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 » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:38 pm

Some lovely pictures there Stuart. I'm not sure of the significance of HDML 1010 in your father's story, but I can tell you that it was built as Anderson Rigden & Perkins in Whitstable and completed in May 1941. It looks like the photo may show it nearing the end of its construction, although I can't say that with any certainty.
The service was separate to Coastal Forces, but did employ some HDMLs which were re-designated SML (Survey Motor Launch).
Having read a bit more of the Charts and Surveys in Peace and War, I've noted that the SML designation only came into use after the war. I've also noted that on the last survey of Seine Bay, conducted in December 1943 (conducted by the modified LCP(L)s which had themselves been towed over by MGBs), they also landed some army officers who recovered sand samples.
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.
Having also gone back to Tony Law's book (it's been a few years since I read it), I've just realised that the cancelled operation was repeated the following night and all four parties recovered mines.

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

Postby Stuart » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:04 am

Morning Gentlemen - Your wealth of knowledge never fails to amaze eg.- how did you know Dalziel-Job was in Orkney in 1942? I have to ask you how you became so interested in all this, as it is becoming clear to me that there were thousands more individuals in Coastal Forces than I realised and that the information about them is spread over all sorts of different records in different formats. Must take an enormous amount of effort, organisation and time sorting through it!

I watched newsreels of the battle for the Scheldt and the Walcheren landings and reading Mr Moulton's book on the Battle from Antwerp. The memsahib watched them as well and has also become interested and seeing the harrowing time the Commandos and Navy went through she immediately asked why there was no great feature film about it. A good question I thought!

On a different tack - Going through the box of my mother's memorabilia I found the attached letter from Grosadmiral Donitz to my father which I had forgotten about. In 1973 a colleague of my father commissioned him to make a small piece of sculpture to be presented to the Admiral (as a fellow sailor). My father completed this and the colleague went over to Germany to hand it over and Donitz sent the letter back with him. Its a bit faded as the framed letter was on the wall in my mother's front room but an interesting item.

Image (2).jpg
We had this translated but are not sure how accurately. It says - Dear Mr MacPherson, Your friend came to see me today and brought to me from you the little mobile. Thank you very much for it. What can I do for you in return? With best wishes, Yours Donitz.
Image (2).jpg (100.75 KiB) Viewed 486 times


Next question - My father had a friend in the RNVR called Gerald Lenox-Conyngham whom we stayed with in Ireland once in the 50's. I can't find anything about him and wondered if you have heard of him.

Finally, I think I have my father's role in the Scheldt about clear now ( but not his service in Ceylon). However, I can find nothing about the other survivor from 916 and would like to know what happened to him so do you have any advice on how to find out. I wondered about Facebook?

Wonder what will turn up next?

Cheers, Stuart

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

Postby Stephen » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:51 am

Hi Stuart,

For my own part, I work for a charity called Maritime Archaeology Trust. My principle day job currently involves studying 1,100 First World War wrecks along the south coast of England, but previous projects and work have covered D-Day (on both sides of the Channel), Landing Craft, protected wrecks, coastal change, Stonehenge, historic maps and the Second World War in the New Forest. Coastal Forces is a personal interest (for which I don't have any strong reasoning, I've just always liked the boats and been fascinated by their role in the war) and I'm currently building up a website: http://www.spitfiresofthesea.com. I'm also quite well read on the Scheldt campaign and have cycled the area several times.

Added to this I have a terrible affliction that prevents me from walking past a second hand bookshop without going in. As a result I have a pretty large library, much to my wife's chagrin (but as she also works in maritime heritage and with historic fast boats in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, she often finds it useful). I should probably have mentioned that, whilst I haven't read Dalziel-Job's book, I do have a copy and he mentions his time at Orkney there. That said I lent the book to a friend only last week.

As a result I'm quite good at making use of resources, published, in archives and online. There's somewhat limited information online about your father's friend, but I've found one possible source. The bottom paragraph of this page suggests he was a tea planter in Ceylon. A reference in bullet point iii a bit above that suggests he had children of his own in 1941, 1942 and 1946, so he's presumably the right age. http://www.marshalclarke.com/ClarkesOfG ... arkes6.htm

I have a friend who speaks Geramn, so I'll ask them if the translation of Doenitz's letter is correct. That's quite an artefact you have there!

As for the other survivor of 916, we've spent some time trying to find his name for Mark, but so far without luck. I'm sure the identity will be in a document at Kew, but I haven't yet found it. The identities of the lost crewmen can be found on the CWGC site. Type H.M.M.L. 916 into the unit field. http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx

Cheers,
Steve

Kevin
Seaman
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Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:48 pm

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

Postby Kevin » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:08 pm

Hello all. I have read with interest the conversation thread on the minesweeping operation in the Scheldt, etc. My father was on the ML250, and records this detailed account in his memoirs. I think you will find it very interesting, as he records (among other things) the explosion on the boat (unnamed) but given the detail, I think it must be the same event that you describe. I copy it in full so you can see how much detail he remembers the events leading up to it. My Dad (Derek Gwyther Jones) was navigator on the ML250:

