A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

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

Postby Stephen » Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:30 pm

Hi Stuart,

No problem at all. I have heard of Job, largely through the Ian Flemming connection, although I confess not to have read his book (I think it's more like 25 years old now!). He was on board a Fairmile ML in May and June 1942 in Orkney. As your father appears to have been on an HDML since 1941 (and HDMLs were not built by Fairmile), on the face of it I have to say that I suspect their paths may not have crossed. However, as I said, the Navy Lists aren't always right and it would be easy enough to assume HDMLs were small Fairmiles. The answer will be in the Red Lists (lists of small boat movements) which will state what boats were in Orkney and where 1082 was in late spring 1942.

Most Coastal Forces boats, even the larger Dog boats, didn't have a designated cook - usually any old crewman was assigned the role, sometimes on a shift pattern. The cook on 916 most likely would have had another lead role and been a cook as necessary. You may have seen earlier in this thread that one account lists the survivor as the signlaman. He may well have been the cook as well!

Do you know roughly when your father was in Ceylon?

Regards,
Steve

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

Postby Admin » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:25 pm

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.
Hello again Stuart

Unfortunately, apart from the Navy Lists, which lists the postings of officers, casualty records, or records of awards, there are no records of the rank and file for boats. The Royal Navy kept a remarkably good track of its men for the purposes of pay, noting their every movement via ship or base, but it strikes me that lists of crew, that would have been kept by boat's officers, and presumably by clerical staff at the bases too, were more akin to a factory shift rota, and were not deemed important enough to save, as the Admiralty already kept the pay records for each individual. Likewise with Log Books, unless an officer saved his, there doesn't seem to have been any interest in collecting them up at the end of the war. The boats were all mothballed in a remarkably short period of time once the war in Europe ended, and since the Admiralty had the action reports, recording notable events, and had issued the orders to boats in the first place, they had no interest it seems in the nitty, gritty of each and every patrol, as recorded in the ship's log.

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

Postby Admin » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:51 pm

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.
I'm very glad you managed to find your way to this particular thread, since we happen to have an unusual amount of information about this event. The 'chummy' boat of ML 916, was ML 906, under the command of Lieutenant Don H Claydon RNVR, with his junior officer, Sub-Lieutenant S Daly RNVR. It was Don Claydon and his crew that rescued your father, and the other survivor, from the water, and we have a photograph of him on the bridge of his ML. Don Claydon also saved copies of original signals from around the time, one of which is reproduced below. I have some further news for you and your family, which I am conveying in a pm to you.
lieutenant-don-claydon-rnvr-ml-906.jpg
Coxwain Jack Gillings, with Skipper Don Claydon of ML 906
lieutenant-don-claydon-rnvr-ml-906.jpg (199.36 KiB) Viewed 765 times
naval-order-for-ml-906.jpg
A copy of the original order to ML 906 to prepare for minesweeping operations in the Scheldt. This identical signal would also have been received by ML 916
naval-order-for-ml-906.jpg (153.67 KiB) Viewed 765 times
Transcript of signal:
Following vessels required shortly for extended sweeping operations are to complete to maximum storage of stores provisions and water.
16 105ft MMS
4 BYMS
4 Oropesa MLs
1 LL ML
4 Trawlers with spare gear
1 Survey trawler

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

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

Postby Stephen » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:02 am

Wow, that's some fascinating stuff Admin, I'm afraid I've nothing to rival it! But I thought you might find this interesting Stuart. If you scroll down to 1082 you'll find your father's name again, along with a small bit of information about the boat's movement, plus the apparent date he moved to 916.

I've no idea where the Medusa Trust drew all this information from, but it looks like the sort of information found in the Navy lists and Red Lists. HDML Medusa is one of the few surviving HDMLs still afloat and in original condition (possibly the only one...) and is moored in Gosport.

