Ardrishaig and Loch Fyne At War

What follows is essentially a 'companion supplement' to the 450-page long record of "Kintyre At War" and, as well as extracting some material from that document, the added material here brings together the recollections and accounts of some who either belonged to, or were trained in, the area during World War II. To set the picture, Ardrishaig chemist's son, Bill Menzies, then in his teens, introduces the 'goings on' of village life, his father being called on to photograph the German P.O.W's held at Cairnbaan, on The Crinan Canal. Extracts from "Kintyre At War" recall some of the general wartime arrangements of MacBrayne's steamer services and how the withdrawal of the Campbeltown steamers, the "Dalriada" and the "Davaar", led to changes in bus services too. Attention is focused on Tarbert, Dickie's Boatyard building small craft for The Navy and Tarbert's West Loch Pier being used as a base for launches towing targets on the Balure bombing range, north of Tayinloan, on the west side of Kintyre. Then back to Ardrishaig, home of HMS Seahawk, where motor launch crews were trained in ASDIC and anti-submarine exercises in the waters around Inchmarnock, to the west of Bute, John Burchell's father, Best Burchell, introducing us to ML 115 and Derric Breen giving us an 'in-depth' account of the training of the Ardrishaig-based motor launch crews. Next, 'up the loch', to Inveraray, the home of The Combined Operations Training Centre, set up to train commando troops and agents in 'the black arts' of 'irregular warfare', the training of the "Heroes of Telemark" at Kilfinnan and finally to the story of Sylvia Scarlet, officially known as 'The Brontasaurus', which came to grief at Escart Bay, near the little island of Ghallagain, in West Loch Tarbert, on Saturday, July 3, 1943.

Ardrishaig - Early WWII Memories - Bill Menzies
(From Keil School Old Boys' Autumn 2004 Newsletter) For some like me, born a few years before the outbreak of The Second World War, here are some of my recollections of the times. In the early years of the war, Ardrishaig, a small village on the shores of Loch Fyne and south entrance to the Crinan Canal, became a Royal Navy base known as ‘HMS Seahawk’. The then ‘Royal Hotel’, now the ‘Grey Gull Inn’ was the residence for the WRNS, while the naval ratings were berthed aboard the ‘Star of India’, a converted steamship anchored in the loch. Some senior officers found digs in local family homes. Motor launches (ML’s) usually six in number were moored to buoys, but were often out on Loch Fyne on exercise.


The pier was always a busy place with naval pinnaces coming and going all day. Sometimes a submarine would call in for a day or two and if you were lucky and chanced your arm, you got aboard for a few minutes. As boys the pier was a magnet. Any excuse and we were there to see the boats, or fish for young rock cod, crabs or conger eels. For the latter, we used ‘cleeks’ – three 4inch fish hooks, whipped together like an anchor. A vicious, more cruel way of catching an eel I cannot imagine, but deadly in the right hands ! Naval stores were kept not far from the pier. Your ‘street cred.’ was immediately enhanced if you managed to talk a sailor into getting you a blue sailors’ webbing belt. A white webbing belt was even better ! Next you tried to adorn your belt with Service badges. I remember one lad whose father served in the Argylls managed to cover his belt with Service cap badges, from most if not all the Highland Regiments. Wow ! It looked really stunning, and worth a bob or two today ! Saturday mornings were eagerly looked forward to. First you went round the shops gathering waste paper and cardboard boxes from the shops. These were temporarily stored in a disused shop and then taken away by lorry for the war effort. Any pocket-money and we were off to the grocers for tuppence worth of broken biscuits, or a quarter pound of barley for our pea-shooters to pelt the girls at the ‘picture house‘ (the village hall) at night. The village public hall was the centre of all social activity in the village. The dance on a Friday night, local cinema on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights. Sales of work through the week, village Hallowe’en party, the Annual ‘Chooky’ (chickens, hens etc.) and Flower Show, to name but a few activities. On the dot of 1.00 pm, Macbraynes’ steamer, R.M.S. ‘Lochfyne’ was at the pier with the mails and a few passengers for onward travel perhaps by Macbraynes to Oban, or McLachlan’s buses to Cairnbaan or further to Tayvallich. The Stag Garage bus would take you to Lochgilphead, Kilmartin or Ford. You could set your watch at 1 pm with the arrival of the steamer ! Quiet, everybody ! There’s a funeral at 1.30 pm. Then a hush in the village street; shop blinds and house curtains drawn as the late Andrew Grinlaw’s funeral coach passed through, pulled by two black horses. The procession of mourners followed the coach on foot thro’ the street. Where would you see such respect today ?

Another snapshot of the times. Prisoners of war in military Bedford trucks, passing through the village street en route for the P.O.W. camp at Cairnbaan [Another P.O.W. Camp at Glenbranter, on the road to Dunoon]. Young Germans, sometimes Vichy French my father said. On the local Wednesday half-day closing for the shops, my father was collected by military jeep and taken to photograph the newly arrived prisoners at Cairnbaan. Why ? Because being the local chemist, my father had a reasonable stock of Kodak film and a ‘620’ Kodak folding camera in good working order ! So he and camera were commandeered for his part in the war effort ! Each prisoner was photographed, front, side and back view, while holding his ‘number’ on a white painted board. Few knew where my father was whisked off to on these Wednesday afternoons. It was all very ‘hush hush’ at the time. I remember a true story my father was told by the Camp Commandant. Some prisoners managed to escape to the hills behind Cairnbaan and were reported missing for several days. The escape attempt was aborted and the escapees were persuaded to return to camp. The Argyll midges mistaken for mosquitoes had plagued the men so much, they thought malaria might be their end ! A good excuse for being late for school occurred when a flock of sheep were herded through the one and only Chalmers Street of the village to a waiting cargo boat, usually the ‘Minard’ tied up at the pier. The herdsmen were only too glad for any assistance and so with stick in hand we would run ahead and block off closes, shop doors, open gates, or anywhere the sheep were liable to go in their panic to avoid the sheep dogs. Safely gathered into pens at the pier,


they would shortly board the cargo boat. It took Dougie the road sweeper about three days to clear the street of droppings after the sheep went through ! Cattle for the market was another diversion for those of us who lived in ‘the street’ !

The Sunday School annual picnic was always a village highlight in the summer. Few cars were in evidence then. On a good day we travelled on one of Grinlaw’s horse-drawn ‘brakes’ as they were called. The big yellow one the ‘Ardrishaig Belle’, often drawn by six-in-hand cuddies (horses) was the favourite. The driver dressed in red coat, black riding boots and silver painted top hat made a great picture. We always left from the pier square and when all aboard, complete with cup or mug hanging by string round our necks, we were off to our appointed farmer’s field, somewhere in the locality. Such happy days ! You’d never believe there was a war on. By the way the ‘Ardrishaig Belle’ is permanently on show at the Glasgow Transport Museum.

The “Saint Columba” which, as the “Queen Alexandra (II)” in World War I had rammed and sunk the German submarine “U-78” off Cherbourg on Thursday, May 9, 1918, now leaving Wemyss Bay at 9.48 a.m. daily, covered the Rothesay - Colintraive - Tighnabruiach - Tarbert - Ardrishaig mail service, arriving back in Wemyss Bay at 5 p.m.. In November 1939, she was requisitioned for use as the Boom Defence headquarters’ ship at Greenock, the now repaired diesel-electric “Lochfyne” taking over the mail run - Wemyss Bay became the terminus for the Campbeltown company’s “Dalriada” and “Davaar”. Following the outbreak of war and the re-introduction of an anti-submarine boom between the Cloch and Dunoon, the Ardrishaig mail service was operated, as in World War I, from Wemyss Bay.

The October 1939 rail and steamer timetable finds the outward (inward) timings as Glasgow Central 0835 (1851), Wemyss Bay arrive 0933 (return departure 1750), Wemyss Bay 0948 (1700), Rothesay 1015 (1630), Colintraive 1040 (1540), Tighnabruiach 1055 (1525), Tarbert 1155 (1425) and Ardrishaig 1240 (1345).


The “Lochiel (IV)”, with the exceptions of May 1942 and June 1943 on the Wemyss Bay - Ardrishaig mail service, spent the war years, from November 1940 onwards, on the Islay - West Loch service and was eventually relieved by the now elderly steamer “Robina” to allow her an overhaul in the autumn of 1946. During the war years, “Lochiel (IV)”, like some of the other MacBrayne ships, including the “Lochfyne” and the “Lochnevis” serving on the Wemyss Bay - Ardrishaig mail run, was given a black funnel and ‘horizon yellow’ superstructure, in later war years she was painted completely in grey. On a passing note of interest, Royal Mail pillar boxes in towns and cities were also given the same ‘horizon yellow’ tops, supposedly a ‘gas-detecting paint’ ( ! ) and white bases to make them more easily seen in the wartime black-outs.

