Please note: This is the Black Swan Class Sloop, part of Walkers 2nd Support Group and NOT the destroyer of the same name which was sunk earlier in the war
 In memory Joe Smith Nov 2011 & PO Burt 4 Sep 2009 & In Memory of Tony Green 22 Oct 2004.

HMS Wren

Exactly the same image but the one on the left has been 'got at' by the censor, removing the pennant number from the hull and the radar mast and HF/DF blotted out. Image was taken at Xmas 1942

Walkers Own - HMS Wren

By Tony Green

Before Wren. The Beginning of My War


I joined the Merchant Navy as a Cadet early in 1941 and made a few trips around the coast of England. Then November 1941 I joined the TSS City of Pretoria. We loaded a full cargo of war supplies then sailed off into the Atlantic destined for Singapore. On December 7th the Americans came into the war while we were somewhere near the Azores. We carried on around Capetown but by the time we were approaching Singapore the Japanese were almost there so we were diverted to Batavia (now Jakarta). There, believe it or not we discharged everything onto the docks then headed off to Bombay (now Mumbai) (towing a disabled British submarine!). Of course, in a few days the Japanese were in Batavia and grabbed our whole shipload of military supplies! We then went up to the Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt – Alexandria) and started loading more military supplies to take to Malta. When the convoy was ready we headed for Malta - in conjunction with a similar convoy leaving Gibraltar. The battering both convoys received from aircraft and the Italian fleet made it impossible to continue so our convoy - what was left of it - staggered back to Alexandria. We then waited a few weeks and tried again with the same results. Then we tried a third time with similar results at which time we gave up. Off loaded everything and proceeded to New York - via Cape Town. In New York we loaded a full cargo of ammunition then braved the North Atlantic submarines and headed to Liverpool arriving there about 20th Oct 1942. (My eighteenth birthday).


Stan, Tony Green & Desmond Eke. Apprentices City of Pretoria. Desmond never returned

I was scheduled to take my leave, then return to the ship but I opted to leave the Merchant Navy and joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a midshipman. I was fed up with trying to fight the German Air force and the Italian navy from my assigned battle station – a small Hotchkiss machine gun on our open bridge-wing! It was as well that I did because The “City of Pretoria” reloaded more military supplies, this time to join a Russian convoy headed for Murmansk. Neither the vessel nor any of the crew were seen nor heard of again!

After I left the “City of Pretoria” I then applied to join the Royal Naval Reserve as a midshipman. That was expected to take a couple of months to get approved, Things often happen for the best! Within a few days I received a phone call from the Admiralty saying I had been posted and was to report to the RTO (Rail Transport Officer) in Edinburgh in two days. He would provide further instructions. I caught the next train from King’s Cross, saw the RTO in Edinburgh and was instructed to get the evening train to Scapa Flow where I was to report to H.M.S. Howe – one of the latest King George V class of battleships. As the pinnace took me from the rail terminal to the ship I stood in awe at this massive ship and the challenges of a sudden change from a cadet on a merchant ship one day to a Midshipman on a full blown battleship the next. I reported aboard and was escorted to the Gun Room (The midshipmen’s mess) on May 21st 1943. The next day HMS Howe, HMS King George V and their escort of cruisers and destroyers left Scapa Flow and headed to the North Atlantic and thence on to Gibraltar to join Force H, the British and American forces in the Western Mediterranean.

HMS Howe

After three days of endless ship tours the “Snotties Nurse” called me and detailed my duties. Everything of course was brand new to me – full navy discipline versus the casual merchant ship, so I had a lot to learn. After two weeks God called - the Capt of the HOWE – Capt Woodhouse - sent for me and along with the ‘Snotties Nurse’ questioned my lack of knowledge and discipline on matters RN. When I told my story Capt Woodhouse said I should have had my Greenwich Officers Course and instructed the ‘Snotties Nurse’ to make the arrangements. Nine months later the HOWE returned to England and I was sent to Greenwich for their “How to be a naval officer” course. Needless to say, after nine months on HOWE, I knew more about the navy B.S. than the instructors at Greenwich!

