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Forton Lake Photography Project (Part 2)

FL 3: Motor Minesweeper MMS 293

NGR: 461150 100911 First ID: 1997, Ted Sutton Photographs: 156 (9th December 2007 – 8th February 2009) i.imgur.com_idhjcey.jpg Figure 19 FL3, later identified as the motor minesweeper M293, viewed looking west (July 12, 2008)

Site Assessment: FL3 is the remains of a World War Two Motor Minesweeper, as first identified by Ted Sutton in 1997; research, with past photographs of the wreck, have proved this to be number “293”, of the 105ft class, on the list of minesweepers. FL3 is by far the largest vessel in Forton Lake, measuring 33.46m in length and 6.88m in width. Many features remain which aid identification; for instance the presence of a sweep wire cable drum near the stern (figure 20), a bulkhead (figure 21), and several large metal boxes believed to have been fuel or water tanks (figure 22). The hull is raised in sections, the most notable of these being a large area near the port bow, which is raised above the rest of the vessel in the same fashion as was seen, until 2006, on HW3. Accounting for the non-presence of vast sections of the hull can be in small part decay, but also salvage and arson; MMS293 was frequently the subject of arson attacks until a fire on the vessel was allowed to burn out in 1977.

Access/ Health and Safety Assessment: FL3 lies in sediments of varying depth: at the bow end, mud is shallow, while at the stern much care should be taken. Within the vessel there are many sharp objects and the hazards of tripping and falling are very much present. Appropriate PPE should be worn at all times, and entrance to the vessel taken with great caution.

i.imgur.com_yiklvqd.jpg Figure 20 the sweepwire cable drum aboard FL3; this would previously have been placed on the top deck (S. Oakes, March 1, 2008)

i.imgur.com_wyy6u28.jpg Figure 21 Laminated timber bulkhead amidships (looking NNW; October 25, 2008)

i.imgur.com_0lq7owf.jpg Figure 22 Several metal boxes are present amidships (October 25, 2008)

Several features of the vessel remain in-situ; the cable drum is very useful in identifying MMS293 as only a vessel built for action involving mines would require such an item onboard. Evidence of salvage is gained through visible cuts at various points on the hull (figure 23); these measure up to 15cm in width. At the bow, the stempost’s front face has been reduced, to allow it to receive the hull strakes; in front of this is a false-stem. The stem post and false-stem are much shorter than their original height, having broken off at a scarf joint (see also figure 23). Amidships a large frame is found, elevated to a level above sediments, which is comprised of several large timbers. Atop these timbers are many metal nails; between the frames and the hull are supports, made from diagonal timbers, creating triangular structures (figure 24).

i.imgur.com_39at6al.jpg Figure 23 vertical saw cuts are visible on the hull, while the stem post and false-stem have either been cut short of their original length, or broke off at a scarf joint (March 16, 2008)

Within the vessel a number of metal structures are remain; the foremost of these is a group of four heavily rusted large tanks with associated fittings (figure 22, page 23). Though they remain in what is likely to be their original position, sections of these tanks have eroded; they would probably have been used for water or fuel storage.

i.imgur.com_bam9ylp.jpg Figure 24 The triangular structures shown here would probably have mounted the engines, which have long since been removed (March 1, 2008)

In the stern section is the sweep drum, which is a large metal cylinder with two metal plates at either end (figure 20). The “sweep deck”, on which the drum would originally have been placed, is no longer present; the drum lies in the stern bilges. Little remains of the stern of the vessel, giving the impression that much of FL3 was used for salvage. The rudder is not present and the rudder post has also disappeared; a propeller boss remains beneath the vessel (figure 25).

i.imgur.com_njlxgbw.jpg Figure 25 FL3 viewed from the south shore; note the stern post and the absence of rudder post and rudder (February 2, 2008)

Interpretation: After analysis of the fixtures and fittings of FL3, the vessel was found to represent the remains of a minesweeper. Local photographs indicate that this was minesweeper number 293, and has been hulked in Forton Lake since 1950 (figure 26). In the past it was possible to see the number 293 on the port bow (figure 27); extensive local research has found that minesweeper number 293 was a Motor Mine Sweeper (MMS) of the 105 ft class. This class of warship were built for the war effort in North America under the “Lend Lease” scheme (M. Melvin 1992: page 135). The beam dimension of a 105-class MMS is 6.6m, which is very close to the 6.88m found on FL3.

