MOREHEN, Walter

Stoker 1st Class D/KX 118004 H.M.S Havock, Royal Navy

Died Sunday, 4th January 1942 (Age 25)

At Rest: Malta (Capucinni) Naval Cemetery, Malta
Grave Ref.: Protected Section (Men’s) Plot F Coll Grave 73

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Walter Morehen (b 3rd March 1917) was the son of Albert Henry and Sarah (nee Phillips) Morehen of 2, Sedgwick Street, Jacksdale, Notts. Walter was a pupil at Jacksdale Council Schools and had two brothers: Ron, who also served in the Royal Navy, aboard the H.M.S. Phoebe and Tom who served with the Royal Leicesters and then with Orde Wingate’s Chindits in Burma.

Walter joined the Royal Navy in 1940, seeing active service in Norway and the Mediterranean. In April 1940, HMS Havock took part in the ‘First Battle of the Norvik’ as part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla. Conditions at sea were appalling, but they forged ahead in snow and thick mist, up the Ofot Fjord in sub-zero temperatures. The flotilla successfully sank six out of eight German merchant vessels. The British fleet also sustained losses as HMS Hardy was beached by the enemy, HMS Hunter was sunk and the Hotspur was disabled. HMS Havock, still undamaged, blew up a German ammunition ship ‘Rauenfels’.

HMS Havock (City of Vancouver Archives: CVA-2878)
HMS Havock (City of Vancouver Archives: CVA-2878)

The following month, in April 1940, HMS Havock formed part of a flotilla defending the Dutch Coast and, in July of the same year they once again saw action, sinking the Italian Cruiser ‘Bartolomeo Colleoni’ off Cape Spada. The British tried to save the Italian sailors but the ill co-ordinated Italian Air force caused chaos by bombing the British warships, so the rescue of the Italian sailors was abandoned.

On 19th July Havock was attacked and taken out of service for several weeks.

In March 1941, Havock took part in the ‘Battle of Matapan’ and in May 1941 she was damaged by dive bombers during the ‘Battle of Crete.’

It was in January 1942, when she was an escort ship to the Malta Convoys, that Walter was killed on Sunday 4th January 1942. The ship was bombed whilst the ship was at Valetta, Malta Harbour and Walter was one of the casualties. (Walter’s brother Ron joined the Navy only one week after Walter’s death). Walter’s family tell us that they think four other men also died during the same incident.

Only a few months later on 6th April 1942, HMS Havock ran aground off Cape Bon, on a sandbank just off the Tunisian Coast.
Phil King, grandson of one of the survivors, Leading Stoker Albert ’Vic’ Phillips has informed us that the Captain had been warned about the sandbank but carried on issuing orders that took them right on to it.
The ship had been dive-bombed earlier and they were carrying casualties on board. The ship had to be destroyed and the survivors were rounded up and interned by the Vichy-French who despatched native troops, known as the ‘goums’ who dragged the battle weary survivors along behind their camels. Several escape attempts were made but they all failed due to the intense heat and lack of drinking water. Sadly, as in all P.O.W. camps, some of the crew died in the hands of their captors.

Photo of Walter's memorial stone kindly taken by Dorienne & Roy Tyson during their summer holidays - Malta 2001

Photo of Walter’s memorial stone kindly taken by Dorienne & Roy Tyson during their summer holidays – Malta 2001

Walter is buried in the Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery, Malta, in grave 73. The inscription reads “Not just today but every day in silence we remember a loved son and brother”.
Walter is also remembered on his parents’ grave in St Mary’s Churchyard, Westwood.

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Walter is also listed on the James Oakes & Co (Riddings Collieries) Ltd “Roll of Employees Serving with H.M. Forces who made the Ultimate Sacrifice”.

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Information about HMS Havock  has kindly been provided by: MR Consulting – Web Site Design and Development.