TCA 25th Anniversary Books

Jacks of All Trades [138 pages] has an introduction to the TON Class and lists the operational history of each of the 97 TONs that served in the Royal Navy, with a photograph of each ship, plus a summary of the 37 TONs that were transferred to other navies and an analysis of the life of the class.

Jacks of all Trades is published by TCA and is obtainable from Laurie Johnson, TCA Stores Officer for £11.50 inc P&P.

Phone: 023 923 65729

The companion volume Last of the Wooden Walls [160 pages]. recounts the rationale for the non-magnetic coastal minesweeper, with details of construction, equipment and mine countermeasures systems employed, together with descriptions of the campaigns in which the ships were deployed, their support ships and establishments, plus the role of TONs with the Royal Naval Reserve and the eight other navies that operated them.

Last of the Wooden Walls is published by Halsgrove Publications, Somerset in hardback and electronic format and may be ordered from at £24.99.

Life in the TONs

The TON Class Association has produced this book to mark its 30th Anniversary.

Life in the TONs is a companion volume to the two books produced for their 25th Anniversary, Jacks of All Trades and Last of the Wooden Walls. This trilogy completes the definitive history of the TON Class of Mine Countermeasures vessels. The format is a compilation of dits and photographs of time spent serving in home waters and overseas in TON class vessels that were Britain’s front line of defence against the sea mine during most of 1950’s – 90’s.

The project was originally conceived by the late TCA member Stan Hudson who, with the encouragement of Captain Jeremy Stewart RN, then Director of TCA’s Historical Group, and Bob Dean, TCA Archivist and Webmaster, assiduously collected stories from members of all ranks and specialisations.

Stan’s material has been augmented by entries from the Facebook page Tonclassmcmvs, TCA’s website, and photographs from TCA’s Archives.

The stories, told in the sailors’ own words,  relate their experiences and sentiments in a variety of themes including Work Routine, Food, Rig of the Day, Accidents and Emergencies, Runs Ashore, Action Stations, Mine Hunting, Sports and Off Watch,  Family Life etc. The inclusion of the views of some TCA Wives might be seen as a bold innovation for the traditional genre of “mariners" memoirs.

The book also includes what is believed to be the first detailed description in the public domain of Operation Harling – the investigation of mysterious explosions and sinkings in the Red Sea in 1984 which resulted in the discovery and recovery of a previously unknown type of mine and some pointers to the not-so-innocent merchant ship which may have laid them.

Comprising 165 A4 pages in a softback cover, with 77 illustrations, 30 of which are in colour, and a Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales, TCA’s Patron, the book is intended as a tribute to all who served in TON Class vessels. It is a light hearted view of a lifestyle that was cramped, uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous. Nonetheless TONs were the favourite ship of many who served in them.

Life in the TONs (ISBN 978-0-9570588-2-8) is currently out of print but may be avilable from booksellers, particularly Ships in Focus.   Price £11.50 inc Post and Packing.

TCA Monographs

From time to time TCA publishes longer memoirs from members that may have wide appeal.

The publications range frorm 24 to 60 pages and are priced at £6.50 each.  The preferred method of delivery is by e-mail of an electronic file in pdf format.

This format can be read on laptops and most portable devices such as IPads and tablets, although the monographs are not (yet) optimised for Kindle.

They can be ordered by e-mail to TCA Hon Sec  with payment by cheque made out to TCA.

Minesweeping Operations in Operation Musketeer, Suez 1956

By Peter Kauffman and Captain Jeremy Stewart

The deployment of TON Class Minesweepers on Operation Musketeer, the Suez Campaign of 1956, was not only the first time that these vessels had engaged in a hostile environment but it remains the largest assembly of these ships in one operation.

The various works of reference about the Suez campaign devote relatively little space to the MCM aspects of the operation, possibly because no mines were found or exploded. Planning for the operation had to take into account that Egypt’s armoury included sea mines, both ”left over” British and recently-supplied Russian weapons and that her coastal defences included attack swimmers, trained to a high standard by the RN. Thanks to political manoeuvring, Egypt had adequate notice that invasion was imminent and had time to prepare her defences accordingly.

This monograph draws on planning documents, reports of proceedings, ships’ logs and reminiscences of officers and men who took part in the operation, making it a comprehensive and authoritative account of a defining moment in Britain’s post-war history.

Minesweeping in the Falklands Campaign 1982

By Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway, Senior Officer 11 MCMS

Lt Cdr Holloway commanded a hurriedly-formed unit of trawlers taken up from trade and converted to operate the Extra Deep Armed Team Sweep by members of the Royal Naval Reserve, as the ageing TONs were judged incapable of making the long voyage to the Falklands without an excessive amount of repair and maintenance in the face of the oncoming Southern Hemisphere winter.

This memoir includes anecdotes from all phases of the operation: planning, workup and execution, together with examples of ingenuity which overcame logistic and operational challenges. On arrival in the Falklands, their duties included transporting troops and support of covert operations before engaging with their primary role of minesweeping the approaches to Port Stanley, where they swept 25 mines of a previously unknown type. The monograph includes an account of rendering safe /de-fusing of one of these mines by Lt Bernie Bruen DSC of Fleet Clearance Diving Team 3.

A Droggie Goes to War

By Lt Cdr Chris Todhunter

When HMS Endurance sailed from the Falklands to deal with the incursion of Argentine scrap metal merchants , Lt Todhunter and his survey party of eleven sailors were left behind in Port Stanley to finish off their current surveying tasks and preparing initial drafts of revisions to  charts. Then Argentine forces invaded and they were caught up in the defence of Government House ! Following the order of the Governor to cease fire to prevent further loss of life, the sailors were captured and subsequently repatriated to Britain via Montevideo. They returned to the islands in HMS Antrim and participated in the reclamation of the islands. A remarkable experience and one greatly at odds with the usually measured and scientific life of Hydrographers!

Boy on a Battleship

Chief Diver Anthony (Spike) Wheeler

As a Boy Seaman aged 17, freshly “graduated” from GANGES, Spike joined his first ship, the battleship HMS Duke of York, in time for her annual Autumn Cruise in 1948, visiting the Carribbean and USA – heady excitement for a teenager.  Unusually for a young sailor, Spike kept a diary of his experiences and adventures; the rigid daily routine in a capital ship with an Admiral and staff embarked, full calibre shoot by the 16 inch guns of the main armament, his group of Boy Seamen manning the 5.25 inch guns of the secondary armament, runs ashore in exotic ports and an introduction to local rum and local girls, comparison of living conditions ashore and the wonders of the US Navy PX, after the privations of wartime rationing.

Spike’s journal is a unique account of a Navy that is long gone and societies which have changed immeasurably. It is of value for the Social Historian as well as the Navy Buff!