2,175 NOT OUT


A British minesweeper unit racked up an impressive score thanks to a combination of guts, daring and new, modern ships. Nick Stanley delves into the story of a tally unsurpassed in Royal Navy history

An Algerineclass minesweeper completes a tight turn at speed. Consistent pace was a requirement for fleet work
IWM A 25524

It was not new technology, but by 1914 it now posed a major concern: the naval mine threatened to close Britain’s ports and constrict its sea trade routes.

The Royal Navy and Admiralty responded, and the Senior Service ended World War One with 726 minesweepers operating in home waters alone. However, despite a known and increasing mine threat, it began the next war with slightly more than 50 – and just over half were ‘fleet sweepers’ manned by regular naval crews.

Fleet sweepers were expected to operate in potentially hostile waters and ahead of heavier naval forces such as the Home, Mediterranean and Eastern Fleets. They needed higher speed, longer endurance, better defensive armament and the ability to conduct anti-submarine escort duties. It was a raft of demanding requirements beyond the role envisaged for newly built auxiliary craft such as the Motor Minesweepers (MMS) and British Yard Minesweepers (BYMS) that would enter service from 1941. They were also capabilities far in excess of what the hardworking paddle steamers, trawlers and drifters – requisitioned in their hundreds – could deliver.

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