Unfortunately there's no further mention of your father on the other boats you list (which can be accessed by selecting HDML Archive then HDML Boats from the top menus).

http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/HDML_Boats_1051-1099.html

Regards,
Steve

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

Postby Stuart » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:42 pm

Thanks Steve I have looked that up. We have one letter from my father from Ceylon, though he's not allowed to say where and no date but talks about the jungle and getting fresh water from a well on the island they were harboured in. We can't publish this letter as it is very personal to my mother and full of a young man's emotions far away from his wife and family. It says nothing about what he was doing in Ceylon.
As well as the above information Admin has sent us a copy of a letter my father wrote to Lt Claydon thanking him for the rescue and giving details of the loss of his leg. We never knew this letter existed or had been saved all this time, quite astounding and moving. Have sent for books on Walsheren Landings and the Battle for the Scheldt but the picture of events in that area in Nov 1944 are becoming clearer.
Will try and attach the few photos we have.
Training Group  photographed in Brighton.jpg
No idea who these guys are. Don't think they are officer training as there seem to be a lot of ratings present. Any ideas? My father is second row third from right, not looking at the camera.
Thanks again Stuart

Stuart
Able Seaman
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:13 pm

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

Postby Stuart » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:57 pm

Don't know if you are still watching these posts Mark. I read through it all again last night and it looks like your father was on an MTB. I can imagine them stripping off the tubes to lighten ship and going full out to the Normandy beach and clearing off as fast as possible. Have you read Peter Scotts book 'Battle of the Narrow Seas'?
Gives accounts of Coastal Forces actions all through the war - MTBs and MGBs especially. We also have a DVD called 'For those in Peril' about RAF rescue in the war but some wonderful footage of the Coastal ships and high speed action, very hairy stuff! Have you got any further in your search?
Kind regards Stuart.

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

Postby Stephen » Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:42 pm

No idea who these guys are. Don't think they are officer training as there seem to be a lot of ratings present. Any ideas? My father is second row third from right, not looking at the camera.
Thanks again Stuart
Hi Stuart,

The white cap bands suggest that these are candidates for training for an officer's commission. As this was usually at HMS King Alfred, the photo is probably in one of the station's buildings at Hove. Your father appears to be undergoing the course and isn't already an officer in this picture (hence the white band) and is in a class with numerous other ratings an non-commissioned ranks. His jacket looks like that of a warrant or petty officer. The cap is quite small as well, compared to the three officers in front (probably the class instructors).The presence of ratings is perfectly normal - many officers were promoted from the enlisted ranks.

I've found both Battle for Antwerp by J Moulton and The Battle of the Scheldt by Denis Whitaker to be good books on the Walcheren campaign, although they're more focused on the land campaign.

Regards,
Steve

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

Postby Admin » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:05 am

We have one letter from my father from Ceylon, though he's not allowed to say where and no date but talks about the jungle and getting fresh water from a well on the island they were harboured in.
Coastal Forces in Ceylon was HMS Barracuda which was operated by the Royal Indian Navy, and was a mobile base & repair ship, which later moved to Bombay in September 1942, then Chittagong, Bengal and Trinco. I'm pretty sure while in Ceylon it would have been at Trincomalee.

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

Postby Admin » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:35 am

I recall him telling a tale of zipping over to France overnight, pre D-Day with scientists aboard to collect samples of sand (I believe to help us understand how tanks would fare on landing on the beaches).
There were small survey vessels used by the Royal Navy of the kind shown below, though to the best of my knowledge these were not operated by Coastal Forces, and it's unclear what role exactly they played in the preparations for D-Day or when. The main covert operations of this kind were carried out by a dedicated, specialist unit, the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) who were highly trained. Also from what I have gleaned, no one went near the D-Day beaches for some months beforehand, in order not to tip off the Germans by having any kind of incident or accident. The MGB referenced in the linked article would likely have been one of the boats such as MGB 318, and the dates for missions recorded in the book Secret Flotillas.
survey-vessel.jpg
survey-vessel.jpg (275.68 KiB) Viewed 757 times

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

Postby Stephen » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:24 am

There's a good deal of information about this in Charts and Surveys in Peace and War: The History of the RN Hydrographic Service by Rear Admiral R O Morris. The service was separate to Coastal Forces, but did employ some HDMLs which were re-designated SML (Survey Motor Launch). There's a list of these boats in the book.

The image shows a converted Landing Craft Personnel (Large) used by the Hydrographic Service: they were employed in the year before D-Day charting the Bay of Seine, tides and so forth. These boats were too small to cross the Channel themselves, so were apparently towed close to the enemy shore by MTBs and MGBs for their survey work. The service itself was also responsible for other seemingly innocuous tasks, such as overseeing the issue of charts to Admiralty departments and ensuring that as well as Normandy, charts of other areas of the French coast were issued (in order to maintain security and hide the fact that everyone was requesting charts of the Normandy coastline). During the operation itself, the service carried out necessary hydrographic duties - laying navigation buoys, charting the Mulberry harbour and the various ports as they were captured. The photo shows Lieutenant Glen and his crew at the Arromanche Mulberry.

