Author Topic: HMS Rawalpindi  (Read 26060 times)

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Offline Robert Rogers

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HMS Rawalpindi
« on: 30 June, 2011, 06:11:13 AM »
It has been announced the Rawalpindi House in Canning Town is to close.

Now I knew it was named after a famous British Armed Merchant man, HMS Rawalpindi, but did not realise what part Men from Canning Town had played in it

Been doing some research on the Rawalpindi, boy what bravery, but nothing more than `Suicide on the high sea`, and I think some fellow posters will find the story interesting.

Seem she was looking for a German war ship, that she had to speed to out run, and the firepower to defend her self enough to be able to make her escape.

Problem in the gloom, the Captain was not 100% certain he had found the right ship and went for a closer look.

Unfortunately he had come across the most modern of the Kreigsmarines ships, the mighty `Sharnhorst` and her consult, the crew never stood a chance.
 
Seems the Germans asked the Rawalpindi to surrender, but in true British Spirit the reply was basically `Get Stuffed`, in fact the Captain did not reply, the Rawalpindi opened fire first!

The first German shot blow up just under the Bridge so Rawalpindi was more or less out of action from the first moment. Once she had sunk, the Germans then sailed over to rescue the few crew that was still alive, War is a strange thing.

There was 30 Lads from Canning Town onboard.

There is a very good item on the battle from a Scottish point of View on the following Link

http://www.internet-promotions.co.uk/archives/caithness/rawalpindi.htm

Offline Nels

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #1 on: 30 June, 2011, 07:27:40 PM »
As you say ,a story of British grit and determination.

And Unfortuneately it was Captain Kennedy who took the decision to 'stand and fight' which cost the lives of over 200 men.

He was the father of Ludovic Kennedy who actually officially openned Rawalpindi House and there is a plaque to commerate this alongside a print of the vessel ,in the entrance.

Offline Will.B

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #2 on: 30 June, 2011, 08:27:43 PM »
H.M.S. RAWALPINDI. (1925-1939)16619 GROSS TONS.
Launched by Harland and Wolff Ltd 26.3.1925 For P.O. Company. Delivered 3.9.1925, On 26.8.1939 .Requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as an Armed merchant cruiser and converted in the Royal Albert Dock. Her after funnel was removed and eight 6" and two 3" guns were fitted.
23.11.1939 encountered the German battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst South- East of Iceland, and after an intense forty minute battle was sunk by the Scharnhorst.
The Captain,39 Officers and 226 ratings were lost.

Many of those brave British Seamen must have had there last pint in those fast dissapearing pubs round the Royal Dock Area, never to return again.
Lets hope the plaque that is there now will be found a nice suitable place in Newham to honour those brave men.

Offline fizzbin

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #3 on: 30 June, 2011, 09:11:30 PM »
Found this little video about the encounter on youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgwEZqmf-C0

Offline Bert

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #4 on: 30 June, 2011, 09:43:37 PM »
After WW2 I worked with a Rawalpindi survivor. His surname was Kent. I can't recall his forename for we usually addressed him as "Kentie". I do remember that he idolised Capt Kennedy.

"Kentie" was prone to occasional loud outbursts when in discussion, which we took to be a result of his Rawalpindi experience. He was a very likeable chap, though, and a good team member (common to most men in those days who had done military service in WW2).

Bert.

Offline Kathy Taylor

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #5 on: 01 July, 2011, 01:06:50 AM »
The Stratford Express reported that it was thought that up to 100 local men were serving on the Rawalpindi but so far, these are the only local names that I have been able to confirm.

Bert – your ‘Kentie’ must have been the Kent listed below as a POW.

Killed – 238 in total
BAGRIDGE, Frederick A, Fireman, - Canning Town
DESBOROUGH, Clarence, Fireman, - Tidal Basin
EVANS, Charles H, Fireman, - Canning Town
HARRINGTON, Henry, Fireman, -Custom House
LIDDY, Henry R, Greaser, - Custom House
LLOYD, Albert D, Fireman, - Custom House
MARRON, John J, Greaser - Manor Park
MEAKINS, Jesse W, Fireman, - Canning Town
MOSS, William A, Fireman, - Plaistow
READ, Harry, Fireman, - Forest Gate
RICHARDSON, Alfred W, Water Tender, - Plaistow
TAYLOR, Robert J, Water Tender, - Stratford
WINSTONE, James W, Fireman, - Canning Town
BURRELL, Robert J, Fireman, - Granville Road, C/T

Prisoner of War – 27 total
HUZZEY, G. W., Fireman - Canning Town
THOMAS, E. W., Fireman - Custom House
DIXON, E. A., Greaser - Custom House
KENT, G. C., A.B., R.F.R.      

