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Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:27 am
by sidseymour
I am looking for more details on the sinking of Pilot Vessel No.4. This vessel was in the service of the Admiralty when it was sunk by enemy action. I am taking my information from the Record of Death of a Merchant Seaman: Leonard Gould Shannon.
On the record are some hand written notes which cloud the issue of further investigation on my part and if possible, I would ask for the help of your Veterans to assist me to get to the bottom of this particular mystery.
The vessel was Dutch Registered, in the service of RN, with the only other linking information being a number : RG7572.

I have tried several other organisations including the Merchant Navy in Liverpool. It seems that this was a RN boat. The RN state that it is categorically a Merchant craft.

My agenda is that a 79 year old ex soldier would like to know a little more about his uncle. Can you or your members help? I do have a copy of the Record of Death with the notes if it would be of assistance to the search.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:49 pm
by Admin
Hello Sid

Thank you for your enquiry to the forum. I have checked in The War at Sea Volume III by S W Roskill, and in British Warship Losses of World War II by Lenton & Colledge, and cannot find any reference to this vessel, or vessel type, if it continued to be known as a Pilot Vessel, and was definitely lost in the incident in which Leonard Gould Shannon was killed. Could you give me the date of death please? and I'll check in the Navy List for any vessel of the type in the months leading up that date. Also have you inquired with Trinity House at all, in case the vessel was one of theirs? Another possible source of information could be Llyod's Shipping Register.

Regards
Admin

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:28 pm
by sidseymour
Thank you for the review of my post .

The date of death, to the best of my knowledge is the same as the date the vessel was sunk, 28 November 1940.

Many thanks for anything you can come up with or direct me to.

Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2018 6:15 pm
by Stephen
Hi Sid,

I think this must be Stroomloodsvartuig 4, also called Pilot Boat 4, a Dutch/British (apparently) cutter that had the misfortune to be chanced upon by three German destroyers south of Cornwall on the night of the 28th. The German destroyers Lody, Galster and Beitzen sailed from Brest in the early evening and came across two tugs and a lighter, sinking the lighter and one tug. The then moved west and came across Pilot Boat 4 which was sailing from Plymouth to Falmouth and, after firing some 50 to 60 rounds, eventually sank her. Her survivors were picked up by HMS Jackal the next morning.

The action is better known for what happened next. HMS Javelin, Jupiter, Kashmir, Jackal and Jersey intercepted the destroyers and a close engagement followed. Javelin had her entire bow blown off by a German torpedo, which was unfortunate for the captain who had just had HMS Kelly put into drydock after she'd been badly damaged by a torpedo. Still, it doesn't seem to have done Lord Louis Mountbatten's career much harm...

The action is fairly well described in German Destroyers of World War II by M J Whitley, from whom I've sourced the above. Googling HMS Javelin and 29 November should tell you a bit more. Pilot Boat 4 will probably only be a footnote though I'm afraid. All I can say is that Whitley describes her as a cutter, and that the combined tonnage of both her and the lighter was only 424 tons (the Germans claimed 1,000 each!). Admiralty records in The National Archives will have more I'm sure, probably in the Plymouth Command books. At a guess she was a Dutch vessel taken on for war work, either as a British crewed merchant ship, or possibly an emergency picket boat of some sort.

Hope this helps,
Steve

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:39 pm
by Stephen
Sorry, forgot to add, Whitley doesn't mention the Dutch name/connection. But a few other sources do. This website for instance names the other vessels involved: http://worldwartwodaily.filminspector.c ... china.html

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:05 am
by sidseymour
Stephen,

Many thanks for taking the time and providing the information on Pilot Vessel No4. I was previously dissapointed when I tried the two "formal" routes and was close to moving on to another project. I will , in turn, pass this information to the gentleman who was searching for the information on hei uncle. Thank you again,

Sid

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 8:57 am
by Stephen
You're very welcome Sid. Best of luck.
Steve

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:28 am
by Admin
Many thanks for anything you can come up with or direct me to

I checked out the Navy List but there was no mention of the vessel. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists five casualties for that day, one or two of whom may have been a DEMS gunner on S.S. St. Elwyn. In the meantime Stephen appears to have found the precise details, which would seem to indicate the vessel was not Royal Navy, and that Leonard Gould Shannon was likely Merchant Navy, presumably with a history of having been at sea?

Admin

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:38 pm
by sidseymour
Many thanks for those that have kindly taken the time to provide information for my search. I have attached the Record of Death. Please note the hand written notes. Does anyone have an opinion on how these could be construed?

Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:03 pm
by Stephen
Quite strangely, I cannot find a record for this name in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission anywhere, despite them including Merchant Seaman and even civilians. I notice in the bottom right corner a small inscription in red saying "Not to be included in the R.O.H. pers Mr. Prater." I suspect this must mean Roll of Honour, although I can't really fathom the reason for exclusion - it's extremely unusual. It's also been crossed out in the coding. I'm sure it must be something to do with the vessel being Dutch though - and I notice it doesn't have an official number.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:18 pm
by sidseymour
Thank you Stephen.

