PLEASE NOTE

Since writing this page in early 2008, a couple of changes have occurred which will denying you seeing some of the page content. However that does not alter or spoil the story in any way. There are a couple of hyperlinks which point to my own files, now archived to disc and no longer available on-line. The other "failed" hyperlinks were taken from other than my own sites, and they have clearly gone out of business today, now eight years on. I apologise for the less than complete story, but, by and large, it is out of my control.  Thank you.

 

A headline from 1941 Admiralty Records -

R.N.V.R. Officer Court Martialled -

over the loss of his ship HMS Mercury -

Christmas Day 1940 -

He is accused of hazarding and subsequently losing his ship whilst minesweeping - in God forbid, a bloody British minefield!!

Start Stop

 

Let's first of all look at the following title and associated data which logically leads into the story of "HMS MERCURY".

HMS Mercury

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Seventeen ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Mercury, or HMS Mercure, after the God Mercury, of Roman mythology:

  • HMS Mercury was a 6-gun galley launched in 1592 and sold in 1611.
  • HMS Mercury was a ship launched in 1620. Her fate is unknown.
  • HMS Mercury was a ship purchased in 1622. Her fate is unknown.
  • HMS Mercury was a 6-gun advice boat launched in 1694 and captured by a French privateer in 1697.
  • HMS Mercury was an 8-gun fireship purchased in 1739 and foundered in 1744.
  • HMS Mercury was a 16-gun brigantine launched in 1744 and captured in 1745.
  • HMS Mercury was a 24-gun sixth rate launched in 1745 and broken up in 1753.
  • HMS Mercury was a 20-gun sixth rate launched in 1756 and wrecked in 1777.
  • HMS Mercury was a 28-gun sixth rate launched in 1779 and broken up in 1814.
  • HMS Mercure was a 14-gun sloop. She was formerly a French privateer, captured in 1798 by HMS Phaeton in 1798. She was renamed HMS Trompeuse in 1799 and foundered in 1800.
  • HMS Mercury was a 14-gun brig launched in 1806 and converted to a coal hulk by 1865.
  • HMS Mercury was a tender launched in 1807 and broken up in 1835.
  • HMS Mercury was a 46-gun fifth rate launched in 1826, used as a coal hulk from 1861 and sold in 1906.
  • HMS Mercury was a cutter tender launched in 1837, renamed YC6 in 1866, HMS Plymouth in 1876 and was sold in 1904.
  • HMS Mercury was an Iris class cruiser and despatch vessel launched in 1878, converted to a depot ship in 1906 and sold in 1919. She was to have been named HMS Columbine in 1912, but this did not happen.
  • HMS Mercury was a training ship, previously a barque named Illova. She was purchased in 1887 and was sold as a coal hulk in 1916.
  • TS Mercury was a composite screw gunboat launched in 1878 as HMS Gannet. She was renamed HMS President in 1903 and then lent to a private training school in 1913 and renamed TS Mercury. She is currently preserved as a museum ship.
  • HMS Mercury was a Royal Naval Communications/Signal School located near Petersfield, England.

OBERSERVATIONS on the Wikipedia list - HMS Mercury, the 1878 Iris Class Cruiser was a Portsmouth Submarine Depot Ship in 1908.  The hulk HMS Dolphin along with the hulk HMS Mercury were berthed in Haslar Creek acting, with the shore accommodation of Fort Blockhouse, as the ports submarine base.  Mercury was withdrawn in 1908 and the Dolphin was withdrawn in 1924.  
Click to enlarge - Mercury as a Hulk

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By the time WW1 had started, Mercury had been decommissioned and shortly after it (WW1) had finished, the ship was sold for scrap. This little snippet (click below) is taken from the book 'Submarine Boats - The beginnings of underwater warfare' by Richard Compton Hall (ISBN 071120327X) . HMS Thames was the first S/M Depot ship and HMS Hazard was the first S/M Tender.  These early ships were all remembered in HMS Dolphin Fort Blockhouse, and just as HMS Collingwood today has a 'block' called Mercury, so too, but many years before,  did the Gosport submarine base.

Click to enlarge

This list taken from a Wikipedia web page is wrong and incomplete.  I say this because there are periods where there is more than one HMS Mercury in commission and that of course is not possible, but, more importantly, ship's named HMS Mercury from WW1 and WW2 are missing

Secondly,  I want you to search your soul to come up with an opinion on the following story, which to me is amazing and profoundly sad. But before that, do you remember [or have you visited] my story about Herbert Lott, a man so generous and sincere, that the Navy chose to ignore him and to delete him from its 'picture gallery', ignoring his memory but willingly taking his money?  Not a picture of him was taken/kept nor or a word of text written about his generous gifts to the Royal Navy.   This story, about HMS Mercury is just the same - it was a brave little ship badly bombed with several losses and subsequent to that, regularly attacked by German aircraft; probably damaged in the severe weather she encountered;  rammed by a ship of its own flotilla, and then, on Christmas Day 1940 whilst doing her duty, she sank, and yet nobody remembers it, and there are no pictures of the ship nor any official history recorded.

 Picture a man who had served his country in WW1 having joined as a rating and subsequently being commissioned on a merit basis, seeing action at one of the great naval battles of that war namely the raid on Zeebrugge in 1918. This man volunteered in 1939 to rejoin the navy for his second war, this time in the RNVR.  He was appointed to Mercury, first as the Jimmy [XO or First Lieutenant] and then as the CO, a ship which was badly bombed and whilst being repaired, was regularly attacked by aerial bombardment. It survived that, encountered extremely heavy seas en-route to rejoin its Flotilla, and a couple of months experiencing near misses whilst minesweeping up North in the Clyde areas. Then it was sent to the  Irish Sea to rid the area of BRITISH MINES [a minefield no longer required and deemed to hazard our own shipping and not that of the enemies], and on Christmas Day 1940, one of these mines was a contributory cause of HMS Mercury being badly damaged and four-odd hours later, sinking whilst in tow homeward bound for Milford Haven in Wales.  That poor C.O., despite his service records in two WW's and it being Christmas Day, was court martialled [as you will see, whilst doing his duty] and his Christmas present was a Reprimand;  the only document in existence remembering HIM and his ship HMS MERCURY is the court martial documentation .   However defined, that is a dreadful situation and one for which we, as a navy, should be ashamed of.

