The Inception and Early Days of the Auxiliary Patrol

The years leading up to the war saw a sometimes heated discussion about the need for some adjunct to the capital ships of the regular navy - primarily for coastal patrol work and minesweeping. In 1907 Admiral Lord Charles Beresford voiced the opinion that the fleet of fishing trawlers he'd seen while visiting the port town of Grimsby would be just the thing to have on hand for this sort of patrol work. Particularly so, given their crews - bred to the sea and long accustomed to trawling, a method readily adapted to minesweeping. In 1909 Lord Fisher obtained a small number of these sorts of trawlers for experimentation. Chatterton recalls seeing these craft in action, practicing minesweeping as they defined tactics for deploying the trawlers.

Meanwhile, beginning about 1910 in the civilian yachting press, a debate evolved concerning the desire of many enthusiastic yachtsmen to form some sort of volunteer organization by which they could offer up the services of their craft and, of course, themselves in the event of hostilities. It was recognized that this sort of service would likely be in the form of local coastal patrol support for the regular navy but it was strongly felt that this Motor Boat Reserve would fill a pressing need due to the lack of such patrol capabilities within the Royal Navy at the time. Some took the approach of detailing their thoughts (often a great, tedious length) in the form of articles - see Captain JC Field-Richards' article In The Service of The State - others via short points and counterpoints in the editorial pages. The evolution of the Motor Boat Reserve and the men volunteering for it is interesting to observe in the editorial pages of The Yachting Monthly.

Eventually, the Admiralty formed a Motor Boat Reserve Committee under Admiral Sir Frederick S Inglefield who, in 1912 reported to the Admiralty that the use of the yachtsmen and their motor craft would, indeed, be desirable. In early 1914 the Admiralty created a Motor Boat Reserve under the auspices of the RNVR—working with various members of yacht clubs having experienced motor-yachtsmen. A training program was proposed, as was an organizational system. With the advent of war in August of 1914 this Royal Naval Motor Boat Reserve (RNMBR) was incorporated into services of the Auxiliary Patrol. Eventually, as the services of the RNMBR became indispensible, the title was dropped and the men and boats became fully incorporated into the RNVR.

Once war was declared the Auxiliary Patrol was put right to work in clearing minefields which the Germans began to sow. The port of Lowestoft quickly became a base for the Auxiliary Patrol - fitting out up to six trawlers a day for sweeping activites. The next development came quickly - the need to deter, if not actually hunt, U-boats. Auxiliary Patrol boats, including private yachts and small motor boats, were quickly deployed at Scapa Flow to defend the fleet from U-boats. And it was seen that this would be necessary all around the British Isles and much further afield. The stage was set for the construction of the Mosquito Fleet.