HDML 1091

Ranalagh Yacht Yard, Wooton, Isle of Wight 16/7/42

London Gazette 14/6/45 – Birthday Honours 1945

  • MID PO Henry William Lucas LT/JX189944

Known Crew

  • Ch Skipper R J Quinton RNR Skipper 1/9/39 109th ML Flotilla Based Scapa Flow Commanding Officer HDML 1054 23/9/42 AChSkipper Commanding Officer HDML 1091 12/43 ChSkipper 6/1/44 150th ML Flotilla Operation Neptune – Invasion of Normandy Operation Big Drum
  • Lt D L Gordon RN Commanding Officer HDML 1091 6/45 Assistant Surveyor 2nd Class
  • TLt J G Rawson RNVR HMS St Christopher for MLs 29/12/41 TLt 20/3/42 HDML 1091 HMS Benbow (Trinidad) 1944 Commanding Officer ML 859 6/3/45
  • Skipper A S Ellington RNR Skipper 24/6/43 HDML 1091 15/7/44
  • CPO Thomas McKinnel HDML 1054 based Granton. Crew transferred to HDML 1091 6-7/43
  • CPO Joe Bradey HDML 1091
  • PO Henry William Lucas LT/JX189944 HDML 1091 Birthday Honours 1945 MID
  • AB John Tyler HMS Royal Arthur (Skegness), HMS Europa (Lowestoft) for cookery course. HDML 1054 based Granton. Crew transferred to HDML 1091 6-7/43

Wartime Activities

  • 11/42 Operation Torch – Invasion of Algeria
  • 6/44 Operation Neptune – Invasion of Normandy
    150th ML Flotilla
    ML1055, ML1056, ML1060, ML1081, ML1085, ML1091, ML1279, ML1382, ML1390
  • 6/6/44 Operation Big Drum
    ML1081, ML1091, ML1417, ML1419 were jamming German Radar on the Cotentin peninsula on D Day. Operating around 6 miles east of Cap Barfleur from 0230 to 0440. Carried RAF Type 660 and 662 jammers, plus operators

Serving on HDMLs in WWII
From Able Seaman Cook John Tyler

“I received my call up papers for the Royal Navy on December 24th 1942 at the age of 21 and was instructed to report to Royal Arthur Skegness on December 30th. Not being too best pleased at this I began a few days of visiting pubs, especially over the Christmas period. I eventually arrived on the said date and set about my induction and basic training for about a 4-week period after which I was moved to the Royal Navy School of Cooking at HMS Europa in Lowestoft. I took the 5-6 weeks cookery course qualifying as an assistant cook.

I was then billeted out with a local family for another 2 weeks before being posted to Granton Dock in Edinburgh where I joined ML1054. The skipper was Sub/Lt. Quinton RNVR who was a trawler skipper and wanted to return to this life as soon as he could.

The Chief engineer was C.P.O. Tommy Mckinnel and seamen Stokes and John Miller were also crew members. My sea experience on ML’s began there with regular patrols of 2 boats patrolling from the Forth Bridge to Bass Rock. We would patrol for 2 days and nights and as we came back in to Granton, 2 more of our flotilla’s boats would go out. When out we would sometimes anchor in the lee of Bass Rock overnight to rest and listen. We were patrolling for enemy submarines and E-boats.

ML1054 had Glenifer engines, which proved to be at best unreliable and sometimes unworkable. We would have done better with paddles. Around June or July the entire crew and skipper transferred to ML 1091, which was fitted with Gardener engines and had no crew. ML1054 remained un-crewed at the dockside. After a short while we got a new coxswain C.P.O. Joe Brady who came from Wembly.

After about 5 months with this boat ML1091 and 3 other boats were ordered alongside and fitted with 2 x 20 foot masts either side of the wheel-house with a cross-bar above the bridge, not unlike rugby posts. A large plate type structure was fitted to them which we were told had something to do with radar. A hole was cut in the deck behind the wheelhouse and a generator was lowered in to position in the P.O.s mess. The hole was plated over again once installed. This was all part of the new equipment to upset German radar. We then commenced sea trials to test the stability of the ML in all weathers. I remember being told off by the skipper when he overheard me say that I thought it all looked a bit dodgy to me. The test proved the stability of the boats and the Flotilla was ordered south, destination Newhaven. On the way we called at Grimsby and Lowestoft so our skipper could renew acquaintances from his trawling days and the crews could have a run ashore. In the Thames estuary ML1091 and 3 other boats split from the Flotilla and proceeded up river to Isleworth where we had some more electronic equipment fitted. Each boat got another crew member posted in to operate this equipment ours being a young New Zealander who came from Rotarua. After calibration and tests the 4 boats proceeded to Newhaven to join our other Flotilla members. These other boats had been fitted with big loudspeakers and powerful amplifiers. We did some exercises locally noticing a massive armada building up around us finally getting our orders for D-Day.

