The Clifton

The Clifton was a 242 ton Steam fishing trawler, 126ft in length. Built in 1906 by Cochrane and Sons, in Selby, she was registered to T.C.and F. Moss in Grimsby. After a career fishing the North Sea she was taken into service by the British Admiralty in 1915 and sent to Queenstown, now Cobh, in Cork Harbour, Ireland. Her new designation was AT No.954

The Clifton was one of the massive fleet of steam trawlers and drifters taken into the service of the Royal Navy during World War One. The navy had found itself totally unprepared for the menace of the submarine, and was especially short of minesweeping vessels. The North Sea trawler was one of the most successful types of requisitioned vessel. They were well-built steamships, well able to handle the weather of the coasts of Ireland, and were economical in coal consumption.
Armed Trawler John Cormack similar in
appearence to the Clifton
 

When these vessels were requisitioned, the crew in their entirety usually stayed with their vessel, joining the Royal Naval Reserve Trawler Section. The Master of the trawler was given a newly formed rank, that of "Skipper RNR" and there was usually another regular RNR officer put on board to ensure navy rules and regulations were followed.

The duties of the Clifton involved patrolling the south and south-east coasts of Ireland lookng for enemy submarines, and minesweeping in conjunction with other trawlers around Cork Harbour.


Chart showing the enormous patrol area covered by Queenstown Auxillary Patrol

The rescuing of shipwrecked mariners was also a priority and on the 16th of February 1917 the Clifton had rescued the crew of the SS Inver lost off the Tuskar Rock in collision with the SS Potomac. She was armed with a 6lb Hotchkiss deck gun, two type 'C' depth charges and a new anti-submarine weapon- the 7.5 inch howitzer, this was an attempt at a 'sub killer' gun which would lob a large projectile at the deck of a submarine. This shell, fitted with a delayed reaction fuze was to then explode. There is no record however of any submarine being sunk by this type of weapon.


On the 15th of February 1917 HMS Goshawk, an Acheron Class destroyer, spotted a mine at the entrance to Cork Harbour, indicating that a new minefield had been laid in the frequently swept channel. This mine was one of 10 that had been laid by the German U-boat UC-33 on February 12th 1917.

The crew of HMS Goshawk attempted to destroy the mine with rifle fire. This was one of the most effective ways of exploding a floating mine at that time.The attempts failed however and the signal was given to send out the minesweepers.

The crew of a minesweeper attempt
to explode a German mine
 

The Clifton was one of the minesweepers ordered out and was sweeping at the harbour entrance when there was a massive explosion and the ship disappeared in seconds. She had struck one of the very mines being swept and with no watertight compartments and cemented bulkheads she would have sunk very quickly.

There was only one survivor, Sub-Lieutenant James G. Clemens, RNR who was pulled from the water unconcious . The body of the Skipper, Edward Garrod of Lowestoft was recovered later. He is buried in Lowestoft (Beccles Road) Cemetary in Suffolk.(ref M.Manson)

 

Clifton anchor on wreck
Fuze of 7.5 inch Howitzer shell
Trunnion (mounting pivot) of 3lb Hotchkiss deck gun

 

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Page last updated 10th January 2007