Firedrake Association Day at Chatham 12 July 2003
Firedrake members meet at Chatham Historical Dock Yard.
Right: HMS Cavalier. Second row: Brompton Barracks
Church. Centre: The Lines Memorial. Right:
The Buffet by the Wrens Association. Last row:
Firedrake's badge in the window. Centre:
Viewing the book of remembrance. Right: St George's Chapel.
for St George's. On 9th September myself and
Bert How were back at St George's Chapel, Chatham Maritime barracks,
to meet Margaret Kershaw again, to place a plaque with all the names
of those who were lost with the Firedrake on the night of 16-17th
December 1942. The photos below are of that event.
my travels as the secretary of the Firedrake association, I have
visited many towns and places all over the UK, keeping in touch
with the members, and just going to places that my uncle had been
to as a rating in the Royal Navy in WWII, in the last three years
I have seen many memorials to those who were not able to see the
final victory and to enjoy the peace which was their goal, there
are memorials in almost every town in UK, so here are just a few
for you to ponder.
Cenotaph in White Hall London.
Memorial to the crews lost on Russian Convoys, at Cove on Loch Ewe
Memorial to the French lost with the Maillé Brézé at Gourock on
the Clyde Scotland.
War Memorial in the Diamond Londonderry Northern Ireland.
Memorial at Chatham for all those lost from that Naval base in two
memorial at Lisahally on Lough Foyle to all those who died in the
battle of the Atlantic.
a big thank you to Harry Dougan who very kindly let me stay at his
house and drove me to all the beautiful sites in Northern Ireland.
no flowers on a sailors grave
No Lilies on an ocean wave
The only tribute is the seagulls sweep
And the tear drops on a loved ones cheek
We shall remember them
Union Jack Club Honours The Firedrake.
On the 15th March 2002, a small group of HMS Firedrake association
members made a presentation of the ships badge and a copy of the
painting to the Manager of the Union Jack Club in London.
The ships badge will hang it the Entrance Hall surrounded by lots
of other badges from all three services, the painting with a plaque
with information of what happened on the 17/12/42 will hang in the
Attending the presentation were left to right: Bert How who served
on the Firedrake holding the ships badge, Terry the manager of the
Club holding the painting, Behind the painting is Keith Bennett,
who's father Wiggy served onboard and is featured on page 10, then
Stuart Clayton from the Flower Class association, and just visible
peeping over the top and between Stuart and myself is Phil Bennett
brother of Keith, and then holding the painting and shacking hands
with Terry, is the Artist and founder of the association myself.
in August Terry the manager of the Union Jack Club suffered a massive
heart attack of which he did not survive, on behalf of the members
of the Association please can I pass on our condolence’s to Terry's
wife and family. R.I.P. Terry Dove B.E.M.
Firedrake Looses a great friend
Leading Telegraphist and producer of the Navy Video Time Capsules.
Crossed the bar suddenly 15th March 2002. Roland's uncle had also
served in the Firedrake.
Roland was a great comfort to me and easy to talk to when I was
having problems with this web-site, and the gathering of information
for it. Roland had helped me find some film of the Firedrake and
Fame, being launched back in 1934, they were featured in a news
real at the time, I've managed to track the film down in the ITN
films archives but the cost of the copy rights is to much for the
association at the moment, I'm hoping to include it in the future,
with some sound. I was hoping that Roland and Margaret would have
been able to attend the reunion this year.
On behalf of the members of the Association please can I pass on
our condolence’s to Margaret and her family.
R.I.P. Roland Smith.
Firedrake Looses one of her own
in August we sadly lost Reg Fergusson who had joined the Navy as
a boy at 16, and became a member of the Firedrake's crew before
the war started in September 1939, a veteran of the sinking of U-39,
Narvik, the Battle of Spartivento and service with Force H in the
Mediterranean, Atlantic, Malta and Icelandic convoys, he contributed
an article to the web-site which is on page 10, he served with the
Firedrake right through until December 1942, then after upgrading
he was drafted to another destroyer, after the war he stayed in
the Navy, finishing his time out in South Africa in the 60's.
In the last few years, Reg had not had the best of health but it
still comes as a shock when we lose some one, my thoughts and condolences
go to Beryl his wife and son and daughter.
R.I.P. Reg Fergusson.
Admiral Terence Ridley CB, OBE.
Engineering officer whose skill enabled the Firedrake to limp back
Terence Ridley’s remarkable intellect manifested itself early in
his naval career when he won the Robert Roxburgh prize for academic
achievement at Dartmouth naval college in 1932.
He specialised in marine engineering, taking his degree at the engineering
college at Keyham in Plymouth. After qualifying, his first sea duty
was as an engine room watch officer in the cruiser Exeter and the
battleship Valiant. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Ridley was appointed
to the Firedrake as the engineering officer.
