A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Motor Launches (ML), Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) & Rescue Motor Launches (RML)
Mark_E
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Mark_E » Fri Oct 28, 2016 2:57 pm

Thanks Admin. I think I knew the Albert was based around Hamburg. I'm pretty sure I have seen photos marked as Buxtehude and I remember dad spoke about the devastation he witnessed in Hamburg from the bombing.

It looks as though he was in Newcastle for around four months or so doesn't it. I appreciate this stuff is 'off topic' for this board, but I'll try and find out what was going on there

Admin
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Admin » Fri Oct 28, 2016 5:15 pm

If your father received the head injury that led to his loss of memory sometime in Autumn 1944, then it must have been while his pay was being handled by Victory at Portsmouth, on his return from what may have been a training course. The MLs involved in minesweeping in the Scheldt came out of Queensborough/Sheerness I understand, which would have placed them under HMS Wildfire, so he was either in the barracks the whole time or else could have been attached to some Portsmouth based vessel, but that is unlikely to have been a minesweeping ML. The other possibility is that he was some last minute replacement for someone on one of the boats, and the paperwork failed to catch up prior to his being wounded. Newcastle or Newcastle-under-Lyme may hold the clue.

Stephen
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stephen » Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:57 pm

Hi again,

I don't have a huge amount to add over what Admin has already told you, but I may be able to help with Newcastle.

HMS Shrapnel, as I understand it, was an umbrella name for various sites around the country, administered from the main station at South Western House in Southampton (next door to the office I've sadly just moved out of!). One satellite appears to have been a radio training school at Rutherford College in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. A few people mention this in service records, but I can't find a huge amount about the place. See:
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ ... 1030043317
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peoples ... 9270.shtml

Claude Broomfield recalls a radar course at Rutherford. You can listen to his oral archive in reel 3 at about 8 mins 15 seconds. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80023863

The radio training seems to fit with the later service at HMS Royal Albert, which may have been a SIGNIT wireless station at Cuxhaven, Germany. This is according to a Wikipedia entry though... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_R ... blishments

Also worth remembering that one of the two survivors of 916 was apparently the 'bunting tosser', i.e. the signaller.

As Admin suggests, a completion of training and the acting promotion only a few days before Walcheren may have led to a hasty departure from Portsmouth to a new posting. If he was soon back in Portsmouth at Haslar, there may not have been time to update his records with the previous posting. Just a possibility.

Regards,
Steve

Admin
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Admin » Sun Oct 30, 2016 1:52 pm

Claude Broomfield recalls a radar course at Rutherford.
It looks as though he was in Newcastle for around four months or so doesn't it. I appreciate this stuff is 'off topic' for this board, but I'll try and find out what was going on there
That's a good find and I feel helps clarify the situation, as Sharpnel (Newcastle) would appear to have been about radar maintenance. Initially the boats had Radio Direction Finding equipment (RDF), which was a cruder precursor to the revolutionary technology that was Radar. Having made enquiries from a London Branch veteran who in fact served as a radar operator on one of the Mediterranean Dog Boats, I have learned that as an operator he was not trained in its maintenance, which was a shore-based activity carried out by a radio engineer, and that his radar operator training took place at Valkyrie on the Isle of Wight.

The technical nature of the training fits with Charles Elkins' recorded occupation as a clerk, since the Royal Navy were adapt at picking up on existing skills and areas of interest or strength, and orientating individuals down certain paths early on, and you tend to see this pattern of basic training via known establishments, followed by more specialist training in a field that has been identified earlier, inline with requirements, which in the case of Coastal Forces, was a rounded compliment of crew ready to take on a new boat coming off the slips. Anyone with a factory machinery background, or who worked in a garage could be sent to train as a motor mechanic, and if they didn't come in the top ten per cent or so on tests, would drop down to being a stoker and assisting in the engine room. Alternatively they might be trained up in ordnance (armaments), and sent to Excellent, which was on Whale Island at Portsmouth, before finding themselves at Shrapnel (Hounslow) later. A man who played an instrument, had an ear for music and manual dexterity, could learn morse and be earmarked as a telegraphist etc, which would have been HMS Mercury.

Given that he was radar/radio maintenance, and was at Portsmouth thereafter, all the dates on the P&V ledgers being contiguous, I would assume, in the absence of anything else, that he may have been working at Portsmouth carrying out repairs, although there's no specific mention of a qualification as such. The later work with naval parties would seem to confirm this theme of shore based work.

How and when he obtained his serious injuries, requiring him to be hospitalised for a considerable period is therefore something of a mystery. The survivors from ML 906 were the CO and the Telegraphist, rather than a Signaller, either of which disciplines would have been noted on his records.

