Black Country Muse


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 It's now over 70 years since the last War started, and, although I was born during it, I have only the experiences of the after effects. While doing some research on an unrelated subject, I came across a snippet of Information that seems to have slipped the collective memory. Our parents and grandparents, sacrificed a great deal during the Wars, but also helped to raise a great deal of money, towards the War effort. The following, is just part of that effort, there are many more examples, but for now, I will start with this. Photographs of the ships, or in some case's, the sister ship, can be seen in the pictures below. The logs of these ships, which are available, are too extensive to include here, and I have included just the main areas each ship operated in.

 In 1941/42, the Government introduced special event weeks, one of these was ' Navy Week '. Across the Blackcountry, a massive amount of money was raised, and in return, each Town "adopted", a Warship. I have listed them in alphbetical order, and with a brief history of each Ship. Photographs of the Ships, or class types, can be found in the Gallery.

 BILSTON.  H.M.S. Salamander, adopted in Feb 1942, she was a Halcyon-class Minesweeper, launched in 1936. Her pennant number was N-86, and she served with distinction at Dunkirk - In the Artic - and at the Normandy landings. She was scrapped in 1947

 BRIERLEY HILL. H.M.S. Watchman, adopted in Mar 1942, a V&W-class Destroyer. she had been built in 1916, and put into reserve in the 1920s. Given the number D-32, the Ship served in the Atlantic- Normandy-Artic- and the English Channel. She was scrapped in 1946.

 DARLASTON.  H.M.S. Charlestown, an old type lease lend Destroyer, with the number I-21.She was adopted in Feb 1942, and served in the Western approaches, as part of the escort of 1st Minelaying Squadron. Mines were laid in all the aproaches and off Iceland as well. It was one of these mines, that blew the bow off HMS Archates, the ship that Halesowen sponsered. ( see below ) She served in the Atlantic, and ,off Normandy. Badly damaged by ramming a dock wall in 1945, she was concidered to be beyond repair, and Put into reserve. She was scrapped in 1948, after being sold to the British Iron and Steel Company, and towed to Sunderland.

 DUDLEY.  H.M.S. Kelvin, a K-class Destroyer, number G-23. Launched in 1939, and adopted in Nov 1941, she saw service in the Atlantic-Mediterranean-Malta Convoys-Normandy ( Sword Beach ) -Aegean. The Ship was involved in at least two successful Submarine actions. Taken from the reserve, she was broken up in 1949. ( see also, Wartime Memories in the Topics Forum.)

 HALESOWEN. H.M.S. Achates, an A-class Destroyer, launched in 1938, with the number H-12. It was adopted in Nov 1940, and was part of the screening force in the hunt for the Bismark, in company with H.M.S. Hood. While back on her patrol duties, she hit one of the British mines laid off Iceland, which caused the loss of 63 lives with a further 25 injured. The entire bow section was blown off, and only some excellent seamanship, prevented a total loss. In 1942, she was on escort duties with the convoy JW-51B, when the German ships, Scharnhorst and Hipper, put to sea. In the ensuing fight, while laying a smokescreen, she was hit by gunfire from Hipper. Badly damaged by the 11 inch shells, she carried on, but was hit again and sank in the Barents Sea. 113 of her crew were lost in the action. As a replacement, the town then adopted, H.M.S.Contest. This Ship was not fully commissioned until 1946, and therefore took no part in hostilies. She was scrapped in 1960. The picture shows her sister ship, Cossack.

 OLDBURY. H.M.S. Griffin, a G-class Destroyer, launched in 1935, and with the number H-31. She was adopted in Mar 1942, having already seen service off Norway. She was sent to the Mediterranean where she served at Crete-Greece-Libya-Malta Convoys. Together with other ships, in March 1941,she took part in the sinking of two Italian Destroyers, Vittoria Alfrieri, and Giosure Carducci. ( see also Wartime Memories, in the Topic Forums.) She was on escort and screening duties, when H.M.S Barham was torpedoed by U331. The Battleship sank in 5 minutes with the loss of 862 lives. In 1943, she was transferred to the Canadian Navy, with a new name, H.M.C.S Ottawa, where she was part of a group that sank 3 Submarines, U678, U621, and U984.The Town kept the assocciation with her, and followed her progress to the end of the War. The Ship was scrapped in 1946.

