Rare chance for cadets to take charge of D-Day vessel

Cadets dressed in 1940s gear
Cadets dressed in 1940s gear
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The cadets of Warsash got a rare treat this month – to take charge of a Second World War D-Day vessel.

Cadets took charge of HML 1387, latterly known as HMS Medusa, from Gosport to Portland where the vessel was open to the public as one of the attractions at the marina open day.

MAPPING A cadet and the instructor Lt Paul Lane plot Medusas position on the chart

MAPPING A cadet and the instructor Lt Paul Lane plot Medusas position on the chart

The cadets had just finished a navigation course and their instructor, a serving Royal Navy Lieutenant, always looking for memorable ways of consolidating their theory classroom training, planned the course to coincide with Medusa’s move.

Cadets used a hand-bearing compass to fix Medusa’s position and navigate through the waters.

One of the Medusa volunteers also introduced the Warsash cadets to one of the vessels’ 20mm Oerlikon heavy machine guns.

In April 1944, Medusa formed part of Exercise Fabius – the rehearsal for D-Day, one part of which was the infamous Slapton Sands disaster Exercise Tiger, where American landing ships were pounced on by a patrol of German E-Boats with the loss of many lives.

The high point of her career was the pivotal role she played in D-Day.

Using ground-breaking and highly classified electronic navigation aids now revealed to be underwater sonar transducers and decca navigator, a predecessor to modern GPS, Medusa’s role was to accurately mark the cleared channel through the German minefield for the landing fleet to Omaha beach.

She remained on station for over 48 hours under the German guns. With the beach head secured and the guns silenced, she was released and returned to convoy escort and coastal patrol duties.

After the war the vessel served in various roles, from HQ ship to training vessel before serving 12 years as a temporary survey ship in the hydrographic fleet.

She is now in the hands of the Medusa trust, which operates the vessel as a living museum, making occasional television and film appearances, which may soon include the re-make of the Dunkirk film programmed for the summer.