Royal Navy Research Archive Forums

Personnel => Service Records/Medals and Awards => Topic started by: JBray81 on 18 May 2015 11:44:27 am

Title: Personnel serving in HMS Prosepine & 'The Drifter Office'
Post by: JBray81 on 18 May 2015 11:44:27 am
This is potentially a long shot but who knows.

My Grandfather passed away alittle over 4 years ago. He was very reluctant to talk about his wartime service and most that we do know has been second hand and supposition from his brother and sisters.

What we do know is that he was working in HMNB Portsmouth before the outbreak of WWII as an apprentice.  Shortly before the outbreak of war he requested a transfer to sea duties, from here on the waters become very muddied.  It was believed by the family that he joined the Merchant Navy (certainly we have found a registration card in what maybe his name, signing on at Southampton).  However, he insisted that he immediately sailled to Scapa Flow and was based there onboard a water vessel (he always said it was the 'Fountain').

  We now suppose that he must have been part of HMS Prosepine and 'The Drifter Office'.  However, if that was so would he have been civilian or military?  He was clear that on the night 'Royal Oak' was torpedoed his vessel had been tied up alongside her afew hours before and that although he did not witness the explosions (being hidden behind an island) he most definitely heard them.  He also told me (in one of his more talkative moments) of how one evening he sailled in company with another vessel out of Scapa in such foul weather, that for most of the time all he saw of their counterpart was a glowing circle of light straight down her funnel.  Again would these have been part of 'The Drifter Office', as the information I have managed to find suggests these vessels stayed within the limits of Scapa Flow?

We believe he was also onboard the 'Sir John Evelyn' (again Merchant Navy) and a Bumb Barge (again potentially Royal Navy, from what literature I have seen).  There seems to be a dual aspect to his career with some of it spent in the Merchant Navy and some working either in or with the Royal Navy.  Ideally we would love to get hold of his service records, but in the absence of any clear picture of whether he was Merchant or Royal Navy we don't really know where to begin.  if anyone could shed some light on it we as a family would be grateful.

Title: Re: Personnel serving in HMS Prosepine & 'The Drifter Office'
Post by: PhiloNauticus on 19 May 2015 12:02:37 pm
It sounds as if he was a member of the Admiralty Yard Craft Service (= see the Wiki entry); this was the civilian service which manned the multitude of craft used in harbour to support the Royal Navy.
You could also try searching the following:

...and I think it would be 'Dumb barge' not Bumb ... it means a lighter or barge without its own power

Title: Re: Personnel serving in HMS Prosepine & 'The Drifter Office'
Post by: JBray81 on 20 May 2015 08:44:51 pm
Was the Admiralty Yard Service part of the civil service or RFA or an independent organisation? Can you recommend some good reference material?
Title: Re: Personnel serving in HMS Prosepine & 'The Drifter Office'
Post by: PhiloNauticus on 22 May 2015 07:46:14 pm
The Yard Craft Service was a civilian organisation, administered I think, by the Dockyards; it was quite separate from the RFA.  Regret I am not aware of any reference material on the subject.  I have found a couple of websites that have limited info:
Title: Re: Personnel serving in HMS Prosepine & 'The Drifter Office'
Post by: dbeard105 on 26 August 2016 02:36:05 pm
Hi JBray81

I'm not sure if you got anywhere in researching your grandfathers time at Scapa Flow.

I've been researching my father's ship HMS Bandit, which was also at Scapa on the night of the 13/14th October during the tragic loss of Royal Oak.

You've probably found out that each warship was allocated a 'drifter' which would provide basic services to the ship - delivery of equipment, people, mail etc. Before the war they were small fishing vessels that were 'pressed' into service by the Royal Navy.

On the night of the 13/14th there were 7 drifters at Scapa - Horizon, Indian Summer, Fumarole, Harmatta, Sheen, Shower and DaisyII. The latter was alongside Royal Oak at the time of the attack, and was instrumental in rescuing most of the survivors. The author states that only two drifters were operational at the time, so your grandfathers' would have been the other one.

So, no 'Fountain' but there was a 'Shower'!

My source for much of the above is 'Nightmare at Scapa Flow' by HJ Weaver. An excellent read if you want to get into the fine detail of what actually happened that night. The author's list of ships at Scapa that night is based on the Naval Pink lists, and ship logs.

Kind regards