Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Forgotten Fleet

by Lt 'Ossie' T. Dodwell RNVR

In Britain's vain attempt to check the Fuhrer's mighty host
Destroyers did heroic work on Norway's icy coast
They served both at the landing and at the evacuation,
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

And on the shores of Dunkirk, midst the rain of shot and shell
The Navy did a sturdy job, both valiantly and well.
By stirring deeds destroyers earned the plaudits of the Nation
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

Then from the bloody coast of Crete to Iceland's Arctic Waste
Destroyers grimly battled on wherever challenge faced,
Chancing any kind of odds, facing annihilation.
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

And so the war moved westwards; took our cousins unaware,
They found they had not got enough destroyers 'over there'
At first to guard their convoys the destroyers weren't in station
But, dammit, there WERE trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

The author of this poem 'Ossie' T. Dodwell was the First Lieutenant of HMS Loman, a converted armed trawler not unlike the many hundreds of such vessels used by the Royal Navy in WW2 for minesweeping and anti-submarine work under the requisitioning programme.

These hastily armed fishing vessels were crewed by Royal Naval Patrol Service personnel. Many of these men had been peacetime fishermen and were expert sailors. Later in the war the majority of crews were made up of ‘hostility only’ ratings.

Royal Navy trawlers served in every theatre of the war from the Arctic to the Far East. The last attack to be made on a U-boat during WW2 was carried out off Iceland by armed trawler HMS Northern Sky, just one day before Germany surrendered. The last Royal Naval ship to be sunk by a U-boat in the war was HM trawler Ebor Wyke on the 2nd of May 1945 leaving only one survivor.

Their efforts largely missed out of the history books, armed trawlers obviously lacked the distinction of larger ships such as cruisers or destroyers and maybe this is why they are easily forgotten in the records relating to the Royal Naval Fleet in WW2.

Forgotten even in war it seems, when back in December 1942, 'Ossie' T. Dodwell wrote this poem for inclusion with the Christmas cards mailed from HMS Loman staioned on the East Coast of the USA protecting convoys from U-boat attacks.


Blogger Boabbie said...

loved the poem Nic all so very true but with just the best touch of humour.

Sunday, 12 August, 2007  
Blogger Nick Clark said...

Thanks Boabbie it's one of my favourite illustrations of the sentiment between the Royal Naval Patrol Service (‘Harry Tate’s Navy’) and the Royal Navy (‘Pusser RN’). I think it sums it up perfectly.

Good humour played a big part in the RNPS as they were always made to feel below the RN, but nonetheless they were extremely proud of their achievements. Many of these men were of course fishermen reservists and didn’t take kindly to the rigours and discipline of the Royal Navy proper. I have some other great examples of good humour and further interesting exploits of the RNPS which I will post later.

The Poem is from the excellent book ‘Really Not Required’ by Colin Warwick (The Pentland Press)
‘Really Not Required’ was another RN jibe, this time at the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR). Officers on RNPS vessels were usually RNR or RNVR.

Sunday, 12 August, 2007  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

It is a very apt poem. Anybody out at sea in wartime was definitely not on a cushy number - and as you mentionm they needed to have a good sense of humour.

Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

My grandad John Milnes, was the only survivor on the mentioned Ebor Wyke, torpedoed on 2 May 1945

Sunday, 05 February, 2017  

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