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!’