HMS Growler : Rescue Tug of the Bustler class

16th July 2009, 13:59
Hi All

New to this forum. Looks very interesting. (Applause)

My Grandfather, George Caldwell Wilson, served on the Rescue Tug HMS Growler (of the Bustler class) during the second world war. He was an officer (rank unknown) in the RNVR. I am not sure of his role on the ship (he was an electrician in private life but don't know if that has a bearing).

So far I cannot find much in the way of information about the tugboat.

I found mention in a military museum in Yorkshire a ship of the name HMS Growler was 'Adopted' by Paisley High School.

Do any of the members of this forum have any idea of this tugboat, any idea where I might find out more information and additionally where I might find more information on my grandfathers service record.

I would appreciate any information offered.

Many thanks for an interesting forum


K urgess
16th July 2009, 14:16
Welcome aboard from East Yorkshire, Iain.
I'm sure the crew will be able to help.
Meanwhile find your way around our ship and have a good voyage.

Don Matheson
16th July 2009, 15:47
Welcome to the site Iain, hope you find what you are looking for. There are photos in the tug gallery of a Growler serving with the Royal Navy 1954-58 so I dont think she is the one you want. Will have another search and if I am lucky will let you know. I am sure someone will find her.
By the way, there are a lot of tugmen on here, so to keep them sweet dont call her a tugboat, she is a tug.

senior pilot
16th July 2009, 16:01
[email protected] try this site for stories about the rescue tugs

Don Matheson
16th July 2009, 16:18
Iain The information Senior Pilot has provided leads to the same tug I mentioned but there the info I saw did not mention her RN service during the war, just giving her information as Caroline Moller.
If you go into the galleries section and look up Tugs and enter Growler you will get two photos of Welshman, this is the Growler.
Hope this helps

Hugh MacLean
16th July 2009, 16:35
Hello Ian and welcome,


16th July 2009, 20:36
Welcome from Lancashire – I hope you will enjoy the site

16th July 2009, 23:03
Welcome onboard to SN and enjoy the voyage

17th July 2009, 01:01
Pic of her as Cyclone -

2nd March 2010, 16:34
i served on the welshman for united towing in 1973,but i dont think it was the same one your talking about, w. hawker.

2nd March 2010, 16:38
is ther any hull tugmen on this site,united towing?. w. hawker.

2nd March 2010, 16:54
i served on the welshman for united towing in 1973,but i dont think it was the same one your talking about, w. hawker.

No, that one ceased to be Welshman in 1963. Full story HERE (

2nd March 2010, 17:56
The Welshman was one of two tugs, the other was Englishman, that towed the Stanwear from the Thames up to Hull after the Stanwear had damaged her rudder. The Welshman was so much less powerful than the bigger tug that she couldn't keep up enough speed for us to use our engine otherwise we over-ran the tow. I must see if I can find the photos of the tow.

2nd March 2010, 18:40
Couldn't be renamed 'Growler' now.
The Watch Committee would never approve the figurehead (EEK)

Yes, I know: Coat, hat, door!

2nd March 2010, 22:29
Welcome aboard from the Philippines. Enjoy all this great site has to offer

9th September 2010, 21:10
Hi Senior Pilot re Welshman can you have a look at your dates of the Growler i have the Welshman working for UTC in the year 1958 you have her down as joining the company as late as 1962 she had worked for UTC for five years and then went back to the navy in 1963 sam 2182sw

9th September 2010, 21:49
Hi Don i have had a look in the galleries section as you said in your blog and i cannot bring the Growler up can you help sam2182sw

16th February 2013, 22:06
Sorry I didn't see this thread sooner. I did a bit of research on a former headmaster of my high school and found that he had served as Commodore of Comvoys during WWII. A source of information is the convoy web - you might find info on Growler's service there. I know that she attended Convoy ON 181 Liverpool/New York, Aoril 30 - May 18, 1943. This convoy was not attacked and the Commodore believed they had passed north of the wolf packs after a re-routing ordered by CinC Western Approaches.

