On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 July

1685

John Evelyn records his time at Trinity Monday

John Evelyn’s diary entry reads:

“The Trinity-Company met this day, which should have been on the Monday after Trinity, but was put off by reason of the Royal Charter being so large, that it could not be ready before. Some immunities were superadded. Mr. Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty, was a second time chosen Master. We went to church, according to custom, and then took barge to the Trinity-House, in London, where we had a great dinner, above eighty at one table.”

 


1745

Early problems with the Nore Lightvessel

Trinity House Board Minute:

Nore Lightvessel model

Nore Lightvessel model

“Mr. Cam, one of the lessees of the light at the Nore attended to answer Captain Hallum’s complaint against the light and admitted that there happened an accidental obstruction in one of the funnels just at the time complained of, but said that it was removed in about half an hour, after which there was a good light, as there hath been all along, without any former complaint of this nature and he promised that all possible care should be taken to keep a good light for the future, offering to remove the present lightkeeper and put in anyone whom the Corporation should name,

Which being considered and that Captain Hallum admits in his complaint that one of the lamps was kindled as he came by, Mr. Cam was charged to take especial care that a good light be constantly maintained hereafter, to be kindled every evening immediately after sunset and to be kept burning till it be broad Day Light next morning, and that they give instructions accordingly to such lightkeepers as the lessees shall appoint at their own Risque and for whom they are answerable.”

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Trinity House and D-Day – On This Day in Trinity House History – 6 June

1944

Trinity House plays its part in the D-Day landings

The Corporation of Trinity House’s staff, lighthouses, lightvessels, tenders and pilots played a vital role in the success of Operation Neptune, the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) during the Second World War.

Soon after the declaration of war in September 1939 the Admiralty sought out the services of Trinity House, requiring the exhibition of navigational lights and the establishment of buoys to mark swept channels.

Trinity House established 73 lighted buoys in various depths at given positions between England and France; the buoys were laid according to schedule and in spite of the weather. After the venue for the landings had been agreed a decision had to be taken as to the number of swept lanes and buoys required.

Trinity House’s Chief Superintendent Captain A G Carrick (d.1953) summed up the detailed work encountered on Operation Overlord in 1951:

“Firstly, after the venue of the invasion had been chosen, the number of swept lanes required across the Channel and the number of buoys in each lane sufficient to meet ordinary conditions of visibility had to be decided upon. This would determine the number of buoys required, which would also give the depth of water of each buoyed position. With the foregoing information, the length of chain cable and the sinker necessary to hold these buoys in position could be determined.

“Secondly, the shape and colour of the superstructure that each buoy had to carry in order that these buoy positions could be identified was considered. In order that this identification could be carried out in hours of darkness, different characters of flashing lights were allocated. These were chosen so as to avoid confusion between neighbouring buoys.

“The work of preparing these moorings into their various lengths, preparing the buoys according to their appropriate colours, charging them with gas cylinders and assembling the lamps with their pre-selected characteristics was taken in hand.

“On completion of the above, the task of transporting them to the port of assembly was next to be considered, when it was found that the fighting services were all requiring transport to this same port, and all naturally demanding a high degree of priority for their requirements. However, the Admiralty released several LCTs [Tank Landing Craft] which were, about this period, making a passage within a few days of each other from east coast ports to the southward, and which they detailed to call at Harwich for the purpose of loading these buoys and transporting them to Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

“The next point to be considered on the arrival of these buoys and moorings at the port of assembly was the question of their storage, as they had to be kept immediately available and ready for service. With the heavy demand on every foot of quay space, deep water berths and shore lifting cranes, the answer to this problem was difficult, and as the LCTs had to be released as soon as possible for their other duties, it was decided that the Thames lighter [barge] should be used for this purpose of storage. Here again the question of priority was paramount, but 20 of these craft were allocated, together with three small tugs.

“These lighters were moored to buoys in the River Medina. The ocean buoys and moorings, according to their groups, were stored therein and then towed from there to the operating vessels as required.

