How did minesweepers operate in WW1

Discussion in 'The Fleet' started by Johnnybach, Oct 11, 2013.

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  1. Hello all,

    I've learned, from this forum, about minesweepers (paddle steamers, fishing boats, etc.) in WW1 but not on how they actually dealt with the mines.

    I'd appreciate if someone could tell me how such an operation was carried out. Is there a good book, I can read? Is there a good website that tells me how?

    I'd be grateful for any help.

  2. The best book on the subject is Swept Channels by 'Taffrail' (Capt Taprell Dorling RN). Also see the section about Mine Countermeasures in World War I in the 'Development of Naval Minewarfare' on the MCDOA website.
  3. Thanks Naval_Gazer.

    I've seen, what I think were, the relevant pages from "Swept Channels" and, together with everything else I've read - extracts from other books, website forums (this one mainly), and including a newspaper article on minesweeping, dated April 1915 - I felt I could do with a good, easy to understand, simple explanation. I've read about paravanes and cutting the wires/chains that held the mines below sea level but can't understand how the paravane actually did the cutting. Did one ship tow one paravane or two (as one article seemed to suggest) or did two ships work together on one mine, as another seemed to say?

    To be honest, Naval-Gazer, I didn't want to spend any more money on a yet another book that I might never refer to again - I'm always doing that! The other website you mention looks interesting from many points of view.

    Thank you for your reply and I hope you don't think I'm too mean to buy the book but, in these times, as a pensioner (there go those damn violins again!) I have to curb my enthusiasm for buying books a bit - plus, I'm not just running out of shelf space but anywhere to put more shelves!

    Thanks again - I might just persuade my wife that I really do need this book - then, again, I may fail!
  4. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

  5. Hi Seaweed,

    I had come across this website and it's the one that shows two boats/ships working together while other books/websites talk about one ship/boat. It's also using a steel "bight" and a see-sawing action, while others talk about using a paravane. It's very interesting and thanks for telling me!

    I can understand the two ship method though I'd love to know how a steel "bight" (whatever that is) could cut through what looks like a very strong and very heavy steel chain, even with a see-sawing action - and that sounds like a very difficult and dangerous operation to me. Similarly, though, how on earth could a paravane do it? I really need to do more reading!

    Thanks again, Seaweed, one day all will become clear (I hope!).
  6. Hi again, Seaweed,

    Looking at the manual (and there's a lot more there to read than I thought, so thanks again) the "kite" mentioned is, obviously, what others call a "paravane". Several books/magazines/websites (I forget which, now) talk about one boat being used so I'll have to see how that might be possible.

  7. Johnny - Early mine sweeps simply comprised chains towed over the seabed between two ships or even by a single ship to drag mines and their moorings out of a channel. These were later replaced with serrated wire cables towed between two ships (Actaeon Sweep). Development of the Oropesa Sweep with its divertors and depth-keeping kite allowed sweeps to be towed by a single ship. Sweep wires were made from flexible steel wire rope and streamed from each quarter of a minesweeper. The cables were laid right or left-handed according to the side streamed. This helped the wires achieve hydrodynamic lift and spread. A single strand in each wire was laid in the opposite direction to provide a serrated cutting effect.

    Moored mines only had a short length of chain shackled to them. The rest of the mooring was wire cable or even sisal rope in some cases; otherwise the mine would have been unable to support the weight of its mooring particularly in deep water. This was the part of the mooring that the sweep wire or any fitted cutter was intended to sever.

    Burney explosive paravanes were deployed from torpedo boat destroyers in a configuration known as the 'High Speed Sweep' to counter submarines. However, most paravanes were non-explosive and were streamed by larger warships and merchant ships as self-defence measures to divert moored mines away from their hulls. They comprised a wire streamed to each side from the bows with a float secured to the end to divert it outwards. See paravane.

    From the MCDOA website:

  8. Hi Naval_Gazer,

    That's brilliant! That explains, in simple terms, all I wanted to know. I'd read about the cables and how they were laid in opposite directions, and kites, and paravanes but the problem seems to me that the books/ magazines were, possibly, talking about different times in the development of minesweeping.

    No matter, I've read what you've said and I'm happy! I shall read it again many times, I'm sure, before I fully understand but that's fine.

    Thanks to all who have helped me - I'm very grateful.

  9. 'How did Minesweepers operate'? Carefully I would have said..:rofl:On a serious note, there was a book I recall, I think it was called 'Outsweeps' It was very good, with some good dits. Think it may have been about WW2 Minesweepers though.
  10. Hi Sarking,

    Just to show I, too, have a sense of humour (not much sense and not a lot of humour, actually) I thought that "Carefully" was a Welsh Cheese, but there you go! The book "Outsweep" seems to be about WW2 but thanks for your input - and your joke!

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