"The next major assignment was mine-sweeping to enable supply ships to support the Allied Forces advancing eastward through Belgium and Holland towards Germany. The port of Antwerp in Belgium was reached by the River Scheldt and the enemy forces had laid mines in the approaches to the river along the Belgian coast, and who knew where else? The task force involved possibly several flotillas of mine-sweepers operating different kinds of devices to deal with a variety of mines. HMML 250 was to lead and I was to navigate. I remember being anxious about my responsibility and the skill necessary to allow for the strong tidal conditions. The speed of the task force was to be 4 knots (!!) and starting from the Thames at night.When we were near the Dover Straits and making for Ostend area I remember telling John Hearder that I had calculated our heading was to be 35 degrees from the course along which we were to travel. This was calculated from the tidal information for that time of the month, which varied between Spring and Neap conditions. I thought 35 degrees was excessive, but he told me to go according to my calculation. There were certain marker buoys in the channel and because of our “crabbing” progress at 4 knots we actually hit the buoy that was on our course! In the morning we started the mine-sweep and the state of the tide level seemed to expose some moored mines near the ship – I remember lining up our armour piercing rifle on one, but it was too close to the ship! Once the operation had started we couldn't turn around to find out whether mines were floating or still moored! We were far enough out from the Belgian coast to be in the deep water channel and as we approached the mouth of the river Scheldt right ahead of us was a sunken ship. After a very quick exchange of views with John Hearder I recommended altering course 45 degrees to port, which we did and our sweep did not get entangled in anything under water.

We were now heading towards the Dutch Island of Walcheren and a further course charge took us into the mouth of the Scheldt and to the harbour of Terneusen, where we were to be based. The other bigger mine-sweeping vessels were able to tackle the area that we had skirted around and found some obstructions which needed removing before convoys could get through. The mouth of the river is Holland and ships travel into Belgium as they go up the river to Antwerp. During the war some of the sea defence dykes had been breached or possibly deliberately opened. Many areas of Walcharen were flooded. We did a little reconnoitring in Flushing and noted the many small craters made by rockets or small bombs around the harbour. There was no sign of anyone living or working there. After we came away, I heard that one of the mine sweepers with a double L electrical discharge sweep had blown up a mine (possibly magnetic) in the harbour where we had been!

Two of the flotilla of M.Ls were sent up river to Antwerp and a day or two later we followed, trying to find out how safe it would be to open it up to shipping. The city had been occupied by Allied Forces for a short while and the city shopping centre seemed to be crowded, places of amusement open and a strong atmosphere of ersatz tobacco! We were not there very long – a day or two – before making the trip back. One of the original reconnoitring ships was following us when I felt as though we had hit something very hard. Looking back we could see a tremendous plume of water, possibly over 100 feet high, and when it died down the M.L. following had completely disappeared! The supposed collision I felt was a mine exploding behind us – possibly an acoustic mine set off by sound or vibration. There were two survivors from the crew of about 25. The captain was blown sky high and came down in the water – he was injured. The other survivor was in the cabin at the rear and related that the side of the ship fell out and he was able to swim away unharmed! As we turned to do what we could I was amazed that a ship 112 feet long with all its equipment could have been blown up so that the pieces of wood panelling floating in the river were so small in comparison to its size. It is a long time ago but I can remember the shock of the explosion and the apprehension that another might follow soon involving us."

This is where the entry concludes and then goes on to other things. He was also involved in the arctic convoy on HMS Norfolk JW53, MGB 323, D-Day minesweeping also on the ML 250, and in the far east on HMML 1385 eventually posted to the island of Japanese occupied Bangka.

Kevin

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

Postby Admin » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:15 am

Many thanks for your posting Kevin, which gives a vivid impression of the minesweeping operations and of the catastrophic destruction of ML 916. It must have played on everyone's nerves the whole time they were out there. It appears from the description of the other survivor being down in the cabin, that he was the Telegraphist, as has been reported elsewhere, and was probably at his station when the boat blew up. We'll learn his name one day! One of our surviving veterans was also out in the Far East on an ML, so I must ask him if he knew your father.

Regards
Admin

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

Postby Kevin » Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:00 pm

Thanks. That would be interesting. There is a whole section in his memoir devoted to his experiences in the far east - including the journey from Port Said (where he picked up his HMML) to Trincomalee, and from there to Singapore and then on to the island of Bangka, where he was made interim governor of the island (age 21!). The Japanese had surrendered while he was on route, but were still armed. Following the Scheldt operation, the captain of ML250 - John Hearder, was awarded the DSC, my father was given the command of the vessel in the far east (still at the rank of sub lieutenant it seems).
As an update to my earlier post about the Scheldt, I found elsewhere in his memoir a note about a friend he lost when the boat behind him exploded. He names him as Sub lieut Sidebottom. I looked up this name in the another archive and he is listed as a member of ML916. So that seems to confirm that the boat behind him was indeed ML916.

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

Postby Stuart » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:34 pm

Yet more thanks Kevin. I never knew this event was so well documented. I joined this thread just thinking it would be interesting for folks to know that it was my father, skipper of 916, they were talking about and how he survived after the War, never thinking for a moment that there were two eye witness accounts of his blowing up. Quite astonishing! If only we could find the name of the other survivor?