Re Growler, part of the report of the Senior Naval Officer reads:

"On receipt of a signal from Renoncule reporting that C. O. Daneman considered the situation to be grave, I ordered Growler to join her. In order to assist Renoncule in deciding what action should be taken I sent him a signal (080721) giving the necessary guidance. Shortly afterwards, a further signal from Renoncule (080815) was received, giving a more rosy view of the situation, and I therefore gave definite instructions that Daneman was to be towed back to the convoy (080920). Growler took Daneman in tow but owing to the sea was unable to pump out efficiently. The weather which had been comparatively good in the early morning of the 8th deteriorated rapidly. Fifteen hours later at about 17:00Z the tow parted and the flooding became out of control. Daneman was abandoned and the crew picked up by FS Renoncule and HM Tug Growler. During abandon ship operations 4 men were lost and two others picked up by FS Renoncule were suffering from exposure and subsequently died. Daneman was left on fire and sinking.”

The following comes from a site called The Tugs List, but I don't now remember how I found it. Here's the entry for Growler - for personal use only.

UK Navy Bustler-class
Registered: LR47-48:05666 /LR50-51:54952 /LR56-57:62020 /LR60-61:85890
IMO 5387532 /(GBR)ON 181186
1110 GRT, L62,48m, B12,32m, D5,18m (204.9'(194.3')x38.7'x15.8' or 204'11"(190'0")x38'8"x17'7.1/2"(19'0")) - salv.
1 scr, 2x diesel 2tew 8cyl Atlas-Polar, 2500bhp total, sp 16kn, bp 30t

1942 -10/09: Launched by "Henry Robb Ltd" at Leith (GBR) (YN 328)
1943 -xx/03: delivered to the UK Admiralty (pennant W 105)
(GBR flag, regd Leith, ON 181186, c/s MLBR)
1944: served at the Normandie landing
1947-1952: chartered by "Moller Towages Ltd" at Hong Kong (HKG) (1100 GRT, 150 NRT), renamed CAROLINE MOLLER
1952: subchartered by "Moller" to "HKS&T - Hong Kong Salvage & Towage Co Ltd" (1100 GRT, 117 NRT), renamed CASTLE PEAK
1954: returned to UK Admiralty, re-renamed GROWLER (pennant A 111)
1958: chatered to "UTC - United Towing Co Ltd" at Hull (GBR), renamed WELSHMAN
(GBR flag, regd Hull, ON 181186, c/s MLBR, 1110 GRT, 103 NRT)
1963: returned to Admiralty service at Devonport (GBR) (Secretary of State for Defence), renamed CYCLONE (pennant A 111)
(1112 GRT, 87 NRT)
1977: laid up at Gibraltar
1983 -16/04: To "Eagle Tugs Ltd" at Guernsey, mng "Shipmarc Ltd" (Capt K J Trayner) at Mombasa (KEN), renamed MARTIAL
(CYM flag)
1985 -xx/01: arrived at Karachi (PAK) for breaking up by "Adam Steel Ltd"

Stephen J. Card
16th February 2013, 22:24
The Welshman was one of two tugs, the other was Englishman, that towed the Stanwear from the Thames up to Hull after the Stanwear had damaged her rudder. The Welshman was so much less powerful than the bigger tug that she couldn't keep up enough speed for us to use our engine otherwise we over-ran the tow. I must see if I can find the photos of the tow.

Hi Ted,

Actually WELSHMAN was the larger of the two tugs, more powerful and faster for sure. ENGLISHMAN was a much older steam tug. WELSHMAN could easily manage 16 knots running free, ENGLISHMAN was probably a couple of knots slower.

Any luck with the photos?


17th February 2013, 07:38
jesilw asked about service records - go to

18th March 2013, 01:40
Seeing the thread on the tug reminded me I have this pic of the Martial alongside at Mombasa in 1983 having arrived from Gibraltar laden with all the new AGA buoys to replace the existing nav buoys into Kilindini harbour. I had the job of off loading and assembling all the buoys prior to towing them out to their positions and shooting them in with a pair of theodolites on shore linked by VHF. The tug was based in Mombasa and was used on various towing jobs along the coast until sold for breaking in '85.