The very naming of the Signal School at Leydene, Petersfield, Hampshire, England, came about because a world war two warship bearing the name Mercury  had been sunk just 6-odd months before the Signal School in Portsmouth Dockyard was vacated and moved to the countryside of the Meon Valley approximately 12 miles north of Portsmouth Dockyard.  The Dockyard had been extensively damaged by German bombers in the first quarter of 1941, and there was a danger of the Signal School itself being destroyed putting paid to training and the necessary flow of trained communicators joining the Fleet.   Wikipedia's figures of there being 17 ships bearing the name Mercury  [which I will accept for the purposes of my story],  is, in my calculation, four short of the correct total, which should be twenty one !  It can only be guess-work at the name they would have used for the Leydene Signal School had not HMS Mercury sunk, because neither the names Mercury [the Roman Messenger of the Gods] nor Hermes [the Greek Messenger of the Gods], nor Meon [the river running through the valley close by Leydene] were available for use, and anyway, the Dockyard Signal School had never been 'christened' with a name - other than HM Signal School - so would it have mattered anyway ?  CLICK HERE to see the R.N., career of its first Commanding Officer Captain Gerald WARNER R.N.   Inevitably, there was some typical naval tradition about tenders and tendering and the need for a sea-going unit to be named HMS Mercury for both the Leydene Signal School and the ASRE Haslemere. That need was met by  re-naming extremely small non-combatant vessels [ship's motor-boat's for example] HMS Mercury and HMS Mercury II, but all in all, this was a paper exercise which was a throw back to naval procedures of old.  It has no real part to play in this story, and if anything, it detracts from the main story line.

In the book 'Signal' by the late Captain Barrie Kent R.N., he states that the 1878 Iris-class cruiser named HMS Mercury was the 12th of the line suggesting that HMS Mercury at Leydene was the 13th.   He too does not mention the ship's between this cruiser and the Leydene Signal School, which fortuitously became HMS Mercury.

In other parts of my web sites [this and http://www.rnmuseumradarandcommunications2006.org.uk] I have mentioned the Signal School vis-à-vis the Signals Experimental Establishment at Haslemere in Surrey.  For the record, after the Leydene Signal School became HMS Mercury, Haslemere became  Mercury II.  Further, when HMS Mercury closed down at Leydene, the Signal School moved to Fareham, Hampshire, to HMS Collingwood.  The 'HMS' [Collingwood] is the parent Establishment which meant that HMS Mercury had to become just Mercury, as indeed later on when HMS Dryad moved to HMS Collingwood from Southwick, Hampshire, it became known only as Dryad. Thus, in this paragraph we find two more establishments officially called Mercury.

So, where are the missing ship's called HMS Mercury ?

There were two of them, and both, in their turn, WW1 and WW2, were requisitioned and requisitioned from the same civilian commercial company, viz, the Clyde Paddle Steam Ship Company:  both were paddle steamers and both were employed by the Navy as paddle minesweepers. The commercial company had named them as Mercury and Mercury II [for different time periods of course]  and although it was common at requisition to rename vessels for military purposes, both of these retained the name Mercury, and each in its turn, became HMS Mercury.

WORLD WAR ONE

The WW1 HMS Mercury  is shown below with a suitable history attached. She was requisitioned half way through WW1 in early  June 1916 after the Battle of Jutland. She first appears in the NAVY LIST of July 1916 and her appointed Commanding Officer {to date 06.06.16} was Lieutenant John A J Williams RNR.  He commanded this vessel until the end of October 1917 when, to date 30.10.17, the command passed to Lieutenant Howard  V W C Hyde RNR,  himself commissioned into the RNR on the 04.08.1916.  The wardroom in December 1917 is shown thus:-

Lieutenant Howard V W C Hyde RNR Commanding Officer
Lieutenant Albert E Leak RNVR
Lieutenant Claude J Saywell RNVR
Engineer Lieutenant William H Garrick RNR
Engineer Lieutenant Reginald F Herbert RNR.

{Incredibly, Howard V W C Hyde was to be the Commanding Officer of the WW2 HMS Mercury, requisitioned at the very start of WW2 in 1939, some 22 years later, but now as a Temporary Acting Lieutenant Commander RNR - see below}.

The first mining mentioned below, which blew the bow off the ship occurred in September 1917 and the second, this time the stern, in early November 1917. The dead members of her crew were recovered and buried in accordance with the wishes of the NOK.  One such burial I found in Portsmouth at the Highland Road Cemetery Southsea. He was a 51 year old ex-RN rating serving on a Royal Fleet Reserve [RFR] engagement assigned to the Mercury, shown below as H.M.P.M.S [His Majesty's Paddle Mine Sweeper].  EDWARD PERKINS is shown in the official records as DOW - Died of Wounds.  The following details are taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:-

Casualty Details

Name: PERKINS
Initials: C E
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Petty Officer 1st Class
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: (R.F.R. A/1145) H.M.P.M.S. "Mercury"
Age: 51
Date of Death: 27/09/1917
Service No: 119023
Additional information: Husband of Sarah Maria Perkins, of 120, Stamshaw Rd., North End, Portsmouth.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: New Ground. H. 5. 17.
Cemetery: PORTSMOUTH (EASTNEY OR HIGHLAND ROAD) CEMETERY

and this is his Certificate of Honour

In Memory of
Petty Officer 1st Class C E PERKINS

119023, (R.F.R. A/1145) H.M.P.M.S. "Mercury", Royal Navy
who died age 51
on 27 September 1917
Husband of Sarah Maria Perkins, of 120, Stamshaw Rd., North End, Portsmouth.
Remembered with honour
PORTSMOUTH (EASTNEY OR HIGHLAND ROAD) CEMETERY

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

My good friends Preston Willson and his wife Brenda [themselves with strong ties to HMS Mercury as a name {!} ] were kind enough to visit the cemetery on my behalf to take the following photographs.  It would seem that not only has the Navy forgotten the name of some of its fighting ships, but that society has allowed the graves of the men who died in forgotten ships to end up in a much dilapidated public cemetery, forlorn, sad and shameful.  Were it not for that wonderful organisation, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the grave headstone itself would have been destroyed, but as it is, it is maintained to the highest level possible no matter the date of death or the lack of Council money for maintenance and the ravages of time.   Regrettably, there is also a measure of vandalism.

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Petty Officer PERKINS' Grave

His grave [on the left] has been vandalised and a piece has been knocked out on the bottom left hand side, probably by a piece of another grave stone thrown at it. Whilst some of the old graves have decayed over time and the settling effect has lead to 'sinking', many have been pushed over or dismantled on purpose by the Council to avoid health and safety issues to protect visitors to the cemetery from falling masonry , but, as stated, some damage is the direct result of wanton vandalism.   Over by the trees you will see two CWGC white headstones and Petty Officer PERKINS' grave is the one on the right, just to the left of the white marble statue.

Another recorded death in the WW1 Mercury was Robert PAUL, a Deck Hand in the RNR, Number SD1206, who died on the 29th December 1916 from illness. Here are his details.

