The story of HMS Venomous

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V & W Class destroyers

HMS Venomous was one of sixty-nine V & W Class destroyers built at the end of the ‘Great War’. At the time they were the most advanced destroyers in the world, and arguably the most successful ever built. Although outdated by 1939 they were invaluable as convoy escorts during World War II but those which survived the war went to the breakers’ yards soon after it ended. You can see a clip of a V&W throwing its depth charges on U-tube at the start of a video of Royal Navy destroyers in World War II.

A Hard Fought Ship is possibly the most detailed study yet of the contribution made by a typical “old warrior” of the V & W Class to winning the war with end notes and citations plus a list of its officers from 1919-46 and of those ratings whose names are known. It begins with a comparative survey of the world’s destroyers in 1919 and ends with a list of all the V & Ws giving date of construction and ultimate fate.

The V & W Association

Within thirty years of the first V & W being launched not one remained afloat but during that time countless thousands of men served on them and in 1993 the V & W Destroyer Association was formed to keep former “shipmates” in touch with each other.

The Association has HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as its Patron, publishes a magazine, Hard Lying, and meets at least once a year.

Captain John Rodgaard USN spoke about his book at the annual reunion of the V & W Association at Derby on the 9 - 11 April 2010 and also attended last year's Reunion in Warwick on the 19-22 April 2013.     This year's Reunion was held in Eastbourne - see photograph below.

Freddo Thomas in 1943  Fred Thomas, RDF operator on Venomous
Looking forward - Looking back

Fred Thomas (1920-2012), RDF operator on HMS Venomous (1942-3) and at Derby in 2010
"Freddo" Thomas "crossed the bar" on the 9 May 2012

The author signing books at Derby  Publisher and veteran

Book launch at the V&W Association Reunion in 2010 at Derby

The author, Captain John Rodgaard USN signing copies of A Hard Fought Ship (left)
and the publisher, Bill Forster, with Ron Rendell, veteran of HMS Wishart

Membership of the V & W Association
The V & W Association provides a friendly welcome to former shipmates on V & W Class destroyers. There are about forty members and the family of those who served on V & W destroyers are eligible to join as Associate Members. If you would like to meet men who served with your father or grandfather on a V & W Class destroyer why not join the V & W Association? Members receive the magazine, Hard Lying, plus a Newsletter and can attend the annual reunion which is always held over a weekend. The annual subscription is 6.

To join the V & W Association apply to:

Vic Green, Secretary
45 Burton Road, Streethay, Litchfield, Staffs WS13 8LK
E-mail: VicGreen

Telephone: 01543-251446

Clifford Fairweather, Chairman and Editor of Hard Lying can be contacted by e-mail.

The Annual Reunions of the V & W Association

Last year's annual reunion was held at Eastbourne in the York House Hotel on the promenade overlooking the sea on a beautiful sunny weekend. The hotel was comfortable, the staff helpful and the food excellent. Everybody enjoyed the surroundings but more especially meeting old shipmates and talking over shared experiences. There were nine veterans who had served on V & W Class destroyers during the war and another twenty five associate members whose fathers or grandfathers had served on a V & W destroyer. Two of the veterans present were in their nineties, both alert and active and enjoying life to the full.

There was a heated discussion at the  AGM on the Saturday about a proposal to set up a web site to tell the stories of members, past and present, who had served on the 69 V & W Class destroyers built at the end of the First World War and scrapped at the end of World War Two. The Committee decided to back the proposal and set aside the money raised at the raffle that evening to fund the development. The stories told by the members in the Association's magazine, Hard Lying, over the last twenty years and published by the Chairman, Stormy Fairweather, in his book of the same name, would be at the heart of the web site. The aim would be to see that their wartime service will "not be forgotten" when they are no longer here. And men and women in the furthest corners of the world will be able to contribute their own stories and photographs of the ships on which members of their families served. The newsletter will continue to be the means of keeping in touch with members of the Association and the annual reunion the most important event of the year. It is hoped that it will be possible to demonstrate the web site at next year's reunion in Harrogate though it is unlikely to be complete by then. But when is any web site worth its salt ever really complete?

Many of the veterans attending the dinner that evening had a new medal sitting alongside those worn in previous years, the Arctic Medal, announced last year seventy years after the war was won. It is still possible for family members to apply for the Arctic medal on behalf of a long dead family member who served on an escort or merchant ship on one or more of the Arctic Convoys to Northern Russia. The raffle raised 160.