Picked up – 17 total
REID, Robert, Cook -Stratford
FLEMMING, Henry, Steward - Stratford

Kathy

Offline Bill Sharpe

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #6 on: 01 July, 2011, 03:34:09 AM »
There used to be a photograph of the Rawalpindi hanging up in the bar of the  'steps', the guv'nor Joe Reading was a friend of my Grandfathers and he gave me the photo in the mid-sixties, I still have it. There is a beatiful scale model of the Rawalpindi in the National Maritime museum in Greenwich.

Bill

Offline Robert Rogers

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #7 on: 01 July, 2011, 12:53:52 PM »
Great Link, goes in to other Maritine incidents, mixture of old Films and Computer Graphices.

Offline jplant1

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #8 on: 01 July, 2011, 01:21:42 PM »
Here is a little article I found looking up the Rawalpindi in the Autralian Newspaper Archive (its free to use, unlike the British Library, and a lot of the material is British papers' articles syndicated)

GALLANT SHIPS OF LONDON RIVER
(By "Lighterman" in the "Port of London Authority.")

It was the Leigh cockle boats that started it. We were sitting in front of the comfort of a January fire and somebody said : "I wonder what has happened to the Leigh cocklers. Do you remember their frantic race to the low-water sands at Whitstable to dig for shellfish?" We remembered ; and we remembered also a thousand other craft and ships, all part of the brave pageantry of peaceful Thames. In no time we were all busy delving into the low water sands of memory, vying with each other in the value of the prizes we exhibited. In and out of docks, up and down. the reaches we sailed in retrospect, a sort of super river and docks cruise, until we finished at a very late hour with the last of our ghost ships slipping out past the 'Nore into the murk of the once-more forgotten. "Rangitane!"  said someone quietly. Instantly I saw her again, lying in the: western end of the Royal Albert Dock, svelte, thoroughbred and beautiful. While I was mentally reconstructing her quayside setting; with its attendant stevedores, derricks, trucks and smooth-flowing stream of refrigerated cargo, the tragic story of her end was told. In happier times I had lunched on board her on sailing day, and I mentally contrasted the soft luxury of her accommodation with the lonely beaches of Emirau, where numbers of women and children among her passengers were marooned by the Huns.

Rangitane and her associations with southern seas led us to the gallant Jervis Bay. When I last saw. this lineal descendant of the old Aberdeen wool clippers green hulled and clean-lined, nosing out of the Royal Albert Dock, I little thought- that her . name would one day be recorded in letters of gold in the book of the sea. Soberly, but with pride, her story was told ; how as an armed merchant cruiser she was deliberately sacrificed by her crew upon the superior gun power of a German raider in order that the convoy which she was shepherding might escape. Doric Star, Tairoa, Highland Patriot ; the list of London's lost ships is too long and too sad to give in detail. A particular sad blow was the loss of that lovely ship with a beautiful name, Arandora Star, sunk while transporting internees across the Atlantic. I wonder if any of her pleasure-seeking cruising passengers, -bemused by the pre-war idea that ships were only floating hotels and therefore no longer subject to the immemorial dangers of the sea, ever paused in their gay round to think that if war came again this steel marvel of science and ingenuity would be just as vulnerable to modern weapons, could sink just as tragically, as the wooden cockleshells of our forefathers.
But our reminiscences were not all gloomy. The story of the Beacon George, which was bombed and which avoided the snapping lid of Davy Jones's locker only by the courage and tenacity of her crew, led us to the much longer list of London ships which have success fully defied the enemy. And here, strange thought, the Censor who allows me to disclose some of our losses would probably frown on a list of those which have escaped. I have written years ago in this column of London ships of character, expressing the view that every ship by virtue of the dangers of the sea is worthy of this title. This will be a thousand times more true after the war; there will be new and better ships lying in the docks of London, but an occasional old timer will allow us to repeat incredible tales of courage under bombing, machine gunning and torpedo attacks.

There is one lost London ship for which neither the Thames nor the Royal Docks, where she berthed, will weep. The Japanese liner Teru kuni Maru was sunk by a German mine in 1939. But for her fortuitous removal by this Axis mine she might even now be employed spreading rapine and aggression through the Far East.

Rawalpindl was the name that occurred most frequently as we talked. I remembered her in the King George V Dock, manned by grinning dark-faced lascars, discharging piles of romantic Eastern cargo, big, powerful, handsome, and the epitome of the spirit of travel. Bigger and more handsome ships lay near her, but there was something about her that tugged with special appeal at the aching heart of the wanderer. Never again will she hear the twittering whistle of the dockmaster as the great gates of the King George V  dock open in welcome. I had seen her  too, leaving the Thames early in the war, self-conscious in her new grey uniform of an armed merchant cruiser, but with confidence and determination expressed in the out-thrust jaws of her guns. The epic story of her fight with the Deutschland and Hipper is too well known to need repetition here ; Captain Kennedy and his gallant crew who went down fighting to the last need no poor writings of mine to add to their immortality. But Rawalpindi was a London ship. .She was built on the Clyde and it is probable that most of her crew came from places far from London. But for many years her regular home was in the King George V Dock. And the spirit of Rawalpindi is the spirit of London River. "No surrender" was in the hearts of its workers during the blitzes ; it is portrayed in many of its great engineering feats triumphing over almost insuperable obstacles ; it has been evident throughout the fateful events of its long history. May the greater Port of London of the future preserve this tradition and remain worthy of its many gallant ships.


