Sunday, January 21, 2007

HMS Daffodil


(Photos of HMS Daffodil afloat in 1945 and as a sunken wreck on the seabed close to Dieppe harbour in Northern France.)

HMS Daffodil

The kids are working on school history project centred around World War 2, so in order to help them get original material I googled up some of the details of my father’s WW2 service. He was in the navy from 1939 till 1945, and saw action on European waters and all over the Mediterranean; he was involved in three shipwrecks.

He died aged fifty five when I was nineteen, while I was in an “out of order” portion of my life. We were not as close as I’d have liked (or as he’d have liked) and he seldom spoke to me about his navy exploits on minesweepers and auxiliary craft during the war years. Looking back now I am starting to appreciate what, for him as a twenty year old, it must have been like to be caught up in a war, which for him was long, unglamorous and unrelenting.

His best friend and over a thousand other men were killed in the sinking of HMS Hood some where up in the cold North Atlantic. I don’t think he ever really got over the loss and like many of his generation remained tight lipped about his feelings. Often, when I’m moaning about some trivial incident in my life, I’m stopped in my tracks by the thought of how he must have been affected by the loss of the Hood and as it turned out, the Daffodil.

HMS Daffodil was a converted Channel ferry; a real rust bucket built in 1917 and used as an allied transport for D Day and beyond. On March 17 1945 at 11pm she struck a mine just north of the harbour wall at Dieppe, she sank the next day at 5am. Nine men from the Daffodil’s small compliment lost their lives. Thankfully my father survived, retaining his own quietly held memories of the incident and what was no doubt a night of horror. He had already survived an earlier sinking in the Channel when a crew member on the “Vindonia”, a trawler converted for mine sweeping. Records are vague but I think that one foggy night in October 1944 she was cut in two by a large American cargo ship. He was also involved in another similar sinking incident earlier in the war but I don’t know any of the details.

The wreck of the Daffodil is now popular with divers as she is apparently relatively easy to find and safe to explore, sitting 20 - 24m deep on the seabed outside of Dieppe harbour. Her sister ship “Train Ferry 2 “ (T.F 2) lies a few kilometres away at Point de Ailly following her destruction from a shore bombardment sometime in June 1940. These ships were built in Fairfield’s Yard in Govan, Glasgow between 1914 and 18.

Yesterday we visited the "Anne Frank + You" exhibition in Kirkcaldy. Ali’s sister (Kate Brown) has been busy behind the scenes of this event, coordinating and organising what is a stimulating and thought provoking look at intolerance and prejudice then and now. The display and tableaux on the death camp at Auschwitz, featuring testimonies and many photographs, is particularly touching and disturbing. The viewing made me remember once again the friends of my father who sacrificed their lives on the Daffodil in WW2 and how they were playing their own small but vital part in securing a future for my generation and beyond.







impossible songs

26 comments:

  1. What a great post John. Informative and touching. Cheers

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  2. Hi john
    I really enjoyed reading this, as my grandfather was on the daffodil that night she sank.
    I would really be grateful if you could tell me where you got the pictures from, as I would really like to get a copy.
    My grandfather never talked about that night to many people however I used to ask as a proud grandson who’s granddad had done his bit in the war, so he told me story of that night and how most of the men that had died that night had been drinking, on the count that it was st Patrick’s day and how one of the men on the ship couldn’t swim, apparently hi learnt that night becouse he survived and he and my granddad remand friend until he died.
    Thanks
    Darran Richardson

    Grandson of Trevor Richardson who served on the Daffodil

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  3. I read your story about HMS Daffodil. My father, Douglas Morrison Lieut RNVR, went down with this ship on 18th March 1945. I would like you to contact me.
    Kind regards,
    Brian Morrison
    Montpellier, France
    phototrans@orange.fr

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  4. Anonymous9:51 PM

    Really interested to hear the above comments. My great uncle Norman Ward also went down with this ship. As a shipwright he had the unenviable task of trying to keep this old ship afloat all through the night. As it sank the next morning he was never seen again, his widow, my great aunt Win, is still alive and living in Selsey, Sussex, she never remarried.