The following day the annual coach excursion took members on a tour of the South Downs including a visit to a garden centre for lunch and a visit to the picturesque town of Lewes with its castle and old buildings.

Eastbourne 2014

Last year's Reunion of the V & W Association at Eastbourne, 11 - 14 April 2014
From left: Dick Fernside (merchant seaman) from Langham, near Colchester, Ron Rendle (HMS Wishart) from Braintree,  Bill Perks (HMS Walker ) from Leamington Spa, Peter Scott (HMS Wolfhound) from Oxted, Mick Baron (HMS Westminster) from Scarborough, Frank Witton (HMS Vortigern and Woolston) from St Albans, "Stormy" Fairweather (HMS Westcott) from Colchester, John Waters (HMS Wakeful) from Market Drayton, Albert Foulsher (HMS Walker) from Burnley.

V & W Reunion at Warwick in 2013

Reunion of the V & W Association at Warwick, 19 - 22 April 2013
Front row, from left: John Waters (HMS Wakeful) from Market Drayton, Ron Rendle (HMS Wishart) from Braintree,  "Stormy" Fairweather (HMS Westcott) from Colchester, Mick Baron (HMS Westminster) from Scarborough
Back row, from left: Dick Fernside (merchant seaman) from Langham, near Colchester, Peter Scott (HMS Wolfhound) from Oxted, Frank Witton (HMS Woolston) from St Albans
Courtesy of John Ellson

The meetings are also attended by Associate Members with a family member who served on V & W Class destroyers in World War II. Why not join us at Harrogate in April 2015 and find out first hand what it was like to live and fight in the cramped quarters of one of the most famous and successful classes of destroyers ever built?

The web site of the V&W Destroyer Association will be demonstrated and associate members recruited to research the ships on which their fathers served - a guide to assist them is being prepared.

This year's Reunion of the V & W Association at Harrogate, Friday 20 - Monday 23 March 2015
The Committee decided to hold this year's reunion at Harrogate to make it easier for veterans living in the North to attend. The venue will be the Old Swan, a large comfortable hotel; famous as the place where Agatha Christie sought refuge when she disappeared for eleven days in 1926. The cost for three nights accommodation including breakfast and dinner is a very reasonable 175 per person.      To join the Association e-mail Vic Green.

Members of the V & W Association served on the following V&Ws during World War II:

HMS Vanessa
 HMS Vivian   
 HMS Witherington
HMS Vanity     
 HMS Wakeful  HMS Wivern
HMS Vanoc
 HMS Warwick   
 HMS Wolfhound
HMS Velox
 HMS Watchman   HMS Wolverine
HMS Venomous 
 HMS Westcott
   HMS Wryneck
HMS Verdun   HMS Westminster 

HMS Versatile  
HMS Whitshed

HMS Veteran
HMS Winchelsea

HMS Vidette
HMS Winchester

HMS Vivacious HMS Windsor

V & W Association logo on tieV & W Association tie


The V & W Association has a handsome tie (5), blazer badges (22), cap badges (17), lapel flashes (15.50 per pair) and cap tallies (8.50) bearing the V & W logo with discounts on larger orders. These prices do not include postage. To place an order or request further details mail Clare Rainer.

Claire Rainer
90 Harrogate Drive, Birstall, LE4 3GL
Tel: 0116 210 3049  Mobile: 0794 1281 140


Crossed the bar

Sadly - but inevitably -  the membership of the Association declines each year. John Clark who served on two V & Ws, HMS Wander and HMSA Witch, died in December 2013. The following veterans who served on V & W Class destroyers in World War II and belonged to the V & W Association have also died: E. Pritchard of HMS Vanessa, R.E. Baker of HMS Whitshed, A.T. "Danny" Blair of HMS Vanoc and W.A. Wishart of HMS Wishart and HMS Walpole. If I am sent details of their lives and wartime service in the Royal Navy I shall add entries for them here. My contact details are given at the foot of this page.
Bill Forster
Associate member of the V & W Association

F>N.G. Thomas, RDF Operator on HMS Venomous, 1940-3Sub Lt FNG Thomas RNVR Frederick N.G. Thomas
(left and above) died on Wednesday 9 May 2012 after a short illness aged 92. The son of a miner he was born in the coal mining valleys of South Wales in 1920 and was a student at Monmouth Teacher Training College in Caerlion when he received his call-up papers and volunteered to join the Royal Navy (JX204662). He trained as an RDF Operator at HMS Ganges (February - March 1940) and was posted to HMS Venomous at Portsmouth in June, just after Dunkirk. "Freddo" made a valuable contribution to the second edition of A Hard Fought Ship launched at the reunion of the V & W Association at Derby in April 2010 and
wrote a wonderful description of life on the lower deck of HMS Venomous.

