River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

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Istanbul
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Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:32 am

River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

Post by Istanbul » Sat Sep 24, 2022 3:42 pm

Hello all,

During my research on the final fate of HMS Firefly I came across possibly contradictory information.

In the book by Ian Rutledge "Enemy on the Euphrates 1914-1921" the author gives the following information in summary:

".07.1920: arrived at Kufa / river Euphrates and moored as guard vessel 17.08.1920: got heavy shellfire from Arab insurgents and set ablaze, as fire penetrated ships magazine the crew decided to scuttle the vessel by heavy machine gun fire, vessel tilted to one side and settled down on the bottom of the Hindiyya channel"

In Dittmer / Colledge: British Warships 1914-1919. p. 106. however, the following final fate is given: "14.06.1924: sank by insurgents on river Euphrates" and "The Navy List. (January, 1921). p. 774" reports "16.03.1918: paid off".

If the loss information in Dittmer / Colledge is correct, the ship must have been salvaged and repaired after 1920. If this was the case, it would be interesting to know where and on what occasion the ship was lost in 1924. The information in "The Navy List" as paid off in 1918 is also unclear to me.

I would be grateful for any information.

Jochen Krüsmann
David H
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Re: River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

Post by David H » Sun Sep 25, 2022 8:16 am

I can add a little - the ship was paid off by the Navy in March 1918 to be handed over to the British Army - the Inland Water Transport Service - along with all the other 'Fly' class boats.

Perhaps some other info may be found in-

https://www.naval-military-press.com/pr ... sopotamia/
Istanbul
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Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:32 am

Re: River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

Post by Istanbul » Mon Sep 26, 2022 3:53 pm

Hello David,

Many thanks for the informations. Yes, I found her in the mentioned book which I have in my archive. She was handed over to IWT on 02.03.1918 for service as "defence vessel". Unfortunately no more infos, because the original book was published already in 1921 and possibly to early to include the 1920 action.

At the end it remains a mystery why Dittmer / Colledge mention her as sank by insurgents on 24.06.1924.

Regards,
Jochen
davidships
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Location: UK

Re: River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

Post by davidships » Sat Oct 01, 2022 7:20 pm

I cannot throw any light on the rather specific claim by Dittmer/Colledge (except to note that as far back as 1969, Colledge had "Sunk 6.24 by insurgents in the Euphrates" in Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol 1. It does seem likely that this is a corrupted reference to the 1920 incident.

The War Office no longer operated any Fly-class gunboats by 6/1924. Apart from three still in service with the RAF (GADFLY, SEDGEFLY, GRAYFLY) and two that had been lost (FIREFLY and BLACKFLY), all the rest had been disposed of in 1923.

In 1925 the Government was concerned to discover that the Persian river gunboat KHUZISTAN which had been firing on Iraq near Faliyeh and Buwarin [not sure of location of these places], was one of the former Fly-boats, as under the Treaty of Washington no surplus war vessels would be sold to foreign powers. There is probably other material on this at TNA (presumably FCO files), but I have notes from Ministry of Munitions file MUN/4/6260 (they were responsible for the post-WW1 disposals in MesPot) containing a schedule of the 16 boats dated 8/2/1924 and their disposition, which includes:
FIREFLY: sunk at Kufa on River Euphrates during the insurrection and subsequently destroyed to clear river passage
That loss is undated but clearly referring to the 1920 actions at the same place.

DAvid Asprey
Last edited by davidships on Sat Oct 08, 2022 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Istanbul
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Re: River gunboat HMS Firefly final fate in Mesopotamia

Post by Istanbul » Sat Oct 08, 2022 10:10 am

Hello David,

Good to hear from you after such a long time.

Many thanks for your statements to which I fully agree. I will check the FCO files during my visit to TNA possibly in 2023, but I think it is quite obvious that FIREFLY was completely destroyed in the 1920 action.

Best regards,
Jochen
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