With the final sailing of the old “Davaar” on the Campbeltown to Greenock run on Friday, March 15, 1940 and the consequent closure of Carradale Pier, West Coast Motors stepped in to provide a service up the east side of Kintyre and on to Tarbert to connect with the MacBrayne steamer. Running daily during July and August of the war years but only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays otherwise, a West Coast bus left Campbeltown at 10 a.m., to Carradale for 11 a.m. and then on to Tarbert for 12.20 p.m.. Leaving Tarbert on the return run at 2 p.m., it reached Carradale at 3.20 p.m. and arrived in Campbeltown at 4.30 p.m.. To compensate for the withdrawal of the steamer-rail service connection to Glasgow, MacBrayne’s were given the licence to operate a direct bus service from Campbeltown and to 44 Robertson Street, Glasgow. Leaving at 7 a.m., the bus reached Glasgow at 1.15 p.m. and two hours later, at 3.15 p.m., left on the return journey to arrive back in Campbeltown at 9.33 p.m. ! The single fare 13/-and the return £1. 3/-. The service was an “Express Service”, the licence granted only to serve the interests of those who would have travelled between Campbeltown and Glasgow by steamer and rail and no stops to pick up or set down passengers at intermediate points along the 138-mile long route was allowed ! McConnachie’s and West Coast continued, as usual, to offer Tarbert steamer connections and the through bussteamer-rail fares to Glasgow were the same as those charged by MacBrayne’s own daily bus service. The Campbeltown to Tarbert bus fares were then 5/- (25p) single and 9/- (45p) return. McConnachie’s weekday bus left Campbeltown at 11 a.m. and reached Tarbert at 1.05 p.m., leaving again at 2.15 p.m. to arrive in Campbeltown at 4.15 p.m.. Because of the war, MacBrayne’s steamer also ran on Sundays and McConnachie’s Sunday bus left Campbeltown at 12.30 p.m. to arrive in Tarbert at 2.15 p.m., the steamer-train connection arriving in Glasgow at 7.20 p.m.. The Sunday bus then returned from Tarbert at 5 p.m. to reach Campbeltown at 6.45 p.m.. With the final sailing of the old “Davaar” on Friday, March 15, 1940 and the consequent closure of Carradale Pier, West Coast Motors stepped in to provide a service up the east side of Kintyre and on to Tarbert to connect with the MacBrayne steamer. Running daily during July and August of the war years but only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays otherwise, a West Coast bus left Campbeltown at 10 a.m. for Carradale at 11 a.m. and then on to Tarbert for 12.20 p.m.. Leaving Tarbert on the return run at 2 p.m., it reached Carradale at 3.20 p.m. and arrived in Campbeltown at 4.30 p.m.. During July and August, there were buses from Campbeltown to Lochgilphead too at 8.30 a.m. and 3 p.m., arriving there at 12 noon and 6.15 p.m.. An 8 a.m. Lochgilphead departure arrived in Campbeltown at 11 a.m. and too was a 12.45 p.m. departure, after the arrival of MacBrayne’s steamer, from Tarbert to Campbeltown arriving there at 2.45 p.m..


With the outbreak of war, government departments requisitioned more than a score of boats from the local fishing fleets and from Tarbert, the “Mairearad”, “Nancy Glen” and “Village Belle”.

During the Second World War the yard, founded in 1885 by Fairlie-apprenticed blacksmith Archibald Malcolm Dickie, was very busy building and overhauling 'Admiralty' MFV's, MGB's, MTB's, etc. for the government.

The new 70-foot MGB's were a very tight fit in the sheds and sometimes there was as little as 6 inches clearance on either side as the boat was launched through the doors. Laying the keel in the right place was a serious matter and the whole thing proved too much for yard manager Tom, the third of the founder’s six sons, who died during the launch of one of the MGB's in 1940.

Big 112-foot Fairmile Motor Launch Later in the war, Dickie's built six big 112-foot long Fairmile-type motor launches (ML's) and eight big 115-foot long Fairmile-type motor torpedo boats (MTB's) and more than a few 'standard' 61½ foot and longer Admiralty MFV's The yard, under the Dickie family's management, closed in 1947 but was subsequently re-opened in the 1950's by a group of mainly Edinburgh-interested businessmen and, as Highland Engineering Limited, was home to two Clydebased hovercraft in 1966-67, their Tarbert to Gourock passenger service opened by Canadian-born entertainer and wartime transatlantic aircraft ferry pilot Hughie Green, of 'Opportunity Knocks' and his show hostess Monica Rose.

One of the two Tarbert-based hovercraft - SR.N6 010


A second bombing range was built, 'The Balure Range', on the west side of Kintyre, just north of Tayinloan within the then march boundaries of Balure Farm with towers south (NGR 692 490) and north (NGR 713 503) of a central 'plot' tower (NGR 705 499). The bombing target was at first a steel and concrete superstructure built on top of Sgor Cainnteach, a rock immediately out offshore from the observation posts, these carefully positioned to ensure clear vision of the target - Motor launches, based at West Loch Tarbert pier, towing floating targets and Skua aircraft, towing target drogues for fighter aircraft, also regularly ran the length of the bombing range, the observation posts 'manned' by RN and WRENS ferried up from H.M.S. 'Landrail' at Machrihanish.

HMS Seahawk
From John Burchell's tribute to HMS Seahawk website at HMS Seahawk situated at Ardrishaig, to train the big 112-foot Fairmile Motor Launch crews in ASDIC and antisubmarine exercises in the areas around Inchmarnock, to the west of Bute, was commissioned on the 1st January 1941 and paid off on 4th November 1944. The role of Seahawk was that of a training establishment with a compliment of various motor launches provided for that purpose. These included Fairmile B types, a harbour defence launch, a small survey motor launch and others (there was no numbered Flotilla here), the base occupied the existing jetty and harbour facilities, much remaining to this day. Records note that the anti-submarine yacht Kalan left Holyhead en route for Ardrishaig on December 23, 1940 and another yacht, the Star of India (Cdr S F Russell Rtd) was also outfitting at Portsmouth before heading north, she, by July 1, 1941, under the command of Cdr C Naylor DSO, DSC Rtd. And the Kalan under the command of Temporary Lt J L Barton RNVR. Officially based at Greenock, the records for July 1, 1941 note that HMS Seahawk was under the command of Actg Cdr P E Vaux DSC Rtd. and tell us that the Kalan had been joined at Ardrishaig by two motor anti-submarine boats, the MA/SB.1 and the MA/SB.4 and a third, MA/SB.5, was also in the Clyde undergoing repair. Five ML's made up the Ardrishaig Training Flotilla, ML 102, ML 115 and ML 199, she then with a civilian crew plus ML 1029 at Greenock and ML 223 to join the flotilla on completion. On January 1, 1942, the flotilla strength comprised the anti-submarine yacht KALAN, the motor anti-submarine boats MA/SB.4, MA/SB.5 and MA/SB.38 and the motor launches ML.115, ML.223 and ML.1029 plus ML.1088, temporarily attached from 110th Motor Launch Flotilla.


The Home Guard on ML 115 Although primarily an anti submarine training establishment HMS Seahawk also undertook other forms of training as can be seen from the photographs with army personal on board ML 115 during a training exercise.

ML 115

ML 115 was part of an order for 13 B type Fairmile ML's placed by the Admiralty on the 22nd September 1939. The kit was shipped from the Fairmile Marine Co Ltd at Cobham Surrey to the Solent Shipyards Ltd Sarisbury Green Lower Swanick Hampshire. She was laid down on the 11th March 1940 and completed on the 18th September 1940. By October 1940 ML 115 had joined several 'A' type MLs at Portland for training duties and remained at Portland in that role until February 1941. She then went to Southampton for some repairs sailing then via the west coast to Ardrishaig and HMS Seahawk. She remained based at Seahawk with probably 3 other MLs engaged on ostensibly anti submarine training until October 1944 when she moved to Campbeltown and carried on her training duties. HM ML 115 paid off October 1946. Fate unknown most likely scrapped. The Fairmile Marine Company was founded just before the outbreak of WWII by Noel Macklin. The first in the line was the Fairmile A class. Although a few of these launches were produced the sea worthiness of the design was slightly lacking and this A class was quickly superseded by the B class launch. The design was of a wooden hull construction of double diagonal (probably teak wood) and came out of the factory in kit form. The kit was then transported to a suitable ship yard and then constructed each plank being nailed about every 3" with a heavy gauge copper nail (this large amount of copper caused the demise of a large number of launches after the war as scrap copper was at a premium price, the launches were burnt then the copper residue recovered). The B class launches were powered in the main by 2 of the Hall-Scott Defender marine engine. This engine was a 12 cylinder petrol engine developing 650hp when opened up they gave about 20 knots. The octane rating required for these engines was min 87. Therefor any slight fuel leak and the vapour became most dangerous. There were some losses due to this problem.(Also much forbidden but a quick method was to use the engine fuel as a cleaner to degrease an engine.) Accommodation would be typically be for 2 officers, 2 petty officers and up to 14 ratings. The small galley had a coal


fired cooking range All of the crew would be multi trained so that any casualty occurring another crew member would be able to take over the injured crew members duties. For example a stoker could man any of the armament etc. All B Type Fairmiles were fitted out with ASDIC (Anti-submarine Detection Investigation Committee) as a standard feature. Length : 112 feet Beam : 18' 3" Draught : 4' 10" Forward, 5' 6" Aft Engines : 2 Hall-Scott Defenders Fuel Capacity : 2305 Gallons Max Speed : 20 Knots Max Continuous Speed : 17.5 Knots Range @ Max Speed : 600 Nautical miles Range @ 12 Knots : 1,500 Nautical miles Displacement : 67 to 85 tons, depending on armament. The armament of the B class was a varied as the produce at a market. It could be any combination of the following : Light Armament - .303 Short Magazine Lee Enfield, .45 Thompson Machine Gun, .303 Lewis Machine Gun Single or Twin and a .303 Vickers Twin Machine Gun Medium Armament - .5 Vickers Twin Machine Gun and an Orlikon 20mm Single or Twin Heavy Armament - 40mm Bofors, 2 Pounder, Mark XI and XII Vickers 40mm and Rolls-Royce 40mm, 3 Pounder Hotchkiss, 6 Pounder Mk VII (4.5" Mark I) Other - 21" Torpedo Tubes, MKVII Depth Charge and Holman Projector

ML 115 Crew (As noted by Coxswain Leading Seaman L. Tomlinson, alone at back of photograph) Lt. O.B. Deiter (CO), A.B. Perry, O.S. R. Mayes (Cook), PO Best Burchell (Mechanic), A.B. J. Sheepwash, AB V. Hurley, S/Lt J. Slack (First Lieutenant) S.T.O. H. Sperring (stoker), Operator) O.S. J. Tennant (Gunner), S.T.O. R. Paterson (Stoker), O.T. L. Lewis (Wireless

The First Lieutenant S/Lt J Sparen R.N.V.R. was the ideal 'Jimmy' for Obie's boat. Carefree and indifferent to Obie's sudden impulses he always acted as he himself thought best. Cabin mate and motor mechanic was Best Burchell who before the war had been employed on London Transport trolley buses. The two stokers consisted of Henry Sperring and Bob Pateman a Scot from Edinburgh. The S.D. Able Seaman Hully had been awarded the D.S.M. for his part in the destruction of a U-boat in the Mediterranean and would have made an excellent seaman but for his lack of energy. Perry and Tennant O'Shea were the gunners, two young lads with plenty of noise but scared of authority. Our best seaman was Jack Shepherd but his thoughts were not with the war and his open ambition was to return to civilian life.


