Admiralty "Dance" Class Trawlers

If I would picture in a single frame the dual essence of the small ships war I'd choose the "Dance" Class Trawlers for my theme short, shallow draughted, funnel and Fo'c'stle low with depth charge the towers and a 4" gun:! Flaunting white ensigns: four abreast in port rolling like sea-cows in a Northern gale. Gay in their dazzle paint - grey, blue, green and white. Happy and hard, dangerous and bright.

These are the ships I'd paint you, But I'd mix, laughter, weariness and comradeship, hurt hands and drink, and heaven days of leave, sleep, petty meanness and girls in port: Rough food, and pride, cold, boredom, thanklessness, and sport and danger, work and bravery, all these to make their pattern and I'd sing:

Small ships dancing in a ring:
Valse, Mazurka, Foxtrot Quadrille
Dancing gay as their names are gay:
Tarantella and Pirouette
As the snatch of the song they recall
Coverley, Hornpipe. Rumba and Gavotte
Dancing grim as a fencer is grim
Tango, Morris Dance and Minuet
Salterello and Saraband
As the sword in the fencers hand.

About the convoy in a ring:
A ring about a submarine:
The Dancing Class trawlers in a ring

Extract from PUNCH 13th August 1942

(Top) HMS Tarantella in Belfast 1941
An A/S M/S purpose built Trawler of the Dance Class in 1941
(Painting courtesy of B.L. Moir).

H.M.S. Tarantella was commissioned on 4th May 1941 under the Command of Viscount Lieutenant Traprain R.N.V.R. and after serving on H.M.S. Leicester City, H.M.S. Hammond (sunk in Norway) and H.M.S. Lord Lloyd and H.M.S. Oku, I was appointed as 1st Lieutenant of H.M.S. Tarantella on 10.10.41 and in Command 15.8.42..

H.M.S. Tarantella was renamed H.M.S. Twostep on 8.2.43.

H.M.S. Tarantella on commissioning joined the 11th A/S Trawler Group in the Harwich Command - her duties being to escort convoys on the East Coast.

On the 6th June 1941 she went to the assistance of a Norwegian vessel "Taurus" which had been bombed. For this action she was awarded Battle Honours.

Later in the year she was transferred to the Western Approaches Command based at Belfast and operating in the North Atlantic.

In April 1942 H.M.S. Tarantella was transferred to the Rosyth Command based at Granton doing EN/WN convoy escort duties between the Firth of Forth and Belfast. In one instance she was escorting a westbound convoy and just having passed through the Pentland Firth visibility dropped to 50 yards. H.M.S. Sir Roger de Coverley was the Senior Officer of this convoy of ships which, in thick fog, rounded Cape Wrath and sailed south through the Minches (Merchant Ships in fog used to trail a buoy fastened on a long rope so that the next ship could follow this.) Having sailed south for a day or so I sent a W/T/ signal to the Senior Officer H.M.S. Coverley asking when he expected to see Ratrary Head (i.e. the north coast of Ireland) He replied that 30 minutes ago he recognised his position to be on the 12th hole of Belfast GOLF Club!

On one convoy from the Firth of Forth to Belfast we ran into dense fog off Aberdeen. At about 1500 hrs there was an enormous crash on our port side and a commercial trawlers bow penetrated about 15'0 into us. Now that is no uncommon thing to happen but the reason for mentioning it all, is because almost within seconds, the trawler had GONE astern and pulled herself free. Today no-one knows her name, pennant number, registered port or anything at all about her except that she was one of the large deep sea trawlers which used to fish in the Bareuto sea.

This happened about five miles off Aberdeen. A collision mat was rigged and soon we were in Aberdeen.

It was goods news for the crew because it took 3 weeks to repair the damage and that meant shore leave - a very welcome thing in those days.

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Berkeley Moir Lt CDR RNR (Ret)
Nick Clark © 2001