In 1939 I
worked for a very large firm, STC (Standard Telephones & Cable Co.) where most
men between 18 and 20 years of age were being called up for the Army.
It seemed the more experienced men between 20 and 30 were reserved for a
while. I was lucky.
I got into the Navy on 12 February 1941 being 18 years and three months
old. I went to
about 40 men in my class and, on completion of the course, an old Chief Petty
Officer (well, old to me then - about 60) separated us into two groups.
He then said to one group, "You will be General Service, i.e. anything
from frigates to battleships with
I arrived at
Motor Minesweeper similar to MMS 41 showing 'Kango'
(SA acoustic hammer) in raised position over bow
We worked out of Queenborough for 18 months, generally doing four days out and two in, which consisted of up to Harwich and back, and round to Dover and back. At Queenborough there was a shore maintenance base, a NAAFI and a beer canteen one could use in the evening. We purchased most of our food at the NAAFI as we got an allowance of two shillings per day to do our own catering. I took on the job of catering as the cook was not interested in buying the food; only cooking it and this he hated.
Mine explosion from Ernest's ship (MMS 41)
During that spell at Queenborough, we destroyed a large number of
mines [over a hundred] but even so a number of merchant ships was sunk, especially in the Thames
Estuary. You couldn't get them all.
Also during that spell at Queenborough I was honoured with a bronze oak
leaf (Mention in Despatches) for the following incident.
Invariably when a mine was triggered, it blew up either side of the towed
cable but one evening while coming down the east coast, we got one immediately
under the cable. I was on deck at
the time and I saw the cable loop up into the air with the column of water that
occurs when you blow a mine. The
Chief Engineer called me to get down in the engine room and look at my control
panel because he thought that there was something unusual on the ammeter.
There certainly was. It was
reading over 4,000 amps instead of the normal 3,000 amps.
It was then obvious that the cable had been stripped of its insulation
causing a short circuit.
about two hours I was nowhere near finished so the seamen rigged up a sailcloth
cover with a light inside for me to carry on.
I continued and finally finished the intertwining of hundreds of strands;
for good measure I fitted four jubilee clips.
Then finally I wrapped the whole length of the bare joint with yards and
yards of pure rubber and covered it completely with linen tape, then applied
heat with a blowlamp to vulcanise the rubber. When the
linen tap showed scorching you knew that the rubber underneath had vulcanised,
i.e. moulded into one thick layer.
When the linen tap showed scorching you knew that the rubber underneath had vulcanised, i.e. moulded into one thick layer.The cable was put back into the sea after three hours, all switched on and working again. The remarkable thing is that we had only gone about three miles before we blew up a mine. The Skipper was thrilled to bits. Apparently he got in touch with the commander of that following convoy the next day and told him what had happened. We assume it was that commander who got in touch with the Admiralty to recommend some recognition for me. In due course I received a ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ bronze oak leaf.
LL Magnetic Sweep being streamed
from a Motor Minesweeper
[By Webmaster: Readers may also be interested in this article on the BBC website about the late Lt Cdr Eric Garside DSC VRD RNVR, the first Commanding Officer of MMS 41.]
1942 I was called back to
Ex-Norwegian whaler minesweeper similar to Shooting Star.
(Note 'Kango' SA acoustic hammer in raised position over bow)
Eventually we were sent back to
[By Webmaster: In 1944, the Steam Gunboats were converted as fast minesweepers. They were all sold soon after the war except Grey Goose which remained in service as a trials vessel until sold in the late 1950s. Lt Cdr Peter Scott RN was the son of Scott of the Antarctic (Captain Robert Falcon Scott Royal Navy) and later became Sir Peter Scott, the famous broadcaster, naturalist and painter.]
HMS Grey Goose (SGB 9)
1946 I was finally sent back to
Wireman E A Goodhall
P.S. I did actually meet Mountbatten and held his heavily
gold-braided cap when he gave us a pep talk in a shed in
Once under way and the Skipper had given the order ‘Out Sweep’, four
seamen would lower the cable into the sea over rollers at the stern while I got
the 54kW generator running and set charging the batteries at 200 amps.
When the cable was fully streamed, all 547 yards of it, this left me to
connect the very large brass cable lugs to terminals in a steel connection box
Before we left harbour, my opposite number in the partner ship and I
would agree on who would do the synchronising.
Let’s say it was me to do this.
I would signal the partner to switch on and start pulsing.
Their pulse indication lights would come on for five seconds in every 30
seconds; one light at the forward location meant that they were putting a
positive feed out through the short leg which produced a north magnetic field
between the ships. Their next pulse
would show me two lights; one at the forward location and one aft, indicating a
change of polarity.
With regard to acoustic sweeping (this was for mines that went off from the noise of a ship’s engine), the large bucket-like steel container housing the ‘Kango’ was lowered over the bow on an ‘A’ frame and made fast with steel cables. This was carried out prior to launching the magnetic minesweeping cable.
[Postscript: Sadly, Ernest died peacefully in his garden on 28 May 2009, just over a year after sending these memories.]
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