Thank you to Sherry McKercher for the photographs and information about her grandad George William Turnbull a radar operator on HMS Vesper.
George was on the Vesper when she was in collision on 31 August 1943 with the Destroyer HMS Vivacious, which resulted in major damage to the Vesper.
George was friends with Buster Crabbe who was also on the vessel at the time of the collision. Buster was a diver and part of a mine and bomb disposal unit at Gibraltar which remove limpet mines placed on Ally ships by Italian divers. For his efforts Buster was awarded the George Medal and was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander.
Buster would die in mysterious circumstances while investigating a soviet ship in April 1956. Buster featured in Peter Wrights book, Spycatcher. (1987),
Displacement: 1,188 tons.
Length: 312 feet (95.1 metres)
Beam: 29feet 6 inches (9 metres)
Draught: 11 feet9 inches (3.6 metres)
Speed: 34 knots (39 MPH, 63km/h)
Range: 4000 miles (6,500 Kilometres)
Power: 3 x water-tube boilers.
Propulsion: 2 x shafts, 2 x steam turbines.
Complement: 134 Officers and men.
Torpedo tubes: 2 × twin 21-inch (533 mm)
Guns: 4 × single QF 4 in (102 mm) Mk V guns. 1 × single QF 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft.
Initially V and W class destroyers had one or two anti-aircraft 2-pound Pom-pom guns mounted on a platform between the funnels. The main guns only had a maximum elevation of 30 degrees and were useless against attack by aircraft. With the onset of WW2 their main armament was replaced by high angle 4 inch guns. A range of pompoms, machine guns and Oerlikon’s were mounted together with improved fire control and ranging systems.
V and W class destroyers originally had two boiler rooms with two boilers in the rear and one in the front boiler room. This being the reason for the forward funnel being thinner. In some of these ships the forward boiler was removed allowing additional accommodation and storage space including an additional 130 tons of oil. The loss of this boiler reduced the speed to 24 knots but this was sufficient for convoy escort duty. This reduction in speed increased the range. For example, a V and W class Destroyer travelling at 15 knots could go three times as far as at top speed.
HMS Vesper had her forward boiler room removed.
Following the Evucation of Dunkirk between 27 May and 4 June 1940 HMS Vesper joined 21st Destroyer Flotilla in July. The 21st Destroyer was based at Sheerness and the Destroyers were on anti-invasion patrols and escort duties in English Channel and North Sea.
Destroyers from the Nore Command including from Sheerness Campbell, Garth, Vesper, Holderness and Venetia patrolled the French coast attacking vessels that were building up for the German Invasion fleet.
10 Dec.1939: ORCHARD, Frederick J, Seaman, RNR, C/ X 19559 A, drowned.
May 1940: Deployed at Harwich for evacuation support with the 19th Destroyer Flotilla.
10 May 1940: Took demolition team to Ijmuiden in Holland to destroy oil tanks. (Operation XD).
13 May 1940: Assisted in evacuation from the Hook of Holland. (Operation ORDNANCE).
Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to 155.
June 1940: Deployed to Dover with 19th Flotilla to provided gunfire support to the British Expeditionary Force at Le Treport in France.
17 June 1940: On patrol, destroyer VESPER rescued three British officers, one British NCO, five French soldiers and took them to Dover.
1 July 1940: HMS Vesper together with HMS Windsor rescued 33 survivors of the British ship SS Beignon (5218 tons) which had been torpedoes and sunk by the German Submarine U-30 in the Atlantic Ocean. Convoy SL 36, Freetown to Liverpool. The Clearton was also sunk by U-30.
July 1940: Joined 21st Destroyer Flotilla based at Sheerness for anti-invasion patrols and escort duties in Channel and North Sea.
12 Sep 40: 21st flotilla, Campbell, Garth and Vesper operated off the Dutch coast attacking invasion vessels.
8 Oct 1940: HMS Vesper towed HMS Hambledon into Sheerness. HMS Hambledon had activated a mine off the North Foreland and sustained serious damaged. One man was killed and two injured.
