Leaving for service under foreign flags: Farewell to the BYMS of the Mine Sweeping Flotillas.
(Illustrated London News Sep 20 1947.) Queenborough 1947.

Queenborough Pier, Home to minesweepers of Wildfire III during World War Two. Queenborough Potteries in left background. Queenborough pier can be seen joining the shore at the end of North Road.

With the onset of World War Two it quickly became apparent that the Royal Navy base, HMS Wildfire, at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, would not be big enough to accommodate the increasing number of vessels. In November 1939 a second Naval Base was established a few miles away at Queenborough. This new base was called Wildfire II and when the accommodation ship arrived in July 1941, the name was changed to that of the ship, HMS St Tudno. Later in the War when HMS St Tudno was transferred elsewhere, the Naval land base at Queenborough became WILDFIRE III.

The word ‘wildfire’ refers to a compound developed by the Navy which when shot from a cannon, spread out and embedded itself into the wooden walls of the enemy ships only to then burst into flames. Hence the phrase 'to spread like wildfire'

Wildfire III was not a long established Naval Land Base with buildings built of sandstone and slate and Quayside’s build of granite. Wildfire III was built in haste in a time of dire national emergency with buildings and a pier built from wood. Because of this, little exists today. But the spirit of Wildfire III does exist. It was from here that very brave men indeed, left daily on small ships not knowing if they would return. Sadly, many didn’t.

Losses at Wildfire Sheerness and Wildfire III at Queenborough during WW2 included:

 320 Personnel.

1 Destroyer.
1 Gunboat.
1 Convoy Leader. (Large Destroyer)
1 Anti-aircraft Paddle ship.
1 Oiler (Oil-tanker)
1 Tug.
1 Moored Lighter.
1 Base Launch.
1 Boom Tender.
4 Motor Minesweeper (MMS 8, MMS 39, MMS 68, MMS 70.)

27 Trawlers and Drifters (Minesweepers)

By comparison Lowestoft lost 17 Trawlers and Drifters and Harwich lost 19 Trawlers and Drifters.

LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry)  75, 321, 229, 35, 193 and 238 moored at Queenborough Pier prior to the D-day landings.

On shore there was a brick built building with a flat concrete roof, 200 feet long situated on the dockside where today can be found the entrance to the “All Tide Landing” at Queenborough.

Two very large wooden buildings, approximately 275 feet and 160 feet long were situated where Aesica’s car park is today.  (The car park inside the barrier.) These contained offices and recreational facilities for the sailors on the Minesweepers and Destroyers. Which included a NAFFI (Navy Army & Air Force Institute) a 'Not for Profit' organisation which provided a wide range of services to the Armed Forces including a shop where the sailors would buy their cigarettes and a canteen providing food and beverages.

The small town of Queenborough offered numerous pubs (some of which no longer exist), several halls where dances would be held and a cinema (which also no longer exists). During this period, it was common for people to go to the “Pictures” several times a week.

The Queens Cinema, renamed the Ace Cinema in 1946 offered nightly films, which were changed several times a week. These included a News Reel, a short or cartoon (sometimes a serial which continued every week) a “B” film and an “A” film.

The Ship (now gone), half way up the High Street, was known to be a raucous pub were nice girls did not go.  The Castle is now the Queenborough Yacht Club. The Ordinance Arms is now the Boson’s Store and the Old House at Home is still there and seems to have been there forever.

Even in, the now demolished, Westminster only two streets in size, there were two pubs.

The British Legion hut at the top of Rushenden Road had entertainment every Saturday night. It was also a Scout Hut and First Aid Post.

There were Concerts and tea parties every week in the Church Hall in North Road. One play remembered is “The Monkeys Paw”, where a "monkey's paw" talisman grants its possessor three wishes one of which is used to resurrects the dead.

The Borough Hall (Queenborough Hall) held weekly dances and provided hot dinners for workers for a shilling. Basic, but must welcome in a time of rationing, meals included spam (tinned pork and ham from America) mash potatoes, cabbage with gravy, with after’s of apple pie and custard, and a cup of tea. Sometimes it would be corn beef hash, which also came in a can from America.

1 July 1941. HMS St Tudno arrived at Queenborough as Depot Ship for the Minesweepers. She was moored at the far end of Queenborough pier which was originally Flushing Pier.  When she left, as a mobile base ship for her minesweepers, the Naval land base at Queenborough was renamed HMS Wildfire III.

