26 NAVY NEWS, DECEMBER 2009
from St Elmo
IT WAS 1943 and our convoy was on its way to Murmansk. Suddenly,
from nowhere, fl ashing fi re outlined my gloved hands and danced around
THANK you for printing our
the rim of a signal lamp.
request for information about the
I AM sorry to bring the ‘bling’
Amazed, I glanced about me. The ship’s bridge was aglow with
Whale Island Tank.
subject up, as I know from
miniature sparklers. Every edge, every projection was alive with dancing
I READ with interest the article motored around to Felixstowe
We have had a magnificent
reading Navy News that it has
Spirit of the Beehive (October) later to be joined by MTB 14.
response from your readers, far
been a bone of contention for
The bridge staff’s head and shoulders were covered in sparklers, we
but I am puzzled regarding the This was early in 1940 when I was
better than we dared to hope.
quite a few months, perhaps
looked like incandescent gnomes.
date of the start of the operations.
Information has poured in and
The mast was a breathtaking sight. Etched in silver light it stood out
sent to Felixstowe to take charge
years, and most people may be
The First Flotilla MTBs were
we are able to build up a very
against the backdrop of the night like a giant Christmas tree.
of the engine room of MTB 14.
getting fed up with reading so
in operation in Felixstowe long
good account of the tank’s time
For the brief few moments the war and the U-boats were forgotten
These five boats were the only
much about it.
before July 1940.
in residence on the island.
as delighted officers, lookouts and gun crews marvelled at the
MTBs Britain had at that time
As an ex-serviceman of 20
There were three flotillas of
If a Mr Streggle or Steggle
until they were joined later in
years, I can understand the
MTBs built in the latter part of
should read this could he get in
Then without warning, it disappeared... as if an ethereal hand had
1940 by the Fourth Flotilla which
problems we are having as
touch please on 0115 965 3314?
pulled a switch, leaving us to the black Arctic night as the convoy
the 1930s by the British Power were 70ft Vosper craft.
regards ‘blings’, however I think
I believe he lives in Lewes and
ploughed northwards to Russia.
Boat Company; nos. 01-06 were The First Flotilla carried out
I may have a solution to it.
has some information for us, but
Note: St Elmo’s Fire – an electrical discharge on tall objects at sea,
stationed in Malta, 07-12 in
convoy duties until Dunkirk where
Recently at a Royal British
failed to give a telephone number
or tops of trees, usually occurring during stormy weather (Encyclopaedia
Hong Kong whilst 14-19 (13 was
two of the boats acted as guard
Legion parade in Northern
and directory enquiries had no
not yet built) were destined for
boats offshore. However, MTB 14
Ireland I noted that quite a few
records that would match.
– Maurice Cross, Keynsham, Bristol
Singapore, but with the threat of
was dispatched to a rendezvous on
of the old and not-so-old had
Many thanks and kindest
war in Europe the boats 14-19
the outskirts of Ostend to pick up
these ‘blings’ on their chest,
regards to all who contacted us.
were diverted to Malta to link up
some on the right side (correct
General Dill and the Belgian Royal
– Michael Harrison,
with the First Flotilla.
procedure) and some on the
Family. But, at the last moment,
Friends of the Lincoln Tank
With the outbreak of war in
left, next to campaign medals.
the royal party had a change of
1939 the 12 boats in Malta were
In fact I noted that a few who
heart and stayed in Belgium to
ordered home, making the journey
didn’t have a campaign medal
share the fate of their people.
under their own power, although
had ‘blings’ to make up the
The First had many exploits
three of the boats which were
with the Germans. Attacking
not prepared for the journey were
It is apparent that the RBL
‘E’ boats and armed trawlers in
transported as deck cargo aboard
or Naval Associations have
Ostend and in other scraps, several
the mother ship HMS Vulcan.
