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Inland Water Transport: Tug names and their roles


InkyV
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Hello,

I am doing research on Laurence Copland, "Sergt. Major, Copland, R.E., i/c Tug H.S. 39" for the Inland Water Transport during WWI. I have two orders he received dated 21 May 1917 and 13 July 1917 telling him who to escort, where to go and what to do. I'm trying to piece his story together and believe these orders may be related to a rescue he made that first got him courtmartialed and then resulted in his receiving an OBE. 

The orders mention:

- 21 May 1917: Leave Dover with tug HS39, in company with Tug HS 72, proceed to Gravesend; tow bucket dredger P.L.A.6 back to Pegwell Bay, hand over to the Richborough Tug there; then return to Dover

- 13 July 1917: On arrival at Holyhead, from Plymouth, hand over the B328, take in coal and water, proceed to Pieston Dock, Lancs, to escort the Stern Wheel Tug S40 down to Plymouth. 

Does anyone know if there is a list anywhere that would identify the names of the tugs? Also, any resources that can help me better understand the context of these missions and what Laurence was doing during the war? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Kind regards,
Karen

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Thank you for the link! I was able to find the following:

SCOTTISH (ex-HS.39), tug. One of some 50 War Department tugs and steam lighters transferred to Admiralty towards end of war for HM Dockyard service and given a name. Built 1903, 141grt. Probably sold in 1920's although six of group served in WW2.

PETREL (ex-HS.40), tug. One of some 50 War Department tugs and steam lighters transferred to Admiralty towards end of war for HM Dockyard service and given a name. Built 1892, 55grt. Probably sold in 1920's although six of group served in WW2.

COR IV (ex-HS.72), tug. One of some 50 War Department tugs and steam lighters transferred to Admiralty towards end of war for HM Dockyard service and given a name. Built 1912, 112grt. Probably sold in 1920's although six of group served in WW2.

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Copland, Lawrence, Sergeant-Major Lawrence Copland - G. L. (I.W.T.).  
30730 - 4 JUNE 1918
Awarded an MBE (not OBE).

’As master of a deep sea tug displayed zeal, courage, and loyalty in the performance of duties of an arduous and dangerous nature’.

Medal Card available to download from TNA Ref. WO 372/5/20031
 

MB

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17 hours ago, InkyV said:

Also, any resources that can help me better understand the context of these missions and what Laurence was doing during the war? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Hello again Karen, 

It appears that during 1917/18 Sgt-Maj. Copland served as Master of a sea-going tug operated by the Inland Water & Docks Section of the Royal Engineers. The IWT Section was originally formed in December of 1914 in order to operate transport barges on the canals and waterways of France and Belgium. 

In the summer of 1916 Mesopotamia also became a part of IWT responsibilities, and during the course of the war its scope was further extended to cover overseas operations in Egypt, Salonika, Italy, British East Africa and ultimately in Northern Russia too.

At home in U.K. sea-going tugs like the one Sgt. Maj. Copland was in charge of were operating primarily from RE facilities at the specially constructed wartime Port of Richborough (on the River Stour near Sandwich, Kent) and to a lesser extent also from Dover, Southampton, Fowey, Poole, London and Hull.  The main work of the sea-going tugs was to tow loads comprising of two to five barges varying in size from 50 up to 1,000 tons each across the Channel to IWT facilities in France & Belgium, supporting the army’s operations on the Western Front. The contribution made by the cross-channel tugs and their barge deliveries helped to increased the supply of vital war materials and relive congestion at the ports caused by difficulties in offloading ordinary cargo ships. In addition (as can be seen from some of HS 39’s jobs detailed in your post), the sea-going tugs were also be employed moving special items and supplies around the UK coast).

To understand the scale of activities, the relatively unknown Port of Richborough covered 2,200 acres and in just two years of operation loaded 9,654 barges and sent over a million and a quarter tons of war supplies to the Front.

Although the work of the IWT was somewhat mundane and unglamorous, it was nevertheless of the utmost importance, and could at times be quite dangerous. The sea-going tugs were sailing through waters where U-boats operated, mines were laid and were well within the range of enemy aircraft.

Sgt. Maj. Copland’s post-war award of the MBE was not for any single act of gallantry, but rather reflects an acknowledgement of the quality and value of his service, in a position of responsibility. He was one of a number of other IWT tug masters awarded MBE’s in a batch, all having identically worded citation.

What can you tell us about the Court Marshall/Court of Inquiry incident?
 

MB

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Hi MB,

Thanks so much for your detailed information about the IWT, that provides great context. Laurence Copland was a Shetlander, and I am researching his service to include in a book about the village he came from, North Roe. Like many of the local young men, he went to sea young, joining the merchant service and taking his mate's and master's certificates. In 1915 he joined the IWT, RE. It is this wartime service that I would like to include in the book.

Central Chancery of the orders of Knighthood, St James Palace, 3rd June 1918

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire upon the undermentioned persons for services in connection with the War, in which great courage or self-sacrifice has been displayed - ....

Copland Lawrence, Sergeant-Major, G.L. (IWT): As master of a deep sea tug displayed zeal, courage, and loyalty in the performance of duties of an arduous and dangerous nature.

