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This page last updated 14th July 2009

The 19th MSF
(Minesweeping Flotilla)

The 19th MSF comprising RINALDO (SO), ROSARIO, BRAVE, SPANKER and WATERWITCH was formed in October, 1943 in the lochs of Western Scotland. After a short period of working up at Loch Ewe, the flotillla escorted a convoy to Gibraltar in December. From Gib the flotilla dispersed, RINALDO and WATERWITCH to join the 12th MSF at Anzio, ROSARIO and BRAVE to Malta and SPANKER as part escort for a fast troop convoy to Algiers. By mid-February the ships had again come together for a period of minesweeping off Malta, where they were to be joined by three more Algerines, the first to have been built in Canada, ARIES, ARCTURUS and ANTARES. The next major task of the 19th was to act as the lead flotilla sweeping a channel for the first wave of assault craft to the beaches of St. Tropez, the landings in the South of France on 15th August. ARIES was temporarily detached to work with the 13th MSF of 'Bangors', which came under heavy gunfire, fortunately without any damage to any ship. The 19th spent the next few weeks clearing mines off the South of France, enabling the ports of Toulon and Marseilles to open up for shipping.

Following the conclusion of this major operation the 19th moved round to Ancona on the east coast of Italy, from where the flotilla would clear a minefield stretching across the width of the Adriatic, roughly on a line from Ancona to Split in Yugoslavia. This was a particularly difficult as well as lengthy operation, the ships working most days for a continuous period of 8 weeks or so. It was during this sweep that WATERWITCH is reputed to have achieved the record sweep of the war when cutting 49 mines in 17 minutes. Perhaps the greater credit should go to SPANKER, being the following ship, and which had the unnerving experience of seeing 49 mines go past in rapid succession and yet never deviated from her own line.

In December RINALDO left for a short time to work with the 5th MSF off Greece, taking part in covering the withdrawal of British troops from Greek Islands during a period of civil unrest and disturbance.

The start of 1945 found the 19th beginning the long sweep northward in the Adriatic to clear the ports of Venice and Trieste. Joining up with the 5th MSF under WELFARE, the flotilla spent many weeks of hard minesweeping before the task was completed in May. Sadly, the 19th lost a faithful friend, the dan-laying trawler Coriolanus when she hit a mine and sank, fortunately without loss or injury to her crew. The rest of the year was spent clearing magnetic, acoustic and moored mines in the Gulf of Venice, a particularly nasty feature being the "Oboe" mines which exploded on the surface after being cut, often very close to the following ship and causing minor internal damage on a number of occasions. The flotilla was also hindered in this work by the large number of anti-minesweeping devices deposited by the Germans in minefields, estimated to contain 14.000 mines. Another Algerine, FANCY, had also joined the flotilla about this time.

In June the flotilla suffered temporary losses when first ARCTURUS, and later ARIES, were severely damaged by mines. A short while later the third of the Canadians, ANTARES, was slightly damaged by a mine. Curiously, all three were damaged within a few weeks of each other and were the only ships of the 19th to suffer any damage. More clearance work off Greece and Malta followed and finally in May, 1946, the flotilla, except for ANTARES which stayed with the 5th MSF, left for England where it dispersed on arrival on 6th June.

In its 2 years in the Mediterannean the 19th MSF raised 1,700 mines, with SPANKER (379) the top scorer, followed by BRAVE (318), WATERWITCH (263) and FANCY (233). The flotilla could be justifiably proud of this record.

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