Devonport Naval Heritage Centre Newsletter December 2015


1st 1940 – George Cross (GC) ex Albert Medal-Able Seaman A.MILES (SALTASH) – saving life at sea.

2nd 1825 – Defeat of the Burmese at Pagoda Point, above Prome. DIANA & boats of Irrawaddy Flotilla captured 300 warboats.

1949 – IMPLACABLE(ex French DUGUAY-TROUIN captured in 1805) scuttled off Selsey Bill.

1986-UPHOLDER, 1st of Type 2400 diesel-electric Submarines, launched at Vickers.

3rd 1794 – Mutiny in CULLODEN, over pay & living conditions, ended after involvement with senior officers ashore. A sign of things to come with the Nore mutinies 1797 perhaps?

1810 – Capture of Ile de France (Mauritius) by ships under Vice-Admiral A.BERTIE (AFRICAINE) & troops under Major-General the Hon. J. ABERCROMBY.

1945 – 1st deck landing of a jet aircraft (De Havilland Sea Vampire – Lt Cdr E.M. BROWN RN) onto OCEAN, off the Isle of Wight.

1963 – VALIANT,1st all-British designed nuclear Submarine launched.

4th 1916 – LLEWELLYN sank Sub UC.19 off Dover, 1st successful use of depth charges.

1939 – Battleship NELSON, entering Loch Ewe, severely damaged by mine.

1967 – Coastal minelayer PLOVER paid off, having been in commission since 1937 & having laid one of the 1st minefields at the start of WW2.

5th 1578 – Francis DRAKE sacked Valparaiso.

1830 – THETIS, carrying $810,000 worth of bullion, wrecked on Cape Frio, near Rio de Janeiro. $60,000 later recovered in a salvage epic, using a water tank as a diving bell.

1866 – Start of naval operations against the Fenians in S.Ireland & in Canadian waters by RN N.American Squadron.

1918 – CASSANDRA, in operations against the Bolsheviks, sunk by mine in the Baltic.

1950 – Evacuation of troops from Chinnampo, Korea.

6th 1857 – SHANNON’s Naval Brigade at the defeat of Indian mutineers, Cawnpore.

1917 – GC(exAM)-Ldg Seaman T.N. DAVIS, disposing burning ammunition in blazing & drifting tug, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1941 – PERSEUS sunk by mine, 7 mile north of Zante. Ldg Stoker CAPES, the only survivor, swam 7 miles to shore at Cephalonia.

7th 1878 – Completion of armoured cruiser with sails NORTHAMPTON, last RN ship to have main armament between decks & along sides of ship (broadside).

1939 – 1st German Type B magnetic mine rendered safe in Thames estuary, by Lts J.E.M. GLENNY & R.S. ARMITAGE RN (VERNON).

1942 – RM canoeist raiders (Cockleshell Heroes) launched from Sub TUNA, to canoe up the Gironde river & place limpet mines on ships in Bordeaux – Operation FRANKTON.

8th 1914 – 1st Battle of the Falkland Islands. Battleships INVINCIBLE & INFLEXIBLE, under Vice Admiral Sir D. STURDEE defeated ships under Vice Admiral GRAF VON SPEE, avenging his defeat of a British squadron in the battle of Coronel a month earlier.

1941 – 1st siege of Tobruk (242 days) ended, RN & merchant ships having kept the garrison supplied & reinforced with troops. RN ships 25 sunk, 9 seriously damaged, merchant ships 5 sunk, 4 seriously damaged.

9th 1819 – RN & Bombay Marine ships with troops destroyed Joasmi pirate stronghold, Ras al Khaimah.

1914 – RN ships with troops captured Qurra, Mesopotamia. ARK ROYAL commissioned, having been purchased as a merchant ship & converted to a seaplane carrier.

1942 – PORCUPINE torpedoed but reached Gibraltar, then towed to UK in 2 parts, nicknamed PORK & PINE, but a total loss, unable to be joined together, unlike ZUBIAN in 1916.