The other seaman was John Moody who was undoubtedly a good working hand until he returned from leave with his wife. The twelfth member of the crew was Sparks a steady plodder of some 35 years of age. My father, Best Burchell, much respected Captain Dieter (Lieutenant Oswald Birrell Dieter RNVR). It would seem from the pictures on this site and from the little my father told me that ML 115 was a very happy boat. I believe this was mainly thanks to Captain Dieter a great skipper and a gentleman.

Derric Breen at the back door of The Lorne Hotel On one occasion my father was returning on board late one night after a wee dram at The Lorne Hotel. The tide was out and that meant the deck of ML 115 was about 5 feet below the jetty. Dad didn't quiet make the boarding in a true naval fashion. He fell and landed badly on one knee. "The skipper had me put in my bunk then he worked on my knee for a long time. In the morning I got up slowly but found no pain or ill effects, the skipper had done a bloody wonderful job on me". Before being possibly the first American volunteer for the Royal Navy Lieutenant Dieter was a Chiropractor in civilian life. Another tale of the Captain my father told me was : "Dieter used to like to come into harbour at high speed, I told him he should slow down or he would get into trouble. One afternoon we came back in and he had her going a bit, did his usual rang down for full astern both. Young stoker on one of the engines stalled it." According to Dad there was a loud bang much scrapping and a hell of a lot of swearing. The boat had slewed across the slipway and the sonar mount was been removed from the hull. A final story concerning the Captain : "We used to have target practice with the forward 3-pounder by dropping a 44 gallon drum over the side then sailing off a couple of hundred yards. Well one day the crew had commenced target practice and I went onto the bridge to see the old man and happened to watch as the gun crew fired a few rounds, they were solid practice rounds. Excuse me Sir but I think you ought to stop now. "Why Burchell". Well Sir your shells are ricocheting off the loch and into the heather. "Well that's alright its only moorland". "Yes Sir but the road runs between the loch side and the moorland". Firing ceased immediately.

ML 115 took part in the rescue of the crew of a Whitley Bomber near The Isle Of Arran


31 May, 19 OTU 'A' Flight, Whitley Mk V Bomber, Z9216. T/O from Kinloss for night exercise but starboard engine failed, was obliged to ditch 0125 in Loch Fyne, N of the island of Arran. It is suspected the crew alighted towards the west side of the loch, as they were brought to Campbeltown on Kintyre, where they were looked after by the Navy at HMS Seahawk. The plane was on an instructional flight from Inverness to The Isle of Man when the starboard engines failed. Slowly the machine lost height until over Loch Fyne it was obvious she was not airworthy much longer. The boggy marshy mountainsides were unsuitable for a forced landing so the pilot ordered the S.O.S. to be sent out stating they were coming down in Loch Fyne. All five crew were sergeants with the pilot a cheeky young cockney of the Max Miller type. "Well", he said as he sipped his rum again "My borough has gone and raised fifty thousand quid for a bomber and now I have been and ditched the bastard".

Flotilla Leader ML 489 in Loch Fyne Flotilla leader ML 489 was one of an order of 23 Fairmile B Type motor launches placed on the 27 August 1941. 489 was constructed at the yard of Jas Miller at St. Monans in the East Neuk of Fife. Completed on the 1 March 1942 this launch was a survivor being sold as ML 2489 in 1961.

Derric's Seahawk Tales
Feeling that his father's story, first appearing in a privately printed book with only a limited circulation, deserved a wider audience, not many of his generation still with us and the rest of us needing to understand what they went through so as to try and avoid a repetition of war, Derric's son has put the story, "Young Men At War", on to the internet at and the extracts here begin in January 1942 when Derric Breen, who had learned to handle the Fairmile ‘B’ as well as Higgins and Elco MTB's, received orders to join a Harbour Defence Motor Launch, HDML 1157, on The Clyde.

An HDML The New Year brought my new CO, Sub-Lieutenant Basil Knight, avuncular in appearance, clear of skin, rather short, the epitome of the pre-war city business gent, a man to be remembered . . . We began the never-ending task of working up, slowly at first, meeting and dealing with the endless problems endemic in getting a small ship ready for war. In such a small ship, multi-role training was essential. Gunners must be able to start and run the engines and motormechanics at a pinch must be able to man a gun and fight it out. The telegraphist, like the rest, must be able to man a gun and steer a course. The Cox’n at least must be able to use a chart and lay off a course for home. There was no guarantee that Basil or I might always be in a state to do this.


"I got my posting, HDML 1157 in 'Bude', or so it sounded. How wonderful to get away from this dreadful weather. How wrong I was, for she lay against the pier in Rothesay harbour on the Isle of Bute. In the bitter weather of mid-January (1942), we sailed for Ardrishaig and H.M.S. Seahawk where we were to work up before going abroad. Down the Clyde and past Dunoon we were sheltered from the ferocious northerly wind, then as we rounded the flats of Toward Point it began to beat upon us. Even Rothesay Bay was churned by the gale but we found protection again in the narrow channel of the Kyles of Bute where the wooded hills swept down to the water's edge.

Off Tighnabruich, we could look astern and see the bow of the M.V. Lochfyne as she ploughed her way up to Tarbert on her way to Ardrishaig. She was overhauling us quickly, as we drew into the narrows of the passage off Burntisland, she swept past and in the process refloated a landing craft which was sitting on the island. It was a pity that most of the crew were ashore at the time. It seemed very narrow to me and I was glad to get through and find more open water again. As long as we were in the Kyle we were sheltered from the northerly wind but as we came out round Ardlamont Point, it struck with all its fury. From Ardlamont to Ardrishaig is a short haul but that day it seemed to take a lifetime. Our crew save for the Cox'n and the M/M lay down to die, quickly they hoped. The wind howled in its fury, the seas were short and steep and confused; 1157 swung wildly either side of her course as we ploughed into the quartering sea. The salt now encrusted our faces, leaving a red clown's lip piece where questing tongues had licked; eyes were red and bleared, noses streamed and the whole face felt as if it was being seared in a hot but numbing blast. At last we rounded the pier at the south side of Ardrishaig Harbour. Quietly, Basil said, "O.K. Derric, take her into the sea-lock" and with that disappeared only to reappear on the Foc'sle with his back pointing firmly in my direction. I edged in round the light, running in between the rocks off the South Pier and the shoal in the middle of the harbour.

Ardrishaig Breakwater and Sea Lock Entrance to The Crinan Canal and HMS Seahawk 'Wrennery' at The Royal Hotel, today The Grey Gull Inn The sea-lock, in which we were to lie for the night was open, I got my line of approach right, pushed on the bridgetelegraphs for slow ahead, thinking that it was all so easy. It wasn't like that, she gave a power surge ahead and leapt at the inner gates. I went half astern and she juddered to a stop, lying exactly where she should be. Either the M/M (motor-mechanic) or I had got the telegraphs wrong and it had been a damn near thing. Fortunately, from Basil's stance, it appeared only as a bit of panache. So having got my startled kangaroo home, I went down to take over the mooring from Basil.


He had got me over the first big hump of handling 1157 without giving me time to worry, he must have worried as he stood on the foc'sle, back to the bridge waiting for the crunch. It was a lesson in trust; one has to trust others, knowing that if anything goes wrong it is your own neck in the wringer.

HMS Seahawk's 'Wrennery' Today Ardrishaig's The Grey Gull Inn Preferably, the Staff at this kind of training establishment, should have consisted of Officers experienced in that kind of boat. The experience should have been gained on operational duties. That was not how it was at H.M.S. Seahawk. The Captain was Captain Manning, who in peace time had commanded the Sussex branch of the R.N.V.R.; his Executive Officer, was Commander Douglas Sharpe from the same division; the Training Officer was Lt. the Trefusis of Trefusis, who had no experience in these boats. Manning had served for a while in the R.N.V.R. Appointments section of the Admiralty and though he had done some good work in the A/S department at sea in the thirties, this was as near as they were going to let him get to a war. Sharpe, or "Foul Mouthed Dougie", had been briefly employed in an operational role, but he too had now been shunted out of the way. It seemed that these two at least, had a resentment to officers, who while wearing the wavy stripe, were not of the pure pre-war stock. So here, where a team who were hot on the ball and fully aware of up to date operational requirements was needed we had an officious and self adulatory lot devoid of any concept of what the war at sea was now about. Trefusis alone, would be free of this criticism but was not the man to stand up to the senior duumvirate. Alone in the command team, like a streak of gold stood the Engineering Officer a man in a class of his own. Before the struggle, he had run the Scarborough Fire Service. He was a stickler for rules, his rules, created and written by him as needed. The object of his efforts was to keep all his boats running and to make the lives of the crews as easy and happy as he could. He worked endless hours and his cheerful grin was an ever present beacon on the boats where he was always welcome. I liked the Staff not at all, and it was always quite clear that they came low in Basil's concept of the human race. Manning stipulated in his orders that we should already consider ourselves on active service overseas and that wives were not acceptable in Ardrishaig. Some of us found this rather a rough idea, knowing that we were due to go abroad on duties from which we knew few of us were likely to return. We saw these last few weeks as precious. It was not as if the staff, itself accepted or operated the same marital restrictions. I talked it over with Basil, who as usual had an answer. He read the order with care, then pointed out that the order had not specified that wives might not come to Lochgilphead, just a couple of miles along the Crinan Canal. Most of the young officers took that advice and we very soon had an out-station in the Stag Hotel at Lochgilphead.


