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Re: ML 207

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:53 am
by Pennyworth
Hello, (sorry I don't know your name!) sorry for the delay in replying. I moved house 2 weeks ago and have been without the internet which has been frustrating!
I didn't even know that you had replied - I thought maybe a notification would come into my inbox but I will just have to check this site all the time I guess.
I am really pushed for time at the moment having moved house. I have the photos already scanned as jpegs and could send them on a CD? I could post them here, and there are a lot to post but then everyone else would be able to see them if I did. How would I get my dad's recording to you? Are you allowed to post email addresses on here? I realise that even this post will be read by others, not just you!! (sorry everyone.) Lots of questions I know.
Re your photo of the officers, my Dad isn't in it but it is definitely him in the other one.
Thanks for posting it.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:35 pm
by Gray207

Thank you for your swift reply, especially as you are in the middle of moving home!

I have sent you a private message with my contact details. Hopefully, you receive it without problem.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:04 pm
by Gray207

Thank you so much for your private message and my sincere apologies for not replying when you first sent it - I have only just come across the file and could go mad that I missed it until now! I really hope you see this post and that you get in touch again. I have also sent you a private message with my personal contact details so that, if you prefer, you can get in touch directly. I posted this reply on the forum in case, like me, you miss the private message.

I was delighted to hear that you have enjoyed the brief accounts relating to ML207, which I have posted on this forum, and that they brought back such great memories. It was also good to learn that your recollections closely match those of my father’s - I find it tremendously exciting to hear that you can recall the very same events my father told me about, including, escorting convoys, leading the minesweeping to Gold Beach on 'D' day, and then clearing mines from the channel ports, river Seine, Scheldt Estuary and Antwerp.

I was also fascinated to learn about the Coxswain’s miraculous ‘onion gruel’, so much so, that I decided to include a short extract from your message describing how it cured my father, I hope you don't mind – I thought other forum members would enjoy reading it. It’s these little details that really bring things to life:
I remember one incident while we were at sea and Tommy had a very bad cold or flu and could not do his essential watch on the engines. The old Coxswain he refers to made Tommy get in his bunk, wrapped him in blankets and then made him some of his special brew 'onion gruel' to sweat the cold out. Tommy was back on duty the next day.

It would be fabulous to hear more memories of your time on ML207 and I am sure you could clear-up so many key details that would enable me to complete my father’s book. It’s amazing to have been contacted by the real ‘Bunts’ of ML207! I can hardly believe it!

My very best wishes and thank you so much for contacting me. I really look forward to hearing from you again.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 3:01 pm
by Gray207
Pennyworth very kindly sent me a CD containing lots of photographs of ML207 together with a recording of her father recounting some of his memories of the ship. As it turned out, my own father has many of the identical photographs in his album. Penny explained that her father recalls that a professional photographer came aboard around the time that ML207 was in Denmark in 1945. Looking again at some of the photographs, the framing and quality of the many of the images does suggest that they have been taken by a professional. It would also explain why both Pennyworth’s father and my father have copies of the same images.

One of the photographs that penny sent to me, and which I didn’t have, has enabled me to identify Able Seaman Dai Jones. My father described him as follows:

It turned out that he was Able Seaman Dai Jones, a friendly sort of bloke, who, as I discovered later, practiced his clarinet whenever he had chance - a task he would undertake with never ending enthusiasm but always to the crew’s mock dismay and the words, ‘not again!’ In truth he was actually quite a good player, though no one would ever dream of saying so.

Penny is up to her eyes with a house move at the moment, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind posting the image in the forum, I thought forum members would enjoy seeing it and, most importantly, that it may act as a memory jogger:


I’ve also set included a couple of images that I think were taken at roughly the same time. They are of a German seaplane that ML207 encountered. I understand that it had been involved in laying mines or in anti-mine warfare. It is a Blohm & Voss BV 138. Again, in my act as a memory jogger. In the photograph of the two sailors standing on the float of the sea plane, I believe the man on the left is Ernie Pye, from Liverpool and the man on the right is Bunts.


Re: ML 207

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:01 pm
by reinaart
This pic posted by Pennyworth was not taken in Denmark but in Terneuzen. I knew this immediately when I saw it but it took me some time to find pictorial evidence (Terneuzen has changed a lot during the past few decades) :


The bridge was destroyed in 1940 and there was a temporary bridge during the war years. In the late 40's or early 50's a new bridge was built. The prewar bridge :


The first postwar one :


In a book by a local historian a boy is mentioned who laid a wreath at the burial of the crewmembers of the minesweeper that sank. His name was J. van der Peijl and it is also mentioned that his father had also died at sea during the war. I wonder if this boy could be the Jan mentioned on page 1. I also wonder if it could possibly be the boy in this IWM pic:


I think some of the pics of ML 207 may well have been made by the same war photographer.


Re: ML 207

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:46 am
by Peter
What a great story relating to the Service of ML 207, it has the makings of a very interesting book. Having served on MTB's and MGB's in Mediterranean I can visualise the drama, yes and the comradeship that was ours serving on these Little Ships.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:59 pm
by Gray207

Thank you so much for you post. It is truly fascinating. I have puzzled over the location shown ML207 by the bridge for some time. There were several possibilities but I just could determine which was correct. As it happens Terneuzen wasn’t top my list so, I am really grateful to you for having solved the puzzle. The possible connection to the little Dutch boy my father and the other crew of ML207 became so fond of and the boy you describe in your post is very exciting. It would be wonderful to discover that they are indeed one and the same!

