Short History of Tay Division, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
And the connection between Tay Division and the CMS M1121 - HMS Chediston, HMS Montrose & HMAS Curlew
The Royal Naval Reserve first formed at Dundee in 1861. It rapidly gained in strength, given a Drill Ship, the frigate HMS Brilliant, in 1862, and by 1866 Dundee ranked 5th in the United Kingdom, with a strength of 1014 officers and ratings. Further expansion of this force within Scotland resulted in the arrival of the 46 gun frigate HMS Unicorn in 1873. The personal drive and influence of the Duke of Montrose, resulted in the formation, in 1903, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), with Divisions in London, Bristol, the Mersey and the Clyde. Three years later, in 1906, the Dundee Company, of Clyde Division RNVR was formed, and took over HMS Unicorn. In 1914, on the outbreak of the Great War (WW1), despite its members having volunteered and trained for service at sea, the RNVR was mobilised and marched off to the trenches as the Royal Naval Division. The RNVR reformed after the Great War, and, in 1926, Dundee took command of the East Scottish Division RNVR with units in Leith and Edinburgh.
In 1946, Tay Division RNVR was reformed and used the centre pier and shed, Earl Grey Dock, as a training establishment, and in the same year the first of a series of minesweepers was attached to the Division, as its Sea Tender. This first ship, Motor Minesweeper FY233, was renamed HMS Montrose in honour of the Duke of Montrose, who had played such a great part in the formation of the RNVR. The RNVR had achieved immense seagoing credibility during World War II, and in 1946 the first of many training periods entirely manned and commanded by the RNVR was organised by Tay Division in HMS Montrose (FY233). Later the FY233 was replaced by a more modern motor minesweeper, MMS1077, built by Frank Curtis, boatbuilder of Totnes. At the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Totnes provided an excellent site for boat building, far enough up the River Dart in Devon, so as to be hard to detect. The firm of Frank Curtis, based in Looe, that produced and fitted out wooden Mine Sweepers, essential to keep Britain's shipping lanes free of mines. The Frank Curtis yard employed in excess of 600 people, a figure possibly totalling several thousand when one includes all the ancillary staff. Mine sweepers were produced on three slipways in front of the Reeves timber wharf.
|Motor minesweeper FY233 - first sea going tender - renamed HMS Montrose.||Earl Grey Dock, Dundee - drill hall centre of far wharf - HMS Unicorn alongside foreground - lock control: 2 small buildings centre right.||Motor minesweeper MMS1077 - replaced FY233 - renamed HMS Montrose.|
From the Montrose Review October 1st 1953: "The second of the five coastal minesweepers, H.M.S. Chediston, which are being built by Montrose Shipyard Limited, will be launched on Tuesday. As H.M.S. Caunton, which was launched last February, was the first ship of its kind to be launched in Scotland, so H.M.S. Chediston will be the second, which seems to put Montrose in a class by itself as a builder of coastal minesweepers (CMS) of the Ton class. Tuesday's launching ceremony will be performed in traditional fashion by Mrs R.C. Kelman, wife of the financial director of Montrose Shipyard Limited."
HMS Chediston, M1121, built at Montrose Shipyard, Montrose (about 40 miles North of Dundee) and having been accepted by the RN, was taken to the port of Hythe (one of the "Five Head Ports" on the English Channel) for final fitting out and was then handed to the RNVR, Tay Division, and renamed HMS Montrose in June 1955.
|Launching HMS Chediston at Montrose.||Undergoing acceptance sea trials.|
MMS1077 departed Dundee on Thursday 25th. November 1954 and sailed to Chatham to join the reserve. The CMS, M1121, HMS Chediston arrived at Dundee from Hythe on Sunday 12th December 1954 to be the new sea going tender for Tay Division, RNVR.
|HMS Chediston in the lock entering Earl Grey Dock upon her arrival from Hythe.||HMS Chediston alongside.|
Two years earlier, on 24th January 1952 the first three female reservists were enrolled at Dundee - these were the first WRNVR in the United Kingdom. The WRNVR unit was officially declared Tay Division on 10th February 1952. When M1121 arrived at Dundee the Tay Division strength was:
Upon arrival of M1121 at Dundee, the first annual training cruise of 14 days duration was scheduled for 25th. July 1955 to 7th August 1955. About the same time HMS Unicorn was renamed HMS Cressy and was used for cadet and university student training over weekends with participants being victualled on board.