To find out more about HMS St Tudno, go here.

When HMS Wildfire III (Including under the names of HMS Wildfire II and HMS St Tudno) was first established at Queenborough, the minesweepers were Drifters and Trawlers, robust and seaworthy converted fishing vessels.

In the spring of 1941 purpose built MMS (Motor Mine Sweepers) joined the Minesweeping Flotilla’s at Queenborough.

In the summer of 1942 American built BYMS’s (British Yard Mine Sweepers) so called because the Americans called them Yard Mine Sweepers and the ones sent to Britain, British Yard Mine Sweepers joined the Minesweeper Flotilla at Queenborough.

At the conclusion of World War Two HMS Wildfire III became a base for minesweepers being placed in Reserve.

Thanks to Paul Hoggins for this Christmas Card sent from Wildfire III, Queenborough in 1945, by his Dad, David Hoggins, to family in Aberdeen.  Pauls Dad Served on the Destroyer HMS Venomous and the Bangor-class minesweeper HMS Dornoch. He was with the Dornoch on D-Day - it was part of the Western Task Force that swept the channels for the US landings at Utah and Omaha beaches. At the end of the war he was detailed to the care and maintenance party at Queenborough as many minesweepers made their way 'home'.

Admiralty Chart, 1949, showing Queenborough Pier the Wildfire II and Wildfire III Minesweeper Base
at Queenborough, Kent, England, during World War Two.

HMS WILDFIRE III (HMS Wildfire II) consisted of a pier, over half a mile long, where minesweepers and destroyers (and later, Landing Ships) moored three, four and five abreast.

HMS Eskimo, Accommodation and Headquarter ship at Wildfire III, Queenborough, post war.

OFFICERS from the Navy List December 1939
NOT LISTED

OFFICERS from the Navy List FEBRUARY 1940

Captain L. C. P. Tudway, DSO, DSC. 27 Nov 39.
Command of Auxiliary M/S Craft.
Commander, R. C. V. Ross. 14 Dec 39.

Port Minesweeper Officer.
Commander, J. Peterson, DSC. 6 Dec 39.

Command of M/S Flotilla.
Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.R. D. H. T. MacMillan (Ret.) 1 Dec 39.
Lieutenant R. T. Tripp. 26 Nov 39.
Lieut., R.N.R. A. Longmuir. 18 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.R, A. D. Parkinson. 23 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. W. McMurchie. 1 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, G. H. Clark. 5 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, J. R. Smellie. 18 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, R. Forman. 23 Dec 39.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, W. B. Bate. 4 Jan 40.
Temp. Lieut.(E) R.N.V.R, E. Stanton. 1 Dec 39.
Shipt. Lieut-Com., H. R. Lillicrap.  18 Dec 39.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R.N.V.R. E. D. Kettle. 23 Dec 39.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R. N. Lowes (prob.) 23 Dec 39.
Gunner. (T) R. K. Thomson (act). 25 Nov 39.
Boatswain, A. J. Rashbrook (ret.) 4 Dec 39.
Wt. Engineer. J. H. Armstrong. 27 Nov 39.

OFFICERS from the Navy List May 1940
NOT LISTED.

OFFICERS from the Navy List June 1940
NOT LISTED

OFFICERS from the Navy List August 1940
NOT ON LIST

Wildfire II doesn’t appear on the Navy List again until December 1940. Her Officers assigned in FEBRUARY 1940 are stationed at Wildfire Sheerness or elsewhere.

DISPOSITION OF ORIGINAL WILDFIRE OFFICERS IN AUGUST 1940
Captain L. C. P. Tudway, DSO, DSC. 27 Nov 39. At ST. VINCENT Training Establishment.

Command of Auxiliary M/S Craft.
Commander, R. C. V. Ross. 14 Dec 39.
With HMS LEDA.

Port Minesweeper Officer.
Commander, J. Peterson, DSC. 6 Dec 39.
At VERNON II.