The Stag was run by "Old Smithy" and his glamorous daughter "Jenny". A house full of wives and husbands was just what they needed to keep the tills rolling. It was an odd set up, Smithy turned in about mid-night, turning things over to Jenny; she turned in some time later with her current beau; the keys then went to the Senior Officer present. From then on we ran the till, locking up when or if we finished before morning. Many a time, we only finished in time to cycle back to base to begin our days work. There were a lot of nights when we didn't get to bed, the morning found us still happy and making our way back to Ardrishaig on some obviously rather errant bicycles. It was not always like that, I can clearly remember riding back on the bonnet of a motor car in the densest of fogs. I was doing a "Wee Dougie", sitting astride the bonnet with a pile of stones and happily hurling them ahead on the established principle that a rattle was land and a splash meant we were off the road and heading into the sea. It would seem from all this that we never worked ; it was quite the opposite. Our S.O. "Babs Hutton", in 1212 (Whitehall) , was an officer of calibre and under his guidance we worked hard and effectively while little guidance came from the base. In the Flotilla there was a lot of experience, what was needed was access to particular expertises and some clear directives. Under these circumstances, a good S.O. was an essential. In "Babs", we had the man, he worked us hard and fought our corner for us with the base. It was, however, a raw situation which was always likely to explode. Eventually it did. Manning had ordered an inspection of the Flotilla and at the last moment, without sending any message to "Babs", and possibly for sound reason, cried off. We were all paraded on the jetty, when, in his place, Trefusis arrived. As was usual, he failed to recognise that "Babs" commanded the boats and without a word proceeded with his inspection. We happened to be first. Basil called us all to attention and saluted Trefusis as he came over the brow, Trefusis immediately sailed into him, on the basis that the Captain of the base being a four-stripe Captain was entitled to an "Off Caps". Basil agreed that this was so and was busy pointing out to Trefusis that as a Lieutenant, he was been given the salute to which he was entitled. At this point a furious "Babs", arrived on the scene. Babs as S.O. made it clear to Trefusis that, no matter whom he was substituting for, he was only going to get the salute appropriate to his rank and appointment. In a rather hard clear voice for all to hear, he pointed out that while carrying out an inspection for the absent Captain, Trefusis himself was a Lieutenant. The ship's companies of the boats listened with delight to this rather furious altercation. Trefusis was of course, by far the best of the trio. Sharpe was able to get much further out of line than this. He called for a Sunday Church Parade, when all would march through the village to church. Dougie personally took command of the parade and with vile blasphemies and a battery of filthy oaths, he proceeded to address the troops before marching off. This went down very badly with us all. We knew that the troops went to church with much tooth-sucking, going only because they had to go, but in going, feeling that they were, if somewhat reluctantly, doing the right thing. There was a lot of recalcitrant mumbling in the ranks, which only brought on another barrage from Dougie. Most of us had already fought a hard war at sea where we had come to feel near to some God of our own. These were deep and personal thoughts and the last thing we wanted was this foul-mouthed yob making a mockery of us. Babs, I know, did not take it lying down, but had his say on behalf of us all. Then, of course, there was the incident of the depth-charge. From working up and exercises in Egret, I had come to know a lot of the tricks of the trade; a patient read through the signal log at the end of the day was, I had found, a great educator. On the basis of this experience, I had talked to Basil on the way up and had set a D.C. ready to drop, in case the base thought they might catch us out. It was, I knew, one of the standard ploys of "Monkey Stephenson", V.A. at Tobermory, where most escorts worked up. It didn't happen, but one afternoon, when we were stood down, there arrived a signal which said, "Proceed forthwith, drop D.C. in position Brenfield Point 270 degrees distance one mile, Acknowledge !" . Basil passed it to me and said, "Plot it". I went up to the wheelhouse and stuck it on the chart. I went back to Basil who queried my failure to call the hands and prepare for sea. I asked him up to the chart and shewed him the signal and my plotted position. The base goons had given us a reciprocal bearing, i.e. one in the opposite direction to the one intended. The dropping position lay one mile inland. Basil was beside himself with delight and back went our signal, "Your *********, request sheerlegs and handcart in order to proceed as ordered". Obviously, this should have a wider audience and he copied both signals to Babs Hutton in 1212.


Shortly, there fell upon us two senior officers, both full of hell and demanding reasons for our ridiculous signal. Basil did not even answer, indicating that they should speak to me. I pointed to the plotted position, yet even then the penny did not drop. They demanded of Basil what else did he expect of a raw young Subbie, who had obviously plotted it incorrectly. This upset S/Lt. Basil Knight R.N.V.R., who fiercely expressed his indignation, firstly at their distrust in him and secondly at the attitude to his No.1 who he assured them was an excellent officer. We took them over the signal which they had formulated and made them accept that I was correct. They left, no apology, no regrets, only a further display of sheer bloody minded inefficiency. The episode, however, followed me every time I went to Ardrishaig in the years to come. This lot, however, did not give up easily. There was a rota of First Lieutenants who stood in for an evening in the communications centre. Came my turn, I started what was not there, a proper communications log, then ran the centre according to the book. Early in the evening I received a signal for Manning, this I routed on through the telephone exchange, but could not get an acknowledgement from his line, which I had been informed was always manned. There were only two alternatives, either there was a system fault, or for some reason something was wrong at the Captain's end. I went by the book and called out Commander Sharpe. He arrived in his usual shower of invective and bewailed having to work with non-communicators. I put him in the picture and assured him that as the duty officer I had made a record of the conversation. Manning was prepared to back him up, however, I went through the entire correct drill as I had carried it out, ending by saying that I would now report the matter to my C.O. If things were not put right, however, I insisted that I would take the matter to higher authority. Its a good ploy, particularly if the opposition have a chancy basis on which they are working. Like others to follow, they found a way to retreat with some face saved. From these recollections, it may appear as if we never made mistakes. We made enough, but we were in the learning business and had no hesitation in admitting errors and setting out to put things right. On the other hand we had the Engineer Officer. One of our troubles was that there was no direct supply of water to the jetty. Imagine our wonder, to awake one morning to find we had running water, courtesy of the E.O.. During the night, he and his minions had broken into the village's main water supply and put in a secondary flow line to supply the pier. Soon, we had flowers on the patch of soil around the base, these resulted from an E.O.'s commando raid; he had borrowed a van and raided local sites where flowers were to be found. We entertained a lot and Basil kept his own visitor's book. Well, it really wasn't a book, it was a linen tablecloth upon which Basil had all our guests write their names. Names were rarely all that was put down, there were pseudonyms and significant letters, like M.T.B., happily scribed by newly pregnant Naval wives. Regularly, he had these embroidered in by one of his many female friends. We grew into a tightly knit force, working hard together and presenting a solid front to the greater idiocies of the base. Our chummy boat had two New Zealand Officers, Johnny and Bill, who were to become close to me. They were an incongruous couple, Johnny, tall, handsome with long black hair and a tanned skin, manly in build, lithe and athletic; Bill, short, rather tubby, and a face full of single accidents, each an unhappy accident, yet in composite , a wholly happy accident. This diverse couple had joined up together in N.Z., trained together and kept together until their arrival in England. Both had sufficient experience to have a command, instead, they had asked to stay together. A ship could have only one Captain, so here they were, with Johnny in Command and Bill as his No.1. They ran a happy but efficient ship. I was interested in how they did it. I was with them one day, when we met one of their crew. He saluted, with a smile, the smile was unusual and from them both came a cheerful word along with the rating's name, they returned the salute; the rating replied cheerfully and went on his way. A simple lesson in how to run a ship, a start in learning to use authority and still stay human. A hard lesson to learn but one harder to maintain when the screws were on. They died together, shot to bloody rags by Stan's Dog boat because they were not fast enough to reply to a challenge. I have always wondered whether or not the two things had any connection. Knowing them both as I did, I think they would rather have had it that way. We grew to be good friends and from them I learned a great deal. All of it to be evaluated, some of it to be the basis of my own approach and some to be discarded, simply because it did not work under the conditions in which I found myself.


H 33 on exercise in Loch Fyne We toiled on the loch, working with an "H" type submarines, either H31 or H33 both of which were really past their days of frontline operational service. With the submarines, we did an endless series of A.S.P. exercises, starting with A.S.P.6 in which the submarine was dived on a steady and fixed course, at a set depth and dragging above it, an indicator buoy which showed to surface craft the position of the target. Normally, we slipped at first light, picked up the submarine, then dived him just south of Gulhane Rock on a course of 170 degrees. Attacks would be carried out until he was abeam of Tarbert, when he would come round to 140 degrees and run down to Inchmarnock Water. ASDIC attacks in Coastal force craft differed completely from those in other warships, basically because we had fixed and not trainable oscillators. Our set would only work on the beam or directly ahead. Running abeam of the target, we would pick up an echo and settle on its bearing before swinging the ship to point along that course. With the target directly ahead, we would run in, swinging the boat across the target to determine in which direction it was proceeding. This was done by swinging the bow of the boat and cutting on and off the two extremes of the target, giving us through change of bearing the size of the target and the direction in which it was steering. This information was presented in two ways: firstly , the audible note, secondly by the trace on the ASDIC Recorder, where a stylus ploughed across the iodine impregnated paper leaving a visual trace. In addition, the extent to which the note of the returning echo changed through Doppler Effect allowed the operator and A/S. C.O. to estimate the rate at which the target was closing us or moving away. From this information, the team would lay first an intercepting course and at the last, a course thrown off ahead, which would allow us to drop charges in a position to sink and fall upon the moving submarine. About 200 to 300 yards from the target we would lose contact with the submarine, often because the ASDIC beam was being bent up away from the submarine. That was the point at which we threw off ahead, the extent to which we threw off was a matter of experience combined with intelligent guesswork. This being a friendly submarine, we did not drop charges. From the position of the floating buoy, we were, however able to estimate the accuracy of our attack. These attacks were, however, carried out in the foulest of weather conditions with the 72-footer pitching and rolling in a beam or quarterly sea. Keeping within 40 or 50 degrees of the course to be steered, required a skilled and a strong Cox'n. The physical stresses upon all the crew were cumulative and as the day wore on the crew became less and less able to meet the demands upon them. Building up physical stamina was a secondary intention in the training. There were other problems, which affected the results obtained from the A/S set. The copious rainfalls of the area filled every burn and these, flooding into the loch, created underwater rivers, which being of different temperature and salinity, bent the ASDIC beam upwards. The wakes laid by hunting craft were impenetrable to the A/S. and this involved steering many undesirable courses into wind and weather to keep the target area clear. As a result, beside throwing off ahead, there was much throwing up ahead. At the end of the day, the run back up the loch to harbour was often the first relief from butting into a pounding sea. At the end of each day, we came in wearing our clowns rig, white salt caked faces, red eyes and lips licked red, all on the background of a blue face. We kept steadily at this through the long winter, happy at the end of each day to drop an S.U.E. (Submarine Underwater Explosive ) to bring the "H" boat to the surface before heading for home. Babs pushed us hard but working together, we began to get results and recognise that we could be effective A/S. Boats when the Navy, as so often, played us a wild card. Gert and I had been indulging ourselves at the flicks in the village