10th 1941 – Battleships PRINCE OF WALES & REPULSE sunk by Japanese aircraft off the east coast of Malaya. Royal Marine survivors from the 2 ships went on to join the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, to form the “Plymouth Argylls” in the defence of Singapore.

11th 1899 – Naval Brigade at the battle of Magersfontein, Boer War.

12th 1782 – Admiral Sir HYDE PARKER Bt sailed from Rio de Janeiro in CATO, to take up his appointment as CinC East Indies. Neither he nor CATO were ever seen again but some wreckage thought to be from CATO was seen at Jeddah 9 years later & there was a rumour that he had been killed & cannibalised on the Malabar coast.

1888 – Establishment of 2 Naval Signal Schools, one in RN Barracks Devonport, the other in Portsmouth.

1962 – Assault under heavy fire on Limbang, Brunei, by L Company 42 RM Cdo, in landing craft manned by seamen from coastal minesweepers CHAWTON & FISKERTON, to rescue hostages taken by rebels, who were put to flight & hunted down by RN helicopters & river patrols; 5 Royal Marines were killed & 5 wounded. This was the start of a rebellion, lasting 3½ years, during which Indonesian guerrillas attempted to infiltrate the rest of Borneo.

13th 1914 – VC-Lt N.D. HOLBROOK ( Sub B.11) for passing through the Dardanelles entrance minefield & sinking Turkish MESSOUDIEH. The 1st Naval VC of WW1.

1939 – Sub SALMON torpedoed & put out of action cruisers LEIPZIG & NURNBERG, in a North Sea patrol during which she had already sunk U.36, the 1st successful Sub versus enemy Sub attack in WW2. Her C.O. Lt Cdr BICKFORD was promoted & awarded the DSO. Force G under Commodore H.H. Harwood (AJAX), with cruisers EXETER & ACHILLES (RNZN) fought commerce raiding battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE off the River Plate, forcing her into Montevideo for repairs. EXETER was badly damaged, with only 1 gun turret left working by hand & with emergency steering. After 72 hours in a neutral port, the maximum allowed, GRAF SPEE put to sea but was then scuttled, having been deceived by false reports of reinforced stronger RN forces waiting to fight her. The 1st decisive naval battles of both World Wars took place in the South Atlantic & GRAF SPEE was named after the Admiral defeated in 1914.

14th 1840 – Admiralty Board approved the construction of the 1st RN wooden (hull) screw (propeller) sloop ARDENT, later renamed RATTLER, proving to be more powerful in a tug-of-war with paddlewheeler ALECTO.

15th 1778 – Ships under Rear-Admiral the Hon. S. BARRINGTON (PRINCE OF WALES) fought ships under Vice-Admiral Comte d’ESTAING at St.Lucia, thwarting French recapture of the island, which had been captured by troops under General GRANT, taking the French by surprise.

1942 – GC(exAM)-Petty Officer Cook C.H. WALKER for saving life in Malta harbour.

16th 1812 – MAGNIFICENT saved in a violent gale, Bay of Biscay, by superb seamanship, which earned her Captain the name of Magnificent HAYES.

1914 – Scarborough, Hartlepool & Whitby bombarded by German battlecruisers.

1916 – VC-Captain (temporary Lt Colonel) B.C. FREYBERG (RN Division & Royal West Surrey Regt.) (ex Lt Cdr RNVR). He went on to be a General in WW2.

1957 – THOROUGH returned to DOLPHIN after 1st RN Submarine circumnavigation of the world.

17th 1940 – ACHERON sunk by mine off the Isle of Wight, during speed trials after repairs, having had her stern blown off in a Portsmouth Dockyard air raid.

1941 – 1st Battle of Sirte. 3 cruisers & 14 destroyers under Rear-Admiral VIAN (NAIAD), covering the sailing of merchant ship BRECONSHIRE, from Alexandria to Malta with vital supplies, fought off repeated Italian naval attacks. She was sunk in Malta, after another convoy, the next year.

