ML 207

Motor Launches (ML), Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) & Rescue Motor Launches (RML)
Gray207
Seaman
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:09 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Gray207 » Thu Feb 11, 2016 6:25 pm

Firstly, my thanks for the information regarding ML 207 provided by Brian Holmes. Some of it precedes my father's time with the vessel but I found it fascinating anyway!

With regard to Hugh McCusker, I must admit that I would be surprised if he wasn’t on ML 207 during operation Neptune and also during the subsequent minesweeping work in the ports of Northern France. The description of the sailors in my first post comes from my father’s writings and also from conversations I had with him. On more than one occasion, I remember talking to him about trying to contact his old shipmates - he would have loved meeting up with them again! I know he did make enquires about them via the British legion at one time but it came to nothing – although I do have a vague recollection of him saying that he did meet of his old crewmates many years back.

One thing I do remember from these conversations is that he told me Hugh McCusker came from Durham. If Hugh had left the ship before D-day, my father would only have known him for a few months, it seems strange that he would have remembered Hugh, and where he came from, rather than tell me about Hugh’s replacement who he would have served longer with. So far, whenever I’ve had the chance to confirm the details of things my farther has written or said, he’s been amazingly accurate.

There could, of course, be other explanations. ML 571 was part of the same flotilla as my father’s ship. So, if Hugh had joined ML 571 before the D-day landings, or soon after, I imagine that he would have had the chance to socialise with his old shipmates on ML 207. This would have been especially true at the end of the war, when the flotilla was in Denmark. During this period, I’m sure there would have been many opportunities to get together. Being at the end of the war, these occasions would also have provided the most recent memories, which could explain my father’s recollection.

I came across a document at The National Archives a few weeks back that my resolve the matter. It’s entitled:

‘Awards to 21 officers and men of HM MLs 222, 450, 206, 224, 220, 207, 185 and 571 for clearance of ports of Dieppe, Le Havre, Rouen, Boulogne and Calais Sept 12-Dec 12 1944 ‘.


The document appears to correspond with The Gazette entry for Hugh McCusker; the relating section also contains 21 names and is titled:

‘Awards for outstanding skill, courage and devotion to duty in hazardous mine-sweeping operations in the ports of Northern France after the invasion’.

All the names appear to correspond to men serving with the ships mentioned.

I have already asked for a price for copying the document at the National Archives but am still waiting for a reply. It does seem to take an age for the National Archive to respond to such requests!

I’m a little confused over the MID for John Gwilym Francis - ML 207’s Sub-lieutenant. The Gazette reference in this site's awards database details his MID as being in the same issue and section as Hicks-Beach’s DSC. However, I cannot find the Sub-lieutenant’s name within it. My own researches show that his MID actually appears in a different issue of the gazette. Page 49 of The New Years Honours List for 1945, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/iss ... plement/60). Unfortunately, I cannot find an explanation as to why he received the MID.

The award of DSC to Hicks-Beach also throws up some interesting points. The Gazette reference for this award is:

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/iss ... ement/5455

The relevant section relating to the award starts on the preceding page and is entitled:

‘For gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy.

Harry Leslie, the commanding officer of ML 206 and also the commanding officer of the 1st ML flotilla, receives a MID in the same section a few pages further on (page 5467). My father always maintained that ML 207 was placed at the very front of the minesweeping operation when the ship was attached the 6th Minesweeping Flotilla during operation Neptune. He said that ML 206 followed and the larger fleet sweepers came after that. The fact that Harry Leslie received a MID, whilst Hicks-Beach was award a DSC for the same operation tends to support this. Though, in reality, both ML’s would have been a few hundred feet apart so which was actually in the front hardly seems to matter – both ships were full of very brave men from a very special generation! The thing that annoyed my father, was the fact that the fleet sweepers were credited with leading the invasion force, when, in reality, it was actually the MLs attached to each of the minesweeping flotillas!