hall. We came out to find Staff on the steps, calling all officers to report aboard. With the dawn, we sailed for Ardrossan, our goodbyes mostly unsaid. The crew began a series of anti-submarine exercises before heading for Newport. Here Derric learned that HDML 1157 was destined for Algiers but he would not be on it. Instead, he had been appointed to RML 516 attached to the 61st Rescue Flotilla as No 1 to Lt Tony Bone RNVR : ML 1157 never reached Algiers – the City of Melbourne in which she was embarked was sunk in the Bay of Biscay by a German FW200 bomber. RETURN TO ARDRISHAIG Later - offered posting to the Coastal Forces Commanding Officer's Course at Ardrishaig, this to be followed by a command Going there now, was to some extent a reunion. There were not a lot of us but meetings were few and far between. We no longer were billetted at The Stag in Lochgilphead, but used the local inns nearer the jetty and the base. I travelled up, train to Glasgow and for a change the "Wee" McBrayne's bus. It went up and over the old tortuous, Rest and Be Thankful, shuddering and grinding on the steepest of the slopes. We never had to get out and push, but on a few occasions, we got very near it. They put me up in the pub on the end of the pier and we settled down to make the most of this break away from the operational tasks from which we had all come. There was nothing about the course at Ardrishaig which I found in any way difficult. After life with Tony Bone, it would have had to be a real scorcher to present any problems. Unfortunately both Captain Manning and Commander Sharpe were still in residence. We had crossed swords before. It was unlikely that we should suddenly grow to love each other. We did a lot of A.S.P.6's out on the loch, pursuing a submarine which sailed on a fixed course and towed a small marker buoy; as the wind blew steadily up Fyne, we were ploughing into the sea most of the time. A day at that, and we came in with our faces coated in salt, eyes red, legs and bodies aching. We had great fun with a newly married couple. He exhausted after each day, while she was seeking close encounters of any kind. We christened them, Ever-ready and Never-ready. I think she had a rather disappointing time. We played games on the Attack Teacher, games of hunt the submarine, games in which the submarine was free and all units were restricted to their operational speeds. We usually played at five bob a go, that too was a fruitful source of some extra cash. It was our lectures which were most hilarious. Manning insisted upon dispensing his wisdom in relation to Coastal Force fighting tactics. Great stuff from some one who had never had an operational job. We had one lovely day when Captain Manning was holding forth on how to deal with enemy "E" boats. He picked upon one quiet innocuous youth in the front row. "What would you do if you met an "E" boat ?" he snapped. The quiet youth said, "Ram it Sir !" From Manning came a snort of derision followed by the statement, "An "E" boat is 15 knots faster than your "B" Fairmile and you tell me you will ram it !". Then came Manning's killer, "Have you ever met an "E" boat ? " Again the quiet reply, quiet and giving nothing away, "Yes Sir". That was of course, Manning's great chance. "Now then", he said, "Tell me what you did". Again the quiet gentle voice came back, "Rammed it Sir ." Stout party subsided. Led up the garden path and tripped into the public midden. We saw him no more on that course. The end of the course arrived. I had the news that I had got the command of a 'B'. That night in the pub was all joy. Gert had got up for the last few days and we hoped for a further break before I went back to operations. During the evening my arm began to throb. Through all the alcohol, that was rather clever of it. I rolled up my sleeve, the right arm showed a long red line from wrist to shoulder. Under my armpit was a throbbing lump. Remember, this was before the days of our modern range of antibiotics. We were in the poultice and carve era. The Naval Surgeon was there very quickly. He shook his head in disapproval. “Really”, he said, “it's a Hospital job”. Then, looking at Gert, said, “Before we do that, however, I am going to try a new drug. If it works, good, if not it will


mean hospital”. We knew the nearest service hospital was in Campbeltown at the foot of the Kintyre peninsular. We also knew what the situation would be if it didn't work. I turned in and he fed me a batch of the new Sulpha drugs. Sulphaguanadine, I believe was its name. For me the lights went out. Apparently, I did a fair amount of raving, sweating and shaking for about a week before I returned to the bright world of Ardrishaig. During this period Gert, supported by relays of young Naval wives, kept watch and ward. It worked and I came to, weak as a kitten, tired and with a lifelong distaste for barnacles. Ever since, I have healed over after an infection, only to watch it subsequently go wrong. The Surgeon was delighted with the outcome and so was I, only in my case it took a few more days before I was able to appreciate the wonders of modern medicine. I was not able to take up my original appointment. To fill in my time, I did the course again. Not exciting, but it did give me a chance to begin my physical recovery from the septicaemia and of course, the somewhat brutal affects of the Sulphaguanadine. The early drugs in this group were particularly harsh in their treatment of the human frame. The course lasted only two weeks, but I had been there for a full month. Not for any service reason but because I had gone down with a seriously infected arm wound, the result of a bad scrape along the barnacles of the boat's hull when picking up the survivors of a Flying Fortress, which had ditched off Beachy Head. It had healed without any bother then suddenly, a month later, it had flared up. Now I was back in harness, somewhat shaken but, as the Quack said, "Fit for duty". HDML 1388 At the end of the course, I was appointed to command of H.D.M.L. 1388 which was building at Sittingbourne in Kent, my first command and it was then that the news arrived that Tony Bone and his friend Jock had been killed, another blow and consequently I flitted between elation and apprehension . . . I set off from Ardrishaig. The crew were very green, so unhappily was No 1. My job then, was to teach them. I recalled Basil Knight and Tony Bone and how they had taught me . . . and, as soon as was possible, we sailed north, up the east coast, on our way to Ardrishaig for our working up period, prior to going abroad. We rounded Flamborough Head, shifted course to the North-West and coming round Whitby and Staithes anticipated picking up the Fairway Buoy off Tees Bay After dark, in the Tees Bay, disaster struck as 1388 became hard aground on Heugh Point at the foot of the steep cliffs. Having abandoned the launch, Derric was further distressed to discover the Fleet Auxiliary Vessel’s Signals Recode book was missing. He swam out to the boat to recover it from the wireless office. At the Court of Enquiry Derric was found not to be at fault for the loss. Then, new orders, "Sub. Lieutenant D.A. Breen R.N.V.R. for H.D.M.L. 1391: in command". I was to join at Ardrishaig, forthwith, vice S/Lt Dunn, so the group of Naval Officers who had decided my fate at Hartlepool had carried the day. HDML 1391 I went back to Ardrishaig by the route I was getting used to. The night train from Newcastle, across to Glasgow. Breakfast in the old Station Hotel and the morning train down to Wemyss Bay. From there, the now defunct service on the old Lochfyne, across to Rothesay and then through the much loved Kyles of Bute to the picture postcard village of Tarbert. The last leg from Tarbert put me alongside the pier at Ardrishaig in the early afternoon. There was a new and human Staff Officer on duty, Jack Frost; he told me that 1391 was lying in the basin. The basin at Ardrishaig lies at the Loch Fyne end of the Crinan Canal. It was a beautiful spot, ringed with trees on the hill slope and connected by a small canal under the road bridge which joined with the sea lock giving access to the harbour. My gear was still pretty light and it was only about a hundred yards, so I walked round. She had the look of a ship in good hands. I knew that Dunn was a good officer but this was rather better than just a good C.O. Down below, I met Dunn and his No.1 and the penny began to drop. Ron Howell, his No.1 struck me as being of the highest class. He never gave me any reason to doubt that first judgement. Dunn was ready to go, so we did the paper


work and he lifted his bag and baggage and went. I sat down with Howell and let him fill me in as to the situation. 1391 was only a week or two into her work-up, so we could expect about 3 months at the base, H.M.S. Seahawk, before we moved on to an operational base. For a long time, the operational base had been overseas, now however, the Navy was girding itself for the invasion. We might be part of that massive enterprise. Meanwhile our job was to get ready to fight. I was quite aware that Captain Manning the C.O. of the base was against boat officers having their wives with them in these last few weeks before what was often the final parting. We had sorted that one out long ago, so I phoned Gert to see whether or not she could leave old Jack Clark for a week or two and come up to the west. We got down to doing A.S.P.6s, perhaps the most simple of live anti-submarine exercises. In this game, the submarine, towing a marker buoy, steered a set course down the lower loch, while the attacking M.L.s first detected her, then using the bow oscillator, made a series of attacks.