    Ian Norman Lipscomb, Stanion, Northamptonshire

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  5. Anonymous4:22 PM

    I too was really interested to read about HMS Daffodil.Sadly my father went down with this ship just 4 months before I was born.His name was Charles Edward Bird. I have often looked on the PC for info on the ship but never been very successful until today. I too would be interested in obtaining the photographs.Please contact me. I found the comments and the pictures very interesting but also very moving. Thank you to the people that have posted comments.

    Trish Waltham. Grimsby. N.E.Lincs

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  6. Anonymous11:54 AM

    MY GREAT GANDFATHER WENT DOWN WITH THE DAFFODIL IN 1945 WILLIAM THOMAS McNALLY FROM BATTERSEA,MY NAN WAS ONLY 3,GREAT PICTURES, NAN WILL BE PLEASED,THANKS..

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  7. Anonymous12:24 PM

    MY GREAT GRANDFATHER WENT DOWN WITH THE DAFFODILL IN 1945 WILLIAM THOMAS McNALLY,STOKER FIST CLASS,FROM BATTERSEA LONDON,MY NAN WAS ONLY 3,MY GREAT NAN NEVER REMARRIED,I HAVE ALL OF HIS RIBBONS AND HIS LOG BOOK ,WICH SHOWS HIS LAST SHIP WAS THE DAFFODILL,VERY SAD...molly hersey twickenham....

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  8. Folks,

    Thanks for the various comments and remarks. I'm glad you've gotten something from this post. Our fathers and grandfathers did many brave things and suffered a lot of hardship for us and the free world, I'm happy that stories and tales are still being passed around about their exploits and are not forgotten.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous5:53 PM

      I was on duty steering a course for home when the explosion occured at about 11.20 pm. After a dreadful time in the icy sea ,a MGB {ex German E Boat} .came alongside the carly float we were clinging to . A rope ladder was lowered , but climbing it was impossible due to our condition. A line was then lowered and with great difficulty I managed to get the bight {loop} under the arms and over the shoulders of the three other men glinging to the float . It was a hazardous time each one being hauled up the steep side of the boat due to the heavy swell and the fear of the man being rescued slipping out of the loop back into the pitch black night and icy sea.fortunately this did not occur . Once on board board we were given Rum and the crew worked relentlessly to recover ou circulation and body temperatures . Unfortunately one of us was unable to be saved despite the valient efforts of the crew men working on him. The MGB 333 took us into Dieppe wher wrapped in blankets we were put into Ambulances and taken to an American field Hospital for several days , being allowed attend the funeral of shipmates burriel's in the Canadian Cemetry again'st their normal procedure
      Jim Gill

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  9. www.caesars.co.uk1:35 AM

    My Uncle died on the Daffodil, Frederick Hamilton, I was named after him in 1948.

    Fred

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  10. Anonymous9:50 PM

    My Uncle William McNally , It is nice to know that he is still remembered. Bill McNally billmcpat@aol.com

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  11. All,

    It's fantastic to find this post. My great-uncle alos went down with HMS Daffodil. He was 29 and his name was Frederick Adams (Liet RN). He was my grandmother's only brother and she is still alive and talk about him all the time. It would be amazing to find a crew member that is still alive.

    Does anyone know if any of the crew are still with us?

    Also - I'm a recreational diver and would love to plan a dive trip with any other relatives or interested parties. Feel free to email me:

    jamestownsend@mac.com

    Best,
    - James

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  12. Hi everyone,
    I've just come across this now. My Uncle was a stoker on HMS daffodil when she went down and is buried at Dieppe. I took my father to visit his grave and then went on to Holland to locate his other brother's war grave not too far from Eindoven. Both sites are very well kept and in lovely peaceful surroundings. My Uncles surname is McCauley if anyone knows them.

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  13. My Uncle went down on HMS Daffofil. His name was Michael Anthony McCauley. Stoker first class. He was only 21. I took my Dad to visit his grave at Dieppe. Such a peaceful and well kept cemetary after that we went to Holland, near Eindoven, to visit his other brother's (Denis) grave site. So so moving.

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  14. Anonymous8:58 PM

    This is my third attempt at trying to post a comment here. My Uncle also lost his life on HMC daffodil. His name was Michael Anthony McCauley. stoker 1st class. 21 years old. I took my Dad to visit his grave at Dieppe. Such a beautiful, peaceful place.
    S.Cleary (lonse9@aol.com)

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  15. Anonymous10:07 PM

    My Grand Father went down on HMS Daffodil He was cheff Stoker His Name was Edward Harold FARROW He was aged 56.

