Father commanded the Northern Spray on Convoy ONS5

(see "The Battle For Convoy ONS 5. 26th.April - 6th. May 1943")

Dear Sir,

I have just been visiting your website, and looking at the data on Convoy ONS5.

My father commanded the Northern Spray on Convoy ONS5, the Northern Spray being part of "Peter Gretton's Group". In May 1993, during the week when they had celebrations at Liverpool in the UK for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, a ' re-union' dinner was organised for members of "Peter Grettons Group". My father, Captain FAJ Downer, DSC,RD,RNR(Retd), who was probably a Lieutenant when he commanded Northern Spray, was unable to attend as he was dying of cancer; he died in Sept. 1993. However, some of the ship's company from Northern Spray who were able to attend the dinner and wrote to him.

Towards the end of WW2, my father was senior officer of the 43rd (I think it was) escort group. Being an RNR officer (he finished as a Lieutenant- Commander), after the war he returned to the Brutish India Line. He rarely talked to me about the war, except on one or two occasions as he was dying. After he died we found the list of persons he prayed for regularly. It included "all those I was unable to rescue in the Battle of the Atlantic." His obituary was in the UK "Daily Telegraph".

My late Father-in-law, Air Vice Marshall SO Bufton, knew Vice Admiral Peter Gretton.

Richard Downer.

PS. Incidentally, Port Moresby, New Guinea, including its Fairfax harbour, was named after my wife's triple Great Grandfather, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby. His son Rear-Admiral John Moresby named the port and the harbour after his father. Sir Fairfax was CinC Pacific Fleet at one time. We have a painted picture of him in this role hanging in our living room, along with a picture of him much later in his Admiral of the Fleet uniform. We also have hanging in our room a copy of one of Admiral John Moresby's maps of New Guinea.

Hello Richard,

My thanks for your interesting message, and for taking the time and trouble to write. I was delighted to hear about your late Father, all those escorts involved with ONS 5 had a torrid time and did a wonderful job.

I served in HMAS Australia over part of 1940 and 1941 as a Midshipman in the Battle of the Atlantic, it was tough enough in a County Class Cruiser, let alone a small ship such as Northern Spray, I have the greatest respect for men such as your Father for their dedication and service to our Navy and their country. Britain would not have survived without the Royal Navy, the Merchant Fleets, and the Bridge of Steel, formed by our escorted convoys across the North Atlantic in both directions. Nor would the invasion and freeing of Europe have been possible without them.

I was in Liverpool in 1993 for the 50th. Anniversary of the final winning of the Battle of the Atlantic, and my Atlantic Star medal is my most prized medal of all my WW2 Campaign Medals. What a pity that your Father was too ill to attend his ship's reunion dinner.

Would it be possible for you please to take a photograph of your painting of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby, we would love to add that picture to our web site?

Did your Father keep a log or written record of his time in command of Northern Spray? It would be wonderful to publish some of his extracts if such were available.

Richard, once more thak you for your message, it is quite a thrill for Terry Kearns, my Web Master in Atlanta, Georgia who whips my scribblings into Ahoy. Mac's Web Log, and myself when we happen to reach out to someone like yourself, and you respond. OH the sheer wonder of the internet and its E-Mail. I am now 82, but get enormous pleasure from my correspondents from across this world of ours.

Best wishes from both Terry and myself, I hope to hear from you again soon.

Mackenzie. Gregory.

Dear Mackenzie

Attached is a photo of my wife's triple Great Grandfather, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby, GCB,KMT,DCL.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby ( 1786-1877 )

Painting by F. Grant, of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby ( 1786-1877 )

when he was a Rear Admiral, and C-in-C of Her Majesty's naval forces in the Pacific. His son, Rear Admiral John Moresby,named both Port Moresby, and Fairfax Harbour in that port after his Father.

He lived from 1786-1877. His son Rear Admiral John Moresby named Port Moresby in New Guinea after his father, and Fairfax harbour in that Port after him also.

My wife as a young girl, knew her Great Grandmother, Edith who knew Sir Fairfax Moresby. Edith, like Fairfax lived into her 90's.

The photo I copied from a book by John Moresby called the "Two Admirals" written about his father and himself, and published in 1909. Page 7 relates how Nelson was chasing Villeneuve in the Carribean. He called a meeting of his captains on Victory. John Moresby relates how "My father (i.e. Fairfax) accompanied Captain Parker as midshipman of his boat, carrying some official papers, with which he followed him to the poop, where Nelson, very eager and alert, as he described him, was awaiting his officers."

Thus Sir Fairfax Moresby encountered Nelson as a midshipman. So my wife as a young girl knew her Great Grand mother Edith, who knew Sir Fairfax, my wife's triple Great Grandfather who had encountered Nelson.

I hope you get the picture OK. You requested such a picture some time ago. Fairfax was quite an old man when the photo was taken.