Flotilla Leader ML 489 in heavy seas In the weather which blessed our operations, it could be rough cold and wet, with the M.L. ploughing into heavy bow seas as we fought our way down the loch. The submarine went along, just deep enough to avoid the worst of it, for us on the surface, we could only bear it, no one had enough cheek to ask us to grin. We steered steadily down the Loch, heading for the big submarine exercise area in Inchmarnock Water and down to the Cock of Arran. Somewhere about 1700, we would drop S.U.E.s to inform the submarine, that we were turning for home. Then it was the long run back up Lower Loch Fyne, with a quartering sea and the gale howling in through the exposed rear of the bridge. For all of these little outings, we took with us our ration of officers who were on the Commanding Officer's Course. We would then tie up alongside in the bleak darkness, prepare for tomorrow, then seek what entertainment that wild frontier town had to offer. Gert came up, not on the steamer as agreed, but on McBrayne's bus. Somewhere between Edinburgh and Glasgow she had lost her money but fortunately some helpful Swaddy was only too willing to help this fair maid in distress. I had to hold up the bus on the main drag in Ardrishaig until I could sort enough cash out of my pockets to reimburse him. We stayed in a little hotel just off the pier, that is for the first day or two. Then we got a full gale from the south. All the boats were bundled into the basin and hatches battened down. Naturally, even when we filled the basin and the little sea loch, there was still one boat, the junior one, left outside. I of course was junior officer present. It was far too dangerous to lie alongside the pier, the nearest place of relative safety was at Lochgair, further up Loch Fyne.

Lochgair and a steam yacht heads for Loch Fyne


I took 1391 out and down to the long sand spit of Otter Ferry then slanted up Loch Fyne until the narrow entrance of Lochgair appeared. In through the slot and then tried to find an anchorage which would give the maximum protection from a southerly gale. We found the wind veered a lot in that little bay. Our tiny dinghy was unsafe for the transfer of libertymen to the shore. All we could do, was sit it out, till better weather came our way. I got back to find that Jack Frost, like a good Staff Officer, had done his job and seen that Gert had her share of the local entertainment. For my part, I had read Dickens, all of them , from cover to cover and got to know my No.1 much better. We worked on through the months of February, March and into the beginning of April. She was a good boat 1391, built by the Berthon Boat Company at Lymington and equipped to my glee, with a pair of Gardner 300s and all in top nick. Beside this, I found in Ron Howell, a splendid No.1, who kept a taut ship with shipshape and Bristol fashion. At sea, we proceeded up the A.S.P. ladder, pursuing our submarine in free hunts. First she wore a floating target buoy, and stayed on a fixed agreed course, then within the limits allowed by the shape of the lower loch, she led us some pretty dances. Eventually came the day when Captain Manning embarked. His declared purpose was to assess our ability as an A/S vessel . His own experience came from pre-war years in the R.N.V.R. when conditions and beliefs were rather different. The senior officers at Seahawk were not classed as being other than inept by the many officers who passed through the base. To walk on 1391, was to recognise that she was a taut ship. I am sure Manning recognised it almost immediately and was keen to get ashore again. We were no sooner clear of the harbour than he asked me to carry out a dummy attack to port. To port, lay a long line of reefs. I kept my temper, "Yes Sir", I said, "As soon as we clear the reef". I put Ron to run the chart and as soon as we were clear, carried out the dummy attack. We got back to harbour and Manning asked me to report to his office. It was not nice, he had received a copy of the loss of M.L.1388 and from that voluminous document, he read me the only sentence which could be interpreted as being critical. That is, "It would have been better to close the Fairway Buoy more closely, before turning to run into Hartlepool Bay". The course was now at its end and we waited for sailing instructions to our port of embarkation. Gert again came up for the last few days. We were at the pictures in the Village Hall and when we came out, Jack Frost was on the steps. Round him was a little group of Commanding Officers, we were being collected for a briefing meeting. The briefing was short, if not sweet. We were to sail at dawn for Ardrossan, there we would be given further routing instructions. There was just time to say good bye and then down to the ship to set the ball rolling for our journey. Dawn saw us pushing down Loch Fyne, 12 boats in line ahead, with me as 'tail end Charlie' first to Ardrossan and then, eventually, round Land's End and up The English Channel to Poole for a refit to have the boat equipped to navigate the assault craft into the beach-heads. In so many previous landings, the troops had often been put ashore so far from their targets, that they had been unable to make any real contribution to the assault. Apparently, during the early North African landings M.L. 444 found a bevy of U.S. landing craft in excellent order but steering the reciprocal to their course i.e. away from and not toward the beach. The Royal Navy was intent on making sure that this did not happen in the D. Day landings. The plan was that each assaulting column should be led by a craft so equipped that it could ensure that troops were put ashore within 25 yards of their target. For this purpose two dozen H.D.M.L.s were being converted and 1391 was one of this select band. She with 1407 was to be converted by British Power Boats at Poole. After two weeks leave, Sub. Lieutenant D.A. Breen was ordered to join H.M.S. Pict, in Freetown, as First Lieutenant, his first overseas appointment. Derric Breen's son, Dr Andy Breen, has a website at


INVERARAY and Combined Ops

In October 1940, a Combined Operations Training Centre was set up at Inveraray to train commando troops and agents in 'the black arts' of 'irregular warfare' - The Inveraray area was the site of No. 1 Combined Operations Training Centre (No. 001 C.T.C.), set up to test equipment and to train troops for combined assault forces - It was unusual in that it trained members of Britain's and all her allies' Army, Navy and Air Force personnel all together - It must have been an unusual sight indeed to see personnel from all three services parading together and reporting to a duty officer who could have belonged to any one of the three services ! After the fall of France in 1940, The Prime Minister began planning the Invasion of Europe and realising that troops had to be specially trained for invasion by sea, Admiral Keyes began the search for a suitable place to train Commandos and crews together. The choice eventually fell on Inveraray and, on the October 15, 1940, Vice-Admiral Theodore Hallet R.N. assumed command of No. 1 Combined Operations Invasion Training Centre. Suddenly this quiet little town on the west coast of Scotland found itself playing an important part in the war against Germany. Churchill and his planners knew that, when the invasion of Europe began, the Allies would need a well trained and equipped invasion force drawing on the resources of all three services. Such was the magnitude of the task assigned to Combined Operations in terms of the numbers to be trained, the diversity of the training and the procurement of equipment, that a total of 45 Combined Operations Establishments were set up in the west of Scotland and the south of England. Inveraray would train around a quarter of a million forces personnel in just 4 years, undoubtedly the largest training operation ever mounted in the history of the United Kingdom - Set up in October 1940, training at Inveraray continued almost without interruption until July 1944, a month after the D-Day invasion, the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare.


Training was provided for commandos, brigade groups in the assault role, formations in follow up and building up, port operating companies, squadrons of the RAF Regiment and RAF and servicing commandos - There was no training manual to follow and new ground was being broken at Inveraray in terms of the scale of the operation and the technology of warfare which had changed greatly since the Great War of 1914 – 1918 - This was therefore a time of experimentation, innovation evaluation and redesign. Royal Engineer and Pioneer Companies duly arrived to set up camps with the local firm of Messrs. James Carmichael and Messrs. Cowieson of Glasgow as principal contractors. Town Camp and Avenue Camp were erected behind the Newton, while Duke's and Castle Camps sprang up in the castle policies. Shira Camp was built at the entrance to Glen Shira, and, south of the town, land on Dalchenna Farm was requisitioned to build the Naval Camp known as "HMS Quebec" (now Argyll Caravan Park). Further along the shore appeared Kilbride and Chamois Camps. As the camps were completed, occupation took place and many famous Regiments were to receive specialised training in the hills and on the shores of Loch Fyne. Commando troops, who were later to take part in many raids on enemy territory, had their first training here, arrived in the late autumn in troopships which anchored off the Creags, among the officers was Captain Randolph Churchill, son of the Prime Minister. Some of the larger houses and buildings in the town were requisitioned by the Admiralty, including Dalchenna House, Fern Point (Coffee House), Rudha-na-Craig and Tigh-an-Ruadh (the present 'Loch Fyne Hotel'), it becoming Admiralty House and, in the grounds of Fern Point, a Nissen hut was established for use as a decontamination centre and other buildings that were requisitioned included the Cherry Park, which became the Quartermaster's Store, whilst the old byre there was transformed into a cook-house. The town was often the scene of attack and defence from doorway-to-doorway and close-to-close as khaki-clad men, armed with 'tommy-guns' and revolvers, would overrun the streets whilst the townspeople carried on with their normal duties - In a Minute of the Town Council dated 20th September 1940 it was noted that baffle walls were to be erected in front of the closes in the town. As a protection against enemy action, it was agreed to order a dozen stirrup pumps at £1 each ! The off-duty hours of the troops were made as comfortable as possible. A cinema was built within the castle grounds and a large N.A.A.F.I. canteen was built on the site of the present Youth Hostel.

The hired transport (H.T.) ship "Ettrick" lying off Inveraray
H.M.S. "Queen Emma" and H.M.S. "Princess Beatrix" were the first warships to remain anchored off the town. The hired transport (H.T.) ship "Ettrick", with troops for invasion training aboard, lay off shore, as did the hospital ships "St. David" and "St. Andrew". These were used until, as part of American Lease-Lend, the Jubilee Hall at the Maitland was converted to a Military Hospital of 50 beds complete with a fully-equipped operating theatre and X-Ray room. It was staffed by members of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Medical Nursing Staff and by V.A.D.s who were housed in the Maitland buildings. The Medical Orderlies and Ambulance drivers shared but accommodation on the Greens. Some local people, as well as military personnel, owe their lives to the skill and dedication of the hospital staff based there. By 1941 two more ships at the pier were the "Quebec" and the "Beverly Brook". There were regular comings-and-goings of naval ships, including units of the Allied Fleets. Dutch oil-driven lighters were on duty for a long time, mostly on service around Kilbride. Two Canadian lake steamers, the "Eaglescliffe Hall" and "A.A. Fields" were anchored off the pier - the latter was sunk during the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast. In early 1942, in Dalchenna Bay, two Mississippi river boats, the U.S. "Northland" and the U.S. "Southland", were stationed as a camp overflow - several of their sister ships were sunk crossing the Atlantic to Britain.