October 1940:Deployed to Western Approaches.
12 Nov 1941. While escorting Convoy FS50 (FS650) consisting of upwards of fifty ships came under attack by e-boats. The SS Aruba and SS Waldinge were sunk by Schnellboote S41 and S105. The tanker War Mehtar at 5,502 tons was torpedoed and sunk by the S104 (Captain Rebensburg.) The Convoy was escorted by the Vesper, Verdun, Wolsey, Campbell, Garth, Hambledon, Quorm, Kittiwake and Widgeon. Vesper and Garth were close to the War Mehtar when she was attacked near buoy 56 and went in pursuit of three e-boats. Garth was damaged by gun fire.
The S41 was sunk in a collision with S105.
1942:On escort duty in the Atlantic.
12 March 1942:The Vesper was in a collision.
MILLER, George R, Able Seaman, RFR (Pens), C/J 109036, killed.
SUSSEX, Norman J C, Leading Stoker, RFR, C/KX 77867, killed.
WOODWARD, William C, Petty Officer (Pens), C/J 84873, killed.
15 Nov 42: BACKLOG, Thomas F J, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, RNR, C/J 113359, killed
11 Dec 1942: (From RN Report)HMS Vesper while attacking an enemy convoy off Dieppe at 28 knots was hit by enemy shell fire.
Seven direct hit by Oerlikon or Pom-pom direct action fused Shells. One Direct hit from an 88 mm direct action fused shell.
Time out of action, six months including conversion.
Three direct hits occurred between the forecastle and upper decks in way of the crew’s quarters on the starboard side with minor structural damage. A direct hit was sustained on the starboard side of the type 286 radar office. The indicator and receiver sets and the aerial leads of type 252 radar were damaged by splinters.
A direct hit occurred at the after end of the W/T office. Aerial leads to type 252 and leads to the motor alternator of type 286 were cut by splinters.
Direct hit occurred on the Perspex window on the aft side of type 271 radar. The aerial reflector and type 271 damaged.
Direct hit occurred on the toughened glass windscreen on the port side of the bridge.
Direct hit with an 88 mm shell occurred on the starboard side of the W/T office. The main transmitter was damaged by splinters.
Fighting Efficiency: Slightly impaired.
The W/T and type 286 radar was out of action.
31 August 1943.Vesper was in collision with HM Destroyer VIVACIOUS which sustained major damage.
6 June 1944.Vespa was deployed in defence of the D-day convoys and for close support at Omaha Beach.
It did not go well for the American forces at Omaha Beach and heavy casualties were inflicted on them by the defending enemy.
The assault force had suffered from rough seas as they traversed eleven miles of open sea in their Landing Craft. Of the 32 amphibious tanks which were the vanguard of the assault, only five remained afloat. Of the 50 howitzers to support the infantry only 18 survived, the rest sinking to the Ducks transporting to shore. Landing craft especially equipped with men and gear to clear the beach obstacles, the mines attached to them and the booby traps also sank with disastrous results.
Only a few gaps could be opened through the lethal obstacle barrier resulting in bottle necks were landing craft built up into an unorganised jam.
The preliminary bombardment was in effected with gun emplacements and machined gun pillboxes being operational. There were no bomb or shell craters on the wide exposed beach in which to seek shelter. The soldiers of the American 1st and 29th Divisions were trapped at the water’s edge being raked by machine gun, mortars and small arms fire.
This deplorable situation was in part alleviated twelve Destroyers, amongst these HMS Mendip and HMS Vesper (Sheerness Destroyers) which sailed right up to the beaches to give the beleaguered army close support, knocking artillery emplacements, machine gun pillboxes and Germen infantry emplacements.
HMS Vesper survived the war and was sold for disposal in 1947.
George William Turnbull, radar operator on Vesper and his wife Doris.