One of the things I am struggling with at the moment is trying to establish where ML207 was at different times. I have a rough timeline, which in places is made quite accurate because I am able to tie things down to major events. For example, D-Day, the liberation of Le Havre, mine sweeping on the river Seine. It is, however, proving quite difficult to establish exactly when the ML started its duty on the Scheldt. There are some details from my father’s writing that help, but it still leaves quite a wide margin. My father explains that they swept from Ostend to Terneuzen and from Terneuzen down Antwerp. He also recalls the terrible disaster at Ostend involving Coastal forces. I’ve always understood that he and some crewmates were on shore leave in the port when the disaster took place based on his vivid descriptions. I also have a recollection that he said as much and told me that they the crew thought that Ostend was under attack and ran back to the Port to discover the terrible truth. Unfortunately, he doesn’t actually state he was there in his writings. It’s one of the parts of his book that he hadn’t finished. Though he had got as far as writing down details of the event. In my attempt to complete the book, I am going off my own recollection of what he said and adding this to what he has written. My father also says that ML207 was in Antwerp when it was being bombed by V1 and V2 rockets. Though he doesn’t say exactly when. Again, he has written down a detailed account of being there, including the fact that most of the crew were taken off the ship to the safety of an air raid shelter whilst at the port, leaving only him and a couple of others on watch to look after the ship. He also describes the sound of the terror bombs exploding, and the sight of one V2 coming down not far away. In addition, he mentions the fact that there were a number of ships stuck in one of the docks and unable to leave, because the lock gate/control building had been hit. I also have some photographs that are dated by month in his photograph album, including two of tankers that were on fire off Ostend. One dated March 1945, the other April 1945. The second of which, they were close to when it exploded. I have managed to obtain an extract of from The Admiralty War Diary that refers to ML207 and gives the date of the second event as 19 April 1945. This has enabled me to confirm the tanker’s name as the Gold Shell. I have included the extract from the diary below for interest. Together with some photographs.The first is one of ostend taken from the stern of ml207. The others are of the tankers on fire.

Ostend.jpg (63.6 KiB) Viewed 20239 times

Tanker Ablaze March '44 72dpi.jpg
Tanker Ablaze March '44 72dpi.jpg (75.61 KiB) Viewed 20239 times

Tanker Ablaze April '44 72dpi.jpg
Tanker Ablaze April '44 72dpi.jpg (73.57 KiB) Viewed 20239 times

War Diary, Tanker Gold Shell ML207.png

From the information I have, some of which I have detailed above. I believe that ML207 was operating on the Scheldt for quite some time, though, there is also some evidence to suggest that it may have been called away to other duties and returned. The ship was certainly there during the period early February 1944 through to Mid-April 1944 but was possibly there from the November or December of the previous year. I have a recollection that it was there over the Christmas of 1944. My father has described spending Christmas at a base on the continent. A process of elimination leads me to conclude that it was most likely Ostend. I wonder if anyone has any information, including the location of other ships in the flotilla, the 1st ML flotilla, that could confirm this or improve the timeline? The flotilla comprised: ML 185, ML 206, ML 207, ML 220, ML 222, ML 224, ML 450 and ML 571.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:39 pm
by reinaart
Hi, I will try to get some more info to narrow down the date of the Terneuzen photo. The state of repair of the bridge might give some clues. The bridge in question was not destroyed in 1940 as I wrote earlier, the Germans actually tried to destroy it in September 1944 but didn't quite succeed in doing so (it was merely damaged).The book I mentioned earlier has a pic of HMS Ambitious in Terneuzen (decked out in bunting ). The caption says it was the base ship of the minesweeper flotilla and it is dated May 9th 1945. The wildfire site only mentions HMS St Tudno :

I take it that ML 207 belonged to force B ?

I have lots of WWII pics of Antwerp and Zeeland so I might be able to help locating pics taken in this general area. By the way, some 2500 V-weapons landed in Antwerp and surroundings so it may not be easy to pinpoint one particular strike.



Re: ML 207

Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:03 pm
by reinaart
In the mean time I've found a pic showing the bridge after demolition by the Germans in September 1944. Contrary to what I assumed it was utterly destroyed .....


Apparently a Bailey bridge was constructed immediately behind the original one, this bridge was finished by October 23rd 1944. This means the ML pic may have been taken somewhere between November 1944 and April 45. There may be some leaves on the trees in the ML pic, if so the pic was taken in the spring of 45.



Re: ML 207

Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:42 pm
by Gray207

Thank you for your post and your kind regards. Yes, you and all the crews of, as you say, ‘those little ships’ had tremendous comradeship but much more than that, you all played such a vital role in events - far more than has been given credit for. I just hope I can complete my father’s book to help emphasise your vital role. It is so near but at some point, I know I may have to settle for ‘based on’ rather than ‘true story’ – we’ll see. Perhaps I could include footnotes indicating possible discrepancies if I’ve got things wrong. The funny thing is, every time I think that something my dad has said, or written, can’t be quite right, it turns out to be spot on.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:08 pm
by Gray207

Thank you for the research and the latest, very dramatic, photograph of the damaged bridge. First, let me correct the obvious silly mistake in the final paragraph of my previous reply to you. The dates should, of course, have been February 1945 through to Mid-April 1945. My father does not mention being attached to either force A or B whist minesweeping on the Scheldt and although his home base was Firefly III at one point, this was not during 1944/45 but after the war in 1946 and whilst he was with ML 221.

