Scott tells us, I spent a full day with Alistair today, mainly driving him around to little villages and just listening to his stories. He had a fascinating life.
He told me Edward the CO of the boat (called Teddy whenever he had no lid on) was a Lieutenant Commander of the entire flotilla in his time on it. He refused several promotions to stay on the boat with the CO and remained an AB.
This morning I picked up a fellow lawn bowler from his house, he’s 95 years old and a WW2 veteran who served in the Royal Navy before emigrating to Australia in 1948. This guy is a mate and close to 50 years older than me.
I took him on a 200km tour of some old workplaces in and around Canberra (up to an hour one way for one trip). He met friends of friends in some small villages and we enjoyed a counter lunch and a few beers in a village pub. Throughout the day he was so glad to talk to me about his amazing history.
Some fascinating points of history included:
He is exactly one year younger than Queen Elizabeth 2. Born 21 April 1927.
He was born in Scotland to a single mother who was a school teacher.
He was farmed out to an older couple, who he suspects were his paternal grandparents, very strict, but when their son visited he always gave him a shilling. That guy emigrated to Canada when he was about 8.
When he was 13,both carers died within six months, due to this he left school (just finished primary school) and found a job and lodgings (back shed) with a Forestry worker (think ranger or gamekeeper).
He worked and lived here until he was 16 when he joined the Royal Navy, after training his only ship was a minesweeper constructed by the US under lend/lease. The ship participated in the D-Day landings with heavy damage and casualties.
He joined the ship (really a boat at 130ft) after it was refitted from D-Day damage. They cleared mines on the east coast of the UK, then Gibraltar, Malaysia and Singapore.
After the war he emigrated to Australia in 1948, to Canberra, Australian Capital, which then had a population of 17,000.
He worked on the Snowy River Scheme, a mine at Captains Flat, maintenance for the Australian National University and bought a taxi once he’d saved enough.
He married a girl in 1952, they were together until she died in 2018, 66 years!
He’s played lawn bowls since 1956 (the year my mother was born) and continues to still play competitive and social bowls.
An absolute legend of a man, who tells me he did nothing special.
Alistair Scott Cameron, BYMS 2205
Thank you to Scott Smith who tells us about Alistair Cameron.
Alistair joined BYMS 2205 after D-Day. It needed a refit after being hit by enemy shell fire. He was awarded the Indian and Pacific Star for the time he spent on the ship.
BYMS 2205 was amongst the minesweepers which cleared the Scheldt Estuary and opened up the Port of Antwerp. By then the supply lines reaching up from the D-day beaches to the front line were so over stretched that the Allied Armies were running out of almost everything.
The minesweeper entered the Scheldt even before the enemy was cleared from its banks by the Canadians. A number of minesweepers were hit by shells and two minesweepers were destroyed by mines. They cleared the Scheldt ahead of schedule and are credited in shortening the war.
They minesweeper then went on to clear the approaches to the Dutch ports. Dutch train drivers had gone on strike to support the “Market Garden” advance towards the Rhine (A bridge to far) all supplies of food to much of Holland was stopped by the Germans.
It was known as the Hunger Winter. Tens of thousands of Dutch people starved to death, millions more were starving. Opening up the Dutch ports allowed humanitarian aid and food to flood into Holland. Many of the crews of the minesweeper, the first vessels to arrive, shared their food with starving Dutch children.
When the war ended in Europe, BYMS 2205 was sent to the far east to continue sweeping in the Pacific war.
4, Alistair is second from the right.
9, BYMS 2205 on patrol, Sumatra, 1946.
3, BYMS 2205's soccer team, Singapore 1945. Alistair, middle back.
2, BYMS 2205 crew. Alistair top right.
1, BYMS minesweeping in the Malacca Straights, Malaysia.
6, Alistair middle.
7, Alistair at the bottom of steps.
BRITISH YARD MINE SWEEPERS
BYMS’s were built in the United States and transferred the Royal Navy under the Lend-lease Programme. “British Yard Mine Sweepers” are so called because they were built to the same design as the US Navy’s “Yard Mine Sweepers”.
Crews for the BYMS’s would sail to the United States, often on the Queen Mary, which could sail unescorted because of her greater speed, to collect their vessel. They would then have the formidable task of sailing their small vessel back across the Atlantic Ocean, often in winter.
BYMS 2205, Flotilla 165 in 43 and 44. 181 in 45.
Built by: Hiltebrant Dock Co., Kingston, New York, USA.
Laid down: 30 November 1942
Launched: 31 March 1943
Completed and transferred to Royal Navy: 29 September 1943
Reclassified: HMS J-1005 later HMS BYMS-2205
Assigned to the Nore Command, Flotilla 165
Took part in the D-day landings.
British Yard Mine Sweeper 2205.
Nore Command, World War Two 1939 to 1945.
8, Alistair middle back.
Sweeping the War Ships and Landin Craft in, D-day 6 June 1944, early morning.
5, Alistair middle of shot. Aged 17 ½ as gun crew.
If you, your father or your grandfather have any additional information about this ship, crew lists, stories, photographs, please send copies of them to be added to our records and this website.
29 Sep 43, Completed.
13 Nov 43, New York.
16 to 27 Nov 43, Bermuda. Crossed Atlantic Ocean by the more southerly route from Bermuda to Horta in the Azores (Island group) and on to Southern England.
5 to 7 Dec 43, Horta.
13 to 18 Dec 43, Falmouth.
19 Dec 43 Dartmouth.
19 to 23 Dec 43, Portland.
23 and 24 Dec 43 Portsmouth.
25 Dec 43 Southend.
6 May 44, Portsmouth.
17 May 44, Harwich.
12 May 44 Brightlingsea.
12 to 23 May, 44 Harwich.
June 6th, D-Day BYMS 2205 was sweeping off Sword Beach.
During the period from the 4 June 1944 (the day before D-day) to the end of July 1944 BYMS would have cleared pathways through the minefields to the Normandy Beachheads, cleared mines ahead of the Invasion Convoys, cleared mines from the ship assembly and disembarkation areas almost right up to the beaches, widened the cleared pathways and continuously swept for newly laid mines. 29 June 44, Portsmouth.
26 July 44, Portsmouth.
4 Aug 44, France.
6 Aug to 10 Sep 44, Harwich.
29 Sep 44, Portland.
11 Oct 44, Sheerness.
11 Oct to 11 Nov 44, Harwich.
11 Nov to 30 Nov 44, Ostend. In November 1944, helped in clearing the Scheldt of mines, the most crucial minesweeping event of WW2.
30 Nov to 12 Dec 44, Harwich.
21 Dec 44, Ostend.
1945 to Asia.
1946 in Singapore
21 Oct 47, Sold.
OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST, June 1944.
Temp. Lieut, R. N.V. R., E. J. Varley, 30 Oct 43, (In Command)
Temp. Sub-Lieut, R. N. V. R., C. Thornley, 25 Oct 43.
OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST, July 1945.
No Officers listed.