Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Discussions relating to actions or operations, including combined operations, involving Coastal Forces boats or flotillas
Rob_COPP
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Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Postby Rob_COPP » Tue Dec 28, 2021 4:23 pm

Hi everyone -- can I tap into the 'hive mind'?

I recently popped to the Royal Engineers Museum archive and got hold of a copy of the report for Operation Postage Able. This was the reconnaissance of the Normandy coast done by Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) in mid-January 1944, operating from the X-craft X-20.

X-20's commanding officer, Ken Hudspeth, writes that they were towed part way across the channel by the trawler Darthema.

But he also says they were escorted by two motor launches: ML 205 and ML 190.

I don't want to assume that he definitely did mean 'ML' as MTB 205 and MTB 190 are also both listed in the boat database.

So is there a way of finding out whether ML 205 and ML 190 were in the same flotilla in mid-January 1944? Or indeed whether MTB 205 and MTB 190 were?

And also possible locations? X-20 departed HMS Dolphin in Gosport/Portsmouth with Darthema, but I guess the escort vessels could have come from elsewhere on the south coast and met them, so this is a more sketchy way of trying to narrow it down.

Ta in advance!

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Re: Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Postby Admin » Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:48 pm

Hello Rob

Thank you for your enquiry. I am currently away from home so do not have full access to my research materials. The configuration of ‘short’ MTB flotillas can be found in Home Waters MTBs & MGBs by Len Reynolds, and I have some lists of the ML flotillas when I can access them.

The Battle Summaries for Operation Neptune: D-Day Landings provides related information on the two ‘X’ Craft deployed to mark beacheads.
X.23 and X.20 were towed by H.M. Trawlers Sapper and Darthema till in Lat. 50° 22' N., Long. 0° 50' W., when they were slipped at about 0430, 3rd June. They pro­ceeded under their own power dived throughout daylight, 3rd June, surfacing after dark to cross the enemy mine barrier, and arrived off the French coast about 0500, 4th June.

In addition it contains flotilla details for three out of four of the boats. Our records do not show an MTB 190, only MGB 190, which was Mediterranean based.
14th M.L. Flotilla
ML 190 Ty. Lt. D. K. B. Bound, R.N.V.R.

20th ML Flotilla
ML 205 Ty. Lt. W. A. Crossley, R.N.V.R.

13th MTB Flotilla
MTB 205 Ty. Lt. P. G. A. Irvine, R.N.V.R.

The Admiralty’s Red List of Minor War Vessels for December 1944 shows ML 190 as part of the 11th ML Flotilla, which were equipped as navigational leaders at the time of June 1944, so 190 may have been attached to the 14th in that capacity. The same edition of the Red List shows MTB 205 as having been placed in reserve, while ML 205 was on passage to the Far East as part of the 14th ML Flotilla. Generally speaking the composition of flotillas was fairly static, so it’s unusual to find so many apparent changes with the two boats in question.

I do know that the two ‘X’ craft used to mark the D-Day landing beaches had MLs designated to them to tow them back on the day, once their task had been completed, though I do not have their numbers to hand, making it more likely that MLs were the type of craft used in support of earlier ‘X’ craft operations as well.

HMS Dolphin lay directly alongside the principal Coastal Forces base HMS Hornet at Gosport, so there would have been MLs on hand to provide the escort. If the same boats were tasked each time to allow for familiarity with the job, and if Hornet was not their base ordinarily, they could still have assembled there ahead of time.

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Rob_COPP
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Re: Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Postby Rob_COPP » Sat Jan 01, 2022 8:16 pm

Oops! I meant to write MGB 190 rather than MTB 190 - but if it was in the Med I guess that makes my clumsiness a bit redundant anyway!

Thanks for your response - it's really appreciated.

Postage Able

Having looked now at the operational orders as well as Hudspeth’s report, the orders say that ML 205 was to have the “senior officer 20th ML Flotilla” embarked – he was to command the small force (HMT Darthema towing, HMT Injuin as backup tow, X-20, ML 205 and ML 190) while X-20 was submerged on tow, otherwise COPP's senior officer was to be in charge.

So I guess we can definitely conclude that this was ML 205 from 20th ML Flotilla.

Regarding ML 190: were the 14th ML Flotilla and the 20th ML Flotilla based together in mid-January 1944?

The operational orders say: “The Naval Commander Force J will sail the ML escort to rendezvous with the trawler off the Nab Tower.” This suggests that the MLs maybe set out from HMS Vectis/Cowes on the Isle of Wight?

