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This page last updated 14th August 2009

The 12th MSF
(Minesweeping Flotilla)

The first of the class to be completed was, appropriately enough, the ALGERINE on the 12th March, 1942, to be quickly followed by ALARM, ALBACORE and ACUTE. The honour of being the first 'Algerine' to raise a mine was ALBACORE when she exploded a magnetic mine in the Firth of Forth on the 30th July, 1942. In October, CADMUS joined the others and together they formed the 12th Minesweeping Flotilla (MSF), the first such of 'Algerines', with ALGERINE as the Senior Officer ship.

These five formed part of the escort to Convoy KMS1, a troop convoy taking part in Operation 'Torch', the landings in North Africa. The invasion took place on the 8th November and, four days later, ALGERINE whilst on anti-submarine patrol off Bougie, was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ascianghi and sank with the loss of 84 of her ship's company, including all 9 officers. CADMUS was also in trouble about this time being in collision with the cruiser SHEFFIELD and requiring repairs to her bows with concrete, thereafter being known to the rest of the flotilla as the "Ugly Duckling". CADMUS made up for this lapse a few weeks later when she rammed a submarine, although later reports confirmed that the submarine, though badly damaged, had been able to get back to port.

1943 started badly for the 12th MSF when, on 2nd January, ALARM was hit by a bomb whilst berthed at Bone, and though beached, she became a total loss a few days later when she again received a direct hit in another air raid. The following week ACUTE suffered damage from a torpedo which hit a propeller blade while she was on escort duty and, as a result, she was out of action for some weeks. This left only CADMUS and ALBACORE which spent this period undertaking escort duties along the North African coast, until being joined in late April by three more 'Algerines' - FANTOME (to be the Senior Officer), CIRCE and ESPIEGLE.

On 9th May the flotilla, along with the 13th 'Bangor' flotilla, under the command of Captain J. W. Boutwood RN in FANTOME, began the clearing of a passage through the Galita and Sicilian channels as far as Tripoli. With the fleet minesweepers were a large number of auxiliaries, minesweeping motor launches, motor minesweepers, and minesweeping trawlers. This was one of the most extensive minesweeping operations of the war and the ships taking part were deservedly praised by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham (CinC Mediterranean). The task however, was not accomplished without loss. A motor minesweeper was sunk and FANTOME had her stern blown off when a mine exploded in her gear close under the stern. Although subsequently towed back to England she was a total loss. The channel was cleared by 7th June, during which time 257 contact mines had been cut and destroyed.

In June FLY (to be the third Senior Officer ship and perhaps third time lucky) and MUTINE joined the flotilla, and almost immediately were in action with the 12th taking part in the landings in Sicily, and following this with further minesweeping for the attack on Salerno in Italy. A period of minesweeping and escort activity off Italy was undertaken for the rest of the year and in January, 1944, the 12th joined by RINALDO and WATERWITCH of the newly formed 19th flotilla of 'Algerines' took part in the landings at Anzio, just a few miles south of Rome. After this operation, and for the next few months, the 12th were now joined by SPANKER of the 19th on loan, was engaged in sweeping operations north of Anzio and into the mouth of the River Tiber.

On St George's Day, 23rd April, CIRCE had her stern blown off when a mine caught in her gear as it was being recovered after sweeping. It was only the skill and seamanship of ACUTE and SPANKER which, one on each side of the crippled ship, kept CIRCE afloat as she was towed by the dan-laying trawler St Kilda the 90 miles back to Naples at 4-5 knots.

From June to October the flotilla swept up the west coast of Italy, keeping pace with the advancing 5th Army, clearing a number of ports including Leghorn. By September the flotilla had accounted for a 1,000 mines in just under 2 years of exacting and dangerous work in the Mediterranean. Many more mines were to be raised in the coming months as the flotilla moved on to Greece and the Gulf of Salonika, joining with another 'Algerine' flotilla, the 5th under the command of Commander Humphery Jenkins in WELFARE.

In one sweep in the Kinaros Channel, 178 mines were cut in 5 days, the 12th being credited with the biggest daily "bags" of the Mediterranean war, 78 and 80 on successive days. More minesweeping followed, this time back off the north west coast of Italy clearing La Spezia and Genoa. The end of the war in Europe found the 12th still sweeping and this continued throughout 1945 and well into 1946. In April of that year the flotilla left Malta for England, there to continue mine clearance off Holland for a few more months before finally disbanding, some to reserve and others for transfer to foreign navies. In all, the 12th MSF had swept 2,715 mines in the Mediterranean, a truly magnificent record surpassed by no other flotilla.

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