical background for an officer in the Royal Navy but
Miroslav received a conventional upbringing and despite his name appeared very British - apart from his ability to master foreign languages.
He grew up speaking Czech at home but his father taught him German, the
"lingua franca" of the Austro Hungarian Empire, which he thought might
come in useful.
was a graduate of the University of Berlin who held senior positions in
hotel management at the Ritz in Paris and London and Olga, a shrewd
business woman, who owned
several rental properties in London. When Miroslav was about seven they
bought land at Brede near Rye (now the Greenacres animal sanctuary)
in Stubbs Lane where Joseph hand built a small house, planted roses and
kept a couple
of cows and sheep and some poultry. They called the property Mirlan
Park (after Miroslav Lansky). Although the farm was hard work and not a
money making success, Miroslav loved the country life.
Joseph and Olga continued their respective occupations in
London and throughout the Depression could afford to go on long expensive holidays abroad.In 1932 they took their seven year old son on a cruise to Gibraltar aboard the Suwa Maru (Joseph was described as an "estate owner" on the
passenger list) and from there to Morocco where they visited all the main towns and two years later Olga and Joseph took Miroslav to Trinidad, Mexico and Peru.
Miroslav attended Rye Grammar School
founded in 1636 and won prizes in History and French. In July 1940 when
he was fifteen the pupils of Rye Grammar School were evacuated to
Bedford where he lived with a host family, not a happy experience for a single child of well-to-do parents. He
joined the School Training Section of Air Training Corps (ATC) Squadron
691 made up of pupils from Rye Grammar School and Owens School in
Islington, both of which had been evacuated to Bedford.
Miroslav at Rye Grammar School With pet lamb waiting for the bus in Rye (left) and with the cadets of the Air Training Corp in Bedford (right) Courtesy of Tamara Lansky
1942 aged seventeen he volunteered to join the Royal Air Force but
after his first - and only flight - realised his stomach was not cut
out for flying and joined the Royal Navy because "I liked
the uniform". His
"Certificate of Service" records him as enlisting on the 10 February
1943 "for the period of the present emergency" and being assigned
JX.549099 as his Official No. with Chatham as his "Port Division"
(customary for boys from London) but since he was not yet eighteen he
was "Discharged to Reserve" the same day. He took up the offer of
a place at Oxford and was a member of Balliol College for Trinity Term,
the last term of the academic year, commencing in April and ending in
June, and studied for a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
His tutor was B.H. Sumner (1893-1951), the foremost Russian historian
of his time and later Warden of All Souls.
left Oxford at the end of Trinity term when he was eighteen and spent
summer at home before beginning his basic training with the Royal
Navy in October. HMS Ganges,the
Royal Navy's boys training centre at Shotley on the River Stour
opposite Harwich, had become the centre for "Hostilities Only New Entry
Training" and Miroslav was there from the 6 October to the 19 November
1943. The photograph of the officers and new entrants who trained with
him was taken in front of the figurehead and mast which each new
entrant had to climb. Miroslav went to the trouble of getting all sixty
to sign their names on the reverse. He also had his portrait taken in
the dress of an Ordinary Seaman (top left) before joining his first
ship, HMS Norfolk at Scapa Flow on the 20 November in time for the Battle of the North Cape where thethe German battlecruiser Scharnhorst was sunk.