Command of M/S Flotilla.
Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.R. D. H. T. MacMillan (Ret.) 1 Dec 39.
Not known.
Lieutenant R. T. Tripp. 26 Nov 39.
With HMS QUEEN WORTH.
Lieut., R.N.R. A. Longmuir. 18 Dec 39.
Now a Lieutenant Commander at Wildfire Sheerness.  
Temp. Lieut. R.N.R, A. D. Parkinson. 23 Dec 39.
AT WILDFIRE, Sheerness.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, J. W. McMurchie. 1 Dec 39.
At PEMBROKE, shore barracks at Chatham
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, G. H. Clark. 5 Dec 39.
Not known.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, J. R. Smellie. 18 Dec 39.
AT WILDFIRE, Sheerness.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, R. Forman. 23 Dec 39.
With the Controlled Mining Department. VERNON
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R, W. B. Bate. 4 Jan 40.
Not known.
Temp. Lieut.(E) R.N.V.R, E. Stanton. 1 Dec 39.
AT WILDFIRE Sheerness.
Shipt. Lieut-Com., H. R. Lillicrap.  18 Dec 39.
At ST. TUDNO. Queenborough.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R.N.V.R. E. D. Kettle. 23 Dec 39.
Not known.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R. N. Lowes (prob.) 23 Dec 39.
AT WILDFIRE, Sheerness.
Gunner. (T) R. K. Thomson (act). 25 Nov 39.
On HMS Venomous
  Wt. Engineer. J. H. Armstrong. 27 Nov 39.
On HMS ABINGDON.

OFFICERS from the Navy List Dec 1940

Lieut.-Com C. G. R. Hayhoe. 3 May 40.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R. J. P. Gilling. Sept 40
Lieut. (Sp. Br.) R.N.V.R. G. H. Warner. 27 Feb 40

OFFICERS from the Navy List June 1941

Lieut.-Com C. G. R. Hayhoe. 3 May 40.
Tempy. Lieut. R.N.V.R. J. P. Gilling. Sept 40
Lieut. (Sp. Br.) R.N.V.R. G. H. Warner. 27 Feb

OFFICERS from the Navy List June 1942

NOT LISTED. HMS St Tudno would have been the base during this time.

OFFICERS from the Navy List June 1943

Wildfire II NOT LISTED. WILDFIRE III IS LISTED FOR FIRST TIME.

WILDFIRE III.

For CO. Base.

Tempy.  Lieut.-Com., R. N. V. R.  P. R. Dancy.  6 Jan 43.

ADDITIONALLY WILDFIRE AT SHEERNESS LISTS,

For Duty at Queenborough Pier.

Commander, F. G. Russell (ret) 10 Feb 42.
Lieutenant, H. E. Knights (Ret.) 6 Sept 39.
Eng. Com., S. J. Russell (ret) 4 July 41
Lieut.-Com. (E) T. W. S. Hook (Ret.) 20 Dec 42.
Lieut. Comm. (E) G. W.  Barnes (Ret.) 3 Oct 42
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E) W. E. Stanton (Act) 1 Dec 39
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E)  F.  Lawrence (Ret.) 11 Jan 42
Temp. Lieut. RNR. (E)  E. Greenhalgh. 3 June 42
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. (E) A. A. Smethurst (Act) 8 Dec 42.
Shipwright Lieut. Com. C. V. Rowland. (Ret.) 25 Oct 39.
Cd. Gunner (T) W. E. Wheeler. 30 Apr 41.
Tempy. Boatswain, F. W. Dawson. (act) 28 Sept 42
Tempy. Boatswain C. R. Fooks. 21 Oct 42
Tempy. Wt. Supply Officer. H. S. Maltus. 27 Oct 40

OFFICERS from the Navy List June 1944

For CO. Base.

Temp. Commander R.N.R.  T. Hughes, DSC (Act) 27 Aug 43
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. W. Henderson, 3 Apr 44.
Temp. Lieut. RNR. (E)  L. W. Adams 1 June 43.
Temp. Sub-Lieut., R.N.V.R. M. O. Beddow, 14 Dec 42
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. I. Wearmouth (act) 3 Apr 44.
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. F. S. Tear (act) 3 Apr 4
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. D. M. Wemyss (act) 23 Apr 44.
 Temp. Sub-Lieut. SP. Br. G. S. Appleby 27 Aug 43.
 Temp. Sub-Lieut. SP. Br. H. S. Jenkinson 27 Aug 43.
 Wt. Supply Officer. W. Page. 7 Jan 44.

ADDITIONALLY WILDFIRE AT SHEERNESS LISTS,

For Duty at Queenborough Pier.

