Part 3: HMS Vimy
My father's first - and last - command
November 1939 to May 1940
Lt Cdr Colin G.W. Donald RN had served on HMS Venomous in the Mediterranean in 1926-8 and was appointed CO of its sister ship HMS Vimy
in November 1939. His son, Frank Donald, followed his father into the
Royal Navy and has written an account of his father's life based on the
diary he kept intermittently throughout his service career.
the third and final part, describes events from November 1939 to his death on the bridge of HMS Vimy while taking part with HMS Keith and seven V&Ws
including Venomous in the evacuation of the Welsh and Irish Guards from Boulogne on the 23 May 1940.
Lt Cdr Colin Donald RN on the exposed open bridge of HMS Vimy
Left: taken by the pelorus (compass stand) and wheelhouse voicepipe
Right: taken on the port after corner of the bridge with end of rangefinder visible above
Courtesy of Frank Donald
My father joined the Vimy in early November. She was initially part of
the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla, Nore Command, based at Harwich. The leader
was HMS Keith (Captain Simson) and comprised three Polish Destroyers
and HMS Gypsy, Gallant, Worcester, Vimy and Boadicea. However the Vimy
was actually running from Liverpool escorting convoys to and from
the South Western Approaches. The day he assumed command on 8th
November he was off to sea for the next seven days.
During that stage of the war the U Boat did not have the range to be a
threat in mid Atlantic and convoys were only escorted as far as
Longitude 15 degrees West. Gibraltar convoys were escorted to Latitude
45 degrees North. This plot shows daily positions for the Vimy for December 1939 to January 1940, after which small ships’ logs were no longer retained by the Admiralty.
The large red circles denote depth charge attacks, on 31st November and
19th December. There was another in Liverpool Bay itself on 11th
January. The Vimy went for a
welcome rest in dry dock in Birkenhead in mid January, having carried
out six convoy escort missions under my father’s command. She had also
patrolled Liverpool Bay, and made an excursion to Loch Ewe with salvage
gear for HMS Nelson.
Letters home ...
My father’s letters home were subject to censorship, so there is no
information on ship movements. A lot of the earlier letters dealt with
the costs of running the family home in Stirling under wartime
conditions, with a number of extra residents and increased income tax.
Naval officers’ pay was inadequate and they all needed private means or
an allowance from parents. My father initially offered to return half
his allowance from my Grandfather and in the end was preparing to
relinquish it all.
My anticipated arrival in March was another topic. It appears that
there must have been some sort of child allowance as I was expected to
bring in two shillings a day and a tax rebate. Plans for my future were
discussed, and my father took out an insurance policy for me which is
still running. He paid the initial premium with the £10 “pilotage
money” he earned for taking Vimy
up the Mersey without embarking a pilot. Letters to his mother
expressed thanks for his upbringing and 35 happy years of life, and his
16 December – to Father Your
flying helmet is now proving most useful and keeps my ears beautifully
warm, and the grey woolly is my constant companion. It never leaves me
from the moment we go to sea until I scrape my clothes off on return to
harbour. War is a dirty business in more ways than one!
Now I must climb into my many clothes to go on the bridge to look for a
lighthouse. My senior officer and I disagree by twelve miles in our
longitude and I want to see who is right. We had sights tonight for the
second time in six days, so anything may have happened to the reckoning!
In February Vimy was back at sea, resuming convoy duty as part of Western Approaches Command:
February 8 Escorted inward Convoy HG17 for final stage of passage in SW Approaches to Liverpool from Gibraltar February 11 Detached from HG17 on arrival and took passage to Plymouth
12 February – to Mother Life
goes on much as usual with us here. Certain aspects of the war are
inclined to be monotonous, but I can’t complain really. The life is
strenuous at times, but one can’t fight a war for one’s life without
going without sleep sometimes, and on the whole things are quite all
Soon the summer will be here and the weather will improve.
Unfortunately it will also be better for the U-Boats, but by then I
hope that our efforts will have made their trained crews less numerous.
I am really beginning to work up a hate against them now, and I shall
have little compunction in sinking any that I can.
14 February – to Mother I
cannot understand how Hitler allowed himself to be forced into a
position from which no retreat was possible. He may have thought that
we would not fight, but I cannot imagine that he was quite so stupid. I
really think that with him the alternatives were “war or go bust” and
he chose the former, which will, in the end, “bust” him completely. At
all events we must go on until the dragon is killed, and then
reconstruct our lives in a world which will be different from the one
we have known before. However I do not doubt that with God’s help we
shall make a success of it.
