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Mine warfare: Mines, Minelayers, Minesweepers

Part 1: Mines

Catalogue number 81

Early mines

The presentation case shows models of a variety of pre-World War One mines. Far left is a mine barrier, center to right are contact mines and far right is a coastal mine barrier, covered at high water.

Verso: "Marine Militaire. No. 16 Different types of torpedoes, anchored or seabed mines" in black ink and from a wooden-boxed collection of 29 glass plate positives dated 25 January 1910

Credit: E. Mazo Paris

7.1cm x 7cm Glass plate positive


Catalogue number 27031

Spanish "torpedo" mine, 1898

Sea mines were initially called torpedoes after the fish of that name(torpedo ray) which can deliver a strong electric shock. This is a contact mine with metal arms that trigger the firing mechanism. The plate at the base of the mine turns in the water and slows down payout of the mooring line as the sinker drops to the seabed.

Recto: “Spanish torpedo taken from Harbor of Santiago”

Verso: "In modern warfare explosives are coming more and more into use. Streets and thoroughfares as well as rivers, straits and harbors over which it is though the enemy may pass, are mined with deadly explosives sufficiently powerful to wreck the mightiest battleship or overwhelm a large land force. Torpedoes are usually made in forms similar to a cigar, so that they may be projected under the water, the sharp end going forward. As is well known, they can be arranged to explode by contact, a time fuse, or an electric wire. The sample death dealing instrument shown in this view provided with contact arms which when struck, thrust a spike into the interior as shown, causing explosion by percussion. Doubtless it was some such contrivance as one of those described above, which, on Feb. 15th, 1898, tore into shreds and sent to the bottom of Havana Harbor, our proud battleship "Maine" together with nearly her entire crew."

Credit: B.L. Singley

15.3cm x 8.3cm Stereo gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108028

Controlled mines, U.S.S. New Hampshire, Guantanamo

Preparing American controlled mines on board the U.S.S. New Hampshire. Note how the gun barrel in the foreground is buffed up.

Verso: "Mine drill on U.S.S. New Hampshire. At Guantanamo, Cuba" in black ink. Stamp box model of 1904 to 1918

13.7cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44249

Rigging for a controlled minefield, U.S.S. Vermont, Guantanamo, 1912

The explosive charge is fixed and then the two hemispheres are bolted together.

Verso: "Rigging the mines and aired bedding. U.S.S. Vermont. These are the boxes inwhich the explosive mines powders are placed. When anchored with their round balls a little below the surface of the water they are a terrible destruction to the ships whose side touches them. Once a week, usually on Friday, the crew's hammocks are aired on the lines from reville in the morning till noon, hammock inspection sometimes follows. Jan 1912 Guantanamo Cuba" in black ink

12.8cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44248

Loading mines on a ship's boat, U.S.S. Vermont, Guantanamo, 1912

The mines and sinkers will be taken out to the minefield, note the lengths of electric wire.

Verso: "Ready for placing the mines U.S.S. Vermont. A sailing launch is in front with a manned dinghy behind. A framework is placed on the launch and six mines are ready for lowering. The mushroom anchors that hold them down are below the water. The cylindrical boxes at the water's edge are the battery boxes. The uncharged mine globes are on the raft. In this drill the little floats are used as markers to find the mines again. Of course these are only used in drill. Jan 1912 Guantanamo Bay Cuba" in black ink

7.6cm x 12.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122071

German mine of the type laid by submarine

These American sailors stand by a German mine laid by a submarine. The mine is in a four-post frame to protect the horns (removed in this photograph) whilst the mine was held in the submarine mine tube. The British designation was "Type II", 322 kg and a explosive charge of 131kg wet guncotton.

7.5cm x 12.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122043

Mine from German minelaying submarine

In this photograph of a submarine-laid mine, two of the frames are folded back, the Herz horns are still in place and we can see the hydrostatic depth gear in the lower part of the support.

Recto: "Military Museum. German sea mine brought up by the Trouville in the North Sea, 21st May 1918" in French

9.1cm x 12.6cm Printed image


Catalogue number 135070

British bottom influence mines from World War 1

The Sinker mk IM was the world's first magnetic mine and was in use from July 1918. A minefield was laid off the Belgian coast but the mines performed badly with premature explosions as well as detonations shortly after being laid.

