Portwey’s War Service 1942 - 1945


Now on Admiralty service, Portwey was based at Dartmouth and moored alongside the South Embankment. She was employed on harbour service and towage at Ports in the vicinity of Dartmouth, and came under the Naval control of Plymouth Command.

23rd July Management now passed to Mr F.J. Weaver of the Portland & Weymouth Coaling Co. now based at Dartmouth.

18th Sept In a heavy air raid at Dartmouth, Steamship” Fernwood “ a collier (2555 tons) sunk with 700 tons of coal on board. The “Fernwood” along with “The Witch” & “Dagney” were coal storage hulks and were moored permanently in midstream. Portwey would move a floating crane from one to the other, for loading coal into barges.


27th May Mr H. Bodger of Paignton, now took over management of Portwey and the Portland & Weymouth Coaling Co.

5th Dec “H.M.T. Grassholm” and “Portwey” sailed from Dartmouth at 09.30 to assist a disabled Tug & Lifting Craft 18. The Tug was towed into Salcombe.


30th Jan . At 03.00 ”LST 382” was stranded on the Kingswear side of the River Dart during Exercise Gosling 1 & 2. Despite a falling tide Portwey and another tug towed her off the rocks.

18th April

Portwey was sent to Teignmouth.

19th April At Teignmouth Portwey completed the laying of moorings in the harbour and left with the Mooring Barge to return to Dartmouth.

26th April Portwey helped with the towing into Dartmouth Harbour, the US ship” LST 289” which was damaged at Slapton Sands in the pre-invasion exercise for D-Day, code name ‘Tiger’ .

2nd Oct Portwey towed “SS South coaster” off the beach, and then returned to Dartmouth.

Oct A.J. Viner , Mate. Joined Portwey, which at the time formed part of a small fleet of auxiliary vessels, under Admiralty Charter, but now had their movements controlled by the O.I.C. of the American base there.

She was working with two other tugs and Naval trawlers etc. on clearing flotsam and jetsam from mid channel, working between Start and Portland, also supplying fresh water to Naval vessels. Among the ships were the Destroyers Bulldog, Beagle, Kimberly and steam gunboats Grey Goose and Grey Fox, also several Flower class corvettes.

When built in 1927 Portwey had provision for a crew of 8 seamen or apprentices. The Crew at various times during the war period, 1942 to 1945, were:


William Francis


(Bill) Bellamy


Samual George Bulley (Mate 1945)


A.J. Viner


Joseph John Parker


Percy George Gooder



Pilot & Sailing Master


Fireman & Sailor

G. Wrenn


C.Smyth Newland


F. Plowright




5 Feb. Crew transferred to Dartmouth Estuarial rates as from this date, terms and conditions of service having been duly read to the crew who agreed to abide by them.

The following Notes are taken from the Official Log book, Jan to April 1945 when Portwey was based at Dartmouth.

14-1-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

14-2-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

20-2-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

20-2-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

4-3-45 Dartmouth to Teignmouth

4-3-45 Teignmouth to Dartmouth

5-3-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

5-3-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

7-3-45 Dartmouth to Exmouth

7-3-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

26-3-45 Dartmouth to Salcombe

26-3-45 Salcombe to Dartmouth

28-3-45 Dartmouth to Salcombe

28-3-45 Salcombe to Dartmouth

4-4-45 Dartmouth to Salcombe

4-4-45 Salcombe to Dartmouth

6-4-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

6-4-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

7-4-45 Dartmouth to Salcombe

7-4-45 Salcombe to Dartmouth

12-4-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

12-4-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

13-4-45 Dartmouth to Salcombe

13-4-45 Salcombe to Dartmouth

25-4-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

25-4-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

27-4-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

27-4-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

30-4-45 Dartmouth to Brixham

30-4-45 Brixham to Dartmouth

Portwey- Post War Years 1945- 1982


June Returned to owners The Channel Coaling Co. formerly Portland & Weymouth Coaling Co. Portwey was now used as a harbour tug on general duties, including supplying drinking water etc. to visiting vessels. She was called to an 8.5ton motor cruiser “Valkyrie” anchored near Phillips yard, to fill her 19-gallon tank, and in less than 2 minutes her 6-inch hose had completed the job and the motor cruiser’s deck was awash.

Engaged on company business including Pilot age duties in Tor Bay, and when the swell was too much for the Pilot launch based at Brixham, Portwey would steam around to Brixham and pick up the Pilots and Customs officers who had came down by train from London. These were the choice pilots employed for the Blue Funnel, Ben Line, P & 0, Glen Line, Port Line, and Ellerman boats.

At this time Portwey was fitted out forward with mahogany side benches (with leather cushions), a large mess-table, a large coal-stove, mahogany clothes cupboard, toilet facilities and wash basin cabinet, which! if the 6 or 7 Pilots/Customs men were delayed, was very snug.

Other work at Dartmouth included towing of MFV’s “Starlit Waters & Moonlit Waters” from Phillips yard where they were built. Portwey also towed the last’ J’ class yacht” Westward” to the Hurd Deep to be sunk when her owner T.B.Davis died.