Commander F. G. Russell (ret) 10 Feb 42.
Lieutenant J. R. Harrison (ret.) 9 July 43
Temp. Lieut. RNR. J. E. Wilson. 6 Aug 41
Lieut.-Com. (E) T. W. S. Hook (Ret.) 20 Dec 42.
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E)  J. M. C. Copeland (act) 13 Apr 44.
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E)  F.  Lawrence (Ret.) 11 Jan 42.
Temp. Lieut. RNR. (E)  E. Greenhalgh. 3 June 42
Temp. Lieut. RNR. (E)  E. Dobson. 28 Feb 44.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. (E)   S. Jones-Frank 23 July 42.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. (E)  T. N. Griffin, 28 Feb 44.
Cd. Gunner (T) C. S. Carter (ret.) 1 June 42.
Temp. Boatswain, F. W. Dawson. (act) 28 Sept 42
Temp. Boatswain C. R. Fooks. 21 Oct 42
Temp. Wt. Teleg. D. R. Jardine (act) 1 May 44.
Temp. Wt. Supply Officer. H. D. Young (act) 19 July 43

OFFICERS from the Navy List July 1945

For CO. Base.

Temp. Commander R.N.R.  T. Hughes, DSC (Act) 27 Aug 43
Temp. Lieut., R.N.V.R.  A. C. F. Windeatt. 31 July 44.
Temp. Lieut., R.N.V.R. I. G. S. Lord.  6 Apr 45
Temp. Lieut. (E), R.N.V.R.  L. W. Adams. 1 June 43.
Temp. Sub-Lieut., (E), R.N.V.R. S. J. W. Byrne. 7 Dec 44.
Temp. Elect. Sub-Lieut., R.N.V.R. G. C. D. Kearton. 10 Jan 45.
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. I. Wearmouth. (act) 3 Apr 44
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. G. S. Appleby. 27 Aug 43.
Temp. Lieut. SP. Br. RNVR. H. S. Jenkinson. Mar 45.
Temp. Wt. Supply Officer. H. Basing.  23 Apr 45.

For Duty at Queenborough Pier.

Commander F. G. Russell (ret) 10 Feb 42
Lieutenant J. R. Harrison (ret) 9 July 43
Temp. Lieut. RNR. J. E. Wilson. 6 Aug 41
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E)  J. C. Copeland (act) 13 Apr 44.
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNVR. (E)  A. S. Turner (act) 2 Jan 45
Temp. Lieut. Com. RNR. (E)  F.  Lawrence (Ret.) 11 Jan 42.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. (E)  D. C. Coleman 14 Sept 44.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. T. N. Griffin, 28 Feb 44.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. G. F. C. Martin-Smith, 2 Jan 45.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. R. L. Holland, 9 Jan 45.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. E. E. Linaker, 1 Mar 45.
Temp. Lieut. RNVR. P. Dunajski 11 May 45.
Temp. Sub-Lieut., (E), R.N.V.R. C. S. Sutton. 7 June 44.
Temp. Cd. Boatswain C. R. Fooks. 21 Oct 42
Temp. Gunner (T) S. J.  Bell.  3 July 45
Temp. Boatswain D. Lyons, (Act). 22 May 45.
Temp.  Wt. Teleg. D. R. Jardine (act) 1 May 44.
Temp.  Wt. Stores Officer. B. J. Woolman. 1 Sept 44

If you, have any additional information about Queenborough or Wildfire III during WW2, stories, photographs, information please let us know so it can be added to our records.



Thank you.

Contact: Johntenthousand@yahoo.co.uk


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HMS ESKIMO, a Tribal Class Destroyer, after an illustrious career with Battle honours almost too long to mention, (NORWAY 1940-41 - NARVIK 1940 - ARCTIC 1942 - MALTA CONVOYS 1942 - NORTH AFRICA 1942-43 - SICILY 1943 - NORMANDY 1944 - ENGLISH CHANNEL 1944 - BURMA  1944-45 - EAST INDIES  1945) on 8th December 1945 was Paid-off at Chatham. After reduction to Reserve status in, February 1946 HMS Eskimo, with her torpedo tubes and screws removed and a prefabricated structure placed on her deck was towed to Wildfire III, at Queenborough for use as an accommodation and headquarters ship for crews of minesweepers being placed in reserve, and for wreck-disposal vessels which were clearing the Thames Estuary and North Sea of wrecks. The crews of wreck-disposal vessels used depth charges, left over from WW2 to blow the tops off of sunken ships making the waterways safe for shipping.

You can see more about wreck disposal by Queenborough ships, here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fXfL76WvyY

WILDFIRE III.
THE ROYAL NAVY LAND BASE AND MINESWEEPER DEPOT AT QUEENBOROUGH.