HMS Cheshire (F 18)
Armed Merchant Cruiser
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Type||Armed Merchant Cruiser|
|Class||[No specific class]|
|Built by||Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland)|
|Launched||20 Apr 1927|
|Commissioned||30 Oct 1939|
|End service||9 Jun 1943|
On 29 August 1939 the passenger ship Cheshire of the Bibby Brothers & Co, Liverpool was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 30 October 1939.
Displacement: 10552 BRT
On 9 June 1943 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT), later as repatriation ship. On 5 October 1948 returned to owner.
|U-boat Attack||See our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Cheshire|
Commands listed for HMS Cheshire (F 18)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Capt. (retired) Mountague Robert Bernard, RN||30 Aug 1939||late 1940|
|2||Capt. (retired) James Millar Begg, RN||10 Mar 1941||Apr 1942|
|3||A/Cdr. John Martin Ashley, RN||Apr 1942||May 1942|
|4||A/Capt. Humfrey Greenwood Hopper, RN||May 1942||10 Nov 1942|
|5||A/Capt. (retired) Robert Douglas King-Harman, DSO, DSC, RN||10 Nov 1942||Jun 1943|
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Notable events involving Cheshire include:
13 Jan 1940
HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. B.W. Taylor, RN) departed Freetown for Portsmouth. She was part of the ocean escort of convoy SL 16F together with Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Cheshire (Capt. (Retd.) M.R. Bernard, RN) and the destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN) and HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN).
Besides the escort the convoy was made up of 12 British merchant ships; Adda (7816 GRT, built 1922), Anselm (5954 GRT, built 1935), Baronesa (8663 GRT, built 1918), City of Nagpur (10146 GRT, built 1922), Cordillera (6865 GRT, built 1920), Cumberland (10939 GRT, built 1919), Mahia (10014 GRT, built 1917), Mary Slessor (5027 GRT, built 1930), Orari (10350 GRT, built 1931), Port Sydney (9129 GRT, built 1914), Raranga (10043 GRT, built 1916) and Scientist (6198 GRT, built 1938).
The destroyers departed the convoy on the 20th and then proceeded to Gibraltar. On the 24th the destroyer HMS Viscount (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, RN) and sloop HMS Rochester (Cdr. G.F. Renwick, RN) took over the escort from the HMS Cheshire and HMS Severn which then proceeded to Plymouth and Portsmouth respectively where they both arrived on the 26th. (1)
7 Oct 1940
Convoy WS 3 (Fast).
This convoy departed Liverpool and the Clyde on 7 October 1940. The convoy arrived at Suez on 16 November 1940.
The Liverpool section was made up of the troop transports; Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931) and Orontes (British, 20097 GRT, built 1929).
It was escorted by the destroyers HMS Douglas (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Crossley, RN) and HMCS St. Laurent (Lt. H.S. Rayner, RCN). HMCS St. Laurent however collided with a small merchant vessel very early on the 8th and had to return to Liverpool for repairs.
The Clyde section was made up of the transports; Capetown Castle (British, 27000 GRT, built 1938), Georgic (British, 27759 GRT, built 1932), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925) and Winchester Castle (British, 20012 GRT, built 1930).
At 0700/8, the Clyde section was joined by the destroyers HMS Arrow (Cdr. H.W. Williams, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) which came from Londonderry.
At 1012/8, a large enemy bomber was seen to approach the Capetown Castle off the Clyde section and dropped a bomb which missed.
At 1050/8, HMCS Ottawa and HMS Active were ordered to close the Oronsay which had been damaged by air attack and needed assistance. HMS Active however misunderstood the order and remained with the convoy. Meanwhile the Oronsay had dropped out of the convoy.
At 1152/8, HMS Arrow joined the damaged Oronsay as well.
Around 1400/8, the armed merchant cruisers HMS Cheshire (Capt.(Retd.) M.R. Bernard, RN) and HMS Salopian (Capt.(Retd.) J.M. Alleyne, DSO, DSC, RN) also arrived on the scene. HMS Salopian later departed to continue her patrol. HMS Cheshire remained with Oronsay and the two destroyers.
