Thursday, 10 October 2013

Donald Poore Pavey & HMS Delight

One of the more sobering parts of my genealogical research, is finding the names of my relatives and ancestors on War Memorials. There are two Pavey's on the War Memorial on Weymouth promenade. The first is Thomas Lanning Pavey, my Grandfather's uncle. Tom was a veteran Merchant seaman , who just happened to be on leave when a German bomb landed directly on his house in St Nicholas Street in 1942. He is recorded as a "Civilian" casualty... It's so ironic that he died at home where he should have been safe, but had been involved in such a risky occupation during two world wars. 

The second Pavey on the Weymouth War Memorial has fascinated me for a while, that of Donald Poore-Pavey. My father had told me that he had a cousin who had been killed when his ship sank off Portland during WW2, but I never knew for sure who he was talking about. Could this be him? Nobody else in my immediate family knew anything about Donald and the double-barrelled name was a bit of a mystery too?

I can now reveal that Donald was in fact my father's cousin. He was born as Donald Poore in Weymouth in the second quarter of 1919. The index of Births in England & Wales reveal that his mothers maiden name was Diplock, but something must have happened to his parents along the way as the next time I find his name mentioned is when he was adopted by my Grand Uncle Alfred George Pavey and his wife Edith (nee Penn). Donald grew up at No 60 High Street, overlooking the harbour and all its maritime activity. They later moved to the new council estate at Westham.

His adoptive father, Alf Pavey had been a sailor for most of his life. During WW1 he served aboard the "secret" armed trawlers Clyne Castle and Balmoral Castle that operated out of Portland harbour. It was dangerous work as these trawlers were both minesweepers and U-Boat hunters. Prior to joining the Royal Navy, Alf had worked on Cosens Paddle steamers. With so many more members of the Pavey and Penn family involved in harbour trades, it was no surprise that Donald chose to join the Royal Navy at the outbreak of WW2 when he was just 20 years old.

He was an able seaman aboard HMS Delight, a "Defender" class Destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the 1930s. During the Abyssinian crisis she had been deployed in the Red Sea, but returned to the home fleet at the outbreak of WW2 and played a major part in the Norwegian Campaign. 

On June 29th 1940, under the command of Mark Fogg-Elliott, HMS Delight sailed out of Portsmouth harbour to undertake escort duties in the busy English Channel on her way to the Clyde. This action itself put the ship in grave danger and contravened local orders preventing ships from sailing in daylight. The Royal Navy had already lost a large number of its Destroyers during the Norwegian campaign and at the evacuations of Dunkirk, so in order to preserve the remaining fleet, Destroyers were only supposed to sail at dusk or under the cover of darkness. Why Commander Fogg-Elliott chose to ignore this order is unclear, and it didn't take long before the newly installed Freya radar on the Hague peninsular detected HMS Delight and alerted the Luftwaffe of a target in the English Channel. At 6.35pm 16 German Junkers Ju87 dive bombers attacked Delight when she was 20 miles south of Portland Bill. Capt Fogg-Elliott used all of his experience and skill to twist and turn the ship avoiding any direct hits from the dive bombers, but a bomb exploding underwater caused a fracture in the forward fuel tanks, which caught fire. The fire caused ammunition in the magazines to explode and a sudden large explosion destroyed the fo'c'sle and B gun was blown high into the air.

As soon as the SOS was received, destroyers HMS Vansittart and HMS Broke were dispatched from Devonport to her aid, but four high speed boats from Portland were first on the scene. ML102, ML105, MASB 1 and MASB 5 arrived to find HMS Delight burning furiously. Captain Fogg-Elliott ordered that the injured crew be transferred immediately to ML105 and the Motor Launch sped away with 70 survivors. Motor Anti Submarine Boat 5 rescued a further 50 crew members while MASB 1 recovered the body of a sailor floating some 300 yards from the ship.

