Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

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Wendyf
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Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Wendyf » 22 Feb 2014, 18:13

My paternal Grandad joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in WW1. This was the Merchant Navy rather than the Royal Navy, and I have found that he was a signaller on minesweepers (which were commissioned trawlers) working out of Tyneside. He joined up in 1916, at which time he was married with a young child so he may have been conscripted. Does anyone know if he would have chosen to go to sea, or was the battle against U-boats the task that needed doing at the time?

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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Stanley » 23 Feb 2014, 04:23

Wendy, can't really answer your question but I think I can offer a few clues. First, mine sweeping was not an anti submarine activity. Second, British naval strategy had got locked into the Dreadnought race, to build bigger and better battleships with long range guns and in the process neglected the smaller craft. Recognise that one of the major aims of both navies was to disrupt trade and blockade the North Sea and the Channel. To this end the Germans built mine-layers and 'E' boats, small fast torpedo boats and used them to disrupt coastal trade and fishing. To cover this gap the Navy requisitioned underused trawlers and drifters and sent them 'fishing for mines' and keeping an eye open for E Boats. Remember that air power was in its infancy and the mine sweepers were in effect an early warning system of major attacks. I suspect that in the early days the crews of the requisitioned fishing boats would be volunteers reinforced by naval personnel in roles such as signalling and machine gunners which were not normal fishing skills. I did know one naval reservist in WW2 who started his career as a lieutenant on a requisitioned boat and his role was not command but as naval advisor.
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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Wendyf » 23 Feb 2014, 09:58

Ah! The trawlers were requisitioned....I knew commissioned was the wrong word, but the right one just wouldn't come to me last night! Thanks Stanley, that is all very helpful. As far as I know Arthur had no connection to the sea, he was born and raised in Bradford and was working in the local mill, his occupation on joining up is described as cloth designer.
He served on HMT Swallow and HMT Florio which was involved in the sinking of UB 115 in September 1918.

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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Stanley » 24 Feb 2014, 06:09

It's a pleasure Wendy. Funnily enough I was reading about this aspect of the war in Strachan's first volume of his enormous history of WW1 only yesterday. U boats (unterseebooten) were very active in the early days of the war, On September 5th a cruiser was sunk in the Forth and on the 22nd three old cruisers, the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy were sunk off Holland by U9 with the loss of 1,459 lives. However, The German Navy hadn't enough torpedoes to carry on and weren't convinced of the effectiveness of submarines so they concentrated on mine laying. In August 1914 they requisitioned the liner Berlin and converted it to a minelayer. (LINK) On the night of the 22/23 October 1914, the Berlin, alerted by U20 which was monitoring the Grand Fleets move to Lough Swilly because of fears of submarine activity round Scapa Flow, made a fast passage into the Irish Sea and laid a large minefield NW of Lough Swilly. HMS Audacious, one of the new 'super dreadnoughts' hit a mine and sank in full view of the RMS Olympic which managed to avoid the mines. The Admiralty were in trouble because the only safe way to move capital ships when threatened by mines was to have mine sweepers in front of the fleet and this would cut speed to 5 knots. It was this danger that forced the Admiralty to requisition as many fishing boats as possible and convert them to mine sweepers with the subsidiary role of acting as an early warning system of German naval attack.
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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by BillHowcroft » 05 Sep 2017, 22:07

The Audacious sinking in 1914 had some interesting media control.
http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-l ... us-sinking

The main battle fleet had sailed from Portland through the Dover straits, in the dark of the first night of the war on Churchill's instruction, for their battle positions by the North Sea.

Woohoo - wife's just come back from the pub quiz with a bottle of wine won.

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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2017, 03:18

Nice one Bill!
Did both of you see the BBC4 programme on the role of the fishermen in WW1? If not, seek it out on iPlayer.
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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by BillHowcroft » 06 Sep 2017, 06:41

Yes. I watch (and record) a lot of documentaries from BBC4. My main channel.
Interesting story about the Grimsby skipper who left the crew of a downed Zeppelin to drown. Tragic on both sides.

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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2017, 07:06

That was the one I saw.....
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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Wendyf » 06 Sep 2017, 07:16

I watched it too.

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Re: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve WW1

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2017, 07:20

:biggrin2:
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