Looking again at the photograph of ML 207 with the bridge in the background. It’s hard to tell if there are leaves on the trees in the photograph but I tend to agree with you. The branches do not seem ‘winter’ bare but are possibly coming into leaf. What I do know is that after about mid-April, ML 207 had left the Scheldt and was on its way to Norway and then Denmark, which gives an end date for the photograph. I don’t think the ship returned to the Scheldt after that time. The start date is harder to establish, though your picture of the damaged bridge does give an absolute cut off. I had always assumed that ML 207 had gone from clearing the Channel ports to the Scheldt. I have a clear date for one operation in The Channel, Le Havre. ML 207 was clearing mines in the harbour when the fighting was still taking place to liberate the city. This puts it at that location on September 10/12. The ship continued with mine clearing for two, possibly three weeks before moving on to the River Seine clearing mines up to Rouen. Assuming it was on the river for at least another two more weeks, that would mean the ML was leaving the Seine towards the middle or end of October '44. Though, of course the ships duties on the river may have taken longer. My father has written that, after The Seine, ML 207 was ordered to Dover in preparation for other duties but, having reached Dover, were ordered to Boulogne to clear mines that had drifted into the harbour. This would only have taken a few days at most. I had assumed that after Boulogne the ship had gone to the Scheldt. Interestingly, he also mentions being ordered to join the fleet sweepers off the Belgian coast prior to travelling to Le Havre. Though, I am not sure if the ML 207 ever joined them or if it was diverted to Le Havre whilst they were on the way. I have assumed the latter. Though I may be wrong and he may have been involved in mine clearing off the Belgian coast prior to sailing to Le Havre. I need to do more research to see if my assumption is correct.

My father’s service papers state that his home base changed from HMS Attack at Portland, to HMS Hornet, at Gosport, Portsmouth, when he joined ML207. This remained his home port throughout 1944, even though he spent quite some time physically based at HMS Turtle, at Poole, whist training with the 6th Minesweeping flotilla prior to D-day. His home port changed to HMS Beaver II, at Immingham, near Grimsby at the end of December 1944. Though, after D-Day, I don’t think ML 207 spent much time at any UK port, it always seemed to be on the continent. My father does mention one episode at Immingham, which he has not dated, when the crew had to perform a burial at sea after a sailor had been found dead in the dock. It appeared he had some sort of accident and had fallen off his ship. The sailor's mother attended the burial, together with another family member and a clergyman. The commanding officer and crew looked after the funeral party and received a letter of thanks from the mother for their kindness. I believe the burial took place whist they were at Immingham waiting to be ordered to Norway.

All this information still leaves quite a gap in the timeline, during which I cannot be certain were ML207 was. This is from the end of October, early November 1944, when they were at Boulogne, to February 1945 when I can place them on the Scheldt. There are a couple of other undated events that my father has described, which may have occurred during this ‘gap’. A period of leave could account for part of it, as could repair work. Though my father hasn’t mentioned either. He does explain that he was on leave during August 1944, while the ML was being repaired at Dorset Yacht Company, at Poole. He also explained that the ML was in dry dock whilst at Denmark and Kiel. So, the fact that he has not mentioned the ship being repaired during this ‘gap’ tends me to rule this out too.

After your earlier post showing the IWM photograph of the Dutch family placing the wreath on the sailor’s graves. I did a search on the IWM site myself and found another photograph of what appears to be the same family. You may have already seen this but I have included it below anyway. The description included with the photograph reads, Dutch folk welcome the first minesweeper at Terneuzen'.

Dutch folk welcome the first minesweeper at Terneuzen.jpg
Dutch folk welcome the first minesweeper at Terneuzen.jpg (57.99 KiB) Viewed 20187 times

I’ve also included some magnified images of the little boy form both photographs, together with the one in my father’s album for comparison. I could persuade myself that it is the same little boy in the two IMW photographs and in my father’s photograph but, in truth, it is impossible to tell and we shall probably never know. However, the circumstantial evidence of Ternuezen, Mine Sweepers, MLs, the age of the boy and the period of late 1944 to early 1945 presents quite a coincidence!

Dutch Boy Comparison.jpg
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Re: ML 207

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:51 pm
by Gray207
I though members would be interested in a couple of unusual photographs I have relating to ML207. I pretty sure they were taken in Copenhagen but they may also be at Kiel. The lack of damaged buildings in the background certainly points to the former. The first is ML207 in floating dry dock undergoing repairs. My father mentions that the ML was in dry dock in Kiel too. The second photograph shows two of ML 207’s crew looking at a midget submarine. The man furthest left is one of the ship’s gunners. I have the names of them all but I am not absolutely sure which he is. My guess is either Nick Crawford or George Exley.

ML 297 Dry Dock 72dpi.jpg

ML207 Midget Sub 72 dpi.jpg

Re: ML 207

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 8:57 pm
by reinaart
The midget sub was of the "Seehund" type which were manufactured in Kiel so I think this is a more likely location than Copenhagen. If you wish to find the location of pics in Germany you might try the "Historisches Marinearchiv Forum". I have been a member for years and I always post my questions in English (I have no problem reading and understanding German but writing it is another matter ....). I usually get the info I've been looking for, there are some tremendously knowledgeable and helpful members.



