An unusual visitor

By Andy Gilbert

A few years ago I was given access to the huge collection of photos of ships in the harbour, taken by a local man, Les Harris. He didn't want the photos to just sit unseen in albums, so he asked me to choose some and post them on relevant websites. It's been a while since I posted any, so here's the first of what will be quite a few!

This little vessel is an unusual one. 'Ocean Observer' is seen entering the harbour, passing the elegant freighter 'Hardwick Grange'.

She was launched in January 1939 by William Denny Brothers, on the Clyde. That's the same shipyard that built many of our Newhaven-Dieppe steamers like the 'Brighton'. She started life as the Scottish Fishery Protection vessel 'Minna', but soon had a change in career. World War II saw her requisitioned in late 1939 by the Royal Navy for 'special services' (no records of what those services were!) and in October 1945 she was returned to the Fishery Board for Scotland.

She served in that fishery protection role until 1974 when she was sold to Ocean Observer Ltd. Her job then was to act as an 'offshore supply vessel', but alas her age caught up with her and she was broken up in Middlesbrough in 1978.

Despite the tall steamship type funnel, she was in fact a motor vessel, driven by two diesel engines that gave her a top speed of 15.5 knots.

Les Harris didn't date all of his photos so all we know is that it's somewhere between 1974 and 1978. Probably early in that period as she went to the breakers with a light blue hull, nowhere near as smart as traditional black!

Photo:Ocean Observer at Newhaven

Ocean Observer at Newhaven

Les Harris collection (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Photo:In her earlier life as Minna, moored at Fleetwood

In her earlier life as Minna, moored at Fleetwood

Andy Gilbert collection but © John Bell

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 01/11/2020.
Comments about this page

As HMS Minna this vessel was taken over by the admiralty at the beginning of the war and converted into a somewhat unorthodox vessel. Sent to operate in the Mediterranean out of Gibraltar she was used to insert and pick up agents around the coast, including from neutral Spain, as well as generally performing other intelligence work. She had a gun fitted on the foredeck disguised as a derrick as well as a fixed gun either side of her main hull, and a minelaying rack aft. She spent a couple of years in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK where she also became involved off the Normandy coast following D-Day. She ultimately was returned to civilian life at the end of the conflict.

Great work Rob many thanks for the input.  John  --  Editor

By Rob Patten
On 04/11/2020

Good spot, Rob! Many thanks. I looked high and low but missed that! Quite an interesting war record, I'm sure she had plenty of tales to tell.

By Andy Gilbert
On 05/11/2020

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