HDML 1254

R A Newman, Hamworthy, Dorset 15/4/43

London Gazette 21/12/43 – For Operation Husky – Invasion of Sicily

  • MID Sea William Arthur Bird LT/JX172928

London Gazette 11/12/45 – Wind up of the war in Europe

  • BEM PO Douglas Kenneth Tucker C/SSX32715
  • MID LtCdr Henry John Cortlandt Stokes
  • MID POEng Edwin Ernest Fryer LT/KX113551

Known Crew

  • LtCdr Henry John Cortland Stokes Commanding Officer HDML 1254 and i/c survey 24/8/44 Wind up of the war in Europe MID
  • LtCdr C P W Marshall RN Commanding Officer HDML 1254 5/45 – 47) In charge of survey. He was awarded a DSC in HMS Teviot Bank (Minelayer) in 1941.
  • TLt F B Beard RNVR TLt 14/8/42 HMS St Christopher Commanding Officer HDML 1254 12/4/43 Operation Husky – Invasion of Sicily Operation Avalanche – Salerno Landings 3rd ML Flotilla Commanding Officer ML 134 24/9/44
  • TLt J E Dixon RNVR TSLt 12/3/43 HDML 1254 26/3/45 – End
  • TSLt E R Dodge RNVR TASLt 8/1/43 HMS St Christopher HDML 1254 12/4/43 TSLt 8/7/43 HMS Gregale (Malta) 1944 First Lieutenant ML 839 26/4/45
  • TSLt A W H Bush RNVR TASLt 25/12/42 HMS St Christopher HDML 1242 31/3/43 TSLt 25/6/43 Operation Avalanche -Salerno Landings HDML 1254 31/1/44 25th ML Flotilla ML 238 12/8/44
  • TASLt W Cowley RNVR TASLt 8/1/43 HDML 1254 12/4/43 TSLt 8/7/43 HDML 1271 8/7/43 HMS Gregale 1944 ML 559 7/3/45
  • PO Douglas Kenneth Tucker C/SSX32715 Wind up of the war in Europe BEM
  • POEng Edwin Ernest Fryer LT/KX113551 HDML 1254 Wind up of the war in Europe MID
  • AB George A. Miles P/JX 388307 HDML 1254 who died on Friday 10 December 1943 Age 32 cause unknown. Son of George and Ellen Miles; husband of Edith May Miles, of Portsdown, Hampshire. Buried in Naples War Cemetery
  • Sea William Arthur Bird LT/JX172928 HDML 1254 For Operation Husky – Invasion of Sicily MID

Wartime Activities

  • Mediterranean 10/7/43 – Operation Husky – Invasion of Sicily
  • 9/9/43 Operation Avalanche – Salerno Landings
    Patrols from Naples and Anzio
    Operation Dragoon – Invasion of Southern France
    Opening of Marseilles
    Charting the River Rhone up to Arles and Avignon

Post War History

  • 1945 Employed on port surveys in the Mediterranean
  • 1946 Mediterranean Survey Unit 1
    Survey work off Pantelleria, the Adriatic, Greek Islands, Piraeus, Cyprus and Beirut
  • 9/47 Sold

Cdr Henry John Cortlandt Stokes was a specialist survey officer:

  • 1928 HMS Kellett in the Thames Estuary
  • 1929-30 HMS Herald off Borneo and Hong Kong
  • 1931 HMS Fitzroy in home waters
  • 1933-35 HMS Ormonde in the Persian Gulf and off Cyprus
  • 1935-36 HMS Aberdare, minesweeper, in command. Briefly Assistant King’s Harbourmaster at Singapore.
  • 1937-39 HMS Endeavour in New Zealand waters before paying off at Singapore on the outbreak of war
  • 1940 HMS Franklin in the Thames Estuary and east coast convoy routes
  • 1941 HMS Challenger in Scottish and West African waters
  • 5/7/41 Rescued 823 survivors from the troopship Anselm torpedoed by U96 in position 44 25N 28 35 W
  • 1942 HMS Franklin in command surveying the sites for the Maunsell Forts in the Thames Estuary, sweeping wrecks and sounding alternative convoy routes up to the Tyne.
  • 1944 On detached service surveying the Sherbro River in Sierra Leone
  • 1944 ML 1254 in command
  • 1945 Staff Hydrographic Officer Levant
  • 1946-50 Hydrographic Department as an assist in the Notices to Mariners Branch
  • 1950 Retired as a commander and settled in Tasmania

