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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

HMS Avenger


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George, forgive me if the following clarification isn’t required or isn’t fully relevant to your needs, but I feel that it may possibly assist your understanding…

As stated in earlier posts, s.s. Aotearoa (originally designed and built to be a passenger/cargo ship) and was intended to be operated by Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. Soon after she came into service, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as an auxiliary cruiser (which would have required her to have had offensive armaments fitted, in this case six-inch guns). 
Auxiliary cruisers (otherwise known as armed merchant cruisers) were not intended to be part of the main battle fleet, but rather they performed essential work in defence of sea lanes, protection of shipping, and they were especially used for the enforcement of the naval blockade against Germany.
Once the navy got their hands on her, the ship was renamed HMS Avenger and a number of the civilian officers and ratings who were on her at that time were offered the opportunity of staying with the vessel during its subsequent naval service. A key core of the most important officers were granted temporary RNR commissions, the remainder were asked to sign so called called T.124X agreements which had the effect of bringing them under naval control, and made them subject to the Naval Discipline Act. Signing such an agreement allowed them (pretty much) to retain their former merchant marine employment terms and conditions - for fulfilling a similar function onboard ship as that which they were previously doing (only now they were no longer free to quit or say no, if they didn’t like what was being asked of them by the navy!). 
Men signing T.124X agreements became part of the so called ‘Mercantile Marine Reserve’ - their names were entered on a central list and they they could in future be required to serve on similar type ships (i.e other Merchant fleet auxiliaries) if the need arose (or if their original ship got sunk!).  
This is how Thomas Cull transitioned from being an ordinary merchant navy officer to an officer in the MMR serving aboard a commissioned warship. (It is also the reason why there was a relatively high proportion of officers and crew onboard who had New Zealand origin)
Merchant fleet auxiliaries performed a variety of naval tasks - some (provided they were suitable) became armed merchant cruisers (like HMS Avenger), whilst others were used to supply fuel, stores and ammunition to the fleet, or were otherwise employed as transports or hospital ships.



Edited by KizmeRD
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  • 11 months later...

Dear John,


Many thanks for thinking of me. Asst.-Paymaster Herbert T. Bryson, RNR was aboard HMS Vienna.

Kindest regards,


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