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Model of a drifter. The Girl Nancy would have looked like this.
HMT Girl Nancy.
Requisitioned by the Admiralty early in 1940 the Drifter Girl Nancy would have been armed with an anti-aircraft gun and had mine sweeping gear fitted. It was often the case that when a fishing vessel was requisitioned the crew would volunteer to come with her and join the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Drifters were robust boats built, like trawlers, to work in most weather conditions, but designed to deploy and retrieve drift nets and were generally smaller and slower than trawlers. Before Girl Nancy was appropriated by the navy she would have caught herrings in the North Sea.
Magnetic mines were causing great problems when the Girl Nancy started her service so it is probable she was immediately fitter with anti-magnetic mine sweeping gear.
Magnetic mines were dropped by parachute in their thousands in the sea lanes of the Thames Estuary and along the East Coast by the Luftwaffe (German Airforce). These mines sank to the seabed and remained there until a ship passed and as such were impossible to “sweep” with conventional sweeping methods.
Magnet mines “sensed” the magnetic field which exists around every large steel object such as a ship. When a ship comes close the mine detonates with disastrous results. Often a ship would sink in a few minutes, sometimes in only seconds. It was a matter of luck as to where you were on the ship at the time of the explosion, if you lived or died.
Magnetic mines were also set on timers, so a sweep might not detonate all the mines in the swept area and a ship sailing through the swept lanes could be sunk by a delayed action mine.
Girl Nancy would have been fitted with LL sweeping capabilities. LL (double L) is a pair of electric cables which are towed parallel to each other on floats and emit a strong electric pulse which generates a magnetic field which detonated the magnetic mine.
Later, as new types of mines were developed by the enemy, she would have been fitted with SA sweeping capabilities. SA is Sweep Acoustic, a device similar to a Kanga Hammer which makes a loud thumping noise which exploded the acoustic mine.
Girl Nancy was a gallant Dunkirk veteran. But surprisingly, at that time it must have been excepted as just “part of the job” as little is known about her exploits at the Dunkirk evacuations.
It is known that as the evacuation of Dunkirk proceeded on the Friday of 31st May the Luftwaffe dropped a large number of mines in the Dunkirk approaches. It is probable that the Girl Nancy was sent to clear these mines.
But to be mentioned in the List of vessels which participated in the Dunkirk evacuations she must have lifted troops off the beaches or the Mole and taken them back to England. During this mine sweeping and rescuing troops she would often have come under attack by guns from the shore and bombs from the Luftwaffe.
Girl Nancy was a true heroine and the men on her heroes.
It is possible that Girl Nancy was also a minesweeper in World War One as the following record seems to suggest. World War 1 at Sea. Ships of the Royal Navy, 1914-1919, 1126 GIRL NANCY, hired drifter.
HMT Girl Nancy was requisitioned in 1940, survived the war and was returned to her owner in 1946.
The records show she was based at HMS Wildfire III, Queenborough in 1941 and 1942.
HMS VESSELS AT HMS WILDFIRE III ON JUNE 22 1941.
Minesweeper Drifters: Arcady, Boy Philip, Devon County, Egeria, Forerunner, Gilt Edge, Girl Nancy, Monarda, Renascent, Solstice, TIlly Duff, Vernal, Welcome Home.
ROYAL NAVY SHIPS, JANUARY 1941. SHEERNESS.
Minesweeping drifters: BOY ALAN (Sk E H Crowe DSC RNR), FORERUNNER (Sk S F Wilson RNR), GIRL NANCY (civilian crew) repairing, ITCHEN (no CO listed), PLUMER (Ty Sk J E C Wright RNR), RENASCENT (Sk R E Hannaford RNR), all at Sheerness.
NORE COMMAND 1942, SHEERNESS (Wildfire III, Queenborough)
Minesweeping Drifters - ARCADY, GIRL NANCY on general service duties, GILT EDGE, RENASCENT, all at Sheerness.
Within the return of peace in 1945 it was evident that the Minesweepers bases at Wildfire Queenborough had played a key role in the victory at sea and had paid a high price in consequence.
OFFICERS from Navy List August 1940
(Rank. Name, Date joined ship.)
Vessel not recorded in Aug. 40.
Vessel not recorded in Dec. 40.
Vessel not recorded in Feb. 41.
OFFICERS from Navy List June 1941
Vessel not recorded in June 41.
Vessel not recorded in Dec. 41
OFFICERS from Navy List June 42.
Vessel not recorded in June 42.
Vessel not recorded in Dec. 42.
OFFICERS from Navy List June 43
Vessel not recorded in June 43.
OFFICERS from Navy List June 44
Vessel not recorded June 44.
Strangely, although Girl Nancy is listed as being at Sheerness (Wildfire III, Queenborough) and being at Dunkirk she is not listed in the official Navy Lists?
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.
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Minesweeping Drifter based at HMS Wildfire III, Queenborough.