Addendum: Just to add, as far as I'm aware radar wasn't installed on MLs other than the ones equipped as navigational leaders around the time of D-Day, as in Coastal Forces it was essentially an offensive weapon employed by MTBs.

David Carter
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby David Carter » Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:30 pm

Thanks Admin for that explanation. ML's were not only used as direction guides at D-Day. Some were fitted with radar in the Mediterranean a year earlier and were so used in Operation Husky and Salerno. The operator who told me this - the late Dennis Blow - said that the equipment was similar to that used in Lancaster bombers.

Admin
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Admin » Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:32 am

ML's were not only used as direction guides at D-Day. Some were fitted with radar in the Mediterranean a year earlier and were so used in Operation Husky and Salerno.
Thanks for the heads up David. The Mediterranean theatre does tend to get overlooked somewhat as there aren't as many photographs of the events there it seems.

Mark_E
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Mark_E » Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:53 pm

Thanks everyone for contributions. There's quite a lot of info appearing these past few days for a layman such as me to digest! The comment about radar not (often) being a part of MLs but was in use in MTBs is interesting as my mother was visiting this weekend (I promise that's not an irrelevant comment!) and she swears dad told her he was on an MTB!

I really do appreciate the trouble you all have gone to in helping me so far and I do know it seems like a wild goose chase when the details - such as they are - are so vague and nebulous.

On looking at the pay and victuals info, it seems the first record of him being admitted to hospital was 2nd January 1945. That seems to imply to me that my dad's recollection that he was injured in or around Walcheren/Scheldt in early November might be incorrect. He did state that he had been flown in from Brussels to Park Prewitt (presumably via Haslar) but there is the unaccounted for 2 months or so from early November to early January. In his article on the BBC WW2PW website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peoples ... 3014.shtml)he mentions being in hospital before and after Christmas. But that doesn't tie up with his P&V.

Every thread just makes me more unsure!

I wonder if the comment above is on the money, that the promotion led to a posting at sea. *If* dad was at sea with coastal forces, as far as I can tell from the database, the only possibility really is ML 916. Or if we assume that dad's injuries also disrupted his memory, there's an outside chance it was MTB 782 which was also mined around the scheldt, on the 29th December. But that's after Christmas :-/

Stephen
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stephen » Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:37 pm

Hi again,

Just a quick note, but thought I'd mention that I've just finished reading A Passage to Sword Beach by Brendan Haher. There's more detail on the ML 207 forum page, but thought you might be interested to know that Maher was at Park Prewitt for a while. It only gets five pages in his memoir, but tells you a little bit about the place and what went on there.

Of course if your father was on ML 916 and involved in minesweeping, you may find it an interesting book anyway.

Regards,
Steve

Mark_E
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Mark_E » Mon Nov 21, 2016 12:27 pm

Sorry for the late reply but thanks - I'll have a look at that :)

Stuart
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stuart » Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:40 pm

Hello Mark, Steve and Admin. I have just found this site and forum after searching for my father's war record. My father was Lt. George Gordon MacPherson - CO of ML 916 blown up in the Scheldt in Nov 1944. He told my older brother and myself that he was the first Navy ship to reach Antwerp and was given a tremendous reception by the Mayor and citizens. On the way back out of the Scheldt they were aware the Germans had mined the channel during the night so he had all members of the crew, not needed to run the ship, to stand on deck - they were possibly sweeping. When the mine went off he was on the bridge scratching the back of his left leg with his right shoe so the shock went up his left leg and spine. He was thrown into the water and picked up 'dead' and laid out on the deck of another ship with the corpses of his crew. He came round some time later and taken to various hospitals where his leg was amputated, eventually, above the knee. After a long recovery period he was able to continue his career as a sculptor tutor in Liverpool College of Art becoming Head of Dept there. As well as shattering his leg the shock compressed several of his vertebrae causing him great pain in his back for the rest of his life but he survived brilliantly until 1984.

My Mother kept a letter in her scrapbook from Lt Cdr Heardly (? difficult signature) ML 250 19th Flotilla who picked him up and reassured my Mother that my Father was still alive. Lt Heardly says the only other survivor was my Father's steward. He was in a Canadian Hospital in Bruges to start with then CW Branch Casualty Section, St James's Park.We have a bit more information but with my Mother and Father now both dead we have to rely on what we can remember - not too reliable. My Father told us the other survivor was under an open hatch and was blown clear, completely unhurt and I think he said this man was working in a bank in Scotland before the war. Doesn't sound like Mark's Dad? I can't go with the idea that they climbed through a hole in the ship's side as the whole thing was blown completely out of the water and disintegrated as described in another post. My family has my Father's pennant presumably picked up by ML250.