HMS VESPER (D 55)
V & W-class Destroyer
ATLANTIC 1939-45 - NORTH SEA 1941 - ENGLISH CHANNEL 1940 -45 - NORMANDY 1944
MOTTO: 'You know not what the evening brings forth'
BADGE: A Field Blue with a star silver.
World War One Destroyer was laid down on the 7th December 1916 and launched on the 15th December 1917. HMS Vesper was put into reserve after WW1 and returned to service in 1939. She was adopted by the town of Skipton in Yorkshire..
OFFICERS from Navy List November 1940.
(Rank. Name. Date joined ship.)
Lieut.-Com. W. F. E. Hussey, DSC. 31 July.
Lieutenant. G. D. W. Ram. Nov 39.
Lieutenant. J. A. Tricker. 2 Mar 40.
Surg. Lieut. W. F. Viret, MRCS, LRCP. 17 Jan 40.
Sub-Lieut RNR. N.A. Bartlett. 19 Apr 40.
Sub-Lieut RNR. W. B. Taylor, 31 July 39.
Gunner. E. T. Goodwin (act) 20 Feb 40.
Engineer. A.J. Fisher. 9 Nov 40.
OFFICERS from Navy List June 1942
Lieutenant D. H. R. Bromley, 14 May 42.
Lieutenant H. R. Evans, 29 July 41.
Lieutenant J.C. Holland, 8 Sept 41.
Lieutenant RNVR D. W. Souter, 13 May 42.
Sub Lieut. B. Healcy, 24 Jan 42.
Gunner Temp. C. F. J. Fishenden, 18 May 42.
Engineer A.J.Fisher, Nov 40.
OFFICERS from Navy List December 1942.
Lieutenant D. H. Bromley, 14 May 1942.
Lieutenant H. R. Evans, 29 July 41.
Lieutenant J. C. Holland, 8 Sept 41.
Lieutenant F. E. Neville-Towle, 18 Oct 42.
Tempy. Lieut., R.N.V.R. D. L. Scarf (act) 2 June 42.
Tempy. Surg. Lieut., R.N.V.R. N. D. Paton, MB, chB (proby), 13 June 42.
Sub-Lieut. , R.N.R. T. B. Healey ,24 Jan 42.
Tempy. Gunner. (T) C. F. J. Fishenden (act), 18 May 42.
Wt. Engineer, A. J. Fisher, 9 Nov 40.
OFFICERS from Navy List June 1944
Lieut. Com. V. D. Ravenscroft, 1 Apr 44 (In Command)
Lieut. Com. D. H. R. Bromley, 14 May 42.
Lieutenant H. R. Evans, 29 July 41.
Lieutenant J. C. Holland, 8 Sept 41.
Lieutenant D. I. Haywood, 20 Apr 43.
Lieutenant, H. J. A. Wilson (act) 5 May 43
Lieutenant. RNVR. P.R. Hancox, 21 Jan 44.
Surg. Lieut. Temp. P. N. Wilman, MB, BS. 15 June 43 R.N.V.R.
Sub-Lieut. W. H. Hoyle, 3 June43 R.N.R.
Sub-Lieut.Temp. RNVR D. G. Humphreys, 3 May 43.
Sub-Lieut.Temp RNVR C. Wickstead, 9 June 43.
Gunner, Temp. G. S. Williamson (act) 15 Dec 43.
Engineer A. J. Eames, 23 May 43.
If you, your father or your grandfather have any additional information about this ship, crew lists, stories, photographs, please send copies of them to be added to our records and this website.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS. Felix Edward Neville-Towle was awarded a DSC. It is possible he received his DSC for the action of 11 December 1942, when HMS Vesper was in action with an enemy convoy off Dieppe and was hit by enemy shell fire.
Watch this short video about the Wildfire Destroyers.
Sheerness Destroyers at D-day: https://youtu.be/iftqjOj89Xg