You mention your Dad's memoirs - are these published in some form or just his own notes? Sounds really interesting. The drawing my dad did, shown in a post above, is I am sure ML250 and I suspect he drew it from the photograph on the same post. I bet he drew it whilst in a hospital bed somewhere. In my earliest memories of him he was constantly drawing, even while watching the telly!

I'm getting a clearer picture of what the MLs were doing out East, my father was on ML 1082 in and around Ceylon up to late 1944 and your Dad's account helps even more fill in the picture. Thanks again. Stuart

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

Postby Kevin » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:14 pm

Hi Stuart. Likewise, I am amazed that there are people like yourself with connections to these events. I was asked to do a talk on my father's war experience, and found this website while filling in the blanks with some research. My father died in September 2015 age 91, and had a crystal clear memory of events people and places. I only wish that he was still here to share these connections - he would have loved it. His memoirs were typed and produced for family and friends - not published. You are very welcome to have a copy of the war years, and I can send on email attachment if you like. It covers his experiences from 1942 -1946. It is full of detailed recollections - names and places. I also have some artefacts of interest - his large hand-drawn navigation map on D-Day (minesweeping 10th channel), I have his D-Day navigation books, bomb shrapnel that fell on ML250 deck, various bits of paper that look unremarkable on first inspection, but read closely one print-out says 'suspend offensive operations against German forces'. This marks the German surrender, and there is a similar one that marks the Japanese surrender. Let me know if you would like me to send you a copy.

Kevin

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

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

Postby Stuart » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:23 am

Kevin - We would love a copy of your dad's war records. I'll swap you the drawing of ML250 for it, if you can give me your address. Our Email is;-

pam_and_stumacp@yahoo.com

The memsahib, reading your posts over my shoulder, asks - Have you digitised your Dad's accounts (in case of fire etc), have you given Admin a copy and finally, thinking back to my dad being blown high into the air, said "Well that's the nearest he ever got to Heaven!!"

Cheers Stuart

Stephen
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 61
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Re: A Long shot - ML 916 and ...?

Postby Stephen » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:04 am

Hi everyone,

I'm fascinated by the growth of this thread and the story of 916. I shall most definitely try and find something at The National Archives when I'm there.

Kevin, I've sent you a private message, which you should be able to access from the menu bar, top right.

Cheers,
Steve

Kevin
Seaman
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Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:48 pm

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

Postby Kevin » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:17 am

Hi all. I have sent a copy of my father's war memoirs to Stuart, and I would be glad to send copies to anyone else who is interested. I will certainly send you a copy Stephen. I couldn't see a message in the 'private message' box though. You are welcome to email me if that is easier. My email is kevin.bethan@talktalk.net.

Kevin

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

Postby Kevin » Sat Jan 21, 2017 5:49 pm

Hi folks.
I previously mentioned that my father had a friend who died on ML916 when it exploded behind the ML250 in the Scheldt, I am just updating the details of the friend who died - the spelling of his name was wrong before, it should read Peter SIDEBOTHAM (not Sidebottom). I was able to get the details from a casualty list from the following website:
http://www.patriotfiles.com/archive/nav ... 9-45Sa.htm
It provides other details such as rank etc and includes the following for Peter: Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, ML.916, 8 November 1944, ship loss, MPK. I noticed that there were others on this vast list from ML916, but would take a long time to compile as the list is in alphabetical order. This might prove helpful for someone trying to compile a list of personnel on ML916. It might prove helpful in identifying the other survivor, if a manifest can be tracked down. Just a thought.

Kevin

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

Postby Admin » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:59 pm

All the Coastal Forces casualties are on our web site, searchable by Person or by Unit. We also have all the awards to Coastal Forces as well.

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

Postby Stuart » Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:47 pm

Kevin - Very many thanks for your Dad's memoirs, read through it this afternoon. Fascinating.
I remember my father sitting in front of the TV watching the Test Match (when we were all in black and white!) and idly picking at something on his neck then producing a little chunk of shrapnel which he dropped casually on the side of his plate. Quite a few more bits appeared over the following years.

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

Postby Kevin » Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:47 pm

To Admin: Thanks for the information. That's great. Also I will gladly email a copy of my father's memoirs to you if you tell me how & where to send.

Stuart: I am glad you enjoyed my father's memoirs, he also enjoyed cricket! I still have the shrapnel that fell on the deck of the ML250 on D-Day, thankfully it missed him though! I remember him recounting the tale of him sowing a crew member's knee up - after a nasty gash (inflicted with a wood-working chisel not a bullet!). I think he was quite proud of his handy work. I think my Dad's war experience can be summed up by 'one close shave after another'. He was unharmed, yet went on one of the roughest the arctic convoys (JW53), D-Day, Scheldt, and then island of Bangka. Dad didn't know it at the time, but the Japanese (still armed when he got there), had been guilty of the most awful war crimes on the island - the Australian nurses massacre (see Vivian Bullwinkel's story). It is amazing to me that he got through it all unscathed!

Regards, Kevin.


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