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her Royal Navy and subsequent career

by Tony Beasley, Lieutenant, RNVR (Rtd)

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in Mid-Atlantic in peacetime (click to enlarge)    return to World War 2, 1939-1945

From "Allied Coastal Forces of World War II. Volume I: Fairmile Designs and U.S. Submarine Chasers" by John Lambert and Al Ross, Conway Maritime Press, 1990 - an excellent source for more details:

"Eight HDML's were required for service in the West Indies, and to ensure that they could make the long haul from the Cape Verde Islands to the USA, they were provided with an outfit of sails. Two tabernacle masts were fitted (one ahead and one astern of the bridge). The foremast carried a standing lug and jib, with the mizzen mast a standing lug. A large square sail was also provided for running before the wind. This long passage was never made, however, as those particular boats joined the forces engaged in the North African landings after their arrival at Gibraltar.

..... instead, Tony Beasley, a motor boat enthusiast, and sometime commanding officer of T.S. Cossack, the Barry, South Wales unit of the Sea Cadet Corps (photo below), may well have made the very first trans-Atlantic crossing in an HDML - and partly under sail.


HDML.1001 was sold out of RN service in November 1949, one of her owners being a Mr K Mackie. Tony then bought the “Peggy Doreen” as she then was, on 29 July 1972 from Belsize Boatyard, St Denys, Southampton, British Reg. No/Official/Yard No 183304. Powered by two Thornycroft diesels, he worked on her in Barry for a number of years, and registered her as the “Welshman” with the Small Ships Registry - the name of a cruiser minelayer lost in World War 2, perhaps a more suitable name for an ex-HDML. In May 1990, he sailed her to Grenada in the West Indies and worked her there for nearly two years. Then in May 1992, the M/V Welshman was sold to American couple, Dagny Sellorin and Edward Teja, PO Box, Hong Kong, but residing in Grenada. (Her subsequent career is being summarised)


Following are some of the background information Tony collected about HDML.1001 and photographs of M/V Welshmen. He also went on to buy and convert a small Admiralty tug. Probably very little information is available about this type of vessel and so details of her and three photographs are included for the record.


You can email Tony at


The above plans are Thornycroft drawing No.23927 dated 5/4/43 supplied

by National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Please click for enlargement. 




1. Naval Historical Branch Information on the Career of HDML.1001

2. Further Information on HDML.1001

3. Background to the HDML's

4. An HDML Escort around the time of Normandy

5. Photographs of M/V Welshman plus a frigate!


6  Ex-Naval Galvanised Tug/Tender - M.V. Killick







Empress State Building London SW61TR


12. April 1983

Mr A M Beasley,


South Glamorgan



Dear Mr Beasley,


Thank you for your letter of 10 March 1983 regarding ML 1001.


Through the number of the vessel I have been able to trace a skeleton of her history but I am afraid that is virtually all it is - bones and no meat.


Despite the number I am not altogether sure that ML 1001 may be described as being the first of the type since the first to enter service were, as far as I can trace, MLs 1029 and 1030 in October 1940. It is more probable that she was the first ordered; another of the-type, ML 1002, was also built by Lady Bee Ltd.


ML 1001 first appears in our records in April 1941 when, along with MLs 1008, 1010, 1020, 1036 and 1067, she is mentioned as being due on completion to join ML 1024 to form the 105th ML Flotilla under Nore Command (Sheerness). MLs 1010 and 1021 joined in May 1941 and ML 1001 in June. The Flotilla was finally complete by September 1941 (ML 1070 replacing ML 1067). Throughout her service with the Flotilla ML 1001 remained based at Sheerness apart from brief periods for repairs and refits. However, of this group of vessels, MLs 1010, 1021, 1036 and 1070 went to the Clyde on detached service in November 1942; in June 1943 MLs 1008 and 1020 went on detached service at Machrihanish; and in November 1943, ML 1024 went to Lowestoft as a training vessel.


In February 1944 ML 1001 was allocated for special hydrographic duties, operating under the survey ship HMS FRANKLIN. She was taken in hand for alterations and additions at Dorset Yacht Co Ltd, Poole, joining HMS FRANKLIN at Rosyth in March. I have been unable to trace any further movements after this until late October 1944 when she was undertaking a survey of the Seine Estuary with instructions to proceed to Ostend on its completion. If she went to Ostend she did not linger long, for December saw her back at Sheerness for a refit.


