A Hard Fought Ship - The Story of HMS Venomous
By Robert J Moore and John A Rodgaard. ISBN: 978 0 9559382 0 7
Published by Holywell House Publishing, Tel: 01727-838595 or Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 88 Holywell Hill, St Albans, AL1 1DH at a cost of £18.99 (Special Offer to SWMH Society members £12.00 + £3.00 postage). Softback 235mm x 155mm, 384 pages,
profusely illustrated with 170 photos, drawings, sketches and tables.
This book tells the story of a 'maid-of-all-work' operating in the Royal Navy from 1919 to 1948, in a most comprehensive manner prepared
from original research by the authors and the publisher W A Forster, who is one of our
The book sets the scene for the building of
the 'destroyer' genre and shows how at the time of her building the design, seaworthiness and
capacity to accommodate greater armament had reached its apogee.
HMS Venomous, a modified W Class destroyer
was ordered in January 1918 from John Brown at Clydebank with the 10th order of the
1918-19 Programs. The ship was laid down on 31st May 1918 and was launched on 21st
December 1918. She was originally to have been named HMS Venom but this was changed in order
to avoid confusion with the Torpedo School HMS Vernon. Build was completed on
24th August 1919 and the ship joined the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet. Venomous was
a Devonport ship and many of its married crew members moved their families to
Plymouth, its home port, to spend their leave at home when their ship was in the RN Dockyard.
Through the 12 chapters of this book we are taken from its building, through the inter-war
years and duty in the Baltic, to its very active career during the Second World War. The information
provided is extremely detailed and the illustrations, many of which were taken by
members of the crew on active service, show a sensitivity which is not usual. We appreciate
the horror of war as survivors from HMS Hecla are taken aboard, some only to pass away
shortly afterwards and to be buried at sea. The authors are to be congratulated on the very
broad span of their research, which makes the book a must for all students of the Royal
Navy in the 20th. Century, and particularly of the 'lesser' vessels which combined to support
the interests of the United Kingdom during the dark days of 1939-45.
In 1939 as war approached the fleet was
mobilised and a crew of navy ratings were sent from the RN Barracks at Devonport to get Venomous ready
for sea. Amongst them was CPO Hugh McGeeney who was born in Plymouth. In 1940 as
the phoney war ended and the German army swept through northern France Venomous was
in the thick of things. On the 23 May Venomous and her sister ships were sent to
Boulogne to evacuate the Welsh Guards trapped in the narrow streets surrounding the harbour.
They were attacked by 60 Stuka dive bombers and used their 4.7-inch guns to good effect
against the German tanks. Hugh McGeeney took over on B Gun when its gunner was wounded and was
awarded the DSM. When Venomous returned to Devonport for repairs he told
Evelyn, his future wife, they were nearly "bottled" and trapped when the narrow entrance to the
harbour was blocked by HMS Venetia, out of control and in danger of sinking.
Once Venomous was repaired it joined the
small ships evacuating the BEF from the beaches of Dunkirk and the north mole. General
Alexander was amongst the 4,140 troops she brought back from Dunkirk. Venomous returned to
Devonport on the 5 June and Hugh arrived home just as Evelyn’s family were taking shelter from the nightly bombing raids in their Anderson shelter. When they married by special licence on 16 October the headline in the newspaper was "Plymouth Hero Marries". Evelyn accompanied her husband to Buckingham Palace to see him receive his medal from King George VI. She is now 97 but still lives in her own home, where her parents lived when she met her future husband at the Plymouth tennis club.
During the next five years the 160 strong crew of HMS Venomous were to see very little of their families as Venomous never again visited its "home port".
On 14th April 2010,
the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth welcomed Captain John Rodgaard, the author of this edition of A Hard Fought Ship: The Story of HMS Venomous, as he gave an account of the service of this typical ‘V’ & ‘W’ Class destroyer during 1940 when Britain feared invasion. Her Battle Honours included the Atlantic 1940-43; Dunkirk 1940; the Arctic 1942; the Malta convoys
1942; North Africa 1942 and Sicily in 1943. Venomous, after brief service as a target
vessel was paid off in 1947 and sold to Metal Industries for breaking at Rosyth.
The authors of A Hard Fought Ship are Robert
J Moore, a former Commanding Officer of T/S Venomous, the Sea Cadet Corps unit which
keeps the name of Venomous alive long after the ship was scrapped in 1948, and his good
friend, Captain John Rodgaard USN who took over when Robert Moore died two years ago. They
tell the story of the "W" and "V" class destroyers, starting with an overview of the
development of this class to perhaps its most successful. The entire class of ships are
covered in an appendix and the book is well illustrated by some 170 wartime photographs.
An additional 8 appendices cover her battle honours, commanding officers, a list of
officers and those ratings identified; shipboard organisation and life aboard.
This really is a fascinating and most
comprehensive insight into life in a very different world than today, beautifully crafted by the
authors and a book well deserving of a place in your library - particularly at the special offer
price £15.00 incl. postage, at which it is available to members of South West Maritime History
Reviewed by D. B. Clement
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