Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Franklin 1944
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HMS Franklin - Principal Surveys 1944

Orkney Islands: Scapa Flow radar triangulation.

Scottish East, Coast: Firth of Forth.

English Channel: Normandy landings; North European Ports.

Commander: E I Irving


Date of Arrival


Date of Departure

Orders, Remarks etc














Gt Yarmouth






3/4 Taken in hand 31/3 Rosyth Docking and repairs
























26/6 Request FRANKLIN may be received at Chatham Locks 22/6 Completion 1/7


Franklin, under Irving, was held in reserve at the Nore during the assault, and would then support the detailed survey of the site for the Arromanches Mulberry and follow up with port surveys to the east, hopefully culminating in opening Le Havre.

19.6.44     From ANCXF 19/6 Propose FRANKLIN to relieve Scott on assault area after 1/7




To relieve Scott

On completion of surveying duties in Assault Area FRANKLIN is to be sailed to Portsmouth, F O West is requested to signal when FRANKLIN is required for surveying duties in Cherbourg





Cherbourg fell on 26 June and as soon as Marshall's party had surveyed a route into Cherbourg FRANKLIN entered, releasing the motor boat team to return to England to prepare for their next task in the Channel Islands, though in the event this was delayed.



On the evening of July 12th (1944) I suddenly received instructions to go aboard H.M.S. FRANKLIN that night.

With Stanley Maxted of the B.B.C. I went out in a despatch boat to find the
FRANKLIN, which was lying somewhere off the Isle of Wight. It was a, cold and blustery evening, much more like October than July, but Maxted, a typically tough Canadian, had no coat to go over his battle‑dress ‑ he had had no time to collect one. He wore the medal ribbons of the last war, carried himself like a soldier, and by no stretch of the imagination could be said to have what is sometimes called " the B.B.C. manner."

We were most hospitably received in the FRANKLIN,
a ship of 800 tons of the Fleet minesweeper type. She and her sister ship, the Scott, are Royal Navy survey vessels and are specially fitted for this important work.

In command of the FRANKLIN
was Commander E. G. Irving, RN, one of the Navy's survey experts. Most of the officers and men had been trained in this branch, which gives to the Navy much of its immense knowledge of inshore waters all over the world. H.M.S. FRANKLIN does not carry a navigator because, in effect, all her officers are, incidentally, as it were, trained navigators.


Early the next morning we sailed for Cherbourg in the company of a new Canadian corvette. The journey to France was uneventful except for one “contact “while we were still in sight of the English coast. Taking no chances, we circled over it for a time and dropped depth charges. After each shattering explosion, the crew clustered around the rails eagerly looking for any sign of wreckage. One rating arrived in a hurry with a sort of Father Neptune trident on a long pole. Believing, that "it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good," he was ready to spear any fish that might be rocketed to the surface by the under‑water explosions. 

Actually all that happened after each big bang was the appearance of a long‑faced rating from below carrying a couple of broken cups, plates or tumblers, which followed the course taken a few minutes earlier by the depth charge.

Towards midday we sighted the French coast and presently picked out Cherbourg with its long protecting breakwater. About the same time a search of the western horizon through powerful binoculars revealed other land ‑ the island of Alderney, still in German hands. It was curious to think that the enemy, with every reason for anxiety as to their own position, had probably spotted us as quickly as we spotted them.

Another thought that came to me was that not many days earlier I had approached exactly the same headland and had met a very different reception. As we closed in I picked out the low, menacing shapes of the forts on the breakwater which, on the previous occasion, were manned by Nazis trying desperately to destroy the British and American warships attacking them. One instinctively kept a wary eye on the battlements.

One big fort on the eastern end of the centre section of the breakwater had been smashed into a mass of rubble, and it was very satisfying to learn later that naval guns were responsible for this.

A group of British minesweepers, B.Y.M.S.'s, were sweeping outside the breakwater as we entered the harbour. Inside smaller M.L.'s had their big red sweeping flags flying as they moved in pairs over these dangerous waters.

