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1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:49 pm
by Gray207
I thought forum members would be interested in a photograph that I discovered amongst my father’s papers and may be able to identify those within it. It is of the officers of the 1st ML Flotilla (see below).
Officers of the 1st ML Flotilla.jpg
My father served aboard ML 207 during WW2 and I have a photograph in one of his albums titled ‘Skipper ML 207, Ostend April 1945'. I have bown up a head nd shoulders section from it and included it below.
Skipper ML 207.jpg
The date means that the officer in question would be TLt. John Veale RNVR. I have a second photograph that appears to show the same John Veale together with his second in command who, depending on the date of the photograph, is either TSLt. John Gwilym Francis, RNVR or TSLt. D. B. Miller, RNVR:
Officers ML 207.jpg
If I am correct, the photograph would date from between January 1945 and July 1946 or later. Examining the photograph of all of the officers, I believe John Veale is standing seventh from the right, with his head partially obscured. I think John Gwilym Francis (or D. B. Miller) is standing second from the left. Again, if correct, this would date this photograph to between January 1945 and July 1946 or later. If so, the other officers in the image would have served aboard ML 185, ML 206, ML 220, ML 222, ML 224, ML 450 and ML 571. Perhaps members can identify them.

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Fri Feb 19, 2016 7:01 pm
by Gray207
I came across a thumbnail image of TLt. J. O. Thomas RNVR, the commander of the 1st ML Flotilla, and ML 222, from September 1944 (see below).
TLt. James Owen Thomas RNVR.JPG
TLt. James Owen Thomas RNVR.JPG (3.3 KiB) Viewed 1727 times
Although the image is small, it enables his identification in the main photograph of the Officer’s of the 1st ML Flotilla (see original post). As you would expect, he is standing in the very centre of the photograph with his most senior officers standing besides and behind him. He is also clearly wearing medal ribbons on his uniform. Ribbons are also being worn by three, possibly four, of his senior officers and two or three of the sub-lieutenants, although some of these appear darker and may well be oak leaves indicating MID awards.

A closer look at the ribbons provides an indication of who else is standing in the photograph. The following explanation is rather convoluted, so please bare with me!

Enlarging the original image reveals that TLt. J. O. Thomas, is wearing at least two ribbons with possibly an oak leaf below them. The ribbon on the left has the appearance of a DSC, having two dark stripes with a light coloured central stripe. Seedie’s List of Awards to Coastal Forces indicates that TLt. J. O. Thomas was awarded the following:

DSC – 30th November 1943
MID – 28th November 1944
Bar to DSC – 26th June 1945

The above dates correspond to the notification of the awards in the Gazette. Looking at a magnified image of the ribbons reveals a bright spot to the centre of the DSC, which could well be a silver rosette indicating the bar to the award but it is impossible to be certain of this. However, if it is a rosette, it would place the date of the photograph after June 1945. Examination of the ribbons of the other officers, suggests at least two of them are also wearing ribbons indicating the award of DSC. Records show that a number of officers of the flotilla were, indeed, awarded the DSC during WW2. I have included the names of these officers below, together with the dates between which they served and the date that notification of their award of DSC appeared in the Gazette:

TALt.-Com H. Leslie DSC, RNVR. ML 206 (from 27 Dec ’42 to 23 Aug ‘44) – DSC awarded 2nd October 1942.

TLt. W. M. Hicks-Beach DSC, RNVR. ML 207 (from 16th Feb’ 42 to no latter than Dec ‘44) – DSC awarded 28th November 1944.

TLt. J. O. Thomas DSC & bar, RNVR. ML 222 (from 4th Sep ’44 to at least Jul ‘45) – DSC awarded 30th November 1943. Bar to DSC awarded 26th of June 1945.

TLt. G. A. Ramsay DSC, RANVR. ML 187 (from 15 Nov ’42 – no later than 3rd Jun ‘45) – DSC awarded 28th November 1944.