Re: ML 207

Posted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:20 pm
by reinaart
Today I had a chat with someone from Terneuzen's historical society. Apparently the two IWM pics of the "Dutch folk" in local costume were staged ..... The photographer had asked some random volunteers to dress up in the local costume of the Terneuzen region. My acquaintance even knew all the names of the volunteers, the kneeling girl was a Jewish girl who had been hiding with a family in Terneuzen during the war years (she later emigrated to Israel). The boy and the taller man were brothers, their family name was Sol.

On the Medusa site I found some more pics of MLs taken in Terneuzen and my contact has also provided some. I will post these pics in a new topic.



Re: ML 207

Posted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:27 pm
by Gray207

Thank you for your posts and research. Well done for solving the mystery of the little boy in the IWM photographs. Actually, when I look at the images again, the fact that the people are in traditional dress does give the game away as regards the photographs being staged. Pity though, it certainly looked a promising connection with the little boy who used to always be waiting for ML207. I suppose there is still the chance that he was the same boy that you mentioned originally, the one who’s name was J. van der Peijl.

I will contact the German site, as you suggest, to see if anyone there can positively identify the location of the photographs of ML 207 in dry dock and crew with the Midget submarine.
Since your last post, I have been contacted by Pennyworth via e-mail, with some quite exciting news. Whilst she was going through some of her father’s papers, she came across a copy of a Danish newspaper from 26 June 1945. In it there is an article about ML207 that includes many of the photographs Penny and I have posted. So, it seems that at least some of the pictures were not taken by a British war photographer but by a photographer attached to the newspaper. Apparently, that the article is called ‘A Day at Sea’ and the paper’s name is ‘Ekstra Bladet. I wonder if anyone knows a Danish site that may help obtain more information. Penny says that her father’s copy of the article is in a very delicate condition but she will try send me a copy when she can. Penny’s discovery has made me wonder if the football match mentioned in earlier postings may have been covered by the same newspaper – I would love to know what the score was!

Re: ML 207

Posted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 6:14 pm
by Peploe
The flotilla was berthed at Langeline in Copenhagen. which is still there near to the Little mermaid. I went there a couple of years ago.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:05 pm
by reinaart
The midget sub was of the "Seehund" type
I have to rectify my mistake here, the midget sub is actually a "Molch" (Salamander). Quite a few of these were also found in the Dutch town of Den Helder after the liberation in 1945.


Re: ML 207

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:41 pm
by Gray207
Peploe, thanks for your post. Yes, my dad always said flotilla was based very close to the statue of the Little Mermaid when it was in Copenhagen.

reinaart, thanks for the correction. I have a vague recognition of my father telling me about Den Helder. I think the ML may have called at the port on its way back to the UK but I don’t think the picture of the midget sub was taken there.

Perhaps members can help solve a bit of a puzzle. My father describes learning how to prime and set depth charges and goes on to explain how they were deployed:

The depth charges were mounted on individual sloping racks that faced outwards, towards the sea, on both the port and starboard quarters of the ship. Each was held firmly in place by strong straps that were fastened to the outer edges of the bottom of the rack, on its seaward side and ran over the surface of the depth charge to a central quick release clamp on the inboard side, forming a 'v' shaped restraint. Having prepared the depth charged for detonation, a crew member, when ordered, would remove the safety pin from the clamp and the depth charge would roll off its rack and into the sea as the ship sped along.

This all seems fairly straight forward. The puzzle relates to photographs I have that show crew members carrying the primed depth charges and throwing them off the stern of the ship. Why would they do that when the racks allow them to roll off the side? I am sure my father explained the reason but I can’t remember what he said. Can anyone solve the puzzle? Iv'e included the photographs below. Also, my father mentions a firing bell. Was this used as the order to fire or was it simply a warning to other crew members to expect an explosion, the actual order being given verbally by one of the officers?


Re: ML 207

Posted: Sun Aug 18, 2019 12:41 pm
by Gray207
I thought members would be interested to see the Danish newspaper article about ML 207 that was published on 26 June 1945, a few weeks after the ship arrived in Denmark. I’ve managed to obtain a copy from the newspaper and have included the relevant page below. At the time, Extra Bladet, was one of the country’s most popular dailies and is still published to this day. The Journalist and Photographer spent the day with the ship and crew on patrol in Øresund – the straits that separate the Danish Island of Zeeland (the location of Copenhagen) and Sweden. At the time the crew were on the lookout for fleeing Nazis and were checking, boarding and searching any suspicious vessel, which basically meant anything they came across. The crew also gave a demonstration of minesweeping and exploded some depth charges, subsequently catching some of the stunned fish for the benefit of the newspaper’s photographer. The meaning of the text, though in Danish, is fairly obvious but I’ve included some rough translations below. My father said the crew were treated like celebrities by the Danish people. No doubt, their fame increased markedly after they appeared in the newspaper.

1945-06-26_Ekstra_Bladet ML207.jpg

1st Caption – top left:
Fast motor launches of the English Fleet are constantly paroling the Sound. Their task, amongst other things, to ensure anchored German ships, and their crews, do not flee.

The Royal Navy’s fast-moving ships, now guarding our waters, all took part in the invasion of Normandy, where they escorted the landing craft on the most dangerous stretch to the coast and through the German’s barrage.

The Extra Newspaper’s photographer took part in a 24-hour patrol in The Sound and took these pictures during the tour: In the picture above, ML (Motor Launch) 207 sails out of the harbour with its crew standing in formation on the foredeck, as is traditional in the Royal Navy.