Collective local research has been successful, identifying the career of MMS293, which was not uncovered until after the NAS and HWTMA joint investigations. Ordered on August 21st, 1942, as part of the batch MMS288 to 306, 293 was launched on January 10th, 1943 and completed on June 3rd of the same year. From notes by a J.J. Colledge, it is known that in 1943 she served at Sheerness with the 132nd Minesweeper Flotilla (MSF); in 1944 was with the Expeditionary Force of the Allied Naval Commander In-Chief with the 147th MSF, and in 1946 was back at Sheerness with the 102nd MSF. In 1947 she was serving at Portsmouth, having been relegated for duty as a Degaussing Vessel (DGV). After final paying-off from service, MMS293 was sold-off locally – presumably to Fred Watts, who owned a large yard in Forton Lake – in November of 1950. It is presumed her hulk has been present at Forton Lake since that time.

i.imgur.com_qv1l8vf.jpg Figure 26 MMS293 in 1951 or 1953, moored at Forton Lake. (Photographer unknown)

There are numerous local accounts of MMS293 having been set alight during the 1950s to the 1970s; this corresponds with evidence of charring found in sections of the vessel. Certainly, as a wreck, she was subject to much salvage between the time when figure 26, above, was taken, and the state of the vessel in the early 1970s, which was markedly worse (figure 27). It appears that the bow section remained intact until the late 1980s; by the 1990s, MMS293 was in almost identical condition to the present day (figure 29).

In the past, an acoustic hammer was present atop the bow (figure 27), however in comparison with the 1950s photograph above, by the early 1970s arson and salvage appeared to have taken their toll. The entire superstructure was no longer present, and sections of the hull were missing; what appears to have been a mast was visible protruding from the starboard side of the vessel. By this time, several beams had been placed adjacent to the vessel to support the hull.

i.imgur.com_7wkhxbh.jpg Figure 27 The bow section of MMS293 viewed in the early 1970s. Note the acoustic hammer at the top of the stem post, the beam supporting the port side, and what appear to be mast remains protruding from the starboard side (photographer unknown)

The number 293 was visible on the port side bow in figure 27; this photograph being uncovered greatly assisted investigation; however the identity of MMS293 was locally known prior to the NAS and HWTMA Project’s initiation. As mentioned, this photograph came to prominence after the joint project; this is the first report to have included such information about the career and history of MMS293, though a short publication by the NAS and HWTMA in 2010 gives some details. Near Priddy’s Hard, on a stretch of coast slightly North of Forton Lake, lie the remains of another Motor Minesweeper, presumed of the same class, which has been identified as MMS113. In the past, much of the structure of 113 was intact, and the interior was photographed (figure 28) which gives a good insight into how MMS293 would have appeared from the inside shortly after being hulked at Forton Lake.

Ted Sutton recorded FL3 during his 1997 survey, taking photographs and concluding that in his view FL3 was a “BYM” class minesweeper (figures 30 to 35); however, this class was an American design and was not launched in England.

i.imgur.com_3ivtq22.jpg Figure 28 MMS113, near Priddy’s Hard, is almost identical to MMS293; here, looking towards the bow from amidships, the structure being substantially complete allows for insight into how MMS293 would also have appeared (photographer unknown; 1955-1959)

i.imgur.com_vkosalj.jpg Figure 29 MMS293, named in the photograph as “FYT293”, in the spring of 1993 (Ian Jeffrey; November 1992-May 1993)

i.imgur.com_zkrbfqk.jpg Figure 30 Ted Sutton’s view of FL3 from the stern (T. Sutton 1997)

i.imgur.com_v6fypzp.jpg Figure 31 FL3 viewed from the water, looking North (T. Sutton 1997)

i.imgur.com_nr2bisp.jpg Figure 32 Starboard hull section; note the remaining deck plank and knees (T. Sutton 1997)

i.imgur.com_higkncj.jpg Figure 33 Bow section of FL3 (T. Sutton 1997)

8776rjp.jp Figure 34 View looking towards the bow, from stern (T. Sutton 1997)

i.imgur.com_quguegn.jpg Figure 35 Port side hull and amidships inside FL3, looking South towards stern (T. Sutton 1997)

From the information gathered, it is possible to draw a timeline for MMS293, in table form:-

Key Dates

	
21.08.42-Ordered as part of a batch, along with MMS288 to MMS306
10.01.43-Launched
03.06.43-Completed
1943-Serving at Sheerness with the 132nd Minesweeper Flotilla
1944-Serving with the Expeditionary Force of the Allied Naval Commander In-Chief, with the 147th Minesweeper Flotilla
1946-Serving at Sheerness with the 102nd Minesweeper Flotilla
1947-50-Serving at Portsmouth, relegated for duty as a Degaussing Vessel
Nov 1950-Final paying-off from service; sold to Fred Watts
1950-Hulked at Forton Lake. Subject to arson attacks from 1950-1970s.
1997-Ted Sutton measures dimensions and completes photographic survey
2006-NAS and HWTMA Project conducts site visit
2007-Further measurements and photographs by NAS and HWTMA
2007-09-Completed photographic survey of Forton Lake
Aug ‘09-Part of FL3 is recorded using the offset method by the current

Forton Lake Archaeology Project

Archaeological Potential: The NAS and HWTMA, with their final words on MMS293, concluded that as little of its history was known, it should be considered of high archaeological potential. As her career has now been uncovered, along with how she came to be in Forton Lake, some of this potential is diminished; however, MMS293 is one of very few 105 ft-class minesweepers still in existence, and therefore until no longer present must be considered of high archaeological potential. In addition, this vessel is the most complete of those on record, and for these reasons it is recommended that FL3 is seen to be of high archaeological potential.

