- Goldsworthy, Lieutenant Commander L V GC DSC GM RANVR
- History - general
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- January 1972 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The author’s first task was to dive and retrieve the errant anchor. At 10.00 on Good Friday, work began on the mine. Hardly had the examination commenced when the RMSO received a hammer blow on the kidneys. He looked up to see the diving boat moving away. Hastily signalling to be brought up he was dragged to the surface like a rocket and struck the legs of the diving ladder three feet beneath the surface. The top light of his helmet was shattered by the impact.
A grim tug of war ensued. The RMSO struggled to ease himself down and clear of the ladder while the enthusiastic handlers hauled away with gusto. Water had filled the suit when sweet reason prevailed and the lifeline was eased.
The lifeline lacked the strength to lift a diver in a water filled suit and a dangerous situation was only overcome when the RMSO drew his knife and slashed the suit to allow the water to drain out.
Later the suit was patched and the author descended to the mine again. Removing the difficult fuse was a dangerous and sensitive task. Resurfacing, he asked his handlers for a pair of footprints. The handlers were Americans and had no idea what was required. Who outside Australia ever heard a pipe wrench referred to as footprints?
Minimum safety was achieved and the team returned to a nearby American Air Force Base. Here it was learnt the cause of the kidney wallop. The Americans were unaware of the ‘temporary cessation of all activity‘ signal and had dropped a practice bomb nearby.
The mine in its blue clay bed was eventually rendered safe and the Liberty Ship was freed to deliver her cargo of goodies to the US Forces. Subsequent examination of the mechanism revealed a speck of insulating varnish had prevented the firing contacts from closing when it had been laid several years before. The RMSO had been working on a live mine all the time.
With the approach of D Day the section entered another phase of the many-faceted mine recovery business. Esmeralda pinged her way into mid-Channel seeking small snag line mines which were taking their toll of towed folboats and stripped MTBs engaged in mysterious nocturnal operations off the French coast.
These mines were moored below the surface with their long nylon snag lines floating on the surface. When caught in a propeller or other projection, the line tightened and actuated the mine close enough to destroy a small vessel or damage a larger one.
Esmeralda entered suspected areas and located the tell tale nylon lines. When the line was vertical in the water the diver entered the water, cut the mooring cable with a pair of double action wire cutters and passed a tow line to Esmeralda. The mine was then towed to a beaching site.
The work was carried out at night or under misty conditions. In the full light of day, Calais and Dover were equidistant and the German guns were only too ready to vent their hate on a slow moving vessel towing a mine.
On occasions, beaching operations were unexpectedly complicated by playful seals who thought it some kind of game.
Permission to join the first waves of invasion ships for Overlord was withheld from the Mine Recovery Flotilla. June 6th, ‘the real thing’, came and went but soon after Esmeralda with the diving boat in tow and ‘Young Cliff’ and ‘Fisher Boy’ set out bravely for new adventures.
Adventures came quicker than anticipated. Just off Portsmouth, a destroyer closed on a collision course and demanded to know ‘where in the hell‘ two coal burning fishing vessels, one pretty-pretty motor yacht and an obviously stolen battleship’s pinnace were headed.
A facetious ‘Please sir, we are going to liberate Europe‘ from Collier did nothing to allay the destroyer’s suspicions. The author’s more factual explanation eventually set things right and the destroyer allowed ‘the most ragged arsed flotilla’ he had ever seen to proceed.
The beach-head at Normandy appeared to be total confusion, overlaid with a pall of yellow brown smoke, shot from time to time by bright orange and black. No one wanted the services of the small flotilla yet. It was therefore sent off to Juno Beach to await developments.