HMS Witch » River Weaver Navigation Society

The 2010 Riversdale Bridge

The Northwich Woodlands

The Anderton Boat Lift Mural

The Weaver is only navigable from Winsford Bridge to its confluence with the Ship Canal

HMS Witch
11th October 2020

Our President, John Tackley, writes ....

 

NMS Witch

 

During the 1939/45 war, the government made strenuous efforts to raise extra funds by encouraging groups of local people to invest their savings in National Savings Certificates and War Bonds. If this special effort was made, the government acknowledged this by inscribing a war weapon with a recognition of the source of the funding. 

It was possible, for instance, to, “adopt,” a Spitfire and have it inscribed for an investment of £5,000, with larger sums receiving acknowledgement on larger war weapons. 

In 1942, Northwich made an incredible effort and raised almost £400,000 in war savings and were allowed to adopt the “W,” class destroyer, “ HMS Witch,”which was already in service, and two Crests were produced, one for the town and one for the ship, which were then presented to acknowledge this relationship. 

If a town adopted a warship, the local Sea Cadet Force often then assumed the same name for its training base, but prefixed, not by HMS, but with the initials T.S. (Training Ship). 

After the war ICI were pensioning off some of their redundant Weaver based shipping fleet, they generously donated one of their coasters, the “James Jackson Grundy,” to the local sea cadets as a new headquarters, and this craft was renamed, “TS Witch,” and the wartime Crest was then donated to the craft to acknowledge the relationship.

It became apparent after some years that the Sea Cadets resources could not maintain such a large craft, so it was put up for disposal, and I decided to create the James Jackson Grundy Preservation Society to try and retain a large Weaver built craft to be based in Northwich for future generations to enjoy. This is when the Crest came into my possession.

The Preservation Society rapidly attracted funding, but British Waterways, as it then was, refused us a mooring at Anderton, the only location where we could display the craft sustainably, so we had to merge the funds we had collected with those of the River Weaver Navigation Society, and close down the Preservation Society. This was a very great disappointment, as the extra created exhibition space contained within the hold which we offered to BW would also have enhanced the interest of a visit to the Lift site, especially as Norwich’s ship building history could have been highlighted as well. 

This craft continued to operate as a commercial carrier for some years, before finally being extensively altered and converted into a luxurious floating home moored in London. It never returned to to the Weaver, and I, naturally, retained the Crest. Its local significance was paramount and it was a local artefact. 

I was not aware of the fact that a band of enthusiastic researchers who were documenting the history of “W,” Class Destroyers was trying to locate this Crest, amongst others, nor that its partner, the ship borne Crest, was in the vaults of the Weaver Hall Museum.

Their background knowledge, combined with the fortunate involvement of Sam Naylor, a local Councillor and ex sea cadet, and Mike Cooksley, local Northwich Radio presenter and a friend of mine for many years, has managed to piece together this most unusual series of events, highlighting, in yet another intriguing area , the unique place Northwich has in Britain’s maritime history.

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