(I’m presuming it doesn’t mean that Philip Vian was on board! Although curiously there is some talk about the COPP team going for a last-minute briefing from him on their way out. He couldn’t have been on board – could he?!)

Once X-20 slipped the tow, the MLs were to return to the Solent with the trawlers.

(After X-20 had completed the reconnaissance, it was to return to an area off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight where Darthema would be operating a daily patrol – with escorting MLs if the weather was good enough. If the weather wasn’t good enough, the senior officer, 20th ML Flotilla, was to embark on Darthema.)

Operation Gambit

Regarding D-Day itself:
• X-20 was towed out by HMT Darthema (the operational orders say to be escorted by ML 146)
• X-23 was towed out by HMT Sapper (the orders say escorted by ML 196).

After the beach marking was complete, X-20 was to be towed back by Darthema. X-23 was to be towed back by HMT En Avant.

But there was a ‘rounding up’ process to go through. The original plan was that both X-craft would launch a dinghy that would provide additional beacons etc. That plan got scrapped because of the bad weather – plus when the invasion got delayed, at least one of the subs used the oxygen intended to inflate their dinghy to ‘refresh’ the atmosphere in their sub!

X-23 was according to the orders meant to be met by LCP(L) 197 (N) but in the event they were ‘beaten to it’ by ML 294. (There was a COPP team on this landing craft that would have just provided pilotage - apparently they were quite alarmed when they couldn't find X-23. But they had been towed out by 294, so maybe 294’s skipper knew about the presence of an X-craft from that.)

X-20 was due to be met by ML 902. It’s very possible that ML 902 also had a COPP team on board: COPPist Geoff Galwey wrote after the war that he provided pilotage in to Juno Beach from on board an ML, after which they were meant to meet X-20 – he couldn’t remember which ML it was but that it had a New Zealander as skipper, which tallies with what Uboat.net says for ML 902: Bernard Donald Jukes, RNZNVR.

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Re: Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Postby Admin » Tue Jan 11, 2022 1:29 pm

Hello again Roger. Apologies for the delayed response but I had other work to catch up on. Thank you very much for all the additional information. If the operational orders are in pdf format could you possibly sent me a copy of it for future reference?
Regarding ML 190: were the 14th ML Flotilla and the 20th ML Flotilla based together in mid-January 1944?

I don't know I'm afraid. The answer would lie in the Red List for that timeframe, one of the many documents I would like to get from the PRO at sometime.

The operational orders say: “The Naval Commander Force J will sail the ML escort to rendezvous with the trawler off the Nab Tower.” This suggests that the MLs maybe set out from HMS Vectis/Cowes on the Isle of Wight?

I would imagine the X-craft would have been prepared at Dolphin, and with Hornet next door, they would all have set off from there?? with the MLs possibly towing the X-craft out to the Trawlers, although the Red List for December 1944 shows Darthema as based at Portsmouth too, albeit for repairs. Also I don't know if someone as Senior as Admiral Vian would have have moved from his headquarters ship at such a critical time.

Regarding D-Day itself:
• X-20 was towed out by HMT Darthema (the operational orders say to be escorted by ML 146)
• X-23 was towed out by HMT Sapper (the orders say escorted by ML 196).

I have not been able to turn up the reference to MLs I previously mentioned, and will keep looking, though these are likely to be the ones I read about.

X-20 was due to be met by ML 902. It’s very possible that ML 902 also had a COPP team on board: COPPist Geoff Galwey wrote after the war that he provided pilotage in to Juno Beach from on board an ML, after which they were meant to meet X-20 – he couldn’t remember which ML it was but that it had a New Zealander as skipper, which tallies with what Uboat.net says for ML 902: Bernard Donald Jukes, RNZNVR.

ML 902 did have B. D. Jukes RNZNVR in command, the other New Zealand commanded MLs at a glance being 470, 355 & 217

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Rob_COPP
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Re: Operation Postage Able - "ML 205 and ML 190"

Postby Rob_COPP » Sat Apr 16, 2022 9:32 pm

Oh dear, I left this hanging somewhat, didn't I? I scuttled off to write up the operation but have only just finished!

It's available here:
https://www.coppsurvey.uk/january-1944/#postage-able

It's ... erm ... 'comprehensive'. Possibly too detailed. The coastal forces element is just a small part of it, really.


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