This vessel was built to an Admiralty trawler pattern for the Royal Navy at the end of the First World War as a Strath-class minesweeper. Humphrey was the second vessel taken up and was taken over to the Devonport Naval Base to be fitted out as a minesweeper which took five weeks. A 102mm gun was fitted along with minesweeping gear.Ship details:
Type: Converted trawler – minesweeper
Pennant No.: 8 1939-40, T06 after November 1940
Taken Over: 5 September 1939 by the NZ Division of the Royal Navy
Commissioned: 16 October 1939 as HMS Humphrey
Decommissioned: 18 April 1944
Displacement: 206 grt
Dimensions: 35.3 x 6.7m
Owner: Sanford Ltd., Auckland
Built: 1918 by I.J. Abdela & Mitchell.
Built as: Strath-class minesweeper
Machinery: coal-fired triple expansion ihp 430 single shaft = 10 knots
Complement: 21-24 officers and ratings
1 x 4-inch [102mm] gun
2 x machineguns [Lewis or Bren]
This vessel was built to an Admiralty trawler pattern for the Royal Navy at the end of the First World War as a Strath-class minesweeper. It does not appear to have had any wartime or post-war service with the Royal Navy and was put up for sale as a fishing vessel. It also appears as if the original name was Robert Farecloth but was changed to Humphrey. In 1928 it was purchased by a New Zealand fishing company Sanford and brought to New Zealand for service as a fishing vessel.
By 1939 it was still under the ownership of Sanford in Auckland and working as one of its fishing fleet. The Marine Department under wartime regulations requested Sanford release its trawlers under charter to the Navy. Humphrey was the second vessel taken up and was taken over to the Devonport Naval Base to be fitted out as a minesweeper which took five weeks. A 102mm gun was fitted along with minesweeping gear. She was commissioned formally on 16 October as HMS Humphrey. She was one of three vessels of Sanford’s taken up from commercial service for use as minesweepers at the outbreak of the Second World War. There other two vessels were James Cosgrove and Thomas Currell which was of the same class as Humphrey. At the start of the war, the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy only had one minesweeper HMS Wakakura in commission and was ordered to take up vessels for minesweeping duties as soon as possible. The government did not want a repeat of the situation in the First World War when it had to scramble for vessels after discovering mines had been laid in New Zealand waters by the raider SMS Wolf. Because of the need for minesweepers, the civilian crew of Humphrey was kept on and the master given a temporary naval rank and Volunteer Reservists joined the ship to complement the civilians. In order for more financial control, the government purchased Humphrey from Sanford in November 1940 for the sum of £22,500. This nullified the costly charter that benefited Sanford.
Initially Humphrey saw little service. In February 1940 she had to tow HMS James Cosgrove back to Auckland after she developed a serious engine fault. This changed in 1940 when the German raider HKS Orion laid mines in the Hauraki Gulf. At the time Humphrey was in refit in Auckland at the Naval Base. On 19 June 1940 the RMS Niagara struck a mine and sank in the Gulf taking with her a shipment of gold. Along with HMS Wakakura, Humphrey and her sister ships swept the approaches to Auckland and disposed of the German mines located. After the first deployment in the Gulf, Humphrey was sent to sweep off Wellington and then Lyttelton [Christchurch]. She then moved on to Cape Farewell and Cape Campbell in the South Island. During this time she never came across any enemy mines. In August 1940 Humphrey recovered a mine that was found drifting off Red Mercury Island. After the explosive was removed and destroyed the minesweeper towed the mine back to the Naval Base.
In November 1940 the First Minesweeping Group was formed in Auckland consisting of Wakakura & Humphrey. This was not a fixed location as in 1941 the minesweepers would be deployed wherever needed. By 1942 permanent locations were allocated and the sister ship Thomas Currell joined the Auckland based Group. In 1942 Humphrey was temporarily detached and sent to the Third Minesweeping Group based at Lyttelton but was back in Auckland by October. From 1940 to early 1944 the Groups were constantly sweeping the shipping channels off the main ports.
In early 1944 HMNZS Humphrey was sent to Wellington for conversion into a Boom Gate Vessel as New Zealand-built Castle-class minesweepers were coming into service. The project was abandoned as the war situation improved and she was tied up in Wellington. At this time the wartime government was under pressure from the fishing companies to return their vessels so they could resume pre-war fishing operations. On 21 May 1944 Humphrey returned to Auckland from Wellington and paid off from service in the Royal New Zealand Navy. In July she was sold back to Sanford, refitted, and resumed her working life as a fishing vessel. In 1954 she was sold by Sanford and was dismantled in Auckland. By 1956 she was hulked as a shingle bin near Waikauri Bay, Takatu north of Kawau Island. In 1970 the hull was towed back to Auckland and scrapped.