11th Feb Dartmouth Coast Guard called out the lifeboat and the Tug Portwey (belonging to the Channel Coaling Co.) to a floating object seen in the dim light. On arrival it was found to be a specially designed radar buoy with a highly coloured superstructure, which in the poor light was taken as a sail, or a dim light. Portwey towed the buoy in. At the time Mr R.L. Dennis was Managing Director of the Channel Coaling Co.

9th May - A fire at Queen’s Hotel. A fire started in the upper part of the Queen’s Hotel, Dartmouth. The fire service arrived within minutes of receiving the call, but trouble developed with the water supply when suction joints of the hoses failed to fit tightly and no water came through. The Tug Portwey, which was berthed alongside the South Embankment, soon had a number of her hoses in action. The crew, led by Mr R.L.Dennis (MD), assisted the firemen by using her pumps to supply water. A total of 81 ,000 gallons of water were pumped from the river. Those on board Portwey and manning the pumps were:

Skipper, W. Bellamy; Chief Eng. J. Parker; J. Evans; P. Gooder; W. Blamey; and the Dartmouth Harbour Master Capt. R. Griffiths.


16th April Visited Portland whilst towing hulk “Witch” .

25th June Burned-out hulk of the Yacht Genie Maris, which caught fire in Brixham harbour, was towed to Dartmouth by Portwey, and taken to Messrs Philip’s Noss works.


3rd Feb Moonlit Waters (motor trawler) flashed a S.O.S by aldis lamp when drifting on to rocks at Compass Point, Dartmouth. Torbay Lifeboat launched and was assisted by Portwey, which towed the trawler into Brixham.

21st Sold by Portland & Weymouth Coaling Co. to G.H. Collins of Dartmouth.

25th Management now came under Mr H. Bodger, Paignton, for G.H. Collins.

16th March Salvaged the Dutch coaster “Vrede” which had ran aground on Spratt Sands, Teignmouth.

From’ a report by Mr Viner, Mate.

Wednesday 15th March. In accordance with instructions received from my owners at Dartmouth. I proceeded with S. T “Portwey”, with her crew of five, at 1pm arriving at Teighnmouth at 3pm.

Boarded by Pilot Broom. Proceeded to the” Vrede “ and connected to her starboard quarter at 3. 3.0pm. Very heavy swell, Wind strong Southerly. Commenced to tow, tug bumping heavily aft. Parted our tow rope (6 inch sisal). Connected remains of rope up again and continued towing until 5.15 pm when rope broke again, and operations abandoned for that tide. Left Teignmouth 5.30pm returned to Dartmouth, arriving at 8pm.

Thursday 16th March. Having taken from store a new length of 6 inch sisal and 3 ½ inch wire, left Dartmouth at 2 pm arriving Teignmouth at 4 pm. Boarded by Pilot Broom. Connected to ship’s starboard quarter at 4.45 pm and commenced towing at 4. 50 pm.

Heavy swell. Wind 5.5. W. Parted 3 ½ inch wire at bitts reconnected, and parted again same wire. Connected with Our sisal and 6 inch manila from ship. Vessel seemed to be working, but would not clear bank. Stopped operations for night at 9 pm and made for Teignmouth Harbour.

Friday 17th March. Proceeded to ship at 4. 3.0 pm with Pilot Hannell on board. Sea moderate. Connected up on her starboard bow and started to tow at 5 pm. Shortly after 6 pm when ship pivoting about midships, tow rope (ship’s 6 inch manila} parted at hawse pipe.

Than went around to her port bow and endeavoured to push her off but effort ineffective. Abandoned operations at 9 pm and returned to harbour.

Saturday 18th March. Proceeded from harbour 5 am with Pilot Hannell on board. Connected up at 5.30 am Commenced to tow from starboard quarter. Very heavy swell. Wind 5.5. - Towed for 35 minutes, then went forward to vessel’s starboard bow, commencing to tow at 6.30 am, following which the towrope (ship’s manila) parted immediately, but vessel then able herself to proceed at full speed out through Western Channel. She then returned to harbour by the Eastern Channel, and we also returned to Teignmouth, owing to heavy sea and strong wind, 5.5. W. gale force. I suspect damage to tug’s bottom, propeller (through rope fouling) and possibly to machinery parts through ingress of fine sand as with “Vrede “

Note. Portwey was hand-steered at this period, and it was necessary to keep a firm grip on the wheel when handling her, particularly in situation as the Vrede standing, using the screws to manoeuvre. Sometimes they would slam the rudder and wheel amidships without warning! The wheel was then about 4 feet diameter and I don’t need to tell you how much damage those whirling spoke handles could do, if you didn’t let go and stand clear.


27th Sept Dartmouth Harbour commission drew the attention of the Admiralty to the presence in the harbour of dangerous debris from wartime.

Portwey struck a submerged object, which turned out to be an abandoned naval craft. Damaged to Portwey amounted to £72-15-0 for which the Admiralty was held responsible.