Last updated 3-9-2013
There does not seem to be a lot of detailed information about the tasks undertaken by tugs during World War One. However the log below setting out the number of tasks undertaken by three rescue tugs during that conflict illustrates yet again that the humble tug was often on the fringe of great and important events. I have published below a copy of the original logs as received and below that have retyped the information making it easier to read and also have expanded and added notes where I have been able to discover more information or make slight corrections to spellings etc. If any visitor can add or amend any information please contact this site via the 'contact or enquiry' button in the top menu. Of particular interest would be any information regarding the career of Thomas William Boulter before or after World War One when it is believed he was a tug skipper on the Thames and/or some form of harbour master. His home address in 1917 was given as ; Milford, London Road, Greenhithe, Kent.


Lt Thomas W Boulter RNVR commanded the rescue tugs Labour, Vaunter and Hercules during World War One when he was stationed with the Northern Patrol at Scapa Flow and at East Coast bases.  He had been a tug captain on the Thames before and after the war.  These extracts from his logs have kindly been supplied by his Great Grandson Chris Boulter who resides in America.

List of ships salved and assisted in salving during the war while in command of H M Rescue Tugs Labour, Vaunter and Hercules.

American oil tank steamer  ashore on Reef Dyke North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Towed same off after two days and took same to Kirkwall. No claim made.

HMS Carnation [Azalea class sloop 1200dwt/1915] Bows blown away by mine off Orkneys. 31-3-1917. Assisted HMS Lupin [Arabis class sloop 1250dwt/1915] to tow same to Kirkwall. 5 killed in explosion.
HM patrol yacht Conqueror [II] ashore on Auskerry Island,  Orkneys, towed same off and towed to Dundee for repairs.
Went to the assistance of HMS Malayan and HMS Barham during Jutland battle [May 1916] found Malayan with heavy list to starboard, escorted same to Scapa Flow. Put motor pumps on board and pumped same out.
HMS Conquest [light cruiser] mined off Shipwash assisted HMS Curacao to tow same to Sheerness.
HMS Sturgeon [R class destroyer, built 1917] in distress 23 miles SE Pentland Skerries towed same to Kirkwall in strong SE gale.
Trawler Eros of Hull [286grt/1907] lost propeller and rudder off black diamond fishing grounds loaded with fish and cod oil. [16-12-1916. Service by Hercules.] Towed her to Kirkwall. Awarded £300 salvage by Admiralty.  [Eros later mined 5th September 1917 off Felixstowe]
Dutch steamer Wieringen ashore on McArthur Reef. Deer Sound, Orkneys. Towed same off and piloted to Kirkwall. Awarded £2000 by Admiralty. [This service carried out by Hercules in November 1916.]
Belgian Steamer Emanuel Nobel on fire 23 miles E of Orford Ness. [21-1/1-2-1919. Service by Vaunter.] Put fire out and towed same to London in four days. Awarded £3000 by Admiralty court.
Swedish steamer Hemland ashore off Shrapinsay Island, towed same off after three days. [Service by Labour between November 9th and 15th 1917.] Awarded £2000 by Admiralty court.
C25 submarine damaged by enemy planes off Orford Ness. Towed same to Harwich. 6 killed, 11 survivors.
Swedish steamer  Scandinavic ashore off Noup Head, towed same off but afterwards torpedoed. Saved crew and personal effects and took to Kirkwall.
American oil tank steamer Norman Bridge. [4289grt/1913]. Towed same off Beach End shoal after two days towing.
HMS Fiona [Armed Boarding Steamer] ashore on Pentland Skerries. [6-9-1917] Towed on same 2 days. Ship broke in two. Six men drowned during salvage operations.
Ordered to assistance of HM ABS Montague in Distress, West Shetland. Escorted same to Busta Voe and stood by vessel during salvage operations.
HMS Cassandra [C class light cruiser. 4190/1917] ashore off Fair Isle [15-8-1917]. Towed same to Newcastle for repairs.
SS Glasgow [1068grt 1894] ashore on New Shipwash. Towed same off and took clear of minefield. Awarded £2000 in Admiralty court. [Service carried out by Vaunter 21-9-1918.]
Trawler Pomona [161grt/1899 Hull Fishing and Ice Co. Req by Admiralty 1914-1918] ashore on Sizewell Banks. Towed same off and towed to Hull for repairs.
 Preston collier Edward Greenwood [Originally a hopper dredger, 1142grt/1915]  ashore SW end of Shipwash Sands. Towed same off after great difficulty owing to heavy broken sea.
Ordered to the assistance of HMS Hampshire [light cruiser]  mined off Bursay Island, West Orkneys in very heavy weather. [5-6-1916] Ship had foundered. Eleven survivors and one boat. [About 650 lives were lost] Recovered and placed boat on coasting steamer Helmsman which was afterwards taken to Portsmouth. [A passenger lost aboard HMS Hampshire was War Minister Lord Kitchener who had boarded the vessel en route to Archangel,  Russia as head of a Military mission to stiffen Russian resolve. Between 19.45 and 20.00 HMS Hampshire hit the mine and sank in fifteen minutes.]
HMS Albacore [ B class destroyer 440/1906] mined in Inganess Bay, Orkneys. Towed same to Dundee for repairs.
Towed lightships from Harwich and placed 76 miles NE Kinnaird head for marking Northern minefield for American minesweepers. On returning to my base, Harwich, I ran into SE gale and had great difficulty reaching Peterhead where I arrived on November 26th. With engine room and cabin flooded. After repairs were made good I proceeded to Harwich where I was taken ill and invalided out of the service. I received great praise for my services by the Lords of the Admiralty and was allowed to retain my commission as Lieutenant RNR.
A litle post-script adding to HMS Labour history kindy sent by Mike Baxter
I found your information most useful while researching my grandfathers WWI diary. He notes that on 16 October 1918 they (U.S. Tanker Caloria) were torpedoed by U-123 and ran aground at Melvich Bay. They were then rescued by H.M.S. Labour and another tug. The Calorias' ballast tanks were pumped full of air and then she was towed to Scapa Flow where an English tanker took on what was left of the Calorias oil. H.M.S. Labour then towed them to Peterhead, Scotland which was not their destination, but had to seek refuge there from a German sub. I believe they travelled as far as the river Tyne, but there is no more mention of the tug and all crews were then transferred to Liverpool, I'm guessing, by train. I saw no mention of this in the ship log for the Labour, so I thought someone might be interested.

