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1914 - 1918

Well over 400 tugs were requisitioned during the First World War by various branches of the British armed services, some for just a short while, others for the duration of the war. This led to an acute shortage of suitable tugs in some areas, especially the Thames, where tugs from other rivers were chartered in to help out. 319 British requisitioned tugs served with the Royal navy, 28 with the Army and the Navy, and 30 with the Army. A further 49 tugs were hired from overseas, including the USA. Thames based tugs would be found serving at Gallipoli, the Dardanelles, off Palestine, off West Africa, the White Sea and in Russian waters.
Document very kindly sent to me by Harold Russell.

1939 - 1945

   Many of the tugs featured in these pages served throughout World War Two. Sadly some, along with their crews, did not survive. Some of the vessels mentioned in these pages were not River Thames Tugs during WWII but are included out of interest and for the sake of completeness, as in the Dunkirk operation. Some of the tugs saw out the war years in familiar waters, but still faced many day to day dangers working on the Thames throughout the London Blitz.
   After Dunkirk especially, many of the larger tugs were dispersed widely, some going to major convoy ports like Liverpool and Glasgow, others based as far  away as Iceland, or working as rescue tugs. In May 1943 there were 43 rescue tugs based in UK ports, one in Iceland, one in the Azores, one at St. Johns, Newfoundland, two at Bermuda , two at Freetown, twentythree in the Mediterranean, one each at Durban, Kilindini, Aden and Bombay, two in Ceylon, and three in Australia.  It is hoped that these pages will help to illustrate the many varied and dangerous tasks undertaken by the tugs and serve as a reminder of the  vessels and crews that did not return.


Photo taken from Security, whilst escorting the first Southend to Methil convoy of the war, 24th November 1939. Security escorted the northbound convoys as far as Yarmouth Roads, where she then joined a southbound convoy. Photo from C T Phillips collection.
Photograph taken aboard Security whilst awaiting arrival of Southbound convoy in Yarmouth Roads, December 1939. Photo from C T Phillips collection.
Cyril Phillips (left), L. Baines (centre), and D/O Wilkinson (right), sorting through boxes of cheeses recovered from the sea after the ship carrying them had been mined. Photo believed to be taken aboard Security and again from the C T Phillips collection.
The caption on the back of this picture from the STL collection reads, 'jerry drops one a bit nearer to the Doria'.
Stern view of Vincia towing mined Dutch tanker Phobos. For story go to Downs Patrol page. Photo STL colln.
Harold Russell, mate, Kenia WW2. Photo Harold Russell Jnr.
[I would imagine the brave soul who manned this Lewis gun in action felt quite vulnerable, both from incoming enemy fire and also from the hawser if she was towing.]
The crew of Challenge at Gravesend, on return from the Dunkirk operation, Tuesday June 4th 1940. Centre Cyril Sedge, Ch/Eng. Mick Wenban Snr second from right in trilby hat. Photo Mick Wenban Jnr.