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Remembered Today:

Was HMS Thisbe mined twice?


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Those who read my earlier post here will know that I have been enjoying the reminiscences of E.R.A. Gilbert Adshead about his service in H.M.S. Thisbe during the period 1917-1919.

 

According to Mr Adshead's naval record, he was posted and mustered aboard Thisbe on 27 November 1917. This is significant, because he goes into considerable detail about the time the ship was damaged by a mine. [See below.]

 

So far as I have been able to discover Thisbe was mined on 22 September 1917 - before ERA Adshead joined her. Two officers were recognised for their services on that occasion: Lieut. A.G. Mack, R.N., received their Lordships' appreciation for the way he prepared the ship for towing in a smart and seamanlike manner, while Engineer Lieut. S.V. Thomas, R.N. was singled out for the way in which he shored up bulkheads, etc.

 

Was she mined again after Adshead joined her crew?

 

Or is this another example of time playing tricks on the old man's memory? That he possess an amazing memory seems true enough - his recall of little details is superb - but is this another memory passed on to him that has become his own in the retelling?

 

"[It] was discovered through our Intelligence department that German destroyers were snivelling down the Norwegian coast in territorial waters to get down towards Brest, and the coast of France. Well, we had, as far as I know, up to that time, observed territorial waters, but some of our captains on the destroyers got a little bit peeved about this, and on the quiet they used to shut a blind eye to things, and they'd go into Norwegian territorial waters to see if we could head off any of these destroyers, when we got the news that some of them were on the move, you see. Just to catch them.

 

Well, our skipper he went right close in. I don't know where, because as I say I was on the engine room department, but we went right close in Norwegian territorial waters hoping to spot one or two German destroyers coming down. Well, he got in so close, he had to make a very tight turn. And as we turned there was a Jerry floating mine came along, and our stern - our Port stern - hit the mine, and up it went.

 

Well of course it blew our Port screw right off, blew the after gun overboard, and damaged the stern of the ship. But it didn't sink us. But we were incapacitated. We couldn't steam ourselves, because the Starboard propeller shaft was damaged and we couldn't use our main engines.

 

Well immediately that happened, a destroyer came to help us with an escort. And they took us in tow. The funny thing about taking us in tow was that our rudder, or helm, was jammed hard aport. And we couldn't move it. The explosion had wrecked some of the mechanism. As soon as they tried to tow us, naturally by the bows, we immediately swivelled round to Starboard, in a circle. So they thought, "Well, we'll try the stern." They got a tow, a spring, as they called it, a steel tow rope, you know, on the stern, and as soon as they tried to tow [?to] stern, we immediately slewed round the other way, to Port, and they couldn't move us. That meant to say that we had to free what was holding up the rudder.

 

And we discovered it was the shaft - the twin-screw shaft - which operates the helm or the rudder head [which] had got so badly bent it wouldn't work. And we had to cut through it with hacksaws, and it took a long time. It took about four hours to cut through that, so, as soon as we cut through, it [? let it go] and the rudder was amidships. And they were able to tow us. They towed us right over to Immingham Dockyard. And we went into dock. I got 10 days' leave over that, because they had to put new shafts in. That's the easiest part. And ... er ... we went into dockyard and we were repaired, and we joined the flotilla again after about three weeks."

 

 

Edited by Archer
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  • Archer changed the title to Was HMS Thisbe mined twice?

The Greenwich Maritime Museum has a lovely photo of HMS Thisbe being towed into Harwich by a tug after having been mined.

https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/1002843.html

The photo is dated 23 September 1917. The ship was out of action for a couple of months, but it seems to have served out the remainder of the war without further incident.

MB

 

Edited by KizmeRD
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Yes. It's frustrating that Mr Adshead's memories are so clear, so detailed, and - in truth - so modest about his own contribution, and yet they appear to be an amalgam of what he experienced himself and what other people told him. Reading the transcript, you really could not be blamed for thinking he was physically present when the ship was mined.

 

P.S. In fact, he says he was present, and got 10 days leave out of the incident.

 

P.P.S. He says they were taken into Immingham Yard - not Harwich. So I must ask again, was this a different occasion he's describing :D

Edited by Archer
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  • 4 weeks later...
Lörscher

Well, indeed she was mined twice as she hit TWO mines on Sept. 22nd 1917 ;)

 

See ADM 137/3332 and ADM 137/3689 for details.

 

The interesting thing:

British sub E.45 laid a minefield that day (I have no time though, but should have been in the early hours as she was back in Harwich in the afternoo) in location given as 53°16'N, 4°47'E, heading 308°

THISBE was hit in location 53°15'N, 4°45'E which is not far away, she first was towed by L.C. PENELOPE

 

It well COULD have been an case of friendly-fire, you know that locations given by vessels in the course of war can vary considerably.

 

But it remains pure speculation off course.

 

Oliver

 

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If the lat and long provided by Oliver is correct, then this places HMS Thisbe 3 miles off the southern tip of the W. Frisian island of Vlieland (Netherlands) when she was mined - so the Norwegian escapade, as described, must have been another ship or another occassion.

MB

Edited by KizmeRD
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Lörscher

I have to admitt that after so many years I'm not sure if I have seen both ADM-files (ADM 137/3332 and ADM 137/3689), or just (wrongly?) thought they describe the incident ...

 

And I had made just notes on the event, no copies of the original files available here.

 

So ..., well, it COULD be that we indeed are speaking of two different incidents.

 

Maybe someone with access to TNA can have a look into these two files?

 

Oliver

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Thank you both.

 

Mr Adshead may be misremembering (again), but the matter is by no means settled!

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It makes more sense to me that THISBE would have been operating off the W. Fresian Islands in September 1917, rather than off Norway.
 

Considerable effort was being made at the time by units of the Harwich Force to lay minefields in order to attempt to block U-boats from sailing in and out of the German Bight. Light forces belonging to the Imperial German navy were therefore having to deal with this problem by clearing swept channels through these enemy laid minefields, so that their U-boats could pass through safely.

 

If, as it appears, the light cruiser PENELOPE was also in company with THISBE at the time, this further suggests to me that THISBE (along with the other ships of her flotilla) was probably engaged in covering PENELOPE’s minelaying activity (PENELOPE could lay as many as 100 mines). - Interesting also to note that as well as THISBE being damaged that day, another destroyer SHARPSHOOTER was too. 

 

THISBE was out of action for a couple of months in order to have her stern repaired, but after returning to the squadron in November 1917 she was never out of service again up until War’s end (so must assume there was no second mine damage occurrence).

 

MB

 

Edited by KizmeRD
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Thank you. A very helpful reply

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On 22/04/2021 at 12:22, Archer said:

"[It] was discovered through our Intelligence department that German destroyers were snivelling down the Norwegian coast in territorial waters to get down towards Brest, and the coast of France


Just going back to the original post for a moment. One really has to question Mr Adshead’s notion that German destroyers/torpedoboots were travelling down the Norwegian coast (from where?) and why would they have thought it a good idea to head all the way down to the coast of Brittany to cause some mischief?
Assuming they avoided the North Sea minefields and they weren’t detected and confronted by the Royal Navy en route (somehow making it through the Straits of Dover), what good would a small number of light forces have been against the vastly superior Allied naval units  in/around Brest? (which at that time was a base for both the French and the US navy).

Seems an improbable tale, but well told.

MB

 

 

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