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Operation Overlord: Fleet Minesweeper HMS Chamois

by navymrsemwilliams

Contributed by 
navymrsemwilliams
People in story: 
c a williams
Location of story: 
gold beach head
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2359451
Contributed on: 
27 February 2004

My ship was HMS Chamois,a fleet minesweeper c
classified as BAM(british american minesweeper).

I commisioned her in seatle where she was built in the seatle tacoma shipyard the previous year,we sailed from seatle via San Diego and the Panama Canal to Bermuda for working up trials,and so to the UK.

On the evening of June 5th we crossed the channel with several of our sister ships and escorts, to take place in the "D" Day campaign,our job was to sweep a channel off the Normandy Coast during the night before the invasion fleet arrived the following morning.

Our job was to position a Dan Bouy opposite"Caen" on the french coast. This was fitted with a radar detector for directing the gunfire of our ships upon arrival.

Caen at this time was being heavily bombed by Allied Airforces and the town was a mass of fire along the waterfront, we laid our bouy approximately three miles off shore, which was a bit close for comfort,- with the enemy shore batteries in the offing.

Tracer shells were coming over us so we withdrew to a safe distance and waited the arrival of the fleet,they arrived soon after dawn with the landing craft forging ahead towards the three beacheads - "Sword","Juno" and "Gold" and during the fornoon masses of aircraft literally covered the sky as far as the horizon, fighters, bombers and gliders, being towed by other aircraft, we had a grandstand view which was immensly impressive.

During this time there was not a single enemy aircraft to be seen, presumably they were overwhelmed and driven back by our aircover.

One problem was to provide a safe anchorage for the supply ships of the Merchant Navy bringing in the stores and as a temporary expedient they were berthed close inshore under the steep cliffs, with small naval ships including ourselves outflanking them, thus forming a barrier to seaward.

These were positioned in three lines named "Sword", "Juno" and "Gold". Sword position was the outboard line of defence, with Juno the second line and Gold the third, being closest to the merchant ships.

This operation continued until the "Mulberry" harbour was installed some weeks later, meanwhile several ships on the outer defence lines suffered losses by torpedo attack from midget submarines which infiltrated at dawn each day on the Sword flank.

We lost three ships one morning whilst guarding the outer position, one of which was "HMS Cato" a sister ship to ourself and we picked up suvivors from her.

Up until then, we were stationary and "sitting ducks" so to speak, so it was decided to steam slowly around and drop small depth charges in the hope of scaring off the attackers.

Meanwhile we continued minesweeping operations each day over a period of approximately three weeks, when a hospital ship was mined in what was a swept channel,this made us suspect that it was a new type of mine which did not respond to our normal equipment.

The following day whilst affecting a sweep over this same area,with all our equipment functioning, we triggered off amine under the ship which lifted her out of the water.

Fortunately the hull remained intact and we kept afloat, but all electrical power was cut off, I immeadiately hurried down to the Engine room, and the Chief Engine room artificer went down the forrard Engine room.

Both Engine rooms were in total darkness, but the ships service alternators were still running and i was able to close the supply breaker to the main switchboard and restore power to the essential services.

After detailed inspection of equipment between decks it was found the damage was considerable throughout the ship, including the main propulsion motors, so it was decided to lat the ship up.

We carried out emergency repairs to make her seaworthy and limped across the channel to Hartlepool, where we laid her up, to me it was a sad parting.

C.A.Williams C.E.A.,R.N.

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