At 1440/8, Oronsay got underway at slow speed and was able to increase speed to 9 knots.
At 1520/8, the ships that were with the Oronsay sighted the Liverpool section of the convoy which apparently had been delayed by bad weather conditions and therefore unable to have joined up with the Clyde section as had been intended. HMS Douglas, one of the escorting destroyers of the Liverpool section had been unable to keep up with it due to the weather conditions now joined the Oronsay group.
The destroyer HMS Viscount (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC, RN) also joined but it is unknown when.
At 2115/8, the AA cruiser HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) joined.
At 0205/9, HMS Arrow and HMCS Ottawa parted company with Oromsay and the other escorts to proceed to Londonderry.
Around 1030/9, the damaged Oronsay escorted by HMS Cairo, HMS Cheshire, HMS Douglas, HMS Verity, HMS Viscount and HMS Sabre arrived at Greenock.
Meanwhile the Clyde section had continued on escorted by HMS Whitehall, HMS Achates and HMS Active. As did the Liverpool section but apparently unescorted. They had failed to make rendezvous with each other in the heavy weather.
Around 1215/9, the Clyde section was joined by the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN). It seems that at this time the destroyers were no longer present.
At noon on the 12th the Clyde section, with HMS Kenya was finally joined by the Liverpool section of the convoy.
The convoy arrived at Freetown in the afternoon of October 18th.
The convoy departed Freetown on 20 October 1940 and was made up of the Capetown Castle, Duchess of York, Georgic, Monarch of Bermuda, Orontes and Winchester Castle.
The convoy was escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN).
The convoy arrived at Capetown on 28 October 1940. HMS Dorsetshire then proceeded to Simonstown where she arrived also on the same day.
On 30 October the convoy, now made up of the Duchess of York, Georgic, Monarch of Bermuda and Orontes departed Capetown for Suez. They were escorted by HMS Dorsetshire.
In the morning of 3 November the convoy overtook and then merged with the slow section of convoy WS 3 which was made up of the transports Dorset (British, 10624 GRT, built 1934), Erinpura (British, 5143 GRT, built 1911), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Khedive Ismael (British, 7290 GRT, built 1922), Oropesa (British, 14118 GRT, built 1920), Perthshire (British, 10496 GRT, built 1936) and Port Chalmers (British, 8535 GRT, built 1933) and their escort the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carthage (Capt.(Retd.) B.O. Bell-Salter, RN).
Shortly before noon the Erinpura and Khedive Ismael split off from the convoy and set course for Mombasa escorted by HMS Carthage. HMS Dorsetshire continued on with the remainder of the convoy towards Suez.
In the morning of November 11th, the light cruiser HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clarke, RN) joined the convoy at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden.
The transport City of Lille (British, 6588 GRT, built 1928) and several more escort vessels, the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyer HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN), sloops HMS Auckland (Cdr. J.G. Hewitt, DSO, RN) and HMAS Parramatta (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Walker, MVO, RAN) joined on 12 November 1940 for the passage through the Red Sea in which the Italian Navy was still active at this time.
The troopships Duchess of York and Georgic also re-joined the convoy after a brief visit to Aden. HMS Caledon also briefly left the convoy to oil at Aden before re-joining it.
Around 2130/12, the convoy entered the Perim Strait.
HMS Dorsetshire parted company with the convoy at 0915/14.
The convoy arrived at Suez on 16 November 1940. (2)
14 Oct 1940
At 21.28 hours on 14 October 1940 HMS Cheshire (Capt. M.R. Bernard (retired), RN) was struck by one torpedo from German U-boat U-137 northwest of Ireland. She reached Liverpool but had to be laid up for repairs for six months.
16 Feb 1942
Convoy WS 16.
This convoy departed the Clyde on 16 February 1942 and arrived at Freetown on 1 March 1942.
