Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Monday, 30 September 2013

HMS Wrestler

A very interesting email came in last week from Peter Schofield, who is a registered volunteer fieldworker with the IWM assisting in populating their War Memorial Archive. Peter as a request for help which hopefully we can sort out for him..

 Over to Peter:
"Having visited the Hyde Cheshire Blog I notice the Town Hall holds the Wings for Victory and Salute the Soldier plaques which I can record for you.

What is missing is the Warship Week plaque for Hyde which adopted the destroyer HMS Wrestler in Dec 1941.  The plaque will take the form of a large black shield with the ships crest (Hercules wrestling a lion). There will also be a brass plate with the inscription 'Presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty etc.'  If you come across the plaque, possibly on display at the Town Hall could you provide me with an image and the full inscription.

There may also be a commemorative plaque presented to the ship from the people of Hyde, could you also send an image if you come across this item."
Peter Schofield MA

HMS Wrestler

HMS Wrestler (D35) was a W class destroyer launched by the Royal Navy in the latter stages of the First World War and active from 1939 to 1944 during the Second World War. She was the first Royal Navy ship to bear that name, and the only one to do so to date.
She was the tenth order in the 1916-1917 programme, ordered on 9 December 1916 from Swan Hunter. She was laid down at Wallsend during July 1917, launched on 25 February 1918 and commissioned on 15 May that year, too late to see active service in the war. In the month of Wrestler's commissioning the battleship HMS Hindustan collided with Wrestler and badly damaged her.
Her first deployment was in 1921, to the Atlantic Fleet's 5th Destroyer Flotilla, which also visited the Mediterranean in 1925. The Flotilla returned to the United Kingdom during the 1930s on the commissioning of new destroyers and Wrestler was placed in reserve. She then served as tender to the torpedo school at HMS Vernon from 1938 until the month before the outbreak of the Second World War, when she was put on station at Gibraltar.
From there she joined the 13th Destroyer Flotilla to defend convoys in the early stages of the Battle of the Atlantic. During 1940 she escorted Convoy OG-22F alongside HMS Bideford and Fowey through the Western Approaches on its way to Gibraltar in March. In July 1940 she was present at the attack on Mers-el-K├ębir (where she rescued crews from the British-sunk Strasbourg) then joined the destroyers HMS Faulknor, Foxhound, Fearless, Forester, Escort, Douglas, Active, Velox, and Vortigern as they screened the capital ships preparing for air attacks from Ark Royal on Italian targets on Cagliari in July 1940 - the operation was abandoned after the force came under heavy air attacks. Wrestler then sank the Adua class Italian submarine Durbo east of Gibraltar on 18 October 1940 alongside HMS Firedrake and two flying boats.
From July 1941 to April 1942 she was stationed at Freetown and was then transferred to the Malta Convoys as part of Force H and "Operation Harpoon", before serving as one of the naval escorts for "Operation Torch". She was adopted by Hyde in December 1941 after a successful "Warship Week" National Savings campaign. She, a flying boat and HMS Wishart sank the U-boat U-74 east of Cartagena on 2 May 1942, then on 15 November 1942 sank U-98 alone. In July 1942 Wrestler also boarded the Vichy French merchantman Mitidja (intercepted off Cape Palos, Spain by HMS P222) and escorted her into Gibraltar.

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of "Operation Pedestal" also known as "Il-Convoy ta' Santa Marija", 1942-2012. 
Operation Pedestal: Saving Malta 

Operation Pedestal highlights one of the most difficult yet glorious moments in Maltese history and is today remembered as the "Il-Convoy ta' Santa Marija". 

Seventy years ago, in August 1942, Malta was facing the threat of starvation after two years of incessant bombing by Axis air forces in one of the most concentrated and prolonged aerial sieges of any war. 

At the time, the Island was the linchpin of the battle in the Mediterranean. The fortitude of its population and its defenders earned them the personal award of the George Cross for Gallantry from King George VI in April 1942.

Hopefully we can find a picture or two and help Peter to update the IWM records.


Dave Williams said...

We showed photographs of the two plaques mentioned on 3 Nov 2012 and I took photographs at the same time of all the other memorials etc in that part of the Town Hall and there was no sign of the Warship Week plaque mentioned by Peter Schofield. I'll go and have another look round to see what I can find out.

Tom said...

Cheers Dave.... if nowt turns up I'll drop Councillor Fitzpatrick an email, see if he's seen it knocking about.

Bill Lancashire said...

I wonder what Hyde paid to adopt a warship. Obviously they didn't pay for all of it. Was it a kind of sponsorship deal I wonder.

My Dad served on HMS Kenya and that ship was adopted by Derby. The Kenya Association still has strong links with the city and they hold their AGM and social weekend there every year.

It's a pity that Hyde does not still have any civic links with this fine old warship.

Tom said...

Hi Bill... I've not had much luck researching this on the internet, I did contact Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth who recommended I tried local archives... so I now await a return call from Tameside Local Studies and Archives, who were I must add very pleasant and helpful. The ship was adopted in December 1941 so I would think it was certainly a big news story locally.

I will do an update once any information comes in.

This is another lost opportunity for the town to show it's proud past. While looking into this other, I've found out other towns still celebrate this event and are proud to show what the townsfolk did back then in raising the funds needed.

Jeff Sherwin said...

I had no idea that Cities and Towns adopted vessels,


Tom said...

Cheers Jeff,
I was reading this yesterday... in fact I contacted them by phone...
I will had this to a post if/when anything turns up.