TLt. J.R. Armstrong DSC, RNVR. ML 450 (from 23rd Mar ’43 – at least Jul ‘45) – DSC awarded 26th June 1945.

The fact that Tlt. John Veale, the commanding officer of ML 207 from December 1944, has already been identified as being in the photograph (see original post) , excludes both TALt.-Com H. Leslie and TLt. W.M. Hicks-Beach from being in it - both of these officers had left the flotilla before John Veale took up his post. This leaves TLt. J.O Thomas, TLt. G. A. Ramsay and TLt. J.R. Armstrong.

So it would seem that the two officers standing to the left of Lt. Thomas’s are in fact TLt. G. A. Ramsay TLt. J.R. Armstrong. However, the dates of each officer’s DSC awards, together with their dates of service with the flotilla, present a bit of a puzzle; TLt. G. A. Ramsay and TLt. J. R. Armstrong should not both be wearing DSC ribbons and be in the same picture of serving officers of the 1st ML Flotilla. According to the July Navy list of 1945, TLt. Ramsay was replaced by on 3rd June ’45 by TLt. D. Meyler and, according to the Gazette, TLt. J. R. Armstrong did receive his DSC until 26th June ’45. There is also the question of the officer standing at the back. fifth from right. with his head mostly obscured. He also appears to be wearing some form of ribbon, possibly a DSC.

Of course, it could be that the photograph was taken during some form of reunion and so includes former officers of the flotilla or that some of the ribbons mentioned are not those of a DSC. There is also the possibility that more officers received gallantry awards than is indicated in Seedie’s list of awards to Costal Forces or that some of the service dates included in the published Navy List of the time are incorrect. It may also be that the officers in question are wearing the ribbons before the Gazette dates – I’m not sure when those given an award are actually notified themselves or when they become entitled to wear the associated ribbons. It could well be before publication in the Gazette – perhaps someone could clarify this.

All of the above information leads me to conclude that the photograph of the officers in the original post was taken towards the end of the date range expected and probably after June 1945. If this is the case, then TSLt. John Gwilym Frances, the second in command of ML 207, would probably not be in the photograph; he was replaced by TSLt. D. B. Miller on June 1945. So the person I thought I had identified as J. G. Frances in my original post would actually be D. B Millar. I have amended my original post accordingly.

There are a couple of further points to mention. There is only one midshipman in the photograph, he is standing to the extreme right of the picture, and there are also some officers missing - which I hardly surprising. There was a minimum of 23 officers serving in the 1st ML flotilla during the time the photograph was most likely taken; there are only 19 in the picture.

As regards the Midshipman, the probable date of the photograph means that he is likely to be one of three people: TMid. R.M. Candler of ML 571; TMid. P. V. Wood of ML 207 and TMid. O. G. Channer of ML 185. There are only three Midshipman shown as serving with the flotilla in the April 1945 and July 1945 Navy Lists. The later July list shows that both Wood and Candler are then serving as ATSub-Lts and that Channer joined the flotilla on 11th June 1945.

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Fri Feb 19, 2016 7:19 pm
by Gray207
In trying to sort out who is in the original photograph. I came across a web page, posted just three months ago (Nov/Dec 2015), showing the medals awarded to TLt. J.R. Armstrong DSC, RNVR. The commanding officer of ML 450 from 23rd Mar ’43 to at least July 1945 (see link: ... medals-ww2).

I found this rather sad because it appears that the medals are currently for sale. I have included a picture of the medals below, together with the description that accompanies them.
TLt J. R. Armstrong - medals.jpg
A fine group of WW2 Medals issue to a Temporary Lieutenant John Robertson Armstrong R.N.V.R . Medals are: Distinguished Service Cross, 39/45 Star, Atlantic Star, Defence Medal, War Medal and also a set of miniature medals. These have a France/Germany Bar on the Atlantic Star and Oak Leafs on the War Medal. He got the Mention in Dispatches (Oak Leafs) for Operation Neptune clearing mines around Normandy Beeches before D Day, the DSC mine sweeping on ML450 (Motor Launch) on the River Seine to Rouen " from the national archives - For outstanding skill and devotion to duty during minesweeping operations in the opening of the Channel Ports. As Flotilla divisional leader, he was in charge of a very successful operations at Boulogne and Calais and part in the sweeping of Dieppe.

