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HMS Vesper Association


The keel of HMS Vesper was laid down in December 1916 at Stephen’s shipyard on the Clyde. Stephens was an old established shipyard and built many warships for the Royal Navy, including famous HMS Amethyst from the Yangtse Incident.

By 1939 the now elderly Vesper was due to be scrapped but World War Two intervened and she was pressed into service escorting convoys up and down the East Coast and ‘E Boat Alley’. Then a trip to rescue troops at Dunkirk, convoy duty to Gibraltar and also across the North Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

June 6th 1944 (D-Day) saw Vesper in the van at ‘Bloody Omaha’ – the ship’s company cynically believing that Vesper, being old and worn, wouldn’t be much of a loss should she be destroyed. However, ‘lucky’ Vesper survived to sail another day until the breakers’ yard claimed her in 1947.

In Warship Week, February 1942, Skipton raised £492,887 and ‘adopted’ Vesper. Schoolchildren wrote letters, socks, scarves and comforts were sent to the men and, in return, sweets and chocolates were sent to the schoolchildren in Skipton. The Admiralty presented a plaque (now lost) and a wooden block acknowledging the adoption. This is now in the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth Dockyard.

In 1985 a letter from Bill Park to the then Town Clerk of Skipton was passed to Skipton Branch RNA. In it Bill asked if there was any connection between the Town and the former ship’s company. By sheer coincidence Skipton & District RNA had raised an interest in the ship and had placed an ad to that effect in the Navy News, requesting anyone interested to contact the branch. A phone call from Jersey was received from John Dupre and letters arrived from 10 other ‘old ships’ and so a re-union was arranged for March 1986 in the Midland Hotel (now Herriots).

John Spencer was the Mayor of Skipton at the time and the re-union went so well that a further get together was held six mothers later in September. From then to the present day the re-unions have been held every September and often in April as well.

The White Ensign, which had flown from the ship during World War Two, was dedicated and placed in Holy Trinity at a later date and two handsome plaques were recently unveiled in Skipton’s canal basin as a tribute t the ship and the men who so honourable served their country on her.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. james young permalink
    November 2, 2015 10:27 am

    my father served on the vesper Eric young nicknamed sparrow he served on vesper second world war atlantic and north sea he didn’t speak about it much .

  2. November 3, 2015 1:15 am

    Hi James, thank you for your comment. There’s quite a few others here which may be of interest: Do you know what sort of job your father had on the Vesper? Stoker/Gunnery etc?

  3. lawes permalink
    March 4, 2017 10:58 am

    My Grandfather signed up in 1916 in Ashton under lyne. Petty Officer Sidney John Carr served in WW11 as signal man on the Vesper he got a mention in dispatches after the Calais incident. I have inherited his medals, his service record and a super pair of German Navel Binoculars,given to him by a grateful E – boat captain at the Cookshaffen surrender Grandpa left the navy after 29 years service .

  4. Phillip Bird permalink
    June 7, 2018 2:51 pm

    My father served on HMS Vesper, Ronald Bird nickname Dick Bird. Dad served in the North Atlantic and the English Channel. Like so many service men and women they didn’t talk at length about their time in the conflict. However, on one occasion after a couple of drams of whiskey my father and uncle shared at length their experiences during WW2. I was eight or nine at the time and although enthralled with these stories I was too young to appreciate and document fully what was said. I remember only a fraction of what was shared but for a young man who grew up with friends and family who’d served in the war it was a great experience.

    • Phillip Bird permalink
      June 7, 2018 3:00 pm

      My Father, Dick Bird, was a radar and ASDIC operator and he’d often thump out Morse code on the kitchen table.

    • June 8, 2018 5:14 pm

      Hi Philip, thanks for your information. A similar experience happened to me when I was about 8 and had to write about my Grandfather’s stories from WW2. Unfortunately I never got to meet him but ever since then I was fascinated by the story of HMS Vesper.

  5. Debra permalink
    May 21, 2019 7:03 pm

    My uncle petty officer William Charles Woodward was killed on the H MS Vesper in 1942. Thank you for letting me post here. Sadly I never knew him as I wasn’t born until 1962.

  6. DAvid Russell permalink
    March 26, 2020 9:15 am

    MY father HarryRussell served on HMS Vesper during world war 2, during the Mid 1990,s I persauadedhim to go to the annual reunion at Skipton and one he’d done it every year my brothers and Me took turns to take him. HE really enjoyed meting up with his old shipmates. sadly the numbers became fewer and eventually it was curtailed. DAd died on armistice day 2014.

  7. Norman fox permalink
    February 8, 2022 1:39 pm

    My late father John Edward Fox stoker on the Vesper his favourite ship adopted the ships rescued cat & called it Vesper& told my mother don’t let anyone dare drown this cat it lived till a ripe old age

    • February 11, 2022 5:32 pm

      Hi Norman, thank you for the great story 🙂 I wasn’t aware that there was a ship’s cat on HMS Vesper, I did hear about a pet dog staying on the ship when it was in the dockyard. Do you know if there are any photos of the cat or what it looked like?

      • np fox permalink
        April 30, 2022 1:14 pm

        hi vesper the cat was rescued off a mined merchant ship carrying timber and was clinging on to pit props the tug from sheerness took off the survivors from hms vesper but refused to take the cat i have a photo of the cat on board in a special hammock made by the crew

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