Simeon Warder - by Robert Parry
My uncle (my mother's brother), Simeon Warder (now deceased some years ago), was on HMS Exeter at the Plate action.
The story as told to me by my mother, Myra, Sim’s youngest sister.
Sim was a Leading Seaman and posted to one of Exeter's turrets. During the battle his turret was the last one left firing after all the others were knocked out.
After the action whilst helping clear up the battle damage he tripped over an open hatch and twisted his knee (not for the first time). This resulted in Sim missing the ship's parade in London, when Exeter got back to the UK, where the ship was granted the freedom of the City of London (?) and the luncheon given to the crew in the Guild Hall (?) in honour of their brave action. Sim meanwhile was sent to Scotland to have his knee operated on.
It was hard for Sim to talk of the Plate action, then one day in 1953 he did open up and talked about what must have been a harrowing experience.
It would appear that there was some ship's controversy as to the lack of proper credit afforded to Captain Bell (after the action), who started the attack on the Graf Spee alone. Subsequently the Exeter took a hammering while Ajax and Achilles caught up.
In my Mum's autograph book there is a poem which was written in Sim's own hand and runs like this (verbatim):-
BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE
You've heard of Britton's Heroes
On Land, in Air and Sea.
But here's a tale will stir you
The fate of the "Graf Von Spee".
The 13th of December.
Twas her unlucky date
For then she met Exeter
Around the River Plate.
We met as Dawn was Breaking
She raked us with her Shell
Yet still we went in at her
Our faith in Captain Bell.
Now she scuttled by her crew
A sorryful sight to see
The Pride of the German Navy
"The Admiral Graf Von Spee".
My mother has got a memento of Sim's visit to the 1939 World's Fair in New York, a blue bordered print silk scarf depicting HMS Exeter and a corner diagonal black overprint marking their visit to the fair.
Previous to this Sim had served on HMS Malaya which visited Weston Super Mare in about 1936 or 1937 when my mother was eight. My mother, her mother and elder sister caught a P&A Campbell steamship from the welsh side to go across to Weston and visit Sim. A shipmate of Sim's (known as "Lofty" for his 6ft 2in stature) took a shine to my mother and carried her all around the ship during their visit. She has a pink hankerchief with the ship and "HMS Malaya" stitched across one corner.
I don't know much else about my Uncle Sim's naval career, except that he was later posted to a patrol boat which was sunk in a collision with a destroyer in the North Sea, the destroyer having arrived early on a running tide at night. Sim nearly died as a result of being in the freezing water, being stocky must have helped his survival of the event. He ended up as a gunnery instructor at a shore base and therefore survived the further horrors of war.
For my part I did live a few years ago as a near neighbour to an old Exeter shipmate of Sim's, a Harry Attwood (alas now also deceased), who lived a few doors down the lane where I was living in Cheltenham, Glos., at the time.
Perhaps there are people out there who might add to these tales.
Mum's maiden name was Myra Rosalind Warder, Sim's youngest sister. There was another sister older than Mum, but younger than Sim, named (nee) Matilda Eugene Warder who's married surname was Sparks, alas also now deceased. My mother's present name is Myra Rosalind Lloyd-Howells (she married twice), hence my surname is Parry, from her first marriage.