Richard Francis Warren was born in Dublin on 04/06/1897 according to
his Continuous Service sheet in the Royal Navy (ADM 188/710) and this
is confirmed by his baptismal record which was held two days later at
Dalkey Church of the Assumption
Richard joins the Royal Navy as a 17 year old Boy on 14/06/1914 at Devonport
and is given the Continuous Service number of J31555, the ‘J’
prefix signifying the ‘Seaman’ branch rather than a Stoker,
Domestic or any other of the RN branches.
A summary of his career from available records gives us the following:-
04/06/1914 – Joined at HMS Vivid II, a part of the Royal Naval
Barracks at Devonport. At this date (his first engagement) he is described
as being 5ft 21/2 in tall, 32 inch chest, light hair, fair complexion
and blue eyes.
02/08/1914 – Posted to HMS Impregnable, the training establishment
27/01/1915 – Promoted to Boy 1st Class on completion of initial
training and posted back to the Devonport Barracks (HMS Vivid I) to
await posting. This period would also cover his period of movement to
join his first ship.
27/02/1915 – Posted to the cruiser HMS Pelorus at Gibraltar:-
HMS Pelorus was the nameship of the Pelorus class
of third class cruisers. At the start of the First World War she was
on patrol in the Bristol Channel, but before the end of 1914 she had
been sent to the Mediterranean, where she formed part of the Gibraltar
Patrol (with ten torpedo boats and two armed boarding ships). She was
perhaps not the ideal patrol vessel, for from March-May 1915 she was
detached at Palma in the Balearic Islands, watching a suspicious German
steamship known to be equipped with a wireless set. In the summer of
1915 the Pelorus was back with the main Gibraltar patrol, but the patrol
did not even detect the German submarines U 35 and U 34 as they passed
through the straits of Gibraltar on the way to the eastern Mediterranean.
04/06/1915 – Promoted to Ordinary Seaman on his 18th Birthday.
Richard also engaged for a period of 12 years of service from this date
at which he is described as being 5ft 71/2in tall and with a 341/2 inch
chest – he seems to have been eating well!
13/12/1915 - Posted to the sloop HMS Cormorant which at that time was
the ‘receiving’ ship at Gibraltar – i.e. Richard was
ashore awaiting a further posting or on shore duties.
30/12/1915 – Promoted to Able Seaman.
01/06/1915 – Richard is shown as joining ‘Century’
at this date under the command of HMS Egmont, which was the naval base
at St. Angelo in Malta. ‘Century’ was the Royal Navy name
for the ‘PENHALLOW’, a decoy or Q-ship, chartered collier
(Admiralty No. Y3.301). Built 1913, 4318grt. In service 10.15-23.5.17,
armament is not listed, other name CENTURY. This ship eventually came
to grief when it was torpedoed in June 1918.
In World War I the term "mystery ship" originally referred
to a submarine decoy vessel. These ships were developed because of the
large loss of shipping caused by German U-boats in the opening months
of the war. It did not go unnoticed that the submarines preferred to
attack unescorted, older and smaller vessels by using surface gunfire
thus preserving their torpedoes for larger vessels or warships and extending
their sea cruise durations. Thus it was conceived that a vessel, such
as a coaster, if provided with a concealed armament, could meet a surfaced
submarine on fairly equal terms. The vessels chosen, code-named Q-ships
by the Admiralty and also known as Decoy Vessels and Special Service
Ships, were comparatively small, ranging in size from 4,000 tons to
small sailing ships, old and made to look poorly maintained. Their outward
appearances were indistinguishable from ordinary merchantmen. When attacked,
the Q-ship would allow the U-boat to come as close as possible before
dropping the disguise, raising the White Ensign (a requirement of international
law), and opening fire. The sinking of about 30% of the U-boats destroyed
by surface forces by this method proved its success. In the early part
of the war when successes were highest the number of such vessels was
limited but, later as the numbers increased, the Germans became aware
of the operation and successes declined. One source has been quoted
that there were as many as 366 Q-ships, of which 61 were lost during
the war, nearly all the larger vessels being torpedoed without warning.
The first success was in July 1915, when a converted coaster of 373-tons,
the Prince Charles, sank U36. The first Q-ships, the British Victoria
and the French Marguerite, went into service in November 1914. In addition
to the cargo vessels, colliers, and other ships listed, a large number
of small sailing vessels ( mainly schooners and brigantines ), fishing
vessels ( trawlers, drifters, smacks, et cetra ), a tug ( Earl of Powis
), a salvage vessel ( Lyons ), the lighter X22 and other minor craft
were employed as Q-ships.