To us war is a very impersonal thing. Travelling in England you would
hardly know that there was a war being waged at all. That is one of our
dangers. Perhaps the terrible stories from Poland will make our people
understand the dangers of Nazi German domination. Let us have done with
all cant. We are fighting the German people, for it is they who
have invented the Nazi doctrine and it is they who are carrying out
these atrocious crimes. Naturally we are not at war with our friends –
that is something quite different.
I am interested in the change in myself. At the start of the war I said
I must learn to hate. Now I have learnt to do so. I don’t like it but
it has to be. I would now have no compunction in dropping depth charges
on a U-boat. Earlier I regarded it as an unpleasant duty. Now I am
avenging hundreds of our own and neutral seamen who have been done to
death in the most cold blooded way. The Germans are certainly dirty
fighters, particularly their Navy I am ashamed to say. A German victory
would be the triumph of Antichrist, and God will never permit that to
happen I am sure.
Passage to Gibraltar to join escort for inward Convoy HG21
Sailed from Gibraltar as escort for HG21 with HM Destroyers Active, Velox and Vidette during passage to Liverpool.
Detached from HG21 and joined HM Destroyer Winchelsea and two French Destroyers in escort of Outward Convoy OG21 during passage in SW Approaches to Gibraltar
Detached from OG21 and returned to Plymouth
Resumed service in North Sea for defence of east coast and Channel Traffic
Operational information is from Service Histories of RN Warships in World War 2, by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (rtd)
The invasion of Denmark and Norway
On the 9 April the "Phoney War" ended when Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway and my father wrote at length on the strategic situation, taking a
cheerfully optimistic view of our prospects.
9 April – to Mother My
complaint that nothing is happening seems to have no further
justification. What on earth are the Germans up to now? I cannot
imagine that this fresh act of wanton aggression can do them any
lasting good, and I would think that it would turn world opinion more
against them than ever. I can only imagine that they are very short of
iron ore and are prepared to go to any lengths to get it. I wonder what
effect this will have on the USA? With their very large Scandinavian
population, added to many Poles and Czechs, I should think that it
would not be long now before they enter the war. I am sure that
Roosevelt is in favour of doing so, and is merely biding his time to
put himself forward as Presidential candidate for the third time and
then bring the country into the war.
I can’t see that the Germans can go on like this much longer. They now
have so much alien territory under their heel that they will want an
enormous part of their army for police duties only. I suppose that the
next act will be for the Russians to go into Sweden.
14 April – to Mother What
now, what next? The war has really started now, and I do so much wonder
what the next step will be. Doubtless we still have much in front of us
before the end, but I cannot help feeling that the end is now in sight.
No country has ever started on a war with such a precarious economic
system as Germany, and I do think that this latest effort is more of a
sign of weakness than of strength. Of course I assume that we shall
manage to bring help to the Norwegians, and this I imagine we are now
able to do, as I suppose that Narvik must now be in our hands. If we
have that town we can stop the shipment or iron ore, which is, I
suppose, the most important factor in the case. Let us hope, however,
that we shall manage to capture Bergen, which would be a dangerous
submarine and aircraft base if left in German hands. Once we are
established in those two places I think we can say that Hitler’s
Scandinavian adventure has failed.
What an almighty hiding the German fleet has taken. Our Navy has really
done wonders, and I only wonder what the real cost has been. Naturally
the wireless and the newspapers have been very reticent about the whole
thing, but I cannot imagine that our losses have been negligible.
From all I can make out the German submarines have done very little up
to date. This may be due to the weather conditions, or may equally due
to the fact that their morale has been considerably shaken by the heavy
losses they have suffered since the war began. They must have lost a
great many trained crews, and the newer ones may well lack the
experience and enthusiasm of the earlier ones.
This stage of the war sounds a much more personal note than has been
noticeable up to date. Before we were all merely parts of an enormous
machine, but now individuals can be distinguished in the system. It
seems so strange that de Villiers, whom I can naturally remember as a
small cadet, should have taken the “Hunter” into Narvik to meet an
unknown fate. Buzzard, whom I also know well, seems to have fought the
“Ghurka” splendidly, and I am very thankful that he was rescued.
