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Special Service vessel


Wrecktec
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Hi Guys

Can someone please tell me what it would have meant for a requisitioned trawler to be fitted out as a 'Special Service' vessel. I'm thinking about the 161-ton CALEDONIA which was sunk by gunfire from UC 50 on 17 March 1917 ?

Cheers Ron

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Ron - Colledge Vol.2, lists CALEDONIA sunk by mine off Northumberland Coast on that day, for what that's worth.

Special Service / Q Ship / Decoy Ship from what I've read, were secretly armed but all had the appearances of defenceless vessels. A strategy to attract and trap U-boats. I suspect the fitting out of these vessels evolved. I'm sure there is still much that is not in the public domain about many of them. For instance at least one source claims that the reason the Skipper of Grimsby trawler King Stephen didn't rescue the crew of sinking Zeppelin L-19 was because the trawler was secretly armed as a Q-Ship, and after this incident her name was changed to LEDGER No 778. Many of these vessels had frequent name changes. I'm sure we don't know the half of it!

I've looked at various documents on this subject at Kew and it seems to me there should be much more than that which is available.

Cheers, Terry

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Ron,

She was on her way to be fitted out as a Q ship when she was sunk, have a google for Q Ship's (Special service ship's) the story's are very good and they do explain what they were about.

Regards Charles

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Thanks Terry and Charles

Yes, I suspected it would be something like that ;)

http://www.aberdeenships.com/browse.asp and Michael Lowrey say it was by gunfire from a U-boat and Michael has it down as sunk by UC 50. The commander was Rudolf Seuffer; he was lost with his crew later.

Michael is an expert on WWI U-boats and sinkings so I'll go along with him. Along with another couple of guys, they have been researching the ships sunk and the submarine patrols for many years.

Thanks again

Cheers Ron

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Ron,

The British archives state it was going to be a Special Service Ship, it would be interesting to know if this is mentioned in UC50's KTB.

Regards charles

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ALL, Special Service Vessel - beware of these being Q-ships & such ONLY.

SSV could be `just' a Water service V. / Torpedo Recovery Vessel / Minesweep V. - as in ELFIN / NETTLE etc.

Regards Sadsac

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Thanks for that Sadsac

Charles

The commander of UC 50 would probably have not been aware of the Coledonia being an SSV because it was just on its way to being fitted out.

Cheers Ron

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Charles, not too sure actually, but believe MOST trawlers converted to ??? remained as HMT(M) HMTS - as were PSM Paddlesweeper Mines - but do not take MY word for it !!

Cheers Sadsac

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In Dittmar and Colledge 'British Warships 1914-1919' Q ships are listed on page 126 as SUBMARINE DECOY VESSELS. On page 316 are entries under SPECIAL SERVICE VESSELS and these are not Q ships but yachts, tenders, ferries etc owned by the Navy.

The format follows the headings in the Navy List of the time. However.

On page 126 on Q ships it states .... the term Special Service Vessels was occasionally applied to them. Presumably to confuse us! They were also only known officially as Q ships ( Q24, Q25 etc) for a short period in 1915 before the Q & number was dropped when it was realised this reduced their secrecy.

Aye

Malcolm

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Thanks Guys

You never know unless you ask ;)

Cheers Ron

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OK, back to Caledonia. Yes, clearly sunk by UC 50.

The basic outline of events:

3pm: UC 50 stops and sinks the tralwer Kestral, and takes her capitan prisoner.

4pm: Sights the Caledonia with the Gowan in tow. Caledonia is flying the White Ensign, but quickly hauls it down and surrenders. UC 50 takes the crews of both vessels on board. The circumstances do not allow for a colser inspection of the trawler. UC 50 scuttles the Caledonia and sinks Gowan with an 88mm shell hit. Kestral's captain joins the bulk of Caledonia and Gowan's crew in the boats. The submarine, however, takes Caledonia's skipper (described as a warrant officer in the RNR) and leading machinest prisoner.

Initial interigation by the U-boat's crew suggests that Caledonia's purpose was tending harbor defense minefields. Gowan was to be taken in goverenment service thoug for what purpose was unclear.

Best wishes,

Michael

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To be chosen as a Special Service Vessel would mainly depend on the crew, the Trawlers were very much alike. When one was sunk the crew moved enmass to the new commision.

Michael,

A 'Skipper' was a Warrant Officer in the RNR.

Regards Charles

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Hi Michael

Does the KTB give the position of sinking the two trawlers Caledonia and Gowan, I just have 'off Newton', which is between Coquet Island and the Farne Islands off Northumberland ?

Cheers Ron

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The more I think about it, the more I wonder if there isn't an error here -- that the vessel en route to be converted into a Q-ship was the Gowan and not the Caledonia. Such a reading would make a lot more sense given UC 50's KTB entry.

Ron -- sorry, no location for the sinkings are given.

Charles -- The KTB uses the German word "Führer" (leader) for the officer commanding Caledonia, which I had not really seen before in this context. I presumed that this amounted to a skipper. Thanks for confirming that this.

Best wishes,

Michael

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Ron, extracts from Hepper:

CALEDONIA, newly hired trawler for naval service (undefined), enroute to Lowestoft for fitting out, intercepted off Newton Point, Sunderland by UC 50 on surface, skipper taken prisoner, crew in boats, sunk by scuttling charges. ADM 137/339.

GOWAN, newly hired drifter for naval service (undefined), like CALEDONIA had sailed from Aberdeen, bound for Lowestoft, intercepted in approx. 55.36N, 01.06W about 15 miles ESE of Longstone, Farne Islands, by UC 50 on surface, ordered crew to boats and sank by gunfire. One man died of exposure in boat before rescue. ADM 137/390.

No mention of GOWAN being in tow.

Best wishes

David

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Thanks a lot David

There is no mention of Gowan being towed in 'Lloyd's WWI Losses' and she is listed further down the page from Caledonia, as 'fishing'. She was a motor fishing boat of 25 tons.

Newton Point is also north of Coquet Island off Northumberland, which is about 50-60 miles north of Sunderland - - something wrong somewhere ?

Only thing I can relate to the 'Sunderland' statement, is Seahouses, which is a few miles up the coast from Newton Point used to be called North Sunderland.

Cheers Ron

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The man who died was

George Holdsworth Moat, a Deckhand RNR 14546.DA HM Motor Drifter Gowan killed 17.3.17

Ron

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