Thank you for your fine website,

Mike Baxter



Built 1899 by J.P. Rennoldson & Son Ltd., South Shields. YN199. Iron Screw Tug. L106.8'. B21.1'. D11.2'. 179 GRT 4 NRT. 750ihp 103nhp 3cylTE 15.5"x25"x41" 27" stroke by builder. Official No 129025. Call sign HPWF later MDBT.

12-1899 Delivered to Abeille Towage & Salvage, Le Havre, named Abeille No 10. 7-1909 Acquired by  Elliott Steam Tug Co., London, renamed Vanquisher. 2-12-1913 Towed Leon Blum, laden with nitrates, Falmouth to Liverpool for £65. 30-7-1914 Lying off Ventnor when ordered to proceed to Sheerness to be requisitioned  by RN. Shortly after moved to Harwich. 6-2-1915 Refloated tanker Broadmayne aground off Harwich. 8-3-1915 Renamed Vaunter, serving Harwich. 8-1915 Involved in salvage of mined Bretwalda in Thames Estuary. 11-1917 Renamed Vanquisher II. 11-1919 Returned to owners, Renamed Vanquisher II. 28-11-1923 Together with Warrior towing Vernon II [ex wooden HMS Marlborough 1855] Plymouth to Heybridge Basin. Near Owers LV the tow began to leak badly and eventually capsized and sank with loss of four of the seven runner crew. 2-7-1926 Drydocked at Nelson Dry Dock, Rotherhithe. 1929 Renamed Vanquisher. 10-2-1929 Fouled prop cleared by PLA diver at Gravesend. 13-6-1931 23.15 Collided with and badly damaged PLA launch Sharebourne off South Metropolitan Gas Wharf, Greenwich. 1936-1939 Laid up in Thames. 9-1941 Arrived at  T. W. Ward Ltd, Grays Essex, for scrapping.


Built 1915 by Ritchie, Graham & Milne, Glasgow. YN 341. 300 GRT. 130.1'x26.1'x12.9'. 1299ihp 2x T3cyl by Campbell & Calderwood. Twin screw.

