The story of HMS Venomous

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HMS Verminous

This caricature of HMS Venomous, painted on the back of an old chart and signed CRVH, was presented to its CO, Lt Henry Dumaresq Durell RN by C.R.V.H. in June 1943. It was painted shortly after the surrender of Axis forces in North African and the first through convoy from Gib to Alex. The tide of war was changing and the euphoria which followed may explain this amusing but accurate painting of HMS Venomous which anybody who had served on a V & W would immediately recognise.

HMS Verminous (photographed by Sue Money)

The only officer with the initial CRVH on HMS Velox in June 1943 was Lt C.R.V. Holt RNVR.  Penny Durell turned detective  and traced his artist daughter Ianthe Vesey Hudson living in South Africa. She recognised her father's style and handwriting and like her father (and grandfather) she signed her paintings with her initials. Ianthe put Penny in touch with her brother Nicholas Holt in England and he sent me a copy of the journal his father had kept (now in the RN Museum, Ref. 1991 57/4) recording in considerable detail events on the convoy from  Gib to Alex which Venomous and Velox had escorted as far as Tripoli before handing over to escorts from Malta.  This was received just in time to add to the book and a poster of the painting was made for display and sale at the book launch. David and Penny Durell and Nicholas Holt came to the launch at the RN Museum in Portsmouth and met  former Midshipman Stephen Barney who had served with Henry Durell on Venomous and remembered him fondly.

Lt Cdr H.D. Durell RN (1912-44)

Lt Henry D Durrel RN

The grandson of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles C.J.B. Elliot, KCB, Henry Durell was educated at the Nautical College, Pangbourne, and commissioned as a Midshipman in the RNR before joining the New Zealand Shipping Co.

He entered the Royal Navy in 1937 serving on HMS Rodney and HMS Tartar before being appointed CO of HMS Venomous in February 1943. He left in October and took command of HMS Isis in December and was promoted to Lt Cdr on 14 July 1944 six days before he was killed along with most of the ship’s company when Isis hit a mine off the Normandy coast. There is a memorial in Portsmouth cathedral to those killed on HMS Isis.

Lt Christopher R.V. Holt VRD RNVR (1915-97)


The eldest son of Vice Admiral Reginald Vesey Holt, he was a stockbroker before the war and a talented amateur artist. After officer training at King Alfred he served on three destroyers, HMS Ashanti, Malcolm and Hurricane, before joining HMS Velox in March 1942. In October 1943 he was posted to HMS Spragge, a frigate. He returned to stockbroking after the war and became senior partner and later Chairman of James Capel & Co. He retired from the RNVR as Lt Cdr in 1957. His family published a memoir of his wartime service in the Navy which can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF by clicking on the link.  For further details of his naval career see his entry on unithistories.com

Poster of HMS Verminous, June 1943

Follow in the wake of HMS Venomous on this web site
See some of the new photographs taken aboard HMS Venomous by AB Cyril Hely in 1942-3

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