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In Shore Minesweeping

by Allen Smith

Contributed by 
Allen Smith
People in story: 
Allen Smith
Location of story: 
English Channel
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A4442005
Contributed on: 
12 July 2005

Dover 1945

I joined BYMS 2049 in Halifax for the trip over to Dover and by that time I had got my sea legs as you certainly needed them on the BYMS! But what luxury I slept in the top centre bunk in the mess! Our Commanding officer at that time was Mac Donald RNR then later Reeves a red head and a right ladies man! He took over when we got to Dover. The Sub Lieutenant was a Newfie (Newfoundlander) he wore steel tips on his shoes and he used to be a baker. The Chief engineer Gellespie was a good chap but the Petty Officer engineer Mac Donald was a mean bugger. One of the cooks was a scouse and he was the hairiest blokes I have ever seen but he could make a nice Manchester tart! His mate was Wogan a right short house but he had an excellent voice and when Mac came back aboard he would get Wogan up to sing to him.

The Bunts was a Newfie too and the signalman's name was Dowling. The Deckies were Cox'n John Hope, who was from the north east and Guns Tommy Lewis. The six Seaman included three Newfies named Hibbs, Gushue and Barns plus one Pud (Liverpudlian), little Bert Prettyman. There was also Ted Ogden from Manchester and Blackford who came from Bridgend who was then an old man all of 28! (I was only 18 at the time!) The Stokers were Bill Cobbold who came from London, Mac Evoy, and the Lucus twins - the others I cant remember. The only other Wireman beside me was Jack Wilkes who came from South Wales and he married a girl while we were in Halifax. He still lives there to this day and we remain in touch.
BYMS 2049 at Dover
Well what can one say about Dover?! There was one time when a shell landed on the Church canteen in Snargate Street killing a lot of soldiers. One also landed on a trawler next to the Prince of Wales pier where we used to tie up. There would normally be at least 12 vessels tied up there at any one time including, BYMS, MMS and Trawlers. On the other side of the pier would normally be the 2 tugs Lady Brassy and Lady Duncannon.
Our area stretched from the Thames estuary up to Beachy head where we would anchor up for the night. We did this for about 4 months doing "LL" and "Oropesa" sweeps. The worse position to find ourselves in was the in mid channel while making' smoke. When the V1 flying bombs started coming over, we were busy sweeping off Dover. They Flew so low that the gun batteries on the cliffs would pepper us with shrapnel! After that we had splinter mats put up. Some times we would anchor up in Trinity bay off the Goodwin sands. One night there was panic when we dragged the anchor and found that the two men on watch had fall asleep but we were lucky not to be caught out.
Kye for Cognac!
As the French ports were taken we went over to Deippe and worked out off there later moving up to clear Boulogne. Here we did ten days at a time then back to Dover for four. We carried on doing this for about four months and we used to call this the "Cocoa Run" for every tin off Kye (Cocoa issued by the RN) we got a bottle off Cognac! So after a while the the Cox'n would take orders off everyone and then get a sack full from the Naffi Stores. Even the old man was in on it but used get a box full at a time so he would get me to store them on a shelf under deck in the gyro room with the spares. When we got back to Dover we would trade such things as our rabbits and then most of the crew would visit a village outside Dover called Eythorne. The local pub was mostly frequented by miners and I used take them "Pricks of Tobacco".. In those days you really could get anything but it all had to come to an end due to Customs.

We later moved up to Ostend and then it happened, we slammed into the jetty and split the bows. Lady Brassey was sent out to bring us back lashed alongside just in case. We lay in Wellington Dock for three weeks which was great for a while and then we were finally patched up and told we were going to Ghent in Belgium. Antwerp had been cleared so off we went and this was in January 45 - what a winter that was!

