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  1. #1
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    Default Merchant Navy - Thread

    Hi all,

    I'm researching my late father's time in the British Merchant Navy and a couple of quirky elements have emerged and I wanted to run them past others to disentangle some of the findings.

    My father worked in the John Brown shipyards during the war as an apprentice electrician ('Reserved Occupation', I believe it was called - men who were in Reserved Occupations could not enlist in the forces whatsoever).

    I am fairly sure that despite the Reserved Occupation regulations that the nature and reality of war meant that exceptions were made, particularly with regard to the Merchant Navy in the years where the U-Boats were on top.

    He ended up on a Merchant vessel Glenstrae (Dolius) sometime between 1941 and at least 1946. We have photographs of him on this ship with a broken leg in a cast and a couple of other photographs that show him in uniform.

    I've looked through the National Archive and found only bits of his records including his Seaman's Identity Card but the list of ships he served on was frustratingly left blank.

    I downloaded the Glenstrae (Dolius) ship log and can pinpoint time periods he was on board matched with one particular incident (fatal weapon malfunction outside Bombay in 1941) but the paperwork (Crew List or Crew Agreement)does not have his name on it.

    My questions are many and I set them out in a general, chatty way below:

    Was it possible during WW2 for Merchant Ships to undertake journies with incomplete or inaccurate paperwork?

    Is it plausible that due to late withdrawals through illness, death or 'other', that men were drafted onto ships? In other words, if the Royal Navy pull in skilled sailors from the Royal Navy Reserve or the Merchant Navy, does that mean men were pulled in from the shipyards themselves to replace the shortfall?

    I've resigned myself to the most likely possibility that the records I am looking for may no longer exist and so therefore there will be no official medal recognition for my late father.

    Nevertheless, I am intensely curious to learn more about the realities of the war at sea and how the supply chain of human resource operated in reality alongside the administrative element, which I suspect could be hit or miss.

    I would be most grateful if anyone with a knowledge of the Merchant Navy, replied to this.

    Also, suggested books, or even the name of a reputable researcher for hire, would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    If he was entitled to medals the record card may likely be on the National Archives UK website. My father was in the MN during the war but there are no records for him apart from his medal card. What was your father's name?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat fowles View Post
    If he was entitled to medals the record card may likely be on the National Archives UK website. My father was in the MN during the war but there are no records for him apart from his medal card. What was your father's name?
    Hi Pat,

    Dad's name was David Glen Watson, born 27 August, 1921, Glasgow, Scotland.

    Many thanks,

    Gordon

  4. #4
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    I've looked on National Archives and can't find anything. May be worth trying the merchant-navy.net forum. They are incredibly helpful. Good luck.

  5. #5

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    Reserved occupations were linked to age. In September 1939 newspapers began to publish "The Reserved List". It included
    "Electrician (Ship). Ship's wireman, 21".

    These lists were subject to review. I haven't checked later lists in case the qualifying age changed. Unless it was lowered your father would not qualify for reserved status until 27 Aug 1942?
    "dyfal donc a dyr y garreg"

  6. #6

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    In case he was in the Shipyards and employed on other than ships -

    Electrician, Wireman, etc. Foreman, Charge-hand 25; Electrician Wireman (general hand) 25; Cable Jointer (electrical) 25;
    "dyfal donc a dyr y garreg"

  7. #7
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    Thanks for that information, its compelling.

    My father's cousin (deceased) wrote to me a decade ago and in his letter he mentioned that during the war they would sit and watch the ships leave the Clyde and that dad always wanted to be on them.

    I suspect dad had failed a medical based on his awful eyesight (you should see his reading glasses - Coke bottle stuff).

    There must be a book (or researcher) available on the subject of the Merchant Navy, Reserved Occupations and the Royal Navy, Royal Navy Reserve, and how human resource moved through those wings.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by KiwiBear2000 View Post
    Thanks for that information, its compelling.

    My father's cousin (deceased) wrote to me a decade ago and in his letter he mentioned that during the war they would sit and watch the ships leave the Clyde and that dad always wanted to be on them.

    I suspect dad had failed a medical based on his awful eyesight (you should see his reading glasses - Coke bottle stuff).

    There must be a book (or researcher) available on the subject of the Merchant Navy, Reserved Occupations and the Royal Navy, Royal Navy Reserve, and how human resource moved through those wings.
    Browsing I found this

    And this is the BBC's WW2 People's War archive of the Merchant Navy which is a collection of personal stories.

    You have read the Nsational Archives guide to researching the Merchant Navy? Here.

    Been raining for hours here so I have been browsing online for things that i know nothing about including the MN and which you have probably already found.
    Christina
    Sometimes paranoia is just having all the facts.
    William Burroughs

  9. #9
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    Thanks, Christina - it's teeming down in Auckland as well! Thank you for this valuable input.

  10. #10

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    Hansard
    https://hansard.parliament.uk/search?partial=False

    Search for "maximum national effort" (including " " as part of search key) and restrict "From/Until" to 02/12/1941.

    Significant changes proposed to Schedule of Reserved Occupations.

    Raining here also - but very welcome to us gardeners.
    "dyfal donc a dyr y garreg"

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