I can only pray that I may do as well as they did if and when my time
comes to go into action. Of course that moment may never come – not
everyone has the privilege of taking his ship into action, but please
pray that I may do my duty if the time should come for me to fight my
HMS Ghurka was sunk by a Stuka
dive bomber en route Narvik on 9 April having slowed down to improve
her anti aircraft accuracy in the prevailing heavy weather. Most of the
ship’s company were rescued by the cruiser HMS Aurora. HMS Hunter was
sunk in action with German destroyers on 10 April. There were fifty
survivors who were rescued by a German destroyer and subsequently
allowed to cross the border to Sweden on 13 April . (Narvik by Donald Macintyre, Pan Books).
23 April – to Father Thank
God the summer is coming. I have had enough of cold weather and gales
to last me for some time, and shall welcome some sunshine. The only
curse is the early dawn. We go to Action Stations before daylight every
morning until sun up, and it means getting up so infernally early.
Still I have to be up to try to take stars as well – I am still
extremely bad at them – so it does not matter much anyway.
The flotilla organisation changed frequently and in May 1940 Vimy joined the 19th destroyer flotilla based at Dover, again with Keith
as leader. On the 4th of May however she was almost certainly in
Liverpool as in a letter to his Mother, after a discussion of whether
Italy would join the war, he reported that the Vimy
had been adopted by the Wellington Hotel in Bebington, Cheshire. The
landlady, Miss Hilda Facer, was coming to tea next day. He thought this
might lead to having large numbers of well wishers onboard to see over
the ship and promised to give an account of the visit in his next
letter, but alas he never did. (The Wellington Pub still exists).
The German Bltzkrieg On the 10 May German forces invaded the Netherlands and swept on into Belgium and nothern France.
5 May - to me I am sending you this Bible as a Christening present, and with it comes my very best love to you.
When I was a little boy, in more peaceful times, I was given a King
Edward Coronation Prayerbook. You, born in war, receive an Active
Service Bible. I hope that you will read it when you are older,
because, in this world, everyone is always on Active Service in the
fight against Evil. Your loving father, Colin Donald
10 May – to Mother Now
the gloves are really off and this summer will see this business
settled. God knows what we shall go through before we attain the
victory, but right must triumph in the end. Hard times are ahead of
usual, but God will give us his strength and I know that you will
always pray that I may be granted grace to do my duty.
I cannot say that I view Churchill’s appointment with enormous
confidence. It may answer, but I fear that he will interfere. Perhaps
alliance with the Dutch will inspire him, as it did his great ancestor.
16 May – to Mother The
war has really started now, and I think that the issue will not be long
in doubt, even though we will probably have an unpleasant time ahead of
us. Up to now Hitler has fed his Army and Air Force on cheap successes,
which are, of course, good for their morale, but the real test is now
coming and they will find things very different when they meet the
French and us. We can hold them and we will, and the discovery that
they are not invincible will damage their morale and assist towards our
ultimate victory. It really does seem that the Germans are putting
everything into this effort, and the fury of their onslaught must
diminish as our forces come into action in greater numbers. The
spearhead of their attack, their picked shock troops, must have lost
heavily, and their casualties will increase every day. Once the onrush
is checked, as I am sure it will be, victory is ours. As I have said
before, I am convinced that God will not allow Evil to triumph, and
that he will send the Heavenly Host to our aid rather than see a German
20 May - A final letter to his sister Barbara, who had trained as a nurse ...
By now I fear that you will have been called up, but I know that you
will do well in your new job, as you have always done in everything
which you have undertaken. Until this war started I never fully
understood the blessings of a religious upbringing. Now I see that if
one did not have Faith life in wartime would be much harder. At this
moment the news might be better, but we went through a worse time in
1914 and 1918 and I am confident we shall hold them in this attack, and
that once we have done that the end of this war is well in sight.
The practice of making biblical or prayer book associated signals was
still going strong. The late Rear Admiral George Thring recalled that
when he was Escort Senior Officer in the sloop HMS Deptford my father’s last signal to him before proceeding back to the Channel as described below was “Nunc Dimittis”.
