Royal Marines - HMS Stag and 11th RMB - help interpreting records

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by davegreen81, Jul 3, 2022.

  1. davegreen81

    davegreen81 Member

    Hello folks,

    First post, just got my late Grandad's (Henry Thomas - EX3949) service records through and I'm now methodically building up a picture of his service; absolutely fascinating stuff! Always been a bit of a military history buff so this is quite an enjoyable process for me. My Mum is thrilled to get some insight into her Dad, as he was very coy about his service!

    The first thing I need to query is regarding HMS Stag.

    In his records, it looks like he was sent on temporary detachment from 11th RM Battalion to HMS Stag for Guard Duties on 19.10.1941, returning to 11th RMB on 9.1.1942.

    The confusion comes from the next three entries, which basically lead up to him becoming a POW after the failed "Operation Agreement" op at Tobruk (I'll post seperately about that), where he was part of MNBDO1:

    Embarked for Service Overseas - 4.2.1941
    Disembarked Middle East - 20.4.1941
    Reported missing after operations at Tobruk - 14.9.1942.​

    As you can see, this conflicts with the dates of the HMS Stag posting, so I'm thinking that it's either the order of the entries on this sheet that are out of chronological order, or that there has been a mistake in the dating of the entries? The latter makes the most sense.

    From my understansing, HMS Stag was a shore establishment and was initially set-up in Egypt, etc, so it doesn't make sense for him to be assigned to HMS Stag while still in the UK. Wikipedia states this about HMS Stag

    HMS Stag (shore establishment) was the name used for the base for British naval personnel in Egypt. First established at Port Said, it commissioned 8 January 1940. There were outposts at Adabya, Kabrit, Ismailia, Generiffa, Port Tewfik and Haifa in Palestine.

    So in my mind, I think this is what actually happened is that he...

    1. Embarks for Service Overseas (with 11th RMB) 4.2.1941
    2. Disembarks Middle East (HMS Stag location? possibly Egypt?) 20.4.1941
    3. Is assigned to HMS Stag from 11th RMB to perform Guard Duties on 19.10.1941
    4. Is returned to 11th RMB on 9.4.1942
    5. Reported missing on ops at Tobruk 14.9.1942

    This means he would have spent the best part of 1.5 years travelling to and serving in N.Africa theatre before becoming a POW, which is a good find in itself if I've got this right?

    I'd be grateful for any insight into this!

    Couple of things I'm interested in finding out beyond confirming this:

    1. What ship(s) did the 11th RMB sail on to get to the M.E?
    2. Where exactly would the 11th RMB have landed/been stationed at upon arrival in the M.E?
    3. Approximately 5 months pass between the 11th RMB arriving in the M.E and the op at Toburk; would this have been purely prep for the operation or did the 11th RMB have any other duties to perform in this period? ​

    Really grateful for anyone's help, thank you very much in advance. [​IMG]


    P.S We have a photo which may tally up with his time in N.Africa/M.E, which I've attached.

    Attached Files:

  2. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

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  3. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the Forum, Dave.
    From the info you have posted I would think your chronological assessment is correct. It is however often better if you post copies of the relevant Service Records in case you have misinterpreted an entry or missed some info.
    There is a War Diary at the National Archives ADM 202/350 covering the 11th Battalion RM for Apr-Oct 42 `Agreement': 11th Battalion at Tobruk | The National Archives
    There is also this thread on this site:
    11th Battalion Royal Marines
    If I turn up anything else I'll let you know.

  4. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    I agree with Steve that the most likely Convoy is WS6. Given the disembarkation date of 20 Apr 41 I think it probable that 11th RMB disembarked at Suez. Some of the ships in this convoy went through the canal to Port Said, Alexandria etc but with an arrival date later than 20 Apr (presumably with the troops still onboard). Others only went as far as Suez. Using Arnold Hague Ports database you should be able to at least narrow down which ships are likely to have disembarked their troops on 20 Apr.

  5. davegreen81

    davegreen81 Member

    Thanks Steve, Tim, much appreciated!

    Really valuable information. I'm planning on visiting Kew over the summer so I'll bookmark that archive entry for 11th RMB @ Tobruk.

    Looking into the ports database, highly likely the Scythia departing from Durban and that's the only WS6 entry disembarking @ Suez on April 20th.