  • According to family tradition: "as master of a tug during WW1 he was ordered not to retrieve a barge of soldiers that had drifted into a mine field. He disobeyed the orders and retrieved them and was consequently court-martialled. The outcome instead was a recommendation of an award." [His granddaughter believes that this may have happened in the time frame of the only two original typewritten orders that he kept and were summarized in my original post.]
  • It is this latter story that I am trying to find further details about. When his granddaughter was at the National Archives, she noted that his records contained files "of advocate general", but she did not obtain a copy of the records. Do you know how we could get copies of them? I am in Canada and she is in New Zealand, so we are researching at a distance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Karen

Edited by InkyV
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3 hours ago, InkyV said:

Hi MB,

Central Chancery of the orders of Knighthood, St James Palace, 3rd June 1918

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire upon the undermentioned persons…

Karen

Sorry, but you are obviously unaware of the five different categories of the order, and I suggest that you at least Google this information in order to address the deficit.

As you correctly state, he was awarded the MEDAL of the Order of the British Empire.

Good luck seeking collaborating ‘family tradition’, you have set yourself a tricky task. Take a closer look at some of the other awards announced to IWT tug Masters at the same time, a couple of these correspond more closely to the story you are telling.

(He might of course have also been awarded an OBE later in his life for other worthy achievements, but that would be unrelated to his WW1 activities).

MB

Edited by KizmeRD
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Hi MB,

Thanks again for the time you have taken to respond -  I will certainly follow through on your recommendations to conduct further research on both the OBE categories and the other awards announced to IWT tug Masters.

Kind regards,

Karen

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Hello Karen,

The Order of the British Empire was instituted in 1917 by King George V to reward both civilian and military personal for exceptional wartime service. There were five levels of membership of the order and below that a medal (associated with the order) awarded to individuals who demonstrated courage or self-sacrifice. After reforms to the honours system in 1922, the medal of the order became commonly known either as the British Empire Medal (for meritorious service), or the Empire Gallantry Medal (where actual acts of bravery were involved).

From your last post (with your link to the Gazette), it’s clear now that your man was awarded just the medal of the order (neither an MBE or an OBE).

And examining the other awards to IWT tug masters included with in the same batch, it seems reasonable to believe that there could well have been some notable incident involving IWT tugs sometime during 1917, or the first half of 1918.

The citation for Act. Sgt Maj. John Walter Hacquoil readsWhilst in command of a War Department tug, on passage with and considerably hampered by a tow of barges, gallantly went to the assistance of a vessel steaming in company with him which had been sunk by enemy action, and by promptness and good seamanship succeeded in rescuing nearly all the crew’.

Whilst the citation for Act. Company Sgt. Maj. Charles William Brown reads Whilst in command of a War Department Tug showed great courage and perseverance in difficult and dangerous circumstances in rescuing a ship in distress.

Four other tug masters (Carruthers, Copland, Wady & Yardley) have identical citations As master of a deep sea tug displayed zeal, courage, and loyalty in the performance of duties of an arduous and dangerous nature’.
 

It suggests to me that all six tugs were sailing in company with one another and that the tug skippered by Hacquoil rescued the crew of a ship in distress (from enemy action), whilst Brown’s tug was instrumental in saving the ship itself. Very likely the other tugs also helped render some sort of material assistance as well.

There may well have been a Court of Inquiry convened to pick over the circumstances of this event, but it seems unlikely that a Court Marshall of IWT individuals then followed, particularly since medals got issued to those concerned.

Further research may well reveal the details of what actually occurred.

MB

 

 

 

Edited by KizmeRD
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Hi MB,

Once again, thank you for explaining in greater detail. I must admit that even with research I have found it difficult to understand, and I want to make sure that anything I write up about Laurence is correct. 

I have attached an image of his medal card. It does say "MBE" on it. Can you please explain what that means in the context of his receiving the medal of the order? Is that for the same incident, or would be it mean something else? Any other interpretation of the other information contained on the card would also be most helpful.

We are working with the National Archives to see if there is a way we can obtain a copy of his service record. Otherwise, as you say, it might be difficult to find corroborating evidence of the oral history shared in the family. Regardless of whether or not we can find that, his accomplishments (as with many of his peers) are noteworthy, starting as a crofters' son and advancing himself at sea to become a ship's captain both before, during, and after the war. Laurence died in 1932, at the age of 44.

Again, much thanks.

Karen

 

131895137_3539463316090194_3772292835954852007_n.jpg

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Hello again Karen,

Yes, I can understand your difficulty getting your head around this, and it doesn’t help that ‘MBE’ was incorrectly annotated on his medal card (it initially had me confused too). However please take the time to read the beginning part of the listing in the Gazette where it clearly states that the recipients are all being awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (i.e. he’s not being made an officer of the order or a member of the order - which in any case, due to his rank, he wouldn’t have an entitlement to).

Please bear in mind that this was a brand new honour, less than a year in being, and it’s understandable that some people at the time were a little confused as to how to refer to it. Also bear in mind that the medal of the order carried no entitlement to post-nomial letters. Also,there was a subsequent re-jig in 1922 when the BEM and EGM were instituted in place of the MOBE. Only a little more than 2,000 MOBE’s were ever issued and around 800 of those were awarded to Allies as areward for their cooperation and assistance.

Finally (without further research) the only incident I can think of involving war department tugs was the assistance given to HMS Duke of Cornwall (an examination vessel that got into trouble off Dieppe in October 1917.  This involved HS 18.

MB

 

 

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