M1121 and THE CANADIAN CONNECTION
E. F. File (Ed) joined the University Naval Training Division in Canada - Ed remembers: "My UNTD training began in October, 1949 at HMCS York with a first summer training cruise in 1950 aboard HMCS La Hulloise. After being promoted to Lieutenant in 1954 my second year of graduate study was spent in Scotland at St. Andrews University. Special arrangements were made for me to be attached as training officer to HMS Cressy, the RNVR base in Dundee, Scotland. The base was actually a double decked frigate of the Nelson era, originally called HMS Unicorn. Steeped in tradition, I learned so much from the long naval careers of my fellow officers. Overall I attended 45 drill sessions during my academic year plus 45 days at sea. Perhaps my most valuable experiences came in cruises as a training officer with university cadets. We sailed to Sweden and Norway in a wooden hulled coastal minesweeper, HMS Chediston. Locals treated all the sailors most royally. We also made three-day training cruises with students to Aberdeen and Hull. My summer graduate studies were scheduled to continue in Berlin so seeking passage, I joined HMS Chediston on a training cruise to France."
More from Ed: "It is difficult to remember details of the actual training on the cruises. Ship handling and adventures at sea and ashore were high priority. We went solo on these training cruises. We did not do mine sweeping in the Baltic although we were told that there were clearly designated channels to be carefully traversed on course because there were reported WWII mines still located in some areas.
One item of training I do recall was the preparing and trailing some distance astern of a WWII designed machinery to divert noise attracted torpedos from ship's engine noise/vibrations. It consisted of loosely connected vibrating metal plates towed by sturdy cable. Why I remember this well was because on one 3 day cruise south on the coast of England, for some reason the cable parted and whiplashed back to the ship. One sailor was smacked against the bulkhead, severely injured, and unconscious. We moved him into the wardroom and I remember keeping watch over him until we could make an emergency trip ashore in a nearby community to get him to hospital. The captain expressed his concern that there were no medical staff aboard and appreciation for my watchful presence.
There was another experience I remember - It was while we were heading back to England from Sweden and passing the north coast of Denmark. I was duty officer on the bridge around 2 am. We had been crossing paths with other shipping, carefully ensuring that the angle of their lights kept changing to indicate safe crossings. In the distance I observed lights surrounded by smaller lights that were moving safely across our bow. As we got closer all of a sudden these lights stopped moving on their course, exactly in our path.
I was forced to make a major alteration to port to get safely around all the lights. I had to wake the Captain to ensure we came back onto our designated course - remembering the minefield concern. When we asked questions of knowledgeable mariners on our return we discovered that some fishermen were known to tow long nets and floats between their boats and if they could trap another ship into severing any of their equipment they could sue for full compensation and replacement." (Many thanks to E.F.(Ed) File)
The Tay Division RNVR was given a new drill hall built on the centre wharf of Earl Grey Dock. The sea tenders HMS Circle and HMS Montrose (MMS1077) were moved alongside in October 1952 and on 19th May 1953 the new drill shed was officially opened by the Admiral Commanding Reserves, Vice Admiral A.K. Scott-Moncrieff (later CNC British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve). The new sea tender, HMS Chediston (M1121) arrived at Dundee on Sunday, 12th. December 1954 and embarked on a cruise to Christiansand, Norway in March 1955. On 4th July 1955, M1121 renamed HMS Montrose set a precedent when she escorted Britain's new queen, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, in HM Yacht Britannia, up the River Tay, and this example was later repeated by other Divisions.
|M1121 as HMS Montrose escorting the new Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Yacht, H.M.Yacht Britannia, saluting their Queen in traditional Navy fashion by giving three cheers with caps held aloft. (Officers will say "hurrah" sailors will shout "hooray"!)|
M1121 in Australia
|Paying Off Party - Sydney, 1991|
|Margate Marina, Tasmania, 2012|
HMS Cressy was renamed with her original name - HMS Unicorn, moved from Earl Grey Dock to Victoria Dock and is being restored by the Unicorn Preservation Society.
HMS Unicorn was launched into the River Medway on 30th March 1824, just after the great sea campaign against Napoleon, as part of a programme for re-equipping a battle-weary Royal Navy. The Commissioner of Chatham Dockyard reported to the Navy Board, "I have to acquaint you that His Majesty's Ship Unicorn was launched to day from the 4th slip at this Yard." Unicorn was built as a 46 guns frigate for the Royal Navy under the supervision of Sir Robert Seppings, the Surveyor of the Navy. She had taken two years and almost a thousand oak trees to build, and her hull cost 26,541 pounds, of which a modest 5,630 pounds was charged to labour.
A sailing frigate was a powerful cruising vessel, heavily armed and fast, and Unicorn would have been one of the elite ships of the fleet in her day. But Unicorn's story took an unexpected turn when a roof was built over the hull before she was launched and placed straight into reserve, never to be rigged. Unicorn, on the other hand, is most unusual amongst big ships in having a "home". She spent her entire working life as a training ship, in one port, Dundee, having been there 178 years (as at 2012), and is now firmly embedded in Dundee's social and maritime history.