By February 1945 she had returned to the Continent at Le Havre, leaving there on 5 May for Cuxhaven to assist in a survey of the Elbe and Hook prior to Operation Dropkick in which Cuxhaven and Hamburg were swept for mines. In late June her presence is recorded at Wilhelmshaven but by early August had returned to London for a refit, her special survey duties apparently completed as she was back with the Nore Command in February 1946.


After this details become even patchier but a further refit was undertaken in March 1946 and the summer of '46 would appear to have been spent in the Humber area. In November she was at Sheerness and, in the main, spent the remainder of her service in 'Care and Maintenance' variously at Sheerness and Chatham, until November 1949 when she was sold.


Once again I am sorry I have been unable to discover anything of greater substance.


Yours sincerely


M McAloon








From Brian Holmes, February 2005 



Lady Bee, Southwick Sussex 2/6/41

Wartime Activities  

1944 - Fitted with echo sounders and allocated to Hydrographic Survey duties, Crew replaced by a specialist surveying party.


6/44  - Operation Neptune - Invasion of Normandy [see D.1 - below]


Surveying the site for the British Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches


9/44 - Entered Cherbourg, which was still mined, for a four week survey of the port.


Surveyed the River Seine up to Tancarville

Post War Fate  

1945 - Survey Motor Launch, SML.I


1949 - For Disposal


2000 -  Floatstreet, based in Trinidad

Known Crew

Temp Lt D C Waylen RNVR, commanding officer, 11/1/41-12/43 


Temp Lt Richard Thurston Bailey RNVR, commanding officer, 6/44-c5/45


*Lt Cdr C S E Lansdown RN, attached as a specialist survey officer 1944


Lt R K Husband RN, commanding officer, 5/45-7/45, also as Assistant Surveyor 2nd class


Mention in Despatches (MID) - Temp Lt Richard Thurston Bailey RNVR, for services at Arromanches during the Normandy Landings

*Lt Cdr C S E Lansdown RN, specialist survey officer - his career

1926-28 - HMS Endeavour in the Red Sea and off Malta


1928 - HMS Flinders off the south and west coasts of England


1929 - HMS Rosemary in home waters


1930 - HMS Fitzroy off the east coast of England


1931 - HMS Flinders off the west coast of Scotland


1931-33 - HMS Herald off Malaya, Borneo, Hong Kong and in the South China Sea


1934 - HMS Kellett off the south and east coasts of England


1935 - Course in controlled minelaying


1936-38 - HMS Stork off Thailand and Ceylon


1939 - HMS Gleaner off the south coast of England and the west coast of Scotland. Involved in the attempted rescue operations for HMS/M Thetis.


1939-43 - HMS Astraeas, a Blue Funnel liner taken up for controlled minelaying. He was awarded an OBE in 1943 for service in her.


1944 - ML 1001 for survey work in support of Operation Neptune before commanding HMS Astral for which he was awarded a DSC (see following note). This was a former Belgian pilot vessel employed in surveying recaptured ports.


1945 - Joined the Hydrographic Department.

Note: Further research suggests Lt Cdr Lansdown was awarded his DSC for setting up HMS Royal Anne (Naval Party 1500) on the 6th June 1944 at Arromanches and that the vessel he commanded was HDML.1001, not the ex-Belgian vessel. A report on the duties of survey ship HMS Scott at this time ( confirms that Lansdown was working from a surveying motor launch - "8.6.44 - By D+2 Lieutenant Glen had positioned and sunk the first of a dozen or so blockships which were to form the eastern breakwater; and Lieutenant Commander Lansdown had arrived in his surveying motor launch to begin the survey of the port, which was developing daily on the plan that had been based upon the reconnaissance survey. Teams from SCOTT, using our surveying boats, augmented Lansdown's sounding work."








From Web Site:


It may seem an ironic fortune, but English boat companies during the interim period between the First and the Second World Wars were hunting for their customers around the world - in England herself they were not dignified by the Admiralty's attention. The Royal Navy, which despised boats for long time, was caught by surprise by the outbreak of the war with Germany. It turned that the organized defence of the estuaries, harbours, and naval bases practically did not exist. It was not until towards the end of 1939, after three months of war, that the Admiralty urgently formulated tactical and technical requirements for the harbour defence motor launch - the HDML.


