WW2 MERCHANT NAVY TYPES

 

I dare say that the vast majority of my readers will be fully familiar with 'Q' ships, which were armed merchant ships.  Their guns [4", 4.5" and 5"] usually LA configured  {Low Angle} meaning that their elevation was restricted so good for firing at surface targets but not so for airborne targets, were covered-over until required for action and were suitable weapons against surfaced U-Boats etc.

The guns were manned by RN gunbusters and many of these 'Whale Islanders' spent their whole war at sea with the merchant navy.  A high proportion of merchant seamen and these seamen gunners died in WW2 as the tonnage sunk by surface raiders [pocket battleships] and the U-Boats grew to be of grave concern. This was the badge the RN gunners wore and the DEMS stands for 'Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships'

This WW2 picture shows the DEMS Team with their Mobile Gunnery School.

The picture shows merchant seamen receiving instruction in the art of anti-aircraft gunnery through the services of a mobile DEMS (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships) course. In this image, the seamen are being trained to track and ‘lead’ an approaching enemy aircraft through the gun sight of a close range anti-aircraft weapon. The 'target' is a small model aircraft suspended from the side of the converted double-decker bus. The port is Immingham, East Yorkshire, now North East Lincolnshire.

 

However, what you might not know is the subject of this page.

In 1940, HO's joining up had the choice of which Service they wanted to fight in.  Most of course, despite their choice, were sent to the army, with the navy and the air force, in that order, getting the next quota size.  Those who chose and were selected for the navy were given an additional choice which is covered by a file in the National Archives called "ADM 116/5023 Training RN Personnel for service in the Merchant Navy, with dates of 1940 to 1944".

The bit about 'training RN Personnel' could be a bit of a misleading statement, because the men involved where raw HO's straight from civvy street. Once part of the naval quota, these volunteers joined the navy at the Chatham Depot, at HMS Pembroke, where they stayed for one week to get a feel for naval life dressed throughout in their civilian joining up clothes.  After that, they were sent by lorry to Gravesend to what pre war, had been a merchant navy training school where they were kitted out in merchant navy uniforms.  In 1940, the navy took over the school commanded by a Captain RN, with a naval staff of officers and senior rates and started to train would-be merchant seamen in seamanship, boatwork, knots and splices, swimming, marching, patrol and guard duties, small arms drill and firing, navigation, watch keeping and all with a strong naval flavour. That identical training was also being conducted in HMS Ganges, HMS St Vincent, HMS Impregnable plus several other HO establishments for HO's dressed in naval uniforms and destined for naval ships on completion of their three month basic training.

After three months {the normal HO training period}, they were tested and examined by RN staff and Merchant Navy staff and if they passed, they were sent to commercial ports where they joined 'pools' by signing-on awaiting their first ship. Quite often, it is recorded, that some visited their appointed port weekly to re sign-on, and several weeks/months might go by before a suitable ship for a novice became available.  During these times, the 'pool' paid them a basic salary.

The name of this HM Ship ? 

It was called HMS GORDON.