Back to the crew list main page HMS Li Wo Crew members The Victoria Cross


HMS Li Wo in action (Click for a larger view in a new window) (54081 bytes)

A painting of HMS Li Wo in the action when she was sunk

HMS Li Wo was sunk on 14th February 1942 (77 died; 7 Prisoners of War; her Commanding Officer was awarded the VC)


VC WON IN NAVAL ACTION
The Times, Wednesday December 18,1946.
RNR Officer's Valour

The King has approved the award of the Victoria Cross to: The late Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, RNR.
On February 14, 1942, HMS Li Wo, a patrol vessel of 1,000 tons, formerly a passenger steamer on the Upper Yangtze River, was on passage from Singapore to Batavia. Her ships company consisted of 84 officers and men, including one civilian; they were mainly survivors from His Majesties Ships which had been sunk, and a few units of the Army and R.A.F. Her armament was only one 4in. gun, for which she had only 13 practice shells, and two machine guns.
Since leaving Singapore the previous day, the ship had beaten off 4 air attacks, in one of which 52 machines took part, and had suffered considerable damage. Late in the afternoon she sighted two enemy convoys, the larger of which was escorted by Japanese naval units, including a heavy cruiser and some destroyers. The commanding officer, Lieutenant T. Wilkinson, gathered his scratch ships company together and told them that, rather than try to escape, he had decided to engage the convoy and fight to the last, in the hope that he might inflict damage upon the enemy. In making this decision, which drew resolute support from the whole ships company, Lieutenant Wilkinson knew that his ship faced certain destruction, and that his own chances of survival were small.

Straight for the Enemy

HMS Li Wo hoisted her battle ensign and made straight for the enemy. In the action which followed the machine guns were used with effect upon the crews of the ships within range, and a volunteer gun's crew manned the 4in. gun, which they fought with such purpose that a Japanese transport was badly hit and set on fire.
After a little over an hour HMS Li Wo had been critically damaged and was sinking. Lieutenant Wilkinson then decided to ram his principal target, the large transport, which had been abandoned by her crew. It is known that this ship burnt fiercely throughout the night following the action and was probably sunk. HMS Li Wo's gallant fight ended when her shells spent and under heavy fire from the enemy cruiser, Lieutenant Wilkinson finally ordered abandon ship. He himself remained on board and went down with her. There were only about 10 survivors, who were later made prisoners of war.
Lieutenant Wilkinson's valour was equalled only by the skill with which he fought his ship. The Victoria Cross is bestowed upon him posthumously in recognition both of his own heroism and self sacrifice and of that of all who fought and died with him.
Lieutenant Wilkinson, who was 44, was the youngest of five sons of the late Captain William Wilkinson, of Widnes. His VC is the 181st awarded in the war, and the 22nd won by the Navy.

HMS Li Wo became the most decorated small ship in the Royal Navy, the awards were as follows:

His Majesty has approved the following awards to officers and men of HMS Li Wo:

  1. Victoria Cross - Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, RNR

  2. Distinguished Service Order - Temporary Sub Lieutenant Ronald George Gladstone Stanton RNR

  3. Conspicuous Gallantry Medal - Acting Petty Officer Arthur William Thompson

  4. Distinguished Service Medal - Leading Seaman Victor Spencer

  5. Distinguished Service Medal - Able Seaman Albert Spendlove

  6. Mentioned in Despatches (Posthumously) - Temporary Lieutenant Edgar Neil Derbridge, RNZNV

  7. Mentioned in Despatches (Posthumously) - Temporary Sub Lieut. J. G. Petherbridge, Malaya RNVR

  8. Mentioned in Despatches (Posthumously) - Able Seaman Desmond Palmer

  9. Mentioned in Despatches - Acting Chief Petty Officer Charles Halme Rogers

  10. Mentioned in Despatches - Leading Seaman William Dick Wilding

  11. Mentioned in Despatches - Able Seaman John Smith

Other References
Illustrated London News 28/12/1946 p.750
For Valour. Naval Victoria Crosses WWll L J Lind
Naval Historical View, Dec 1974 pp.13-21