We also have a local newspaper cutting confirming his name and where he came from as follows:
Lt J Armstrong, son of Mr J C Armstrong, The Croft, Lyndhurst, Low Fell, Gateshead, Newcastle. Enlisted 1939, commission 1941, went to Newcastle Royal Grammar School and was a young golfer at Ravensworth Golf Club.

There are a couple of points in the description that appear incorrect. I cannot find any reference to Lt. J. R. Armstrong being flotilla leader, though he may have been if his appointment was after July 1945 because I have not had chance to check the Navy list after that date. Also, although he clearly has the award of MID from the presence of the oak leaf on the war medal, to date, I cannot find a reference to it in the Gazette. The reference given in Seedie’s list indicating that the award of MID was published in the Gazette on 28th November ’44, and relates to the Normandy Landings, is incorrect. His name does not appear in this edition of the Gazette, although three other Armstrongs do (Acting Lieutenant Commander Cyril William Armstrong, R.N.R. Belfast, Temporary Lieutenant John Whitneld Armstrong, S.A.N.F and Chief Engineman Harry Langhorn Armstrong).

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:45 am
by Admin
When the London Gazette plays up it's always a struggle! In this instance they issued a later correction in a supplement of 29 May, 1945, having apparently printed John Whitfield Armstrong S.A.N.F. (V) in error, instead of J R Armstrong.

I managed to pick it up in Google using:

armstrong r.n.v.r.

Another trick I often have recourse to is to try combinations of a name with parts run together e.g. RobertsonArmstrong, since the online version of the wartime issues of the London Gazette having been scanned, have quite a few errors of the type, although this wasn't the issue this time.

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:51 pm
by Admin
As Flotilla divisional leader, he was in charge of a very successful operations at Boulogne and Calais and part in the sweeping of Dieppe.
This material would appear to have originated from an auctioneer's catalogue, though I have not managed to find the original source for it. It's also not very clear from the rehash of the material by the Collectors' Weekly site, which statement is said to derive from the National Archive, but if there was supporting documentation with the sale, which included details of the award held at the PRO, then that may be the source of the claim, but even so, Flotilla divisional leader sounds more like an ad hoc description for things than a formal role, as the Senior Officer of the flotilla would be a full Lieutenant, if not Lieutenant-Commander.

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:43 pm
by Gray207
When the London Gazette plays up it's always a struggle! In this instance they issued a later correction in a supplement of 29 May, 1945, having apparently printed John Whitfield Armstrong S.A.N.F. (V) in error, instead of J R Armstrong.
Thanks for the explanation. I would never have found the record correction! I couldn’t even find TLt. John Armstrong’s DSC record using the Gazette search engine when I knew, from another source, exactly where it was. I actually came across the record for his DSC when I was searching for Hugh McCusker’s record in relation to ML 207 – it was in the same section. When I was struggling searching for John Armstrong’s MID record, I tried using my knowledge of his DSC record to see if I could improve my search technique. I tried every combination of the exact text I could think of including, “John Robertson Armstrong, R.N.V.R.”, “John Robertson Armstrong”, John AND Armstrong AND R.N.V.R., etc, all without success. In the end, I came to the conclusion that, if I couldn’t find a record that I knew was there, what hope was there of me finding anything else!

I have just amended my previous post to add the name of John Whitfield Armstrong S.A.N.F, who I had come across but forgot to include.

