The following are excerpts from interview with Mike Thomas, of Dorset, United Kingdom. As a young man Mr. Thomas sailed in CLOVER with her original owner, Eric Thompson, and had several reminiscences to share.
I was pleased to discover that Clover is still “alive”and is doing a good job for the Vets.
She was originally built to the order of my friend Eric Thompson at, I believe, Luke Bros. yard on the Hamble River,Hampshire in 1937. For many years her home port was Poole, Dorset which is my home town. At the age of 17 and at something of a loose end while awaiting my call-up for military service I met Eric on the Quay when standing and admiring Clover. He invited me aboard to show me around and discovering that I had worked on a well known ocean racer and looking for an extra pair of hands to prepare the boat for a voyage down the West coast of France offered me a job. I lived aboard for several months before joining the Army.
On my return I met him by chance. By that time he and his colleague were beginning to find the work of handling her heavy canvas and gear a bit too much and regretfully had sold her. She was replaced by motor vessel of about the same tonnage as Clover and he was about to take Faith on a trip down the West coast of France. I was invited along as a working guest and enjoyed my demobilisation leave in an unexpected manner.
I have often wondered what happened to Clover.Eric would never discuss her wartime activities but this would be due to our Official Secrets Acts.
She may have been laid up ashore at the time of Dunkirk but I think she may have been used by Eric and Fred Matthews his colleague as a floating base for marine salvage at some time during the war. It is a pity that this period is a closed book but, like you I would love to what did happen during those and subsequent years.
Exploring the internet I have found some references to ownership by a William Pringle. In letters to the magazine Latitude 38 he has written about being in Grenada having had damage to her rig near Martinique. In the same letter he reports the loss of a friend in a hurricane. Another letter describes the near death of his son while in Sausalito Harbor and living aboard Clover.
Eric Thompson was a businessman with connections to the Brewing Industry and may have been the founding member of The Crown Cork Company who made the closures for beer and other bottles. He had been a pilot in WWI but told me little about that. Fred Mathews came from a family of local fishermen (11 brothers!) and had, I think been a Hired Hand. When I knew him he was both a representative for Eric’s Company and his sailing companion. I have been trying to get information about Eric’s family hoping that I might glean more from them but no luck so far.
Concerning the location of the photos - I don’t think the Bekens did other than take them beyond the Solent. They had all the subjects they could wish for within a couple of miles of their base at Cowes. I think that the coastline is that of the north side of The Solent which is low lying and wooded.
The binnacle is sited in a convenient position for taking bearings. If you look at the cockpit/deckhouse structure there is not really room for that operation and a separate compass was used for general navigation.
I am still of the opinion that she was not used for operations. I think that that the level of German air and seaborne activity in the Channel would have given any small vessel a short life. If you have found evidence of ASDIC as against sounding equipment I can only assume that some sort of experimentation at some stage had taken place. I think I have mentioned in previous correspondence that there was a mention of her use as accommodation on a salvage job. I know that Eric Thompson had some sort of interest in diving but to what purpose and when I don’t know. Both Eric and Fred were Royal Naval Volunteer Members throughout the War but their role was never discussed. This, as you will be aware, is not unusual. We all are bound by the Official Secrets Act and this has prevented a lot of knowledge being put into the public domain.
August 31, 2021
Terry founded WBFV in 2014 to build a community of veterans and their families around wooden boats.
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