Two local men were lost while serving aboard Hunt Class Minesweeping Sloops during World War II. Both held the rank of Petty Officer Stoker.
Edward Joseph Maurice Dorrington, born 1906, was the son of William Ernest and Ellen Mary Dorrington and the husband of Ellen May Dorrington of St. Mawes.
Edward 'Ted' Dorrington joined the Royal Navy as a stoker on 1 October 1923, initially signing on for 12 years.
Following initial training he served two years aboard the monitor HMS Erebus, which was in reserve at the time. He was transfered, following further training, in September 1928 to the light cruiser HMS Emerald. Emerald was part of the East Indies squadron based in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Edward remained with the Berwick until he returned to the UK in March 1931. He attended a further training course on his return before being posted to the submarine tender HMS Tedworth which was based in Scotland. In April 1932 he was promoted to leading stoker and attended further training. His next posting lasted from October 1932 to October 1934. This was aboard the heavy cruiser HMS Berwick on the China station. At this time he visited the ports of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dalian. Between October 1934 and June 1935 he was in barracks in Plymouth. While there he was promoted to petty officer. From June 1935 to February 1937 he served aboard the carrier HMS Glorious in the Mediterranean. He then returned to the barracks in Plymouth where he remained until August 1939. when he was placed in the pool of men required to man minesweepers. On 10 October 1939 he was assigned to his final vessel, HMS Huntley, stationed in the Mediterranean.
As Petty Officer in Summer Uniform
HMS Huntley, pennant number J56. Huntley was built by Joseph T. Eltringham Ltd. (Willington), launched 18 January 1919 and commissioned 22 May 1919. Placed in reserve in Malta she was recommissioned in 1937 and assigned to the Second Minesweeping Flotilla based in Singapore. With the outbreak of war, she was deployed to the Mediterranean.
HMS Huntley 1941
She was sunk on 31 January 1941 by German aircraft about 30 nautical miles northwest of Mersa Matruh, Egypt while on passage to Derna. Dorrington was one of 18 men lost, including the commanding officer.
Edward's service record is exemplary. He was awarded three good conduct stripes, was consistently rated of very good character and superior efficiency. His commanding officers always recommended that he be re-engaged at the end of his periods of service at a time, during the 1930's when the Royal Navy was looking to reduce manpower.
Ronald Frank Mitchell, born 1911, served aboard HMS Dundalk, pennant number J60. Dundalk was built by Clyde Shipbuilding of Glasgow, launched on 30 January 1919 and commissioned on 2 May 1919. Initially assigned to the 3rd Minesweeping flotilla Dundalk was placed in reserve in Devonport that July. Recommissioned in 1927 she was assigned to the First Minesweeping Flotilla. She was again placed in reserve in 1934 at The Nore. In 1939 she was brought out of reserve and assigned to the east coast.
HMS Dundalk 1939
HMS Dundalk 1940
On 31 May 1940 Dundalk took part in the Dunkirk evacuation to Margate with 500 British troops. She sailed back to Dunkirk and on 1 June was attacked by 12 Messerschmitt aircraft. Dundalk then sailed back to Margate giving assistance en-route to HMS Havant, an H Class destroyer that sank the next day. She arrived at Margate at 12.15 on 1 June and disembarked 280 troops. She returned to Dunkirk, embarked about 450 French troops and arrived back at Folkestone on 3 June.
Dundalk triggered an acoustic mine near Bawdsey on 16 October 1940 and foundered early the next day while under tow off Harwich at South Cutler Buoy. Mitchell was one of four men lost. John Neale, navigating officer of the Halcyon Class minesweeper HMS Speedwell, witnessed the event:
‘Speedwell stopped immediately and lowered both whalers and the motorboat to start the rescue. We pulled over to Dundalk to pick up any we could and all the time there was a terrible roar as her high pressure steam escaped from her fractured steam pipe ... some watch keepers had just come off watch and were washing half naked when the mine exploded and they were drenched with steam from a fractured pipe. I forget how many times we rowed across for survivors but all who were not killed were rescued including some terribly scalded men.’
Commander Grenville Temple of HMS Sutton, another Hunt class minesweeper, was in command of the 4th Flotilla on that day. His report throws some light on the loss of the Dundalk. The flotilla had been sweeping northbound ahead of an FN convoy when a sweep wire parted. When the ships turned southbound to start their second run there was a fatal gap in the line, in which not one but two mines lurked, as Temple discovered when he took the Sutton alongside the Dundalk to take off survivors:
'When alongside her, the two ships being about seventy-five yards apart, a mine was observed between the two ships, amidships from Sutton, three feet from my port side. I immediately went full speed ahead and the wash of the propeller threw the mine clear.'
Temple's assessment was that the mines had been laid by E-boats, as they were small and even the ancient Dundalk took a long time to sink after hitting one. This was in fact the case, as the E-boat flotillas had laid their second major east coast minefield on the night of the 11th.
A total of 26 ships of this class were built towards the end of the First World War. They were placed in reserve and mothballed soon after being built. On the outbreak of the Second World War they were reactivated and returned to active service.
Unlike the majority of Royal Naval vessels in the Second World War they were coal fired. This led to their nickname – Smokey Joes. They were capable of 16 knots, had a displacement of 710 tons, a complement of 73, and were armed with two anti-aircraft guns, one 4 inch and one 12 pounder, and two .303 machine guns.
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