“Six Trinity House Vessels—Patricia (Captain R Goodman), Warden (Captain J Le Good), Georges De Joly (Captain J R Meyrick), Alert (Captain T J White), Andre Blondel (Captain G Sherman) and Discovery II (Captain J J Woolnough)—were detailed to assemble in the Solent three weeks prior to D-Day, in order to be stored, victualled and loaded with their first consignment of buoys in readiness to mark the lanes for the assault forces and the subsequent passage of innumerable craft of every possible description necessary for an operation of this magnitude.

“After dealing with their load of buoys, these vessels would immediately return to the port of assembly and reload in readiness to sail on their second assignments. This operation was repeated until all the necessary buoys had been laid.

“These channels having been established and marked, it can well be understood that with the amount of traffic plying continually between the two coasts, collisions with, and mishaps to these light buoys would occur. Few would appreciate that the number of casualties amounted to 350 within the period of some four months, and at one time reached the alarming figure of 7.5 per day. This of course kept the Trinity House Vessels fully occupied in supplying and fitting spare parts or lamps, according to the nature of the casualty, and continually servicing the buoys in one way or another in order to maintain the lighted channels.

“The fact that the above laying and servicing was carried out without hindrance, and that later two fully-manned lightvessels were established off the coast of France, shows the complete mastery which our fighting services had obtained over the enemy, and more so when it is realised that swept channels were marked by light buoys close along the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland, up to the opening of the River Scheldt by the Allied Forces, and later along the coast and into the ports of Germany itself.”

During the three years prior to Overlord much shipping was diverted to the east coast ports; as the traffic to London was greatly reduced, over fifty London District Pilots undertook pilotage duties in the Clyde. Traffic in the Port of London increased again with preparations for the invasion and the responsibility fell on Trinity House for piloting all the commercial vessels and many of the service vessels engaged in those operations. All the Mulberry [portable temporary] Harbour Units which were constructed on the Thames were towed to their parking places under the supervision of Trinity House pilots.

In the month following D-Day nearly 3,000 ships were handled by 88 River Pilots and nearly 2,000 by 115 Sea Pilots. During that period many pilots worked day and night unceasingly without relief and pilots had to be recalled from the Clyde and the Royal Naval Reserve.

Juno (No. 72) Lightvessel was established on 18 June 1944 remaining on station until 27 January 1945 when she was towed to Le Havre for damage repairs following various collisions and heavy seas. One month later she was relaid in a new position at a station named Seine. On 3 March 1946 she was replaced by a French Light Vessel named Le Havre and towed to Harwich.

No. 68 marked the Kansas station and was laid on 16 July 1944 remaining until 11 November the same year when she was towed to Ryde then to Cowes.

On 3 September 1944 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief sent the following message to Trinity House:

“I wish to place on record my High appreciation of the invaluable work performed by the vessels of Trinity House and their crews, as well as by those who have been responsible for the organisation and preparations ashore, during recent operations involving the landing on the Continent of Europe of the greatest seaborne expedition in History. The great success achieved was due in no small part to the contribution of Trinity House.

“2. The smooth way in which the buoy-laying has progressed has been in particular due to the work and splendid co-operation of your Superintendent at Cowes, Captain Barber. Without his willing help and advice at all times both before and during the operations the many problems which arose could not have been so easily overcome.

“3. Success is seldom achieved without loss, and it was with great regret that I learned of the loss of THV ALERT on 16th June. She had done fine work close off the enemy coast and it was most gratifying to know that none of her crew was lost.

“4. I shall be grateful if you will convey my appreciation to all of Trinity House.”

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 3 June

1667

Samuel Pepys dines (eventually) at Deptford with the Brethren

Samuel Pepys’ diary entry:

“Thence down by water to Deptford, it being Trinity Monday, when the Master is chosen, and there, finding them all at church, and thinking they dined, as usual, at Stepny, I turned back, having a good book in my hand, the Life of Cardinal Wolsey, wrote by his own servant, and to Ratcliffe; and so walked to Stepny, and spent, my time in the churchyard, looking over the gravestones, expecting when the company would come by.

