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Last wartime destroyer captain dies aged 105

Last wartime destroyer captain dies aged 105
17 March 2020
The Royal Navy has lost its last link with a rare breed of men who helped deliver victory over the U-boat.

Lieutenant Commander John Manners, who has died aged 105, is believed to have been the last of the Royal Navy’s World War 2 destroyer captains.

As commanding officer of veteran destroyer HMS Viceroy, Manners sank U-1274 just three weeks before the wars end, pummelling the German submarine with depth charges just moments after it had torpedoed the tanker Athelduke off the Norwegian coast.

Among the debris subsequently brought to the surface by the U-boat’s demise was a case containing 72 bottles of brandy. One was put in a casket crafted by Viceroy’s ship’s company and sent to Churchill… who appreciated the “interesting souvenir”.

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

Sherard, who was captured by the Italians following the loss of HMS Bedouin and Rodney who served in cruisers, carriers and battleships.

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 actions in Norway were honoured by Oslo only last year when they presented a medal and diploma of gratitude to the 105-year-old at his nursing home in Newbury.

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

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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