Times of Malta
5th April 1946 Page 3
12th Minesweeping Flotilla's Record Score
Sterling Work in Mediterranean
From Our Naval Reporter
BIGGEST DAILY MED. "BAGS":
The famous Minesweeping Flotilla, the Twelfth M.S.F is shortly to return to England after three years operational minesweeping in the Mediterranean. During this time their "bag" has totalled 2,715 (2,395 mines and 320 obstructors) and the Flotilla has swept the Allied invading forces into enemy occupied ports from North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and the whole West coast of Italy. Their total score is the highest attained by any Mediterranean Flotilla.
The "Twelfth", which now comprises the Algerine Class Fleet Sweepers:
Fly, Acute, Albacore, Cadmus, Circe, Espiegle and Mutine with the "Isle" class dan-layers:
Hellisay, Hunda, St Kilda, Foula and Kintyre,
first arrived in the Mediterranean during the invasion of North Africa in January, 1943.
They did sterling work in those early days, though not without loss, for Algerine, the first S.O. of the Flotilla, was torpedoed and sunk with heavy loss off Bougie, and the Alarm was bombed at Bone. Later during the clearance of the famous Tunisian war channel Fantome had her stern blown off. their places were taken by Fly and Mutine who came out from England to replace the casualities.
ALWAYS IN FOREFRONT
Throughout, the "Twelfth" has been in the forefront of all assaults; at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio they swept the assault forces into the beachheads. The Flotilla were the first Allied ships in Capri and had landed on the Island even before Naples had fallen. Before Anzio they operated in the Gulf of Gaeta while under fire from enemy shore batteries which swept along the line of sweepers and then unaccountably broke off the action once they had found the range! It was at the Gulf of Gaeta too that the "Twelfth" did a particularly dangerous sweep at night which took them to within half -a-mile of the enemy coast.
After the initial assault at Anzio with air battles overhead, the Flotilla continued sweeping off the beachhead. During these operations Circe's stern was blown off, but she was repaired and later rejoined the Flotilla.
Constantly hard on the heels of the Army and often ahead, these sweepers were hard at work clearing channels to establish safe traffic lanes for Allied shipping. A marathon performance was the clearing of a two-mile wide channel from Anzio to Leghorn, 90 miles long - a six-week job which involved sweeping 234 square miles and clearing some 250 mines. On this operation they attracted the unwelcome attentions of "Leghorn Lizzie", a long range gun of at least 170mm., cousin of the "Anzio Annie", whose acquaintance they had made earlier on.
WON RACE FOR LEGHORN:
While working up the coast to Leghorn a signal was received that Leghorn had fallen and a terrible race developed between the 12th and 19th Flotillas to get the first Allied convoys in. The 12th won.
Other notable sweeps carried out were the clearing of the Bay of Naples, Elba, Corsica, widening the channel to Spezia, the Gulf of Genoa and finally, the Flotilla had the satisfaction of sweeping into the port of Genoa on VE day plus one
In addition to this vast clearance off the West coast of Italy, the 12th has spent some months in Greek waters. They widened the channel into Salonica and with the 5th Flotilla swept the minefields blocking the approaches into the Dardenelles in preparation for the Yalta conference.
In clearing the Dorma and Thermia Channels they had the biggest daily "bags" recorded in the Mediterranean throughout the war, 78 and 80 mines on successive days. The Espiegle had the highest individual score on this occasion. For some time after that the Flotilla was employed in clearing the main route channels through the Aegean, and then in the Spring of 1945, after a welcome rest at Malta, the Flotilla returned to their old hunting ground off the West coast of Italy. In the last three months a large minefield south-east of Savona has been cleared ansd 175 mines destroyed.
FAMOUS SWEEPING OFFICERS:
During the course of the last three years there have been many changes in the personnel and many famous minesweeping officers have served with the Flotilla. The first Senior Officer, Captain J.W. Boutwood, D.S.O., R.N., was succeeded by Captain G.N. Rawlings, D.S.O. and bar, D.S.C. and bar., R.N., who was with the Flotilla from 1943 to November 1945, and who directed the bulk of the "Twelfth's" great achievements. The present Senior Officer is Commander Q.F. Whitford, R.N., with Commander R.M. Sandbach, R.N. as second Senior Officer.
Among those who have served with the "Twelfth" have been:
Commander M.J. Morley, D.S.C. and three bars, R.N.V.R., H.M.S.Acute; Commander J.B.G. Temple, D.S.C., R.N., H.M.S. Acute, Commander J.S. Landers, D.S.C., H.M.S. Cadmus; Commander C.R. Fraser, D.S.C., R.N.R., H.M.S. Espiegle: Lieut-Commander C.R. Abbot, D.S.C., R.N.R., H.M.S. Circe; Lieut-Commander K.H. Higson, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., H.M.S. Albacore; Lieut-Commander P.A. Tritton, R.N.V.R., H.M.S. Kintyre; Lieut-Commander F.R. Greenstreet, R.N.R., H.M.S. Foula; Lieutenant A.R.B. Sturdee, D.S.C., R.N., Flotilla Navigator; Lieutenant L.D. Kettle, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., H.M.S. Hellisay; Skipper Lieutenant R Utting, R.N.R., H.M.S. St. Kilda; Lieutenant (S) O.G. Jenkins, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., H.M.S. Fly; not to mention "Charlie the Goose", renowned in the minesweeping world!
"CHARLIE THE GOOSE"
"Charlie" joined the Navy when he - or she as it afterwards turned out - for she proved to be a prolific layer - was bought by the Petty Officers of the Cadmus with a view to a tasty Christmas dinner. But so engaging were Charlie's habits, so amiable her disposition that she became the ship's pet, answered to her name and had her own particular friends. Only once did Charlie fly and it was of short duration for the goose landed in the sea. Unperturbed and swimming strongly she was quickly rescued. The day came when Charlie's "master" was drafted back to England. He had become so attached to his pet that a signal was made requesting "passage for one large live grey goose". The goose left with a regulation draft chit, travelled "grey funnel" to the United Kingdom and is now demobilized!
The tribute paid by the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, Admiral Sir John Cunningham, to the Mediterranean minesweepers last autumn, is particilarly applicable to the "Twelfth".
"......The victory over the enemy minefields has been won only by your perseverence and determination, and the excellent work you are doing has earned the admiration of all and the gratitude of the civil population."