19th March 2013, 22:22
Hi Mnaowari a pal of mine was in charge of laying the mooring at Kilindini His name was Capt Tony Oakley he was working with Eagle tugs assisting in the job the captain of the tug was Scot Metcalfe from Liverpool, his father owns the tug company Carmet Towing Liverpool sam2182sw

19th March 2013, 22:25
Hi Manowari I have had my glass on the photo and i think that is Tony the chap on the left of the three chaps talking sam2182sw

4th April 2014, 20:10
Hi all

since my last post I have done some searching on-line and come up with a few tidbits.

I have quoted various sites

HMS GROWLER Ship No 328 (With Deck Gun)

Other known names 1947-Caroline Moller, 1952-Castle Peak, 1958-Welshman, 1963-Cyclone (pennant A 111), 1983-Martial

Current Status Broken up in 1985

There were 8 diesel rescue tugs built during WWII by Henry Robb’s Yard: Bustler, Samsonia, Growler, Hesperia, Mediator, Reward, Turmoil and Warden.
Bustler, Growler, Mediator, Samsonia, Hesperia and Reward were ordered by the Admiralty to dimensions of 190 x 38.6 x 19 with a deadweight of 538 and speed of 16 knots.
They were built with “British Polar” diesel engines of type M 48 M with 8 cylinders. The GT of Bustler, Samson, Growler and Hesperia was 1100 and of Mediator, Reward, Turmoil and Warden 1136.
The keels began to be laid on 31st January 1941, the first launch was on 4th December 1941 and the first to sail was on 21st May 1942.

War Service
"GROWLER" was put to good use as a rescue tug first in the battle of the Atlantic. She was also one of the tugs along with her sister ship BUSTLER that took part in Operation Pluto just after D-Day, this was the operation to supply the invading armies with enough fuel to allow them to take the fight inland to Germany, and it was in fact an amazing feat.
Along with the Mulberry Harbours that were constructed immediately after D-Day, Operation Pluto is considered one of history's greatest feats of military engineering. The pipelines are also the forerunners of all flexible pipes used in the development of offshore oil fields
Operation Pluto was the name given to the giant spools (floating drum) that carried the pipeline from the British mainland to the coast of France, the way that all future underwater pipe lines would be based on, GROWLER and BUSTLER along with another smaller tug towed the drums around 72 miles and they were escorted by two "Flower Class" Corvettes one of which happened to be another ship built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, she was the Corvette "DIANTHUS".

After the war she was based in Singapore from 1946, then in 1947 she was chartered to Moller Towages Ltd., Hong Kong, she was then renamed Caroline Moller. 1952 Re-chartered by Moller to Hong Kong Salvage & Towage Co Ltd., renamed Castle Peak.
In 1954 she returned to UK Admiralty, re-renamed RFA Growler (pennant A 111).
1958 Chartered by United Towing Co Ltd., Hull renamed Welshman. Then in 1963 she returned to Admiralty service at Devonport, renamed Cyclone (pennant A 111). RMAS from 1970.

1977 Laid up at Gibraltar. she was then sold in 1983 to Eagle Tugs Ltd., Georgetown, Cayman Islands, and based in Mombasa, renamed Martial.
1985 Arrived Gadani Beach, Karachi for scrapping by Adam Hardware Industries, Karachi.


I remember hearing this story when I was a child.

Another of the big tugs, H.M.S. ” Growler,” was, with her sister ” Samsonia,” well to the fore in the landings in Normandy. They towed over large hulks and moored them into position off-shore to provide jetties behind which our ships could discharge their cargoes on the beaches. Both tugs lay off-shore doing all kinds of helpful jobs for the invasion armada for some days. At one period ” Growler’s ” guns were in action the whole night, but there were no casualties and no damage. Returning for their next trip, ” Growler ” and ” Bustler ” brought back some of the first of the wounded.

