The story of HMS Venomous

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Captain John A Rodgaard USN (Ret)

John Rodgaard, authorCaptain Rodgaard has over 41 years with the naval service of the United States including 12 years as a petty officer and 29 years of commissioned service as a naval intelligence officer.

He had several active duty tours as a reservist including two years in the Mediterranean on the destroyer escort, USS Courtney, DE-1021. He has also served on navy and joint intelligence tours with Submarine Group 8, Carrier Group 4, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the J2 Defense Intelligence Agency, Commander Submarines Mediterranean, the US European Command and the Navy Staff. Captain Rodgaard completed four years of active service with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency as a senior collection officer and strategist.

As a civilian, Captain Rodgaard has been employed as a contract intelligence analyst with the National Reconnaissance Office, the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Air Force U-2 Programme and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

He is a published author and a contributor to several television programmes in the Discovery Channel’s Unsolved History series and the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) NOVA Science Show, “Killer Submarines of Pearl Harbor”. He was the US Naval Institute’s Author of the Year 2000 and is a frequent contributor to the Institute’s Naval History Magazine. He co-authored the only biography of Commodore Charles Stewart, USN the most successful fighting captain of the USS Constitution. In 2018 The Naval Institute Press will publish his next book, Yankees in Nelson’s Navy. The story of those North Americans who served in the Royal Navy between 1793 and 1837.

Captain Rodgaard holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science, a Masters in Political Science, and is a graduate of the United States Naval War College. He is married to Judith Pearson, PhD from Kansas City, Missouri. Captain Rodgaard took over as lead author when his good friend, Bob Moore, the former CO of TS Venomous and the author and publisher of the first edition, died in 2007.

Captain Rodgaard's Mother is from Kings Lynn and he has cousins living in the town. He presented a copy of the previous edition of A Hard Fought Ship to the Sea Cadets of Kings Lynn at TS Vancouver which is named after the discoverer of Vancouver Island who was born at Kings Lynn. HMS Vancouver, a V & W Class destroyer, was renamed HMS Vimy to honour those who died at Vimy, France, in World War 1. Seven years later on the 16 May 2017 he presented a copy of the new hardback edition to the Sea Cadets of  TS Vancouver.

In 2010 when the previous edition of A Hard Fought Ship was published Capt John Rodgaard USN spoke at conferences and meetings around Britain including a meeting of the South West Maritime History Society, Bristol; the Society for Nautical Research Centenary Conference, Glasgow; Loughborough Town Hall, Leicestershire, Training Ship Vancouver, King’s Lynn, and the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth.

Book launches and public lectures

Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret) has given talks about HMS Venomous and signed copies of his book at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, The New York City Commandery, Naval Order of the United States; St Martin’s Military History Society, Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Seawolf Park, Galveston, Texas, and the Naval Historical Foundation, National Museum of the US Navy, Washington, DC. Book launches for the third edition of A Hard Fought Ship were held in London and Washington and John Rodgaard is a regular speaker at events in the UK and the USA about HMS Venomous, a "Hard Fought Ship" of the V & W Class of destroyer, which helped win the Battle of the Atlantic.

Book launch for the 3rd edition at the Royal College of Defence Studies in Belgrave Square, London

John Rodgaard flew to London from Washington for the launch of the new hardback edition of A Hard Fought Ship at the Royal College of Defence Studies in Belgrave Square on the 9th May 2017. The Deputy Commandant, Rear Admiral John Kingwell RN, proof checked the first edition for Bob Moore in 1990 while helping out at TS Venomous in Loughborough. The guests at the launch generously donated 183 to the funds of TS Venomous which has not fully recovered from the disastrous fire which destroyed their premises in 2012. The launch was a huge success as can be seen from the photographs taken at the event in this prestigous location in central London.

Book launch at RCDS April 2017

A Hard Fought Ship and the Sea Cadets

The first edition of A Hard Fought Ship (1990) was written and self published by Lt Cdr Robert Moore, the CO of the Sea Cadet Unit at Loughborough whose Training Ship was named after HMS Venomous. Training Ship Venomous and TS Vancouver, the Sea Cadet Unit at Kings Lynne, are both named after V & W Class destroyers. When the V & W Destroyer Association was dissolved in April 2017 most of its funds were given to the eight Sea Cadet Units with Training Ships named after one of the 67 V & W Class destroyers.

Capt John A Rodgaard USN at TS Vancouver, Kings Lynn Rodgaard Presents Book to Sea Cadet atv Kings Lynne

Left: Capt John A Rodgaard USN (Ret) presented copies of both edition of A Hard Fought Ship to TS Vancouver in Kings Lynn in 2010 (on left) and 2017 (right)
TS Vancouver is named after HMS Vancouver, a sister ship of HMS Venomous, which was later renamed HMS Vimy
John's Mother was born in Kings Lynne and he still has cousins living in the town

A Hard Fought Ship is "launched" in the USA

John Rodgaard booked the cinema for the launch and invited friends and colleagues from the USN to the launch - see below. Venomous made five trips to Dunkirk and brought back 4,100 troops and Generals Alexander and Percival. Some of those men tell their own stories in the chapter on Dunkirk in A Hard Fought Ship. The book launch for the new hardback edition of A Hard Fought Ship in the USA was held at a private showing of the film Dunkirk on the 13 August 2017 at a cinema in Arlington across the Potomac river from Washington.