(Click on any underlined name for their biography page) (Captains or Admirals are listed in this shade of green)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V  W XYZ
A
First names Surname Rank
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B
First names Surname Rank
William Henry Baker A B - D/SSX 28383 KIA 14 02 42
Beal Survivor
John T F G S Bennett L S - D/SSX 22379 Ex - HMS Repulse KIA 15 02 42 or 09 03 42
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C
First names Surname Rank
Cyril John Cartwright L S Ex - HMS Repulse KIA 14 02 42
Chu Woo Pau Ch Stew KIA 14 02 42
Countant (May be spelt Cowtan) L S Ex - HMS Prince of Wales Unknown
Reginald Cowtan (See above) L S Possibly HMS Kung Wo KIA 14 02 42
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D
First names Surname Rank
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Neil Derbridge MID Lt - RNZNVR KIA 03 03 42
E
First names Surname Rank
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F
First names Surname Rank
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Richard Clarence Farley L S - D/SSX 21078 Ex - HMS Stronghold KIA 14 02 42
G
First names Surname Rank
Garside Alternative spelling may be Gartside
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H
First names Surname Rank
James Bruce Douglas Hadley L S - D/JX142890 Ex - HMS Repulse KIA 26 04 42
Edward Hannan A B KIA 14 02 42
Charles Derek Harvey E R A 4C KIA 14 02 42
Hisa Sung Fah Water tender KIA 14 02 42
Cecil Huntley P O - D/JX 130379 Ex - HMS Repulse KIA 14 02 42
Hwa Peng Loomg Fireman KIA 14 02 42
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I
First names Surname Rank
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J
First names Surname Rank
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K
First names Surname Rank
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L
First names Surname Rank
Ling Ah Ling General servant KIA 14 02 42
Loh Chung Chu Water tender KIA 14 02 42
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M
First names Surname Rank
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John Manson Sub Lt (E) KIA 28 04 42
Yusuf Bin Jafar Muhammad AB - MN. 571 - RN (Malay section) KIA 14 02 42
Henry Francis Allan Murphy St 2C KIA 15 02 42
James Gall Murray Lt - (Ch Eng on Li Wo) KIA 14 02 42
N
First names Surname Rank
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O
First names Surname Rank
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P & Q
First names Surname Rank
Desmond Palmer MID Sig KIA 16 02 42
Thomas Henry Parsons MID L S - D JX 143529 Ex - HMS Prince of Wales Died 01 01 99
John Gardner Petherbridge - M.I.D. Temp Sub Lt - Malayan RNVR KIA 15 02 42
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R
First names Surname Rank
Bernard John Radford Signalman - P/SSX 30146 KIA 14 02 42
Raja Anwar Bin Raja Majid Signalman - RN (Malay section) KIA 14 02 42
Andrew Robertson Lt RNVR KIA 14 02 42
Charles Halma Rogers MID P O - D/JX 125387 Ex - HMS Repulse
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S
First names Surname Rank
John Smith M.I.D. A B
William Thomas Snow B.E.M. A B KIA 14 02 42
Victor Spencer D.S.M L S KIA 24 07 45
Albert Spendlove D.S.M. A B
Ronald George Gladstone Stanton D.S.O. Temp Sub Lt  RNR
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T
First names Surname Rank
Arthur William Thompson - A W CGM Acting P O
Thompson L S
Leslie Topliss A B - P/JX 193312 KIA 14 02 42
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V
First names Surname Rank
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W & X, Y, Z
First names Surname Rank
Wah Way Hung Fireman KIA 14 02 42
William Dick Wilding L S - C SSX 18460 Died 1973
THOMAS Wilkinson Lt RNVR CO V.C. KIA 14 02 42
John Richard Wood Lt. KIA 14 02 42
Harry Young SBA - P/MX 82450 KIA 14 02 42
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