Motor Launch 102 lay with her bows against the burning ship to take away the remaining 8 crewmen, 6 officers and finally Captain Fogg-Elliott himself. ML102 circled the ship one final time and dropped a depth charge to try and sink the ship more quickly, but the charge only damaged the fittings and did not appear to damage her hull. At 10.10pm MASB 1 reported that only the bows of HMS Delight could be seen above the surface and she sank below the surface later that evening.

It was reported at the time that there was only minimal loss of life. Most newspaper reports say that 6 crew members were killed during the attack, but there were actually 8 crew members confirmed killed, another 4 crew were "Missing Presumed Killed" and a further 7 men died from their injuries later. Sadly, Able Seaman Donald Poore Pavey was one of those "MPK". There were also 60 members of the crew injured during the attack, some quite seriously. 
Report from the Times - August 1940
Following the sinking, there was an enquiry into the loss of HMS Delight, but very little was ever reported in the newspapers at the time and I have found very few reports or findings from that enquiry. Admiral Sir William James of Portsmouth is alleged to have said that he had no hesitation in sending out a single destroyer in daylight if the situation required it, but Admiral Sir Dudley Pound (First Sea Lord) and A.V.Alexander (First Sea Lord) were both of the opinion that a serious error of judgement had been made in sailing her by day.

There are several conflicting stories on the internet regarding the actual event and there has also been some debate over where the wreck of the ship actually lies. Some stories say that she sailed from Portland, some say that she suffered a direct hit from one of the dive bombers. There are suggestions that she struggled back to Portland harbour, but was so badly damaged that she was later taken out to sea again and scuttled off Portland Bill. I am confident that she sank where she was attacked as the report of the rescue attempt was researched using information from the log books of the Motor Launches that were sent to her aid. She now lies 22 miles south of portland Bill at a depth of about 55 metres, her bow is broken off, her sterrn is upright and the central section of her hull is upside down. A silent grave to those who died in the attack. 

Donald Poore-Pavey is also remembered on the Royal Navy Memorial at Portsmouth, (Panel 31, Column 1). It is also worth noting that Alfred John Lanning Pavey, named his second son Donald George Pavey in honour of his adopted brother, who tragically died so young.

Lives lost on HMS Delight, July 29th 1940.... 

Thomas Barton; Stoker.
George E Benford; Petty Officer Stoker. 
Andrew Bennet; Engine Room Officer.
William J Dennett; Able Seaman.
Frank C Hammond; Able Seaman.
Sidney Holdsworth; Stoker.
Frank Lawton; Chief Engine Room Artificer.
George A Morgan; Engine Room Artificer.

William Gibbons; Ordinary Seaman, (Missing Presumed Killed)
Donald Poore-Pavey; Able Seaman. (Missing Presumed Killed).
William Semple; Stoker. (Missing Presumed Killed)
Cyril H Storr; Able Seaman. (Missing Presumed Killed)

Cyril R Day; Leading Seaman. (Died from Injuries)
Harold Miller; Able Seaman. (Died from Injuries)
Leslie J Atkins; Ordinary Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Ernest S Homburg; Ordinary Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Ernest Jenkinson; Able Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Henry C Dickinson; Chief Petty Officer Stoker (Died from Injuries)
Richard E Morgan; Able Seaman (Died from Injuries)


  1. Lit still saddens me that so many young lives were lost during both wars. You have a very interesting family.

  2. Thanks for the comments Sue - I've got plenty more to write about too, just need to find the time to make sense of all my notes and scribbles... :)

  3. This was brilliant to read. My grandfather was Alfred Pavey and my father is Donald George. Thank you for putting this up

  4. Thanks Clair, I'm really pleased that you have read this, we do have a fantastic family.

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  6. My father Thomas Martin Sinnott went down on this ship. According to his story he was pulled from the sea by the locals from Portland . He spent six months in Newton Abbott hospital and then went back to sea on the Russian convoys. All very brave men. Apparently there is book about it but I have been unable to obtain a copy.