Naval History Homepage and Site Search


In Memory of


LIEUTENANT (E) EVAN ROGER MORSE RNR, New Zealand Mine and Bomb Disposal Officer


by his grandson Stephen Morse



Stephen sent me two emails in 2011 outlining his grandfather's dangerous wartime career in Mine and Bomb Disposal and the interesting path he took before ending up in this work. Editing has been minimal as they make fascinating reading just as they are.



My Grandfather formed number 1 Mobile Land Repair Unit (NP871) in April 1943 to invade Sicily and then Salerno.

From November 1942 to February 1943 he had a Naval Party which cleared the North African ports from Mersa Martruh all the way to Tripoli and had a hand in clearing Bizerta where he and his divers found the new delayed fuses for Teller mines. This led to the formation of the 'P' Parties. He had responsibility for clearing Naples, was in Anzio, Leghorn and the South of France.

He ended up EOIC of Wilhelmshaven dockyard with responsibility for all of the remaining ships of the Kreigsmarine. He was to be put in charge of the rehabilitation of Hamburg when the RNZN sent him home to be demobbed.

Here is some of the information I have discovered with a lot of help to date.

He was a Merchant Navy Chief Engineer when WW2 started, but was considered too old by the RN New Zealand division (later RNZN) and so joined the NZ Army.

His Record of Service:

NZ Army Engineers 20 Field Company Fiji 3/10/40 to 21/8/41
NZ Army Engineers 19 Field Company Egypt 5/9/41 to 25/4/42.

Transfered to RN as T/Lt(E) "for disposal Special Services, additional for duty Officer (Engineer) as E.O. in charge NCI".

HMS Nile T/Lt(E) 26/4/42 to 10/2/43
HMS Nile T/Lt(E) 11/2/43 to 19/5/43
HMS Hasdrubal (Base) T/Lt(E) 20/5/43 to 23/11/43
HMS Hasdrubal (Base) T/Lt(E) 24/11/43 to 31/12/43
HMS Byrsa T/Lt(E) 1/1/44
HMS Byrsa T/Lt-Cmr(E) 30/9/44 to 14/9/44
HMS Cook (NZ) 15/9/44 to 18/3/45
HMS Victory 19/3/45 to ????
HMS Royal Albert (RN base, London [for Berlin, Germany])
HMS Royal Edgar (Port Party, Hamburg, Germany)
HMS Royal Rupert (Naval Party 1735, Wilhelmshaven, Germany). 
HMS Cook (NZ) ???? to 23/12/45

I do know that he went through every port in North Africa and Italy that was captured between April 1942 and September 1944, and that a lot of his crew were killed and wounded.

The Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers' Association site includes the bravery awards for Mine and Bomb Disposal made to men working on port clearance in the Mediterranean, some of whom were attached to these shore establishments:

Some of the information I have received and posted on the Internet includes:

Photos of No1 MLRU and report of operations - and

Very interesting discussion that helped me put the story together; the whole story is very relevant to Naval Parties -

The main piece of information I am missing is the Naval Party he commanded clearing the North African ports with the Inshore Squadron before he formed NP 871 (I think it might be part of HMS Nile NP 864 - see Naval Parties of the Royal Navy) and alos his service between leaving Naples and reaching Germany.

Followed by further details:

I promised my Grandmother before she died that I would track down the information and ensure that his story was told. According to her he was twice mentioned in dispatches, but never received any medals due to the RN records being destroyed. Just as an aside there was a photo of him in the Army marching off to war published on the cover of an Auckland newspaper 2 years ago on ANZAC day, so it would be very appropriate to follow up the story from a NZ point of view.

His full name was Evan Roger Morse born Fordell, Wanganui, New Zealand 21/12/1899 died 30/11/1968 Auckland, New Zealand.

The whole story is very interesting, but just briefly it covers the following:

He was in Germany in 1936 (I think) at the Blohm & Voss works in Hamburg, with the works manager when he saw the Nazis first hand. He knew then he had to fight them.

In October 1939 he tried to join the Royal Navy, NZ division. Being 40 years old he was told he was too old and they would only take him on as an ordinary seaman if at all. At the time he was qualified on all of the largest ships afloat etc.

He changed his birth date to 21/12/1901, joined the NZ Army Engineers as a sergeant and was sent to Fiji, where he serviced all the Naval port facilities. He demoted himself to Lance Corporal so he would be sent back home and then to North Africa (this was straight after the invasion of Crete in May 1941).

The NZ Army Engineers taught him about mine and bomb disposal, and explosives, among other skills. When the two battleships were sunk in Alexandria (HMS Queen Elizabeth and Valiant damaged by Italian human torpedoes on 19 December 1941 and sinking to the bottom), there was no salvage organisation in the Med. The RN sent out Commander G. J. Wheeler to form one and put out a call to all services for qualified people. My Grandfather went to Alexandria to join up, and when he was leaving the office there, ran into Captain John Anthony Vere Morse (later Admiral Sir John Morse, Flag Officer Italy and ADC to the King) who knew him and his reputation from pre-war days. They were also wearing the same family crest on their rings, so were related. He said "what the @% are you doing in an army uniform?" Three weeks later he was a Lieutenant (E) in the RNR.

He had a captured Italian and a Frenchman working for him who introduced underwater arc welding to the RN, and worked out of Alexandria's HMS Nile at the time.

In June 1942 he took a mobile Engineering workshop to Beirut.

He then formed a Naval Party of 12 with 3 divers to open up the captured North African ports, starting after the battle of El Alamein and following the army to keep them supplied along the coastal ports (the first RN beach parties)

He and his men were the first into Tripoli and were working for 2 days before HMSAS Gamtoos arrived to help clear the port entrance. His men were thanked personally by Monty and Churchill.

They cleared all the Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian harbours of mines (where the mine-sweepers couldn't reach) and booby traps above and below the water, a job later undertaken by the "P" parties. They were directly targeted by the Luftwaffe all the way.

As he spoke fluent Italian and German, initially he was responsible for the technical Intelligence in the captured ports before 30 AU was formed. He knew Ian Fleming and Patrick Dalzel-Job very well, and also Buster Crabb. He worked closely with the South Africans from HMSAS Gamtoos.

After going to Bizerte, he went Algiers and formed NP 871 (1 MLRU), invaded Augusta and Syracuse, then Salerno. They were 14 days on the beach under direct fire from the Germans.

He then started the clearance of Naples after 1 MLRU was sent back to England to invade Normandy (NOT his D-Day as he had already been through 2 D-Days)

I don't know much about what he did next, but I know he was at Anzio, Leghorn and participated in the invasion of Southern France. His record says he was then sent back to New Zealand but my Father and Uncle say he did not come home and they did not know he was in the country. It may be he was exhausted or had intelligence on RADAR development, of which there was serious research occurring in NZ at the time (see New Zealand Radar Development).

He then went back to England and from there was part of the occupying force in Germany, first as Engineering Officer in Charge (EOIC) Wilhelmshaven, where they cleared the scuttled U-Boats and carried out a survey of heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. He was then EOIC of the Kreigsmarine.

I have his Merchant Captain Engineer uniform made for him in Hamburg September 1945 to celebrate the end of WW2. It was made for him by the German Admiral in charge of the Kreigesmarine (I am not sure if it was Doenitz or his successor).

Grandfather only told the stories to me and my cousin who died 25 years ago and most of it was still classified at the time. His knowledge of what went on in the Med was very comprehensive, so I can add some detail to the history of the RN in WW2.

Stephen Morse, 3/66 Middleton Rd, Remuera, Auckland, New Zealand


  return to Naval-History.Net

added 29 December 2011