no regulations as regards
rescues of airmen brought down I WANTED to write to tell
Unfortunately, three boats did
the wearing these so-called
in the Channel and the rescue of Navy News about my wife and
not make the journey. MTB 06
medals, otherwise we wouldn’t
survivors from three destroyers myself and say a big thanks for
was swamped and sank in a terrible
have this problem.
caught by mines in the North Sea introducing us to each other.
storm despite three attempts by
Why then don’t the RBL
during a Force nine gale. I joined the Navy on my
the destroyer HMS Dainty to take
and Associations bring out
The Flotilla was also engaged 16th birthday (June 28 1977)
her in tow.
in mine-laying operations. During and was still training at HMS
Two more boats had to be
They could then tell their
this time MTBs 15 and 16 were Collingwood when I saw the
beached whilst crossing France
members that they either wear
sunk by mines and 17 was sunk penpals section in your paper.
due to ‘P’ bracket damage and
them correctly, or not at all.
in battle. As did a few of my class, I
props cutting through the hull as
I’m sure if someone sat down
MTBs 14 and 18 the last of the
wrote to a girl of the same age
a result of debris in the rivers and
and wrote the regulations we
flotilla were destroyed in a dive
and we became friends, writing to
could sort out these ‘bling’
bomb attack when returning from
each other for several years and
MTB 14 was caught in a
having taken a major part in a very
from everywhere I travelled.
I have no problems with
following sea which caused much
successful blockade of Zeebrugge.
Our friendship grew and we
these medals as I have eight
damage to the foredeck and to the
That action took place in May
married in 1984.
medals all presented to me on
wheelhouse. Temporary repairs
In August we celebrated our
behalf of the Queen.
were made in Bezerta before 14
Many ex-MTBs and MGBs
silver wedding anniversary and if
– Ray Spence
crossed the Mediterranean to join
the other boats in Marseilles.
were converted to become C/T
I hadn’t read the Navy News we
The remaining six boats crossed
boats (control/towing boats) to
would never have met.
the Channel. The three boats
be known as HSTS (High Speed
I’m sure we aren’t the only
remaining of the original First
Target Service) their main base
ones to have achieved this
Flotilla were converted to become
being HMS Excellent, Whale
milestone but thought the least
MASBs (Motor Anti-Submarine
I could do was drop you a quick
Boats were stationed around
line to say thank you for giving us
The Third Flotilla, now
the coast as far north as Scapa.
the chance to meet.
designated the First were
I was privileged to serve as the
In the times we live in good
separated, 14 went to a private
Maintenance Engineer Officer of
news isn’t very common, so
yard to make repairs whilst 15,
hopefully our story will be a little
HAVING just passed the board,
16, 17 and 18 were berthed in
– Jack Collings,
bit of good news for you.
I am due to be promoted to Chief
Gunboat Yard, Gosport (later the
– Stuart and Carol Lynes
Petty Offi cer in the very near
site of HMS Hornet). According to Lt Cdr Ben Warlow’s
These four boats were Shore Establishments of the
I was wondering if I will be the
Picture: PO Robbie Hodgson
refurbished by a working party Royal Navy, HMS Beehive was
youngest Chief in the RN?
of ERAs under the leadership of officially commissioned on July
I’m 23 (11/08/86) and was
CERA Davies, I was one of that 1 1940, as stated in the original
curious to know if there were any
younger than me, so if not, I
party. When completed the boats article.
may have some bragging rights!
Do any readers have
information on this?
HERE WE have, not so much a
quiz, but a quandary.
Are the Royal Marines 100 per
– Robert Frost, PO(CT) JSSU
Uncovering the RFA
OVER the past few years I have about to balance the ship, a great
cent part of the Royal Navy, or as
some people would like to think,
wondered what happened to way to spend time on the Irish
part Army and part Navy?
the training ship HMS Caroline Sea.
COULD your readers help us with a project?