Portland Guardian  Thursday 17 September 1942 >

Offline ed styles

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #9 on: 01 July, 2011, 04:02:53 PM »
hi Will ,
       Just picked up on yourcomment about the Rawalpindi,war time crew having their last pints in the Pubs around the Royals .Given that the old P&O SHIPS berthed mainly in the K.G.V, there were no pubs on the north side, only warehouse sheds,this left the south side side and here you were spoilt for choice.
 Just outside the Main gate was The Round House, California,Royal Standard, Kent Arms ,Royal Oak,Three Crowns ,The Pavilion,and many others along the Woolwich Manor way and Albert road.
 These same Pubs could have possibly been used by another Ships crew in 1972, when the Royston Grange a frequent visitor to the Royals was loading on the northside K.G.V. I was working on her the last days of loading. On her return trip home she collided with a foreign Tanker in the river Plate in Uraguay and all hands were lost 72-3 inc some 12 passengers.
She did not sink but caught fire on impact with the tankerthe fire spread rapidly helped by her cargo of chilled Butter and ruptured oil tanks.Thankfully were told most died intheir sleep ( 5.30 am) through inhaling fumes . I believe there were crew members who came from around Canning Town .
                  All the best ed

Offline Bill Sharpe

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #10 on: 01 July, 2011, 08:31:10 PM »
Robert,

That was a brilliant article - many thanks for taking the time to post it on site.

regards

Bill

Offline alffox

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #11 on: 01 July, 2011, 08:59:28 PM »
I have in my possession a book by George F Kerr "Business in Great Waters" which covers the War History" of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.  The book was published by Faber and Faber of 24 Russell Square London.  The first chapter which runs from Page 22 to Page 35 is entitled  "Your vessel Rawalpindi" and is the beginning of a telegram from the Admiralty to the P & O commandeering the vessel for conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser - had to be prepared and ready for sea in 10 days.   Having joined the P & O in the KGV Dock at the age of 15 in 1948 I became aware of all the war stories that were going around.  The book was a gift to every P & O employee from the Managing Director.  At the rear of the book is a Roll of Honour which lists 53 names and their positions on the ship - strangely enough the name of Captain Kennedy appears in the chapter but not on the Roll of Honour.   Living in Custom House throughout the war the loss of the ship was a massive blow to all the families who lost their loved ones - most of whom I always believed were from Custom House and its local areas.   Hopefully have attached a picture that appears in the book.

Alffox

Offline Bert

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #12 on: 01 July, 2011, 10:20:16 PM »
"Bert – your ‘Kentie’ must have been the Kent listed below as a POW."


Thank you, Kathy. The initials "G.C" have helped me recall that my "Kentie" was George Kent. I was 24 when I was demobbed after WW2. Kentie was, I guess, about 10 years older. Not that it is relevant to Newham history, but I do remember that some members of his family had vegetable stalls in Kingston Market, Surrey.

Bert.

Offline Will.B

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #13 on: 01 July, 2011, 10:41:41 PM »
Hi ed,
          Yes you are of course right most of the pubs that those men might have had their last pint in were down that side. I of course also remember the Royston Grange, although she was a Houlder Line ship, I think she was managed by The Royal mail Lines when in the  Royal Docks, I vaguely remember going aboard her to meet their Superintendent Capt. Armstrong.
Most the P & O ships when I worked aboard them did come in to that first berth in the southside K.G.V although when I was working on the Corfu and the Carthage in 1961 they were both on the northside, they had just been sold to the Japanese and it was sad to see their names being change to Corfu Maru and Carthage Maru after all the good service they had given.
In the history of the Rawalpindi it does say she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser in the Royal Albert Dock,London, so maybe at that time P.&.O.used the Royal Albert as well. Regards.Will
         

Offline Kathy Taylor

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Re: HMS Rawalpindi
« Reply #14 on: 01 July, 2011, 10:59:56 PM »
Bert,
Did George Kent, who you worked with, come from West Ham and can I ask where it was that you worked with him.

Allfox,
I like the sound of the book you mentioned about the P&O ships used during the War. I have just purchased a copy on Abe Books. Thankyou.

Kathy