There are some of other things that you may be able to help me with. Firstly, when does a recipient of an award become entitled to wear it? I take it that this will be well before it appears in the Gazette. If this is so, it would explain why TLt. Armstrong and TLt Ramsay are in the same photograph and both apparently wearing DSC ribbons. (see my last but one post above). However, it doesn’t explain why there may be a fourth officer wearing, what looks like, a DSC ribbon in the same photograph.

I also noticed that TLt. John Veale appears to be wearing some from of award ribbon in the photograph of him and ML 207’s TSLt., which I included this in my original post. I have no record of such an award. In your opinion, is it an award ribbon and, if so, what do you think it is? I have attached a magnified image of the photograph below. To me it seems to have dark, but fairly narrow, border stripes and a wider and much lighter central stripe. There could also be a middle stripe but it’s not possible to tell this because that portion is obscured by the point of John Veale’s lapel.
John Veale Ribbon.jpg
Finally, I have spent some time looking through the Navy Lists recently. One thing that I found quite surprising is that ML 571 did not appear to have a commanding officer for a considerable period. In the List dated February 1944, TLt. J. H. Murdock is shown as ‘in command’ and in the April 1944 list, TSLt. J. F. Holder is shown as 'in command". However, in the next published list, June1944, no one is shown as ‘in command’. This situation continues in successive lists to the last I’ve looked at, that of June 1945. Do you think this a simple error or is there some other explanation? The same thing happened to ML 206 but for a shorter period. I’ve attached some screen shots of the relevant section of each list, up to January 1945, to show what I mean. What I have noticed is that the officers who are shown as serving aboard ML 571 during this ‘no one in command’ period are no higher in rank that TSub-Lt.

Extract from Navy List February 1944:
Feb 1944.jpg
Feb 1944.jpg (69 KiB) Viewed 1694 times
Extract from Navy List April 1944:
April 1944.jpg
April 1944.jpg (82.21 KiB) Viewed 1694 times
Extract from Navy List June 1944
June 1944.jog.jpg
June 1944.jog.jpg (79.91 KiB) Viewed 1694 times
Extract from Navy List October 1944:
Oct 1944.jog.jpg
Oct 1944.jog.jpg (71.27 KiB) Viewed 1694 times
Extract from Navy List Jan 1945:
Jan 1945.jpg
Jan 1945.jpg (73.58 KiB) Viewed 1694 times

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:39 pm
by Admin
I can't claim any great level of expertise in these things, but I would imagine in all these instances, print deadlines in conjunction with lack of information is the likely cause. The Navy was used to 'big' ships in the main, while the Second World War saw a rapid surge in numbers of both small boats and manpower within a relatively short timeframe. It's been my experience of the Navy Lists, that when boat building kicked in at serious levels by mid-war, they seem to have abandoned the idea of trying to keep up with listing all the MGBs and MTBs then in service individually.

In the case of the Commanding Officers, I would imagine the Temp Sub-Lieuts in post would have functioned in that role, and the absence of any explicit confirmation in the Navy List is simply down to no one informing the Navy List, and the publishers not having the time to chase up such details.

As far as awards are concerned, there being one or more supplements a month at times, there probably wasn't much of a delay between the recipient being notified, and the details being published. As I understand it, recipients are given the award and ribbon at the same time, so until they have that in their possession they can't 'wear' it, and Seedie records the various methods used, from investiture by the King in person at Buckingham Palace, which could have been well after notification first appeared in the Gazette, or presentation by a Senior Officer, or else simply posted.

I can't really tell much in truth from the photograph, and the issue is compounded by the fact that other things besides awards can be worn, including things that predate the Second World War. I recall there was a member of Coastal Forces who had won a VC in the First World War in a different branch of the Navy.

Re: 1st ML Flotilla

Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:05 am
by Peploe
The officer in the centre 10th from Right looks to be Lt Risden. captain of ML206. Another officer from this boat is Lt Cowie, but I am not sure which one he is. I have a photograph of ML206s crew while they were at Ronne in June 1945