2nd Caption – mid left:
Signalled from the bridge

Signalling the ship that ML 207 is taking over from.
At the far right is the Captain of the Boat, Lieut. Veale, and in the Middle, Deputy Lieut. Patrick Wood.

3rd Caption – top right:
God Bless the King!

Right from Nelson's time, it has been unbroken tradition that, every day, each Royal Navy sailor has a glass of rum. As he drinks the rum, the sailor sends the King a toast. He says: The King! God bless him!

4th Caption – mid right:
One has to think about dinner, and when surrounded by fish, what better. Our Photographer shows how the fish are caught using Depth Charges. These are thrown off the stern with the ship sailing at full speed.

5th Caption – bottom right:
Seconds later, the explosions cause the water to rise in mighty cascades (left image). A submarine nearby would not have much chance of escaping unscathed.
Then the Dinghy is put out, and the fish, stunned by the explosions, are picked up - dinner will be fried cod!

Re: ML 207

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:15 am
by David Carter
Seeing these photos taken in Denmark,I thought readers might like to see this painting donated to the Branch by David Attrill, whose father Leslie served on a ML at this time. The view is in Aarhus.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:54 pm
by Gray207
David, thank you for your post of the oil painting. Aarhus was one of the locations that my father said he visited during his time in Denmark. I have looked at the numbers on the MLs in the painting and I could persuade myself that the ship on the left has 207 painted on its side but, then again, I’m sure it’s just wishful thinking.

Recently I have been looking at the photographs of ML207 whilst it was based Copenhagen and been trying to find the exact spot where she berthed. My father always said that they were very close to the famous statue of the Little Mermaid. The statue is located in the area known as Langelinie. By comparing my father’s photographs with contemporary images of this area of Copenhagen, to my delight, I have finally been able to locate the exact spot. It may be that the ship also used other locations in Copenhagen too but the photographs I have point to this one particular place. It is at the Historic Navy base at Holmen, which is opposite the statue of the Little Mermaid. Amazingly, it appears that the very same wooden jetty that ML207 tied up to is still there!

I thought members would be interested to see how the area compares today. Below is image taken from Google Maps that shows this area of Copenhagen. I have double checked Google’s terms and conditions regarding use of images from Google Maps, and it is perfectly in order, in fact they encourage it, so long as the images are attributed to them and not being used for commercial gain.

Kopenhagen 1.png

The Naval Base at Holmen is centre right in the image and the statue of the little mermaid is opposite and just slightly higher up. It is annotated in Danish as ‘Den Lille Havfrue’. Copenhagen’s modern opera house is also in the Holmen district and is located directly under the letter ‘A’ of Admiral in the red label denoting ‘Copenhagen Admiral Hotel’.

Following are several images of ML 207 whilst in Copenhagen during 1945. The first shows a scuttled Danish submarine (the vessel on its side in the foreground), which was near to where ML 207 berthed. Note the distinctive double crane gantry in the background and what looks like a substantial hoist positioned over the submarine. The second image shows what looks to be a type of Landing Craft Tank. Part of the double crane gantry can be seen again on the extreme right.

The third image shows the same ‘Landing Craft’ vessel from a different angle. This time there is a distinctive rectangular stone building in the centre of the image, between the 'landing craft' vessel and the tug that is pulling it, that incorporates some sort of crane or winch mechanism. The structure is actually a masting sheer building used to erect ships masts. The scuttled submarine, shown in the first image can be seen on the right. As an aside, can anyone identify this landing craft/ferry ship? It doesn’t appear to have any name or other marking. It also has a type of bow door that I have never seen before. Possibly it is a German vessel. I would be very interested to know what it is.


The various distinctive cranes, gantries and other details in the images above enable the area to be identified as Holden, Copenhagen. A modern view of the area is shown below. Note the crane gantry on the right and distinctive masting sheer building on the left. The red brick building in the centre of the image is the location of ML 207s moorings. An aerial view of this building, taken from Google maps, is shown below, with the mast sheer building on the left labelled in Danish as 'Mastekran'. This image is followed by another even closer view of the same building. Below these two images are two more photographs taken from my father’s album that show ML207 at its moorings in Copenhagen. The building in the background of these photographs is clearly the same as the one in the modern images preceding them. During WW2 the building seems to have been a torpedo store of some type. Now it seems to be a navy dive training facility.

Copenhagen 5.png
Copenhagen 3.png
Copenhagen 6.png
ML207 Copenhagen.jpg
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As I said earlier, the very jetty that ML207 tied up to in 1945 still appears to be there. The final image, below, shows the building in plan view, again taken from google maps. The jetty can be seen jutting out into the water near the centre of the building. During the war, I imagine there would have been other jetties and they would have been longer.

Copenhagen 4.png
Copenhagen 4.png (926.84 KiB) Viewed 17891 times

If anyone is interested, its fascinating to visit google maps and, in satellite mode, use the sites 3D pan and tilt facility to look around the harbour. Many other features in the photographs that were taken in 1945 can be identified. The following links will take you to the relevant pages. The first is a satellite view of Holden, which can be used a starting point. The second link should open up directly as a 3D view. ... 12.5683372 ... 12.5683372

Re: ML 207

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 5:57 pm
by Gray207
My father’s book describing his wartime experience aboard ML 207 is nearing completion – though I am sure there will be more than a few twists and turns yet before it is actually finished. I certainly have quite a list of ‘to do’s’ to complete and lots of editing. In the meantime, I thought members may be able to help me clarify a few points.

