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Thread: Legalistic Nit-Picking

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    Default Legalistic Nit-Picking

    One of my 'chaps' was Commissioned into the Met Branch of the RAFVR (as a Sqn Ldr) on 1 Apr 1945. He Relinquished that Commission (still as a Sqn Ldr) on 10 Feb 1954. Nothing remarkable about that - but he has 'previous'!!
    At 1630Z on Friday 25 Aug 1939 the Met Office teleprinter network stated that all stations should insert a new roll of paper into the T/P and stand-by for a very important signal. This signal was, in fact, the Met Office War Postings signal. It was UNCLAS (although broadcast on a limited Air Ministry network) and it took up 11 feet of teleprinter paper (there is an actual copy of this signal in the Met Off archives which, by happenstance, was saved from Met O Hythe, or Calshot, I forget which). This was the executive instruction for Met Office personnel to move to their war-time manning (and I use the word advisedly - there were no females involved!). Some RAF Stations were (meteorologically) opened - and some closed. Many of the Command and Group HQs were 'beefed up'. Met equipment was also being moved about. All those on the move had to acquire Travel Warrants and each station on the distribution list had to QSL (within 1 hour) that the signal had been received, understood, and was being acted upon.
    However, our 'chappie' (above) was also moved. He was to report to SS Manela from his current station (Abbotsinch). This was an 8000 ton Passenger/Cargo vessel that had been requisitioned by the Navy at some time in 1939 to act as a Seaplane Tender (or support vessel). One can see why they might need a Met Forecaster (what his support staff might have been I have no idea). SS Manela went, initially, to Sullom Voe. It had a somewhat chequered career (including the MIddle East) in WW2 before being broken up in 1946.
    But, what if this vessel had gone into "enemy waters" and been captured. Any miltary personnel on board would have become PoW under the Geneva Convention. Any Merchant Navy personnel would have been treated similarly.
    What would have happened to this gash civilian Met Man? He wouldn't have had a "Number, Rank, Name" to repeat at his interrogation. "But I'm only a Met Forecaster!" he might say. "Pull the other one, it's got bells on it" might be the reply from the German Navy (if he was lucky!), or the Gestapo (if he was unlucky)!!!
    It seems clear that he was withdrawn from the vessel before it started on it's WW2 wanderings from Sullom Voe - but we have, as yet, no confirmation of that.
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 10th May 2011 at 15:44. Reason: Digital/Keyboard Spasms
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    Manela taken over and fitted up in May 1939 as a Depot ship in response to a planning defect shown in the war footing moves of the Munich crisis.

    The flying boat squadrons had moved north from their southern training bases but did not have the facilties for maintenance so after a very short time each aircraft had to be withdrawn from the line and returned south for any required major maintenace.

    On 18th May 1939 SS Manela was fitted to accomodate a GR Wing and two Flying boat squadrons.

    In peacetime it was to operate as a nucleus Coastal HQ and support one flying boat squadron in home waters. Additional tasking was to be mobile base for fleet/large scale exercises and for flying boat squadron support when on arament training.

    Manela was sent to Sullom with No.201 Sqn to take part in exercise XKD between 15th and 21st August.

    So no intent to send into hostile waters and infact was at it's war station on the delaration of war.

    However the exercise by Admiralty and Coastal to prove the effectiveness of location and destruction of enemy surface units coming into, breaking out of and operating in the North Sea and northern approaches failed to spot the 14 U-boats that were doing just that and the two pocket battleships that sailed withinin a day or two of EndEx.

    I suppose he was at risk from these German Naval units but the Fleet at Scapa may have been a more tempting target that your civi met man.

    Regards
    Ross
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    Ross,

    As a matter of interest did the Manela remain a Merchant Navy vessel with the outbreak of war, or did she become a unit of the Home Fleet? Both you and Peter have referred to her as SS Manala rather than HMS Manela.

    Brian

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    Manela was always merchant and only assigned to the RAF control.

    The previous aim of the Sea Lords to take control of all RAF assets that had concern in Admiralty matters had ended with the seperation of the Fleet Air Arm element of Coastal Tasking and would not resurface until after the end of the war (apart from one small flurry in Dec 1940)

    Costs had prevented Coastal creating the four group HQs that their establishment needed so it was arranged to form two and allow each to throw off an embryo HQ in time of war.

    It was the development in October of 1937 of the WA 1 to WA 13 Defence Plans Policy that tied Coastal to operations in the Northern Approaches and the need to provide a HQ at No.18 Group as well as moving operational bases to Invergordon, Tayport, Montrose and Leuchars.

    Munich showed the need for shifting the bases further North and South to Shetlands, Invergordon, Woodhaven, Montrose, Leuchars and Thornaby. Also now No.18 group HQ was established SS Manela could return to flying boat support ops.

    Regards
    Ross
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    Thank you Ross. My reason for asking was that the following summer (1940) the Admiralty chartered two steamers, the SS Arakaka and SS Toronto City, to be deployed as weather ships. The met staff on both ships consisted of one RN and one RAF officer. The RN officers were withdrawn after one voyage by each ship because of the perceived difficulty of a Merchant Navy captain being in a superior position to a RN officer; it might also have had something to do with the fact that the Admiralty refused to arm, or provide any defensive means other than a single gun, for ships flying the red ensign - hence it was a trifle dangerous operation.

    Both vessels and their crews were lost the following summer (1941).

    I just wondered if it was a case of the Admiralty using double standards.

    Brian

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    The withdrawal of RN Officers from the two ships you cite are most probably due to Admiralty politics.

    A major part of the long term battle from 1919 to 1936 for Coastal Area/Coastal Command marine assets was that the Admiralty insisted that all RAF personnel embarked on naval ships should be equal in rank and experience to naval aviators, subject to Naval Law and under absolute command of ships captains.

    When naval aviators were dis-embarked at RAF stations the Admiralty also wanted then to be subject to Naval Law and Naval control.

    The admiralty also wanted all RAF shore based marine recce units to come under direct operational control to the local Navy HQ.

    I would not be surprised if this indoctrine of being in complete control was expected to also be applied to merchant crews of the met ships.

    I would be remiss if I did not cite two cases where the opposite happened.

    In all cases of RNLI crew launches I note that the Senior Naval Officer only requested them to launch rather than ordered it.

    Convoy Commodores set up flag on a merchant vessel but only "suggested" what actions the ships captain should take.

    To a large extent the Admiralty was right in how to conduct the new marine airwar. They had developed most of the tactics and methods in 1916-18 that Coastal Command was now relearning in 1940/41 eg RNAS kite balloons had been painted light grey/white as it was found to be the best camo for sea ops in 1918. RNAS experiments in 1918 found the best way to sink a U-boat was to drop a stick of 500lb bombs on the swirl of the diving boat set to explode at 50ft. Coastal did not relearn this until 1941.

    Regards
    Ross
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    Ross,
    Mni tks for explaining "the bigger picture". Much appreciated.
    Yrs Aye
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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