No Surname Rank Service Number Date Of Death Age Regiment/Service Nationality Grave/Memorial Ref. Cemetery/Memorial Name
1 PAUL, ROBERT Deck Hand 1206/SD 29/12/1916 19 Royal Naval Reserve United Kingdom R.N. Plot. 50. SHOTLEY (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD
Name: PAUL, ROBERT
Initials: R
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Deck Hand
Regiment/Service: Royal Naval Reserve
Unit Text: H.M.M.S. "Mercury."
Age: 19
Date of Death: 29/12/1916
Service No: 1206/SD
Additional information: Son of John and Jane Paul, of 52, New St., Rothes, Morayshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: R.N. Plot. 50.
Cemetery: SHOTLEY (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD

In Memory of
Deck Hand ROBERT PAUL

1206/SD, H.M.M.S. "Mercury.", Royal Naval Reserve
who died age 19
on 29 December 1916
Son of John and Jane Paul, of 52, New St., Rothes, Morayshire.
Remembered with honour
SHOTLEY (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

 WW1 Mercury's distinguishing marks are not know to me and of course pennant numbers were not used at this time.  She was not fitted with radio equipment.

 

Builders: Napier Shanks & Bell, Yoker 1892

Propulsion type: Paddle compound diagonal

Owners: Glasgow & South Western Railway Ltd, London, Midland & Scottish Railway Co

Service dates: 1892 - 1933

Tonnage: Gross 378

Comments:

This lovely picture was taken by John P. Rodd 1906 -1969 and is displayed here by kind permission of his son John. It shows Mercury at Weymss Bay towards the end of her career when in LMS colours.

Despite having an open foredeck, Mercury was an up to date steamer for the time and had powerful compound diagonal engines, capable of over 18 knots. She and her sister, Neptune, were built for a variety of work including cruising, railway connections and charters in the Firth of Clyde and were very well fitted out. Both steamers saw war service as minesweepers and both were damaged by mines. Neptune sadly was lost on 20 April 1917 and Mercury was mined twice. On the first occasion her bows were blown off and although she was repaired, she was back in service only one day when her stern was blown off. This time she was repaired and survived the war without further mishap. When the G&SW was taken over by the LM&S she briefly sported a tricolour funnel and then her hull was painted black with a white topping around the saloon windows and paddle box. She survived until 1933, when she was withdrawn and sold for breaking up at Barrow in Furness by T W Wards.

Almost as 'sods law' would have it, there is a picture of HMS Petersfield {!} as a WW1 screw minesweeper, and a picture of a WW1 paddle minesweeper HMS Pontefract - see below:-

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HMS Petersfield half sunk after being wrecked in 1931
It is interesting to know that in the period 1931-32, Courts Martial were convened for the loss of the Petersfield. Story is covered in National Archives file ADM 116/2840.
HMS Pontefract

HMS MERCURY was just one of many paddle minesweepers [and other types of ships] which were tasked with the escorting and marshalling of surrendered German warships from German sea ports to Scapa Flow at the end of WW1.

WORLD WAR TWO

The WW2 HMS Mercury follows, again with a suitable history.  Her pennant number was J102. She was fitted with W/T equipment [Marconi TW12 transmitter/receiver] before becoming operational as a warship.  She carried one telegraphist who also doubled as the signalman.  Coincident with the fitting of her W/T equipment she was issued with an  international W/T radio callsign which was GGNT - this callsign was later used by the destroyer Kempenfelt in the 1950's.  Like all these paddle steamers she was a coal-burner.

Her Commanding Officer at the time of her demise was Temporary Lieutenant [Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander] BERTRAND AUBREY PALMER, RNVR

formerly of the RNVSR [See Footnote 3 for an explanation].

In February {6th/7th} 1941, he faced a Court Martial for hazarding and losing his ship.  That Court Martial is covered in full later on this page.

 

Builders: Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd Govan 1934

Propulsion type: Paddle triple expansion

Owners: London Midland & Scottish Railway Co, The Caledonian Steam Packet Co Ltd

Service dates: 1934 - 1940

Tonnage: Gross 621

Comments:

Launched on 16 January 1934, she was capable of carrying 1861 passengers at over 16 knots and she cost around £46,000 to build. She was not as fast as expected but her trial speed was considered good enough for her new owners to accept her. She was fitted with two masts, cabin class and third class restaurants, a tea room and a smoke bar. Her capacity made her popular with her owners as a ferry connecting with the railway services from Greenock to Gourock, Wemyss bay, Dunoon & Rothesay. In the last season before the war she also took turns with Caledonia her sister ship, on the Greenock-Arran and Kyles of Bute services. With the outbreak of war both ships were requisitioned and Mercury was sadly lost on minesweeping duties in 1940.

This next view is of the paddle steamer Caledonia, the only sister-ship to the WW2 HMS Mercury, shown as a more dynamic picture in the absence of dynamic Mercury pictures

 

and this is a picture of the same ship, now requisitioned and in her war-time colours {1944}

as a Auxiliary Anti-Aircraft Vessel.  SO, with reservations, think of this ship as being our very own HMS Mercury.

The Caledonia started WW2 as a paddle minesweeper renamed HMS Goatfell - pennant numbers J125, but was re-assigned as the photograph above shows in 1941. She was bombed and badly damaged but survived her war-service.  It is important not to under estimate the size of one of these vessels, and the following table gives a good comparison vis-à-vis ships built as warships.

Ships Type/Name Overall Length Beam Draught Speed
HMS Mercury [Paddle Minesweeper] 229.5 feet 30.0 feet 6.5 feet 17.0 knots
Hunt Class [Minesweeping Sloop] 231.0 feet 28.5 feet 7.5 feet 16.0 knots
Algerine Class [Minesweeper] 225.0 feet 35.5 feet 8.5 feet 16.5 knots
......or, equate Mercury with a 21st century warship, viz, a MCMV Hunt Class - here is HMS Middleton for example whose statistics are:   Click to enlarge
HMS Middleton [Mine Counter Measures Vessel] 196.5 feet 32.7 feet 7.2 feet 17.0 knots

No mention of sizes in terms of weight, because warships use Displacement [actual bodily weight] whereas the mercantile measurement [and thus the Mercury] use Gross Tonnage. On this webpage,  there is an explanation of both systems MERCHANT SHIPS IN 2004  although it is safe to assume that the Mercury "punched her own weight" [pardon the pun] in all aspects of vital statistics.

The next series of pictures shows what a typical paddle minesweeper looked like in 1939/40.  It is of HMS Jeanie Deans {radio callsign GGNP} wearing the pennant number J108 [painted in camouflage] and as she was in her commercial colours pre war.  Although of a different design to the Mercury/Caledonia [she has two funnels] she is symbolic of all requisitioned paddle steamers.

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PS Jeanie Deans as a Clyde paddle steamer pre WW2

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HMS Jeanie Deans at a buoy in her war camouflage colours sporting the pennant numbers J108 and clearly showing her newly acquired armaments.

 

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A second picture of HMS Jeanie Deans in her camouflage colours, also at a buoy, with other shipping in company.

