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Contributed by his daughter Elizabeth Bancroft
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1. Wireless Telegraphist Eric Bancroft
2. Eric Bancroft
3. Eric Bancroft at the helm of MV Uchuck III, ex-USS YMS-123
4. Eric Bancroft at the helm of MV Uchuck III with his grandsons looking on
|01||T/A/Lt.Cdr. Frank Henry Albert, RANVR - Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (1946)||23 November 1943|
Contributed by his daughter Elizbeth Bancroft
March 23rd to March 28th
Typical 6 day operation of
H.M. B.Y.M.S 2152
Half an hour past midnight of the night 22/23rd March, hands are piped to single up, the engines turn slowly and one by one the ropes are cast off. “Harbour Stations” is piped and slowly H.M. M/S slips in darkness from the dock.
As we move down the fair way she heaves a little as the swell from the outer harbour entrance catches her.
1.0 a.m. and we slide alongside the main pier and tie up, ready for proceeding at 07.00 a.m. Non-duty hands turn into their bunks; the last sounds as one dozes off are that of the Quarter master making
6.15 a.m. the shrill pipe calls the hands out. “Secure ship for sea” – “Single up” – “Harbour Station”. “Let go ‘fore and aft” a turn on the engines and she swings outwards.
“Stand by with fenders” is called from the bridge, “Fenders inboard”, “20 a port wheel on, half ahead together” the c.o. orders down the voice pipe the order is repeated by the Helmsman.
The flotilla moves slowly across the Harbour, each ship with her distinguishing Pendants flying. As we clear the entrance and head out to sea a Flag Hoist is seen as the Flotilla header – order 1. The minesweepers manoeuvre into station -- single line ahead. The speed signal comes over the inter-communication telephone.
Each ship can be heard to give “Roger”. We are on our way – H.M. M/S’s are at sea.
It’s a glorious morning, very breezy, a little cold, but sunny, the reflection is blinding and Bunts, Sparks, C.O. on the Bridge have had to don their smoked goggles to be able to look into the sun to take bearings and keep in station position with the ships ahead. Hands are called to breakfast at 08.00. It’s welcome too. Men on duty are relieved. Stokers come out of the engine room hatchway – sparks down from the bridge – man on remote control in the pilot house – 1st Lieut. off the bridge, each man returning to his stations to relieve his oppo for his breakfast.
Ten a.m. and we are well out in the Channel rearing the “field”. It’s getting colder though the sun is still brilliant and the cup of tea and coffee that is brought up is welcome.
We’re almost there now, it’s nearly 11 a.m. The positions have been marked and “Out sweeps” is ordered. The acoustic hammer is lowered and the magnetic sweep is streamed.
The 2152 takes up her position along with two of the other ships whilst one steams ahead to check the clam buoys marking the field and “stands by.”
Speeds are adjusted, distances apart, synchronizing takes place and then as we start the lap “on lifebelts” is ordered – just in case and we move forward together.
Each ‘lap’ is nearly ten miles long; up and down we steam ‘til one thinks we’ve about worn a groove in that part of the Channel. Four actuations are completed.
At five p.m. “In sweeps” is ordered and hands rush to their station. The various signals are hoisted and cleared at various stages and when finally each ship is ready the order 1 signal is hoisted and ships form again in single line ahead and cut through the swell heading for the French port of Boulogne.
Sparks has been ordered to take over w/t guard for the flotilla and intercepts a familiar message from the flotilla leader. – “Negative results” – He notifies the bridge. Just after 6 p.m. we sight Boulogne and at 6.30 we are sliding alongside the other ships in the harbour. “Get a rope on for’ hand, heave in aft” “Hold on to your springs” orders flash from the bridge, “Switch off inter-telephone” “Ring off engines”.
The crew tramp wearily to the mess-deck, hungry, tired, dirty – to sit down to a well earned supper.
H.M. M/S has berthed. One day of operation completed.
Sun. March 24th
At 07.00 the “slip and proceed” procedure is carried out, the weather reports having been promulgated by the two duty sparkers on the 05.00 watch. One by one the eleven M/S’s slip off and away. It’s a miserable morning, not cold for a change, but dull, cloudy with heavy drizzly rain coming down.
When all ships have cleared harbour they form into their respective groups and flotillas and proceed in formation to their respective ‘fields”. It is 08.30 and we are well on our way. 2152 has been detailed to clam-lay (mark the position with clam buoys) and check positions also.
It’s ten o’clock a.m. we are on the edge of the field. Out sweeps are ordered and the ships commence to synchronize. We steam ahead up the field. About to lay clams when we receive a signal saying that 2150 has a defect and cannot keep in station – we have to take her place in the sweep and she assumes our former duty.