Some 450 officers and men were in camp by the middle of May, 1941 and work went on apace in further construction. Engineering workshops, boat slips, the 'Wrennery' and a well fitted sick bay were completed. Training, which had up to that time been carried out from various ships moored in the Loch, now settled down to a steady cycle, twelve officers and 150 seamen arriving from H.M.S. "Northney" every fortnight. Flotillas were commissioned for the Lofoten, Vaagso and Spitzbergen raids and both day and night training was carried on by these crews operating with the C.T.C.
On the 27th June 1941, The Right Honourable Winston Spencer Churchill, M.Y., Prime Minister and War Leader, visited the Inveraray Training Area. The Premier and those accompanying him came ashore below the Manse from landing craft after witnessing operations at Ardno, near St. Catherine's - Prior to his departure from Loch Fyne, The Prime Minister marched behind a Military Band to the pier, where he responded to loud cheering by waving his cap on a walking stick above his head ! In the Autumn of 1941 His Majesty King George VI visited the Inveraray Training Area. On arrival, he was received at the pier-head by His Grace the Duke of Argyll, Lord Lieutenant. Periodical leave was not organised until the beginning of 1942, and as all liberty men had to travel by a skeleton service of buses between Inveraray and Glasgow, numbers had to be kept to a bare minimum. Later, when things got more into swing, a regular service of R.N. transport, assisted by the Army M.T. Pool, was run to and from the railhead at Arrochar, 27 miles distant, and regular leave has since been granted every three months. In the latter part of 1943 and early 1944 a number of Docker Companies underwent invasion training at Kilbride Camp, loading and unloading ships under war conditions using live ammunition and then, late in 1943, the first H.M. Flotillas began arriving at Inveraray and, under the eyes of the experienced naval landing craft personnel, the Royals began to infiltrate into Quebec’s life.

L.C.T. '531' - One of the big landing craft which exercised troops from Castle Toward at Inveraray and would be one of many to put the troops ashore in the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in June 1944
American, Canadian, Free French, Poles and Russians were also trained at lnveraray. On one occasion, several landing craft, one of which was flying the "Stars and Stripes", were seen approaching the shore below the Manse and amongst those who walked up to Admiralty House were General Eisenhower, Major-General Thorne, G.O.C. Scottish Command and Mr. Winant, U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

U.S. troops outside The Argyll Hotel, Lochgilphead in 1943
Troops trained at Inveraray took part in all the major seaborne invasions of the War: Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa in 1942 to link with the 8th Army; the Sicily landings in 1943 and of course Operation Overlord, the D Day invasions of Normandy in 1944. - One little known fact is that one section of No. 10. Inter-Allied Commando consisted of German exiles, they given false British identities in case of capture. Also largely unknown, apart from the fact that Inveraray Jail was occasionly used to house some of the forces as a consequence of their rowdy off-duty behaviour, is the fact that some troops were also incarcerated there on murder charges -


Amongst the now well known people who served at Inveraray were the actors Alec McGuinness and James Robertson Justice and, interestingly too, though few would learn even of his name till long after he retired, England's famous hangman, Peirpoint. Today, on the wall of The Loch Fyne Hotel, a plaque on the wall reads - "Admiralty House, 1940 - 1946, Headquarters for Combined Operations Training. "Visited by H.M. The King, 1941, Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, 1941, H.M. King Haakon of Norway, 1943, H.H. Prince Olaf of Norway, 1943, Viscount Louis Mountbatten of Burma, Admiral Lord Keyes, Gen. Eisenhower, Mr. Winant, U.S. Ambassador, Gen. MacNaughton, C in C, Canadian Forces, Mr. A.X. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, Gen. Do Gaulle, C in C, French Forces 1941, Gen. Sikorski, C in C, Polish Forces". In 1984 Lord Lovat, the wartime Commando leader, opened a Combined Operations Exhibition, the brainchild of Mr. Berry Savory who served as an RAF officer at Inveraray from 1942 - 1943, at the Cherry Park - Recording in detail the story of Inveraray in Wartime, the exhibition closed in 1999. Wartime troop movements through the village include -

1941 April - Royal Engineers.
Jul - East Lancashire Regiment; Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Oct - Royal Pioneer Corps; Royal West Kent Regiment.

May - Special Services (Commandos). Aug - Royal Artillery; Royal Scots Fusiliers; Royal Welsh Fusiliers; Canadian Troops; Royal West Kent Regiment; Royal East Kent Regiment. Nov - London Fusiliers. Feb - Lancashire Fusiliers. May - South Lanarkshire Regiment; East Yorkshire Regiment; Suffolk Regiment. Aug - Duke of Wellington's Regiment; American Troops. Nov - Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry; Black Watch; Royal Marines.

Jun - Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; Royal Scots Fusiliers. Sep - Royal Army Service Corps. Dec - Royal West Kent Regiment; The Black Watch. Mar - East Surrey Regiment; Bedfordshire Regiment; Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Jun - King's Own Scottish Borderers; Royal Ulster Rifles; Lincolnshire Regiment. Sep - American Troops.

1942 Jan - Royal Surry Regiment;
Northamptonshire Regiment. Apr - East Surrey Regiment; Royal Pioneer Corps; Royal Artillery. Jul - King's Shropshire Light Infantry; Sherwood Foresters; Duke of Wellington's Regiment. Oct - Royal West Kent Regiment; Black Watch; Royal Army Service Corp; Kings Shropshire Light Infantry.

1943 Jan - Canadian Troops.
Apr - Royal Ulster Rifles; King's Own Scottish Borderers; Canadian Troops. July - Lincolnshire Regiment; King's Own Scottish Borderers. Oct -

Dec - Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry; Royal Regiment (North Lancashire); Canadian Troops. Mar - French Canadian Troops; South Feb - Canadian Troops; French Lancashire Regiment; Suffolk Regiment; Canadian Troops. East Yorkshire Regiment. Jun - Norfolk Regiment; King's May - Canadian Troops; French Canadian Troops; Seaforth Highlanders Shropshire Light Infantry; Middlesex Regiment; Somerset Light Infantry. of Canada; Norfolk Regiment. Aug - Canadian Troops; Irish Guards. Nov Feb - North Staffordshire Regiment; Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; Seaforth Highlanders of Canada; East Yorkshire Regiment. May - King's Own Scottish Borderers. Sept Dec Mar - Hampshire Regiment; Green Howards; South Wales Borderers; Gloucester Regiment. Jun - Glasgow Highlanders; Norwegian Troops; Royal Engineers.

1944 Jan - French Canadian Troops;
Monmouthshire Regiment. Apr - Royal Air Force; Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.


Joachim Ronnenberg

The Real Story Behind The 1965 Film “The Heroes of Telemark”
Largely now forgotten, perhaps even unknown to many today, is the fact that, in January 1943, the real 'heroes' of the operation trained on the remote shores of Loch Fyne, near Portavadie and almost in daily sight of the MacBrayne's 'steamer' on her daily run to Ardrishaig and, after hearing the words "East Loch Fyne" mentioned in a Channel 4 television documentary about "Churchill's Secret Army", Kilfinnan resident John MacColl contacted the programme's producer, Martin Smith, who put him in touch with one of the Norwegian commandoes, Joachim Ronnenberg, who had been the leader of a group of commandos, called ‘Gunnerside’ and survived to tell the tale in an exchange of letters with John MacColl, the story told first in "The Dunoon Observer" of April 5, 2002. After the Germans had captured the Norwegian heavy water plant at Vemork, near Rjukan in the region of Telemark, the largest electro-chemical plant of its kind in The World, in May 1940, it soon became clear to British Intelligence the importance the plant held to the German war effort. The Norsk Hydro plant produced a by-product, known as Deuterium oxide, or heavy water, an essential component in the production of Uranium 235, needed to make what was to be Hitler’s ultimate weapon, the atomic bomb. Churchill’s cabinet was fully aware of the German’s intention and, through an SOE coup, they encouraged the plants engineers, Dr Jomar Brun and Einnar Skinnerland, to act as SOE agents. Brun and Skinnerland smuggled intelligence out of the plant to Intelligence Headquarters in London, where the famous cryptographer, Leo Marks, passed the decoded information to Churchill’s cabinet. Contact had been made with Skinnerland to find out exactly what improvements the Germans were making to the plants output and design plans. Skinnerland, one of the original designers of the Norsk Hydro, now plotted along with the Chief engineer Brun in its destruction. They smuggled micro-photographs of the plant layout in toothpaste tubes to London. When the intelligence was passed, the special Operations Executive were given orders to destroy the plant. On October 18, 1942, an advance party of four Norwegian SOE commandos were dropped in Norway on the Hardanger Plateau on a reconnaissance mission of the plant. Code-named ‘Grouse’, they were led by Lieutenant Jens Anton Poulssen, their job to fuse with ‘Operation Freshman’ and guide them to the plant to procure its destruction. But, sadly, ‘Operation Freshman’ went dramatically wrong, and the two RAF Horsa gliders — never before used in such an operation — crashed in the severe weather, killing many of the 34 Royal Engineers on board, and air crew. Any survivors were rounded up by the Germans, interrogated; tortured and shot. They were all in British Army uniform and today a memorial stands just outside Oslo in their memory. In an intelligence meeting Brun advised that the destruction of the Vemork plant had much more chance of succeeding if the attack was made on a smaller scale, hitting the structures weak points with a highly trained group of soldiers. The war cabinet met and approved a small-scale attack. One of the most highly trained and respected Norwegian lieutenants, Joachim Ronnenberg, was chosen for what could be classed as a suicide mission. With only a 50-50 chance of returning, each man carried an ‘L-tablet’ (cyanide) in case of capture. Ronnenberg picked five highly trained men for the job and good skiers, to make up ‘Gunnerside”, which consisted of Lieutenant Knut Haukelid, Sergeant Fredrik Kayser, Birger Stromsheim, Kasper Idland and Hans Storhaug.