One fair‑sized American ship was already at anchor in the outer harbour and the
FRANKLIN moved slowly in her direction. It was a tense moment because no ship of our size had crossed the harbour since the departure of the Germans. Constant sweeps had been carried out for several days, but it was known that the Hun had used various types of mine and the question was, “Would we set off something that had evaded the sweeps?”

The “hook " went down with a rattle and a roar as the heavy chain ran out into deep water and the FRANKLIN
swung easily, about two hundred yards from one of the big forts on the breakwater. It was interesting to note that this, and other forts in the vicinity, had been badly smashed about on the landward side. There had been some very accurate shelling by the U.S. Army gunners.

Almost before the survey ship was at anchor, an R.N. Lieutenant‑Commander came on board. One of the first to move into Cherbourg after its capture, he had been engaged in directing part of the harbour clearance organisation and was able to give Commander Irving a brief but comprehensive picture of the general situation.

As he talked he ate a plate of cold meat and salad - the mustard and cress being grown on board by the Captain's steward ‑ which he described as his first "civilised meal for a fortnight." He thoughtfully left behind a small tin of meat and a packet of biscuits, his U.S. Army ration, about which he had no complaints beyond the fact that fourteen days of exactly similar food makes it rather monotonous.

Little more than an hour after the FRANKLIN's
arrival her boats were away on their first surveying task, the location of wrecks in the harbour.

As the boats headed away from the ship, the B.Y.M.S. doing a magnetic sweep in the inner harbour, set off a big, mine which sent a mighty cascade of water into the air just round the corner of the mole.

The commanding officers of some M.L.'s which came alongside the Survey ship just afterwards, mentioned that they had been over the position of the explosion many times while doing non‑magnetic sweeps.

From these Young officers, whose small vessels had been right in the van of the Allied approached, by sea to Cherbourg, I heard a thrilling story.

Although they had been sweeping for ten days, whenever the state of the tide permitted, they showed few signs of the long strain imposed by such duties, beyond a very natural physical tiredness. They laughed and joked about odd incidents during their sweeps and could even see the funny side of such mishaps as getting mine caught up in a sweep and having to tow it out to sea.

While drinking water was pumped from the FRANKLIN
into the empty tanks of the M.L.'s, I sat in one of the little ward‑rooms, and this is what I heard:

“We were sent to sweep the inner harbour and have been at it steadily, ever since we started. There were quite a few mines as we soon discovered. The M.L.'s between them have collected a nice 'bag' and have suffered no casualties, although there have been a few hair‑raising moments."

One of these, I was told, was when a mine suddenly shot to the surface after the sweep had been pulled in close to the boat. A Petty Officer saved the situation because, as soon as he saw what was being pulled in, he grabbed a chopper and in one terrific slash severed the sweep and its lethal attachment.

Lieut. G. D. de Lange, a Londoner, commanded the first M.L. to enter Cherbourg harbour. One of his sweeps produced a strange catch. “We knew we had something odd in the sweep," he said, " and therefore treated it with particular respect. When it broke water we' found we had dragged up half a Heinkel!”

Another young bearded Commanding Officer, Sub‑Lieut. J. B. F. Foxlee, told of two grateful Americans who were picked up after their boat had overturned. " Next day they sent us a huge hamper of comforts - the largest an M.L. has ever received, I should think," he said.

One flat‑bottomed craft, smaller than any of the M.L.'s, had met with disaster when she ran right on to mine. Two of her crew had miraculous escapes, one of he crew swimming 150 yards with a broken arm and in a semiconscious condition as a result of concussion.

Lieut. de Lange laughed with the rest when they gave an account of how he had been called to a conference when he was in the midst of clearing an obstruction from one of his propellers. The Commanding Officer himself had gone over the side " in his birthday suit " to work on the obstruction. When the signal for the conference arrived he had to move in a hurry. He just had time to dry himself and then rushed off with a bundle of clothes under his arm, stopping at intervals to slip into a garment.