Recto: "The ruins of Zeebrugge 1914-18 English submarine mines"

13.6cm x 8.5cm Printed image


Catalogue number 70082

Stock of Spanish moored mines

Spanish mines of the Spanish Society for Naval Construction (S.E. de C.N.), they may be controlled mines as no horns are evident. British shipbuilders were predominantely present in the S.E. de C.N. at the beginning of the 20th century with Vickers taking 40% of contracts.

Verso: "S.E. de C.N. (Sociedad Espanola de Construccion Naval), Ferrol. A group of underwater mines."

Credit: Hauser y Menet - Madrid

14.1cm x 9.3cm Printed image


Catalogue number 92089

British mines on a fast minelayer

Over 60 contact mines can be seen on the rails of this World War Two Royal Navy fast minelayer.

Verso: "Protecting the English coast. British minelayers lay minefields along the English coast and in the North Sea to protect from enemy attack. These mines are being prepared to be released. 2.1.40" in French

17.1cm x 12.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 96058

A mine goes over the stern ramp

A standard British World War Two mine going off the ramp.

Verso: "To defend the English coast. To protect the English coast from the enemy, British minelayers have laid minefields all around the coast. Releasing a mine in the North Sea, photographed on board a minelayer. 1.2.40" in French

18.3cm x 11.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29010

Russian mine opened up on deck, S.M.S. Ausburg

S.M.S. Augsburg laid a minefield off the Russian port of Libau in the Baltic Sea at the beginning of World War One. However, it is said that the minefield was poorly marked and was a hindrance to German naval operations in the area. The two mines shown here are Russian M1912 inertial mines. We can see the hydrostatic gripping device for locking the mooring rope on the deck left and the inertia pistol, mooring rope and drum to the right.

13.9cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35169

Italian "J' type mines - spherical, no top but a bottom cover plate, two brackets on lower hemisphere - on a German warship.

"Rabotti you will be slaughtered". Who was Rabotti?

11cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 137091

A lay of mines on Eugenio di Savoia, 1941

The crew prepare to push a lay of mines over the stern of the Italian cruiser Eugenio di Savoia, she laid a large minefield off the coast of Tripoli in 1941.

Verso: "Eugenio di Savoie foto 4/1941" in light pencil

14.3cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110016

Fairey Barracuda with bottom mines

This aircraft, RK 328, was operational in May 1945 and went on to the Torpedo Development Unit at Gosport, June 1945. This photograph shows the Barracuda loaded with aircraft-layed ground mines.

Verso: "Barracuda II with one Mk VII and two Mk VIII mines 23 Jul 1945" in black ink

Credit: Temple Press Ltd.

20.7cm x 15.1cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 110017

Fairey Barracuda with bottom mines

Sturtivant states that in September 1945, this aircraft was used at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) for handling trial with 370lb and 570lb "SCI" (?). These mines were also layed by motor launches, being smaller and lighter than convention ground mines. Initially, the firing mechanism was magnetic then by combinations of magnetic, acoustic and pressure

Verso: "Barracuda II fitted with 1 x Mk VII mine 23 Jul 1945" in black ink

Credit: Temple Press Ltd.

20.7cm x 15.8cm Gelatin silver print


Part 2: Minelayers

Catalogue number 13031

French paddle minelayer Guepe

The paddle minelayer Guepe was originally a tender named Lloyd (built by Nusck & Co, Gabrow 1914, 640 tonnes) for the Norddeutscher Lloyd company running out of Cherbourg to take passengers, luggage and mail to the transatlantic liners before starting the Atlantic crossing. She was seized and renamed Guepe for use as a patrol ship and then as a minelayer with the study group for mine warfare. The quarter deck aft of the paddles was taken up with a system of rails from which mines were pushed over the stern.

Verso: "René Jacques's ship in the Mediterranean" in French and in black ink

Credit: Emery

12.8cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 48071

German minelayer S.M.S. Pelikan

The Pelikan was commissioned in 1891 taking on various minor functions before being converted to a minelayer in 1895. From the start of the First World War, Pelikan laid contact and anti-submarine mines in the German Bight, she could carry 400 mines. She was broken up in 1921. In these photographs, we can see forward and to starboard of the bridge, one of the four 15.5 pdr guns.