We pass the first marking clam “switch on” is given, the indicating lights on the bridge and ships funnel light showing we are pulsing correctly, one white – red, then white – blue. We move up the field, speed signal being given at 10 knots.
We cover the actuations again but we still don’t wear a groove in the channel! Between ends of laps seamen are painting now that the drizzle has stopped and they carry on with usual work. Watchmen are relieved – usual routines, Sunday is the same as any other day at sea.
Half past three and in sweeps again, signals hoisted and cleared and executed as different processes are completed. Back in formation again to Boulogne, alongside, all secure, men getting ready for shore leave, and all making full use and enjoying the one wash and clean up a day they are allowed. Duty watch letting the leave men have their wash first so they can get ashore. Our wash can wait ‘til after supper – all are hungry – and tired.
Six o’clock and the men are going ashore – the ship is quietening down now.
H.M. M/S in from sea for the night after second day of operation.
Monday March 25th
Should have been out sweeping but turned out to find a thick dense fog around. Couldn’t even see the ships’ bows from the bridge.
We stayed in harbour all day – instead of tomorrow -- which we used as maintenance day. Make and mend was granted p.m. Watch ashore men go ashore shopping, the off/non-duty men of the duty watch aboard hit their bunks – others carry on. The sun lifted the fog about noon but ‘twas too late to go out.
H.M. M/S spends one day – maintenance – in dock.
Tuesday March 26th
At 7 a.m. in a thick haze we cast off and slip away. The haze, much thicker outside, compels us to anchor in the outer harbour; visibility is less than a cable.
9.30 The sun breaks through and by 10 a.m. it has lifted the fog. We proceed to the field, two hours adrift. Fast work, full speed and we have taken up positions for the sweep. “Check stationing”, “synchronized” and we move off from the first marking (datum) clam buoy. Four actuations are completed again – each lap eight miles long, it’s the hottest afternoon we’ve had for months, warm enough to discard our jerkins and roller necks, the daily issue of men bringing out the sweat on the seamen heaving in the sweeps. They’re in and all clear – down balls, up the Pendant 1 and we are ready to take up formation again and head for harbour. It was a tough afternoon because of the rush due to the two hours delay. The lads are as usual dirty, hungry and tired. They are beginning to become fed up and remorseful now, four days away, no mail, the news from home and loved ones is beginning to be missed more than usual. I’m no exception. Four days can seem an awful long time at sea on a small ship.
Back in harbour, the few who feel like it go ashore to sip and drink the sugary or vinegar tasting wines of the French cafés. There isn’t much noise, shouting or laughter on the ship now; it’s generally like this the last couple of days out.
H.M. M/S completes 4th day of operation. Negative results again.
Wednesday March 27th
7 a.m. and one by one the ships cast off and slip away, outside the harbour we take up formation and proceed to the field. It’s a glorious morning, the sun is quite warm at 8 o’clock and the sea is flat calm.
“Out sweeps” is ordered and slowly we move into station, “Switch on” – “Synchronized” “10 knots” -- and we move over that dreary same stretch of water again. We have company at noon, the M/S Group I has come down from Calais to join us. They form up behind us and we move up together. It’s becoming weary now – five days out, same routines, the lads are fed up to the teeth. Everybody seems to get a drip on. At four p.m. it’s “In sweeps” again -- the same old acoustic and magnetic. The lads give vent to their feelings as they heave on the guys and sweep. It’s a wet dirty job – and takes a good pull.
All over now and the senior ship leads us back to Boulogne, eight of us strung out in single line ahead. We’re last, ship 2152, and have to hang around the outer harbour over half an hour to give the other M/S’s time to tie up before we go alongside. The lads again give vent to their feelings in their nautical language. Nobody bothers to go ashore tonight. Though it is our last night in this port, monotony, heavy work at sea, dirt and grime make a fellow just want to clean himself up and lay down and do nothing. The ship is quieter even than last night. H.M. M/S completed 5th day of operation – negative results.
Thurs. March 28th
6 a.m. and all the M/S’s slip away, it’s a bright breezy morning. The lads are in better spirits now; we go back tonight, though the lads give out in nautical language every time we slow up on the field.
By four p.m. we’re about through – “In sweeps”, “take up formation” and we’re away – heading for home, it sure feels grand to see those white cliffs, not because we’ve been steaming since dawn – but because of the mail. That’s all we have to live for out there.
8 p.m. and we tie up in dock, sparks is first man ashore and makes haste to collect signals and the MAIL. 8.30 – they’re content now, nearly all have received letters. There’s hardly a sound in the mess ‘cept for the rustle of paper.
H.M M/S is home after six days operational duty – negative results.
Well that’s it darlin’. Maybe it’s a weak effort sweetheart, but it’s the average routine. Dreary existence isn’t it?!
Love, all of it,
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