While the M.L.'s were still alongside the FRANKLIN
their relief arrived. The incoming boats were received with a rousing cheer. They came alongside, too, and a real little ship party began. The new‑comers looked with interest at the roughly chalked stripes on the squat funnels of the boats that had been engaged in sweeping. Each stripe, they knew, represented the disposal of a considerable amount of high explosive with which the Germans had hoped to account for a ship, her cargo and perhaps a number of her crew.

The chalk stripes appeared to make them additionally eager to take on the responsible and dangerous task performed so capably by their gallant sister ships.


Much remained for the sweepers to do, odd mines going up all through the following week while I was still in Cherbourg. The harbour has an immense area, and it was clearly beyond the power of the Germans to “cover “it with mines, as first reports had suggested. But the mixture of mines they had put down made it necessary to carry out various types of sweeps over the same area....

...All through these days and weeks, as Cherbourg slowly returned to life, brave men faced dangers equal to those which must be faced in the front line, in day and night efforts to make safe and restore the port area so that it might serve the Allied Armies.

Among those who led the British units engaged in this work were Commander J. B. G. Temple, D.S.C., RN and Commander F. L. De Spon, R.N.R., who were particularly concerned with the clearance of mines, and Commander A. E. Doran D.S.C., RN who was in charge of the harbour sweepings.

With bearded Commander De Spon, I made one brief tour of the outer harbour. It was sufficient to show me the arduous nature of his task. Before I joined him he had collected two snag lines from mines left by the enemy. This entailed picking up buoyed ropes floating almost hidden along the surface of the water, making an attachment to them and then deliberately firing the heavy mines to which they were attached. Following that there was a personal examination of suspicious objects reported by various craft. The whole of this work was carried out in a flimsy, flat‑bottomed craft, similar to the one which had been blown to fragments only a few days earlier. 

Many types of mine were used by the Germans in their efforts to hold up our use of the port.

The specially equipped boats of H.M.S. FRANKLIN were
carrying out their meticulous survey of the harbour. At 7.30 each morning the boats left the parent ship and began their up‑and‑down runs across the harbour waters.

In one of them, commanded by Sub‑Lieut. D. P. D. Scott, I spent an interesting forenoon. With a crew of five ratings he covered many carefully checked courses. All the time an echo‑sounding instrument ticked away recordings of the depth of water beneath. A wreck was located and immediately a deep wedge appeared above the level depths marked for the surrounding water. It was necessary to pass many times over the wreck before it could be accurately plotted over its entire length.

In the evening, when the boats returned, all the soundings had to be set down on big charts and frequently the officers of the ship were still poring over the chart table at midnight. So it was that within a week of H.M.S. FRANKLIN's
arrival in Cherbourg harbour Commander Irving had forwarded a first‑class chart showing actual depths of water for a large part of the outer harbour and some of the inner harbour.

Sometimes it was necessary for a diver to go down and check unusual features on the bed of the sea. This angle of the work fascinated my friend, Stanley Maxted, and before he returned to England he himself went down in full deep‑sea diver's equipment and made a broadcast recording from the ocean bed.

The first reward for all these labours came when the big Liberty ships entered the harbour with large‑scale supplies for the Allied forces.

Watched by many anxious eyes, four ships came in and moved slowly to their marked anchorages near the outer breakwater. One after the other they dropped anchor and, with a sigh of relief, those who had striven mightily to give these ships safe passage into the first big French port to fall into Allied hands realised that they had not worked in vain. 



Information is requested as to whether FRANKLIN can be relieved from her duties in Cherbourg at an early date. Request she may be sailed to Portsmouth 1/8 to Boiler clean and store ship.