July 1941 when Firedrake was severely damaged by the Italian 500kilo
Bomb on operation "Substance" Ridley was responsible for repairs
to the hull and propulsion machinery, enabling the ship to make
a long nerve-racking limp back to Gibraltar.
For this and previous service he was twice mentioned in dispatches.
He was appointed OBE in 1954.
And in 1957 he was promoted to captain and appointed a founder member
of the Dreadnought project team under the Engineer-in-Chief’s department
in the Admiralty.
In 1962 he took command of the engineering college at Manadon in
Plymouth, this is when he started to wear a monocle.
When a graduating class turned out on parade all wearing monocles,
he tossed his into the air and caught it in his eye, and said try
that then. He was appointed Port Admiral Rosyth in 1966. He was
appointed CB in 1968 and retired in 1972.
Rear Admiral Terence Ridley CB, OBE. Died on 25th December 2001
Henry Brooke DSC.
Joined the Firedrake as junior officer in 1937, when she was patrolling
the Spanish coast during the Spanish civil war, when she went to
rescue of the British freighter Cervantes, under attack by a German
Heinkel bomber. This was one of the first occasions when an aerial
torpedo was launched against a ship.
He served as gunnery control officer on the battle ship Duke of
York during operation 'Torch' the landings in North Africa in 1942.
An old-fashioned gunnery officer, who was reluctant to leave the
bridge, Brooke witnessed some less conventional aspects of the service.
early 1944 as squadron gunnery officer in the cruiser Kent on Arctic
and Norwegian operations. She had a reindeer mascot, which had been
donated by well wishers in the Russian port of Archangel, after
it had fouled the decks once too often it was donated to the Edinburgh
In November 1944 the Royal Navy returned to Southern Norwegian waters
from which it had been driven four years earlier for the want of
air cover, Brooke planned and executed with textbook precision a
night action against a heavily protected German convoy off Egersund.
Operating close inshore the cruiser Kent together with another cruiser
the Bellona and four British and Canadian destroyers had to maneuver
independently to avoid the shallows as they stalked the German convoy
of 10 ships under protection of escorts and shore guns.
Brooke illuminated the enemy with star shells and coordinated the
squadrons fire, switching smoothly from one target to the next.
The Germans fought back courageously but five escorts were sunk,
two merchant ships were blown up and others driven aground, for
the loss of two men killed and three wounded on the Kent, by shell
Brooke was mentioned in dispatches and later awarded the DSC.
In July 1945 he was assistant fleet gunnery officer in the King
George V, when she was the last British battleship to fire her guns
in anger at the bombardment of Hammatsu, Japan. 15 years later he
was the last executive officer on the last British battleship the
Commander Henry Brooke DSC. Died June 2003 age 89.
is with deep regret that I have to announce the loss of Mr Peter
Kelly who once served aboard the Firedrake as the SBA, 'the
sick bay attendant' through the ships most trying times.
Peter and his wife Breda had attended the memorial reunion in December
2003 at Westminster Abbey and later the wreath laying at the cenotaph
in White Hall and the gathering at the U.J.C. in Waterloo, he had
made the extraordinary effort to join us travling all the way from
Australia after just recovering from a major illness.
Peter laid a wreath at the cenotaph accompanied with the doctor
John Aldren who he had a great affection for, they enjoyed a good
long chat afterwards, being apart for so long.
Peter had served aboard the Firedrake from the start of the war
in 1939 till he was promoted to Petty Officer in December 1941.
were not permitted to have Petty Officers as sick bay attendants
so Peter was drafted and among other things he went ashore with
the Marines on D-day June 1944 as a Medic.
Peter passed away in hospital on Thursday 6th May I will treasure
Peters story is on Page 22. R.I.P.
I started my research in September 1999 into what happened to my
uncle, Arthur Thomas Grace I had no idea that I was going to meet
such a lot of very nice people from all over the world who like
me were struggling for answers to what happened to there loved ones
on the Firedrake in the December of 1942, it soon became apparent
that I would have to form an a association, so in November 1999,
I did just that.
I now have over two hundred members that have a direct link to the
ship, be it like me a lost loved one or a lost friend or relation,
and of course those that had served on the Firedrake.
painting by Philip Pain, showing the Firedrake motionless after
being damaged by a 500 kilo bomb, while on convoy duty operation
"Substance" to Malta July 1941.
left Adam and Doris Prügel-Bennett members of the association proudly
present their son, Orlando who joined them on the 14th December
2002. The middle photo is Maggie Morgan as pictured in the Daily
Mirror in 1943, and page 12 of this web-site. Photo right is Maggie
on 30th August 2003 with the same rocking horse 60 years on.