The Q-ships armament, usually consisting of one 4-inch ( 102 mm ) and
two 12-pdr guns, was disguised in various ways : behind hinged bulwarks,
inside dummy superstructures and deck cargoes, and even inside dummy
boats. The ships adopted greater secrecy and elaborate disguises. They
changed their disguises and names from time to time, some vessels having
had as many as five different names. Many ruses were developed to convince
the U-boats that vessels were genuine. These included disguises for
the crew - men made up as black merchant seamen, the captain's "
wife ", and in one crew the ' cook ' was equipped with a stuffed
parrot in a cage. Also a simulated abandon-ship routine was operated
whereby half the crew, nicknamed the " panic party ", would
leave ship while the other half would remain hidden aboard to man the
guns. When it became apparent that the decoys were likely to be torpedoed,
their holds were filled with buoyant material to keep them afloat. Other
methods adapted included the trawler+submarine plan. A trawler put to
sea towing one of the older submarines, submerged, and connected to
it by telephone. If a U-boat surfaced the trawler engaged its attention
while the submarine was released for attack. The first success of this
scheme was in June 1915 when the trawler Taranaki with submarine C24
sank U40 off Aberdeen. This method provided employment for the older
A, B, and C classes of coastal submarines. There was only one purpose-built
Q-ship, the Hyderabad. This was a 600-ton vessel, launched in 1917,
with a very shallow draught to allow torpedoes to pass under the ship
and armed with one 4-inch, two 12-pdr, and one 2 1/2-pdr guns, two 18-inch
torpedo tubes, four depth charges and four A/S howitzers, all, except
the 2 1/2-pdr, concealed.
In addition to the converted merchant ships there were 40 Flower class
sloops and 20 PC- boats. The PC-boats were completed as Q-ships, disquised
as coastal freighters and differed from regular service PC-boats. None
were lost in the war. The Flower class sloops were designed on merchant
ship lines thus making them easily adaptable for conversion to Q-ships,
39 being completed as such while the other was converted after being
torpedoed. These all
had single funnels, and as the merchant ship silhouette was left to
the builders, variations were many. The " Flower-Q's " were
employed mainly on convoy and anti-submarine work. Nine were lost during
01/01/1917 – ‘Century’ has returned from the Mediterranean
to Portsmouth as Richard is shown as being at the shore base HMS Victory
I as of this date.
21/02/1917 – Richard re-joins ‘Century’.
01/03/1917 – Richard joins the Gunnery School HMS Excellent at
11/04/1917 – Traded as ‘S.G.’ or Seaman Gunner.
27/04/1917 – Traded also as ‘R.T.II’ or Range Taker
02/05/1917 – To HMS Vivid, the shore base at Devonport.
27/05/1917 – Richard joins the ‘Q’ Ship ‘Mavis’
which leaves Devonport at the end of the month for the Atlantic.
She was torpedoed off Wolf Rock on 03/06/1917 by U-29:-
26/06/1917 - To HMS Vivid I, the shore base at Devonport.
27/10/1917 – Richard joined the sloop HMS Arbutus at Devonport.
The British Navy sloop Arbutus HMS, acting as a special service vessel,
was torpedoed by German submarine UB-65 in St. George ´s Channel
in very rough weather on December 16th, 1917. The sloop, which was under
command of Cdr. Charles H. Oxlade, R.D., R.N.R., carried a complement
of 93. Had the weather moderated it is possible that the vessel might
have been saved. She foundered with the loss of Cdr. Oxlade and another
officer and seven ratings.
01/01/1918 - To HMS Vivid I, the shore base at Devonport. There is a
note on the CS sheet that new certificates were issued at this time
as his originals would have been lost.
17/03/1918 – Richard joins HMS Gunner, the naval base at Granton,
23/08/1918 – Reduced to Range Taker Class 3. This classification
appears to have gone up and down spasmodically throughout his career.
01/04/1918 – Joins the Q Ship ‘Fresh Hope’ –
an image of the crew of this ship can be found here along with the ship
itself among whom is certainly Richard:-
Richard Warren - Second row second right
19/01/1919 – Richard joins the Hunt Class minesweeper HMS Zetland
which is under the command of HMS Gunner, the naval base at Granton,
01/07/1919 – HMS Zetland comes under command of HMS Pekin, the
shore base at Grimsby.
01/12/1919 – Richard is posted to HMS Mistley, another Hunt Class
minesweeper under command of HMS Blake (a destroyer depot ship based
at Portsmouth). His WW1 medals (1914-15 Star, British War & Victory)
were issued to him on this ship.
01/01/1920 – HMS Mistley, is now in Scotland under command of
HMS Gibraltar (Depot ship for the Shetlands).
01/04/1920 – HMS Mistley, is now at Portland under command of
HMS Victory XI (Depot ship at that place).
12/07/1921 – Richard is paid off to HMS Vivid I, the shore base
19/11/1921 – Richard joins HMS Cairo - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cairo_(D87)
This ship was present on the East Indian station from 1921 to 1924.
08/03/1924 – Richard is paid off to HMS Vivid I, the shore base
27/08/1924 – Posted to HMS Walker under command of HMS Columbine
(Depot ship at South Quensferry). - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Walker_(D27)
01/12/1925 – Promoted to Leading Seaman.
05/05/1927 – Richard signs to complete a complete pension of 21
01/01/1928 - Richard is paid off to HMS Vivid I, the shore base at Devonport.
Sadly there are no more service records available to us in the public
arena. It is known that Richard was on the Battleship HMS Malaya http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Malayawhen
he is recommended for a Long Service & Good Conduct medal in 1930
and the medal was issued on this ship.
By 1937 Richard is present on the HM Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert
as he is on the 1937 Coronation medal roll as a Petty Officer on that
Unfortunately the CS continuation card in ADM 363 shows only that Richard
re-entered service on 30/05/1938 and mentions that he was present at
HMS Royal Arthur – a shore base at Skegness -
It is advised a request is made to the MoD for his continuation sheets
(if they exist) and if these can be passed on I will endeavour to complete
this to the end of WW1.