HMS Howe had been involved in the protection of North Russian convoys until we sailed to join Force H in the Mediterranean in May ’43. There we became part of the force ‘Operation Husky’ which invaded Sicily, bombarding the coast and providing strategic support for the protection of the landing forces. Later we followed with the invasion of Italy. After Italy surrendered in September 1943 we sailed to Taranto, the main Italian naval base in the South, to land more forces and then, along with the King George V, escorted what was left of the Italian battle fleet from Taranto and Malta to Alexandria harbour.

HMS Howe 1943

We later returned to Gibraltar and then sailed back to England arriving in December 1943 where I left the vessel and was sent to Greenwich College (The naval officers training school) for updating courses on “How to be an efficient Naval Officer!!” The Howe was refitted then sailed in June 1944 to join the British Pacific Fleet around Sumatra and the East Indies.

And so to HMS Wren

I completed my naval officer courses at Greenwich Naval College and was then assigned on May 20th 1944 to join HMS WREN at Liverpool. WREN was a modified bird class sloop – same size as a destroyer but slower – and was part of the famous Second Escort Group (SEG) under the command of Capt “Johnnie” Walker. Wren’s main armament was six 4 inch guns in three twin turrets and of course the full complement of depth-charge launching equipment. The SEG comprised from five to seven ships at various times, including Starling, Wildgoose, Woodpecker, Magpie, Wren, Kite, Loch Killin, Lochy, Loch Fada, Loch Ruthven, Dominica and others. The main purpose was to be a self-contained group of anti-submarine vessels trained to a high level of efficiency to seek out and kill the U-boats that were sinking so many allied merchant ships. They were not involved in escort duties. The escorts stayed with a convoy to provide close protection and were not supposed to leave the convoy. The SEG freely ranged the North Atlantic to go wherever U-boats were expected or located.

The Group ships between them carried all the latest detection and anti-sub equipment. One or two vessels would be fitted with HF/DF, Hedgehog and later Squid - as well as their usual armament so that at least one or two of the Group ships could provide any particular strategic need as required. The Group would usually be on patrol for up to six weeks at a time and then return to home base – Gladstone Dock in Liverpool – for a five-day boiler clean and re-provision. During the five day rest period 50% of the officers and crew would have a chance for a few of days home leave. During my time on Wren we were involved in killing at least eight confirmed U-boats plus others which could not be confirmed due to lack of physical evidence – such as bodies or debris which could not have been sent through the torpedo tubes as decoys.


This picture (left) of the open bridge was taken on Wren about May ’44. Lt (N) Hunt RNR was the OOW. It shows the twin 4-inch guns of “B” turret – which was always on full alert. Just ahead of Lt Hunt was the entrance to the small ASDIC shack compartment which was the main A/S detection equipment. The ‘pings’ from the underwater transponders were broadcast through speakers on the bridge so the OOW could maintain a constant check in case of an echo. The ASDIC operator of course was always on duty and crouched in the small compartment as he constantly adjusted his instruments to meet the changing sea environment. On the bottom left of the picture was a small curtained chart table to hold the current charts – well curtained with dimmed red lights for use at night. Cruising for six weeks at a time around the North Atlantic can become pretty boring except for the occasional excitement of action stations.

This was the “A” gun crew on WREN taken in 1944 with S/Lt Green (far left) as OIC. I don’t have a record of the names.

The full sized image is reproduced below

Splicing The Mainbrace!

“Up Spirits”, the 11:00am ritual in those days – or as permitted on special occasions after a particularly gruelling encounter with the enemy.

Photo (left) taken of depth charges being dropped over the stern during an actual attack by WREN. In this case the charges were set to ‘deep’ so the only evidence of the exploding charge is the water stirred up near the top right of the picture. The second photo shows the depth charge being “fired” outboard on the port side. The third photo shows the results from shallow/medium depth charges dropped over the stern.

Much has been written about Capt Walkers’ very successful “Plaster” method to kill U-boats. One of the drawbacks of attacking a U-boat was that when a small ship like Wren dropped charges on a “contact” they had to be going at full speed so as not to blow themselves out of the water with their own charges. The effect of going full speed meant contact was frequently lost because the noise from your own ship drowned out the “Pings” from the ASDIC, and an astute U-boat could take evasive action. Also, if the U-boat was ‘deep’ the limited angle of the ASDIC beam would lose contact hundreds of yards before the actual point of contact. Again an astute U-boat could manoeuvre out of the way. Walkers ‘Plaster’ method was to run three of the Group in line abreast at an incredibly slow speed of about 7 knots - to minimize noise. One of the others would maintain contact on the target and direct the three attackers over the target. At the appropriate time Walker would give the order to fire. Then each of the three attackers would start dropping their charges over the stern and the two outboard ships would fire additional charges to port or starboard - depending on their position. This would provide a very broad and destructive coverage from which few U-boats could escape. Whilst this method was most effective against the U-boat it was also very hard on the three thin-skinned very vulnerable but heavily armed attackers.