13.7cm x 8.6cm Matt gelatin silver print



Catalogue number 40278

German minelayer S.M.S. Nautilus

An interesting ship, commissioned in 1906 and could act as an ice-breaker (rounded bow), a boom charger as well as a minelayer carrying 400 mines (From Jane's 1914). It looks like mines were pushed off a rail that projected over the stern of the ship, see structure beyond the stern flagstaff.

14.4cm x 8.2cm Recent gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110053

First World War German F-boats

F-boats are often described as minesweepers but they also acted as minelayers carrying ground and contact mines. In this photograph, we can see contact mines on F27 and ground mines on the two boats in the foreground. Light vessels with a shallow draft made them well-adapted to minelaying in the coastal waters off the German coast.

13.8cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110051

F-boats with ground mines, 1915

Part of an F-boat flotilla with at least two boats with mines on board (far right). When examing the quarter deck of these boats, there is no obvious minesweeping gear.

Recto: "F-boats of a fast minesweeping flotilla" in German

Verso: Franked Wilhelmshaven 1915

Credit: Krüger

13.8cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number

First World War German torpedo boat with mines

This German torpedo boat has rails port and starboard loaded with contact mines.

13cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44060

First World War German torpedo boat laying mines

E-mines being prepared for laying, note the cylindrical shape as opposed to the spherical sea mines.

11cm x 8.3cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 37152

R-boat with mines, Ostend

R-boats played a similar role to the F-boats of the First World War. They are described as minesweepers but, as for the R-boats, there is no obvious minesweeping gear visable in this photograph.

Verso: "The fight in the West. Sea mines seized in the harbour at Ostend.". From the collection "The fight in the West" propaganda series

Credit: Raumbild-Verlag Otto Schonstein, Munchen (Editor's note: Schonstein specialised in producing stereo-images, notably as propaganda for the Nazi party)

11.2cm x 4.8cm Stereo gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 70022

French ship Pluton, 1913

The Pluton and her sister ship Cerbere were the first French Navy warships built as minelayers, capacity 120 mines and commissioned in 1914. Note the stern doors and the stern 100mm gun.

Recto: "Pluton minelayer 1913 "

Credit: Bar

13.1cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 138024

French ship Pluton, launch

Pluton goes down the slipway at launching in Le Havre, 1913

Recto: "Launch of the minelayer "Pluton" after launching" in French and in fine black ink

13.1cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 43219

Pluton and Cerbere were a successful straightforward design from the Normand shipyard, Le Havre. Here we can see the foredeck 100mm gun.

Recto: "Pluton minelayer 1913-21"

Credit: Bar

13.5m x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46187

Cerbere, sister ship to Pluton

Here Cerbere has only the forward 75mm gun.

Credit: Bar

13.4cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 01041

H.M.S. Minerva, ex-M33 coastal monitor

H.M.S. Minerva (ex-M33, launched 1915) was one of four ex-coastal monitors that were converted to minelayers in the early 20s. They could carry 52 "H" type or 15 "L" type mines on rails on the open deck. In this photograph, we can see an unusual chute going from the top of the deckhouse over the quarter deck.-

Credit: Wright and Logan/Royal Naval Museum

13.5cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 36264

Melpomene, ex-M31 coastal monitor

This view of H.M.S. Melpomene (ex-M31, coastal monitor) shows four rounded, cylindrical mines on the rails.

14cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 01041

H.M.S. Medea, ex-M22 coastal monitor, 1930

H.M.S. Medea was the lead ship of the four Medea-class minelayers and was built by Raylton Dixon. She looks different to the other ships of the class with a shorter quarterdeck, hefty derricks to lift mines and a wooden hut on the deckhouse. She became a minelaying training ship in 1925.

16cm x 10.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 135056

H.M.S. M6, M-class controlled minelayer

So far, we have been describing ships that lay mines which detonate on contact or with the passage of a ship. A controlled minefield forms a barrage of electrically-connected mines that can be fired by an operator at an onshore location. During both World Wars, controlled minefields were associated with anti-submarine/anti-ship indicator loops. Passage of a steel vessel induced a current in the loop that could be detected onshore where a operator could trigger mines or automatically detonate the mines in that part of the field. H.M.S. M6 (later renamed MinerVI) has a cable guide over the bow and heavy lift derricks midships as well as a stern chute for laying the mines. Note the 20mm AA gun aft and two Lewis guns on the bridge wings. The bow shear is strengthen and strakes protect the hull as mines and cables are manoeuvred about the curved davits.

