Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Franklin 1939
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HMS Franklin Oct 1938
HMS Franklin 13.10.38

Date of Arrival


Date of Departure 

 Orders, Remarks etc

Principal Surveys 1939

England, East Coast


Thames Estuary.

St Lewis Sound; Battle harbour.

Commander: C W Sabine




D of D 9/1: Taken in hand 4/1 for refit. Completes 4/2

4/4 Taken in hand for modification to oil fired arrangements of galley. Completes 4/4 Can sail at 24 hours notice.

15/4 Taken in hand for fitting of ? gear, completion 19/4.




For survey Thames Estuary.




For survey Thames Estuary.




For survey Thames Estuary.




For survey Newfoundland

23/6 From FRANKLIN: Tidal stream observations discontinued owing to adverse weather conditions. Sailed for Halifax


Halifax Nova Scotia




St Lewis Sound, Labrador



By midsummer I (G S Ritchie) had been transferred, as a volunteer, to another new vessel, FRANKLIN, bound for Labrador (at that time, with Newfoundland, a British Colony) to undertake a survey of St. Lewis Inlet to facilitate timber extraction. Commander Charles Sabine, a polite and courteous man, was our captain, whilst the first lieutenant was a small thick‑set Australian named Carl Oom who had a twinkle in his eye and saw the funny side of every situation. Another Australian, Tex Cody, a handsome bibliophile, had accompanied me from JASON bringing with him his precious collection of books including the 'Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci'. 

The area to be surveyed was large, with many bays and islands, and the first task was to build up the triangulation. The 'balancing' of such a network in those pre‑computer days entailed much mathematical work in the chartroom employing Bruhn's logarithmic tables and Shortrede's trigonometrical tables, both running to seven figures. One forenoon when the junior officers were thus engaged, the captain made a visit to the chartroom ‑ 'Oh dear, Cody's faded away again. Ritchie, go and get him.' I descended to the wardroom situated immediately below the chartroom and there found Tex comfortably seated in an armchair, a glass of brandy to hand as he studied Leonardo's plans for a flying machine. 'Tex, the captain wants you up top. Don't you find it worrying sitting here knowing the captain may demand your presence at any moment?' Luxuriously drawing upon his cigarette he replied ‑ 'That element of danger adds piquancy to the pleasure I am experiencing.' 

Once a week Stan Brazil, the bulky storekeeper in the distant village, arrived alongside in his noisy trapboat with mail and newspapers which brought news of the increasing imminence of war. 

We were in an area of poor radio reception but the receipt of a coded message was sufficient for our captain to decide to sail for our war station at Dover, where FRANKLIN was required to provide the control for the laying of the Channel Mine Barrage. 

There was a flurry of activity as the boats, including Stan's trapboat, were sent with parties to mark permanently the many triangulation stations and recover detached parties already established. Then to Halifax, where we found a lively scene of activity as British and Canadian naval vessels hurriedly embarked fuel, ammunition and stores to the maximum capacity. We had only to embark fuel before setting off unarmed across the Atlantic, feeling very lonely as we received an Admiralty General Message ‑'Fuse all shell arm all warheads. Prepare for war.' 

In the Western Approaches we encountered a number of British merchant ships hastening south‑westwards to avoid being included in the first convoys. Then came the message 'Winston is back', informing the Fleet that we now had a First Lord of the Admiralty in whom we could have faith. 

Extract from ‘No Day Too Long’, G S Ritchie 




23/8 FRANKLIN is to return to UK as soon as possible. Report date of arrival at Chatham.




25/8 From FRANKLIN: Expect arrive Halifax 27/8 and Chatham 5/9








 31/8 Refuel at Plymouth and take over from Scott at Dover








Provide the positioning for the laying of the Dover Strait mine barrage.  

Vice Admiral H.P. Douglas, previously mentioned for his work in World War I and Hydrographer of the Navy from 1924‑1932, had been recalled for war service as Admiral Superintendent Dover. As we steamed into harbour on the Sunday morning on which Chamberlain declared war he sent us a brief message ‑ 'Welcome Home. Paint grey.' We set to work on this task that very afternoon. 