The convoy was made up of the troopships / transports; Awatea (British, 13482 GRT, built 1936), Bergensfjord (British, 11015 GRT, built 1913), Brisbane Star (British, 12791 GRT, built 1937), City of Edinburgh (British, 8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), Cuba (British, 11420 GRT, built 1923), Delftdijk (British, 10220 GRT, built 1929), Denbighshire (British, 8983 GRT, built 1938), Duchess of Richmond (British, 20022 GRT, built 1928), Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Empire Pride (British, 9248 GRT, built 1941), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Port Jackson (British, 9687 GRT, built 1937), Potaro (British, 5410 GRT, built 1940), Sibajak (Dutch, 12226 GRT, built 1927), Strathaird (British, 22281 GRT, built 1932), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Volendam (Dutch, 15434 GRT, built 1922).
The Straithaid was unable to sail with the convoy and joined at sea on 21 February 1942.
On departure from the Clyde the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. C. Coppinger, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.LaT. Bisset, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Verity (Cdr. R.H. Mills, RN), HMS Walker (Cdr. D.G.F.W. MacIntyre, DSO, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt. R. Horncastle, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSC, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN).
Between 1300/18 and 1500/18 the transports City of Edinburgh, City of Lincoln and Potaro reported that their cargo had shifted. The Potaro was able to continue but was ordered to proceed to Freetown independently. The other two ships had to return to the U.K.
At 0920/20 the destroyer HMS Anthony left the convoy to proceed to the Azores with condensor trouble.
At 1800/20 HMS Panther was detached to fuel at the Azores and then rejoin the convoy.
At 1300/21 the light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) and destroyer HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN) joined the convoy. They had the troopship Strathaird with them. They had departed from the Clyde on 18 February 1942.
At 0800/21 HMS Croome was detached to Gibraltar.
At 1530/21 HMS Malaya, HMS Eagle, HMS Hermione, HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Duncan, HMS Active and HMS Blankney were detached to Gibraltar.
At 1600/21 HMS Paladin was detached to the Azores to refuel after which she was to rejoin the convoy.
At 1800/21 HMS Firedrake was detached. She was to return to the U.K independently.
At 1800/22 HMS Verity, HMS Walker and HMS Witherington were detached to the Azores where they were to fuel after which they were to proceed to Halifax.
At 1600/23 HMS Paladin rejoined the convoy. HMS Panther had sailed from the Azores before her but apparently she was unable to find the convoy. Eventually she joined in the evening.
The convoy arrived safely at Freetown in the morning of 1 March 1942 escorted by HMS Formidable, HMS Newcastle, HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Boreas, HMS Brilliant and HMS Wild Swan.
The same ships departed Freetown on 6 March 1942 for South Africa.
Escort was provided by the light cruiser HMS Newcastle, destroyers Brilliant, Wild Swan, sloop HMS Bridgewater (A/Cdr.(Retd.) H.F.G. Leftwich, RN) and the corvettes HMS Jasmine (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) C.D.B. Coventry, RNR) and HMS Nigella (T/Lt. L.J. Simpson, RNR).
Before deparure of the convoy HMS Newcastle conducted gunnery exercises and the A/S escorts conducted an A/S sweep off Freetown returning to meet the convoy off the boom.
At 2100Z/6, HMS Nigella was detached due to engine trouble. After repairs she was to proceed to St. Helena to fuel.
In the morning of 8 March 1942 HMS Newcastle attempted to fuel HMS Bridgewater but owning to the swell this was not possible.
At 0930Z/8, in position 01°46'N, 17°52'W, HMS Brilliant and HMS Wild Swan were detached to return to Freetown.
On 9 March 1942 further attempts were made to fuel HMS Bridgewater and some fuel was transferred.
In the afternoon of 12 March 1942 HMS Newcastle was able to fully fuel HMS Bridgewater. After dark, at 1930Z/12, HMS Jasmine was detached in position 15°44'S, 04°27'W to fuel at St. Helena.
