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This page last updated 14th July 2009

The 18th MSF
(Minesweeping Flotilla)

Mid 1943 saw the formation of another 'Algerine' flotilla, the 18th Minewseeping Flotilla with READY (Senior Officer), HOUND, HYDRA, ONYX, LOYALTY, COCKATRICE, RATTLESNAKE and ORESTES. In between periods of minesweeping the flotilla was used as convoy escorts in the English Channel and down to Gibraltar. In September whilst carrying out a routine sweep off Folkstone, HYDRA was hit by a shell fired by an enemy coastal battery at Cape Griz Nez. Her wireless and gyro were put out of action and she was forced to retire. Whilst returning to Dover and just outside the harbour Hydra was again the target for enemy shelling, and straddled by a two gun salvo. For the next few months the flotilla was engaged in escort duties from Iceland, taking convoys part way to Russia. It was during this period that the seaworthiness of the Algerines was truly demonstrated. In March, the flotilla arrived back in Portsmouth to begin preparations for its part in Operation "Neptune", the naval part of Operation "Overlord", the invasion of Normandy.

Early in May, the 18th was joined by STORMCLOUD which almost immediately was put out of action by a close explosion of a magnetic mine and, as a result, was not able to be present at Normandy. The 18th MSF carried out its allotted role in the minesweeping of D-day, one flotilla among the 13 taking part, American, Canadian and British. After its initial sweep as part of the Eastern Task Force under Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, the flotilla remained off Normandy to undertake further minesweeping as well as anti-submarine patrols of the anchorages.

A week after D-day RATTLESNAKE was forced to withdraw for repairs following damage from a nearby exploding mine. The flotilla was also used in the "Trout Line", the line of small ships protecting the anchorages at night from the one-man "Neger" torpedoes. ORESTES particularly distinguished herself on one occasion when engaging a number of these human torpedoes and driving them off after sinking at least one.

On 22nd August LOYALTY was torpedoed and sunk by U480 after dropping behind the rest of the flotilla to retrieve a broken sweep. The subsequent inquiry found that the Asdic had not been switched on which may well have accounted for her loss. For the rest of 1944 the 18th now joined by TANGANYIKA, was engaged in clearance sweeping of the French, Belgian and Dutch coast. On 10th November a second tragedy struck the flotilla when HYDRA was mined whilst clearing the Scheldt estuary, resulting in her being a total loss. With FELICITY and CHEERFUL now part of the 18th MSF, April 1945 was spent sweeping a channel across the North Sea from the Humber to Heligoland Bight, and then on to open up the ports of Hamburg and Cuxhaven. Clearance of Rotterdam followed when the flotilla was assisted by another Algerine, SERENE. The flotilla spent 1946 and 1947 in mine clearance around the coasts of Britain until finally disbanded in May 1947.

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