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THE DOWNS PATROL

 (EXAMINATION SERVICE)

On the outbreak of WW2 several Watkins tugs, amongst others, were taken up by the Government for duty with the Downs Patrol, or the examination service as it was also known. The vessels were based at Dover or Ramsgate and patrolled the Dover Strait stopping, examining and routing other vessels. The Watkins tugs concerned initially were Java, Kenia, Fabia and Vincia. Java and Vincia had carried out these same duties during WW1. These duties may appear mundane but they had their more exciting and interesting moments as the following photographs show. The photo's and stories appear by kind permission of Colin Gardner, whose father Alf served as a deckhand on Vincia at the time and took the photographs with a box camera and also fortunately committed his memories of those days to paper.
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This picture shows Vincia towing the  Dutch motor tanker Phobos, which had struck a mine 5 miles East of the N. Goodwin Lightvessel on 20-3-1940.  Built in 1926 by Nederlande Schps. Maats for Nederlande Indische Tankstoomboot Maats and powered by a six cylinder Werkspoor diesel engine,  the 7,412grt  tanker obviously had further adventures as Lloyds Register for 1942 comments that surveys were overdue as she was in a port under enemy occupation. The tanker had actually been seized by the Germans at Rotterdam in May 1940. She sailed until 29-12-1944 as the German Thann before being mined in posn 54.41N 12.35E. off the coast of northern Germany.
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Vincia after running hard aground in fog at Joss Bay, Broadstairs. The previous day she had apparently towed a magnetic float into Ramsgate and it had badly affected her compass. A gang of miners, presumably from the nearby Kent coalfields, were apparently sent to dig out a channel so that she could be refloated.
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Three disconsolate German airmen,  with a punctured rubber dinghy, from a ditched Heinkel bomber who were rescued from the English Channel by Vincia.
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Alf Gardner seen looking out of Vincia's wheelhouse.
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A German seaplane that had been forced down near the Goodwin Sands and was towed ashore by Vincia.
 
Research by this site came up with the following info:-
 At 20.00 hours on Tuesday July 9th 1940 a Heinkel HE59B-2 search and rescue seaplane D-ASUO of Seenotflug.Kdo.1 was forced down near the South Goodwin Lightvessel by a Spitfire of 54 squadron RAF flown by Pilot Officer J. L. Allen. The German airmen Fw. G. Maywald, Uffz. H. Bartmann, Uffz. W. Anders, and Uffz. E. Schiele were captured and taken on board Vincia, which then took the damaged seaplane in tow and made for Ramsgate. When shallow water was reached the tow was handed over to the Walmer lifeboat and the seaplane was subsequently beached.  The seaplane was believed to be searching for the crews of five other German aircraft missing in the same area that day.  It had been suspected for some time that this type of aircraft had also been patrolling the English coast looking for possible invasion landing beaches, and only a few days later Churchill's war Cabinet authorised their shooting down, claiming that they were not in fact protected by the Geneva Convention. Perhaps a strange decision, as they carried Red Cross markings and rescued ditched British pilots as well.
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The injured German pilot of the above seaplane being questioned on Vincia's deck. He gave Alf Gardner his binoculars as a gift for attending to his wounds and they are still in Colin Gardners possession to this day.
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A Channel convoy under attack off Deal, photographed from Vincia.
 
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SOME MORE PHOTOS, FROM A DIFFERENT SOURCE, OF THE SEAPLANE INCIDENT.
 
Photos from Thorunn Green collection.
 
 
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