ML 119

Motor Launches (ML), Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) & Rescue Motor Launches (RML)
IanSyl
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ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:47 pm

Hi,I am doing some research on my late father's WW2 experiences on behalf of the rest of the family. Harold Sylvester was from Grimsby and died in 1984. He was trained in signalling during his initial RN training at HMS Royal Arthur. From his Class No216,I believe this to be 1941/42.

I can only find reference to ML119 from his photos showing HMML119 on his goalkeeping jersey although I suspect that this was used for both military and leisure ware. Was it usual for service personnel to just stay on one vessel or where they moved around as required?

When alive he was a keen supporter of Coastal Forces Association although rarely spoke about his war experiences.

Can anyone please point me in the right direction for finding out more details of how he spent his war years. Thanks.

Admin
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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:52 pm

Hello Ian

Thank you for your enquiry concerning your father Harold Sylvester. The December 1981 edition of the former Coastal Forces Veterans Association newsletter shows him as a new member, with the membership number of 799. The brief details of his service supplied show him as having served with ML 147 and 152, which were both members of the 6th ML Flotilla known at various times to have been based at Lowestoft and later Harwich. In addition he shown as having served with ML 119 which was part of the 2nd ML Flotilla known to have been based at HMS Hornet at Gosport. Hornet was the principal Coastal Forces base. He is also shown for ML 919 which was part of the 19th ML Flotilla which was comprised of minesweeping motor launches known to have been involved in operations in the Scheldt during which ML 916 was lost (article). It's possible 919 had been a replacement for this boat. There are no timeframes given for his service with these boats. I will look later to see if they are any related sources for other boats in the flotillas since I have nothing specific on the four boats mentioned.

Regards
Admin

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Wed Feb 24, 2021 12:56 pm

Hi Admin
I'm amazed and grateful for your prompt reply and detail. Its like opening a box of chocolates and finding I have 3 more flavours to explore. We used to joke as children that whilst my father had plenty to say about hardships during WW2 he would never discuss his service experience. It was only after my Mum died that we found his signal card book (dated 1937) which he must have been given at HMS Royal Arthur and used every day during his service with Coastal Forces.
One thing I did find about ML119 was it was adopted by Chasetown during a Warship Week in 1942 and supposedly there is a plaque still in the local church.
I do appreciate that details are becoming more difficult to find but if anything else pops up then it will fill out the picture. Thanks Again.
Ian

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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:12 pm

Hello again Ian

If your father joined in 1937 then he would have been Regular Navy as opposed to Hostilities Only personnel, and may have joined up for twelve years?? A lot will depend on precise timeframes for his various postings, so if you do not have his copy of service record which would have been handed him on leaving the navy, you may be able to find out particulars of his service by applying to the Royal Naval Disclosure Cell.

That said MLs 147 and 152 were part of the 6th ML Flotilla which comprised 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151 and 152 with ML 146 as the Senior Officer of the flotilla's boat. There are some details here for ML 150 and also an account of events in the North Sea when ML150 rammed the German E-boat S 96.

There are also awards granted to certain personnel for all the boats your father served on which can be found using the Unit feature within the Awards to Coastal Forces Database. I do have some photographs and details relating to some of the personnel from other boats in the flotilla, but as previously mentioned, a clearer sense of the timeframe for your father with each of these flotillas would help.

Admin

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Wed Feb 24, 2021 5:24 pm

Hi Admin
Thank you. Hope I'm not misleading. His signals board book was printed in 1937. He could only have joined up in 1941 when he was 18. And I think he was out by 1945 or as soon as possible as his job was being kept open for him I will apply for his service records to see if that helps my research and will get back to you, if you dont mind.

It was a question about medals from family that started this research. As a schoolboy I can remember seeing medals but they've disappeared along the way. I will look in the Coastal forces database and also saw a link to MOD where, if you wait long enough, you can track his service.

I am humbled when I read some of the archive records about the bravery and sacrifice of these boys. I have a photograph of him doing some clothes washing in a bucket on board a boat and joking on the back of the photo that no matter what the colour they all go in the same bucket. What is humbling is he doesn't mention that he is washing beneath what looks like some sort of anti aircraft gun. Probably nothing at the time but pretty amazing all the same.