    Great stuff :)
  6. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    This might help, an Italian account of Op Agreement:


    Google Books enables the use of a 1987 book 'Massacre at Tobruk: The British Assault on Rommel, 1942' by Peter C. Smith (cut & paste doesn't work) and I note it refers to the unit being in Palestine training after April 1941 and the fall of Crete. Their base camp was Geneifa and some exercised landing(s) in Cyprus. Use:"11th+Battalion+Royal+Marines"&pg=PT46&printsec=frontcover

    There are many options to buy the book.

    The Italians were responsible for all PoW taken in North Africa, until they declared an armistice and the Germans swiftly removed many, though not all, to Austria, Germany and Poland.
  7. davegreen81

    davegreen81 Member

    Thanks David, I've actually bought that book in the last couple of days from the Kindle store, hoping to make a start tonight.

    With regards to the convoys, I'm trying to fill in the blank between the UK and getting to Freetown.

    The Scythia departed Freetown on 8.3.1941 as part of WS6A, joining up with WS6B by the looks of it to form WS6.

    The Scythia departed from Clyde (via Liverpool and Bristol) with 3100 troops on 9.2.1941 bound for Freetown, arriving 1.3.1941 or 2.3.1941 depending on which record you read. So a layover to resupply etc of just under a week between the initial journey from the UK ending, and the next leg commencing.

    Is it reasonable to assume that "Embarked for Service Overseas" dated 4.2.1941 in his service record isn't actually the date he boarded ship from the UK, but the date he ultimately set off for the M.E with the 11th RMB? Meaning that the 5 days between Feb 4th on his service record and Feb 9th when the Scythia officially set off as part of WS6A could be put down to travelling from what was likely Plymouth at the time to where he embarked on the ship?

    Or am I getting the wrong end of the stick here? What appears to back this theory up is that Clyde had no departures on 4.2.1941, the date on his record
  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    It is rare for a complete disclosure to be made when new members arrive. So, no harm done that you have the book and the pay-off now is that others can see it too. I didn't read through either thread on Op Agreement!

    Others know far more about reading service records and recently one of them added the dates added to a record by the clerks may not be the actual date. Imagine trying to keep manual records up to date for the million serving in the Royal Artillery. Plus, ink can fade and the abbreviations used can be difficult to discern.

    A layover in Freetown? I would suggest that is possible, although the colony was small and apart from local fruit and fresh water I doubt much could be supplied to a convoy of large ships. Add in the climate. Stopping in Cape Town and Durban would be different.
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  9. davegreen81

    davegreen81 Member

    Thanks David, appreciate that! Could easily just be a "typo" somewhere so to speak, as you imply.

    The layover in Freetown seems to be implied by WS (Winston Specials) Convoys in WW2 - 1941 Sailings

    RE: WS 6A
    The convoy arrived at Freetown 1.3, where it joined with WS 6B to sail again as a combined convoy.
    RE: WS6
    The combined convoy sailed from Freetown 8.3
    I know the Scythia took on water etc in Capetown before proceeding to Durban and beyond, so perhaps this was just an operational pause to merge the convoys etc. I'll see if I can find anything else out myself from here, appreciate all the help from everyone so far. :)
  10. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    My understanding is that “embarked” on a service record usually denotes the day a man/unit left his/it’s base/barracks and not necessarily the day of sailing overseas.

    From what I understand from other topics the Freetown stopover was a regular one for wartime convoys but troops in transit did not leave their ships whilst there as tropical West Africa was an “unhealthy” place. The usual landfall for troops was in South Africa. Troops could be there for various periods and often departed on a ship other than the one on which they arrived. From memory I think a battalion of Welsh Guards were there for 6 weeks en route to Egypt in late 1942.

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  11. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    There is often a discrepancy between the date 'embarked' and the date 'sailed', so I wouldn't worry about this. Convoyweb may have misled you into concentrating on the 'Scythia'. In the Suez arrivals for 20 Apr I see 'Scythia' is marked WS 6 and other ships are marked 'Independent'. Independent means they were sailing unescorted and Steve's link to WS Convoys #2 shows that this happened with WS 6. 'HMS Cornwall remained with the convoy until 15 Apr, when it dispersed off Perim with ships proceeding independently to Suez.' You should check the other ships to see which were ex WS 6, whether they turned round at Suez or went on through the canal. Even this is not conclusive as they could well have disembarked troops before going on to Port Said.

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2022
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  12. davegreen81

    davegreen81 Member

    Thanks again Steve, Tim, I'll revisit this tonight and double check all the ships.

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