Print this pageAdd to Favorite


Last updated 20-9-2012
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.



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.