Miroslav Stanley Lansky and the new entrants to HMS Ganges in October 1943 pose with the staff in front of the figurehead and mast Courtesy of Tamara Lansky
The names of the new entrants and the staff who trained them at HMS Ganges in October - November 1943
Courtesy of Tamara Lansky
HMS Norfolk on the Eastern Station in 1938
Photographed by my father, William Redvers Forster (1900-75) while Chief Engineer on the oiler RFA Aldersdale Lt(E) William R Forster RNR served with Sub Lt M.S. Lansky RNVR on HMS Venomous in 1945
On the 20 November 1943 Ordinary Seaman (OD) Miroslav
Stanley Lansky (top left) joined the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk at Scapa Flow. On the 20 December Norfolk was part of the escort for Russian Convoy JW55B to Archangel. On the 26 December HMS Norfolk engaged the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst detected on RDF (radar) by HMS Sheffield
and enemy fire damaged X gun turret and killed six men but Norfolk put the Scharnhorst's radar out of action. Terry Hulbert on a gun
platform high up in the superstructure describes the action
on the BBC Peoples War web site. The Scharnhorst was crippled by the heavy guns of the
battleship, HMS Duke of York, and the light cruisers, HMS Sheffield and HMS Belfast.
and sunk by repeated torpedo attacks and Lansky remembered steaming through seas covered with men, some calling
out pitifully for their mothers. Scrambling nets were hung over the ship's side but they were not allowed to stop and
only 36 of the 1,968
aboard were saved, mostly by HMS Scorpion (see also The Kola Run: a record of Arctic Convoys by Ian Campbell and Donald Macintyre, CO on HMS Venomous for a few months in 1939). Her sinking was not observed and there was doubt as to her exact position until the wreck of the Scharnhorst was discovered in September 2000.
HMS Norfolk in the Arctic in December 1943
Photographed by Terry Hulbert
After this heady introduction to the war at sea Miroslav left HMS Norfolk on the 7 January 1944 for officer training at HMS KingAlfred (H),
a former leisure centre at Hove near Brighton, requisitioned by the
Navy for training officers for the RNVR. Cadet Ratings did their
initial training at Mowden School in Hove, King Alfred (M), moved on to more advanced training at the former Lancing College, King Alfred (L), and completed their training at King Alfred (H). They were organised into Divisions and Miroslav was a member of Rodney Division. He
completed his officer training on the 6 April 1944, was promoted to
Midshipman, the most junior officer in the Royal Navy, and posted to
The inscription on the photograph of him in officer's uniform (top
right) is inscribed "To the sweetest Mother in the world. All my love,
Miroslav Stanley Lansky was the last officer alive who served on HMS Cassandra when it was torpedoed on the 11 December 1944 and on HMS Venomous
when it accepted the surrender of
German naval forces at Kristiansand in Norway on the 15 May 1945. He was in poor health when I contacted the family and I
relied on his wife, Evelyn Lansky, and daughter Tamara, to help me tell
The torpedoing of HMS Cassandra
and events after it was towed into Murmansk is based on the detailed
description by Dudley Mills which can be viewed and read on
this site and the accounts of survivors edited by Peter Erwood for the
6th Destroyer Flotilla Association and published by Arcturus
Press in 1996 as A Long Night for the Canteen Boat: The torpedoing and salvage of HMS Cassandra December 11 1944 which is no longer in print.HMS Cassandra was a sister ship of HMSHMS Cavalier, the last surviving wartime destroyer of the Royal Navy, which is preserved in Chatham's historic naval dockyard. The 'C' Class Destroyers by David Hobbs was published by Maritime Books in 2012 and reviewed by John Rodgaard, co-author of A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous, in this November's issue of the Mariner's Mirror.
It did not seem appropriate to give a detailed description of events at Kristiansand since this can be read in A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous
which is still in print but details received since publication
including Miroslav's own memories are given here and it is hoped that
this will lead to further contacts with crew members of HMS Venomous.Lt
Cdr Arthur Guyon Prideaux's unpublished memoir of his wartime
service in the Royal Navy can be seen in the Library of the Royal Navy
Museum in Portsmouth (Ref 1997.55). There are no surviving members of
the V & W Class of destroyers and the best known history of the V
& Ws is long out of print.
I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Cliff Longfoot, the Secretary of the HMS Cassandra
Association, whose members meet annually at the D Day Museum in
Southsea on the 11 December to lay a wreath on the memorial to the 62
crew members who were killed on that day in 1944.
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