FRANKLIN's immediate wartime task was to provide the control for the laying of the Channel Mine Barrage from the railway ferry ships Hampton and Shepperton which, in peacetime, plied daily between Dover and Calais. By modifying the rail tracks already onboard these ships, mines that had been stored in tunnels in the cliffs below Dover Castle could be embarked at the Eastern Breakwater. 

FRANKLIN proceeded to sea every other day to lay a line of beflagged beacons across the Channel from the Goodwin Sands to the sandbanks off Calais, fixing them by sextant observations and taut wire measurement…. 

…..The objects of the mine barrage were two‑fold ‑ first by general proclamation of its existence it was designed to divert neutral merchant ships through the Downs where they could be examined for contraband on its way to the enemy and arrangements made for its removal; secondly by laying some mines deeper than others it was hoped to catch U‑Boats outward bound for the Atlantic. 

Extract from ‘No Day Too Long’, G S Ritchie


Source: ADM 199/184 Operation DM4 6.10.39 


From: Vice Admiral, Dover
Date: 3rd October 1939 

To be carried out, weather permitting, on Friday 6th October 1939. Zero hour 1545 (Subject to confirmation). 

Ships taking part 

Minelayers:       Hampton, Shepperton
Destroyers:       As detailed by Captain (D) 19
Minesweepers:  Available ships of 5th M/S Flotilla
Surveying ship:  Franklin 

Mines to be laid 

Hampton will lay groups I1, I2, I3 and I4
Shepperton will lay groups I5 and I6 


Mines to be placed alongside the ships at 0700 on Thursday 5th October.

Depth adjustment 


No. of Units

Depth Reel







Remove 9 ft chain





Remove 4 ft chain





Remove 4 ft chain





Remove 7 ft chain





Remove 6 ft chain





Remove 5 ft chain


Should it be necessary to postpone the operation the new zero hour will be signalled by Vice Admiral, Dover. After minelayers have left harbour, SO Minelayers is to use his discretion as to postponing the operation should he consider this necessary on account of weather or for any other reason. 


Minesweepers are to leave harbour in time to sweep over line I before zero hour. The depth of the sweep is to be 3 fathoms. When the minelayers have passed the Varne a skimming sweep over the mines just laid between the Searched Channel and the Varne is to be carried out at a depth of 35 feet below the Chart Datum. 


Captain (D) 19 is to detail three destroyers to screen the minelayers during the operation. 

Leaving Harbour

Destroyers are to leave harbour before the Minelayers, SO Minelayers signalling his intended time of departure. FRANKLIN is to leave harbour as convenient for carrying out any necessary surveying work before making a rendezvous with the Minelayers. 

Method of Laying

Line I will be laid from West to East with breaks on the Varne and the Ridge. Hampton will finish her lay on arrival at the Ridge. Shepperton starting after the break. Mines will not be laid within 5 cables of the NE Ridge Buoy. 

Franklin will lead Hampton onto the line and Shepperton will be stationed 2 ˝ cables on the Port beam of Hampton. On completion of her lay Hampton is to disengage to starboard, increase speed and cross ahead of Franklin from Starboard to Port. This manoeuvre should be carried out as quickly as possible in order not to blank Franklin’s view of fixing points more than necessary. A compromise may be necessary between high speed and prevention of funnel smoke. 

Laying Signals

The Black Flag will be worked by Franklin as in previous lays but, in view of the breaks in laying, the pendants of the ship to lay will also be flown at the yard-arm. 


Mines are to be laid 150 feet apart. 

Return to Harbour

On completion of laying, minelayers are to return to harbour independently. One destroyer is to be ordered to return with Hampton. 

B H Ramsay
Vice Admiral, Dover




31/10 from C in C Nore: Approved to send FRANKLIN to Chatham for alterations on completion ‘J’ operation




6/11 from A S Chatham: FRANKLIN taken in hand 6/11 for docking defects and A & A’s, date for completion will be reported when content of works involved is known. Works in hand will prevent vessel sailing at 24 hours notice.

7/11 From A S Chatham: Completes 27/11




FRANKLIN soon went to the east coast, and was constantly employed there, locating wrecks of ships sunk, sounding diversionary channels, and assisting minesweepers.


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