HMS Epsom

HMS Epsom
HMS Epsom.

Racecourse Class minesweepers, were 32 ships delivered to the Royal Navy during the First World War, built to two related designs (originally developed by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company) as paddle - wheel coastal minesweeping sloops under the Emergency War Programme. Reportedly the vessels were reasonable sea-boats, but lost speed badly in a seaway when the paddle - boxes tended to become choked with water. The type is otherwise known as the Ascot class and Improved Ascot class.

Amongst the initial batch ordered during 1915 was TC 59 laid down by George Brown & Company, Greenock, as Yard Number 97, which became the Minesweeping Paddle Steamer named HMS Epsom when launched on Thursday, 4 May 1916: -
Tonnage 810 displacement
Length 74.9 m
Breadth 8.8 m (17.7m across paddle-boxes
Draught 2.1 m
Inclined compound 1,400 hp steam engine giving 14.5 knots.
Armament 2 x 6pdr & 2 x 2pdr pom - poms.
Crew 50.
Commissioned 17 July 1916.

Her first commanding officer, Edward John Dawes, was an Australian who had been in the Merchant Marine certificated in England, 2nd Mate, 21 June 1912, & First Mate 23 April 1914. He entered the Royal Navy Reserve to obtain a commission as T/Sub-Lieutenant 625 by June 1915. His appointment to HMS Epsom dated from 26 June 1916.

Epsom was assigned to 8th Fast Sweeping Flotilla, Queenstown, Ireland, and E J Dawes' promotion to Temporary Lieutenant, RNR, took effect from 19 June 1917. He seems to have been replaced as officer in charge by the ship's second in command, Albert H. Barnes, RNVR, on 24 September 1917. The latter remained as captain until David C McKenzie, RNR, was appointed on 31 October 1918 following the death of Lt E J Dawes. They were supported by two other officers, Eng. Lt. William Benn & Eng. Sub-Lt. George Stephens, both of the Royal Naval Reserve.

In 1919, Lt. David Dickson from Dundee had joined the complement.

Biographical details for Lt E J Dawes are set out at He may have been relieved of his charge because of an illness which proved terminal. It appears that he went to stay with relatives, James Charles and Frances Ann, nee Orme, Millar, at Jesmond House, Bridge Street, Bolton, where he died on 28 October 1918 described 'of HMS Epsom'. He was interred at Bolton (Heaton) Cemetery, Lancashire in the grave of Sarah Dawes who had become the wife of Joseph Orme in 1866 (much later to be joined there by the Millars).

After 1919 the vessel remained at Rosyth until January 1921 when it became one of thirteen minesweepers paid off there. During March 1922 this ship was sold to T Ward before being broken up at Inverkeithing.

Brian Bouchard, July 2016