Verso: "M6 " in pencil

20.3cm x 15.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 01036

H.M.S. Linnet, controlled minelayer, 1938

H.M.S. Linnet was the lead ship of three Linnet-class purpose-built controlled minelayers launched in 1938. Here we can see the electric cables below the port davit, note the ship is not armed.

Credit: Wright and Logan/Royal Naval Museum

13.3cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 03019

H.M.S. Redshank, controlled minelayer, 1953

Another Linnet-class controlled minelayer, we can see the foredeck chute to guide the electric cables over the bow.

Credit: Wright and Logan/Royal Naval Museum

13.4cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 02018

H.M.S. Redstart, Controlled minelayer

The third Linnet-class, H.M.S. Redstart is shown here with cables over the port side and a lay of mines on the quarterdeck.

13.5cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 63004

Coastal minelayer Plover

A very smart ship with fine lines, H.M.S. Plover was a one-off but had a long and exceptional career from 1937 to 1969. During the war she is said to have laid over 15,000 mines. She is shown late in her career after a deckhouse had been built up on the deck.

Credit: Skyfotos

23.5cm x 17.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 138014

First British dedicated minelayer, H.M.S. Adventure

Not only the first purpose-built minelayer of the Royal Navy, H.M.S. Adventure was a "first" on several other points. She was the first cruiser with a mixed propulsion with steam turbines for speed and diesel-electric propulsion for cruising, the funnel for diesel fumes was behind and close up to the second funnel. For the first time, a minelayer had a continuous internal deck with four rails (two port, two starboard) carrying the mines (280 large mines or 340 small mines). On completion in 1925, she was the first cruiser designed with a transom stern over which opened the chutes. However, the transom stern caused a vortex to arise in the ships' wake such that some mines were sucked back dangerously towards the stern. Note the canvas screens on the quarter deck.

Recto: H.M.S. Adventure at Reykjavik

13cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 01004

H.M.S. Adventure, 1933

We can see here the rebuilt, rounded, cruiser stern and repositioning the minelaying doors to the side, a modification made to overcome the problem of mines being drawn back towards the transom stern when launched. Note the torpedo bulges.

Credit: Wright and Logan/Royal Naval Museum

13.4cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 41309

Fast minelayer H.M.S. Apollo, 1952

Designed from the keel up, the four Abdiel-class cruiser minelayers could "Go like the Devil !". A cruiser hull could carry a large number of mines internally and the Abdiel-class ships reached remarquably high speeds - H.M.S. Manxman cruised at 44 kts, Latonia exceeded 49 kts. Their speed was an asset to avoid engagment with the enemy. They carried up to 150 mines on a chain conveyor for deployment over the stern.

Credit: Wright and Logan/Royal Naval Museum

13.4cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 133096

H.M.S. Manxman, Abdiel-class fast minelayer, 1946

The Abdiel-class minelayers were kept very busy during the war and H.M.S. Manxman looks rather battered here in Malta, 1946. Note the closed stern hatches and two cranes port and starboard to bring the mines on board. The three two-turret guns were dual purpose and the anti-aircraft armament was extensive but speed was their best defence. We have read that these ships had more power per shaft than any other British warship except H.M.S. Hood!

Verso: "Manxman 1946" in black ink

Credit: Pavia

14.2cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 33127

H.M.S. Obdurate, destroyer modified for minelaying

During both the First and the Second World War, destroyers were modified to be used as minelayers, their fast speed - to get in and to get out of the minelaying zone quickly- being a great advantage for this role although the mines were on deck and unprotected. H.M.S. Obdurate was one of four O-class 1942 destroyers modified to lay 60 mines, Y gun and both sets of torpedo tubes were removed for minelaying. Note the rails running along the deck from midships to the stern chutes.

Credit: Skyfotos

24.4cm x 19.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88 F19

French minelayer Pluton

The second Pluton was an unarmoured cruiser completed 1931. She could reach over 30 kts and carried 90 mines. She was lost after a mine explosion in Casablanca, 1939.

Verso: " "

Credit: Bar

***** Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88 F19

French minelayer Pluton, main deck plan

This plan of the main deck shows the system of rails for carrying and laying the mines, note the turntables at the head of the dual rail system.

