The backbone of the Navy

PINMILL was built in 1910 by the Whitstable Barge Company, and was fitted out by Dan Marine Motor & Shipbuilding Company, Ipswich. She was originally built as an open passenger launch. She spent much of her working life in the Harwich area, initially employed by Sir Thomas Lipton’s company. In 1911 she was employed distributing victuals to the Navy under Lipton’s government contract, after which she was sold to the Great Eastern Railway to open the Harwich-Felixstowe-Shotley ferry in 1912.

At the outbreak of the First World War, PINMILL was requisitioned by the Admiralty to service the Harwich Force, a squadron of the Royal Navy.  A priority for the Navy was to secure the approaches to the English Channel, to prevent elements of the German High Seas Fleet from breaking out into the Atlantic, or from interfering with British maritime trade and convoys to the continent.

Most of the major fleet units of the Grand Fleet had dispersed to the Navy's anchorage at Scapa Flow or to other North Eastern ports to monitor the northern route from the North Sea into the Atlantic. Consequently, a number of patrol flotillas were organised along the south and east coasts of England, with commands established at several of the major ports in the region. The Dover Patrol, consisting mostly of destroyers, was based at Dover, while a number of pre-Dreadnoughts and cruisers were based at Portland Harbour.

However, a large number of warships were based at Harwich, under the command of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt.In early 1917, the Harwich Force consisted of eight light cruisers, two flotilla leaders and 45 destroyers. By the end of the year, there were nine light cruisers, four flotilla leaders and 24 destroyers. The combination of light, fast ships was intended to provide effective scouting and reconnaissance, whilst still being able to engage German light forces, and to frustrate attempts at minelaying in the Channel. Also stationed at Harwich was a submarine force under Commodore Roger Keyes.  

It was intended that the Harwich Force would operate when possible in conjunction with the Dover Patrol, and the Admiralty intended that the Harwich Force would also be able to support the Grand Fleet if it moved into the area. Tyrwhitt was also expected to carry out reconnaissance of German naval activities in the southern parts of the North Sea, and to escort ships sailing between the Thames and the Netherlands. His objectives were often complicated by the need to provide reinforcements for the Dover Patrol.

The Harwich Force fired the first shots of the war when a flotilla led by H.M.S. AMPHION sank the minelayer KÖNIGIN LUISE on 5 August 1914. During the war, the Force captured or sank 24 enemy merchant ships, and escorted 520 eastbound and 511 westbound ships between Dutch and British ports. Their ships also took part in the Cuxhaven Raid on Christmas Day 1914.

 PINMILL operated as a ferry between the shore and the vessels of the Harwich Force in and around Harwich Harbour throughout the First World War. At the end of the war she returned to duty as the Harwich-Felixstowe-Shotley ferry, and she continued in this role until 1925.

 PINMILL then became a workboat at Harwich and Parkestone Quay, one mile upriver, and, apart from service for the Navy and the Ministry of War Transport between 1939 and 1945, remained in that role until 1987, when she was laid up after sinking. PINMILL was purchased in 1988 by the Ipswich Maritime Trust for preservation. She was then renovated and operated public and charter pleasure trips from Ipswich.

Where is she now?

PINMILL was purchased from the Ipswich Maritime Trust in May 2005 by her present owner and is currently undergoing complete restoration at Faversham, Kent. Upon completion she will be used as a passenger boat on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.