COPP parties were interested in the beaches. As Admin says their activities were highly secret at the time and most were taken over in small individual missions. As well as motor boats, small midget submarines (X-Craft) were used for landing men on the beaches. On the over hand, in White Plumes Astern, Anthony Law relates how his 29th MTB Flotilla was tasked with escorting a number of British MTBs for a shore landing in May 1944. The British MTBs carried soldiers (possibly COPP) who would go ashore and recover mines from the French coast for analysis. Four landings were due to take place between Dunkirk and Bolougne on one night, with the 29th Flotilla providing escort. Although the flotillas sailed, rough weather prevented the landings taking place. It is possible that this was an elaborate ruse of course.

Steve

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

Postby Admin » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:28 am

Thanks for the additional info Steve and for the useful id of the photograph. Coastal Forces was very much its own thing, but it seems to have intersected at times with any number of other services from Minesweeping to Combined Operations, the SOE, the SIS, the Commandoes, and as we are now learning, the Hydrographic Service.

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

Postby Mark_E » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:51 pm

Hello all
Wow what a fascinating thread this has become! Stuart I'm very pleased you have found some new information on your father, even after all these years. I read with interest the COPP mission to Gold beach. Maybe that is a part of my family history, and maybe not. Either way it is extremely fascinating and what bravery from the Engineers.

Stuart - I shall look out for that book and possibly pick up a copy.

Wonderful stuff, thanks all for sharing the benefits of your knowledge with us

Stuart
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:13 pm

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

Postby Stuart » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:38 pm

Some more photos.
I am guessing that all the Tropical/Ceylon pics were taken by A.N.Other not my father. I remember him saying he had sent a lot of things back to Britain in a crate - which never arrived. He thought the carrying ship might have been torpedoed. Maybe there were photos or film in there es well. The letter from him to my mother, that I mentioned before, is all charred round one end and has been put in a new envelope saying -"Found open or damaged and officially Secured". We always wondered what had happened to that.
My mother carefully saved items such as his call up letter, next of kin cards, Telegram telling her he was seriously injured, citations for his DSC etc which she managed to stick down completely to the scrap book pages making them difficult to scan but we will do that over the weekend. If they are ant use for your records please let me know, I'll be copying them anyway for the family.
Lt G G MacPherson  photographer West Kirkby.jpg
Lt G G MacPherson photographer West Kirkby.jpg (62.1 KiB) Viewed 745 times
Training Group  photographed in Brighton.jpg
Training Group photographed in Brighton.jpg (136.17 KiB) Viewed 745 times
HDML Ceylon possibly.jpg
HDML Ceylon possibly.jpg (75.03 KiB) Viewed 745 times
Written on back;- Back row l to r McNally, Wright, Coull,Bunn, Buckley,Marriot. Pigs (?) MacPherson, Gregory. Sitting front Kirby, Poulter(with Pooch), Davis, Green
Ink drawing of ML250 perhaps. By Lt G G MacPherson.jpg
Ink drawing of ML250 perhaps. By Lt G G MacPherson.jpg (190.58 KiB) Viewed 745 times
ML250 top 2 pictures others unknown.jpg
ML250 top 2 pictures others unknown.jpg (57.83 KiB) Viewed 745 times
110th Flotilla Christmas Card from Ceylon drawn by Lt GG MacPherson.jpg
110th Flotilla Christmas Card from Ceylon drawn by Lt GG MacPherson.jpg (157.7 KiB) Viewed 745 times

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

Postby Stuart » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:46 pm

Continued;-
Attachments
Image.jpg
Carol Choir Haslar? watercolour by Lt G.G.MacPherson from his bed
Image.jpg (193.11 KiB) Viewed 745 times
Grave of Unknown Sailor ML916 unidentified graveyard.jpg
From D Claydon?
Grave of Unknown Sailor ML916 unidentified graveyard.jpg (79.56 KiB) Viewed 745 times
Various miscellaneous pictures.jpg
No notes on any of these

Stuart
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:13 pm

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

Postby Stuart » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:52 pm

Correction:- Photo of crew in Ceylon back row should be Dunn not Bunn!


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