"The Hell that was Boulogne"
Able Seaman Don
Harris joined HMS Vimy from hospital after surviving the sinking of the
Royal Oak at Scapa Flow and left a graphic account of events in May
“One particular day whilst in the Atlantic guarding a convoy we
received a message to return to Dover at high speed. After arrival
there and refuelling we headed for the Hook of Holland. The Germans has
swept through Belgium and Holland but we onboard had no idea of the
severity of the situation. On arrival at the designated destination we
picked up the most disreputable old rusted merchant ship that appeared
as though it should have been sold for scrap many years ago. Ahead of
us a British J class destroyer had slipped out of the harbour shortly
before us and signaled to us to keep close station on our merchant
ship. It was not long before the Luftwaffe attacked, their main aim
very obviously directed at the J class destroyer ahead of us. That type
of destroyer at that particular stage of the war was ultra modern and
its Captain’s evasive high speed tactics were superb. The pressure was
off when our own air cover arrived and we sailed into Sheerness without
further incident. And so our task was completed, imagine our surprise
when later we were informed, without confirmation of course, that the J
class destroyer had just carried the then Queen Wilhelmina and
Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to freedom from their over-run
country, whilst we in the Vimy had escorted the bulk of all the gold in
Holland which had been stowed away onboard that disreputable old tramp
This took place on the 13 May and the "old tramp" steamer was the
carrying the Dutch gold reserves. The identity of the J
class destroyer and its passengers is unknown but there seems no doubt
that Princess Juliana and her two infant daughters left Holland aboard
HMS Codrington as described by AB Ted Morgan who remembers helping to look after the young princesses during the cross channel crossing
The inner harbour of Bologne showing the Gare Maritime where Venomous (15) and Wild Swan (4) berthed on the 23 May 1940
Published by the United States Office of Strategic Services, Research and Analysis Branch, 1944 Courtesy of the Lewis Map Library, University of Princeton
AB Don T.W. Harris continues his account of his time on HMS Vimy with Lt Cdr Colin Donald in command:
"Immediate, next stop Dover, refuel, then full speed to Boulogne. On
arrival there (23 May) we could clearly see large numbers of German
Army advance units swarming down the high ground approaches leading to
the city. They were being bombarded from offshore by four French
destroyers of the “Le Terrible” class, then the most modern of the
World’s destroyers. We signaled a request for one or two to accompany
us into the port to evacuate as many troops, UK and French, plus
numerous female nursing staff. Their reply was a definite refusal “no
it is suicidal to go in there, we will continue to bombard”. And so we
proceeded (following Captain Simson in the Keith) into the narrow
At Dover the Vimy had embarked elements of Force Buttercup
to defend Boulogne Harbour. It comprised a Naval Company from Chatham
Barracks, two platoons of Marines and a demolition party. One of the
Platoon Petty Officers was “Jackie” Vinter, a former shipmate of my
father’s, and they had a brief conversation which Sub Lieutenant Vinter recalled
when I met him in 1957. At 1600 PO Vinter’s Platoon was about to fall
back on Company HQ. To quote the Platoon Commander’s report
“A man dressed in the uniform of a
Sergeant of the Welsh Guards had attempted to lure the Platoon into
manning a barricade which had been erected. Petty Officer Vinter,
Gunner’s Mate, however, noted that he was carrying a Mauser pistol,
with which he, Vinter was being covered when he went forward to inspect
the position where the Sergeant said his men were. Petty Officer
Vinter shot him, and on examining him discovered a German uniform
underneath his battledress. By his action, Petty Officer Vinter
undoubtedly saved his Platoon from falling into a trap. He was wounded
later, when attempting to lead some stragglers to safety.”
For these sterling actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
AB Don Harris (on left) continues his narrative:
"The wharf and railway station on our starboard side was packed
with those hopeful of being evacuated. On our port side and in close
proximity were hotels and other business establishments . The advance
German army units were beginning to pick up our range and soon
casualties from their light calibre shells were mounting at an alarming
rate. However we managed to embark some 700 plus evacuees before being
forced to withdraw. (Don Harris was mistaken, the actual figure was150, consisting of Rearguard GHQ and some
wounded, 70 stretchers).
While this operation was proceeding, three of us, the Captain, a Sub
Lieutenant (Webster) and myself had remained at key communication links
on the open bridge common to the V&W destroyers. Spasmodic
automatic rifle fire distinct from the shell fire had been heard from
the bridge before I noticed our Captain, Lieutenant Commander Donald,
train his binoculars on a hotel diagonally opposite but quite close to
our ship. I heard another burst of firing from the snipers located in
the hotel and then saw our Captain struck down. He fell onto his
back and as I leapt to his aid I saw that a bullet had inflicted a
frightful wound to the forehead, nose and eyes of his face. He was
choking in his own blood so I moved him onto his side, and it was then
I received his final order. It was “get the First Lieutenant onto the
bridge urgently”. As I rose to my feet more shots from the hotel swept
the bridge and the Sub Lieutenant fell directly in front of me. I
glanced down at him and saw four bullet holes in line across his chest.
