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The Royal Naval Patrol Service - A Very Special Service Indeed
John Pugh
John Pugh began his Navy service on the ill fated aircraft carrier HMS Hermes leaving the ship to join the men of the RNPS aboard the small motor minesweepers.
Hostilities with the Vichy French
HMS Hermes
Launched in 1919 and one of the smaller carriers of the fleet, HMS Hermes was involved in a major operation when on the 8 July, her Swordfish aircraft attacked the Vichy French battleship Richelieu at Dakar and scored one torpedo hit. Hermes was sunk on the 9 April 1942 south off Ceylon,.

Names and dates are now becoming a little blurred so you will have to forgive me if they are not included in this epistle. I joined the RNVR In 1938 and did spring maneuvers on board HMS Rodney. I was then called up for active service in August of 1939. I joined HMS Hermes in Devonport and from there we were on patrol in the Western Approaches in liaison with HMS Victorious which was sunk by torpedo. We then returned post haste to Devonport. As the French had not got any aircraft carriers in their fleet, we were sent to Brest to operate with the French navy out of Dakar, French West Africa for approximately six months. When Vichy France took over, we were ordered out of Dakar to patrol the immediate area to keep tabs on French naval movements.

Shortly afterwards during the middle watch we were in collision with the AMC Corfu; lead ship of a convoy which came out of Freetown. We had to effect a temporary repair to our bow to allow us to steam to Simonstown in South Africa for a more permanent repair. After our bow was repaired we were then deployed with our aircraft as shadow ship to prevent the pocket battleship Graff Spee from escaping to the South Atlantic. We then went on patrol on the East Coast of Africa and the Red Sea and finally to the Persian Gulf. Here, with some of our crew members and ratings from other ships, we landed in Basra to take over the running of the port and man commandeered craft to patrol the river Shat-el-Arab, between Iraq and Iran. After about eight months, troops from the Indian and Ghurka regiments invaded Iran. We then had to take over the naval base at Khoramshah and to repair the sabotaged machinery. This is how I became involved with the RNPS.

'Anzio Annie'

At the base I was working with the electrical side of it under an electrical Lieutenant, who put me in charge of battery repair and refurbishment from sweepers with dud batteries. I also had to take over from Wiremen off the sweepers who were injured or sick. Eventually I was sent back to Chatham to qualify as a Wireman MS From there I went to Lowestoft and then to Barry island in South Wales to join MMS 167. After eight months of sweeping in the Bristol Channel and the surrounding areas the flotilla of five sweepers, a frigate and a tug left Milford Haven for the Mediterranean sea where the sweepers were involved with invasion and sweeping operations from Sicily to Southern France.

While in Genoa, we did an eighteen-hour sweep, then ordered to do sweep inside the harbour. By this time, we were running short of fuel and water and had to proceed to the oiling jetty to re-supply while the MMS 168 carried on with our sweep. Unfortunately, while she was sweeping she hit a mine and sank with all hands. After we were refueled we carried on with the same sweep and again the MMS 117 had just completed a sweep at anchor on Civitavecchia and recovered her L.L.A.A. sweeps and anchor when she hit a mine and had only one survivor who was a signalman. After a while in hospital he was transferred back home to Britain, as he was incapable of any intelligent speech or thought. While at Anzio we had to do our sweep during the invasion under intermittent fire from a gun, which we called Anzio Annie. It was situated on a hillside near Rome and Italian aircraft would drop mines at night, which we had to destroy the next day.

This has been just a short summary of the trials and tribulations of a poor matelot, with no claim to fame or notoriety.

ML 134   'Anzio Annie' (Leopold)
ML 134 chasing a floating mine cut by the 12th Minesweeping Flotilla in the Gulf of Genoa
  This giant railway gun was used by the German army against Allied troops attempting to break out of the Anzio beachhead in 1944. Today 'Anzio Annie' is on display at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds Museum, Aberdeen, Maryland

John Pugh 2000