Royal Naval Writers’ Association

Formed in 1887 - The Oldest Military Association

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Life Member Royal Naval Writers’ Association (RNWA)

Summary of Royal Naval Career – 1939 to 1966

Sept 1939  –  Joined the Royal Navy as a Writer just prior to the start of WW2.

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Denis (Seated) is pictured here in 1939 upon joining as a Writer under training – Portsmouth

April 1940 – Norwegian Expeditionary Force – Aldalsnes / Narvic (SS Orion / Sloop                      .         HMS Pelican). Note: Avoided being captured by German invasion forces with the help of Norwegian Resistance fighters, evacuated by sloop to Scotland

uly 1940 – HMS NEMO – Coastal forces base at Brightlingsea – Leading Writer in Captain’s Office.

Nov 1941 – Arctic Survival course & training for 2nd MNBDO (Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation) Finland – The Unit was disbanded, and the operation cancelled when Finland changed sides.

Jan  1942 – HMS LOOKOUT (G32) – Officer Writer / Anti-Submarine Plotter / Magazine Feed to X Turret)

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HMS LOOKOUT was an L-Class RN Destroyer launched on 04/11/1940 and broken up in 1948.

Mar  1942 – PQ12 / QP8  was an Arctic convoy sent from Great Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during World War II. It sailed in March 1942, reaching Murmansk despite a sortie against it by the German battleship Tirpitz. HMS LOOKOUT joined the convoy 6th March and left 11th March 1942. All 16 Merchant ships arrived safely, together with escorts. 

Mar  1942 – Convoy Escort Duties to South Africa and Indian Ocean escort convoyWS17 & WS171. The WS17 convoy assembled off Oversay 23/03/42 in the following formation, with the final departure being made from Liverpool and the Clyde.

Escorts during the passage were:-                                                                    Destroyers NEWPORT 23 to 25.3, BADSWORTH, BEVERLEY, KEPPEL, LEAMINGTON and VOLUNTEER 23 to 27.3, ANTELOPE 23 to 29.3, BOADICEA and ROCKINGHAM 23 to 30.3, aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, destroyers INCONSTANT, JAVELIN and PACKENHAM 23 to 31.3, cruiser SHROPSHIRE, armed merchant cruiser ALCANTARA and destroyers ALDENHAM, GROVE and HMS LOOKOUT 24.3 to 6.4.42, destroyers ACTIVE, ANTHONY and WILD SWAN and corvettes COMMANDANT DETROYAT and HYDRANGEA 1 to 6.4.

BEVERLEY and NEWPORT were in collision 25.3, the latter returning to harbour. WS 17 then split into two sections for the further passage to South Africa.

Merchant Vessels of the WS17 Convoy to Freetown, Sierra Leon

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The convoy having spilt into two sections (convoy formation unknown) departed from Freetown, and was escorted by the battleship MALAYA, cruiser HERMIONE and destroyers ACTIVE, ANTHONY, INCONSTANT, JAVELIN, LAFOREY, HMS LOOKOUT, LIGHTNING and PACKENHAM, and arrived at Cape town, South Africa 18/4, with the Durban ships arriving 22/4. The Cape Town convoy departed 27/4 heading for India, arriving in May 1942.

July 1942 – Mediterranean-  Operation BELLOWS’  This was the British naval delivery of Supermarine Spitfires to Malta within the overall context of ‘Operation Pedestal’ ‘Bellows’ was entrusted to the elderly fleet carrier FURIOUS which was loaded with 39 Spitfire fighters on the Clyde river and sailed on 4 August with the light cruiser MANCHESTER and destroyers SARDONYX and Free Polish Błyskawica, the former remaining part of the escort until the night of 5/6 August. FuriousandManchester joined the WS.21S convoy on 7 August, and the entire force and convoy passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on 10 August. On 11 August Furious, escorted by the destroyers LAFOREY and HMS LOOKOUT detached from the main body and, at a point some 635 miles (1020 km) to the west of Malta, flew off all but one of the embarked Spitfire fighters (forced to land hurriedly on the nearby fleet carrier INDOMITABLE) and they successfully reached Malta. Having completed her part of the operation the carrier and the remaining destroyers proceeded to Gibraltar.

Mediterranean – ‘Operation PEDESTAL’ This was the British and Allied attempt during August to deliver supplies to the besieged island of Malta.

‘Pedestal’  saw more than 500 Merchant and Royal Navy sailors and airmen killed and only five of the 14 merchant ships reached Grand Harbour. While costly for the Allies, it was a strategic victory; the arrival of Ohio justified the decision to hazard so many warships; its cargo of aviation fuel revitalised the Maltese air offensive against Axis shipping. HMS LOOKOUT was part of this operation as convoy escort and helped rescue some of the 927 survivors of HMS EAGLE (A/C).  

