Lieutenant George Andrew Drummond DSC, MID* RNR

Lieutenant George Andrew Drummond DSC, MID* Royal Naval Reserve was born in Dunedin and after leaving school became a Master Mariner. In 1914 he was in command of the Government Steamer Hinemoa and in 1915 went to England to join the Royal Naval Reserve. In this capacity he served in paddle minesweepers operating out of Dover, being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and being mentioned in despatches twice before he was killed when HMS Plumpton struck a mine and was lost in October 1918.

The son of Edward and Elizabeth Drummond, a railway engine-driver, George Andrew Drummond was born in Broughton Street, Dunedin on 3 March 1888. After leaving Kensington Boys’ High School he went to sea, first in the barque Rona, then the St Kilda and the Cape Brett before joining the Government steamer Hinemoa on 20 July 1911. Initially he was Third Mate of the Hinemoa, but by 1915 was in command. In August 1915 George resigned from the Hinemoa and went to England where he joined the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR).

George was soon granted a commission as Temporary Sub Lieutenant, on 15 October 1915 and as appointed to HMS Excellent for training, where he obtained a Second Class Gunnery Certificate by the end of the year. After finishing at Excellent George was appointed to HMS Attentive III the parent ship for minesweepers at Dover on 15 December. In February 1916 he was appointed to the paddle minesweeper HMS Jupiter II. This was small vessel of only 394 tons, which had been built in 1896. George must have shown some talent for the work because after six weeks he was appointed to HMS Marmion II, in command.

Keeping the channels open was a major task requiring them to be swept each day, while the Germans laid mines in the channels about three times per week.

Marmion II was of the same type as Jupiter II, but a little newer, having been completed in 1906. These were part of collection of 73 similar vessels that had been taken into service from their civilian owners. Marmion II had been built for the North British Railway Company and used on the Clyde, mainly between Craigendoran, Dunoon and Rothesay. Commensurate with his new position George was promoted to Temporary Acting Lieutenant on 30 March 1916.

By 1916, virtually the whole of the eastern approaches to England had been mined, both by the British and the Germans. To allow communication with the Continent and down the English Channel as well as access to the North Sea, channels had been swept through these minefields. Keeping the channels open was a major task requiring them to be swept each day, while the Germans laid mines in the channels about three times per week. Minesweeping was hazardous and exacting work at which George seems to have been particularly suited. In July 1917 he was mentioned in despatches for minesweeping between 1 July 1916 and 31 March 1917. He was again mentioned in April 1918 for minesweeping between 1 April and 31 December 1917.

Minesweeping was hazardous and exacting work at which George seems to have been particularly suited.

In October 1916 George was appointed to the newly constructed HMS Eglinton, one of a class of paddle minesweepers purpose-built for the Royal Navy. There were 33 vessels in the class, similar to those taken up from trade, but twice the size, with a complement of 50. The class was known as the Ascot or more commonly, Racecourse class, all the ships being named after racecourses. While initially paddle ships had been taken into service as an exigency, they were found to be good for minesweeping in shallow water.

George remained in Eglinton for just over a year, being appointed to HMS Plumpton on 2 November 1917, now with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant. With him in the ship was another New Zealander, his first lieutenant, John Eastmure, RNVR. George’s efficiency continued to be recognized and on 17 September 1918 his name was published in the London Gazette as having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for minesweeping between 1 January and 30 June 1918. Just over a month later on Saturday 19 October, HMS Plumpton was engaged in minesweeping operations close to the Belgian coast near Ostend, when it struck a mine and was lost. Ten men were killed, including Temporary Lieutenant George Andrew Drummond DSC, MID*, RNR.