The RFA Historical Society is compiling a list of all personnel who While ashore we come under
Do you know
stationed in Belfast harbour So I am wondering if there are
served onboard RFA ships during the Falklands conflict of 1982. Army rules and regulations, but
(pictured above). other members of that team who
We wish to include everyone who was part of the crews. That includes when afloat we come under the
Back in 1958-59 I was part of remember the ten weeks or so
where I am?
RN and RM personnel who were on these ships as radio operators,
a clearance diving team lodging adventure searching the bottom
gunners, and of course the embarked flights, as well as the RFA and When all services are on a
on her whilst searching for eight and coming up with no success?
STON crews. parade (except Royal Navy) the
controlled WW2 mines that had I made a lot of friends in that
Unfortunately, records from this period do not seem to exist, as we Royal Marines take precedence
I REFER to page 7 of the
been laid in the approaches to team and buddies, and buddies in
have searched the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and the over RAF and Army contingents
November issue and wish to draw
the harbour against German diving meant a lot whilst probing
National Archive, even approaching a university in Canada where a as we are a branch of the Senior
your attention to a major mistake.
submarines. around some 40 foot down. I
number of records ended up. Service.
Kirkcudbright is in
As it was a long time ago names should know!
I would like to request any of your readers who served on a RFA to Now, for once and for all, are
Kirkcudbrightshire and not in have slipped my mind. We also I also noticed the article (Navy
get in touch with me, so that I record their name, rank, and job, and the we Navy or Army and if we are
Dumfriesshire. had an old coal-burning BAR ship News, October) about the CD
ship they served on. Navy, then why do we salute like
The area is often known as with us for working out in the team working in the desert.
Likewise if anyone knows of someone who served on an RFA during the Army?
Dumfries and Galloway, but channel. As an ex-CD I wish all bomb
this period, please could they get in touch so that we can complete this Come on Royal and Jack, let’s
to the best of my knowledge, When we left Ireland for our and mine personnel the very best
project before our history disappears. have some answers, views and
Dumfriesshire has no range for home port, we were pleasantly of luck and this goes to all service Thank you all for your help in this project – I look forward to hearing whatever.
the services to train at. asked to help the ship’s stokers to members – keep up the good work. from you. Per mare per terram.
– P Need, Dalbeattie, trim coal. – Ex-L/S Peter Fowles, – Peter Robinson, Editor, RFA Historical Society, – Ian Campbell RM (Ret’d)
Kirkcudbrightshire This meant shovelling coal Evesham, Kent website www.historicalrfa.org
, Belvedere, Kent Southsea, Hants
BUILDING the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers It’s tempting to look back to a golden age – that of the
is a massive project involving 10,000 workers and 57 British Dreadnoughts, for instance, when the public demanded Leviathan Block, HMS Nelson, Portsmouth PO1 3HH
companies. Jobs and livelihoods hang on the programme, so more ships.
do the preservation and development of UK skills, expertise But let’s not forget the equally difficult birth of HMS
December 2009 no.665: 55th year
and innovation. Invincible, conceived during such a painful period of political
But the birth, far from being accompanied by general battles about carriers, fixed-wing flying at sea and indeed the
rejoicing, is proving to be a long and painful one. future of the Navy that those building her claimed she was a
Managing editor: Business manager:
Doubts about the wisdom and affordability of the carrier ‘through-deck cruiser,’ albeit with a rather strange design.
Sarah Fletcher (023 9272 4194) Lisa Taw 023 9272 0494
programme have dogged it from the beginning. Invincible looked like an extravagance in a period of
Editor: Mike Gray Subscriptions 023 9272 6284
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There are always going to be those who would rather national recession, but she and her sisters turned out to be
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spend money on hospitals and schools than defence of a wise investment and a symbol that our country was not Hargreaves (023 9272 4163) Advertising 023 9272 5062
the realm, but in the case of the carriers bitter inter-Service quite ready to give up its place in the world – as the two new Production editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
rivalry has fuelled the fire. carriers will also prove.
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