The first relates to communication between the bridge/wheelhouse and engine room of an ML. I know the Fairmile B motor launches were equipped with voice pipes. I have manged to get hold of a diagram showing their layout. However, it strikes me that, due to engine noise and the use of ear plugs and cotton wool, using voice pipes when underway would be very difficult. My father refers on quite a few occasions to conversations with the ‘captain’ and bridge whilst in the engine room but does not explain the precise communication method. He says things like, ‘I called up the bridge’. I know telegraphs were used to signal changes of engine speed, which overcame the noise problem, but this does not explain how other orders given or conversations were made. It could be that something as simple as a series of rings of the telegraph was the way of telling those in the engine room to take out their ear plugs and expect to receive an order down the voice pipe. I have also come across the term ‘Navy Phone’ but, other than the name, cannot find any details. Can anyone help resolve the issue of communications?

Also, from details included in his service records, my father spent several short spells ‘lent’ during his service. They include very brief spells with ML 450 and HMS Gadfly, a mine sweeping trawler, during the latter part of 1945. However, the term ‘lent’ is also used on other occasions in his records. For example, in July 1945 he was ‘lent’ to the Phoenix Hotel, Copenhagen. On another occasion, whilst in Denmark and Germany he was ‘lent’ to the Army for five days. Other than the obvious conclusion that he was staying at the Phoenix hotel or attached to the Army during these times, does the term ‘lent’ have a special meaning with regard service records. The period he was ‘lent’ to the Army seems to coincide with a journey he made from Denmark to Kiel. At the time the Navy was sending the crew of MLs based in Denmark back to the UK for periods of leave, two at a time, using RAF Dakotas based Copenhagen. When my father returned to Copenhagen, after his spell of leave, he and his crewmate discovered that their ML had sailed to Kiel. They subsequently travelled to Kiel via Hamburg with an Army convoy. Would this explain the period in his service record ‘lent: Army’?

Like ML 207, ML 450 belonged to the 1st ML flotilla. The others being ML 185, ML 206, ML 207, ML 220, ML 222, ML 224 and ML 571.

During operation Neptune (D-day), ML 207, ML 206, ML 222 (plus one other), were attached to the 6th minesweeping flotilla and swept channel 5 to Gold beach. I am fairly sure that the other ML assigned to channel 5 was ML 450, can anyone confirm this?

I have also come across documents revealing that ML 185, ML 222 and ML 571 were attached to the 9th Minesweeping flotilla for the assault and swept channel 7 to Juno beach. However, no mention is made of ML 224, does anyone know where she was?

Force 'J' Minesweepers.jpg
Force 'J' Minesweepers.jpg (154.41 KiB) Viewed 11426 times
(In the table above ML 571 incorrectly written down as ML 591, but is referred to by the correct number elsewhere in the documents)

Finally, I have attached a couple of photographs from my father’s album. The first was taken in Kristiansand, Norway in the spring of 1945. I think the man in the picture is the member of the Norwegian resistance who gave my father the Kriegsmarine Dagger - the one described earlier in these posts. I knew it was in the album somewhere.

The second photograph was taken in Copenhagen in June 1945 and shows some of ML 207 crew. My father is front centre. I believe that the men above him are, from left to right: George Exley, from Yorkshire (gunner), Bunts, Don Crouch (Signalman) and Nick Crawford, from Edinburgh (gunner). If any family members happen to look through these pages and see the image, I would be very grateful if you could confirm the identities or correct them.

Kristiansand, Norway 1945.jpg
Copenhagen June 1945.jpg

Re: ML 207

Posted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:10 pm
by Gray207
Last weekend marked the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings and, as the pages of this forum attest, Coastal Forces played key roles during the assault, with the division’s ships and crews taking on a multitude of tasks including navigation leaders, escorts and position markers. Many Coastal Forces vessels also operated as mine sweepers — ML 207s role. During the early stages of Operation Neptune, the military codename for the first phase of the invasion of Normandy, ten channels were cut through the German mine barrier by ships sailing ahead of the main assault fleet. Each of the ten mine sweeping flotillas, tasked with cutting these vital passageways, was led by mine sweeping MLs from Coastal Forces. One of the mottos of the fleet minesweepers, relating to D-Day, proudly proclaims, ‘They led the way’. The motto is even the title of a book that details the fleet sweepers actions on that fateful day in June 1944. Actually, they didn’t lead the way, Coastal Forces did. Coastal Forces vessels swept the mines for the fleet sweepers.

Whilst researching my father’s book, I came across information relating to Operation Neptune that I found particularly interesting. One detail also had special significance to ML 207’s exploits and confirmed something my father described in his writings and which he told me about. I thought members would be interested in this fascinating aspect of the D-Day mine sweeping operation and ML 207’s part in it.

The information I came across takes the form of charts, known as Micky Mouse Diagrams. The name resulted from the large circles drawn on charts that looked a bit like the outline Micky Mouse’s head and ears. Each chart shows ship positions in relation to H-Hour on D-Day, i.e. the exact hour at which the Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches. H-Hour was slightly different in the American and British/Canadian sections due to the tides. However, this difference has been incorporated into diagrams, so the ship positions are correct according to the particular H-Hour for each beach. The small circle to the south east of the Isle of Wight on each of the charts, officially designated as area ‘Z’, was a maritime cross-roads and assembly area that became known as Piccadilly Circus to those involved.