18th 1793 – Ships under Vice-Admiral Lord HOOD (VICTORY) evacuated Toulon, which they had occupied & held since 27th August, capturing or destroying 14 ships of the line, 19 frigates & corvettes.

1941 – VC-Lt Cdr M.D. WANKLYN RN (UPHOLDER) for gallantry, sinking a heavily defended defended transport ship. The 1st Submariner VC of WW2.

19th 1664 – Ships under Captain T.ALLEN (PLYMOUTH) attacked a Dutch convoy in Gibraltar Strait & took the best 3 ships, but war had not yet been declared & ALLEN was accused of ignoring a Dutch salute.

1914 – Protected cruiser DORIS harassed with gunfire Turkish forces on the coast near Alexandretta. The gun her sailors captured in the Boer War is now in Devonport Park.

1915 – Evacuation of Anzac & Suvla beacheads at Gallipoli, successfully completed by 21st December.

1941 – NEPTUNE & KANDAHAR mined off Tripoli, NEPTUNE sinking & KANDAHAR having to be sunk the next day by JAGUAR, cruisers AURORA & PENELOPE also mined; this was the end of Force K operations. In Alexandria harbour, Egypt, battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH & VALIANT were severly damaged by limpet mines attached by Italian 2-man torpedoes

20th 1940 – 10 Fleet Air Arm 830 Sqdn. Swordfish (Malta) bombed Tripoli & mined the harbour. -GC-Lt Cdr R.J.H. RYAN RN, Sub Lt P.V. DANCKWERTS RNVR & Chief Petty Officer R.V. ELLINGWORTH for bomb & mine disposal, the 1st & 3rd awards posthumous.

21st 1914 – 1st night bombing raid, on Ostend, by Cdr C.R. SAMSON RN in a Maurice Farman biplane.

1941 – U.751 sank AUDACIOUS (1st Escort Carrier, ex-German liner HANOVER) west of Finisterre escorting Convoy HG.76 of 17 ships from Gibraltar, the escort also including Captain F.J. WALKER’s 36th Escort Group. Despite the loss of AUDACIOUS, 2 merchant ships & an escort, this convoy was fairly successful, showing how a well-trained escort group, aided by air support, could counter Submarine attacks, 4 having been sunk, U.451 by Swordfish A/812 from ARK ROYAL flying off from Gibraltar, the 1st night sinking by aircraft, land-based & on its own.

22nd 1940 – 15 Swordfish aircraft of 815 & 819 Sdn. Fleet Air Arm (carrier ILLUSTRIOUS) bombed Tripoli.

23rd 1858 – PEARL’s Naval Brigade at Tulsipur, India.

1915 – Start of RN operations on Lake Tanganyika.

1919 – ENTERPRISE launched, 1st light cruiser armed with twin 6” gun turret.

1927 – GC(exEGM)- PO Stoker H.J. MAHONEY (TAURUS), gallantry in a boiler room explosion.

24th 1777 – Captain COOK discovered Christmas Island.

1789 – GUARDIAN (44 guns) en-route to Australia, struck an iceberg in South Atlantic, the Captain (RIOU) & a skeleton crew standing by her onboard; she drifted into Table Bay, S.Africa.

1914 – R.Australian Navy were asked to reinforce East African naval area. PIONEER sent, arriving 6th Feb.1915, released & returning to RAN Aug.1916, having fired more shells at the enemy than any other RAN ship in WW1.

1940 – BORDE detonated 1st electrically swept German mine.

25th 1914 – RN Air Service seaplane raid on Cuxhaven.

1923 – Light cruiser CAPETOWN sent up Coatzacoalcos River, Mexico, to protect British interests.

1940 – Cruisers BERWICK & BONAVENTURE, escorting Convoy WS.5A, drove off cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER in the South Atlantic.

1941 – HongKong surrendered to Japanese forces, ROBIN being scuttled to avoid capture.

26th 1857 – Naval Brigade of 21 gun screw/sail frigate PEARL at Sohanpur.