My search, when submitted to RN came back within 1 hour saying "no further details availble try MN". MN have said the reverse.

Frustrating as clearly the vesssel was employed by RN as stated at the tom of the Record.

I am hoping a few more eyes get to see this on this forum. It will take greater minds than mine to get to the bottom of this.


Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:33 pm
by Admin
There is a useful memoir on the BBC web site for Lieutenant Commander Norman Yates which explains the Examination Service.
The function of the Examination Service is to board all merchant ships and trawlers entering the river, scrutinize their papers, if needs be search the ship for evidence of intent to help the enemy.
It would appear from the article that the pilot may have been seconded into the Royal Navy for the purpose of inspection, but the vessels used would not have been Royal Navy as such. I wonder if the reason for exclusion from the Roll of Honour is that he was not British or Commonwealth?

Shannon is an Irish surname, so he may have been born in the Republic, and whereas there are Irish nationals who died serving in Coastal Forces recorded in the CWGC, the fact he was not officially RN may have made a difference. The reference on the card to Mr Prater, may have been a casualty from the same incident who was also excluded with the reason given. There is a record of a Leonard G Shannon in the 1939 Register showing him living in Poole, Dorset.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:35 am
by sidseymour
L G Shannon was born in Portland and moved to Poole whereupon he join the MN. Spot on sir!

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:40 pm
by Admin
I wonder if the comment on the card which I believe reads Unable to verify whether S/S or M/N means Senior Service (Royal Navy) or Merchant Navy, and that it was an unresolved issue of his status which led to his being withheld from the roll, which was never subsequently resolved by anyone?

There’s also a bit of a mystery over exact number of casualties from the incident, as it would seem likely there would have been a Royal Naval contingent onboard, Lieutenant, Skipper, Signallers, and possibly a small boarding party, but there is only AB Walter William Sage (HMS President III - a shore establishment) who might have been involved. All other R.N. casualties on the day are accounted for with specific ships.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:25 pm
by Stephen
Good research! My only observation is that my reading of the annotation in red is that it says "unable to verify whether S/S or M/V", ie. steam ship or motor vessel.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:57 am
by Admin
Stephen, I think you are correct in reading it to be M/V which would more likely make it Steam Ship / Motor Vessel. Having seen a reference to the sinking as the 29th, not the 28th, I have looked again at the CWGC, and sure enough, in amongst all the casualties for HMS Javelin, there is Lieutenant REGINALD HENRY WHITELEY of H.M. Patrol Vessel 4, who is shown in the October 1940 Navy List as HMS Boscawen, the RN shore base at Portland. So it would seem there is now confusion over the date of death.

I presume Stroomloodsvartuig 4 must either have been in British waters at the time the Netherlands were invaded, or had fled to Britain, to avoid any British or Irish nationals being interned by the Germans?

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:23 am
by Admin
Incidentally, Google Translate gives the Dutch stoom, rather than stroom, as steam, loods as pilot, and vaartuig as vessel — so it's a straightforward description, but we may be looking for a Stoomloodsvaartuig, rather than Stroomloodsvartuig.

Here's a photo of Stroomloodsvartuig 19, which might be the exact same as 4.
Also:
No. 9
No. 17

And this may be the vessel, if it's not an earlier incarnation, since it appears to be an older design than those above.
No. 4

This is No. 1 and No. 5 which would tend to support the notion there was new batch of these boats constructed which were all the same.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:57 am
by Stephen

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:12 am
by Admin
Hooray at last! I found them all but that one. And the story around No. 19 mentions trying to shift the Dutch gold out of the country! So now it's a question of whether Leonard Shannon had been a member of the crew in Holland, or being based in Poole, signed up on the ship when it arrived there at some point. Also, there must be a guide to the numbers used on the card somewhere, for nationality etc. If he was a British citizen, then he should be recorded in the Roll, even as a civilian.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:50 pm
by sidseymour
Hi again,

The "And the story around No. 19 mentions trying to shift the Dutch gold out of the country" was a subject that I had heard but had no confirmation of and therefore reluctant to speculate further. I have a meeting with LGS's nephew on monday and will present your findings to date. Many thanks.


Sid

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 6:11 pm
by sidseymour
Gentlemen,
I have been doing a little more digging , trying to establish the coding at the top of the Record of Death

"Also, there must be a guide to the numbers used on the card somewhere, for nationality etc."

Any clues at all for you?

Sid

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:30 am
by David Carter
Ernst Dienst, my friend in Holland has sent me these links which tell the story of transferring the gold to UK:

http://www.zuidfront-holland1940.nl/ind ... -holland-2

https://www.rijnmond.nl/nieuws/141024/D ... e-Waterweg

They are in Dutch, but if you click on them, it can translate into English.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:56 am
by sidseymour
Further to the information above, today I have heard the following.
LGS was on board Pilot Vessel No.4 in his capacity as a member of the Royal Navy Reserve although, he is listed as a Merchant Seaman under the information received from General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen (dated 1992).

It seems that no formal body wishes to claim him as their own!

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:00 pm
by sidseymour
The date of death has been clouded by the action taking place during the hours of darkness which may explain the dates 28/29 November. I don't know if this hinders or helps anyone looking into this.