The charts were included in the original top-secret operation orders issued for Neptune, copies of which can be viewed in various archives, libraries and museums. Some can also be found online. The first of the charts below depicts the situation at H-18, i.e. eighteen hours before the troops landed on the Normandy beaches. The second is at H-12, the third at H-6 and the last at H+6. As you will see from the last diagram, at H+6, groups scheduled to arrive on the second day are already on their way from the Thames, Bristol Channel and even further afield.


3. H-12.jpg

Neptune H-6.jpg

5. H+6.jpg

The Allied forces were arranged into task forces and each was given a reference code. The initial assault forces used the first letter of the landing beach they were heading for. Force ‘U’ was heading for Utah beach, Force ‘O’ for Omaha, ‘G’ for Gold, ‘J’ for Juno and ‘S’ for Sword. Each of these forces was further subdivided, and a sequential number added, according to when and where the sub-group was scheduled to arrive. Taking Gold Beach as an example, G1 was the first of the assault forces to arrive, G2 the second, G3 the third, etc. The maps below show the positions of each of these subgroups in relation to H-Hour. Other specialist task forces, and follow up forces, were given their own unique references too. Though, these were not necessarily related to the beach names. For example, naval bombardment forces used the designation letters A, C, K, E and D and were assigned to task forces, U, O, G, J and S respectively. Here is a detail from the chart describing the situation at H-18 showing the first of the 'G' and 'J' invasion forces leaving The Solent and heading for 'Piccadilly Circus'. The first of the 'O' forces are also on their way to the 'cross-roads' having set sail from a port to the west.

Detail from H-18.jpg

The effort that went into planning the invasion was truly incredible, an awe-inspiring masterpiece of logistics. The loading, sailing and arrival time of every man and piece of equipment, whether commando, tank, mulberry harbour caisson or water barge was determined to the last nut and bolt, with room to make adjustments according to operational requirements - and this wasn’t just for D-Day but for the many weeks that followed!

As mentioned earlier, initially, ten shipping channels were cut through the German mine barrier, two for each of the named landing beaches. Later, as the invasion progressed, the areas between the channels were also cleared. Specialist Dan Layers were deployed just behind the mine sweepers. These vessels dropped Dan Buoys to mark either side of the swept channel making it easier for those following to identify the safe mine-free route.

The point relating to ML 207, which I find particularly fascinating, relates to the position of the minesweepers at head of the invasion force. ML 207 was at the front of channel 5 heading to Gold beach, the fifth channel counting from the west. The mine sweepers, designated as ‘m/s’, are omitted from many of the ‘Micky Mouse’ charts but the direction arrows on chart number 3, at H-6, indicates that, at this point, the mine sweepers were all sailing backwards away from France and towards the task groups that were following in their wake.

Neptune H-6 Detail.jpg

This is exactly as my father described. They were sailing backwards to lose time. It all had to do with preventing the mine sweepers from sailing too far ahead of main invasion fleet and being spotted on enemy radar, which would have given the game away well before the Allies were ready to launch the assault.

The mine sweepers needed to sail at a minimum of seven knots to cut mines safety. At speeds lower than this, the sweeps and cutters would not function properly and mines could easily get caught and dragged into contact with the ships — with the obvious fatal consequences. On the other hand, ships sailing with the main assault forces needed to operate as a convoy, sailing at the speed the slowest vessel could maintain, about five knots. During the long journey to Normandy, this difference in speed would result in the sweepers ending up many miles ahead of the main fleet. Obviously, something needed to be done to prevent this. The solution was for the mine sweepers to stop, turn and sail backwards towards the following assault forces, losing time in the process, before turning again to resume the sweeping operation. However, several factors complicated matters. The turning maneuver needed to be completed in the middle of the German mine fields, at night, without lights, whist holding formation, when the tide was changing direction and right under the noses of the German forces.

When the fleet set out on its way towards France, the tide and current in the English Channel was running from starboard to port across the direction of travel, by the time it arrived the current was running from port to starboard. This meant the ships had to change the sweep they were using along the way, port initially and starboard later, to ensure the cables and cutters were always carried away from their hulls and propellers.

They Navy’s solution to the conundrum went like this: When the mine clearing operation commenced, south of ‘Piccadilly Circus’, the lead ship in each of the mine sweeping flotillas, one of the MLs, deployed its port sweep. The ships following did the same taking up ‘G’ formation, an offset ‘follow my leader’ pattern, which ensured each ship was sailing in water cleared by the sweep of the vessel in front, whilst its own sweep broadened the channel (see illustration below).

'G' Formtion to Port.jpg

The minesweepers also needed to keep precise separations to ensure they didn’t sail over another vessel’s sweeps and to allow enough time to deal with any mines cut free ahead of them. To achieve such precise maneuvering, each ship had to regulate its speed on the basis of the rpm of its propellers, whilst simultaneously taking account of the prevailing current and weather – using fractions of full speed given by the Engine Order Telegraph simply wasn’t good enough. The minesweepers were fitted with RADAR but it wasn’t accurate enough to navigate by either.