He served on Venomous while it was an Atlantic escort in 1941 and on Arctic convoy PQ.15 to Murmansk in April 1942. He saw HMS Hecla sink off the coast of North Africa on Armistice Day 1942 when Venomous rescued 500 survivors and was at the allied landings near Syracuse in Sicily in July 1943. He left HMS Venomous at Falmouth in October 1943 and was sent for officer training at HMS Victory in Portsmouth and HMS King Alfred, Lancing at Hove. Sub Lt F.N.G. Thomas RNVR (on right) was posted to the cruiser  HMS Sirius as HA Gunner in October 1944. In 1946 he was second in command of the mine sweeping trawler HMS Lord Irwin en route to the Far East via Suez which was ordered back home when Japan surrendered. Fred gave a hilarious account of the problems caused when the crew of former fishermen went ashore in Spain, got drunk and stole some policemen's helmets  leading to their arrest by Spanish soldiers to the immense annoyance of the British Consul.

"Freddo" taught at a school in north London before joining the staff of the London Nautical School. He studied part time at the London School of Economics for a degree and MSc on 
Portsmouth and Gosport: the Historical Geography of a Naval Port (his supervisor wanted him to re-submit his thesis for a PhD but family commitments made this impossible) and was appointed as  Principal Lecturer in Geography at the College of All Saints, a teacher training college, now part of London University, and retired in 1981 as a Reader. He married Violet Gilham in 1951 and they had two daughters.

Freddo was a keen photographer and many of the pictures he took aboard HMS Venomous with his Ensign Box camera are included in A Hard Fought Ship and help give a real sense of what it was like to serve on a V & W Class destroyer during World War II.

John S. Appleby, 1943John S Appleby as Minister, 2009Shipmate John S. Appleby, the Honorary Secretary of the V & W Association
, died on the 30 August 2011 aged 86. He was born at Colchester on the 29 March 1925 and lived there all his life with the exception of his wartime service in the Royal Navy.

In 1943 he served as an OD on HMS
Wivern on east coast convoys before being sent for officer training. He served on a second V & W class destroyer, HMS Vivien, as midshipman (on left) and was then posted to a fast patrol boat for Operation Overlord. He joined the escort carrier, HMS Nairana, as part of the 2nd Escort Group (after the death of its charismatic leader, Captain "Johnnie" Walker) on Atlantic and Arctic convoys. He was a signals and coding specialist on the aircraft carrier, HMS Khedive, on its way to the East Indies. After a brief period at HMS Lanka, the shore base in Colombo, he was posted to HMS Tengra, the combined operations base at Mandapam, India, where he served on HMS Fiery Cross, a 249 ton converted Norwegian whaler, on secret missions to check out beaches for Operation Zipper, the planned seaborne asault on Japanese held Malaya.

He left the Royal Navy in 1947, returned to Colchester and married Audrey Grace Fookes. He trained as a teacher and by 1969 was Head Teacher at a primary school and retired in 1986. He had always been interested in printing and after the war ran a small printing business to supplement his income as a teacher. His wife pre-deceased him in 1993 but they had four sons, Roger, Andrew, Nigel and David. In later life he was ordained as a Minister and was much in demand at naval functions and at funerals of naval officers. In addition to being Secretary of the V & W Association he was branch  secretary of the Russian Convoy Club and chaplain to both the Burma Star Association and the Merchant Navy Association. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, took a keen interest in the history of Colchester and made an important contribution to the appendix on "Life aboard HMS Venomous" in the new edition of A Hard Fought Ship.

Visit the web site of the V & W Association
to find out more about the 69 V & W Class destroyers and the men who served on them

TS Venomous
the Sea Cadet Corps unit at Loughborough which keeps the name of HMS Venomous alive today
 and other Sea Cadet Corps units named after V & W Class destroyers

Follow in the wake of HMS Venomous on this web site
If a member of your family served on HMS Venomous check the list of officers and ratings

Holywell House
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