Drifters and Trawlers in RN Service

Courtesy of Leonard Barnett (Lenny@BARNETTRESEARCH.FREESERVE.CO.UK), via MARHST-L, triggered by a question on the crew size of RN trawlers and drifters. The notations such as "ADM 137/1002" indicate the source files at the UK's Public Record Office.

In doing research for a paper on peacetime trials and early wartime experience (up to the end of 1914) of RN mine countermeasures, I spent a few weeks attempting to track down operational and administrative records of the RNR (T). Virtually nothing of this arm has apparently survived. However, Courts of Enquiry records have been saved and give at least some information.

Loss of Trawler No 61 (THOMAS W IRVIN) 27th August 1914 - crew apparently 12 (3 killed) - ADM 137/1002

Loss of Drifter No 224 (LINDSELL) 3rd September 1914 - crew apparently 11 (5 killed) - ADM 137/3108

Disappearance of Trawlers No 342 (Drumoak) and No 287 (PRINCESS BEATRICE) presumed mined in British minefield off West Hinder around 5th October 1914 - 21 men between two boats - probably ten men per boat plus one commissioned officer in command - ADM 137/1003

Loss of Trawler No 361 (MARY) 5th November 1914 - Crew 14 (8 killed) - There were an extra four deck-hands onboard in order to handle the Ellison gear (8 instead of normal 4) - ADM 137/1004

In spite of problems with this Ellison gear, improved versions were widely fitted subsequently. So, presumably crews reflected this. Also, in the early days and with the severe shortage of weapons (the army having priority over guns manufactured) guns were not fitted to minesweepers and even to some patrol trawlers. This too may have reflected in later crew numbers, though patrol trawlers initially deployed the modified sweep (bombs attached to wires), which may also have required extra hands.

Individual boats were commanded by 'Skippers' (rated as warrant officers) and in patrol units, divisions of six boats were commanded normally by S/Lts or Lts RNR - though at the beginning of the war by RN officers when possible. It is probable that there differences in order of battle as the war progressed.

Works which should give more information are:-

Frank C Bowen: 'History of the Royal Naval Reserve' (London, The Corporation of London, 1926)

J Lennox Kerr & Wilfred Granville: 'The R.N.V.R. - A Record of Achievement' (London, George Harrap, 1957)

Captain Taprell-Dorling: 'Swept Channels - Being an Account of the Work of the Minesweepers in the Great War' (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1935)

Also see the following Naval Staff monograph:-

Training & Naval Staff Duties: 'History of British Minesweeping in the War' (1920)

Last Updated: 16 October, 2000.

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