Book launch at cinema in Arlington, USA on 13 August 2017

The "Scrap Iron Navy"

On the 10 th August Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret) was invited to speak about his book at the Australian Embassy in Washington to members of the Returned Servicemen' League (RSL) of Australia
. Several V & Ws were transferred to the Royal Australian Navy between the wars and were mockingly referred to as the "Scrap Iron Navy" but performed well during they war though several were lost. Their story will be told on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association.

McMullen Naval History Symposium at Annapolis, Maryland, on 14 - 15 September 2017

The new edition of A Hard Fought Ship was exhibited at the 2017 McMullen Naval History Symposium which was hosted by the History Department of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, on 14-15 September, 2017. John Rodgaard signed copies of his book for delegates attending the Sympososium.

The Annual Congress of
the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS) at Jacksonville, Florida, from 18 - 21 October 2017

The Sailor Statue at Jacksonille, Florida
John Rodgaard speaking at NOAS 2017
Book signing at SOAS 2017
From left to right: the statue of the lone sailor, John Rodgaard addressing the Congress on its first day and signing a book for Cdr Dan Felger, USN (Ret)

The annual book sale of the Naval Historical Foundation

A Hard Fought Ship was on display at the annual book sale of the Naval Historical Foundation in the National Museum of the United States Navy on the 8th November 2017.

The sinking of HMS Hecla
on Armistice Day 1942 and he rescue of survivors by HMS Venomous

Talk to NOUS at tge Racquet Club, 4 Dec 2017

John Rodgaard gave a lunch time talk
to the New York City Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS) on the 4 December 2017 about the sinking on the 11 - 12 November 1942 of the destroyer depot ship HMS Hecla. Forty members of NOUS attended his talk in the splendid setting of the the New York Raquet and Tennis Club on Park Avenue.

In August 2012 Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret) visited Hecla survivor Les Proctor at his retirement home in Ottawa and presented him with a copy of the previous edition of this book. Armistice Day 2012 was the 70th anniversary of the torpedoing of HMS Hecla off the coast of north Africa when when 273 men died and HMS Venomous rescued 493 survivors. Les Proctor lived a good life and was 94 when he passed away on 9 September 2016. You can read the story of his rescue on this website.

On the 75th anniversary of the loss of Hecla in 2017 three of the men saved during that long night were still alive:  Fred "Slinger" Woods lived in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and Les Mortimer in Melbourne, Australia. Reg Bishop lives near Norwich not far from where he was born at the village of Cley on the Norfolk coast of England. Only Reg Bishop is still alive in January 2022 but Bill Forster has told the stories of survivors and the men who died on this website.

The full story of the loss of Hecla and the rescue of survivors by HMS Venomous is told in Chapter 13 of A Hard Fought Ship.

Speaking engagements in 2018

John Rodgaard spoke on The Battle For The Atlantic Through The Writings of Nicholas Monsarrat at the 11th Maritime Heritage Conference of the Council of American Maritime Museums in New Orleans on the 15th February.

Orleans 2018New Orleans 2018

The previous edition of A Hard Fought Ship: the Story of HMS Venomous (2010) was described by Cdr Alastair Wilson RN (Ret) in the Naval Review
"as being up in the same class as ‘The Cruel Sea’ for a picture of small ship life in World War 2".
This month's issue of the Naval Review includes a three page review article on the new edition
by Cdr Benjamin "BJ" Armstrong USN (Ret) of the US Naval Academy

On Friday the 23 February 2018 while John Rodgaard was on holiday in Bermuda with his wife Judy he presented a copy of A Hard Fought Ship and gave a talk to the the cadets of the TS Admiral Somers Sea Cadet Unit which is named after the English naval hero Admiral Sir George Somers (1554–1610).

TS Somers, Bermuda, Sea Cadet Unit,TS Somers, Bermuda

Speaking engagements at the RCMI in Toronto and via Zoom to the RNVR in London

Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret) was invited to speak about his book at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto on the 6 March 2019 in their series of public lectures by prominent naval historians on Military History Night. He gave his talk on HMS Venomous 1919-1945, the title Venomous and Valour: A Common Virtue, and it can be seen on youtube.  He was photographed signing copies of his book and in front of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth.

Signing books at the RCMI in Toronto Canada on 6 March 2019Meerting the Queen at the RCMI in Toronto on 6 March 2019

John Rodgaard gave a similar talk with the same title via Zoom at the height of the Covid Pandemic to the  Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Yacht Club in London on 11 November 2021, the day when Venomous rescued more than 500 survivors from HMS Hecla when she was torpedoed off the coast of North Africa. This year is  the 75th anniversary of the founding of RNVR Yacht Club in 1947 and the 80th anniversary of the loss of HMS Hecla.

A Hard  Fought Ship is now out of print but an ebook edition will  be published in 2022.

 The new edition of A Hard Fought ship was launched at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London,  on 9 May 2017

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