(‘Operation Pedestal’  was the subject of a 1953 black and white British film, “The Malta Story”, that interspersed archive footage of the SS Ohio with scripted studio scenes).

Nov 1942       –           Mediterranean-  Operation TORCH’  was the Allied invasion of French North.

Africa with HMS LOOKOUT acting in support and interception (Tunisia).

May 1943 – Mediterranean-  Operation CORKSCREW’  was the code name for the June Allied invasion of the Italian island of Pantelleria (between Sicily and Tunisia). HMS LOOKOUT participated in the bombardment of the island.

The radar installations and airfield on the island were seen as a real threat to the planned invasion of Sicily The Italian garrison on the island was 12,000 strong in well-entrenched pillboxes and 21 gun batteries of a variety of calibres. In addition, there was an opportunity to assess the impact of bombardment upon heavily fortified defences. It was decided to see if the island could be forced into submission by aerial and naval bombardment alone. Starting in late May, the island was subjected to steadily increasing bombing attacks. In early June, the attacks intensified and 14,203 bombs amounting to 4,119 tons were dropped on 16 Italian batteries. On 8 June, a Royal Navy task force of five cruisers, eight destroyers and three torpedo boats carried out a bombardment of the main port on the island. The Italian garrisons on other nearby islands quickly fell and HMS LOOKOUT took the surrender of the garrisoned island of Lampedusa. The operation cleared the way for the invasion of Sicily a month later.

July 1943 – MediterraneanOperation HUSKY’the Allied planned invasion of Sicily and HMS LOOKOUT was (at that time) part of the largest assembly of ships, 3,200+ the World had ever seen, and the ship provided shore bombardment during the allied landings of Sicily.

Sept 1943 – Mediterranean – ‘Operation BAYTOWN’ Allied amphibious landings of Southern Italy and ‘Operation AVALANCHE’ was the codename given for the Allied landings near the Italian Port of Salerno and HMS LOOKOUT shelled German gun position in support of 56 Division. Ironically, the Italians withdraw from the War the day before the invasion, and the Allies, unfortunately, landed in an area occupied by German troops. During the operation, the ship was hit by a glider bomb but sustained minor damage.

Nov  1943 – HMS LOOKOUT severely damaged, repaired at Taranto Italy, and then subsequently returned to Malta.

Nov  1943 – Petty Officer Writer (PO Wtr) based at HMS ST ANGELO leaving.

Jun  1944 – HMS LOOKOUT

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Jun 1944 – HMS DRAKE Chief Petty Officer Writer (CPO Wtr) Commodore’s Office.

Jul  1944 – Denis married Molly & celebrated their 76th Wedding Anniversary 20/7/2020.

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Nov  1948 – HMS PRESIDENT (Belfast (R09) Ark Royal construction programme).

Jun   1951 – HMS VULTURE – Royal Naval Air Station St Merryn, Cornwall.

Apr   1954 – HMS ARK ROYAL (R09) Pay Office.

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1956 – HMS ARK ROYAL (RO9) – Chief Petty Officer Writer Denis Bartlett.

Apr   1958 – HMS DRAKE – Shore establishment, Devonport.

May  1959 – HMS PHOENICIA – Fort on Manoel Island in Gżira, Malta,  working for the Commander-In-Chief.

Nov  1962 – Royal Naval Hospital STONEHOUSE – Pay and Welfare Office.

Oct   1966 – Retired from the Royal Navy having served 27 years and awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Medals awarded: 

South Africa Star
North Africa Star and Clasp
Atlantic Star
Defence Medal
Italy Star
1939 – 1945 Star
Italy Star
1939 – 1945 Star

Application made: September 2020 – Artic Star (The Arctic Star is a military campaign medal instituted by the United Kingdom on 19 December 2012 for award to British Commonwealth forces who served on the Arctic Convoys north of the Arctic Circle, during the Second World War).

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Wife Molly (aged 98) & RNWA Life Member Denis Bartlett BEM – 76 years of Marriage 2020 The RNWA’s Oldest member – 100th Birthday 21/09/2020


First Picture – Pictured with Denis in September 1939 at Portsmouth Grammar School (Writer Training) were Left to Right – Harold Wilkinson, Tony Sansom, and Don Peters.

Denis was with a party which set out from Scotland to Norway on board SS Orion and were transferred to sloop HMS Pelican (L86 Egret-class) to transit Romsdalfjord. Denis survived the bombing by a dive bomber but tragically Leading Writer Lewtas paid the ultimate sacrifice and was killed.

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During ‘Operation CORKSCREW’, Dennis wrote / typed the Terms of Surrender of Lampedusa when HMS LOOKOUT was detailed to send a landing party ashore to obtain a signature of surrender.

Certificate of Service

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