ML 207

Motor Launches (ML), Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) & Rescue Motor Launches (RML)
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Re: ML 207

Postby Gray207 » Fri May 14, 2021 8:37 pm


Your current thinking regarding your grandfather’s time with ML 207, certainly fits in with what I always thought was the case and, since I cannot remember my father mentioning the name of another coxswain anyway, for the purposes of the book, that’s what I will keep with - at least for the moment.

You may find more from your grandfather’s service record. However, I must admit to having become wary of official records and documents. I’ve encountered numerous contradictions, even in records that I thought would be beyond reproach and one hundred percent accurate. My own father’s service record is a good example. Like you, I have the original documents that my father was issued with when he left the Navy, so had never bothered to apply for a new copy. However, a member of this forum explained that when they applied for their own father’s records, they also received brief details outlining the deployment of their father’s ship. As a consequence, I decided to apply myself and obtained a similar record of ML 207’s deployment, which has been of some help, though it is very brief - just a few lines really - and does contain a lot of gaps. However, I was surprised to discover that, when it comes to my father’s postings, there are contradictions between the original service record and the new one. As an example, one document has him joining ML 207 just after Christmas 1944 – the date my father always said he joined, having previously served with MGB 55 based at HMS Attack in Portland. The other has him joining later. I can only guess as to the cause of such discrepancies. I imagine it is down to missing documents and errors, which is hardly surprising given the huge numbers of service personnel deployed during the war. Keeping tabs on everyone must have been a herculean task.

It was interesting to hear about your grandfather’s role with burials at sea. My father said that, sadly, there were a few. Though none relating to ML 207’s own crew or those of her sister ships. They related to bodies the crew came across in the water while undertaking their duties. He also said that the burials were always carried out with utmost dignity and respect and explained that your grandfather was the one who oversaw the sewing of the bodies into their shrouds. During the Normandy Landings the crew of 207 were told the ship could not recover any bodies they came across but must continue with their designated orders. There were vessels specially tasked with recovering those who had fallen with the aim of repatriating them, rather than burying them at sea. ML 207’s need to conduct maritime burials came later, after the initial assault, most especially when she was involved with clearing The Channel ports.

Once ML 207’s mine sweeping role had been completed, during the initial Normandy assault, along with other ships, she was tasked with protecting the anchorage from E-boats and other assailants. At one point there were apparent sightings of the E-Boats at the adjacent landing beach to Gold, Omaha Beach, and ML 207 was ordered to assist. As it happened, they never found any E-Boats and soon returned to the eastern sector; my father said that the crew doubted that they were ever any E-Boats there. Sadly, what they did discover, were quite a few bodies in the water. Understandably, the crew wanted to help recover their comrades in arms and found the fact that they couldn’t extremely distressing. The second in command told the crew he would radio the position to the authorities. Whether he did of whether it was just his way of pacifying the crew is a is a open to debate.

There was also one particularly sad occasion when the crew of ML 207 became involved in a burial at sea. It occurred whilst the ship was at Immingham on the East Coast. The port became the 1st ML flotilla’s designated home port when it was ordered to the Scheldt to help clear mines - though the ship spent the vast majority of its Scheldt deployment at Ostend and Terneuzen. My father said that a young sailor, from another Royal Navy Ship, have been reported absent without leave. What had actually happened to him came to light when some barges were moved and his body floated to the surface. Apparently, he had met with a tragic accident. The theory was that he had fallen from his own ship, hit his head as he fell and been trapped under one of the barges. The authorities seemed satisfied that there was no question of foul play. The family requested a burial at sea and ML 207 was chosen for the task. I understand the boy’s own ship had sailed some days previously and ML 207 happened to be available. A Royal Navy Chaplin accompanied the boy’s mother and another family member during the ceremony. Subsequently, ML 207’s commanding officer received a touching letter from the boy’s mother, which he read out to the crew, thanking the officers and crew for their kindness. My father said that he was always struck by what an irony of fate the tragedy was. Here was a young lad losing his life in a simple accident, when no-doubt his life had been on the line many times during front line action against the enemy.

Like most who served during the war, my father rarely mentioned the terrible sights he witnessed and it took a lot of persuasion to get him talk about them and include a few instances in the book. Mostly, he talked about the funny things that happened, that’s if my mum allowed him to – she was just like your grannie in that respect, though she always listened with delight when she finally gave way. I think her light-hearted protestations ensured that my father did not repeat the stories too often were her way of ensuring that my brother and I never grew tired of the tails. At times, listening to him, you would have thought my father was on some sort of extended holiday during his time in the Navy. He clearly enjoyed the time spent with his crewmates and comradery that developed was obvious.


Thankyou for your words of encouragement. I am pleased that you have found the information I have posted interesting. The research has been far more involved than I ever imagined!

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