Sorry if I'm the umpteenth person wanting to track their Mother of Fathers service history but thank you for your help in filling in the gaps.

Best Wishes Ian

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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Thu Feb 25, 2021 4:10 pm

His signals board book was printed in 1937. He could only have joined up in 1941 when he was 18

Thanks for the clarification.

It was a question about medals from family that started this research.

Depending on whether he saw any overseas service, they would likely be the standard war medals awarded to all, and the Atlantic Star for service in Home Waters. If while attached to the 19th ML Flotilla he was based at any point on the Continent between late 1944 and 1945, he could have been eligible for the France & Germany Star. His records from the Disclosure Service should reveal what he was given at the time, though eligibility for the France & Germany Star was not always picked up on by the authorities as the small number in Coastal Forces involved for a brief period has tended to be overlooked.

I have a photograph of him doing some clothes washing in a bucket on board a boat and joking on the back of the photo that no matter what the colour they all go in the same bucket. What is humbling is he doesn't mention that he is washing beneath what looks like some sort of anti aircraft gun. Probably nothing at the time but pretty amazing all the same.

May I email about acquiring scanned copies of these and also pass across any related stuff I have?

Sorry if I'm the umpteenth person wanting to track their Mother of Fathers service history but thank you for your help in filling in the gaps.

We’re always happy to help out relatives of those who served if we can.

Admin

IanSyl
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Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:28 pm

Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:23 am

Hi Admin

Thanks for your help with this. As I'm the next living next of kin, I've dug out a copy of his death certificate and will apply for my fathers service record from HMG. This will fill in the gaps.

I'm more than happy to share his photos with you and the forum, if it of interest or help to someone else. Shall I post them on this forum?

Thanks again.
Ian

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Thu Oct 07, 2021 12:19 pm

Hi Admin
Sorry its taken a while but I've finally had a response from Naval Records about my fathers war record. The Service Card basically shows joined for emergency in 1941 until release in 1946.Of more interest are the details extracted from P&V ledgers which shows how much he moved around. I assume he was travelling when at a land based ship for one day. I attach these to see if you can put any more meat on the bone. I have the manifests for ML152,ML147 and ML919 but these mainly show based on East Coast ie Lowestoft/Yarmouth and Sheerness and not what they actually did. The dates for ML147 coincide with the article that you forwarded about ML150 ramming a German EBoat. Maybe his ship was involved?

Manifests for ML119 not available, which is a shame as that covers DDay landings. One of my brothers is convinced our dad was on mine sweeping duties around DDay. I cant find a list of all smallvessels involved on DDay so maybe its just a family legend.
I also attach a copy of his medal entitlement card which, as you suggested, confirms a clasp for F&C on his Atlantic Medal. I guess this was for his time on ML119 where ever it went? I've applied for copies of the medals so my brother can wear them on the right side when wearing his service medals.
If there is anything else you can add to the story, I'm all ears. Thank You. Ian
Attachments
Dad ML Service007.jpg
Dad ML Service006.jpg
Dad ML Service005.jpg

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Thu Oct 07, 2021 12:25 pm

I enclose a few photos of my father during his service on ML's
Attachments
Dad War001 (2).jpg
Dad War003 (2).jpg
Dad War002 (3).jpg
Dad War004 (2).jpg

Admin
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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:07 pm

Hello Ian

Welcome back to the forum and thank you for your father's service details, and for the photograph of the crew. I will conduct some research over the weekend, and put together some notes. I have some related resources for some of the boats mentioned which I think you'll find interesting.

Regards
Admin

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Mon Oct 25, 2021 10:57 pm

Hi Admin

Did you have any luck finding any other information about Harold Sylvester's service record?

My research has found the following:

I first looked at ML147 which he was on from Jan 1943 until 23 Nov 1943 before transferring to ML119. This was just after the action of 6th ML Flotilla in North Sea so maybe the ML was damaged and needed repair.

I also noted that he was promoted from Ordinary Telegraphist to Telegraphist while he was on ML147. More salary but also perhaps higher skills made him more in demand.

He was on ML119 from Nov 1943 until Aug 1945 when it was lent to the South African Navy.

