Herbert George Bateman was born 24 February 1924,
H.M. Ships Bert served on:
HMS Birmingham at
HMS Birmingham Crest
New crew intake: Bert – middle row left end
Members of the crew HMS Birmingham
(Note crew member 2nd from left looks like Bert)
Bert was reassigned to HMS Warspite
March 1943 in
Telegram from Bert regarding his transfer to HMS Warspite
is perhaps marginally the most famous of her Class. She was in action with
German and Italian surface warships, supported many
She was a much loved vessel by her commanders and crews. Once on her return to Malta Warspite received the following signal from Admiral Cunningham C in C ANXF, “Operation well carried out. There is no question when the old lady lifts her skirts she can run.”)
On the 27th September 1945 Admiral Andrew Cunningham was installed as Knight of the Thistle in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. At this time he handed over Warspite’s ensign to the Cathedral for safe keeping. This was the Admiral’s final tribute to his much loved flagship and ensured at least one small reminder of the “Grand Old Lady” remained.
went into the Mediterranean to support the American landings in the
The following extract is from www.naval-history.net. The account covers 6 days.
SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2
HMS WARSPITE - Queen Elizabeth-class 15in gun Battleship
At 1700 hours
Force H comprising battleships Nelson (C in C Force H), Rodney,
Warspite, and Valiant, aircraft carriers Formidable and Illustrious
escorted by destroyers Jervis (D 14), Ilex, Pathfinder, Penn
and Petard sailed from Malta for Gibraltar. Warspite was en
route to the
At 2000 hours
the CinC Force H received a signal recalling Force
H and instructing him to detach Warspite and Valiant with the
escorting destroyers to proceed with all dispatch to
for this deployment was because during the 12th-14th September the Germans
unleashed a concerted counterattack by six divisions against the
At 1100 hours Warspite, Valiant
and destroyers Jervis (D 14), Ilex, Pathfinder, Penn and
Petard arrived off the beachhead in the middle of an air attack by FW
190’s. Warspite’s gunnery officers crossed to the HQ ship USS Biscayne
to obtain target information . At 1320 hours the
gunnery officers returned and her captain of Marines embarked on Petard
who landed him on the beachhead to act as FOO for her bombardment. Warspite
then moved to a position approximately 1000 yards off the mouth of the
At 1752 hours Warspite
opened fire with her main armament on Altavilla, in support of US troops, 9
out of her 12 salvos were right on the target. Warspite’s target was
also being bombarded by cruisers
During the night the assembled shipping came under sustained air attack. The destroyer escorts were positioned around the two battleships approximately 4000 yards out. During one air attack a 6in shell from Warspite hit Petard and exploded amongst the ammunition supply party for A and B guns, killing 2 and wounding 6.
At 0830 hours Warspite returned to her previous day’s bombardment position, with destroyers Cleveland, Cottesmore and Garth as escort and resumed her bombardment of enemy positions. One of her targets was a German ammunition dump behind Altavilla she fired 48 rounds of 15in at the target, 16 of which fell right on the target and 8 were within 100 yards.
Mid morning the bombarding ships came under heavy air attack. Due to the nature of the mission and the concentration of shipping the ability to take avoiding action was limited. During one air attack a 4in shell from Warspite hit destroyer Offa, exploding on B gun deck, killing one and wounding several others.
At 1400 hours she was moving away from her bombardment position having completed her mission. When she was attacked, out of the sun, by 12 FW 190 fighter-bombers, these were fought off without result. But in repelling this attack all attention had been concentrated on these 12 aircraft.
At 1427 hours, moving at 10 knots through the congested shipping, with her attention diverted and only a few minutes after the fighter-bombers had disappeared; the ship’s lookouts sighted a group of high-level D0 217 K-2 bombers which released 3 FX-1400 (Fritz X) glider bombs. Of the three glider bombs launched, two found their target.
The first bomb came straight for the port side of the ship and penetrated six decks to hit her double bottom before exploding and flooding No.4 boiler-room and eventually causing the flooding of 4 of the other 5 boiler rooms.