More Flying Bombs!
We eventually got to Ghent and we were put in dry dock. After a week they found that they couldn't do the job of repairs so they floated us out and down the canal to "Ternuezen" where we lay for another week before being sent to Antwerp. I was one of six crew left on board while they did the work. This was during the time of the famous 'battle of the bulge'. The Germans were trying to retake Antwerp and they threw everything at us including flying bombs, one of which hit the tower in the town. A V2 rocket also landed on the Rex Cinema killing a lot of people. When you are in a ship that is propped up with six props either side, it's a bit dodgy with bombs dropping around you! At last the repairs were completed and back we went to the old routine.
Does anyone remember the hand grenade sweep with the tube and blocks of wood? I was glad I was a wireman! I remember later looking back at some photographs of the BYMS 2049 during this period and I noticed that the ships bell had gone? I wonder to this day who took it!
Back in Dover we had a new Commanding Officer who's name Dangerfield and who was yet another ladies man! We now resumed the normal sweeps from the Thames to Beachy Head. Later we started 'cross channel sweeps' and it was during one of these, that we came across an Indian canoe! It about 12ft long and all varnished so the old man had it on board and cleaned up and sent home! We would often end up at Boulogne and stay there usually for ten days. In the harbour was a beached wreck of one of our sweepers. Apparently It had sat on a mine when the tide went out but I cant recall the number of it now? There were also two graves of German soldiers at Boulogne and little Bert knew their names. On another one of the trips some of the crew from each sweeper were invited to Paris for a feast as a kind of 'thank you' for all the work we had done. There is even a photograph at the 'Nest' in Lowestoft and you can see on the front row

the "2049" crew all of us our best behavior!
1945 and towards the end of the war
Back to the old routine in Dover and we began to get plenty of leave so I always went home. I always had my meals at the 'Naffi Club' to save my mothers rations and while I was there I got friendly with the girls. I often used bring them silk stockings. One of the girls I went out with was Phyllis Thompson who was from Whitehaven. I then met Mollie Buckley who's husband had been reported missing when HMS Manners lost 60ft of her stem when she was a torpedoed 19 miles off Holyhead 26th January 1945. Mollie and I became very friendly and when I came home I always went to see her every time.
1945 pasted without any incidents and as were beginning to lose our best seamen all going back to fishing. One thing that happened was when Mac Donnald was leaving. The Quarter Master, Little Bert was in the galley leaning on a half door which had been closed and he said to big Mac that maybe he should get his head down as he was leaving the ship next day. Then all hell let loose as 'big Mac' grabbed a meat cleaver and brought down at Bert who immediately jumped back as it stuck in the door! With all this noise half the crew were up. Even the old man in the base was sent for but we never saw 'big Mac' again!
We then began to get men off the bigger ships who never had a 'wheel' in their hands. In the end I was the only one left of the old crew so the old man used to get me on the wheel. After three years on the BYMS 2049 I knew every plank! So 1945 passed into 1946 without anything really happening apart from just sweeping and more sweeping. Then Mollie moved down to Dover and that was great because we were always coming back there but when our base HMS LYNX closed later that year, and moved to Queensborough on the 19 December, I was already out married Mollie on the 26th of that month. Back home in January 1947, I realised I was going to miss the kind of comradeship you get whist serving on a small ship such as the BYMS 2049. You got to know every one on board and that was what it was like in the RNPS. It's still like that in our Association today! On a big ship you only got to know the men that were in your mess, My first ship had been the much larger HMS Resolution and after only three months I was glad to be off! My time in the RNPS did me good in latter life..
A lot of you know me by the models I make and I have made several to date these are
1st BYMS 2049 on display at the Fleetwood museum. I carved this out of a solid block while on the BYMS 2049
2nd BYMS 2049 on display at the 'Nest' (RNPSA museum, Lowestoft) made in 1954
3rd BYMS 2049 on display at the Dover Museum made 1956
4TH BYMS 2049 on display at Maritime Command Museum Halifax Nova Scotia made 1990
5th BYMS 2049 presented to CO Jack Moore the first to be given Lowestoft 1992
6th BYMS 2049 I own myself which I sail
1st MMS 31 on display at the 'Nest' (RNPSA museum, Lowestoft) made 1958
2nd MMS 31 owned by myself made 1985 and still sailing
3rd MMS 31 presented to Commander G D Titmus RN made 2000
1st HMT SIR KAY on display at the 'Nest' (RNPSA museum, Lowestoft) built 1985
2nd HMT SIR KAY owned by myself 1986 and still sailing
Ist BIG MICKEY MMS 1037 on display at the 'Nest' (RNPSA museum, Lowestoft) MADE 1989
2nd BIG MICKEY MMS 1080 owned by myself and still sailing. Refitted to a Dan Layer, supper structure extended past "LL REEL" that was removed. There were only two such vessels altered for D.DAY.
Dover Harbour Tug Lady Brassey built 1960 on display at the Dover Museum
Sailing Smack Nelson.
Skipper T Crisp DSO VC a painting in the 'Nest' (RNPSA museum, Lowestoft)

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