In the forum archives I found a report by G.W.Searle who was S.O. of 11th ML Flotilla advising that his flotilla, which included ML119, spent a cold and uncomfortable winter in Ostend in 1944 and took part in the Scheldt operation before returning via Scotland, Norway and Copenhagen in August 1945. This ties in with a note of an exercise on 19.03.45 with a submarine (HMS Vulpine) off Campbeltown that included ML119 and the photo of the football team that was printed in Copenhagen.

Subsequently he was on ML919 from Aug 1945 till Jan 1946. I found reference to ML919, as you suggested, as part of the 19th minesweeping flotilla that was involved in clearing the Scheldt estuary but this was late 1944 and before his time on ML919.

I did look at the Commanders of ML119 for any extra information. Interesting that a new commander (W.R. Albertini) joined on the same day 23 Nov 1943 as my father. Coincidence? P.Johnstone took over from March 1944 until it was sold in Aug 1945. Unfortunately neither are shown on the RNVR officers list. However the late William R Albertini has his own Wikipedia page as he was an accomplished cricketer before WW2. Maybe they were not fully made up officers but temporary appointments?

Think bit by bit I'm getting there but if you have any other information, please let me know.

Best Wishes
Ian

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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 26, 2021 9:38 am

Hello Ian

Thank you for the additional information. Here is the summation of what I've managed to find thus far.

ML 147
A Mc Ward is shown as in command in the October 1943 Navy List with Lt Cdr D W S Arnaud in command in April 1944. He also took command of ML 164 later, so the crew photo I have from his family member could be from either boat, but I think I spot a resemblance to one crew member who is also in your photograph.

Pretty much all the officers of Coastal Forces craft by this time were RNVR, who were ‘Hostilities Only’ and were almost always Temporary Lieutenants or Acting Temporary Lieutants even.

I haven’t been able to find any precise details as yet of the deployment on the night of 2nd/3rd September when ML 150 rammed an E-Boat. In general MLs and MGBs took up positions on the defensive ‘Z-Line’ as units of two boats, sometimes three in the case of the MGBs, so not all boats from a given flotilla would be at sea together on any given patrol.

crew-of-ml-under-command-dudley-arnaud.jpg
Crew members of ML under the command of Lt Cdr Dudley Arnaud


ML 119
William Reynolds Albertini had inherited the command of ML 119 from O. S. Boome who went on to command ML 592. Albertini had previously been at Beaver III, the Coastal Forces base at Immingham, so this may possibly have been his first command, although he’d been a Lieutenant since March 1941.

In addition, the boat had earlier been under the command of Sub-Lieut F G H Hawkins as of December 1942, and this watercolour of the boat painted by him was purchased some years back by my brother who came across it in Abergavenny Flea Market.

ml-119-by-g-hawkins.jpg
Painting of ML 119 by former CO Lieut G Hawkins

ML 119 had earlier suffered two casualties not long after the boat had commissioned, whatever happened, whether action or accident. There are also four awards, one posthumous, shown for the period prior to your father joining.

By the time of D-Day ML 119 is under the command of Lieutenant P Johnstone and Sub-Lieut G M Rowland and was with the 2nd ML Flotilla attached to Nore Command. The boats were 112, 113, 114, 119, 120, 171, and 491. In addition they were joined by MLs 116 & 117 who are shown as being elements of the 14th Mine Sweeping Flotilla, which may be where the account of minesweeping derives from? ML 147 incidentally had been re equipped as a Navigational Leader, which entailed the removal of the funnel, and fitting of a communications mast.

ML 919
As previously mentioned, this was a replacement for ML 916 lost while minesweeping the Scheldt.

Regards
Admin

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Tue Oct 26, 2021 12:33 pm

Hi Admin

Thank you for research. What a find in a market!!

From the late GW Searle's paper on 11th Flotilla, he advised that 5 of his 9 ML's had returned to UK by March 1945 but by then replacements inc ML119,909 and 595 had arrived in Ostend. No dates given. He does mention confusion about flotilla names which I'm not surprised in a fast moving campaign.

I wonder if ML147 had the radar enhancement in 1943 which maybe meant that there was no need for a telegraphist on board.