1915 – Gunboats MIMI & TOUTOU, having been transported to Lake Tanganyika by liner, train, steam tractor, oxen & raft, captured German KINGANI, which ran aground, was salvaged & taken into RN service as FIJI.

1927 – KEPPEL sailed from Shanghai to protect British interests in Chingwangtao.

1941 – 2nd Commando raid on Lofoten.

1943 – Ships under Admiral Sir Bruce FRASER (DUKE OF YORK) sank battlecruiser SCHARNHORST off the North Cape.

27th 1831 – 10 gun brig BEAGLE sailed on 5-year circumnavigation of the world, carrying Charles DARWIN.

1940 – GC- Lt R.S. ARMITAGE, Sub Lts (Sp) R.V. MOORE & J.H. BABINGTON, all RNVR, for bomb & mine disposal.

1941 – Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway – Operation Archery.

28th 1857 – Ships under Admiral Sir M. SEYMOUR bombarded Canton (2nd Chinese War). Captain W.T. BATES RN wrote home that night “I hold it as a general leading principle that there is nothing the Navy cannot do”. He was killed the next day, living up to what he had written, CANTON being captured.

1922 – Battleships RODNEY & NELSON laid down, nicknamed the Cherry Trees because they were cut down in size by the Washington (Naval) Treaty. The only RN ships to mount 16inch guns in triple gun turrets.

29th 1669 – MARY ROSE drove off 7 Algerine pirates, near Tangier, during Battle of Cadiz.

1860 – WARRIOR, 1st seagoing RN iron hull armour plated sail rigged warship launched at Blackwall in response to France’s 1st ironclad warship GLOIRE. PELORUS’ Naval Brigade at Kairau, New Zealand.

1917 – GC(exAM)- Deckhand J.G. STANNERS RNR (Motor Launch 289) fighting fire in a magazine.

1944 – 1st Biber German midget Sub to be recovered, by READY off Dover.

30th 1893 – HAVOCK, 1st RN torpedo boat destroyer, commissioned.

31st 1823 – Dock renamed Devonport.

1847 – Last Semaphore relay signal to Spithead from London, replaced by electric telegraph.

1861 – Boats of FALCON, with those of DOVER the 1st RN ironclad, destroyed 4 towns up Rokel River, Sierra Leone.

1942 – VC-Captain R.St.V. SHERBROOKE RN (ONSLOW) in defence of Convoy JW.51B, North of North Cape.


In 1942, 13 members of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment, based in Southsea, were selected for an operation to paddle canoes up the river Gironde, to place limpet mines on the hulls of merchant ships in Bordeaux, under the command of Major “Blondie” HASLER. The canoes were 2-man canvas-sided collapsibles, each carrying 8 limpet (magnetized) mines.

On the night of 7th December, 5 canoes were launched from Sub TUNA, off the mouth of the GIRONDE, the 6th being damaged, so her crew & the 1 reserve member of the team remained in TUNA. As they paddled up into the river, in stormy conditions, 1 canoe capsized & was lost, 2 more disappearing & their crews being captured & executed . By the night of the 11th December, after paddling by night & laying up concealed by day, the last 2 canoes reached Bordeaux and their mines were placed on 6 ships hulls, all being damaged, but not long out of action.

These 2 crews then set off on foot, trying to escape to the border with Spain, but only 1 crew reached Spain & returned to England, Major HASLER & Marine Bill SPARKS, being awarded the DSO & DSM respectively. The other crew, Cpl A. LAVER & Mne W. MILLS, also heading for Spain, were caught 2 days later & executed, on German Higher Command orders, in contravention of Geneva rules, as they were wearing uniform & declared prisoners of war; as DSMs could not be awarded posthumously, they were mentioned in dispatches. The bodies of the capsized canoe crew were found ashore, having died of hypothermia.

A 2011 BBC documentary alleged that the Special Operations Executive had also planned to sabotage the Bordeaux ships & may have done so more effectively, neither SOE nor Combined Ops being aware of each others’ plans.

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