I have tried many organisations seeking a photograph of J102 HMS Mercury but it has been hard work, revealing a  less than comprehensive National Archive of WW2 British naval history.  The organisations contacted were the Royal Naval Museum/Naval Historical Branch; Jane's Fighting Ships; the National Maritime Museum; The British Library; The Imperial War Museum; various paddle steamer devotee associations/clubs; The Chatham Dockyard Historical Society; The RNVR Officers Association Limited; the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association; the much visited/comprehensive site of photoship.co.uk; the much respected Picture Library {WW2 Section} @ Mary Evans.com; Wright and Logan Warship Photographs,  and enough books to fill the shelves of a decent sized library. All, sadly, without success, but I am still hunting and hoping!  Eventually, from the RNVR officer's website in late May 2008, I received this encouraging email, even though it does not answer all the questions asked.  Details are taken from the Navy List's for the appropriate years, and whilst this story is about a ship, knowing details about the C.O., are of great interest.

Hi,

Added this entry:

Found no appointments in the 1944/1946 period; have no idea about the reason for that, but when over longer periods no appointments are listed the person in question is usually either seriously wounded or being a prisoner of war. Would be highly speculative to add this, though.
 

Kind regards,

Hans Houterman
www.unithistories.com

From this kind answer, we can see that Bertrand Aubrey Palmer survived the war, his second world war, and in April of 1946 he relinquished his Temporary Commission and once again, now as a middle aged man [dob 21.02.1892 so now aged 54 years and 2 months] settled back to being a civilian.  The October 1945 edition of the Navy List, page 669, shows our man as a Lieutenant RNVR an Acting Lieutenant Commander RNVR.  Note that he was born in Japan - most unusual!  Note also his WW1 record, particularly his lower deck official number.  Today, in May 2008, at a time when the story of his ship is being told for the first time, he would be a grand very old man of 116 years.

Next comes another typical paddle minesweeper HMS Skiddaw J80 but this time with a typical 1939 minesweeping mixed crew. She was renamed on requisition from PS Britannia.

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HMS Skiddaw with an AA balloon aloft in 1939

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The 1939 crew of HMS Skiddaw at the outbreak of WW2. You might now see what I mean {mentioned later on} about an 'endearing motley crew'. Note the three RNVR officers and the two RNR officers - see next picture for whose who. Note also the other two men seated left and right.  It was not uncommon that when a ship was requisitioned, key members of the crew went with her.  These men, obviously granted wardroom status and thus wearing a naval cap badge, were, on the left, the chief engineer of the PS Britannia,  Hector McFadyen and on the right is second engineer J L Sanders.  The sleeve stripes are very much merchant navy and in all probability, stripes associated with the Campbell's Steamship company, owners of the Britannia.  It is also probable that other civilian members of the Britannia are also shown in this photograph. Crew members who came with the requisitioned ships were not very popular as can be seen from the opening statement in the Court Martial document below.

HMS Mercury, had both the Master and the Second Engineer of the peacetime [pre requisition] ship as members of its wardroom, both appointed as Temporary Lieutenants, one executive and the other engineering.

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The naval ranks in the late 1930's

 Thirty seven paddle steamers were requisitioned in 1939 and were originally formed into six minesweeping flotillas, the 7th to the 12th. The 7th with 7 vessels was based on Rosyth; the 8th, 5 vessels on North Shields; the 9th, 7 vessels on Falmouth; the 10th, 8 vessels on Dover; the 11th, 5 vessels on Greenock and the 12th, 5 vessels, on Harwich.  By 1943, this had been reduced to one flotilla [the 7th] of 3 vessels based on Granton {on the Forth near Edinburgh} and a further two were employed on training duties. The remaining paddler's had been converted to Auxiliary A.A. vessels [known as 'Eagle' ship's] or were being used as accommodation ships. Paddle minesweepers were originally armed with a 12 pdr A.A. gun forward and several light A.A. pieces elsewhere, to be used for their own defence.  A list of the first thirty three to be requisitioned can be seen on the following PDF file http://www.rnmuseumradarandcommunications2006.org.uk/OTHER WT FITS.pdf where, for our purposes, pages 1, 2 {note section 'CC'} and 5 {which is section 'CC'} are relevant.

HMS Mercury with her fellow 4 vessels was based on Ardrossan, on the Clyde in the 11th flotilla, which in mid 1940, consisted of:-

HMS GOATFELL  (Lt R H Austin RNVR) , HMS HELVELLYN (Temporary Lt P D Baker RNVR),  HMS JEANIE DEANS (Acting Cdr L C Windsor RNR Senior Officer of Flotilla) , HMS MERCURY  (Temporary Lt Cdr H W C Hyde RNR) and HMS SCAWFELL (Temporary Lt J McLinden RNR).

 Temporary Lieutenant  B.A. Palmer RNVR, was the Executive Officer at this time, and was subsequently appointed as the C.O., of HMS Mercury, vice Temporary Lt Cdr H W C Hyde RNR on the 10th July 1940 now promoted to Temporary Acting Lieutenant Commander RNVR. From above, you will have noted that H W C Hyde was also the CO of the WW1 HMS Mercury from late in 1917 until the end of WW1 in November 1918.

The Flotilla orders show that the Flotilla Medical Officer [MO] was embarked in Mercury and that in harbour, non urgent case could report to the Sick Bay of the ship at 0900 or 1730 daily, and when at sea as a Flotilla, urgent cases could be seen by the MO with the ship asking for assistance having to provide the boat to collect and return the MO to Mercury. When the Flotilla MO was not available, cases should be referred to sick quarters ashore or to a civilian surgeon agent.

Ardrossan was also the home port for other units and the Base Support Ship was HMS Fortitude.  Other units were:- 29th anti- submarine group; 31st anti-submarine group; 82nd anti-submarine group; anti-submarine patrol trawlers and minesweeping drifters.

In addition to the minesweepers in the Flotilla there were two Admiralty Fleet Trawlers [i,e, they were built as such and not requisitioned Trawlers as were so many]. They were Tree Class Trawlers named HMS Almond and HMS Mangrove. Both ships were new [launched in 1940] and protagonists at the time of HMS Mercury's sinking: HMS Almond* taking the crew off HMS Mercury under the search lights of HMS Helvellyn,  and HMS Mangrove towing HMS Mercury towards her base.  These trawlers were employed in the Fleet as "Danlayers".

*HMS Almond was herself sunk by mine off Falmouth on the 2nd February 1941, four days before the Court Martial of the CO of HMS Mercury began.

