WW II, a British focus  




HMS VOLUNTEER, one of 16 ships which were completed for the Royal Navy at the end of the First World War.

HMS Voluteer about 1939

The Royal Navy started to build large, fast destroyers - the V class - in the spring of 1916, as flotilla leaders. Some months later, (fallacious) reports suggested that Germany was building ships to rival them, which resulted in the new form becoming a standard. In 1917-18, 25 V-class ships were launched, followed by 23 of the W class which were identical save for their twin triple, rather than twin double, torpedo tubes. Repeat orders for a somewhat modified design (the form of the stern was altered, and the machinery re-arranged) were placed in 1918. Most of them were cancelled on the Armistice, but one of those which survived was HMS Volunteer. Constructed by Denny, she was launched on 17 April 1919; she survived through the Second World War, and was sold for scrap in March 1947.

Destroyers of the period were required to be able to maintain high speed in the seaway, and were operating at the cutting edge of propulsion technology. Volunteer's 27,000-horsepower turbines gave her a top speed of 34 knots, at a deep-load displacement of 1500 tons (and two knots more at standard displacement). The modified W class were more heavily armed than the originals, with 4.7 inch (119mm) rather than 4 inch (102) guns.,

  • Type: Destroyer
  • Machinery: 2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines producing 27,000 shp
  • Dimensions (overall): Length, 312 ft. (95m); beam, 29.5 ft. (9m)
  • Displacement: 1325 ton standard, 1510 ton full load
  • Draught: 10.5 ft.(3.2 m) full load
  • Complement: 127
  • Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h)
  • Range: 2500 miles (4650km) at 20 knots

HMS Volunteer

Summary of service, 1939-1948

HMS Volunteer was a V Class Destroyer, built by William Denny and Brothers, Dumbarton. She was laid down on 16 April 1918 and completed 7 November 1919. Her standard displacement was 1,120 tons, dimensions 312 ft. length, 29 ft. 8 ins. breadth, mean draught 11 ft., and armament 4-4.7 BL, 2-2pr pom-poms and 4 Lewis guns.

At the outbreak of WWII, the Volunteer was serving with the 15th Destroyer Flotilla, Western Approaches. In April 1940 she was placed at the disposal of Rear Admiral (Destroyers) and during this month and the first half of May was on escort duties to and from Norway, which had been invaded on 9 April. She went to the assistance of the Armed Merchant Cruiser Carinthia, when she was sunk by U-boat attack off the north-west coast of Ireland on 6 June, and in July escorted a convoy for part of her journey to Casablanca, and then proceeded to Gibraltar. InAugustt she was on local escort duty with convoys destined for the occupation of Dahar (Operation "Menace"). The expedition sailed on 31 August, but the cruiser Fiji was torpedoed by a U-boat the next day, and the Volunteer was among the destroyers which escorted her back to the Clyde. As well as her assignments for "Menace" convoys this month, the Volunteer was one of the escorting destroyers meeting Atlantic convoys to bring them in to UK, and escorted two Channel convoys. In September she was transferred to raging and the Volunteer was chiefly employed on Channel Patrols until the end of November, but she also took part in sweeps along the French coast by night, where concentrations of barges and small craft had been building up, and in October was one of the two destroyers covering the force which bombarded Cherbourg in Operation "Medium". In December she was allocated back to Western Approaches Command.

Stoker 1st Class William Richard Ayres C/SS 124189 HMS Volunteer, Royal Navy, drowned in the collision between the Volunteer and the Newark.

Serving with the 5th Escort Croup, the Volunteer was employed in 1941 almost entirely in escorting Atlantic convoys in to and out of the Western Approaches. The H.M.S. Volunteer was rammed by the H.M.S. Newark off the coast of Ireland on or about the 17/18 of April 1941. On 9 December she left Milford Havenn as part of the escort of the Battleship Ramillies, which was guiding out a troop convoy en route to join the Easter Fleet. She left the convoy at Gibraltar and returned to the Clyde at the end of the month.

HMS Volunteer was part of the escort of a troop convoy on its way to the Middle East in March 1942. The convoy was shadowed by U-boats during the night of 25/26 March and a hunt and attack by the destroyers Javelin and Inconstant was made, without apparent result. Next day a U-boat was seen on the surface, and was attacked by the Volunteer and the destroyers Leamington, Grove and Aldenham, until all depth charges were expended. At the time the result of the attack was assessed as a U-boat "probably damaged", but it was established later that U587 (Kaptlt Ulrich Borcherdt) had been destroyed, with forty-two casualties. In may the Volunteer was part of the escort of the Russian Convoy P016. The convoy was continuously shadowed by enemy aircraft in the early stages and later heavily attacked by torpedo aircraft and bombers. Several U-boats also joined in the attack. Seven of the thirty-four ships in the convoy were lost and four damaged and the Polish destroyer Garland severely damaged, but on 30 May the convoy passed Toros Island, 'reduced in numbers, battered and tired, but still keeping perfect station', in the words of the Commanding Officer, HMS Ashanti. The Volunteer was on of five destroyers included in the escort of a return convoy which after an uneventful passage divided off the north-east coast of Iceland on 4 July. The Volunteer parted company in the vicinity of Bear Island to proceed to Rosyth for a refit, on the 6 July, but the other part of the convoy ran into a British minefield in thick fog, and four merchant ships and the minesweeper Niger were lost.

HMS Volunteer refitted at Rosyth from July 1942 to January 1943. In March, at a time when heavy convoy battles were taking place in the Atlantic, the Volunteer escorted a convoy which was attacked by U-boats. Only two destroyers and two corvettes were available as escort, with one additional destroyer for part of the time, and it was estimated that the escorts were outnumbered by U-boats by about two to one. Thirteen ships in the convoy were lost and although contacts were hunted and attacked, no U-boat kills were make. The the end of March the situation in the Battle of the Atlantic had greatly improved and during May many U-boats were withdrawn from the area. In order to intensify the battle, special operations were mounted in June in the Bay of Biscay against U-boats and surface hunting groups, working in co-operation with air patrols. HMS Volunteer took part in these operation in the Bay from June to September. In October she took part in operation 'Alacrity', an expedition to take over fuelling and other facilities in the Azores, the Allies having negotiated and agreement with Portugal for the use of the islands.

In the early months of 1944 the Volunteer continued to escort Atlantic convoys. She was in Follow-up Force B, in operation 'Neptune', the landing in Normandy in June, with the Western Task Force (American), escorting a convoy of MT ships to the assault area. She was serving in Portsmouth Command in August when she was one of the escorts to three LST's which landed stores at St. Michel en Greve for the American 12th Army Group. In November she was allocated to the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth Command and in December to the 21st Destroyer Flotilla, Nore Command, operating from Sheerness. She was on Nore, Channel and Portsmouth patrols until the end of may 1945, when she was declared for reserve. She went into reserve in June Later, approval was given for her to be scrapped and she was eventually scrapped at Granton in April 1948. HMS Volunteer ship's badge

HMS Volunteer was awarded the following Battle Honours!
Atlantic 1939-45
English Channel 1940, 44, 45
Arctic 1942
Biscay 1943
Normandy 1944
North Sea 1945