Lt Cdr C P W Marshall RN was a specialist survey officer:

  • 1932 HMS Kellett off the east coast of England as a Midshipman
  • 1933-35 HMS Ormonde in the Persian Gulf and off Cyprus as a Lieutenant
  • 1935 HMS Kellett off the east and south coasts of England
  • 1936-38 HMS Stork off Thailand and Ceylon
  • 1939 Briefly in HMS Erebus
  • 1939-42 HMS Teviot Bank, a minelayer, in which he was awarded a DSC in 1941
  • 1943 In July, he was placed in charge of the South Coast of England Survey
  • 1945 HMS Gulnare in command
  • 1945 ML 1254 in command for survey duties in the Mediterranean
  • 1947-55 Hydrographic Department as an assistant in the Tidal Branch before retiring
  • Emigrated to Australia where he worked for the Adelaide Harbour Board
  • He died in 1962

BBC People at War (Arthur Martin)…

“The one that I joined was HMML 1254 and had been built around the River Amble commissioned and sailed with her crew in convoy to Malta ready for the invasion into Italy. For this purpose she had been especially fitted with radar and submarine detection equipment, with the purpose of acting as a navigational aid for the invasion fleets. Before my joining her she had been part of the force into Sicily and then in to Naples and Anzio.

Operating out of Naples there were about seven or eight HDML’s performing various light duties. Evening patrols in the bay were performed on a rota base during which small charges were dropped overboard randomly to deter frogmen and midget submarines. On one of these patrols enemy aircraft had dropped circling torpedoes. These were smaller than those launched from a ship, battery operated they were designed to circle until their batteries were exhausted and then to float on the surface, virtually acting as a floating mine. With only a small portion of their body breaking water they were very difficult to deal with. A Polish destroyer anchored in the bay tried to pot one with her 4.7 gun but found difficulty in getting enough depression. A signal from the shore stopped her antics as her shells, ricocheting off the surface of the water, were landing in Naples!
Another duty shared out amongst the HDML’s entailed a fortnight in Anzio, patrolling the anchorage and running messages with sailing orders and such like to the liberty ships and others delivering supplies. Reporting to the shore base the skipper took me along to carry some of his bits and pieces. On the way back to the ship a detour was made to an army dug-out manned by the Royal Warwickshire regiment.

We had gone equipped with books and magazines which were very welcome. The beach-head was very compact and it was difficult for enemy bombing and shelling not to find a target. Pyrotechnic displays were common as petrol and ammunition dumps exploded.

However, returning to Naples an even more splendid display was to be seen as Vesuvius erupted. The locals, ever inclined to be more than a little jittery, were convinced that they would soon share the fate of Pompeii.

Occasional excursions were made to other harbours and islands in the area for unknown reasons, including a trip to Capri with time to take in the Blue Grotto. The island was very much in favour with the Americans whose population probably exceeded that of the the natives. The British had taken over the neighbouring island of Ischia as their Coastal force base, very much the same size as Capri and renowned for its thermal spas dating back to the time of the Caesars.

The Americans were very much in evidence in Italy. The one thing that their sailors envied was our rum ration, for their ships were “dry” even in the wardroom. Coca cola was a poor substitute It was not unusual when delivering orders to an American vessel for the skipper to extend a little hospitality to his American opposite number to be followed by an offer to augment our meagre, and monotonous, rations from their abundant stores.

Cooking on these small vessels was carried out in the galley, occupying a small section of the mess deck, on a standard issue coal burning stove, with a number of Primus stoves as a reserve or relief. Food was very often tinned — it was amazing what came inside them. Beans and corned beef were not new-comers but tinned bacon, sausages and steak and kidney pudding were something different. Powdered potato had now come on the scene but was still in an almost inedible development stage. The same applied to powdered egg, and there was also something else called oleo-margarine, designed for use in hot climes. Probably a by-product from the engine room. Bartering with the Italians was active and fresh eggs made a welcome change to the diet. The locals did well for they were only too happy to take away anything left over — “any gash, Johnny?” had quickly become part of their language.