         1915 Built for the Crown Agents for the Mauritius Government, but taken over by the  Admiralty on completion as LABOURDONNAIS. 1-3-1916 Acquired for Admiralty service at Scapa Flow. 14-3-1916 Commissioned as W 48 renamed LABOUR. 13-9-1919 Decommissioned. 1920 Transferred to the Crown Agents for the Colonies, for the Mauritius Government, renamed LABOURDONNAIS. 26-5-1924 Wrecked on reef off Flat Island, Mauritius.



Built 1885 by Napier, Shanks & Bell Ltd., Yoker, Glasgow. YN 30. 197 GRT, 3 NRT. 126.6'(125.0')x21.6'x11.2'. 700ihp , 2x C2cyl by Rankin & Blackmore Ltd., Greenock. Twin screw. ON 90028

21-3-1885 Launched. 1885 Delivered to George J. Kidston & James Cuthbert, Glasgow, named HERCULES. 1893 Transferred to Clyde Shipping Co Ltd., Glasgow. 1899 Sold to James Waterson, Belfast. 1900 Sold to Harland & Wolff Ltd., Belfast. 13-3-1915 Hired by  Admiralty for service at Scapa Flow, renamed HERACLES. 10-4-1919 Returned to owners, renamed HERCULES. 1919 Sold to Ocean Transport Co Ltd., Glasgow. 1929 Sold to Harland & Wolff Ltd., Belfast. 1933 Scrapped by Smith & Houston Ltd., Port Glasgow.
This is fairly self-explanatory. For Vanquisher read Vaunter. HMS Imperieuse was a receiving ship at Scapa Flow. Sunhill was a receiving/accomodation vessel for merchant marine personnel at Portsmouth.





Extract from the log of Watkins ARCADIA during her attachment to Milford Haven to Portsmouth convoy WP183 7-9 July 1942.
An attack on the 19 ship convoy by German E-boats in the  English Channel resulted in the loss of 7 ships totalling 11,500 tons and the deaths of fifty seamen.
Some of the ships names have been slightly mispelt which is hardly surprising under the circumstances. Log courtesy of Keven Haydon.



Extract from log of VINCIA December 1933. Courtesy K Haydon.

Extract from log of VINCIA August 1935. Courtesy K Haydon



A Hero of the Thames Tugs in World War One was Captain Harry Jewiss. During the first world war S.T. Danube II, the tug of which he was master was handed over to the Admiralty and in 1916 he was commissioned with the rank of Lieutenant and remained in command of the tug until the vessel was handed back to the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging  Company at Immingham in 1920. The following episode, one of many, was committed to writing by Captain Jewiss.
“On September 16th 1917 I left Falmouth with a four masted sailing ship, the Hinemoa, in tow and the following morning at 06.00 en route for the Scilly Isles I was called up by one of my gunners who reported that there was a submarine following us. I thereupon went on the bridge and saw the submarine which was keeping on our starboard quarter, maintaining this position until about 07.30, when she opened fire on us, but by this time she had come within range of our gun. I gave orders to fire and at the same time sent a wireless message to Falmouth. Our first shot hit the submarine in the forepart and the second shot hit her in the conning tower. I am quite certain the submarine was thereby destroyed. About two hours afterwards another submarine hove in sight and as soon as she saw us commenced shelling to which we appropriately replied. This went on for a considerable time, when unfortunately something went wrong with our gun, so I decided to slip the ship we had in tow and get under her lee and try to ram the submarine. This was far from easy as she continued to shell us so I got alongside the Hinemoa, took the captain and crew of 25 on board and made a run for it, and went off south for two hours, with the submarine shelling us all the time. After about nine hours I landed the whole crew of the Hinemoa safely at Falmouth, to the surprise of the Admiralty officers who had duly received my wireless message”.
During his war service Captain Jewiss found himself in the Dardanelles, the Persian Gulf, Malta, North Atlantic, the coast of Ireland etc., a record of which he may well be proud. Since 1920 Captain Jewiss has been Master of many of the TC&D craft.  Captain Jewiss was presented with a clock by Lord Southborough, Chairman of TC&D upon his retirement ‘ respected, admired and beloved by all’.
Harry Jewiss had previously been a master for Etheredge, Elliott and Empire Towing.
The above report transposed from a document supplied by Kevin Haydon.
Note; The Hinemoa, a fourmasted steel barque of 2283grt was built in 1890 by Russell and Company of Greenock, for Shaw Saville and Albion Ltd, and was reputedly the only sailing vessel fitted with refrigeration machinery, allowing her to carry over 20,000 lamb carcasses from Australia to Europe. She was sunk by gunfire from UC16 [Capt Georg Reimarus] 35 miles WSW of Bishops Rock and at the time of her loss owned by J G P Murphy of Liverpool and commencing a voyage from Falmouth to New York in ballast.  Most sources give the date as 7th September 1917.