Credit: Service Historique de la Defense


Catalogue number 21047


The French minelayers Castor and Pollux were built as icebreakers for Russia before entering the White Russia navy. Seized by France in Bizerte and converted to minelayers 1927-29, Castor 368 mines, Pollux 236 mines. Note the vast mine chutes.

Credit: Art-Photo

12.9cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46188

Castor, 1929

Note the open gallery over the mine rails and the beginning of the rounded icebreaker bow.

Credit: Bar

13.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46189


Pollux was shorter than Castor, 64m compared to 75m. Note the 3.9-inch gun forward.

Credit: Bar

13.3cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114016

Pollux underway

This view shows the quarter deck 3.9-inch gun, note the transom stern as opposed to the cruiser stern of Castor. The problem of the wake pulling mines back onto the transom stern (see above H.M.S. Adventure) was avoided by using the wide, fan-like mine chute with double rails.

13.1cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number

U.S.S. Terror, stern doors, 1945

This ship was, like H.M.S. Adventure, a one-off minelayer design for the U.S. Navy, commissioned 1942. With her relatively high speed (25 kts), she played numerous roles where speed and vast deck space were an advantage - delivering cargoes of mines and ammunition to operational theatres, depot ship for small vessels, casualty evacuation, logistic supplies and acting as flagship. Note the vast stern doors.

Credit: Public domain, courteously provided by Navsource


Catalogue number

U.S.S. Terror, aerial view, circa 1946

Nine hundred mines could be carried by U.S.S. Terror. Note the broad beam and the uncluttered quarter deck.

Credit: Public domain, courteously provided by Navsource


Catalogue number 27032

U.S.S. Aroostook, circa 1920

Most minelaying in the U.S. Navy was done by existing vessels converted to that role. The Eastern Steam Ship Corporation purchased the ship from the Cramp Shipyard in 1912 and named her S.S. Bunker Hill before being acquired by the U.S. Navy and renamed U.S.S. Aroostook. She was converted to a minelayer in 1918 after an extensive rebuild. She played an important role in laying a total of 3,180 mines in the North Sea Mine Barrage of World War One.

Verso: "Artisoock (sic) in San Diego" in pencil

13.6cm x 7.9cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 127082

U.S.S. Shawmut, ex-U.S.S. Oglala

This ship had several lives, first as the fast coastal freighter S.S. Massachusetts in 1907, then as a coastal passenger liner after a rebuild before being bought by the U.S. Navy for conversion to a minelayer in 1917 (named U.S.S. Massachusetts then renamed U.S.S. Shawmut). This photograph was taken in 1920 when the Shawmut was working as a floatplane tender in Guantanamo Bay although she was the U.S. Navy fleet's principal minelayer up to the early 1940s. Note the large stern doors, the ship assisted in the laying of the North Sea Mine Barrage.

Recto: "USS Oglala"

Credit: US Navy

11.1cm x 8.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121105

U.S.S. Aaron Ward, minelaying destroyer

U.S. Navy destroyers were used as minelayers and several Sumners-class destroyers were converted during building to carry and lay mines. This photograph show U.S.S. Aaron Ward after being hit by - and surviving - a kamikaze attack in May 1945. Note the mine rails port and starboard running the length of the deck.

Recto: "The minelayer Aaron Ward sustained 6 kamikaze suicide crashes in 59 minutes and lived"

Credit: US Navy

9.1cm x 10.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110016

Fairey Barracuda with ground mines

This Fairey Barracude RK328 is loaded up with mines and we can see one mk VII mine under the fuselage and two mk VIII small magnetic mines attached under the port wing. Note the aerial above the port wing. RK328 was a mark II Barracuda based at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment in June 1945.

Verso: "Barracuda II with one Mk VII and two Mk VIII mines. 23 JUL 1945"

20.7cm x 15cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 138013

Handley Page Hampden

A rather peculiar design of aircraft and cramped for the four crew but the Hampden played a most useful role as a minelayer. Shown here with an aerial mine

Recto: "Hampden aircraft carry mines that they lay in enermy waters. This photo shows the ground crew of the Royal Air Force loading a mine into an aircraft" in French

12.7cm x 6.8cm Printed image

Part 3: Minesweepers. In Preparation