HMT Celia

Hostilities Only Signalman Brooks would see out the remaining months of the war on the minesweeping trawler HMT Celia (T134). Aside from brief spells attached to the trawler depot ship HMS Marshall Salt and five days back at Sparrow’s Nest, HMT Celia was home from June 28th 1944 until February 11th 1946.

Celia was one of 12 ships of the Shakespeare Class  of trawler. She was laid down by Cochrane & Sons Shipbuilders Ltd. of Selby on 23 May 1940 and commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1941. When my father joined Celia she was Commanded by T/Lt. Leslie Bertram Merrick, RNR. Merrick left Celia in November 1944 to train and command a Tank Landing Ship in preparation for D-Day seven months later. T/Lt. Haakon Wivested RNR replaced Merrick as HMT Celia’s commanding officer until the end of hostilities.

My father (front-left) with HMT Celia alongside in Lerwick

My father (front-centre) with shipmates. HMT Celia behind alongside in Lerwick, Shetland Isles)
HMT Celia was another veteran of the northern convoy routes. She had sailed in the very first Arctic Convoy to Russia, Operation ‘Dervish‘ from Iceland on 21 August 1941. In that year alone she escorted Convoys from Methil in Fife, on 3 February to Oban, Argyllshire, on 6 February (EN 66), Convoy WN 97 from the Clyde on 10 March and back to Methil on 14th. Celia escorted Convoy ON 29 out of Liverpool on 22 October until dispersal 4 days later. She then escorted part of Convoy QP 2, which departed from Arkhangelsk in the Soviet Union on 3 November and arrived at Kirkwall on 17 November.

The movements of HMT Celia are recorded throughout 1941 and 1942, but in later years, records became scarce for the smaller vessels. Before February 1940, logbooks for all types of ships were archived but in later years, only major surface vessel and submarine logbooks were kept.

HMT Celia was back on Convoy duty in 1942 escorting eighteen ships of PQ 13 (Reykjavik to Murmansk) from 18th to 23rd March and the twenty-seven ships of Convoy UR 23 (Loch Ewe to Reykjavik) from 8th to 12th May.

LOCH EWE

Due to its rugged and inaccessible terrain, Loch Ewe has always been a safe assembly point for maritime trade.Loch Ewe
In 1610 the iron furnaces that burnt charcoal from local woods shipped their ore from Loch Ewe to Poolewe for smelting. Over Two hundred years later the Loch still provided a safe anchorage for the hundreds of ships about to make, according to Churchill, ‘the worst journey in the world’ – the Arctic Convoy to Murmansk. Loch Ewe would become indelibly marked in the minds of sailors as a refuge before and after the storm.

Locals would say you could fit the whole of the Royal Navy into Loch Ewe. At 12 km long and 5 km wide, the Loch’s northerly aspect opens into The Minch, a broad stretch of North Atlantic sheltered between mainland Scotland and the Isle of Lewis. Being further west than Scapa Flow, Loch Ewe was safer from Norwegian based German aircraft flying at the limit of their range.

Merchant ships arrived in Loch Ewe from all over the the world to be assembled into convoys and escorted first to Iceland and then onto the Russian ports of Arkhangelsk or Murmansk.

Loch Ewe is now home to  the Russian Arctic Convoy Project, which aims to create a multi-site museum around the shores of Loch Ewe dedicated to the Arctic Convoys. They have an Exhibition in Aultbea that is open every May to October with an extensive collection of convoy artefacts, pictures, photos. Visit the Russian Arctic Convoy Project  for details. There are no details unfortunately for the whereabouts of HMT Celia and Signalman Brooks on 7th May 1945, the day hostilities ended.



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