This log made available by Bill Shepherd.


 Gondia Logs Courtesy Keith Toms/ Kevin Haydon and copyright to them.

VIKING Photo Allan Green / Kevin Haydon colln

The Viking was an Erikson ship in 1933.  She must have been an impresive sight even though the author of the log manages to contain his emotion.  I think the Viking made her last call to the Thames in 1947 after a voyage from Australia and is now a museum ship. The days when sailing ships filled anchorages, as far as the eye could see, around the coast were long gone. - Kevin Haydon
What may be slightly surprising here is that Watkins were still going down Channel seeking in 1933. - Pete


16th March 1934


20th March 1934
Courtesy K Toms/K Haydon.
Doonie Hoiles, mate in charge, was master of the Vincia in WW2. Presumably Captain Keable was attending a salvage case at the law courts.
Othe than crew members name checks are unusual, but there are some in this log.  Frank Box was a pilot for Blue Star. He was mate of the Britannia when she was sunk in 1909.
Harry Smith the pilot had been captain of the pt Conqueror of 1897 in his younger days.  Albert Card senior was a waterman and dock pilot.  Both were on the Ocean Cock when she sank in 1938.  Smith survived.  Card was drowned. - Kevin Haydon.


16th January 1935


20th June 1939


August 1939


September 1939
June 39 Aug and Sep 39
Things continued as normal in summer.  Looking back one sees the San Demetrio at Shellhaven and realise that many of the boys on Worcester and Conway would shortly be going to war rather than to sea. - Kevin Haydon.


28th/28th December 1939
Dec 39
What the lord giveth with one hand on 28th he takes away on 29th. - Kevin Haydon.


20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd May 1940
'Off to Boulogne'
While german infantry and artillery were pushing into Boulogne from one direction, tanks followed the coast road and appeared in the town at various places. They certainly caught the attention of my father, but Captain Pratt does not mention them.  The shrapnel that fell on the Gondia (nuts and bolts) caused no damage and the tug made off with no casualties.  Elsewhere HMS destoyers forming "Buttercup Force" were heavily engaged and suffered damage and casualties. - Kevin Haydon


4th September 1940 [at Milford Haven]
German bombers started  fires at the oil storage tanks near the Carr Jetty Milford that burnt from 19th August to 6th Sept.1940.
For much of this time the Gondia was pumping water from the river into the storage tanks ashore. Thousands of incendiary devices and bombs were dropped in the Gravesend area by bombers returning from aborted missions to London, but for some reason they do not seem to have made a determined attempt on the oil storage tanks at Purfleet, Canvey Island and Thames Haven.
The log entry for 4th November 1940 reads "First night for weeks that no 'planes have been over England". Kevin Haydon



Jan/Feb 1946
LURAY VICTORY aground on Goodwin Sands. Photo K Haydon colln
There were lots of ways to have accidents in the old days and lots of things to have accidents with.
My father's employment on the Empire Stella having come to an abrupt end at the beginning of Jan 1946, at the end of the month he found himself back on the Dongara (as the Persia, captain Harold Russell). The tug had been so busy no catering was possible and the crew were almost out of food, so when they were told to go to Gravesend for orders they were hoping to hear "tie up time off".  Instead they went chasing after the Atlantic Cock (captain E Mastin) with half a loaf that captain Russell had grabbed from home on his way back to the tug.  The salvage attempt involved bouncing on the sand while attached to the Luray Victory then making a dash for Ramsgate when the weather worsened, The crew were not too sad when the Salvage Master told them the salvage was abandoned, though they would rather have waited in Ramsgate for the wind to ease than make an immediate return to the Thames. - Kevin Haydon.


January 1952
Courtesy Keith Toms/Kevin Haydon