Name: HMY Aronia
Built: Copenhagen 1933.
Registered: London, by Stanhope Steamship Co.
Made of: Steel
Engines: Man B & W Diesels
Propulsion: Twin Screw.
Speed: 30 knots.
The Aronia was requisitioned by the Admiralty at the start of World War Two, (September 1939) and is recorded as being at Sheerness in June 1940. (Vessels documented as being at “Sheerness” include being stationed at HMS Wildfire at Sheerness and HMS Wildfire III (St Tudno) at Queenborough.)
Her Skipper Captain Roe joined her on the 4th November 1939.
ROYAL NAVY SHIPS, JUNE 1940
Minesweeping yachts - ARONIA (Ty Lt J. S. Roe RNVR), fast motor boat SYLPH (no CO listed), both at Sheerness.
Her Captain, Temporary Lieutenant John Stanley Roe, was with the Aronia at Dunkirk and received commendations for his courage and actions. These included being Mentioned in Despatches three times and being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
ROE, John Stanley, T/Lt R.N.R (later T/Cdr R.N.R) HMY Aronia, 1 Jan 41. MID. Minesweeping - First MID awarded New Year Honours 1941
HMS St Tudno, (Queenborough) 1 Jan 42. MID. Second MID awarded New Year Honours 1942.
HMS St Tudno, (Queenborough) 11 Jun 42 DSC. DSC awarded King's Birthday Honours 1942.
HMS Liberty (Algerine Class M/S, now T/Cdr R.N.R) 13 Nov 45 MID. Third MID awarded for devotion to duty and outstanding endurance during mine clearance operations which entailed the working of very long hours in the Elbe and Weser rivers over the period March-June 1945.
Together with other Vessels from Sheerness and Queenborough, the Aronia took part in the Dunkirk Evacuation. Like many other small vessels at Dunkirk, it was not the Aronia’s job to bring Troops back to England. It was the Aronia’s job to pick men up from the beach and take them out to the larger vessels waiting off shore. These larger ships were unable to approach closer because of the extensive expanse of shallow water off Dunkirk.
The Aronia picked troops off the Dunkirk beaches while under constant attack by enemy aircraft and, when the Dunkirk perimeter shrank, by shelling from German land based guns.
The Aronia did take 42 troops back to England when she returned.
Between the fall of Dunkirk on 4 June 1940 and Hitler’s abandonment of Operation Sea lion, the Invasion of England by German forces, on 17 September 1940 the Aronia was on anti-invasion patrol in the English Channel and North Sea, her fast speed enabling her to avoid German Destroyers and E-boats.
After this time the Aronia dropped out of sight. It is probable, but not certain, that the Aronia was on the top secret “Ball bearing run” to Sweden. A post war crew member relates how the Aronia ran the German blockade to Sweden returning with much need ball bearings. He reports that some of the steel around the Aronia’s upper deck had been replaced with armour plating which he was unable to drill through. During repainting prior to sailing he found holes in her around the bow suspiciously like shell damage.
At this time, after the War, she still had her war time engines which were Man B & W Diesels, these being “fun to start up as these were compressed air with cartridge in each cylinder head.”
During World War Two Sweden was a neutral country and was happy to trade with both England and Germany. Sweden was a large producer of ball bearings and both England and Germany both required large numbers of these for their war industry.
Small quantities were being flown out of Sweden by the RAF, but this simply was not enough. High speed Motor Gun boats and it is believed the Aronia, under cover of bad weather, poor visibility and a moonless night travelled to Lysenkil, in Sweden returning with cargoes of ball bearings.
A meteorologist was attached to the vessels of the “Ball Bearing Run” to advise on the weather.
Each boat carried a ‘Chief Officer’ who was in fact an SOE (Special Operations Executive) approved liaison officer for this extraordinary enterprise. These blockade runners had civilian crews on board and sailed under the red ensign of the merchant navy.
The most dangerous part of the voyage was passing through the Skagerrak between German occupied Norway and Denmark, where German naval forces constantly patrolled in an attempt to blockade Sweden with its valuable ball bearings from England.
The Aronia survived the war and fell into private hands.
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