He must have been dead before he hit the deck.
On the upper deck I located the First Lieutenant and appraised him
briefly of what had occurred. He immediately assumed command and
ordered all securing lines cast off and full speed astern. He consulted
me on the approximate location of the snipers in the nearby hotel and
after I had given my opinion he ordered A gun’s crew up forward
to bear on that target and fire a four inch shell at point blank range,
no more than one hundred yards; the result was devastating. I trust, to
this day, that that shot accounted for the cowardly French fifth
columnists as they were claimed to have been by one of the evacuees
onboard, a UK Army major. Still at full speed we reached the outer
limits of the harbour and then had to contend with German light bombers.
Our new temporary Captain performed a magnificent feat of seamanship as
he manoeuvred his top-heavy destroyer away from each attack. The
planes soon broke away from us to attack the four French destroyers
still at their task of bombarding beyond the port. The first attack
brought immediate results; the leading ship of that contingent suffered
direct hits and disappeared in a gigantic mushroom of flame and
smoke. And so to Dover to unload our human cargo, refuel, await a
replacement Captain and try very hard to get some precious sleep. Thus
ended an episode which the following day the London Daily Mirror
reported under the banner headline, “THE HELL THAT WAS
vivid first hand account is from a letter written by former AB Don T.W.
Harris to Richard Hough on the 5 February 1985.
Lr Cdr Colin G.W.
Donald RN died in hospital that night and was buried at sea off
Dover on the 27 May. His parents had travelled by sleeper from Edinbugh
the previous night to be present when their son was buried at sea from
an auxilliary. Colin Donald was awarded a posthumous Mention in
Dispatches, as was
Captain Simson of the Keith. His No 1, Lieutenant Adrian Northey
DSC, received a Mention in Dispatches and the DSC was awarded to Sub
Letters of condolence
From the First Lieutenant, Adrian Northey and my father’s Servant, Able Seaman T Fawcett:
Lieutenant Adrian Northey, 25 May 1940
This is just a short note to express my and the ship’s company’s wholehearted sympathy with you in your great loss.
We all had a great admiration for your husband and
he was greatly respected by us as a man who knew his job, never spared
himself and had a lot of consideration for his men. I who of course was
most in contact with him personally, feel for you rather more,
especially as I know that his one wish was to be able to get home for
I hope this letter will ... console you in knowing
that he died on the bridge doing his duty while conferring with his
Again I should like to say how much the whole of the
ship’s company join with me in expressing our sympathy. I hope it will
please you to know that the Admiral under whom we were working at the
time expressed a very warm appreciation of the gallant way in which the
destroyers carried out their job.
Able Seaman T Fawcett
This is the first opportunity I have had to offer my deepest sympathy
to you in your sad and sudden bereavement. I do hope that the shock has
not been too great for you. I was speaking to my Captain (I was his
servant) a few moments before it happened and he was so brave and
cheerful. With great courage and resourcefulness he took his ship into
that Port which was full of danger.
Please do not think me forward, writing these few
lines, for my Captain and I often chatter of the progress of your baby
and yourself and of mine too, and somehow I cannot feel content until I
have expressed my sympathy. I feel his loss I assure you, he was so
good and kind to me in particular, and to my wife who has been so much
grieved too at the news of his death.
1 August 1940
... I am sorry, the Captain did not speak again after he was hit. He
was attended to immediately by the doctor, who made him quite
comfortable. I was at the time closed up at my gun just under the
bridge where the Captain stood and was fortunate to survive myself as a
sniper’s bullet hit the gun shield close to my head, but luckily a
rivet proved too hard for it to pierce.
All I can tell you of after he was hit is that we
made him comfortable between decks and the steward (sick berth
attendant) and myself took turns in watching him until we reached
Dover. Then my duty took me away again to the bridge and from there I
saw him being taken away ashore. His last words personally to me were
that we would both “soon be home to see our sons and wives” and have a
nice quiet time.