In his book, my father explains that before the Invasion of Normandy, ML 207 and ML 206 were in the Solent, tethered to lead fleet sweeper, HMS Vestal, with the crews waiting to hear their detailed orders. At the time, the officers had already gathered for a meeting aboard the fleet sweeper. When they finally reappeared, the commanding officer of ML 207 was accompanied by the commanding officer of the 6th Minesweeping flotilla and he subsequently addressed the gathered crew to explain that they were to have the honour of leading the ‘G’ invasion force across the Channel. The commander subsequently added the following:

‘… we also believe that there are some new types of mines that are unsweepable. But your ship, being a small vessel with a shallow draft and wooden hull, has a better chance of surviving them than the fleet sweeper and, in any case, there are only sixteen of you on the ML whereas there are more than eighty on the fleet sweeper - the 'honour' of leading the fleet suddenly lost its gloss!’

Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Admin » Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:16 am

It’s quite heartening to see so many ‘new’ entries posted on the PRO site for records of award recommendations, as having carried out frequent searches in the past when there was very little to be seen, I had assumed, somewhat pessimistically, that what was listed was all there was. However it appears as though the PRO have been steadily working through the indexing of many more records in their possession, which is good news, if anyone can ever get to see them!

The PRO at least provides a date range for the minesweeping awards, which as I expected, runs all the way up until December of 1944, and 571 would not be recorded on the award index card unless he had transferred at some point, but that could of course have been as late as June 1945, or whenever the index card was made out. So this may be one of those instances where the award index card may lead to an apparent discrepancy, if it is not understood that the boat numbers are primarily intended for administrative purposes.

Our database does have some errors in the entries too inevitably. I found a similar problem in that I couldn’t find Harry Leslie for 206 in the London Gazette (LG), as he had undergone a demotion by us, being entered in as Temporary Lieutenant, rather than Acting Temporary Lieutenant-Commander! and so was to be found higher up the page. However, Seedie does group John Gwilym Francis under the 28th November awards along with Michael Hicks-Beach from 206, so this looks like a slight error on his part.

Seedie was a pseudonym and play on the initials ‘CD’ of Captain William Chatterton-Dickson RN, and he had quite a bit of help in compiling his volume on Awards to Coastal Forces from the likes of veterans Christopher Dreyer, Len Reynolds and Douglas Hunt, as well as the Honorary Historian of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association, Geoffrey Hudson. In the case of the awards to MTBs and MGBs, they were often sufficiently knowledgable of the personalities and actions involved to compile alternative snippets of information to those of the LG at times—although we have stuck with the Gazette entries—but probably didn’t have as firm a grasp of the situation with MLs, and would have been more reliant on the information provided by the index cards.

I do have it on good authority for example, that the Mention in Despatches for Ernest George Bell on ML 206 was for:
prompt action in signalling for aid after a ship was hit when ML 206 was under heavy fire from Le Havre on 29th June 1944
Many Coastal Forces Veterans feel aggrieved at the way their role in major events such as D-Day have been largely overlooked by those compiling the history of the Second World War, and there are several stories of MLs and MGBs leading out the invasion fleet, and standing witness to the whole day unfolding off the landing grounds, with salvoes from the giant battleships out at sea roaring over their heads on to the beachheads, and many surreal sights unfolding in front of them!

knights6lb
Seaman
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:01 am

Re: ML 207

Postby knights6lb » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:26 am

My father served on ML207 as the petty officer mechanic - Arthur Knights (note actual spelling one additional letter) - and several of Mr Handley's comments are familiar. The following might serve to enhance his notes.

I believe dad was known as 'Mick' rather than as 'Mac' and the sparks was always known to dad as 'Jock' . He came from Hawick and I met him in 1995 along with his wife Maisie when my wife and I then living in Scotland, took dad to Hawick for a visit. Later by chance I met one of Jock's nephews in Carlisle who confirmed that Jock (as he was also known in the family) was dead (about 2005). Earlier Jock had worked for the local newspaper and he was also uncle to the Scottish rugby internationalist Jim Renwick.