The flotilla moved around the country occasionally [Dunkirk in 1940 was a good example] and supported other flotilla's in clearing minefields as necessary.  In 1940, the flotilla moved south to sweep the Channel and support the Dunkirk Evacuations, after which they transited West operating for a period at Portland.  They saw much action on the South Coast and Mercury was badly bombed losing several dead of its gun crew, and subsequently repeatedly attacked by aerial bombardment in Weymouth Bay whilst undergoing repair to the bomb damage.  During this time,  Temporary Lieutenant B.A. Palmer RNVR was the First Lieutenant of HMS Mercury.  In the Autumn of 1940 they returned north to the Clyde areas, but now with Temporary Lieutenant [Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander] B.A. Palmer RNVR as the Commanding Officer [to date 10-07-1940]. 

 Upon reading about the bombing of HMS Mercury off Portland, Dorset, in early July 1940, I  researched the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and there I found the victims of Mercury's main gun crew which was a 12 pdr AA gun - QF 12 pounder 12 cwt AA gun - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The gun and its crew were destroyed.  The men who died instantly defending this little ship and its proud name of Mercury were:

Name:

CREIGHTON, ALBERT VICTOR

Initials:

A V

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Able Seaman

Regiment/Service:

Royal Navy

Unit Text:

H.M.S. Mercury

Date of Death:

07/07/1940

Service No:

C/J 101244

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

C. of E. Portion. Coll. grave 671.

Cemetery:

PORTLAND ROYAL NAVAL CEMETERY

Name:

DALEY, HARRY R. L.

Initials:

H R L

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Able Seaman

Regiment/Service:

Royal Navy

Unit Text:

H.M.S. Mercury

Age:

33

Date of Death:

07/07/1940

Service No:

C/J 108599

Additional information:

Son of Harry W. Daley and Elizabeth M. J. Daley, of Chatham.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

C. of E. Portion. Coll. grave 671.

Cemetery:

PORTLAND ROYAL NAVAL CEMETERY

Name:

KENNELL, JACK EDWARD

Initials:

J E

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Able Seaman

Regiment/Service:

Royal Navy

Unit Text:

H.M.S. Mercury

Age:

22

Date of Death:

07/07/1940

Service No:

C/SSX 20935

Additional information:

Son of Joseph Edward and Eleanor Annie Kennell, of Coventry.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

C. of E. Portion. Coll. grave 671.

Cemetery:

PORTLAND ROYAL NAVAL CEMETERY

Petty Officer Frederick. W. READ C/J32402 Died of his Wounds [DOW] later that day [the 7th July 1940].

No Surname Rank Service Number Date Of Death Age Regiment/Service Nationality Grave/Memorial Ref. Cemetery/Memorial Name
1 READ, FREDERICK W. Petty Officer C/J 32402 07/07/1940 41 Royal Navy United Kingdom Sec. S. Grave 276. ROCHESTER (ST. MARGARET'S) CEMETERY

His wife claimed his remains and he was buried in Rochester Kent.

Name: READ, FREDERICK W.
Initials: F W
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Petty Officer
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. Mercury.
Age: 41
Date of Death: 07/07/1940
Service No: C/J 32402
Additional information: Son of William and Ada Elizabeth Read; husband of Nora Florence Read, of Rochester.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. S. Grave 276.
Cemetery: ROCHESTER (ST. MARGARET'S) CEMETERY

In Memory of
Petty Officer FREDERICK W. READ

C/J 32402, H.M.S. Mercury., Royal Navy
who died age 41
on 07 July 1940
Son of William and Ada Elizabeth Read; husband of Nora Florence Read, of Rochester.
Remembered with honour
ROCHESTER (ST. MARGARET'S) CEMETERY

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

and before they left the South Coast to return North to their base at Ardrossan on the Clyde, they left another member of her Stirling crew in the Portland Naval Cemetery.  His name was Thomas CARPENTER and he died in a road accident.

Name:

CARPENTER, THOMAS WILSON

Initials:

T W

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Leading Sick Berth Attendant

Regiment/Service:

Royal Naval Auxiliary Sick Berth Reserve

Unit Text:

H.M.S. Mercury

Age:

39

Date of Death:

26/08/1940

Service No:

C/SBRX 6570

Additional information:

Son of Thomas W. Carpenter and Margaret E. Carpenter; husband of Jessie Olive Carpenter, of Hornsea, Yorkshire.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

C. of E. Portion. Grave 695.

Cemetery:

PORTLAND ROYAL NAVAL CEMETERY

Note all Chatham ratings with official numbers beginning with the letter 'C', and that the gun's crew were buried together in a collective grave number 671 [with three separate headstones] and the LSBA was buried in grave number 695. For such a small ships company,  these were horrendous losses and must have affected the crew's morale adversely.

This is a picture of the cemetery, which I know from experience {the HM S/M Sidon tragedy of 1955} as being a quiet, dignified and peaceful place, overlooking the English Channel

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and these pictures were taken by my good friend BRIAN HODDER, an ex submariner radio man and an Officer of the Dorsetshire Submariners Association.  Thank you Brian for the Cemetery visit and for the photographs.

If you ever find yourself on Portland, why not visit this beautiful cemetery and pay homage to these men of HMS Mercury.  Their graves are just inside the gates and to the right of the pathway as the graves of the Sidon men are to the left.

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At the end of October 1940, they were assigned to Milford Haven in Wales, there to clear the British mines from the entrance to St Georges Channel [where the Irish Sea in the north meet the Celtic Sea/Atlantic Ocean in the south - see maps {two in number} below]. What follows is anecdotal from a crew member [who gained a war commission] of one of the other paddle minesweepers in the flotilla sweeping that minefield in company with Mercury, as told to the BBC in their series BBC/WW2/Peoples War/Stories.

"We were on the job on Christmas Day 1940 and our lunch consisted of corned beef sandwiches and a cup of tea gulped down between runs over the minefield. Only essential stokers were allowed below decks during active sweeps.
HMS.Mercury another paddle sweeper in the flotilla had a special Christmas card printed showing Popeye sweeping mines with a broom. It had the caption “We make a clean sweep of anything except our friends”. However as they were recovering sweeps at the end of Christmas day, a mine suddenly broke surface just astern. Before anything could be done, it exploded, buckling her stem. Frantic efforts were made to cope with the leaks, but fearing the worst, the Flotilla Commander ordered us to escort Mercury to Rosslare, the nearest port, although it was in neutral Eire
*. Unfortunately at about 8 o’clock they had to abandon ship and by the light of our searchlights we watched her sink, while we all thought that this could have happened to any of us. Fortunately no one was lost or even hurt as far as I know. We returned to Milford Haven and the next day a proper Christmas lunch was served, but I was ashore as postman, returning with the Duty Drifter at about 4 o’clock to find my dinner had been in the oven keeping too warm for four hours."

However, the truth of the matter [which shortly will be revealed in full] was that HMS Mercury, along with other units of the 11th Minesweeping Flotilla started to sweep the area of British mines on the 29th November 1940 and by the time of Temporary Lieutenant [Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander]  B.A. Palmer RNVR court martial [February 1941] the task was almost completed.  Some of the detail above in the "Peoples War stories" is erroneous although the gist of the story is correct. 