    Gerald Farrow

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  16. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Just learned today that my Mum's cousin died that night too. He was 22 year old signalman, Richard Wootton, buried near Abbeville.

    Sharon

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  17. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Hi, My father served on the HMS Daffodil during the war years, he was Howard Leslie LAVENDER,
    KX 137889, known as Les,he also did not talk about his experiences during the war years, sadly he passed away in 1968 aged 47

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  18. Hi All,
    I am so happy to find this!! My father, James Steven of Glasgow, Scotland, was also on the Daffodil when it sank off of the coast of Dieppe. He was one of the last ones to leave the ship because as signalman, he had to keep sending out the distress signal. Even though he never learned how to swim, he survived. When he came to he was lying with his shipmates who had not survived. He was naked, covered in oil and his toe tag read "James B. Steven, Glasgow"
    My father is now retired and living in Florida. He will be 85 next April.

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  19. More than 9 men lost their lives on the Daffodil. Here is the listing from the Royal Navy records:
    Sunday, 18 March 1945

    Daffodil, ship loss
    ADAMS, Frederick P, Ty/Lieutenant, RNR, killed
    ALLEN, Arthur W J, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 408351, killed
    ANSELL, Donald G, Stoker 1c, C/KX 678656, MPK
    BIRD, Charles E, TY/Petty Officer Stoker, C/KX 75048, MPK
    BURNS, Charles, Petty Officer Stoker (Pens), C/K 56464, MPK
    BYROM, James, Able Seaman, C/JX 359104, killed
    CARVER, John D, Able Seaman, C/JX 317073, killed
    EDMONDS, William, Stoker 1c, C/KX 146682, killed
    EDSER, Charles A R, Able Seaman, C/JX 319610, MPK
    ENTWISTLE, Edward, Able Seaman, C/SSX 17897, MPK
    FARROW, Edward H L, Petty Officer Stoker (Pens), C/K 258, MPK
    FRASER, James, Able Seaman, C/JX 156527, MPK
    FULCHER, Norman F, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 543741, MPK
    HAMILTON, Frederick A C, Ty/Act/Leading Stoker, C/KX 136062, MPK
    HEATH, Reginald J, Able Seaman, C/JX 352406, MPK
    JACKSON, George E, Ty/Act/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, killed
    KILNER, Johnson R, Stoker 1c, C/KX 601980, killed
    LEES, Eric, Ty/Petty Officer Writer, C/MX 76810, MPK
    LOCHHEAD, Edward, Ty/Sub Lieutenant (E), RNVR, MPK
    MCCAULEY, Michael A, Stoker 1c, C/KX 139711, killed
    MCNALLY, William T, Stoker 1c, C/KX 142541, MPK
    MORRISON, Douglas L, Ty/Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
    NEWTON, Stanley A, Ty/Leading Cook, C/SCM 613, MPK
    PARDOE, Harry, Able Seaman, C/JX 353740, killed
    PAYTON, William, Able Seaman, C/JX 346755, MPK
    SCOTLAND, Matthew, Stores Assistant, C/MX 82209, MPK
    SIMPSON, James D, Ty/Lieutenant, RNR, MPK
    SMITH, Henry M, Ty/Lieutenant Commander (E), RNR, MPK
    TAYLOR, Frederick, Sub Lieutenant (E), RNVR, MPK
    WALKER, Bernard, Able Seaman, C/JX 354035, MPK
    WARD, Norman A, Shipwright 3c, C/MX 69269, MPK
    WOOTTON, Richard T, Ty/Act/Leading Signalman, C/SSX 32657, MPK

    Thursday, 22 March 1945

    Daffodil, ship loss
    GILBERT, Albert, Ty/Act/Petty Officer Stoker, C/KX 105297, DOW