At 1600Z/17, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Dunnottar Castle (Capt.(Retd.) C.T.A. Bunbury, RN) and the sloop HMS Milford (Cdr.(Retd.) the Hon. V.M. Wyndham-Quin, RN) joined the convoy in position 33°13'S, 16°06'E. These ships had departed Capetown at 0520Z/17. Shortly afterwards, the Capetown section, made up of; Bergensfjord, Brisbane Star, Delftdijk, Denbighshire, Nea Hellas, Port Jackson, Potaro, Sibajak, escorted by HMS Newcastle and HMS Milford splít off. The Capetown section arrived there around 0900Z/18. HMS Milford split off shortly before the convoy arrived and proceeded to Simonstown arriving there at 1410Z/18.
The Durban section, made up of the Awatea, Cuba, Duchess of Richmond, Dutchess of York, Empire Pride, Monarch of Bermuda, Mooltan, Ormonde, Strathaird, Stratheden and Volendam continued on now escorted by HMS Dunnotar Castle and HMS Bridgewater.
At 0400Z/18, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire (Capt.(Retd.) J.M. Begg, RN) and the corvettes HMS Freesia (T/Lt. R.A. Cherry, RNR) and HMS Fritillary (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Barker, RD, RNR) joined the Durban section of the convoy in position 34°55'S, 18°08'E. They had departed Capetown at 1715Z/17.
At 0630Z/18, in position 35°19'S, 18°55'E, HMS Bridgewater parted company to proceed to Simonstown where she arrived at 1156Z/18.
At 1300A/18, in position 35°57'S, 19°36'E, HMS Freesia and HMS Fritillary parted company. They arrived at Capetown at 0620Z/19.
The Durban section of the convoy arrived off Durban at 0800Z/21. The transports then entered harbour. HMS Cheshire and HMS Dunnotar Castle did not enter the harbour but set course to return to Capetown.
The sloop HMS Milford departed Simonstown at 0500Z on 22 April 1942 to make rendezvous with the Capetown position of the convoy in Table Bay at 1000Z/22.
On departure the convoy was also briefly escorted by HMS Jasmine and HMS Fritillary. These corvettes returned to Capetown at 1150Z/22.
At 0800Z/22, HMS Newcastle departed from Simonstown to make rendezvous with the Capetown section of the convoy.
At 1330Z/25, the Capetown section made rendezvous in position 33°30'S, 31°22'E with the Durban section of the convoy, now made up of the Awatea, Duchess of Richmond, Duchess of York, Empire Pride, Stratheden and Volendam, which had departed Durban at 1000Z/25 escorted by the light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. H. Hickling, RN) and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Worcestershire (A/Capt.(Retd.) E.H. Hopkinson, RN). HMS Milford by that time was no longer with the convoy as she arrived at Simonstown at 1300Z/26. HMS Newcastle parted company with the convoy at 2200Z/25 in position 30°03'S, 33°08'E and proceeded to Durban for repairs arriving there at 0548Z/26.
At 1800Z/2, HMS Colombo split off in position 04°49'N, 50°00'E with the Aden section of the convoy which was made up of the Bergensfjord, Nea Hellas and Volendam. This section of the convoy was dispersed off Aden on 6 April 1942.
The remainder of the convoy continued on to Bombay escorted by HMS Alaunia and HMS HMS Worcestershire. It arrived at Bombay on 8 April 1942. (3)
19 Jun 1942
Convoy WS 19P.
This leg of convoy WS 19P was from Freetown (departure, 19 June 1942) to Capetown (arrival, 1 July 1942) and Durban (arrival, 4 July 1942).
The composition of the convoy for this leg of it's passage to the Far East was as follows; Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939), Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Britannic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), Cathay (British, 15225 GRT, built 1925), Chateau Thierry (American, 7555 GRT, built 1920), Christiaan Huygens (British, 16287 GRT, built 1927), Cristobal (American, 10021 GRT, built 1939), J.W. McAndrew (American, 7997 GRT, built 1940), Java (Dutch, 9250 GRT, built 1939), Laconia (British, 19695 GRT, built 1922), Mariposa (American, 18152 GRT, built 1931), Mexico (American, 5236 GRT, built 1932), New Zealand Star (British, 12436 GRT, built 1935), Orcades (British, 23456 GRT, built 1937), Orontes (British, 20097 GRT, built 1929), Otranto (British, 20026 GRT, built 1925), Poelau Roebiah (Dutch, 9251 GRT, built 1928), Santa Elena (American, 9135 GRT, built 1933), Santa Paula (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932), Santa Rosa (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932), Staffordshire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929), Strathallan (British, 23722 GRT, built 1938), Talisse (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930), Viceroy of India (British, 19627 GRT, built 1929) and Warwick Castle (British, 20107 GRT, built 1930).
