Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 4

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HMS Valiant in Cromarty Firth, Invergordon, circa 1932.

Prior to paying off, the HMS Valiant was part of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet, based in Malta. After paying off in March of 1929, HMS Valiant was taken out of service for an extensive re-fit. On December 2, 1930, the ship was put back into commission and joined the Atlantic Fleet. In the fashion of the Royal Navy, most of the crew came from one of the three manning barracks. In this case, the crew of HMS Valiant was drawn from the Chatham Barracks. However, in what was later seen as a major mistake, some of the crew were drawn from another manning depot which made for hard feelings among the ratings. They wanted to be with men from their own area and not with sailors drawn from other manning barracks in the UK.

Main offices of HMS Pembroke (The Chatham Barracks). All shore establishments in the Royal Navy are named as if they were ships. Now a part of the University of Kent, this red brick building built at the turn of the 20th Century would have been familiar to tens of thousands British sailors.

All Royal Navy ships had home ports and at the three largest, the Navy maintained huge barracks for lower deck ratings and Petty Officers awaiting assignment to a new ship. These barracks were often overcrowded, dirty, and served terrible food.

Sailors with any money would often bribe the Petty Officers who assigned the crews to get a better billet. The most coveted were the ships which stayed in their home ports and were not sent for three years to an outpost of the Empire. While that could be fun for young, single ratings, the older men often had families and children and didn’t want to spend years away from them.

Ratings were issued new uniforms and kit here at the “Stores” warehouse. All of these buildings are part of the University of Kent.

Many families rented shabby quarters in the ports where the barracks were situated if their men were assigned there. No matter where you were sent, almost all the men came from one of the three manning depots and when they returned from commission, they were put back in the pool of men, always at the same barracks from which they originated.

The ship underwent another refit in the late 1930s and served with distinction in World War Two.

HMS Valiant after her second refit in 1937-39, which greatly enhanced her combat effectiveness. The late ’30s reconstruction was particularly comprehensive, giving the ship an up-to-date appearance and greatly improved anti-aircraft defenses.

The following is quoted from the US Naval Historical Center:

HMS Valiant‘s World War II service was far-flung: the Home Fleet in 1940, Mediterranean in 1941-42, Indian Ocean in 1942, Atlantic and Mediterranean in 1943-44 and back to the Indian Ocean in 1944. She took part in operations off Norway in April 1940. While in the Mediterranean in 1941, Valiant participated in the Battle of Cape Matapan in March, was bombed off Crete in May, and received serious damage from a daring Italian underwater commando raid at Alexandria, Egypt, in December.

During 1943, she supported the invasions of Sicily in July, and Salerno in September, and twice she bombarded enemy forces ashore during the latter operation. She also escorted the Italian Fleet into Malta after Italy had agreed to Allied terms. In August 1944, the venerable battleship was damaged in a dry dock accident at Trincomalee, Ceylon, requiring her to return to England for extensive repairs that lasted into 1946. After final service as a training ship, HMS Valiant was sold for scrapping in March 1948.

[Source: US Naval Historical Center. Images courtesy of The Invergordon Archive, The Kent History Forum, and The Invergordon Archive.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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