With Kind regards,
Richard Downer


A presentation Sword to Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby when he was a Captain.

You may well be aware of this sword, but in case you not, I send you these details.


Dear Richard,

Please do not worry about trying to resend the photo of Sir Fairfax, I have found a painting of him as a Rear Admiral, by F. Grant. Your messages have been fascinating, and your wife's connections stretching right back to Nelson's time amazing. Thank you for all your time and trouble in writing to me, you have added another dimension to Convoy ONS-5.

Best regards,

Dear Mackenzie

Is that the one where Fairfax is C&C Pacific Fleet? WE have a very large picture of him hanging on our living room wall.

Richard Downer

PS Sir Fairfax is buried in a village Church cemetry near Exmouth in the West Country. His grave, which contains other Moresbys is about 50 yards from the grave of Nelson's widow. She must have re-married after Nelson died. She has the name of an Italian Countess if I remember correctly, as well as being Lady Nelson.


Yes, that is the Painting when Fairfax was C-in-C out in the Pacific.Interesting about Lady Nelson, I was unaware of her remarrying.

I have enjoyed our correspondence thank you.


Moresby Graves at the SS Margaret and Andrew Churchyard, Littleham, Exmouth.Devon.

Moresby Graves at the SS Margaret and Andrew Churchyard, Littleham, Exmouth. Devon.

Hi Mac

I just happened to come across the above mentioned thread (this page) when doing some Google searches on Moresby. Earlier in the day I had been at SS Margaret and Andrew Churchyard Littleham Exmouth and took some photographs, attached, of the Moresby graves if they are of any interest. Hows that for coincidence! They are indeed very close to those of Lady Nelson and some of her family. (she was a resident of Exmouth at one time; Lady Hamilton lived a little further up river towards Exeter).

When I get time I will send you an account of a submarine rescue of Allied forces from Crete, by HMS Thresher and HMS Torbay. An Aussie, Geoff Edwards, sadly no longer with us, of Prevelly, was one of those rescued and he never forgot the help given to him and others by the Cretan people. He wrote a book, The Road to Prevelly, about his life and his rescue from Prevelli Crete. He named his part of Australia after the place in Crete. It's quite a story- which of course you may already know - but I'll check your site further when time permits.

Best wishes
Tim Todd
Devon UK



Thank you for the photos, look forward to the account about HM Submarines at crete.


Hello Richard,

I hope all goes well with you.
I have just received this mail which is self explanatory, could you please get in touch with Miff Crommelin as

Best regards,

Mac. Gregory.

Hello Mac,

My search for a copy of the book "Two Admirals" by Admiral John Moresby led me to your website page:

I am interested in a particular narrative in that book regarding one of my distant relations whose hair-raising sea-tale is related on our family's biographical site on webpage:

Since Admiral Moresby assisted in his rescue, I would like to obtain scanned images of this book's pages pertaining to this incident but have been unsuccessful so far in getting a copy. Your correspondent, Richard Downer, however, mentions the book "Two Admirals" so I would like to get in touch with him somehow in order to request a photocopy or image of the relevant pages. Could you forward to him my request and my email address or, alternatively, send me his? Your cooperation would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Miff Crommelin

Dear MacKenzie,

Thank you for your missive. I have just visited your website again, and found the picture of Littleham Churchyard and the Moresby graves. My wife and I have visited them twice now, and Lady Nelson's grave nearby, the last time in the summer of 2005.

In connection with Littleham, I copied the following extract from the nelson-society website about Lord Nelson's stepson Josiah Nesbit (Junior). Josiah Junior was Frances, Lady Nelson's son by her first husband Dr Josiah
Nesbit who died. The extract mentions the following about Josiah Junior: "A tomb was arranged in Littleham, which contains his body, and family members and it is there that Lady Nelson lies." Incidentally, Lady Nelson never re-married. I got it wrong.

Kind regards
Richard Downer

PS Re. Admiral John Moresby, my wife's triple Great Uncle. I recently discovered that he died in my home town of Fareham (near Portsmouth) in Hampshire on12 July 1922. There is a plaque to him in Holy Trinity Church,
Fareham, I am told. His house in Fareham was Westborn Manor, which is now the town's museum. We have a picture of John in our home.From the internet, I also discovered the following about Admiral John Moresby:

1. That in 1914, a Royal Navy destroyer was named after him. According to what I read, this was unique in the Royal Navy, as HMS Moresby was named after a "living commoner." HMS Moresby was with Vice-Admiral Beatty at the Battle of Jutland in the First World War. It was sunk by a U-boat in 1918; and

2. That a certain HMS Silvio was re-named HMAS Moresby after him, before leaving for Australia on 26 June 1925.


Here is the history of HMAS Moresby 1 from Sea Power Centre - Australia for your interest.


HMAS Moresby 1 at Darwin
HMAS Moresby 1 at Darwin

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