On departure from Freetown (0830Z/19) the convoy was escorted by the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN), HMS Velox (Lt. G.B. Barstow, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN).
At 1030A/21, HMS Velox was detached to return to Freetown.
At 1645A/24, HMS Derwent was detached to fuel at Pointe Noirse.
On the 25th, HMS Nelson fuelled HMS Pathfinder while HMS Rodney fuelled HMS Penn and HMS Quentin.
At 1100A/26, the escort of the convoy was turned over to the heavy cruiser HMS Shropshire (Capt. J.T. Borrett, OBE, RN) in approximate position 12°00'S, 08°00'E. The Admiralty had decided to cancel the deployment of HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney with the Eastern Fleet as they would be required in August for a supply mission to Malta that was being planned.
So the battleships and their escorting destroyers parted company with the convoy to return to Freetown. HMS Derwent was ordered to join them after completion of her fuelling at Pointe Noire.
The convoy meanwhile continued its passage to South Africa.
Around 1000A/30, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire (A/Capt. H.G. Hopper, RN) joined the convoy in position 31°50'S, 15°43'E.
Around 1700A/30, when in position 33°30'S, 16°47'E, HMS Cheshire took the Capetown section of the convoy with her. This section was made up of the Cathay, J.W. McAndrew, Java, Laconia, Mariposa, Mexico, New Zealand Star, Orontes, Santa Elena, Santa Rosa, Staffordshire and Strathallan. These ships arrived at Capetown on 1 July 1942.
HMS Shropshire continued on with the remaining 13 ships towards Durban where the arrived on 4 July 1942. (4)
16 Aug 1942
Around 0230B/16, the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for the UK. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN and the escort destroyer HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN). HMS Rodney was again suffering from problems with her steering mechanism and now also had problems with her boilers.
Early in the afternoon of the 16th, HMS Rodney topped off HMS Zetland with fuel.
In the evening of the 17th, HMS Rodney topped off HMS Zetland and HMS Amazon with fuel.
At 2315A/19 [as per log of HMS Rodney, the log of HMS Victorious gives 0100A/20], HMS Zetland was detached to go to the aid of the damaged armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire (A/Capt. H.G. Hopper, RN).
At 2000A/20, HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Windsor (Lt.Cdr. D.H.F. Hetherington, DSC, RN) and HMS Worcester (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Juniper, RN) joined coming from Scapa Flow.
At 0200A/21, HMS Matchless, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid and HMS Amazon were detached to Londonderry.
At 0915A/21, HMS Victorious, HMS Inglefield and HMS Windsor parted company so that HMS Victorious could fly off her aircraft before proceeding to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1800A/21.
HMS Rodney made a short stop at Scapa Flow to land passengers before continuing on to Rosyth escorted by HMS Inglefield, HMS Eclipse and HMS Worcester. They arrived at Rosyth around 1130A/22. (5)
18 Aug 1942
At 18.52 hours on 18 August 1942 German U-boat U-214 fired four torpedoes at the convoy SL-118 from between the columns and claimed the sinking of four ships totalling 20,000 grt. In fact, one torpedo damaged HMS Cheshire (A/Capt. H.G. Hopper, RN) another sank the Hatarana and two torpedoes sank the Balingkar.
- ADM 199/2572
- ADM 199/372 + ADM 199/1136
- ADM 199/653 + ADM 199/1211
- ADM 199/1211
- ADM 53/116595 + ADM 53/116740 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.