The Mining of MGB 2002 in the Skagerrak, 4 Days after V.E. Day Part II

Written by: Charles Milner

The article in the December issue of the News Letter must have evoked

memories in all those readers who served in the 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla in 1944/45 — the tragic loss of our former Flotilla Leader and our friends amongst her ship's company just stunned us at the time and still casts its shadow after all these years.

2002's C.O., Lt. Cdr. "Jan" Mason S.A.N.F.(V) called to the Palace to be invested with the Distinguished Service Cross he had been awarded for his sterling work in command of M.G.B. 318, missed the fateful Gothenburg trip, his place being taken by Lt. Cdr. "Mike" Marshall who at this time was Senior Officer of the flotilla, in 2009.

In addition to the Ship's company were embarked the Flotilla Engineer Officer, Lt. Cdr. (E) Hughes Coppins, also Lt. Cdr. Brian Reynolds, a colourful character who served as Brian Bingham in the R.N.R., and Ellerman Wilson Line men, Captain Herbert Jackson, First Mate C. Newton, and Radio Operator G.V. Morgan. Bingham and Jackson had been engaged in the wartime blockade running of vital ball bearings from Lysekil (Sweden) to the Humber in boats of the same class as the one in which they were now passengers, They were travelling to Gothenburg to arrange the transfer from that port to the U.K. of two merchant vessels which they had used as stores ships in connection with their operations.

I recall coming back aboard from 72 hours "V.E." leave, to be told that I had missed out on a trip to Sweden, as for some reason '02 had been short of a killick sparker and I had been sent for. Having gone on leave two hours beforehand that was not to be, and an Irish boy had gone instead. I now know that this was the Leading Tel of M.G.B. 2009 and of course he was to die with the others, including the boat's own L/Tel who had been on M.G.B. 318 when the flotilla had operated from Dartmouth, and who in those days had sported a most luxuriant "full set".

After some days, when 2002 had not returned to Aberdeen, it was obvious to all of us from the comings and goings of worried looking officers that something was sadly amiss. Eventually, "Clear lower deck" was piped and the crews of M.G.B.‘s 2002 and 2009 and M.T.B. 718 were gathered together to be advised that 2002 had not arrived in Gothenburg and must be considered lost. We were also told that permission to go search for her had not so far been forthcoming, and the offer of one of our officers to fly as an observer in an R.A.F. aircraft had not been taken up.

Although the two survivors were picked up at 22.00 hours on May 15th, it was not until the 18th and on into the 19th that M.G.B. 2009 and M.T.B. 718 commenced searching off the South West coast of Norway, working with a Liberator and two Warwick aircraft. We were far too late to do any good. We found flag locker and part of her shattered bows near the Lista Light and off the Naze; the flag locker was brought back to Aberdeen.

Some weeks later, the letter quoted with the writers‘ permission in the last News Letter, was received from Christiansand and the recipient passed it around the three ships’ companies; its poignant contents caused many a tear and left a lasting impression.

With so many of our friends lost at one fell swoop, those of us now in the C.F.V.A, find special pleasure in meeting Norman Hine and Tommy Sheehan at the various functions to see them enjoying themselves together after all that they suffered, is just rnarvellous.

It is a sad coincidence that the only other fatal casuality suffered by the 15th M.G.B. Flotilla also occurred in the same boat, when under her former pennant of M.G.B. 502, an 18 year old Ordinary Seaman was killed in the early hours of the 16th April 1944, as she and M.T.B. 718 came under fire from three German as they were withdrawing from a successful pick-up of secret agents and evading Allied airmen from the beach at Beg-an-Fry, near Morlaix in Brittany. At Beg-an-Fry there is a monument which is inscribed:-

“At this place and by night, during the first months of 1944, were landed with the help of French Resistance fighters, Allied missions charged with preparing the Liberation offensive, This plaque was unveiled on the 25th anniversary of the Liberation to commemorate the part played in this area by the Resistance Movement and the Royal Navy M.G.B. 502”

Charles Milner. L/Tel H.M.M.T.B. 718

CFVA News: Edition: March 1979 Volume: 17 Page: 11