FRANKLIN is to be sailed to Chatham to arrive 8/8 for boiler cleaning, completion date 12/8












For Dieppe

FRANKLIN will be made available for Hydrographical survey of Le Havre approaches

FRANKLIN, after completing a detailed survey of Cherbourg, moved east to Dieppe. While there Le Havre fell, and a 16‑foot motor skiff was sent by road to start the reconnaissance. This soon met a short hostile reception from a pocket of German resistance on the South breakwater. FRANKLIN herself, with ML 1001, entered the port early in September despite some reservations on the part of the minesweeping authorities A detailed survey occupied four weeks, during which mining was a constant worry. The ship also acted as British Senior Officer Afloat, and provided provisions, fuel and water to many British auxiliary craft as well as helping put right their mechanical defects.

Source: EXTRACTS from: Charts and Surveys in Peace and War – The History of the RN Hydrographic Service 1919 – 1970 by Rear Admiral R O Morris CB


Cowes (Portsmouth)


Request FRANKLIN be sailed to Le Havre to arrive 19/9

From now on SCOTT and FRANKLIN divided the task of surveying the ports along the north coast of France as each was taken by the First Canadian or the Second British Army; all the facilities were extensively damaged by the departing enemy, blockships were sunk, locks were destroyed and debris bulldozed into the alongside berths. FRANKLIN dealt with Dieppe, Le Havre and the River Seine, while SCOTT was to be responsible for Boulogne and Calais, moving our base from Plymouth to Dover. Our work followed to a greater degree the pattern established by our units in North Africa and Italy, where, as soon as the port fell to our forces, we attempted to get an advanced survey party in by road, or along the coast by Dukw.

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


Le Havre


Survey at Le Havre completed






Le Havre






FRANKLIN boiler cleaning and defects completed




In order to expedite survey of Ostend harbour a temporary berth has been allocated to FRANKLIN. FRANKLIN to return to Sheerness about 28/10

Nearly a month before Calais fell to our forces on 30th September, a British armoured column had swept on to take Antwerp, perhaps the most important supply base in the whole campaign, but its use was denied as the Germans were still entrenched on the banks of the lower Scheldt River which gives access to the port of Antwerp.

Three lines of blockships had been sunk in the harbour entrance to Ostend which the salvage teams disposed of by massive demolition charges. When FRANKLIN
was able to enter Ostend, Egg, in his forceful style, sent on one of his survey boats on a tank transporter to Ghent whence it sailed along the canals to Terneuzen, to begin the survey of this important basin on the south bank of the Scheldt. The glorious assault on Walcheren Island on Ist November by the Canadian Army and Royal Marine Commandos succeeded in removing the Germans from the banks of the Scheldt and the minesweepers immediately moved in to clear the seventy miles of channel from the sea upriver to Antwerp. FRANKLIN and SCOTT moved up to Terneuzen at the end of November and together were engaged on wreck location and marking, reinstating the buoyage and sounding the seventy‑mile long channel, permitting the arrival in Antwerp of the first convoy of Liberty ships in mid‑December when SCOTT sailed for Chatham for boiler cleaning, minor repairs ‑ and Christmas leave!

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


Minesweepers at Terneuzen

FRANKLIN had meanwhile moved further east, to Ostend. It was of the utmost importance that the port of Antwerp be opened to Allied shipping at the earliest possible time to cut down the lines of communication along which supplies of all kinds had to be brought to the armies striking north into Holland and cast into Germany. Passage up the Schelde was blocked by enemy forces still holding the east bank. Irving arranged for a motor boat and her crew to be taken by tank transporter to Ghent, and to make their way by canal thence to Terneuzen to start the survey of the upper Schelde and the port before ships or craft could reach the higher reaches from the sea. The full survey was completed by 14 December, but before that, on 28 November, FRANKLIN had the satisfaction of seeing the first laden Liberty ship convoy proceed upriver to unload. General Montgomery himself subsequently visited the ship to thank her and her company for their work. Irving persuaded him to order the mainbrace to be spliced, which caused some fluttering in the Admiralty dovecots when the rum consumed was brought to account. 

Source: EXTRACTS from: Charts and Surveys in Peace and War – The History of the RN Hydrographic Service 1919 – 1970 by Rear Admiral R O Morris CB
















FRANKLIN taken in hand27/12 for refit, completes 14/2. Ready for service 19/2

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