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  20. I tried posting yesterday regarding my father, Jim Steven who was also on the Daffodil when she went down. I just got off the phone with him and he remembers the following -
    "I served on the Daffodil for 10 months. Prior my joining its crew, the Daffodil had been into the yards for a refit in Glasgow. My father, William Steven who was an iron worker, worked on the Daffodil and knew a large number of the men who served on her. We made many Channel crossings Southampton to Cherbourg and then up the coast.....always sailing independently without escort. We survived a horrible Channel crossing in 90 mph winds that tore the paravane off of the ship (these were mechanical arms that were used to cut mine cables).
    On the night of March 17, 1945, I was on watch as the only radioman on duty. When the explosion occurred, I was blown to one side of the room. The coder on watch was thrown to the same side as I was. There was debris everywhere. My immediate boss was named Conners...we continued to keep sending out the distress signal. I was good friends with Richard Wootten, the signalman mentioned by a previous poster. I called him Dick and we were in the same mess. The night the Daffodil went down, I witnessed Dick helping many of our shipmates who could not swim while he, himself, remained in the freezing water. A REAL HERO!!! He single handedly saved many lives that night!!! I also saw him pass away. A previous poster mentioned that a number of the crew had been drinking as it was St. Patrick's Day. I remember being on the water and hearing men singing as they floated on rafts. There were about 100 on board ship... I was with a group of 8 or 9 of us who were rescued and taken to an American field hospital in France."
    James B. Steven November 4, 2010

    Please contact me through my daughter, Fran Wall, at fswall@gmail.com

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  21. Anonymous9:38 PM

    Very interesting
    I just found a postcard that has an inserted image painted beautifully on a leaf of hms daffodil . The card appears to have been sent from hms daffodil arriving in simons town in south Africa march 1927 - this is written on the leaf. The little hand painted image of the ship is beautiful and appears to have been created by a crew member for their son George for his 6th birthday.

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  22. Sorry I think that this is the other HMS Daffodil that you are referring to.

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  23. An update, I spoke again with my father, Jim Steven (James Bertram Steven), a Radioman, regarding the HMS Daffodil he gave me some more details of the night the Daffodil went down. They had left Southampton fully loaded and after unloading the ship in France, they were headed back to England. The mine that hit them was an acoustic mine that was attracted to the sound of the ship's engines. They were 1 mile off the coast of France. He said there was only one explosion...the initial one caused by the mine ..and it literally lifted the Daffodil out of the water. He was on watch and alone in the room with the Coder...the radio equipment was thrown everywhere but he was able to get a transmitter up and running so they could send out the distress signal. He said the ship floated for quite a long time and it seemed unclear as to whether she was going to go down so "we were able to get quite a lot of work done." His ..I think he said ..equipment officer ??... told him and the Coder to go down below deck to see if anyone needed help. He saw the ship's doctor (who had a back injury...he had not been on duty, was asleep and had been thrown from his bunk during the explosion). The doctor was crawling on his hands and knees working on a badly burned Stoker...my father thinks this is the one who lived for a few days before he passed away (Albert Gilbert).

    After seeing the ship's doctor, he said that he saw Norman Ward, a Shipwright..sort of a carpenter, I guess. Norman was working with a platform and 2X4's trying to stop the sea water from coming into the ship. Norman was not injured in the blast but did not survive.

    The ship listed to it's side and the abandon ship was given. Dad said they literally ran down the side on the ship into the water. Never having been to church in his life, he said that this is the first time he remembers praying "God help me". You see to this day, other than being able to float a bit, my dad cannot swim very well. He never saw a life boat and isn't sure they were ever deployed. He did see a Carley float...a temporary flotation device that was made of canvas. There were a bunch of guys on one of them that had gotten into the rum and he could hear them singing. He got onto a floating crate and paddled like mad to get as far away from the ship as possible before it went down. It was dark, the water was freezing, he was covered in oil ..he wrapped the rope on the crate around his hands & arms because he couldn't feel them any longer. He was afraid he would pass out...(which is exactly what happened) One guy swam up to him ...he doesn't know who he was...but didn't stay with him on the crate..he thinks because the other guy found something better to hang on to. All the men called out to each other in the dark, checking on each other.

