Harrogate veteran from HMS Warspite looks back on end of war

Harrogate 95-year-old Maurice Hammond may be the last man alive from the Royal Navy’s most deadly ship of the Second World War. Here he looks back at 1945 and VE Day.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 7th May 2020, 6:20 pm
Harrogate Maurice Hammond, who may be the last man alive from the Royal Navys most deadly ship of the Second World War, pictured with a model of HMS Warspite.
Harrogate Maurice Hammond, who may be the last man alive from the Royal Navys most deadly ship of the Second World War, pictured with a model of HMS Warspite.

He was a hero during the D-Day landings and spent VE Day in 1945 ensuring the peace in bombed-out Nazi Germany but tomorrow’s 75th anniversary will find 95-year-old Maurice Hammond largely on his own in his house in Newby Crescent in Harrogate.

Believed to be the only living member of the 1,200 crew members on board HMS Warspite, described as the British Navy’s deadliest destroyer of Second World War, Maurice said celebrating the end of the conflict by doing very little is nothing new to him. It’s how he spent the original day three-quarters of a century ago!

Maurice, who had signed up for the Royal Navy aged 17, said: “It was just another day on board ship, really.

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“I had been looking forward to being demobbed but, instead, was sent back on another ship, HMS Cowdray to Hamburg to make sure there was no trouble.

“I could tell there was some celebrating going on but you couldn’t go mad that it was the end of the war.

“Hamburg had been bombed to the ground. It was much worse than London after The Blitz.

“But we did used to feed all the girls in the ship’s canteen and it was a big canteen.”

Maurice, whose expertise as a signalman meant his ship’s giant shells fired from sea landed on the right targets during the D-Day landings of June 1944, has been trapped at home since the Government declared lockdown in response to the coronvirus pandemic.

He says his health is an issue and his wife Mary died three weeks ago in a care home.

But he is pleased his daughter is supporting him well and he is being fed by Harrogate Food Angels, set up in 2012 after Meals on Wheels ended.

Maurice said: “I am sat here on my own but my daughter comes in every day to see me.

“During the week the Food Angels bring me my dinner and at the weekend my daughter does it. Otherwise, I am just watching TV and sleeping all the time.”

Changed days from his wartime experiences onboard HMS Warspite, regarded as so important to the war effort it was accompanied by four destroyers as protection.

Maurice considers that he had a lucky war. He’s not complaining now, either.

Maurice, who was finally demobbed in 1947, said: “I’m not too bad really. I’m short of breath and I’m on pills for a heart problem. I can’t go anywhere to mark tomorrow’s VE Day anniversary but I will instead sit on the wooden bench in my back garden if the weather’s good.”

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