 ROWLEY REGIS.  H.M.S. Tumult, a T-class Destroyer, numbered R-11, and lauched in 1937. Adopted by the Borough in Feb 1942, she was already active in the Atlantic, was sent to Gibralter, and then operated in the Mediterranean, supporting landings at Sicily and Salerno, with gunfire. Along with other Destroyers, she was involved in the sinking of U223, off the Greek coast. Supported the landing in southern France. Sent to the Pacific in 1945, together with HMS Burmuda, the ship adopted by West Bromwich, she returned with allied prisoners. Re-fitted in 1946, as a Type 16 fast Anti-Submarine Frigate, a role she played until sent into reserve in 1957. Broken up for scrap in 1965, at Milford Haven, by the British Iron and Steel Company. ( BISCO )

 SMETHWICK.  H.M.S. Hermione, a Dido-class Anti-Aircraft Cruiser, launched in 1939. The Ship took part in the successful hunt for the Bismark, after which she was ordered to the Mediterranean. By a strange twist of fate, this ship was also in the same convoy as HMS Kelvin, and HMS Griffin. The very same one that contained the dummy Battleship, HMS Centurion. ( see Wartime Memories )  Whilst carrying out her duty to protect the Malta Convoys, she was torpedoed by U205, south of crete, on 16 June 1942. There was a heavy loss of life, only 101 crew members surviving the attack.

 STOURBRIDGE. H.M.S. Faulknor, an F-class Destroyer, number H-62. Design as a Flotilla Leader for the 4th Flotilla, she saw extensive War service. From the Artic, to the Mediterranean landings, and then on to Normandy. The Ship was involved in actions that saw the sinking of no less than 14 U-boats, accepted the surrender of the German Garrison in the Channel Islands, and was awarded 11 battle honours. She has a book dedicated to her memory, DESTROYER LEADER - HMS FAULKNOR, 1935 - 1946, by Peter C Smith. Placed into reserve in 1945, and declared surplus to requirements, she was scrapped in 1946.

 TIPTON.  H.M.S. Versatile, a Destroyer from the Great War building programme, number D-32. Built in 1917, she was in reserve until 1939, and was adopted in Jan 1942. She served in the Atlantic-North Sea-Normandy-and the English Channel. Scrapped in 1946.

 WALSALL.  H.M.S Mahratta,one of the new M-class Destroyers, adopted in Mar 1942, while still being built. The ship was originaly going to be named H.M.S Marksman, but the hull was damaged during an air-raid, and moved to a new site. Launched in 1943, named in recognition of India, for the War effort, and with the number G-23, her service was, from the start, to be in the Artic. She was part of convoys RA 054A, ( home bound ) JW 056B, ( to Russia ) RA 056, and JW 57. On this, her last Convoy, in 1944, she was hit by a FAT, an accoustic Torpedo, fired by U990. The Ship sank in just 8 minutes, with heavy loss of life, only 17 members of her 217 crew surviving.

 WEDNESBURY. H.M.S. Albrighton, a Type III, Hunt-class Escort Destroyer, number L-12. Adopted in Mar 1942, her service was confined to the English Channel-Dieppe-Biscay-Normandy-and the North Sea. Used for training after the War, she was put into reserve in 1957, and then, by a strange twist of irony, sold to the German Navy in 1959, when she was renamed " Raule " She was scrapped in 1969, and broken up in Bremen, Germany.

 WEST BROMWICH. H.M.S. Burmuda, a Colony-class Light Cruiser, launched in 1941, and adopted in Mar 1942.Her service covered North Africa-Artic-and the Pacific, where she took part in operation Torch, the landings in North Africa. Sent to the far east, she was on station in company with HMS Tumult,the ship adopted by Rowley Regis. What a small world it can seem at times.  Surplus to requirements, after a long period as a training ship, she was scrapped in 1965, again being sold to BISCO, and broken up at Briton Ferry.

 WOLVERHAMPTON. H.M.S. Curacoa, a Light cruiser built in 1916, she ended up in the reserve. Converted in 1939 to an Anti-Aircraft Cruiser, she was used for extensive home waters defence, she was adopted in 1941. Whilst on Convoy protection, she was unfortunately rammed by the giant Cunard Liner, R.M.S. Queen Mary, on 2 Oct 1942, and sank, taking 338 of the crew with her. The replacement ship, was the light Cruiser H.M.S. Newfoundland, launched in 1941. Flying the pennant number 59, she was off Sicily, supporting the landings, when she was Topedoed by U407. Using only the engines for steering, she made the voyage to Boston, in America for repairs.The Ship was then ordered to the Pacific, to support the Australian 6th Infantry Division, in landing operations. She took part in the attack on the Japanese Naval base at Truk, in the Caroline Islands, and was in Tokyo Bay when the surrender was signed. She was sold to the Peruvian Navy in 1959, and after 20 more years of service, was scrapped in 1979.

 Now, if anyone reading this, has any more information regarding the above, I would be pleased to hear it. Do you know someone who served on any of the Vessels, or a surviving relative? Can you remember any crew members who visited the region ? Given it was Wartime, was it reported in the Local press ?  Did the Towns contact with some of the Ships, continue after the War ? Does anyone know of other fund raising efforts that their relatives took part in, such as the effort to raise money for Spitfires or Bombers.