Last of the Royal Navy WWII destroyer captains dies aged 105

Last of the Royal Navy WWII destroyer captains dies aged 105: Lieutenant Commander John Manners was commanding officer of HMS Viceroy sinking U-1274 three weeks before end of the war

  • Lieutenant Commander John Manners, was commanding officer of HMS Viceroy
  • Manners oversaw the sinking of German submarine U-1274 in April 1945
  • Viceroy’s crew found 72 brandy bottles among debris and sent them to Churchill
  • Lt Cdr Manners helped liberate a Norwegian port of Trondheim 

The last man to captain a Second World War destroyer has died aged 105. 

Lieutenant Commander John Manners, is believed to have been the last of the Royal Navy’s World War 2 destroyer captains.

During the war Lt Cdr Manners was commanding officer of HMS Viceroy, which famously sank the German submarine U-1274 just three weeks before the war’s end.

Lieutenant Commander John Manners met Crown Prince Olaf of Norway after liberating the port of Trondheim in May 1945. Last year Oslo presented Lt Cdr Manners with a medal and diploma of gratitude at his nursing home in Newbury

HMS Viceroy spent most of the war patrolling the North Sea, except for 1943 when it supported the Allied invasion of Sicily. It is pictured attacking a German U-Boat during the Second World War

The sub was pummeled with depth charges moments after it had torpedoed the Athelduke tanker off the Norweigan coast.

Viceroy’s crew pulled a case with 72 bottles of brandy inside from the debris and sent it to Churchill, who was said to appreciate the ‘interesting souvenir’.  

Lt Cdr Manners was one of three brothers to serve under the White Ensign in WW2.

The majority of John’s seagoing career was spent in torpedo boats and destroyers in the Mediterranean, Far East and, when war came, the North Sea especially, firstly in HMS Eglington escorting convoys along England’s East Coast.

He commanded two destroyers – Eskimo for six months, including the invasion of Sicily, and then, for the final 18 months of war and first weeks of peace, HMS Viceroy.

It was in Viceroy that he helped liberate the Norwegian port of Trondheim in May 1945 and disarmed thousands of German military personnel.

His heroics in Scandinavia saw him honoured in Oslo last year, when he was presented a medal and diploma of gratitude at his nursing home in Newbury, Berkshire.

The captain’s brothers were Sherard, who was captured by the Italians following the loss of HMS Bedouin and Rodney who served in cruisers, carriers and battleships.

John Manners’ wartime achievements are only part of a remarkable life story. He juggled much of his Royal Navy career with another passion: cricket.

HMS Viceroy was first commissioned toward the end of the First World War, it then served in the Second World War in the Mediterranean and North Sea

His performance with the bat for the RN earned him a call-up for Hampshire’s county side. He made four pre-war appearances, scoring more than 200 runs, before his naval career took precedence.

He resumed his sporting career post-war, playing into the early 1950s and ending with a batting average of 31 from his 21 appearances for Hants.

Beyond his sporting and naval achievements, Lt Cdr Manners was an accomplished photographer; his wartime photographic archive was donated to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, while upon retiring from the RN he chronicled rural crafts and life, producing four books on the subject.

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