I do find the information fascinating, Thank you. Unfortunately my enthusiasm in obtaining duplicate medals from MOD has been declined as the originals haven't been stolen but simply lost. That will teach me to read the full Gov.uk paperwork before simply completing the application form. Schoolboy error!

Best Wishes

Ian

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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:42 am

Hello again Ian

I would say the navigational MLs would still have required a telegraphist as the signals would have been in encoded morse. In fact it's possible they carried two, with a signaller as well, since they would have formed vital communications hubs.

The December 1944 Red List gives the 11th ML Flotilla as comprising ML 490, the Senior Officer's boat, at Grimsby for refit, 190 at twickenham for refit, and 118, 153, 163, 297, 304, 347 & 448 at Ostend. It states they are all Navigational Leaders temporarily allocated to Great Yarmouth (Midge), for anti E-Boat and escort duties. This photo shows ML 490 with its Navigational Leader's mast at Ostend.

040.jpg
ML 490 at Ostend
040.jpg (71.22 KiB) Viewed 1196 times

ML 119 in the same Red List is given as the 2nd ML Flotilla still for anti E-Boat and escort duties, with 112, 113, 114, 119, 120 & 171 at Portsmouth, and 911 & 912 at Newhaven.

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IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Fri Oct 29, 2021 8:41 pm

Hi Admin

Thanks for the details on telegraphists, looks like my Dad was still part of the team on ML147 before moving to ML119. Must have just been a coincidence that the Captain changed on the same day.

Bit like me joining a crossword that you have been working on for years. I am so grateful for your contribution to my puzzle. Looks like ML 490 with SO Searle was at Grimsby, incidentally my home town, having his copper bottomed , mine sweeping purposes?, before heading off to Ostend to join the rest of his flotilla. I see what you mean about a Navigational Leaders Mast on ML490.

ML119- looks like they joined the winter party in Ostend early 1945 for whatever reason.

My brother has joined the crossword by finding photos of ML119 and ML147. Not sure about the photos, ML119 looks like its lost its guns compared to the painting and I'm not sure of the number on ML147. What do you think?

Good news is I've found a copy of Searle's book so when received will give it a quick scan.

What we really want is someone who was related to someone who was on the crew of ML119 during 1944/45 so we can find out more details of what he and they got up to. If only we'd asked him 40 yrs ago when he was alive. Thanks again, we'll keeping researching for clues.
Attachments
ML119 Dads War.jpg
ml 1471 Dads War.jpg

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Fri Oct 29, 2021 8:44 pm

Hi Admin

Sorry, this is the photo from ML119 to compare with the painting
Attachments
ml 119 Alan find.jpg

Admin
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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Sun Oct 31, 2021 2:24 pm

Thanks Ian

I notice the addition of torpedo tubes which must date from around the summer of 1940 when some MLs were equipped with tubes from old American destroyers I believe to serve in a defensive capacity while the threat of possible invasion — Operation Sealion — was at its height.

I just did a bit more research on the subject of the torpedo tubes. According to the naval historian Geoffrey Hudson, some fifty Fairmile 'B's were equipped with torpedo tubes. The first ML to trial them was ML 158 in mid 1941 following which they were to be fitted to six ML flotillas, the 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 13th. To these was added the 9th which was posted to Gibraltar. ML 147 would have been fitted with tubes as part of the 6th ML Flotilla which comprised 146 as the Senior Officer's boat, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151 & 152, and was based at Lowestoft and later Harwich. The photo could be of ML 147 but I find it very hard to tell to be honest.

Admin

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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Mon Nov 01, 2021 9:06 pm

I neglected to include links for these relevant resources already on the web site in case they haven’t already been seen.

MLs versus E-Boats

Navigational MLs on D-Day

11th ML Flotilla

11th ML Flotilla 1944-1845

IanSyl
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Re: ML 119

Postby IanSyl » Tue Nov 02, 2021 10:46 am

Hi Admin

Thanks again for such useful information and the incident reports. Exciting times for those young men involved but hopefully never repeated.

Best Wishes

Ian

Admin
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Re: ML 119

Postby Admin » Tue Nov 02, 2021 7:03 pm

You’re welcome Ian. If I come across anything more that’s specific to your father’s boats, I’ll add it to the thread.

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