The HDML's were 72ft-long and their displacement had to enable their transportation by cargo ships. Their seaworthy, round bilge hulls were made of wood, and were fitted with two rudders to improve their agility while fighting enemy submarines. Three English companies supplied engines, which ranged from 130 to 160 hp, The bridge was protected by light armour. Originally it was planned to arm those boats with one fore 45mm gun, one aft 20mm Oerlikon, two machine-guns, and eight depth charges, but in fact their armament varied. The orders for HDML's were placed with numerous yacht manufacturers, which might introduce changes into construction along the service specifications. Thus the bottoms of the boats designated for the Mediterranean were coated with copper for protection of barnacles, The boats designated for Iceland were fitted with the system of forced heating and ventilation, and had improved thermal insulation. During the war it occurred, that transporting boats by ships is practically impossible, and that the boats must be prepared for long autonomous sailing. The hull construction was quite fit: the boats sailed to the Mediterranean and Iceland on their own. There were also sails and rigging provided for several boats designated for West Indies, but then it turned that they were needed in Africa rather and a transatlantic trip under sails was cancelled.


The HDML boats by their characteristics were close to the submarine chasers of Fairmile B type, and they were used as patrolling boats, submarine chasers, auxiliary trawlers, navigation vessels, and landing crafts, During the war the English built over 1700 boats of various types. The lion share belonged to the Fairmile B - 650 boats. Next to them were the HDML's - 450 boats, followed by various motor torpedo and gun boats - 300 units of each, English shipbuilders were particularly proud of the pace the patrol boats were developed and built; they considered it a significant technical achievement. The 1947 edition of the Jane's Fighting Ships emphasizes, that HDML boats gained a good reputation. [Jane's 1946/47] Those were extremely pleasant and easy to handle crafts, extremely seaworthy, with reliable engines. And possibilities of their practical use surpassed everything the designers could envisage.







From Web Site:


We returned to Ostend and received orders from "on high" to proceed back to the UK in a violent storm with force-8 winds blowing. We formed a small convoy escorted by a Harbour Defence Motor Launch (HDML). Being flat-bottomed we took a severe beating from the rough and angry sea as we smashed down from the top of one wave into the trough before the next wave. I was standing at the port rail near our bridge, casually looking down the side and I noticed a weld opening and closing under the stress. I notified our skipper who came down from the bridge to see it for himself. He signalled the HDML to say he was leaving the convoy and we went into Newhaven to wait out the storm. After assessing the damage, we gradually crawled, port to port, along the south coast to Portsmouth where the big shots evaluated our damage and decided we were ready to be scrapped. We received instructions to make our way back through the Channel as the weather allowed. We had seen more than one LCT broken in half at the main weld between the tank space and the stern section. With the stern section actually towing the bow section, it presented a very strange image!





Early days


Being worked on at Barry


Still at Barry


MV Welshman in mid-Atlantic and under sail, May 1990,


Moored in St George's Harbour, Grenada, January 1991


Grenada Harbour


Frigate HMS Active manning ship and passing HM Royal Yacht Britannia with Prince and Princess of Wales on board at an earlier date. When the ship was visiting Grenada, two Petty Officers from Active sorted out the auto pilot for Tony Beasley and gave him this framed photograph.



 "The Medusa Trust", home of Medusa HDML 138




(click photographs for enlargements)




Background: built in the 1950's with the same galvanized plate used in the excursion motor vessel Balmoral. Tug based at Portsmouth, possibly ended her life with the Sea Cadets in Southampton


Lying: at the time in Barry, South Wales


Dimensions: Length - 65' Breadth - 16' Depth - 5' to 5'6"


Construction: Galvanised Steel Riveted Construction


Mech & Elect: Gardner 8L3 Diesel inboard engine, speed of 8-9 knots,  3.5 KVA 230v/110v Generator , Fire Pump and 24v Generator , 3" bilge pump off main engine, Electric windlass mounted on top of Hand Winch


Fuel/Water: Fuel cap: 2 x 400 gallon diesel tanks, fresh water: 2 tanks - approx. 600 gallons


Accommodation: 12 berths in 3 cabins, Coal Rayburn heating,  2 W.C. 3 Wash hand basins 1 shower room



Engine control from the wheel house by hydraulic pump .. recently installed.

Steering chains removed and hydraulic steering installed.

Wood decks on steel - re-caulked.

Steel wheel house built 2 years ago.

Foreward accomm. Hatch in wheel house and also engine room hatch can be entered from w/house.

One hatch on outside deck.

Derrick installed of main mast.

Main engine, gear box and running gear - first class condition.

Very large engine room with individual bilge pumping valves.

Work bench.

1 x 40 gallon header tank.

1 x 30 gallon lube oil tank.



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revised 1/12/10