Recommendations: FL3 has been subject to extensive recording by both the NAS & HWTMA Project and the current Archaeology Project. A good photographic record is in place, charting the history of MMS293 back to the 1950s; however the vessel is decaying relatively rapidly. The port bow section which remains is likely to collapse in the coming years; it is recommended that FL3 be monitored for a period of time to track the vessel’s rate of decay. Survey of FL3 should be complete by the end of the 2011 fieldwork season of the current Project; recording of the vessel in another 5 years’ time, or ten depending on how rapidly FL3 deteriorates, is recommended.

FL 4: Unknown Vessel

NGR: 461143 100902 First ID: 1997, Ted Sutton Photographs: 28 (2008-09)

i.imgur.com_q5wiifn.jpg Figure 36 FL4 seen from the North shore (August 22, 2008)

Site Assessment: FL4 is an unknown vessel which is located around 10m to the west of FL3 (figure 36). Located in deep sediments, there is little that remains of FL4; a small section of hull is present, as are several metal components, one of which resembles a chimney, and a large skylight near what has been identified as the bow end. It is likely that the section near the bow which is raised slightly above the sediments is indeed the lower part of the bow section; a metal sheet is present amidships while mooring gear remains near the stern. FL4 has deteriorated extremely rapidly compared with other vessels in Forton Lake; a photograph from 1986 shows the bow facing south-east, and in 1993 the entire starboard hull was still present (figure 29). By this point, however, the bow had disappeared, though a large section of the starboard hull remained in 1997 (figure 37). How the vessel came to decay at such a fast rate is unknown.

Figure 37 To the left of this shot are FL3 and FL4. Note the relatively intact nature of FL4’s starboard hull (B. Shimmon, August 1997)

Access/ Health and Safety Assessment: FL4 lies in very deep sediments; access was impossible when attempted by the NAS and HWTMA in 2006. As a result, during the photographic survey of 2007 to 2009, no access to FL4 was attempted. Sediments in the area are extremely hazardous. FL4 itself does not pose any risk, due to the access issues. If accessed via boat, care should be taken that the hulk is not damaged by contact with another vessel; the remains are considered fragile, and liable to further decay.

Interpretation: This hulk is not on any record bar that of the NAS, HWTMA and the current Project. Its career and history are unknown, and research has been unable to provide further details. It is assumed that this vessel was associated in some way with FL3 or with the Second World War, as the two were moored here at around the same time. By looking at a photograph from 1993 (figure 29), its remaining structure appears similar – but not conclusively similar – to that of FL1. The sternpost is still present as of 2011, as is a section of starboard hull towards the stern, but the vessel’s type has been unrecognisable for at least fourteen years. There are few indications as to the past function of FL4; however the presence of a metal box resembling a chimney suggests that it may have been a steam-powered vessel. FL4 was likely a part of Fred Watts’ scrap yard after having been involved in the Second World War in the 1940s; it may be that this particular vessel – if, indeed, it was powered by steam - was present before the advent of the First World War. FL3 was built for use in the Second War, and was powered by engines; steam was in much more common use prior to this, as shown by the presence of pinnaces FL7 and FL24 – while FL7 was powered by a steam boiler which is still present, FL24, a more modern Pinnace, was not. The type of vessel FL4 was remains unknown; the absence of a name or number, even in past photographs, hinders investigation somewhat. From the evidence gathered, it can be assumed that this vessel was powered by steam, and was built prior to the advent of World War Two.

Archaeological Potential: Very little of FL4 remains; however as its type and history are unknown. If it was involved with either World War, FL4 may have had a large part to play in local history; as such, until details of the history and career of FL4, and its type, are known, this vessel can be considered to be of high archaeological potential.

Recommendations: Though research has already taken place, it may be worth consulting local residents to inquire about the history of FL4; this may reveal details of the vessel’s role, if any, in local history. Access is impossible on foot, and survey cannot be completed by the offset method while in a boat; however the rate of decay of FL4 is very rapid. Therefore it is recommended that further research be undertaken, and photographs be taken of FL4 over the coming years in order to monitor its decay further and provide a record for future reference.

History


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