On the 5th June in the small hours we put to sea but were called back due to bad weather. On the 6th June we set off again this time it was on despite the weather being worse than the day before. We escorted the American ships and craft and at dawn, we were off the Omaha beach area. We tried hard to maintain station, bow on to the shore jamming Enemy coastal radar, dodging our craft, warships, landing craft, enemy gunfire etc. I had never seen so many ships and craft in my whole life. We were 2 – 4 miles off the coast until around mid-day when we were ordered back to Newhaven escorting returning ships. The 4 other boats of the Flotilla had been ordered to a quiet part of the French coast and were broadcasting sounds of an invasion there to confuse the enemy. During this action no one was allowed below decks for safety in case we got hit. As cook I made sandwiches, flasks of hot soup, cocoa and tea which was stored behind the wheelhouse for everyone to use during the day. My job when not cooking was as number 2 on the 2-pounder gun mounted aft. I remember lots of bodies in the water but we were ordered not to pick them up in case the enemy had booby-trapped them.

Back in Newhaven the ML’s were fitted with big canisters astern to make smoke when required. We returned to the French coast and were ordered between the capital ships like Warspite, Renown and Rodney and the shoreline. We moved back and forth making dense smoke screens to shield them from enemy gunners. Our shells screamed over our heads towards the enemy and the enemy shells screamed back occasionally falling very close to us as we operated.

As the allies moved up through France, Belgium and Holland we were off the coast eventually being ordered to the Walcheren Island. Again we jammed the enemy coastal radar as out invasion craft went in. I remember as we did our bit, the skipper of ML1081 got a roasting because as we operating he was seen with nets behind his boat trawling up the stunned fish. Waste not – want not.

After the attack on Walcheren we returned to Newhaven again this time we were ordered to patrol up to the Isle of White and occasionally as far as Dover. We were ordered to look for British mines that had come free and gotten in to the shipping lanes. When we found them the Orlikon gunner would sink them with cannon fire or as was more usual, explode them.

On one of these patrols the ML’s were in Poole harbour for a rest. ML1081 was tied up with our boat ML1091 tied up alongside. The crew of 1081 was going on leave so their boat was having its ammunition taken off. It was believed that someone dropped a case of 20mm Orlikon ammunition and it exploded killing 2 men and setting fire to the stern. I was below emptying a teapot in to the heads when it happened. The result was I ended up headfirst in the heads covered in wet cold tealeaves. We used axes to cut our moorings and pulled away from the burning 1081. She was later beached to save her sinking.

A few weeks later as the European war was ending ML1091 was renamed SML5 (Survey Motor Launch) and we got a new skipper. Sub/Lt Quinton had at long last been relieved to return to the trawlers. The Flotilla leader, Lt/Cmdr. Gordon became our new skipper and we crossed the Channel again to Ostende, up the river Maas and in to Rotterdam. As the war in Europe finished we were ordered to survey the river Rhine and find a navigable passage for the river traffic. Our days were spent zigzagging up the river looking for obstacles and wrecks. When we found them we would mark them with a buoy, plot them and find away round them. Other teams would remove them. When we had worked our way up river we moved to Neimegen then to Wessel, Duseburg, Dusseldorf and finally Cologne. Every day as the sun went down we would return to our base as we were not allowed to go ashore or tie-up anywhere else. On one particular day our skipper took us up river to see Bad Gottesberg where Chamberlain met Hitler at the start of it all.

We were back in Ostende on V-J Night and were allowed to go ashore to celebrate. As none of the crew had any money we took our spare boots with us. A deal had been struck with a café owner. He would get the boots and we would get beer all night. Unfortunately the café owner reneged and after a couple of beers he refused to give us any more. Well, being slightly miffed, this resulted in WWIII breaking out with bodies, chairs, tables and blood going all over the place. We managed to escape, with our boots, without being arrested and returned to our boat to sleep it off. The next morning we were ordered to parade on the key-side. The Café owner and police were there and began to pick us out. We had the option, pay for the damage or go to jail. We had no money so things looked bad for us but Lt/Cmdr. Gordon needed his crew so he paid for us, God bless him. In fact I think I still owe him 15 shillings.

We again returned to Newhaven where we tied up again for what was to be the last time. I was finally relieved and sent back up to HMS Europa where I was de-mobbed in 1946.

We were shot at a few times during my war service but never fired at anything other than a few errant mines. We hunted submarines but never found one. We did drop a 200lb depth charge once during a practice and we used most of our 4lb scare charges to stun fish and trawl them in. We never lowered our ensign once in fact, it was there from the day I boarded my first ML until the day I left them.

As the boats cook I operated in a tiny galley with a coal fired stove, which continually sooted up. The flue for this came out near the wheelhouse and I knew when it was time to clean it when the skipper would appear covered in black spots or with a complete black face. We normally had potatoes, onions, carrots and fresh veg. but most meat was canned. I invented 20 different ways to serve up Spam. All fruit was canned save for the occasional apple. That’s why the fresh fish was very welcome when we could get it.

They were great days with good shipmates’ all serving together on fantastic little boats that worked and worked their socks off continually. God bless them all.”

21.06.2017 Former AB John Taylor presented with Legion d’honneur
at RMB Chivenor, for services off Normandy from 06 June 1944.
Photo courtesy David Lickman

Post War History

  • 1945 Survey Motor Launch = SML 5
  • 1949 SML 325
  • 22/7/58 Sold
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