‘Gunnerside’, at that point, was stationed just outside Cambridge, and at the same base was a Scottish Officer, Major Dunlop MacKenzie. On hearing ‘Gunnerside” needed a safe spot to train and await their vital mission, MacKenzie offered them his house on a local estate in Kilfinan, Argyll, and a secluded cottage about an hours walk away at Stillaig Bay, by Portavadie. ‘Gunnerside’s’ leader Joachim Ronnenberg, reminisces about his time in Kilfinan, saying: “It was January 1943 and we were awaiting departure back to Norway. My group ‘Gunnerside’ had taken the responsibility for the destruction of the heavy water factory at Vemork, after the sad failure of the ‘Freshman’ operation causing the deaths of 40 British chaps, commandos and airmen”. He continued; “The December moon period was unsuccessful due to bad weather, so I asked for ‘Gunnerside’ to be taken to a safe spot in Scotland where we could use the time training, and await the February dropping period. “One of the British officers at our base, a Major MacKenzie, suggested he could take us to his home outside of Glasgow, where he and his family lived away from traffic and people. He remembered “that they took great care of us, and were extremely nice people”. Reliving the journey to Kilfinan, Ronneberg said: “As I look at the map I remember we went by train down the side of the Clyde to Greenock, where we caught the steamer. “I think we called at Rothesay and then on to Tighnabruaich, where we landed at the wooden pier there, and were collected by car. We drove to the MacKenzie house at Crispie in Kilfinan, where we all spent the first night. The next day we split up, and some stayed at a small cottage at Stillaig Bay an hour or so walk away. We took turns staying at the cottage, training and contemplating the mission. We knew there was quite a task ahead of us with not much chance of survival, but were more concerned about when the new moon and the dropping period would be”. ‘Gunnerside’ used the remoteness of the Portavadie, Kilfinan area, with its rugged coastline and hills to train in. Although fed at the big house, ‘Gunnerside’ also did a little cooking of their own Joachim Ronnenburg continued: “I do remember we shot a seal which we recovered when the tide went out. It tasted very OK when done with onion, although we had to slice it very thin”. The time came for ‘Gunnerside’ to leave Kilfinan and travel back down to Cambridge, and on February 16, 1943, a Halifax Bomber flew out Ronnenberg and his group. The plane had been specially adapted for dropping missions. Due to the fact that security had doubled at the Vemork plant, they were dropped 40 miles away from ‘Grouse’ on a frozen lake. ‘Gunnerside’ marched and skied across the Hardanger mountains in white ski suits over their British army uniforms, carrying heavy packs of explosives. After a week enduring atrocious conditions, they met up with the half starved intelligence group ‘Grouse’ now code named ‘Swallow’. The ‘Swallow’ fused with ‘Gunnerside’ and continued to climb through the mountains until they reached Vemork. On February 27, 1943, ‘Gunnerside’ found themselves on the final leg of their mission. Now in full British Army uniform they made their way down into the valley in preparation for the dangerous ascent of the 500ft rock face to the heavily guarded, almost impregnable plant, jutting menacingly out of the side of the mountain. The attack started just after midnight on February 28. Lieutenant Haukelid and the men with him cut the perimeter fence and took up silent positions watching the German guards. Ronnenberg and a sergeant had separated from ‘Gunnerside’ and they found the cable vent and crawled through. The shaft took them right in to the high concentration room where the heavy water was stored, to the total surprise of a guard who was kept at gun point till the charges were laid. With only two minutes until detonation, Ronnenburg and the three others with him had barely exited from the building when the charges went off.


The plant went on full alert as ‘Gunnerside’ made their escape, leaving behind a Tommy Gun to show it was British forces that had sabotaged the plant, in the hope there would be no German reprisals against the local people. The saboteurs escaped the Nazi wrath down a railway line and back into the mountains they knew so well, knowing they couldn’t be easily followed in the treacherous conditions. Later that day, through blinding snow and rain ‘Gunnerside’ reached base camp where they broke into two groups. Ronnenberg remembered his orders: “Five of the ‘Gunnerside’ group were to report back, via Sweden to the UK. Our orders were to ski the 500 km to Sweden in full British army uniform to prevent German reprisals if caught, the journey from Vermork to Sweden took us 18 days hard skiing”. ‘Gunnerside’ escaped in the knowledge their mission had been a complete success, as the explosives had literally blown the bottom out of the high concentration room, and Hitler’s atomic dream was running down the drains. But even though the ‘Gunnerside’ mission was one of the most successful sabotage missions of World War Two, by April 1943 the production of heavy water started again. Attacks continued on the Norsk Hydro, and America despatched 150 B-17s bombers to destroy the plant, but the mission failed, although Vemork was put out of action for the rest of the war, the high concentration plant had survived. Berlin, frustrated with the constant sabotage, decided to move the stock-pile of heavy water out by rail ferry. London instructed SOE to do everything possible to destroy its valuable cargo. Only one SOE commando remained at Vemork, Lieutenant Knut Haukelid, who had spent time in Argyll with ‘Gunnerside’ was now to become one of the biggest war heroes of World War II. Later a film was made about Haukelid, Ronnenberg and ‘Gunnerside’s’ exploits, and in 1965 an epic called “The Heroes of Telemark” starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris, was released. In February 1944, Haukelid and two others stowed away on board the Hydro ferry and they set to work laying a ring of eight Kilos of plastic explosives, set to blow a hole out of the boats keel. At 10.45am on Sunday, February 20, 1944, just as she was crossing the deepest part of Lake Tinnsjo, the Hydro ferry exploded, destroying the last of the German’s heavy water supply.

The Norwegian Monument to "The Heroes of Telemark" If it had not been for the heroic courage of Ronneburg and Haukelid and the men of ‘Gunnerside’, the Germans would have had their first atomic pile working by late autumn 1943, well ahead in the race to produce the atom bomb. The sabotage mission on the Vemork plant was now to hinder Germany for the rest of the war. Churchill was so impressed by ‘Gunnersides’ heroic mission he commended the men for their bravery, and the group’s leader Joachim Ronnenberg received the DSO, while Haukelid, Indland and Kayser were awarded the Military Cross, and Stromshiem and Storhaug the Military Medal.


Sylvia Scarlet

Sylvia Scarlet, officially known as 'The Brontasaurus', came to grief at Escart Bay, near the little island of Ghallagain, in West Loch Tarbert, on Saturday, July 3, 1943. Sylvia was a Dutch-built Fokker F.XXII 4-engined aircraft built in May 1935, registered PH-AJR, for KLM airlines. In 1939 she was bought by the Heston-based British American AT Services and, in September that year, was sold to Scottish Aviation at at Prestwick and registered as G-AFXR after less than a month at Heston. Finally, on October 15, 1941, she became HM159 when she was taken over by the RAF. 24 Squadron chnstened her 'The Brontosaurus' but. when she joined 1680 Flight on October 1, 1942, she had the name Sylvia Scarlet painted on the port side of her cockpit. On the fateful day, with her five crew, she had taken off from Abbotsinch at 10am on a routine freight and personnel flight, via Tiree and Benbecula, to Stornaway where she arrived at 1330 and then began her return flight to Abbotsinch at 1458 in the afternoon. It was a fine sunny day with little wind but, local thunderstorms were forecast around Oban. At Benbecula, Sylvia's New Zealand 'skipper' carried out a long series of pre-flight checks after he taxied to the end of the runway. Witnesses remembered seeing a long sheet of flame coming from one engine just as the aircraft took off and at Tiree, where the aircraft spent more than half-an-hour on the ground, there was talk about trouble with one of her engines. She left Tiree at 1642 with five crewmen and fifteen passengers on board and around 5pm passed over the observer post at Easdale streaming a smoke trail astern. A quarter-of-an-hour later, her skipper tried to land the aircraft on the mud flats at the head of the West Loch but crashed nose-first into the water at Escart Bay and a fierce fire ensued making it impossible for the crew of the RAF rescue launch, based at MacBrayne's steamer pier, to rescue any of the plane's occupants - 14 of the occupants were eventually buried in Campbeltown Cemetery.

Several weeks after the incident, the 'Lochiel' lifted the plane's four engines from the bottom of the loch, the little island of Ghallagain and the aircraft's wreck site nearly in view here. Amongst the listed casualties of the crash were E. S. Knox, Pilot officer RNZAF, A .Dempster, Rayner, Spenser, Jeffrey, Straunigan, A Reid, Carter, Hughes, Bowen, Booker and Gillibrand and also Wing Com. B. H. Jones, Station Commander at Abbotsinch Airport and, although Gillibrand 'was not found or registered locally', he was buried with the above in Kilkerran Cemetery in Campbeltown. One of the casualties was recorded as being a 19-year old reservist policeman and, more than sixty years after the crash, the real tragedy of his death came to light when a retired policeman was asked to try and verify the truth of matters that, were the entry correct, the young reservist's name could be added to the memorial list of those killed on active service at The Scottish Police College in Tulliallan.


After making numerous, seemingly fruitless enquiries, the young man's grave was eventually discovered in Hawkhead Cemetery in Paisley and proof found that he had indeed been returning from police duties in The Western Isles when the plane crashedand, from the headstone, it was found that, within a year or so of the crash in West Loch Tarbert, both the young man's parents had died, one committing suicide and the other 'dying of a broken heart' as a consequence of the sad course of events. The Roll of The Scottish Police Memorial Trust remains to be updated and can be found online at

The memorial itself comprises three large marble stones, which will carry the names of all Scottish police officers to have lost their lives in the line of duty.


VIC 52 slipped for overhaul The Clyde 'puffers' and The Crinan Canal were essential to the war effort and The Admiralty ordered 54 steam and 9 diesel 'puffers' based essentially on the design of the 1939-built "Anzac" and Lascar", the ubiquitous "VIC" (Victual Inshore Craft) being employed not only in Scotland but also being shipped abroad, as deck cargo, to supply the needs of The Royal Navy in ports across The World. As a tribute to the puffers, immortalised in Inveraray-born Neil Munro's 'Tales of Para Handy' and in the 1954 Ealing film comedy "The Maggie", retitled "High and Dry" for American audiences and as a tribute to those who can speak of and remember 'the happier days' of life around Ardrishaig, The Crinan Canal and The West Highlands generally, readers of these pages might like to recourse to the internet and listen to Max Houlison's Scottish Country Dance Band's arrangement of Ian Gourlay's 1965-written music for the BBC TV "Vital Spark / Para Handy" series which is on a You Tube video clip at