As the shallow and deep armed depth charges cascaded around the suspect targets, blowing their spumes of water over the unprotected deck crews, just about every light bulb, piece of crockery and anything not stowed properly would be smashed. The internal vibrations, thunderous noise from the depth charges, water sloshing about internally and externally took it’s own toll on the hulls of the ships. Rivets would ‘pop’, water would be seeping into many areas but regardless of your own safety the attack had to continue. Travelling at seven knots was about the minimum a ship could go and still maintain reasonable steerageway and control in any sort of turbulent sea state. It also placed each vessel into a most dangerous and vulnerable position. The one or two controlling ships – whist maintaining their distance from the fray and contact with the U-boat - were equally vulnerable during the attack, as they had to remain quiet but still moving – controlling with the combination of ASDIC and Radar. The new acoustic torpedoes that aimed to home in on the propellers provided a further unknown threat at that time.

Almost invariable, after a couple of plaster attacks, the worst affected ships would have to return to dock for quick leak repairs and restocking supplies and depth charges.

Tony Green on Leave

Tony Green's Medals

Picture of a bridge game in the wardroom.  This picture of a bridge game going on in the wardroom to pass the time was fairly typical. S/Lt Green (With the cigarette holder for ‘luck’) was partnered with S/Lt “Guns” Brown. On Green’s right is Lt “Junior” Taylor with, I believe his partner Lt Roberts the ASDIC officer. On the bulkhead behind Green’s head there was a small shelf that contained a simple ladies handbag."

On the bulkhead behind Green’s head there was a small shelf that contained a simple ladies handbag. Thereby hung an interesting tale of valour and courage in the line of duty! The sign over the handbag read “Ladies Survival Kit”. Inside the bag was a pair of panties and a bra – all a WREN would require in the event of a rescue at sea! Both articles were of course won in combat so were considered the spoils of battle. The handbag came from a different source. When the Wren was in dry-dock all ‘heads’ were locked to prevent their use so we had to use the shore facilities. On one occasion during a party on board one ‘head’ was unlocked to allow use by the ladies with strict instructions – “pee only please” One lady got her knickers in a twist in the confined space and her handbag dropped into the bowl. This bag was then recovered, cleaned and fumigated but she refused to take it back. Thus we ended up with the unique survivors kit - the story that became public after we had visits from the “Press”.

HMS Wren was first commissioned in 1943 and all WREN’S in the service ‘volunteered’ a days pay towards the cost of the vessel. So she became known as the WREN’S own ship and as a courtesy, every time we went into port – Liverpool, Falmouth, Milford Haven for example where there was a WREN base we would send them a signal saying: “Your ship is in port, come and visit!” One day in Liverpool we had a surprise visit from the “Hen” WREN – Dame Laughton Mathews who was the sister of Charles Laughton and – I’m not sure of her WREN rank except that she ran the WREN’S – but she had come to visit “their” ship. She toured the ship and was then invited to the wardroom for the inevitable cup-of-tea. After some general chatter about the ship and the 2EG, to our surprise she asked where the Ladies Survival kit was? Somewhat surprised and embarrassed, we retrieved the ‘kit’ from the locker where it had been stowed for her visit. She took the whole thing in good spirits – I think more amused by our embarrassment than anything else.

Loch Killin


The story of the ”Loch Killin”, supported by “Wren”, describing how a U-boat she was attacking surfaced directly under her stern is now legendary. Most of the German crew jumped from the conning tower directly on to her quarterdeck without getting their feet wet. On that patrol several U-boats were sunk with no survivors – but four others were sunk and many of the crews were rescued and had to be distributed amongst the ships because of space limitations. Remember that officers had to be separated from their crew and each ship’s crew separated from the others. Each of these small parties also had to be guarded. This led to some very innovative sleeping and living conditions with bodies strewn in any small compartment that could be closed off. On one occasion some U-boat crewmembers had somehow struggled to leave their sinking ship with several bottles of champagne in their life rafts (they had left Brest and were returning home). These were of course confiscated and were locked up with strict instructions they were not to be opened until VE day.