The gentleman whose Uncle is the center of attention is very grateful for the information revealed so far.

Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:58 pm
by David Carter
Syd That fits in - the RNR were generally merchant seamen who could be co-opted into the RN. The RNVR were civilians who had volunteered to train in the event of hostilities.

The rather rude description was that the RNR were sailors trying to be gentlemen, the RNVR were gentlemen trying to be sailors. In the event both types of reservist accredited themselves very well, the RN would not have coped without them.

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:15 pm
by Admin
It transpires that there are three Royal Naval casualties from Patrol Vessel 4 recorded by the CWGC for the 29th November, including two officers:

Royal Navy Personnel
Lieutenant (E) George Percival Harding Aged 58
Lieutenant Reginald Henry Whiteley Aged 49
Ordinary Seaman John Caleb Mitchell (MiD) D/BD/X 1750 Aged 22

OS John Caleb Mitchell was awarded a posthumous MiD, the London Gazette entry for which reads:

For gallant conduct in action against the enemy:
The Distinguished Service Medal.
Seaman Edgar Leo Toms, R.N.R. X.I9222A.
Mention in Despatches (Posthumous}.
Ordinary Seaman John Caleb Mitchell, R.N.V.R., D/BD/X.I750.

It's unclear whether Seaman Edgar Leo Toms was also a member of crew of Patrol Vessel 4, or how many crew, both RN and civilian, Patrol Vessel 4 had, or who it was who recalled the actions of John Caleb Mitchell, which resulted in his posthumous award.

The record of L G Shannon's death shows three other civilian deaths from Patrol Vessel 4

Civilian Seaman
J Dick - Poole
A Moore - Poole
A Spurriet - Poole

1939 Register shows L G Shannon as a General Worker, rather than a merchant seaman, so whether this reflected his longstanding situation, or was just how he came to be recorded on the day I couldn't say. Is there any knowledge within the family of his always having been a seaman?

I have found no mention of Pilot Vessel 4, Patrol Vessel 4, Stoomloodsvaartuig 4 or Hellevoetsluis in British Vessels Lost at Sea 1939–1945. I think this reflects a general trend, in that foreign vessels crewed by Royal Navy personnel, in whole or in part, will tend to be cited in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records for casualties, as well as in records of awards, but if the vessels are lost, they are not recorded as British war losses. For example, there were a number of French submarine chasers, called Chasseurs, which were out and out military vessels crewed by the Royal Navy, and which are seen as an element of Coastal Forces, and recorded as such by us, for which there are some 28 RN casualties recorded from 5 of them at various times. But those which were sunk, to not appear in any record of vessels lost, even when their crews are.

I suspect the story of how this vessel came to be in Britain in 1940, and what happened to its original Dutch crew will lie in Dutch records, whilst what happened to Patrol Vessel 4, is likely only to be found in such documentation as may still exist in the Public Record Office at Kew, for the award of Mention in Dispatches (Posthumous) for John Caleb Mitchell. You could run the matter past the Royal Navy again, but ask about Patrol Vessel 4, rather than Pilot Vessel 4, just in case that may make a difference.

Admin

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:52 pm
by sidseymour
Thank you for your continuing efforts into LGS and his demise. Interestingly, the gentleman searching for this information is Patrick Toms. He is now looking into a possible family connection to this man.

There are some family anecdotes (no documents) of LGC joining the RNR in late 1939, early 1940. There is little to confirm his previous employment and how his existing skills were to be utilised by RN.
Sid Seymour

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:01 pm
by sidseymour
Can anyone identify the legend on the top line of the Record of Death. What do the numbers refer to?

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:23 am
by Stephen
I've had a good rummage in my research guidance and online, but unfortunately I've drawn a blank on these. I do wonder though - the number for nationality seems extraordinarily high for a 'code' of some sort, even if that nationality were Ireland. The same goes for rank or rating. Of course, cause of death may offer some clue as to why he's not on the Roll of Honour...

Re: Pilot Vessel No.4 - sunk 28/11/1940

Posted: Thu Mar 21, 2019 5:32 pm
by Doreen
Thank you all for this site and your information on Pilot Vessel No. 4 lost om 28th November 1940 My father was Albert Edward Spurrier not Spurriet -but when I saw his name acknowledged after all this time and my years of searching for information, it was emotional but wonderful. When, via Greenwich a death notice a replica of the one published on this post, even to the NOT TO BE ENTERED ON THE ROLLOF HONOUR per Mr Prater I was determined to find out why. hopefully through this forum now. I always assumed the ship was out of Poole,{ I knew the Shannon and Toms families } as I remember waving my father goodbye, but not sure if the last voyage or not. My older brother thought they were going to Falmouth to have guns fitted - we have a post=card dated the 26th November saying they were awaiting orders. When I saw it was originally a Dutch ship I assumed it came into Poole with Refugees, as Belgian ships had done. Passengers were originally taken to Brownsea Island to ensure that German Spies were not intermingled with genuine refugees, not a pleasant experience apparemtly Now reading your findings I wonder was my father among those rescued by HMS Javelin and then killed ?