HMS Venetia (D53)
|Class:||Admiralty V & W|
|Built by:||Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland)|
|Laid down:||2 Feb, 1917|
|Launched:||29 Oct, 1917|
|Commissioned:||19 Dec, 1917|
|Lost:||19 Oct, 1940 (Lt. Cdr. D. L. C. Craig, RN.) was mined and sunk Western Europe 15 miles off North Foreland in Thames Estuary, south east England -(Defence of British Waters)|
|History:||The British finally decided to
evacuate their troops from Boulogne. and 200 seaman and marines were sent
over on the destroyer HMS Vimy, to organise the port. This
was a particularly dangerous task, for German troops had reached within
small arms range of the harbour area. The danger was clearly illustrated
later in the day – the destroyers HMS Keith and HMS
Whitshed were sent into the harbour, where Captain D. J. R. Simson
of HMS Keith was killed and the captain of HMS
Vimy mortally wounded. Later on the afternoon of 23 May the British
finally decided to evacuate their troops from Boulogne. Three more
destroyers (HMS Vimiera, HMS Venomous and
HMS Venetia) were sent over to take part in the operation,
with HMS Wild Swan following close behind.
They arrived at Boulogne at 6.30pm, just after a heavy German air raid that General Nehring claimed disabled three destroyers. The new ships were met by HMS Whitshed outside the harbour. Her commander, E. R. Conder, was now the senior naval officer present. He sent a message to Admiral Ramsey, the overall commander of the evacuations, reporting that he would not risk entering the port without air support. Fifty minutes later, at 7.20pm, with RAF fighters overhead the British flotilla began to enter the port.
HMS Whitshed and HMS Vimy went in first. They were each able to take on around 1,000 men, before withdrawing at 8.20pm. They were then followed in by HMS Wild Swan, HMS Venomous and HMS Venetia. HMS Venetia soon became the only British destroyer to be seriously damaged. Her captain was wounded and she was forced to back out of the port. All three ships became involved in a close range ship-to-shore battle, attacking German tanks with their quick firing naval guns, aiming over open sights at enemies only a few hundred yards away. The situation was made worse when the Germans captured the French coastal gun batteries largely intact, and turned them on the British ships. Despite this, at 9.30 HMS Wild Swan and HMS Venomous left port with 900 men on board between them.
By this point 2,900 men had been evacuated, but there were still 2,200 British soldiers in Boulogne. At 10.30pm an eighth destroyer, HMS Windsor reached the port, and was able to evacuate 600 men, amongst them many of the wounded and a naval demolition party that had first been sent in on 22 May. Finally, in the early hours of 24 May HMS Vimiera made the final trip into Boulogne. By now the fighting had died down for the night, and by 2.45 she had been able to take 1,300 men on board. A total of 4,360 men were rescued. Unfortunately a second destroyer, HMS Wessex, had failed to arrive, and so 300 men of the Welsh guard had to be left behind.