One incident shows the character of the men who man these ships. ” Growler ” was assisting a trawler which had been badly damaged by submerged ice in an eighty mile-an-hour gale. The donkeyman sent to man the pumps of the trawler was washed overboard into the raging,
ice-cold sea, and by a miracle was washed back on board. He went quickly on pumping, told no one, even after he had been returned to the ” Growler,” and no one would have known had not the Commander of the trawler reported the incident.

In the first twelve months of her service ” Growler ” steamed 25,000 miles, chiefly in Atlantic convoys, and never lost a ship through enemy action.

On one occasion ” Growler” rescued an 8ooo-ton American freighter carrying valuable army stores and armaments. The ship, abandoned, sinking by the head and shipping water over the fore deck, was brought safely to Scotland by the ” Growler.” She was repaired and by an interesting coincidence sailed twice afterwards in convoy with the ” Growler.”

Commanding Officer of the ” Growler” was then Lieut.-Commander W. M. Dobbie, R.N.R., of Glasgow.


I have since found out that my Grandad also served on the Empire Curlew (A cargo ship).

SS Robin Doncaster (

Built in 1940 by Bethlehem Steel Co, Sparrows Point, Maryland, United States for the United States Maritime Commission (USMC). On completion in April 1941, she was transferred to the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) and renamed Empire Curlew. In 1942 she was transfered back to the USMC and renamed the Robin Doncaster

Courbet, Free Naval French Forces, old battleship sunk as a blockship in "Gooseberry" breakwater

''Courbet'' sailed for Portsmouth on 20 June. She was seized there, as part of Operation Catapult, by British forces on 3 July and a week later was turned over to the Free French, who used her as a depot and an anti-aircraft ship in Portsmouth until 31 March 1941 when she was disarmed. Up to April 1944 she was deployed as a target ship in Scotland. At Loch Striven she was initially used as a target vessel for the "Highball" trials. Mosquito bombers would drop their stores and use Courbet as a target. "Highball" was a smaller version of "Upkeep" used in the Dambuster Raid. She left Loch Striven under tow from HMRT Growler and Thames on 6 April 1944 (15). She remained in use as a depot and target ship until she was earmarked for use as a "Gooseberry" breakwater+ at Sword Beach+ during the Battle of Normandy+. She had to be towed from Weymouth+ on 7 June 1944 by the British Rescue tugs ''HMRT Growler'' and ''HMRT Samsonia'' as her engines and boilers had been removed earlier and replaced with concrete. She was scuttled+ in place on 9 June and was hit by Neger+ manned torpedo+es during the nights of 15–16 and 16–17 August. She was scrapped in place after the war.

5th June 2016, 20:22
In my last post (sometime ago) I mentioned that I thought my grandfather had served in the Empire Curlew (A cargo ship). After more research I now have some doubt about that.

I was given this information by my Uncle (His son). However I know that he served on a ship that was torpedoed. Like a lot of servicemen he suffered the tragic after effects of that action for the rest of his life. He would never sleep in a dark room and talked very little of the events. I have heard that he saw his best friend being killed during this action.

With this in line I widened my search and have come up with the HMS Curlew (Thinking my Uncle might have mixed the name up over the years)

She was a C-class light cruiser built for the Royal Navy during World War I, part of the Ceres sub-class of the C class. The ship survived World War I to be sunk by German aircraft during the Norwegian Campaign in 1940.

Does anyone have any idea where I might find casualty and crew list for these ships.



Hugh MacLean
5th June 2016, 21:47
Hello Iain,

Have you tried to obtain service records? Can you give his date and place of birth?


6th June 2016, 01:09
Scroll down till you see the photo tagged "Some of the survivors from HMS Curlew" (

15th March 2019, 19:48
In some search of ancestor's, one of whom we have had much difficulty tracing down is a William Gennis of whom was mentioned "Returning to the Merchant Seaman Card, there is also a reference to HMT Growler. The Growler was an ocean going tug-boat. She was first launched in 1942 and employed as a convoy rescue tug. More info here: and here [email protected]
High Flyer - Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve when he died - Ty Act. 2nd Lieut."
Does this make any sense?

15th March 2019, 21:40
Hi i have loads of photos of the growler .and lots of them when she was welshman and others sam2182sw if you want some let me know