I am now serving the third Captain since Lt Cdr
Donald left us and I find him in the same category, forgive the phrase,
but he is so much like him, cheery and resourceful, and I only hope
that he is as good a Captain to work under as Mr Donald ...
Keith and Vimy were first to enter the narrow inner harbour (both commanding officers were killed) followed by Whitshed and Vimiera. When they left Venomous and Wild Swan
entered and berthed either side of the Gare Maritime, on the west side
of the harbour. Lt Cdr John McBeath RN made the wise decision to berth
HMS Venomous on the east
side of the Gare Maritime, his starboard side, where he could bring his 4.7 inch guns to
bear on the German tanks and troop carriers descending the steep slope
to the jetties on the opposite side of the harbour.
When CPO Hugh McGeeney returned
home to Plymouth he told his wife that Venomous had nearly been
"bottled" when the German forces almost succeeded in sinking HMS
Venetia as it entered the harbour trapping Venomous and Wild Swan inside. With all the officers on the bridge of Venetia
severely wounded or killed a young sub lieutenant took command and
proceeded out of harbour stern first. McBeath with 500 troops aboard
and his ship's rudder jammed used his ship's engines to steer Venomous backwards through the narrow harbour entrance whilst guardsmen and crew fired on the advancing German forces.HMS Windsor
then berthed and took on board a further 600 guardsmen while Conder,
the senior officer after the death of Captain Simpson on HMS Keith, continued to direct operations from HMS Whitshed in the outer harbour.
That night Vimiera
returned to Bologne, berthed unnoticed at Quai Chanzy alongside the
Gare Maritime and by 0245 on the 24 May when it slipped had 1,400 men
aboard leaving only 200 behind on the quayside to become POW.
The following description is taken from the Report of Proceedings:
0140 Proceeded into harbour and secured
to outer jetty, starboard side to. This left the ship fully exposed to
the shore batteries on the northern ridge, but with a straight run down
the channel in case it became neccessary to leave abruptly. In any case
my previous position (1921 - 2025 23 May) no longer gave much
security as the tide was now high. The
silence in the town was eerie, the only noise being from a burning
lorry a few yards away across the channel, from which came periodically
the sound of exploding ammunition. The flames from this and a full moon
gave plenty of light, but failed to disclose any sign of life. Twice I
hailed the dockside without result and was just about to leave when a
voice answered. I was appalled to learn that no ship had been in for
about five hours and that more than 1000 soldiers were still waiting to
be evacuated, I said I could not take back so many but would do my
best, nor could I wait long.As
soon as the ship was firmly alongside there was a rush from the station
buildings and a voice shouted that the Germans had ambushed us. It was
probably during that rush that a considerable number of French and
Belgian soldiers and some refugees found their way onboard. If this had
not been so I think I should probably have been able to evacuate all
the British units that remained.Periodically
army officers hailed me and stated that further contingents of troops
were in hiding at various distances from the station and could I wait
another twenty minutes.
In this way time drew out until it was after 0230. My First Lieutenant
then informed me that no more men could be accomodated due to the lack
of space. In order to provide room and to keep the weight down in the
ship, I had opened up all lower messdecks and the tiller flat, all of
which and my day cabin and the wardroom were crowded. Only around the
guns and the supply parties and on the forecastle was space left. On
the rest of the upperdeck men were lying jammed so closely that it was
impossible to proceed along it.During
this time enemy bombers had been patrolling overhead and firing machine
guns at the lighthouse about 50 yards astern of the ship. Apparently
they could not distinguish the ship from the dockside cranes and
buildings in spite of her being silhouetted against the full moon. 0245
Slipped and proceeded astern out of harbour, regretfully leaving about
200 men still on the jetty. I told them that another destroyer would be
in, though I realized that by now there was little of no chance of
WESSEX arriving. 0250
Shore batteries suddenly opened fire, apparently at position where the
ship had been lying for the past hour and which had been so recently
Enemy bombers passed close overhead and heavy bombs exploded about 20
yards away under water. The attack was not repeated for which I was
thankful as avoiding action was impossible. Using only 5 degrees of of
wheel made the ship list and hang in the most unpleasant manner due to
the additional 100 tons of top-weight.
The dramatic events of 23 May 1940 are described in the new hardback edition of A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous which was published on 9 May 2017 Buy the new edition online for £35 post free in the UK
Take a look at the Contents Page and List of Illustrations