I have read most of your posts with some amazement as I up till now I had found nothing in detail of my Father's exploits really thinking it had mostly gone unremarked, just another casualty of war. So - many thanks for information so far and I hope you don't mind me asking more questions later when I have followed up your leads.

Many thanks, Stuart MacPherson

Admin
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Admin » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:03 am

Hello Stuart

Welcome to the forum and thank you for your contribution which has well and truly squared the circle! I have some photos of the burial parties from 916 and other related documents, which you may be interested to see, which I'll email to you later.

Regards
Admin

Admin
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Admin » Sat Jan 07, 2017 2:03 am

My Mother kept a letter in her scrapbook from Lt Cdr Heardly (? difficult signature) ML 250 19th Flotilla who picked him up and reassured my Mother that my Father was still alive.
The Navy List for October 1944 shows this gentleman to have been Temporary Lieutenant-Commander J D S Hearder RNVR as CO of ML 250, and SO of the 19th ML Flotilla, with his first officer being Temporary Sub-Lieutenant R L Roberts RNVR.

Stuart
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stuart » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:56 pm

Thanks Admin - Is there a data base which matches names of crew to ML ship Nos? I have my Father's service history from Personnel Support Admiralty which mentions ML 1082, 1288, 1306 and 1098 on which my Father served in Ceylon but I found nothing in the records. I wondered if you can help here? My son gave me Peter Scott's - Battle of the Narrow Seas so realise the COs wrote up accounts of every patrol. Were these records kept, must be an enormous file if they were? I can imagine someone opening up a long locked storeroom somewhere in Portsmouth and finding floor to ceiling mouldering paperwork!

We have some photos and letters relating to my Father's service which we can copy and send for your files if we can find them!

Thanks again, Stuart

Stephen
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stephen » Sat Jan 07, 2017 2:01 pm

Hi all,

That's some fascinating information Stuart, thanks for adding to the overall picture. In reply to your query, there are some lists that match officers to boats (but not entire crews). The Navy List gives the appointments of officers on all HM ships and were issued quarterly (I think). They're huge, but aren't foolproof. As I've remarked on this thread or elsewhere, whilst researching MGB 81, I found entries for it in 1944 both under that name and its correct designation at that time (MTB 416), and both listed the wrong CO (as confirmed through other reports).

However, I've had a quick look through the April and July 1944 editions that I have digital copies of, and your father is listed as CO of HDML 1082 in both and imply he'd been on that boat since 1941:
HDML 1082.JPG
HDML 1082.JPG (14.66 KiB) Viewed 421 times
An HDML is a Harbour Defence Motor Launch, shorter than an ML (ML 916 was a Fairmile B Motor Launch). The other vessels you list in your last post will also be HDMLs, as their number sequencing commenced at 1001.

There are some lengthy action reports in Admiralty volumes at The National Archives in Kew, London. I go there quite often and was only looking through them last week (which, now New Year is out of the way, I need to add to a few other threads with). The Admiralty were fastidious with record keeping but, although there are millions of records, it can't be guaranteed that everything made it to Kew. I think (and I empathise think), that I may have now found the series of volumes that the loss of 916 may fall within. I didn't inspect it last time I was there, but next time, I'll try and find it.

Regards,
Steve

Stuart
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stuart » Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:18 pm

Steve you're a real gent - thanks from my brother and I. He has read the forum so far and can add some more information as he is five years older than me, and age 2 or 3 can just remember being taken on board ML916 and being shown the gun and dropping his bar of chocolate into the water as he was being carried over the gangplank by our mum!. He says my father's ship was blown up by an acoustic mine triggered by an American boat passing them at high speed and that the other survivor was the cook though I suppose most of the crews of these small ships could turn their hands to other jobs.
A book was written about 10 years ago by Dalziel Job called 'From Arctic Snows to Dust of Normandy' another misfit who did amazing things in WW2. You probably know it, a great book and a moving love story. He knew lots about sailing around Norway and reckoned small boats like MTBs could hide in the Norwegian Islands and strike German shipping traveling in the sheltered waters behind. To get experience of these types of ship he was put aboard an ML commanded, as he says, by an educated man who had been a sculptor in civilian life. I always wondered if this was my father, there can't have been many sculptors commanding MLs, but he never mentioned a name. Being an artist my father sent us letters with wonderful drawings from Ceylon which we still have - will put some up.
Now I have to try and find the photos my father left, I know they are in this house somewhere!
Kind regards, Stuart.


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