Dad was born at Kelvedon in Essex but raised in Ipswich. By the start of the war he was running a small business in Hertford offering a dry cleaning service and my mother kept it going after he volunteered in 1942 in order that he could fulfill an ambition to serve time as a seaman. Handley's comment about seasickness were accurate and the skipper once told dad that he should never have been on such small craft to which dad replied " I've known that for a long time"

The story dad liked best was when in Denmark the skipper asked him to organise some supplies of food - meat, potatoes and fresh vegetables - knowing that dad had contacts ashore. The Dane he approached produced all he asked for such as 30lb of meat and about 1 cwt of vegetable and asked for 6 packets of cigarettes in payment. Dad asked the skipper for 7 packets in order to give one to the agent for his personal use and the skipper, somewhat flummoxed, wondered how to enter this in the log but decided to record 3s 6d for purchase of sundries.

Brian Knights

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Stephen » Fri Sep 23, 2016 11:49 pm

Although I can't add anything to the personal stories here, I thought it worth mentioning that if you don't know of it already, A Passage to Sword Beach by Brendon Maher offers an account of minesweeping on ML137 in the 5th ML Flotilla at D-Day, then at Cherbourg, Brest and off the Netherlands up until VE Day. There are descriptions of life aboard, the ML's roles and oyster mines. I confess to not have got around to reading the book yet, but it looks very detailed.

Another book that may be of interest is Geoffrey Searle's At Sea Level, which contains the author's memories of serving on board Fairmile Bs at Normandy and Denmark after the war (although not in the minesweeping role). It's a very good read.

Finally, I can confirm that the Navy 'Pink' Lists cannot always be taken for granted. It is noticeable for instance that in the lists published on either side of D-Day, both MGB 81 and MTB 416 (the same vessel) are listed separately. The 1st Lieutenant in one is recorded as the CO in the other, and neither are correct! To be fair, the amount of paper involved means there are bound to be some mistakes.

Gray207, presumably this is the TNA record you refer to? http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.u ... r/C4851439. If so, I'll have a look next time I'm there (possibly not next month, but November at the latest) and send you some copies of the document if you like?

Regards,
Steve

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Stephen » Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:56 pm

Within the collection of 21 citations in the Kew document above, there is only one for ML 207 (I don't know why the preview is on its side, but if you click on it it's the right way up):
DSCF5327.JPG
As you'll see it is for McCusker. The remaining ones are listed here:
DSCF5313.JPG
Please let me know if you want any more of the individual citation pages posted here, or if anyone wants a copy of the whole file (35 pages) drop me a message and an email address.

Regards,
Steve

Admin
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Re: ML 207

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:13 am

Thanks for the documents Steve. I notice Seedie (Coastal Forces Awards) lists McCusker's boat as ML 571, rather than 207 as here, which is another of those differences that occurs from time to time with awards. Do you know whether this document likely reflects the boat McCusker was on at the time of the operation, or the one he was serving on when the document was made out? I believe Seedie concurs with most of the others listed.

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Stephen » Sat Oct 22, 2016 5:28 pm

Apologies for the delayed reply - I've been moving office and haven't been able to access my photos!

Having looked through them again, I'm afraid I just can't tell. I do notice though, that whilst the majority of documents date from May and June '45, the first list was compiled in January '45.

Steve

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 207

Postby Stephen » Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:31 pm

Just a note to say that I've now read A Passage to Sword Beach by Brendan Maher, and I thoroughly recommend it as an account of minesweeping on MLs.

The author takes us through his entire experience of the war years, from school to training and then service on MMS 84 and HMS Jason before transferring to ML 137 on 1st May 1944 (just under half way through the book). From there he describes his role on D-Day and subsequent work clearing the sea lanes and Channel ports. After the war he helps clear Dutch waterways before he is injured - the book then follows him through a number of hospital up until he leaves the navy in 1947.

There are some very good explanations of minesweeping and the role of minesweeper MLs in particular.

Cheers,
Steve

Peploe
Seaman
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:55 am

Re: ML 207

Postby Peploe » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:36 am

I have some photos of "Bunts" from my dads album when they were in Copenhagen. Also one of someone called Sparks.
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