Eventually the Allied armies reached the French coast cutting off all access to the Bay of Biscay ports and thus the mission of the 2EG came to a close and the Group was reassigned. Wren went to Leith in Scotland where she was to have a complete refit for service as an independent command in the Persian Gulf and Barbary Coast – with main emphasis on slave traffic control. After leaving Wren I was assigned to HMS Kingfisher for the sole purpose of decommissioning her and then running her skeletal remains onto the beach at Harwich to rot in her own good time.

I was subsequently released from Naval Service in September 1946. I received a government grant to study for my Second Mate’s certificate then joined Shell Tankers (Anglo Saxon Petroleum Co) and remained with Shell until 1956 as Master of a tanker. By that time I was married and had no desire to share the rest of my days between Shell and my wife so I quit, emigrated to Canada and from then have had the very best years of my life.

 Anthony H. Green

2009: I have been unable to contact Tony for quite some time and, consequently, fear the worst. mk

The following from Jacqui Williams, her father in law, Frederick, served aboard Wren.

PO Burt; Leading Seaman Knight; A/B Druce; A/B Berry; A/B Beech.

(Just to let you know that my father who served in HMS Wren and who is pictured on your web site (above), passed away peacefully in St Lukes Hospice Plymouth on 4th September 2009 with his family at his bedside. He was a marvellous man, very proud, smart and independent and a good shipmate who touched the lives of all he met. He will be sadly missed by us all. Regards, Michael Burt.)

Arthur Bass (Taken on VE day)

Arthur Bass and his ship the "Wren"

Euan Duncan sent me an email on 16th January 2008 telling me that his father, ex Chief Engineer HMS Wren, had passed away on 4th March 2004. He would be very grateful if anybody has any information about his Dad's life on board HMS Wren. You can contact him direct on the following email address: euan.donegan - at - Replace the -at- with an @.

Steve McCracken HMS Wren
Sent in by his son Mark

1944 image of Wren members. This was with an email (Sept 2015)
Thank you for your page on HMS Wren. I write because my father was Signalman Peter Rose (right) on HMS Wren during 1943 & 1944 before being assigned to HMS LST 386 (below)  in December 1944. Sadly he died in 1986 and he didn't talk much about his war time experiences, so it was wonderful to get a glimpse of that time. Thank you David Rose 

LST 386

Tommy Ivison served happily aboard HMS Wren, his nephew, Stephen Horner, (Aug 09) sent me this:

I can remember he used to tell me when he and his mate went over the side when the Eagle was hit, his mate must have been hurt in some way as he died in my uncles arms he said the lads hair turned white when he was dying, and said it was something he would never forget.  He was picked up by the rescue tug Jaunty but the crew member pulled him onboard by his thick dark hair ( which he was very proud of as the Girls used to love his hair).  After he was given a drink to pull him together he looked up and saw HMS Malcolm bearing down at speed and he vowed that if he came through the war alive and ever had a son ( which he did) he would name him Thomas "MALCOLM" after the ship coming to his aid ( Lucky for my cousin that it was not the queen Mary),  After a spell of leave he was sent to the 2nd escort group under Captain Walker, he was assigned to the Wren in which he served until the end of the war. He always got on about his 21st birthday which he had in Murmansk he said it was the worst place to ever have a birthday. He was very proud to be one of Captain Walkers old boys, By the way he lied about his age when he enlisted at the start of the war .....


HMS Wren Association (Wound up - June 2009)

Members who have Crossed the Bar. (Sent in by Alf Steadman)

Peter Vanneck (1st Lt 42-43) Ended career as Air Commodore Sir Peter B.R. Vanneck GBE:CB:AFC:AE:MA:DSC:JP:DL.