* According to this website, the sinking took place off the Old Head of Kinsale BUT this is a wild guess and far from the actual position - on this site scroll down some distance to the THIRD section of the Old Head of Kinsale disasters, then look for 1940 and the HMS Mercury entry  * Irish Wrecks On-line - Co. Cork Wreck List F,  and shown here are two little maps of the area to orientate you, each with a different projection.  They both clearly show St George's Channel and the left hand image shows Pembroke [Milford Haven]. Also, a little light reading on the right telling one about the depths etc., of the Irish Sea.  The actual position would have been guessed at by all comers because the Admiralty, mindful of the Secret documents which went down with her, would have "kept its cards very close to its chest" . During sweeping operations radio silence would have been in force and the first telling of this disaster would have been by word of mouth on arrival back at base in Milford Haven. 

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Regrettably, her ship's log {it is on the bottom of the Celtic Sea/Irish Sea} in common with many other small war-vessels is not available, as this section taken from the National Archives library showing the file ADM 53 {ADM meaning Admiralty}, clearly shows under the horizontal line " Separated material".

ADM 53 - Context

ADM  Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies
  Division within ADM  Records of HM Ships
 

Record Summary

Title
Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Ships' Logs
Covering dates 1799-1979
Availability Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Separated material Whilst all ships logs are continued for 1939 and the early months of 1940, thereafter, the majority of logs for ships smaller than cruisers appear not to have survived for the remaining war years.
 
Held by
The National Archives, Kew

WW2 HMS Mercury was manned by the Chatham Division, Nore Command.  Her crew in late 1940 was, in a romantic way, motley [to say the least] being comprised of RNVR officers, RN ratings, RN pensioners [RNR/RFR],  RNVR  ratings many of them trawler men from the many fishing ports around the UK [deck and engine room staff]. Crew members dressed in square-rig wore the cap tally "Minesweepers" and not the proverbial "HMS" tally, and of course the officer's stripes were wavy-navy in design.  Morale and discipline {see court martial document for the T124 agreement} were maintained but it is said that the crew had its own ideas {!} occasionally. As you will have read, as the result of her mauling by German bombers, members of her ships company, all with Chatham official numbers, were buried with full military honours in Portland Naval Cemetery in July 1940.

Being manned by the Chatham Division, HMS Mercury's sinking is remembered on a memorial in St Georges Church which was part of the old Chatham Barracks, HMS Pembroke.  That area is now administered by the Medway Local Authority.  Regrettably, the old St Georges Church was regularly vandalised after its separation from the Royal Navy, so now it has a limited open period which is fully supervised.  This article comes from the MEDWAY City website and I am not sure what it really means in today's [2008] terms.  Some of the text is quite unnerving!

 Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham.
Cuttings from Chatham News, Evening Post and Strood St. Nicholas with St. Mary parish magazine comprising articles reporting removal of memorial plaques from St. George’s Church (Evening Post 12 May 1983), notice of closure of St. George’s Church (Evening Post 11 May 1983), use of font in St. George’s Church for laundry business and rat-catching in HMS Pembroke (Chatham News 12 August 1983) and notice of last service to be held at St. George’s Church on 7 August 1983 (parish magazine as above, volume 3, number 8, August 1983). DE402/19/p.7

 I had emailed the Medway Authorities asking them for details of the memorial but received no answer back.  Then I found a most useful contact, Ben Watson, the Academic Support Librarian (Education & Law), working in the  Drill Hall Library at the Universities of Medway. He bothered to find out when St Georges Church was open [by the Local Authority] and then took himself down there in his own lunch break and photographed the HMS Mercury memorial.  What follows is due to Ben's kindness - thank you Ben.

Before I show you his pictures, you have to know the following information.

The second world war brought many early naval tragedies [HMS Royal Oak in 1939 for example] which sadly continued, and at a pace, with 1941 being the worst year of the war for the Royal Navy, and the memorials to these dreadful losses were in the hearts and minds of the Nation as a whole, but especially in the hearts and minds of the loved ones of those who gave their lives for the Country.  In the war years proper, there were but few permanent artefact  memorials placed/erected, and virtually all such memorials were the result of retrospective action. I mention this, and I am conscious that most of you will be saying that I am 'stating the obvious', simply because the paddle minesweeper HMS Mercury lost on Christmas Day 1940 had no ship's crest *, and by the time memorials were placed, HMS Mercury [1941], the Leydene Signal School, was in full commission.  However, its crest was not approved for use until January 1942 [see HMS MERCURY AT LEYDENE ONE.htm],  so that means the memorial was not built/placed in position until sometime after this date.  Although probably never stated in the little paddle steamer, both HMS Mercury's shared battle honours, namely those won by previous HMS Mercurys' of 1744 at Toulon and 1762 at Havana.  Little wonder then that the paddle minesweeper is commemorated at the end of the war for all posterity by using the newly designed, post-sinking, 1942 Leydene crest, á la

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and having read the file above [HMS MERCURY AT LEYDENE] you will sense the irony of this little ship having a circular crest [for sea going ships], whereas it is clearly wrong for a shore establishment

* Ships badges/crests were not used until 1919, therefore our WW1 HMS Mercury would not have had one anyway. As for our WW2 HMS Mercury, badges/crests were not given to "hired" vessels which were not expected to remain in government service.  However, since she never left the Royal Navy and died in service,  the honour of the crest is justified.

The 1939-1940 HMS Mercury is commemorated in St Georges Church in the former HMS Pembroke in two ways: firstly by the ship's crest I have just mentioned which is wall-mounted in the north aisle alongside those of many other ship's, and secondly in a stained glass window.  There is also a text document which explains the detail of the window plus other things re the ship.

 These are the photographs of the stained glass commemorative window.

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HMS Mercury is commemorated in the window having a kneeling sailor at the bottom of the window.

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Here is a close-up of the sailor kneeling window clearly showing the Mercury crest along with other ship's crests.

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This picture shows the kneeling sailor window which is dedicated to the five wounds inflicted upon Christ at his death, and to HMS Mercury, HMS Calcutta, HMS Encounter and HMS Felixstowe.