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  24. The ship listed to it's side and the abandon ship was given. Dad said they literally ran down the side on the ship into the water. Never having been to church in his life, he said that this is the first time he remembers praying "God help me". You see to this day, other than being able to float a bit, my dad cannot swim very well. He never saw a life boat and isn't sure they were ever deployed. He did see a Carley float...a temporary flotation device that was made of canvas. There were a bunch of guys on one of them that had gotten into the rum and he could hear them singing. He got onto a floating crate and paddled like mad to get as far away from the ship as possible before it went down. It was dark, the water was freezing, he was covered in oil ..he wrapped the rope on the crate around his hands & arms because he couldn't feel them any longer. He was afraid he would pass out...(which is exactly what happened) One guy swam up to him ...he doesn't know who he was...but didn't stay with him on the crate..he thinks because the other guy found something better to hang on to. All the men called out to each other in the dark, checking on each other.

    My dad was picked up by a MGB (motor gun boat) and taken to an American field hospital in Aqua d'Battaille, France with about 8 other shipmates. There was also a tug boat that came up from France to search for and pick up survivors. He saw Dick Wooten who was a good swimmer helping a number of the guys onto the tug. Dick was a real hero. Dad saw him pulled under the wake of the tug and didn't survive. Dad said he remembers seeing their Lt..may have been a Lt Commander ..in the water...he was an older man..dad doesn't think he survived.The other survivors went to a British field hospital. They were all reunited about 1 week later and gathered to bury 26 of their mates. He said they were buried together in what they called at the time, "The Canadian Cemetery". He said that most of them had not survived the cold water and probably died of hypothermia. The survivors were put on the same ship to go back to England. He remembers the Captain (a much older man who was called out of retirement and back into active duty) speaking with them and talking about all the different men that did not survive. My dad's group were awarded a DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) Here is the article I found about the ship's doctor.......he was made a MBE...which I gather is a level of knighthood
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2059439/pdf/brmedj03842-0028c.pdf Seriously, after hearing this story, it is a miracle that any of them survived!! Dad said that they were in the water for hours before any help arrived.

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  25. I asked my dad to give me some idea of what it was like to live aboard the Daffodil and he told me the following: I was assigned to the Daffodil for 10 months. They were a supply ship and went to Cherbourg right after the Allies invaded. France had been devastated during the pre D-Day blitz and they delivered everything from entire locomotive trains to Eisenhower's staff car. During one of their Channel crossings, they rode out a hurricane with 90mph winds. He said they were too scared to be sick. They would ferry supplies back and forth making hundreds of Channel crossings...all their deliveries went to Cherbourg, LaHavre & Dieppe...they didn't go any further south and they never had shore leave in France. The food aboard ship was good...stews and soups and the like. My dad's mess was with the radiomen, coders, signalmen, cooks, supply men & stewards and he said that they were the ones you really got to know the best...the mates you shared mess with. They would occupy their off duty time either sleeping or playing games of cards and playing darts, which was the big favorite. The shifts were 4 hours on 4 hours off ...the Dog Watch being 4- 6 pm and 6 -8 pm which they would vary in order for the men to all be fed. He said Dick Wooten was a pretty good barber so he made a wee bit of pocket change cutting hair. When they were off duty and in Southampton, they would go to the dance halls but there wasn't much to do in Southampton. When they had shore leave, they were severely limited by how far they could go from the ship...and military police were always about asking to see your papers...so if any family or friends wanted to see them...they would have had to go to Southampton. One of my dad's duties when they were in port was letting the men know if they had a telephone call as they would hook up to the telephone lines. My dad was really young and only 19. He remembers there was only one other guy aboard that was his age...all the rest were older.

    When I asked him what his time aboard the Daffodil was like, Dad said it was “a job”. They were all doing their individual assigned jobs and they all worked very hard at them as well. So not much socializing went on. He did say that the only contact he personally had with the engine room crew (where most of the immediate casualties occurred) would have been when he needed to get distilled water for his batteries...so it was quite limited. That being said, this was no air craft carrier and was not a huge ship...the crew numbered only around 90 or 100 so everyone saw everyone in passing at one time or another even if the didn't personally interact much with each other. To this day, he feels an indelible bond with the men he served with. If anyone wishes to contact him, they can reach him at fswall@gmail.com


    Here is a link to the cemeteries in Dieppe. Hautot-Sur-Mer (the Canadian War Cemetary)

    https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/?ui=2&ik=c8cd6e00d7&view=att&th=13031d306d75117e&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P_qAgMOuJVy3RduBJOjwKjL&sadet=1334078997602&sads=gofmmaEjhjd5NRRflg_S-3ezHKk&sadssc=1

    Fran Steven Putnam

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