If the engines had to be shut down, or small repairs had to be undertaken, this was usually carried out at Ischia, sometimes necessitating the crew being boarded out to the locals. Or a longer spell of leave there was a holiday camp in Sardinia serving all the armed services, with hutted accommodation, comfortable beds and edible food, free from any chores. A Triumph motor bike from my home town, adapted as a three-wheel trailer provided transport into the nearby town for whatever entertainment was available. The trailer was about six foot by four and the record for personnel carried stood at seventeen, most standing with a few holding grimly on to the boarded sides for stability. The vehicle driven by a lieutenant from the Australian navy provided an excursion to be remembered.
Along with a build-up of shipping, rumours became rife that something was under way. Forces were gathered and the island of Elba became the target. Close inshore, doing whatever we were supposed to be doing on a bright summer’s day we came to the attention of some German with a mortar gun, requiring a burst of speed to take us out of range. That trouble over we moved into a bay and moored alongside a small pier where we were soon joined by a small landing craft. Securing herself, someone did something wrong, detonating an explosive charge, destroying vessel and crew.

Ascertaining nothing could be done we found a safer berth. The navy meanwhile was providing a barrage, including some salvoes from the 15inch guns of the monitor, Erebus and the island was quickly taken over.

Back to Naples and rumours were rife again, but now centred on ML 1254 itself.
The crew, who had initially brought the vessel out from England were drafted back home after sailing to Malta whilst alterations were made to the ship. All the armament was removed, a large chart table installed in the wheelhouse and a few other conversions made for a change of use into a surveying vessel. A new crew joined the ship and we awaited the arrival of a new officer, a specialist in naval survey work.

The officer in charge of the Fleet Hydrographic office in Naples took temporary command and we sailed to Corsica to join the invasion force sailing to Southern France. Detached from the main force we moored off St. Tropez awaiting a rendezvous and further orders. The dinghy was lowered and small party became the first to officially land in Southern France. A destroyer arrived with orders to proceed to Marseille. We passed the Chateau d‘If where a small boat containing the commander of the German garrison offered his surrender but our officer sent him elsewhere whilst we moved inshore. The dinghy was lowered again, the commander donned his revolver and a landing was made just off the entrance to the old port. Resistance was virtually over in the town and the following day we moved into the Vieux Port, carefully negotiating the transporter bridge across the entrance which had been partly demolished by the Germans.

The next day our new officer arrived and our task in France began. This was to perform an up-to-date survey of the main port, especially with details of sunken vessels, providing information for the berthing of supply ships. Stores of all descriptions were badly needed for the forces in Northern France and all means possible were being considered to augment their supplies.

Daily reports of clear berths had to be supplied to the American officer in charge of the port and for this purpose our officer was allotted a French car complete with chauffeur. On completion of each day’s survey the chart would be brought up-to-date, a blue-print made and a copy taken to the American office. After a couple days of Henri.s driving the skipper handed that job over to me.

Purely apart from his driving Monsieur Henri had another French trait — time and its ability to stand still. I would be despatched on some errand with the request to return by 11.30. At 11.00 Henri would consult his watch and announce the arrival of aperitif time, seemingly well-known wherever we went. We would eventually arrive back at the ship to find the skipper had departed on foot.

After a couple of weeks negotiating in and out of the harbour we were assigned a temporary change of job. In an effort to get supplies to the forces in Northern France supplies every possible way was being contemplated and we were assigned to chart the River Rhone. We set out, our officer assisted by an American army officer, to see how far the river was navigable. We sailed up for three days, mooring at night in Arles and (after stepping the mast to pass beneath the bridge renowned in song) the following night at Avignon. Beyond was not up to expectations and, helped by the current, the journey back was made in the day. The trip afforded us to see the Camargue and its horses and flamingos.

Back to the Vieux Porte, which was now providing anchorage for the occasional small landing craft. One of which made an error of judgement in negotiating the derelict transporter bridge, setting off a charge resulting in damage and loss of life.

The crew made friends with the locals during our stay and were sorry that the job came to an end after about three months. It was onwards to a different venue — Athens and a small port called Preveza, in the Gulf of Arta. We spent several weeks there, surveying the large gulf, mooring alongside at night and moving up to Corfu for the weekend. Then it was on to Athens itself and also Salonika. Our services always seemed to be in demand and we wandered quite a bit, confining our services to the north of the Med, whilst a sister ship, based in Alexandria did the south.

Meanwhile the war was entering its final stages. VE Day found us overnight on passage in the main port of Leghorn, where we seemed to be the only people around.

Then came the complete end with VJ Day where we managed a celebration of sorts in old haunts at Ischia.”

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