Finding no company stirring, I sent to the house to see; and, it seems, they dine not there, but at Deptford: so I back again to Deptford, and there find them just sat down. And so I down with them; and we had a good dinner of plain meat, and good company at our table: among others, my good Mr. Evelyn, with whom, after dinner, I stepped aside, and talked upon the present posture of our affairs.”

 

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 March

1617

Sir Francis Bacon voices support for Trinity House

Portrait of Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, by John Vanderbank, 1731

Portrait of Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, by John Vanderbank, 1731

Sir Francis Bacon, Keeper of the Great Seal and later Lord Chancellor, addresses the Privy Council to deliver an eloquent ruling supporting the authority of Trinity House:

“Lighthouses are marks and signs within the meaning of the charter. That there is an authority mixed with trust, settled in that corporation, for the erecting of such lighthouses, and other marks and signs, from time to time, as the accidents and moveable nature of the sands and channels doth require, grounded upon the skill and experience which they have in marine service: And this authority and trust cannot be transferred from them by law; but as they are only answerable for the defaults, so they are only trusted with the performance; it being a matter of an high and precious nature, in respect of salvation of ships and lives, and a kind of starlight in that element.”


1942

HRH Prince George, the Duke of Kent is elected Master of Trinity House 

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent KG KT GCMG GCVO is elected Master of Trinity House, on the death of the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

Sadly, he died only a few months later on 25 August, making his tenure as Master the shortest in the corporation’s history. He was the fourth son and fifth child of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI. He held the title of Duke of Kent from 1934 until his death in 1942.

 


1959

THV Mermaid (3) is launched

The lighthouse tender THV Mermaid, the third tender to bear that name, is launched at the yard of J S White & Co., Cowes.

She went into service in September in the Yarmouth district. She was launched Mrs. Noakes, wife of Elder Brother Captain George Noakes. Sister ships THV Siren and THV Stella followed into service in the two years after.

Mermaid (3) 1959 copyright Trinity House

Mermaid (3) 1959 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 24 February

1683

Admiral George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth, speaks up for Trinity House

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Court was Informed That on the 16th instant when the Deputy Master & some of the Brethren had been before the King & Councell in vindication of their Report about Tinmouth Light after they were gone out of the Councell Chamber the Lord of Dartmouth, Master of the Ordnance a Nobleman of great knowledge in Sea Affairs stood up & prayed his Majesties Leave to make a motion That he did humbly conceive would be much for his Majesties Service (to witt) That his Majestie was continually troubled with Suits of Private persons for Erecting Lights to their private advantage. It was therefore to be wish’d no Encouragement might be given to such Suits, he being of opinion that the benefit of all Lighthouses Should go to the Poor aged & decayed Seamen, and to that end the Trinity-house ought to have the sole management of Erecting Lighthouses”

George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth, by the British printmaker Peter Vandrebanc. Engraving. 489 mm x 349 mm. Courtesy of the British Museum, London.

George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth, by the British printmaker Peter Vandrebanc. Engraving. 489 mm x 349 mm. Courtesy of the British Museum, London.

“A record of four centuries…” Country Life, 1919

“A record of four centuries shows the Corporation alert and capable at all times and in all conditions. A visit to its home is not merely an artistic and historic pleasure; it is a wholesome lesson in the nature, growth and retention of sea power by a maritime empire.”

Excerpt of description of Trinity House‘s historic Tower Hill headquarters in Country Life, 1919

“As a matter of history…”

“As a matter of history the record of Trinity House is fascinating. In its time it has been many sided. It has served the nation in this capacity and that, and all the while it has somehow managed to make itself so indispensable that, in an age of scant reverence for ancient institutions, it stands not only unassailed, but, we might also add, unassailable.”

Lloyd’s List, 20 May 1914