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World War 1 at Sea - In Memory of
JOHN R HUNTER, later CAPTAIN, OBE, RCNVR, 1892-1971
Lieutenant RNVR in Motor Launches 1916-19, Part 2 of 2
with thanks to Andy Hunter
Lt John R Hunter RNVR, from a newspaper cutting
No.17 - "Captured from Russia by the Japs this gun was borrowed by the Admiralty and issued to us. It would not work".
Believed to be a 3-pounder which replaced the original 13-pounder in most ML's
No.18 - "We sight something".
No.19 - ML211 .... "and goes on the slip for rub down"
No.20 - "Meet some of the crew".
Andy Hunter - "probably .... of ML 211" - in Torquay Harbour with the houses of Beacon Hill in the background (Thanks to Alex Seal, 20 Dec 2010)
No.21 - "81 on her passage south"
No.22 - "We meet a friend - 531, Dells' ship".
Andy Hunter - "'Dell' was a friend of my fathers. Dells' son was a classmate of mine at the Royal Canadian Naval College 1944-46"
No.23 - "(Number removed) goes on the ways to have her prop straightened"
No.24 - ML285 "What is the Navy doing?"
No.25 - ML211 ".... and 81 together alongside 'Onyx'. It wasn't long before they were hard to tell apart".
HMS Onyx is believed to be the partly-boarded vessel to left with one funnel and four ventilators showing, ex-torpedo gunboat, 810t, launched 1892, submarine depot ship, mainly Devonport 1907-16, Torbay 1917-18, W/T training ship Devonport Jan-Sept 1918, Auxiliary Patrol depot ship Torbay Sept 1918-Feb 1919
No.26 - "Drifting with hydrophone down. Scotty goes up the mast to adjust the wireless and takes a snap"
Andy Hunter - "That is my father at left on the foc'sle of ML211
No.27 - ML369 "Ups"
No.28 - "And downs".
Another ML is on her port beam
No.29 - "13-pounder at the moment of firing with gun recoiled twenty-seven inches".
The original ex-Army gun mounted on all ML's until replaced on most by the 3-pounder
No.30 - ML211; "ARMISTICE. Refit at private yard Kingswier (Kingswear opposite Dartmouth). Dell joins us and we leave for Devonport with volunteer crew to go minesweeping"
No.31 - "January 20th., 1919 Devonport. UNEXPECTEDLY RELIEVED OF COMMAND. A last look at the bridge"
No.32 - "Crew of ML211".
Andy Hunter - "My father is in the middle of the front row. The man to his right - second-in-command - is Lieutenant Douglas Scott RNVR from Victoria, BC. The others are not identified"
After serving on ML.81, John Hunter took command of ML.211 on 8 June 1917 and remained her commander until 9 January 1919 when he was demobilized and returned to civilian life. At the time the photos were taken, he would have been 23 or 24 years of age. Naval tradition is such that he would have been referred to as "The Old Man"!
In this time he took many photographs of the boat, both interior and exterior, as well as photos of other ML's in his flotilla. As far as Andy knows, 211 was engaged in patrol work in the English Channel for the duration.
These photographs were mounted in an album during the 1930's with explanatory notes. Andy Hunter, who helped compile the album with his father, still has it in his possession. John Hunter built a "very fine model replica" of his boat - 211. The model has suffered some damage over the years but Andy Hunter and his son had plans to refurbish it.
Captain John Hunter OBE RCNVR and his son Andy
John Hunter joined the RCNVR in 1940 at he age of 48. He served mostly in shore establishments, had a brief tour in a Lend Lease Destroyer, and was posted to an RCN manning depot in Greenock, Scotland which was named HMCS Niobe (after the Canadian Navy's first ship). He became the CO of Niobe in early 1944, was promoted to the rank of Captain and awarded the OBE for his contribution there. After WW2, he returned again to civilian life. He died in 1971.
Andy Hunter (right - as Midshipman on HMCS Uganda, January 1947, aged 20) attended the Royal Canadian Naval College at Royal Roads, British Columbia from September 1944 on a two year officer training course. Although the war ended after their first year at Royal Roads, most of the cadets completed their two years. Quite by coincidence, it turned out that the fathers of two of his classmates at RCNC had also been skippers of MLs in WW1.
He then served for the better part of a year in the RCN as a Midshipman in HMCS Uganda, which had been sold to the Canadian Navy after serving in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy, for part of which time she was Admiral Cunningham's flagship I believe. He did not see active service during the war, and in 1947 entered University in London, Ontario, and graduated as a Medical Doctor in 1953.
Andy, retired and with his wife Cynthia in Canada 2004
Notes on the ELCO Motor Launches and the Photographs
The 580 motor launches built by ELCO - the Electric Launch Company, then at Bayonne, New Jersey for the Royal Navy in World War 1 is an interesting story. I collected together the limited published information that was available, listed all the ML's, annotated where possible and published them online.
I was then contacted by Andy Hunter MD of Ontario, Canada who told me his father had served on ML.81. Andy subsequently sent me more information about his father, himself - he also served in the RCN - and 32 photographs of ML's and their crews that had never been published before.
The detailed story of these ML's, the men who served on them, and the many feats they accomplished in a sea war just as deadly as World War 2 deserves to be told. In the meantime, I hope this story of Lt John Hunter, together with the first, albeit very incomplete listing of all the ML's - British US-built Elco Motor Launches of World War 1 - might encourage others to go on from here.
The Elco ML (both the 75 and 80 foot versions) design was purely American. The chief naval architect was Irwin Chase and his assistant Glenville Tremaine. More about their conception and design can be found at http://www.motorlaunchpatrol.net/construction/design_and_construction.php.
The notes that follow have been extracted from the emails Andy Hunter sent me about his father:
"John Hunter was one of perhaps a dozen or so Canadians who were recruited in 1915 or 1916 to serve as RNVR officers aboard MLs - there was no Canadian RNVR in WW1. His sole qualification for such a role was that he was an avid canoeist and a member of a canoe club in Toronto, Ontario! These young men were given a crash course lasting only a few weeks at the Naval College in Greenwich. There were some Americans and some New Zealanders in the group. There may have been some South Africans as well.
"As the USA was neutral, orders for the ML's were placed by Canadian Vickers, the parts collected at Bayonne, New Jersey, and carried by rail to Montreal for assembly. For example, frames were cut and bent in Bayonne and joined together in Canada. The completed boats, less the armament which was believed mounted in Britain, were then shipped across the Atlantic as deck cargo, up to four ML's per steamship.
"One of these Canadians was Lt Roland Burke RNVR, awarded the VC for his exploits in ML.276 at Ostend in May 1918. Apart from John Hunter, another was Maurice Shea".
For further information on the life and career of John R Hunter, you can contact his son Andy Hunter MD of Ontario, Canada.
The only Copyright to these images belongs to A T Hunter MD
Original comments by Lt John R Hunter. Additional comments by his son Andy Hunter
Further notes by Gordon Smith