At the point when the flotilla needed to lose time, and take account of the changing tide, each ship retrieved its sweep and formed up line astern until all were sailing behind the lead ML on the starboard side of the channel protected only by the leader’s sweep. This done, starting at the rear, each ship turned, sailed a set distance back along the mine free ‘corridor’ just created, then turned again to face the original heading. Whilst sailing back, all the ships also swapped over to the opposite side of the channel. So, the flotilla had now retreated a set distance, turned to face direction it had started from and formed up line astern once again but this time on the port side of the mine free corridor. At this point the lead ML deployed its starboard sweep, the opposite of the one it had been using originally, and started sweeping again. The other mine sweepers followed, taking up a “G” formation behind but now off to starboard, a shape that was a mirror image of the one the flotilla had been in before the manoeuver began.

'G' Formtion to Starboard.jpg

ML 207 and the other minesweepers practiced the intricate maneuver many times prior to D-Day. My father described it as follows:

"The whole exercise was the equivalent to the minesweeping version of formation dancing, only carried out blindfold, with the added incentive that, if you put a foot wrong, you and your partner risked being blown to kingdom come."

To make things worse for the MLs, unlike the fleet sweepers, they did not have the luxury of powered winches to retrieve and deploy their sweeps. They had the basic model, everything had to be done by hand in very rough seas and within enemy waters just a matter of miles off the French coast. The hauling in process was particularly onerous and took over half an hour to accomplish with the ship stationary in the water throughout – they were, quite simply, sitting ducks. Actually, ML207 had a very lucky escape during one of the night-time practice runs out in the Channel, when a large group of E-Boats were spotted on RADAR heading straight for them. The mine sweeping flotilla were ordered not to engage the enemy under any circumstances. As my father said, 'they 'were being kept for more important things'. The Fleet Sweepers soon had their sweeps in and were heading for port, leaving ML 206 and ML 207 desperately trying to haul in their equipment by hand. It was a close run thing, they only managed to get away in the nick of time. The much faster assailants pursued the two MLs, gaining on them with every minute, until, thankfully, they finally gave up the chase as they neared the coast.

On D-Day itself, the crews of the mine sweepers were told that their sole duty was to sweep mines and they must continue to do so even if attacked. They could, of course, fire back but not alter course or stop sweeping under any circumstances. Ships were held in reserve at the rear of the mine sweeping flotillas to replace those lost at the front.

In his book, my father recounts the time when the crew were given their detailed orders for the assault. They had been told to form up on deck in readiness for their commanding office to address them once he returned from a briefing abroad the flag ship of the 6th Minesweeping Flotilla. To the crew's surprise, when the captain arrived back he was accompanied by the commanding officer of the flotilla. The reason for the unexpected visit soon became apparent when the flotilla's commander addressed them saying:

‘Men, you have worked tirelessly these past weeks and, to your credit, have become accomplished at your new role of mine sweeping. I can now reveal that your hard work and devotion to duty has already paid off. Tomorrow, His Majesty’s Motor Launch 207 will be sweeping in the van of the 6th minesweeping flotilla and, as a consequence, will have the great honour of leading the force “G” invasion fleet as it crosses the Channel and be the first allied ship to reach the assault beach designated Gold, “G for Gold”.’

However, the Commander subsequently added:

'I also have to tell you that we believe some of the mines Jerry has laid are unsweepable but, your ship, with its wooden hull and shallow draft, has a first-rate chance of accomplishing its task of coming through unscathed ... and, of course, there are only sixteen of you on the ML, whereas, there are well over one hundred soles on each of the fleet sweepers.’

My father said, 'the “honour” of leading the invasion fleet suddenly lost its gloss.'

As it turned out, ML207 and the 6th Minesweeping Flotilla encountered a major problem during the turning manoeuvre. The ships of the task groups following were sailing too close, meaning the mine sweepers could not lose the required amount of time. The only option left, to prevent the sweepers sailing too far ahead and being spotted on German Radar, was to sweep at a dangerously slow speed. Everyone on board ML 207 expected the inevitable – a mine to be dragged onto the hull at any moment. Many incredibly tense hours followed, with the crew out on deck, sweep-cutting axes in hand, scanning the night-darkened, gale-swept sea, attempting to spot mines that might be caught in the sweep wires — and hoping they could manage to cut the cables in time if they spotted one.

Having cut the channels through the mine fields, the crews could not rest. Now sailing parallel to the beaches, in full sight of the enemy, and well within range of the shore batteries, they had to clear safe anchorages for the capitol ships of the bombarding force and create mine-free manoeuvring areas for destroyers and other vessels. While the fleet sweepers returned to the German mine barrier to widen the channels previously cut, ML 207 took up a defensive role looking for E-Boats and, together with other Allied vessels, countered attacks on Normandy anchorage from a host of assailants including midget submarines, ‘Human torpedoes’ and ‘skimming dishes’, the latter being small ships loaded with explosives and set adrift so’s to float into the anchorage on the tides. In the days that followed the first landings, as well as the inevitable air and artillery attacks, new threats emerged including the hitherto unknown, and deadly, Oyster Mine.

The admiralty expected the mine sweepers to pay a very heavy price during the initial assault, with presumed loses of 30% to 50% and acceptable losses regarded as 75%. In the event, the element of surprise, the weather, skill, and sheer luck, all played a part. Just one mine sweeper was lost on D-Day, tragic though that was.

Re: ML 207

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 10:12 am
by Admin

Thank you for such a well researched account of the part ML 207 played in minesweeping operations ahead of the D-Day landings. The manoeuvring mid-invasion, and mid-channel at night in the middle of a minefield, was a feat of seamanship made all the more remarkable by the fact these were all hostilities-only crews.