The second was a near miss amidships abreast the bulge on the starboard side, where it burst under water causing a long gash in her starboard bulge. The third bomb was a near miss on the starboard side aft. From the time of sighting to the time of the bombs' arrival was some seven to ten seconds. 9 men were killed and 14 injured. All steam was lost and the ship could not steer. All communications were temporarily out of action and some 5,000 tons of flood-water had increased her draught by about five feet.
attacking aircraft were from the Luftwaffe unit 111/KG100 based at
Warspite was left drifting without
power, Radar out of action, unable to operate her armament or steer. She had
4 destroyers in company. Captain Parker issued orders to prepare for a tow,
changed over to mechanical steering and called upon HM AA Cruiser
By 1615 hours the Fleet Tug USS Hopi had a line on her. Two more Fleet Tugs, the USS Moreno and USS Narragansett, arrived soon afterwards and course was set for the Straits of Messina at 4 knots. At 1930 hours cruiser Scylla joined the escort.
At 2300 hours cruiser Euryalus arrived on the scene. At which time Warspite was drifting sideways, despite the best efforts of the tugs. With the agreement of Captain Parker, Admiral Vian ordered Euryalus abreast of the battleship’s bulky bows to pick up her towing hawser. As soon as this was secured, Euryalus went ahead dead slow. Unfortunately at this point the tugs had cast off their own tows and Warspite had become a waterlogged deadweight and the towing hawser parted.
At 0130 hours the tugs had secured
further towing hawsers and had her under way again. A speed of 4 knots was
maintained through the night. But by next morning Warspite’s list had
increased to 4.5 degrees. However she was only 45 miles from the
In the Straits of Messina HM Ocean Salvage Vessel Salveda joined the group. But the southward current was so strong that all towing wires except one parted, and the waterlogged ship went through the straits broadside on. Eventually she emerged at the southern exit of the straits, where the tow was resumed.
0800 hours Warspite arrived back at
HMS Warspite was later taken to
Having survived the attack at Salerno Bert
later served on the
Transfer to HMNZS Leander
Bert was very much affected by his
experiences during World War II, particularly on HMS Warspite when
several of his mates were blown up during bombing and enemy fire described
above. After the war he worked as a surveyor/draughtsman in a
Photos from Bert’s album
HMS Birmingham at anchor
HMS Birmingham leaving harbour
HMS Birmingham at
Christmas Menu 1942
For many of our contributors researching the past brings back sometimes poignant and unsettling memories. It reminds us all of those who are no longer with us and when we search we often find we have more still with us than we ever realised.
The following extract is from one of
As promised, my parents discovered notes amongst the items already mentioned to you, but that led on to the discovery of a small photo album they didn't realise they had!
The photo album has some revised dates as follows:
Bert was on HMS Birmingham 1941 - 1943.
There is a photo of Bert with his group of new conscripts in WWII.
Also a Christmas 1942 printed menu with "HMS Birmingham" printed on the front plus the plaque with the motto Forward (photo attached).
There are 2 black
and white photos of HMS Birmingham and also a larger one HMS Birmingham in
Several small pictures of the crew enjoying themselves in the water!
A small emblem (printed in blue) of the plaque, probably cut out from an item of stationery (included in an attached photo).
It appears that
Bert was transferred to HMS Warspite from the
There is a telegram to my great grandfather dated 26th March 1943 announcing his transfer to HMS Warspite
The Warspite sailed
I also attach a copy of the Transfer to HMS Leander and also the emblem of HMS Birmingham as mentioned above.
I hope this helps you a little more.
I am very grateful to Elizabeth Blackstock and her parents for their contribution to the website.
More photos from Bert’s album
Members of the crew of H.M.S Birmingham c1942
Bert attended the launch of the new HMS Birmingham. The latest bearer of the famous name is a Royal Navy Guided Missile Destroyer launched 30 July 1973. Bert kept both the newspaper notice and the invitation. Copies of both are shown below.
Invitation to the launch of the new guided missile destroyer HMS Birmingham
Newspaper notice regarding the invitation