Bill Moore (CPO Buffer) 1942-1947
L. Morgan
L. Brear
Alec Knight
John Gilligan
Jack Garton
J. Smith
W. Hellmuth
Ron. Young
 J. Evans
Michael Roddy
Reg. Mew
Doug. Burt

Members with whom contact has been lost

T. Davis
W. Barnes.
F. Cole.
M. Ashby-Harvey
R. Jennings
Don Bogie
R. Richards
H. Friend

Remaining Members

Doug. Pritchard
Les Owen
John Kilford
R. Parish
John Kemp
Arthur Davis
Bill Read
Ron Noakes
Brian Frazer
Arthur Garland
Harold Druce
Bill Lansbury
Ron Dunn
Stephan McKracken
Bertie Brice
Alf Steadman
Captain Patrick Glennie ( Midshipman 1944)
Captain John Robson ( Lt RNVR Navigator 43-44)

June 2nd 2004. From Tony Green.

Today is 60 years almost to the day when we were patrolling off Brest with very exciting results. I've hardly thought about the matter since then but you have released a flood of memories which is very satisfying to see recorded and every memory releases another batch. I can't thank you enough. I'm slowly falling apart - I'm eighty and on chemo therapy for cancer which is why I couldn't get back to you earlier today. I won't be around much longer but what the Germans, Italians, French and Japanese couldn't do is being done by time. With very grateful thanks to you for your efforts I now have a small piece of personal history to pass on to my family. Let's just hope they will be able to appreciate the efforts people like you put into such historical glimpses.

Aug 2nd 2004: Several years ago I visited the Merchant Navy Memorial site in Leadenhall Street where it lists the names of all WHITE crew aboard that ship - not a word about the Lascars who were aboard and went down with their ship. It's a shame we didn't keep better records of events - but guess we had too many things to do under the more esoteric headings of duties, security and the likes which kept us and our hands busy - if not our minds! We were mostly young and danger stalked us everywhere but you didn't think about it. Life went on and you survived or not as the case maybe. I was one of the lucky one's!

Footnote: November 17th 2009: For some time now I have been unable to communicate with Tony Green as his email address is rejecting my emails as "quota full" I fear the worst but hope sincerely I am wrong.

June 6th 2008: An Email from Aaron Clark in New Zealand. His late grandfather served on HMS Wren at this time. His details were: Arthur Bass, born 8 May 1926, London. Royal Navy 1939-1945, PJX628080. I hope to have some more information on his shortly. Images above.

June 12th 2008: I am Arthur's daughter (Aaron Clark is my son) & I was thrilled to read of the Wren & see the photos. Dad made a trip to London in 1988 & was happy to find information on the Wren when he visited HMS Belfast on the Thames. He had searched for information previously but hadn't been able to learn anything of her. If anyone would like to contact me for "after war" info about my father I would be happy to correspond with them at naireen -at He also served on HMS Andelle, HM LST 3510 & HM LST 3516. Delete -at- and insert @ for the ladies email address. It was very emotional for me to read your web story on the Wren & to have Dads photos pop up added to it all! Well done you.

June 30th 2008: John Richardson emailed me to tell me that Walter Albert Richardson was Coxswain on the "Wren" and it is the abiding memory I have of him. He loved the ship. We saw him on a BBC film about 5 years ago on the Wren taking onboard German POW's.

Alf Steadman emailed me today (June 24th 2009) with the following information:  HMS Wren is still being thought of because we do have an HMS Wren Association reunion every year although sadly April 2010 we are laying up our Standard in St. Johns Church in Knutsford, Cheshire, as membership  is  getting less and less as the years roll by. As the Association Membership Secretary I do have a list of a lot of the ship's company who served on Wren from 1942 to 1954 and if anybody wants to get in touch someone and they are on my list I would be pleased to help.  I was Navigator's Yeoman from 1943 to  September1945.  (Lt John Robson followed by Lt Hunt). You can email Alf directly at: alfsteadman - at - yahoo - replace the -at- with @ for his correct email address.

April 2013: From Tess: I was with my Dad today and he was telling me about 'splice the mainbrace' and we looked it up on the Wikipedia page. When we did this we found your photo of HMS Wren, which shows my grandfather in it. My grandfather was Chief  Petty Officer on HMS Wren and we're always interested in seeing/learning more about his days on board. Many thanks in advance Tess.

June 2015: From Michael Burt: Just an update on my late father Doug who served in Wren. I was successful in obtaining his Arctic Star medal which was presented to me on his behalf by the Commodore of Devonport Naval Base in a moving ceremony.  Dad was always proud of his service in Wren and through my volunteering at our Naval Heritage Centre, I will ensure a permanent record of this will be displayed in our WW2 gallery. Best wishes, Michael.