William Hughes has got in touch to ask for help in tracking down some information about a minesweeper tender called Waldemar built in 1931 that belonged to the mustard manufacturing Colman family and was later provided to the Royal Navy at the start of World War II. (For photos of another Colman family vessel, the Norfolk Broads wherry Hathor, click here.)
The reason for William’s interest is that he has what he has been told is the Waldemar’s compass in a rather fine binnacle, which has a certain amount of navy grey paint here and there. The compass itself is marked ‘E Dent & Co of London BOAT COMPASS No 43698′.
He’s also been told that the vessel is laid up in Pin Mill.
From what he’s seen on websites about the Navy, he believes the Waldemar was used as a first contact into port vessel as well as a minesweeper tender.
William would be grateful for any photographs or further information. Please either use the comments link below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass the information on to him.
Mark 7 military canoes. Photos supplied by Quentin Rees
and published with permission
Quentin Rees’s recent book Cockleshell Canoes is a thoroughly researched and well illustrated celebration of a group of people who have become part of canoe history.
Some, such as Blondie Hasler and the team of commandos who took part in the daring Operation Frankton are already well known. Commemorated in a major film titled Cockleshell Heroes, it was an attack by ten commandos in canoes on Bordeaux Harbour in occupied France during December 1942. British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill believed the mission shortened World War II by six months, and Admiral the Earl Mountbatten deemed it as the ‘most courageous and imaginative of all the raids ever carried out by the men of Combined Operations Commands‘.
Sadly, most of the brave individuals involved were eventually captured and shot by the Germans, who at that time regarded commandos as equivalent to spies.
However, the roles of many others have previously remained unsung. In this book Rees has weaved together real-life testimonies from the stories of the courageous soldiers who used the canoes, their military commanders, and the canoes’ inventors and designers, and tells of an epic journey of progress that took canoe development took from Cornwall, all along the Southern English Coast and beyond – even to the tropical island of Ceylon.
The canoes proved to be valuable in many of the theatres of WWII, and thousands of the various models were sent worldwide, often being used by the various Special Forces, including by the the espionage specialists of Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Click here to buy a copy from Amazon – The Cockleshell Canoes: British Military Canoes of World War Two.
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Uffa Fox’s Airborne Lifeboat rigged for sailing – image
from Wikipedia Commons via Ian Dunster
Keith Muscott recently wrote this entertaining short history of Uffa Fox’s Airborne Lifeboat for members of the excellent Yahoogroup Openboat, and has been kind enough to give me permission to publish it here. Many thanks Keith!
‘Uffa Fox became obsessed with the notion of a ‘droppable’ lifeboat following the capture of his stepson Bobbie Sach after a ditching. His first idea was a folding boat that could be dropped straight from a low-flying aircraft. He soon realized the impracticality of this, and moved on to consider parachuting it into the oggin. It was to be made of small panels of plywood, which would be opened up by the parachutes as the whole parcel descended. Legend has it that he dropped the first model from a top floor window and converted the drinkers in the Duke of York to teetotalism when they saw it float down. Folding plywood panels were soon discarded in the light of experience.
‘That idea was dropped in favour of carrying the complete craft in the belly of a plane, which was to be an American Hudson (already in use for air-sea rescue). Subsequently they discovered that the bomb door jacks took up too much room for the boat to be carried in the bomb bay, so it was back to the drawing board to design a boat which was streamlined enough to hang outside like a torpedo without completely ruining the air flow. Uffa secured the go-ahead from Lord Brabazon, who subsequently got a rocket from those above for allowing himself to cave in so quickly under the influence of Fox’s silver tongue.
‘Uffa designed the final version one-eighth full-size, 1.5 ins to the foot, and ran off dozens of copies so that many draughtsmen could work on it simultaneously. The lines were lofted then the builders set to work: three weeks in all from pencil lines to waterlines. The hull was built with traditional diagonal planking – two layers of opposing diagonals, one straight planks fore and aft separating them, if I remember correctly. There would probably have been oiled silk or some such material between layers.
‘The test pilot in the Hudson would only fly the first test with the boat attached if Uffa went along too Continue reading “Uffa Fox’s great and lasting memorial – the Airborne Lifeboat”