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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

HMTS Monarch (3)
by Bill Glover


Built in 1916 by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd.

Length 222.7 ft Breadth 32.2 ft Depth 19.1 ft Gross tonnage 1150

Originally intended as a replacement for Alert (1) but with the loss of Monarch (2) the new vessel was named Monarch (3).

Three cable tanks were fitted, two forward and one aft. No 1 tank 17 ft dia by 5 ft 6ins with a capacity of 1170 cu ft. No 2 tank 23 ft dia by 11 ft 6 ins with a capacity of 4110 cu ft. No 3 tank 23 ft dia with a capacity of 4440 cubic feet. The cable machinery which consisted of two independent paying out-picking up machines was supplied and fitted by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company. The machinery was capable of a load of 26 tons at ¾ knot or 6 tons at 3¼ knots. Twin bow sheaves were fitted but no means of stern working was provided.

Used for cable repair work around the British Isles between the two world wars.

In October 1939 HMTS Monarch was performing cable repair duties and came under enemy fire. Site visitor Lynne Holden’s grandfather, Richard Powell, was commended by King George VI for his cool performance during the attack:

FRIDAY, 28 JUNE, 1940

St. James's Palace, 28th June, 1940.

The KING has also been graciously pleased to approve the following Awards:—

The Medal of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for Meritorious Service.

Richard Powell, Seaman Cable Hand, H.M.T.S. “Monarch”, General Post Office.

While on detached duty at a British Naval Base on 6th October, 1939, the party, of which Powell was acting Leading Hand, when engaged on urgent cable repairs was exposed to considerable danger from aerial attack on the vessels at the Base. Although bombs and shell splinters fell in the vicinity of the craft on which he was working, he showed great coolness and courage and set an excellent example to the other members of the party. The repairs were satisfactorily completed.

Richard Powell had a long career in the cable service. According to his Certificates of Discharge, he sailed as a Cable Hand on the following expeditions in the years immediately prior to World War One:

1912-13: CS Silvertown laying cable from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. (See the Nelson Perryman page for a brief description of this expedition).

1913, 21 June to 12 July: CS Silvertown cable repair North Atlantic.

1913, September to December: CS Buccaneer West Coast of Africa.

1914, March and April: CS Buccaneer in the North Atlantic. Buccaneer was wrecked later that same year.

In 1944 Monarch was shelled by American destroyers and all on deck were killed. After repairs Monarch returned to work but struck a mine in 1945 while off Southwold.

These somewhat different details of the sinking are from WreckSite:

“Sunk: 16 April 1945 by torpedo in starboard side from U-2324 (Kapitanleutnant Konstantin von Rapprad) while returning to Felixstowe from repairing Suffolk-Holland cable. Two crew lost.”

Ernest Hunt served on Monarch (3) just prior to the ship's sinking. One of his shipmates, Seaman J. Webster, a self-taught artist who had served in the First World War, painted this view of the ship at sea during a cable expedition with a cable buoy in the foreground:

Ernest Hunt, who died in 2023 at age 96, was on Monarch (3) for only about eight months. In a note accompanying the painting he wrote:

‘I joined the Monarch in August 1944 aged 17 years and served on her until we were sunk by an acoustic mine off the East Coast whilst returning to Harwich, April 1945.
“I have good memories of this period of my life and wish this to be kept in the Family.”

Ernest remained with the Post Office Engineering Department after the war and served on HMTS Alert (3). He resigned from the GPO cable service as a Seaman Cable Hand in September 1950 with a certificate of good character signed and sealed by the Commander of the ship.

Thanks to site visitors Stephen and Barry Hunt for providing this photo of the painting and the details of their father’s cable service. The painting remains in the Hunt family to this day, almost 80 years after it was given to Ernest by his shipmate.

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Last revised: 5 September, 2023

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