Ben Watson also sent me a document which describes the memorials.  It is much too small to read with any comfort so I have published it piecemeal in little PDF files which will enable you to use your ADOBE zooming tool to enlarge things. They are as follows:-

EXPLANATION OF THE NORE COMMAND MEMORIAL.pdf EXPLANATION OF NORE COMMAND MEMORIAL TWO.pdf EXPLANATION OF NORE COMMAND MEMORIAL THREE.pdf

At the time of the sinking, the CO reported in writing to the Senior Officer [SO] of the Flotilla, and he in turn reported his findings to the Flag Officer-in-Charge Milford Haven [Rear Admiral Philip Esmond Phillips {1888-1960} CB DSO* who had retired from active service as a Captain R.N., in 1938 and was recalled to active service at the outbreak of war as a Rear Admiral] and he ordered an immediate Board of Enquiry {BoI}.  The BoI was conducted and Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander B A Palmer RNVR was exonerated and only partially blamed for the explosion/sinking.  Admiral Phillips agreed with the findings and reported to his superior C-in-C Western Approaches/C-in-C Plymouth Admiral Sir Martin Eric Dunbar-Nasmith {1883-1965} VC KCB KCMG DL saying that in his opinion there was no need for a court martial.  Admiral Dunbar-Nasmith didn't at all like the results of the BoI, and cited cases of lapses in the questioning of the CO, one of which questioned why the Confidential Books {CB'S} had not been removed from Mercury when it took nearly five hours to sink.  He ordered an immediate court martial. The documents associated with the BoI will be including in with the court martial documents.

The Prosecutor had this to say in his summing up:

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 CLICK HERE to see the list of Naval Courts Martial in WW2.  Then CLICK HERE to see a definition of what HAZARDING and LOSING a ship actually means and relevant punishments associated with being found guilty. 

Footnote 1:

Many of you will remember the small fleet of paddle steamers operating from the Harbour Railway Station in Portsmouth Harbour.  They ferried passengers to the Isle of Wight or on trips up and down The Solent, and were operational [post war] in the late 1940's to the 1970's period.  There were three of them, all as familiar to Royal Sailors as is now the more humble Gosport Ferry and of course the Sealink Ferries/Fast Cats. Their names were PS [Paddle Steamer] - note that there were also same named ship's but prefixed with MV [Motor Vessel] - Whipingham, Sandown and  Ryde.  Each could achieve 17 knots. All three were requisitioned in WW2 [as paddle minesweepers] but given role-changes and went on to serve as warships, categorised as Auxiliary Anti-Aircraft Vessels [Coastal].  Click here to read a very short summary of paddle vessels as A.A. ships.

During 1941 Southern Railways Steamers, the Portsdown and the Southsea, had been lost to enemy mines whilst requisitioned as paddle minesweepers in the Royal Navy. New Motor Vessels [MV's and diesels] were built to replace these two ships.  By the time MV Southsea and MV Brading [note not Portsdown] had entered service on 1st November 1948, Southern Railway had been absorbed by British Railways.  In 1951, MV Shanklin joined the fleet. Now that the three new MV's were in service, the three remaining paddlers became relief and summer only vessels. In 1965, the Sandown was withdrawn from service and sold for breaking.  In 1968 the Whipingham departed from the South Coast to go to London as an Edwardian gin-palace for the Gilbey Gin Company, berthed on the Thames, complete with Pearly Kings and Queens and jellied eels.   On the 14th August 1969 Ryde made her final voyage to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth Harbour Station. Subsequent to that, she was to be broken-up, but local businessmen saved her and she became a night club on the Isle of Wight in September 1970. She was repaired, refitted and put back to work as a night club after a serious fire in 1977.  Not long afterwards, the night clubbers lost interest in the venue and she was closed down. By the mid 1990's the Ryde lay derelict ravaged by thieves and the elements. The following article comes from the May 2008 issue of the SHIPS Monthly magazine:

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 This is a picture of the Paddle Steamer Southsea who served with a pennant number of J113 and was lost as HMS Southsea in 1941.

Paddle Steamer Picture Gallery

 

PS Southsea


Builders: Fairfield Shipping & Engineering Co Ltd Govan 1930

Propulsion type: Paddle: compound diagonal two cylinder

Owners: Southern Railway

Service dates: 1930 - 1941

Tonnage: Net 438 Gross 825

Comments:

Sister ship to the Whippingham, with whom she was advertised as the "largest and most luxurious excursion steamers on the South Coast". They were the first Southern Railway ships to be plated to the bows and were designed to take the place of Duchess of Fife. These ships were extremely popular and were used for excursion work round the Isle of Wight as well as trips to Bournemouth and various Isle of Wight piers. They were also popular for liner inspection trips whilst the liners were in and around the Solent. Southsea was requistioned for War service and was lost when minesweeping in the mouth of the Tyne in 1941.

Footnote 2:

I must admit that I am rather surprised that this information has never before been researched, this despite the several 'serious' chroniclers of the name HMS Mercury, and that countless thousands of us Mercuryites who hold that alma mater close to our hearts,  have never known the history of the name Mercury especially that of the last owner of that proud name, namely J102, HMS Mercury,  Paddle Minesweeper, lost whilst sweeping a British minefield  December 25th 1940.  What I would give for HMS Mercury's 1940 Christmas Card? - "HMS.Mercury another paddle sweeper in the flotilla had a special Christmas card printed showing Popeye sweeping mines with a broom. It had the caption “We make a clean sweep of anything except our friends”." Even with HMS Vernon in mind [the TAS/Minesweeping School] I think that WE MAKE A CLEAN SWEEP OF ANYTHING EXCEPT OUR FRIENDS might have been a fitting motto for HMS Mercury The Signal School.

Footnote 3:

The Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve [RNVSR] was established in 1936. The Reserve's members were mostly 'gentlemen yachtsmen' and others with some nautical experience, considered suitable for "temporary commissions as Probationary Sub Lieutenants RNVR, or temporary appointments as Probationary midshipmen RNVR, on or after mobilisation". Officially they were no more than a list of names to be activated in time of war; meantime they held no rank, had no uniforms and no public funds were available for their training.

However, the individuals who made up the Reserve were not content with this static role. Forming themselves into unofficial groups in various parts of the country, they set about organising their own training, at first mainly by way of instruction ashore lectures and study for the Board of Trade Yachtmasters' Certificate all at their own expense. Those in the London area went further and persuaded shipping companies to provide sea training facilities in foreign going ships. They also bought two old steam picket boats from the Admiralty disposals list. The first was named RESPONSE, (i.e. to the call for Volunteers) and the second REPLY. Together, they came to be known as The London Flotilla and the first voyage in their new role was made by the RESPONSE, from Portsmouth to the Thames in December 1937. The title 'London Flotilla' was extended to cover the London group of RNVSR members and has continued in use, although Flotilla members are now resident in all parts of the country and overseas.

During 1939 the strength of the RNVSR continued to build up. On the outbreak of war they were mobilised and, being already partly trained through their own efforts, they were serving at sea as RNVR officers within a few weeks.

The Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve was reconstituted in 1947 with an enthusiastic response by released war time RNVR officers who for various reasons could not join the regular Reserves. They were joined in due course by younger men with post war National Service commissions and by "suitable gentlemen aged between 25 and 30 ... with experience of the sea and willing to be called up for Naval service in emergency" who were given dormant RNR commissions. At the same time, the London Flotilla and kindred associations were revived to enable their members to keep themselves in readiness for mobilised service should the occasion arise. Their activities have continued notwithstanding the discouragement arising from the disbandment of the RNVSR in 1965 as a Services Vote economy measure. (There was in fact no public expenditure on the RNVSR as its members provided for their activities at their own expense, as in 1936-1939, and facilities placed at their disposal by the Admiralty were subject to the proviso that "no additional expense to the Crown is involved")

Footnote 4:

These little text-packets are taken from the website http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/tramways/ClydeSteamersofthe1930s.htm.

"World War II and its Aftermath
May 1945. The days were getting longer. A warm summer was expected. Europe was, once again, at peace. British holidaymakers could once again dream of a day at the coast without fear of enemy attack or for family members at the front line. Not since 1939, with the ominous threat of war casting a shadow over what might otherwise have been a carefree summer, had visitors to the Firth of Clyde been able to enjoy unrestricted cruising throughout one of Britain's most popular stretches of water. The declaration of war brought that season to a premature end. A submarine protection "boom" was strung across the Firth, the happy tourists enlisted into the forces and the majority of the magnificent steamships which had for over 100 years been a focal point of Clyde holidays, were sent to the local shipyards to be fitted with guns and minesweeping equipment. Leaving the shipyards with new all-over grey paintwork, they went to war as their predecessors had in 1914. For several of the ships it was their second call-up into His Majesty's service.

For five seasons, a very restricted service had been operated on the Clyde, with ferry services to Dunoon and Rothesay, the Holy Loch and Arran piers, providing a lifeline for those resorts and the chance for at least some people to enjoy a brief respite from the war.

Despite being on the north-western extremity of Europe and far less affected by the war and its aftermath than central Europe, the west of Scotland had suffered heavy bombing during air raids and the Clyde had become highly militarised as a naval base. The Clyde fleet, like its potential patrons, had suffered heavy losses. The roll of honour for lost vessels read like a departure roster for a busy summer's day at Rothesay: Mercury, Juno, Kylemore, Waverley and Marmion. Duchess of Rothesay, Eagle III and Queen-Empress struggled back from duty but failed to make it back into post-war service on account of their poor condition.

Clearly no vessels would be available to restore a peace time service that summer : the Admiralty retained many ships for some time after the ending of hostilities and shipyards were busy re-converting others for their civilian role. Only in 1946 was the Firth recognisable from ten years earlier, but it had also gained a large American naval presence as the World War was increasingly turning into a Cold War with the former partner in victory, the Soviet Union.

Like the Great War before it, the effects of the Second World War were such that life could never return to how it had been beforehand. The same applied to Clyde cruising. Whilst there was a brief surge in cruising popularity in the immediate post-war years, changes in economics, technology and personal circumstances resulted in the long term decline of cruising. This was not immediately apparent and attention turned to what new ships would be needed for the restored services. The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) suffered the largest proportionate losses. They had lost two of their five vessels (Marmion and Waverley, the latter having been laid up for the 1939 season) and planned two replacements. The larger Caledonian Steam Packet Co (CSP) losses included the modern steamers Juno and Mercury."

and

"1934 : Caledonia and Mercury : paddlers that didn't look like paddlers........


It was not before time that the CSP turned their attention to modernising their up-river fleet. As the dominant railway company, the LMS, owners of the CSP, relied on a venerable fleet of much-loved paddlers to maintain connections from its main railheads at Gourock and Wemyss Bay to the piers at Dunoon and the Cowal Coast and at Rothesay and Craigmore on the Isle of Bute. As well as excursion traffic in the main summer season, there was a year-round demand for a regular and reliable service for commuters up to Glasgow and for the carriage of goods, including food to the remoter parts of the Firth. Historically this had been the CSP's "bread and butter", with specially designed ships taking the strain once the more opulent cruise vessels had retired to their lay-up berths after what was always a relatively short summer season.

1933 saw the demise of two Clyde stalwarts - Caledonia of 1889 which had been the CSP's first new ship and Mercury of 1892, one of the earliest GSWR steamers. They were replaced by vessels of the same name and registration of the new ships was in the CSP and LMS names respectively. Built by Denny and Fairfield, the two ships were launched in early 1934 and were of similar design although had slight differences which made them distinguishable to the trained eye. To the general public, however, they presented a most remarkable appearance. They were paddle steamers, but rather than have decorated paddle boxes and vents, plating was carried around the sponsons in such a way that they looked like screw steamers from a broadside view. Shorter and broader than the sleek turbines, they nevertheless were thoroughly modern in appearance with spacious promenade deck saloons fore and aft, and observation decks above each, linked and extended to the front of the forward saloon. The navigation bridge was raised above observation deck level and was placed forward of the single large elliptical funnel. Triple expansion three-crank engines were provided, giving a maximum speed of just over 17 knots, three less than the fastest turbines but more than adequate for most upper Clyde services.

The manoeuvrability of the paddler and the advantage over the turbines in terms of acceleration and deceleration made this type of vessel suitable for serving the numerous closely-placed piers on the upper Firth. Caledonia entered service on March 31st, a Glasgow holiday weekend, when her passenger capacity was most useful, and settled into a regular programme of connections from Gourock and Wemyss Bay to Dunoon and Rothesay, extending the afternoon Rothesay run into the Kyles of Bute and offering short cruises from Largs and Millport.

Both ships caused some concern in their first season - Caledonia with mechanical breakdowns and Mercury with handling problems, but both received attention to correct the problems. The CSP/LMS now had two extremely versatile new vessels - suitable for ferry connections or shorter cruises and providing excellent covered accommodation and deck space to suit."
 

Footnote 5:

That is my story.  I have also written a page about HMS Mercury's Church, St Gabriel's from 1953 to 1991.  This includes a list of baptism's, which took place during that period.  CLICK HERE to read the Notices.

Now, why not go to my home page http://www.godfreydykes.info or direct to more naval stories NAVY PAGE OPTIONS where you can select either PORT for the 'larger' stories or STARBOARD for the 'smaller' stories. 

As a further option, have a look at this site which tells the story of HMS Mercury [pictures and all] the 1941 Leydene Signal School http://www.rncca.com/PDF%20Docs/MercHist1.pdf.  I would also recommend that you source and read the book 'Signal' written by the late Captain Barrie Kent Royal Navy, a one time CSS [Captain Signal School].  Its ISBN number is 1 85623 025 2 and it was published by Hyden House Limited in 1993 with a second edition issued in 2004.

AND FINALLY, CLICK HERE to see The Court Martial of the Commanding Officer of HMS Mercury, Temporary Lieutenant [Temporary Acting Lieutenant Commander] B. A. Palmer R.N.V.R., which took place on the 6th and 7th of February 1941

Yours aye.