I have a copy of my Great Uncle's sevice record and I'm really stuck on finding out one of the base/ship he is listed as serving with. He sadly died due to illness while on active service in 1943 and is buried in Trinidad and Tobago.

The problem is on his service record it states on the 9th August 1941 he moved from HMS Paris (land base) to Caman. The next entry states Died 7th June 1943 Benbow which makes sense given he died while serving on motor launches from HMS Benbow. The real frustrating part is that I just can not find any reference to a Navy base/ship called Caman.

I've posted on a number of websites but no one has been able to solve this mystery. Is it possible it was written by mistake or does it refer to something else than a ship ????

Any ideas would be fantastic because I've hit a complete brickwall.

Kind regards Adrian

  • 2
    Could you please include a copy of the service record you mention.
    – Those Legs
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 11:05
  • 1
    CAMAN is an acronym for Coast Guard, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy (moogiep.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/…) but does not seem applicable to your query.
    – Those Legs
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 11:19
  • Could Caman be Cayman, given the Trinidad and Tobago death location.
    – Those Legs
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 11:31
  • 1
    @ThoseLegs Images help much, but members need a little cred/rep (more than 10 points) before the system allows them to add images. New users can probably add links to images elsewhere, but that is of limited use if the image is behind a paywall or lacks some permalink. You might be able to upload the image to an online site, but that supposes you access to those mechanics. Finally, consider that some of the materials are subject to copyright; there may be living persons mentioned, too. I suspect we need to consider all the different circumstance in terms of this 1940s era service record.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 15:13
  • @ColeValleyGirl The title to the question refers to the Royal Navy. The text refers to HMS Benbow. From Wikipedia (1) The Royal Navy (RN) is the principal naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces (Wikipedia, "Royal Navy"); (2) HMS Benbow was an Iron Duke-class battleship of the Royal Navy, the third ship of the class and the third ship to be named in honour of Admiral John Benbow [Wikipedia, "HMS _Benbow (1913)"]. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Navy; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Benbow
    – GeneJ
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Perhaps a clue or hypothesis, rather than an expert answer to your question.

One HMS Cayman "was originally a Tacoma Class Patrol Frigate ... authorised as Gunboat (PG-186), she was redesignated Patrol Frigate (PF-78) on 15th April 1943." See Unit History: HMS Cayman

HMS Benbow is listed as "a Royal Navy shore establishment in Trinidad." Wikipedia, "HMS Benbow"

Update: This challenge involves identifying "Caman." We don't know that there ever was a more complete descriptor (something other than just "Caman"). It is just speculation in this answer that Caman might refer to Cayman, as in the Cayman Islands. (I've so mistyped Cayman as "Caman" in this process at least once; so have others.)

During WWII, my father saw some duty at different temporary air fields. I first had to figure out where the field "had" been. Only then could I learn more about it. In that spirit, comments below follow the speculation that "Caman" is "Cayman."

  1. While it still does not solve the problem, a reference and passage (below item 2) outlines what seem significant changes in base administration and development occurring in the Cayman region just before Adrian's relative transferred. The changes mentioned are associated with a March 1941 "Lend-Lease" agreement between Britain and the US. (The attack on Peal Harbor doesn't happen until December, 1941.)
  2. "A DIFFERENT WAR: Marines in Europe and North Africa" Reports about marine units being "posted at several of the [Royal Navy] bases" that were "made available to the US," by the Royal Navy under the terms of the 1941 Lend-Lease. In this spirit, the the article refers to a "marine detachment" established at Grand Cayman. (Sadly, this statement was without further reference.)

See "Caribbean Islands-World War II"

At the outbreak of World War II, the United States assumed Britain's defense responsibilities in the Caribbean. In September 1940, the two countries agreed to the Lend-Lease Agreement ... [The US loaned forty ("out-of-date) destroyers in exchange for a rent free lease of] British naval and air bases on five British West Indian islands--the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago--as well as British Guiana, Bermuda, and Newfoundland. The Lend-Lease Agreement was signed formally in London on March 27, 1941.

The introduction goes on to say that the under the lend-lease agreement, the US set up then eleven military bases in the area and it "quickly transformed five British colonies in the West Indies into outposts of Caribbean defense for use against German submarine warfare."

Other items for the file:

  1. According to a timeline about the area, "Milestones in our history," the first cruise ship (tourists) visited the Cayman Islands in 1937. And, between 1942 and 1945, "A U.S Naval Base and a U.S. coast Guard Base operate[d] in Grand Cayman." The same timeline reports that beween 1939 and 1945, a "Home Guard" was established for the Cayman Islands.
  2. "U.S. Naval Chronology of WWII, 1942" reports (a) May 01 (1942), "United States Naval Base and United States Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Great Exuma, Bahama Islands, and United States Naval Base, Grand Cayman ... are established"; (b) July 13 (1942) "United States Naval Air Facility, Grand Cayman ... is established."
  3. Separately, brief reference to to the Caymans during WWII is found in the article, "Cayman Islands Seashore Vegetation..." [Geography" 25 (1982): 12], indicating "During World War II, the Cayman Islands were almost totally isolated for several years."
  4. A "Wreath of Remembrance" (about the Cayman Islands Veteran's Association) comments that, "For the men of Cayman, World War II Royal Navy Reserve duties focused around Trinidad in the southern Caribbean. That island was then the only source of oil for the British forces." It mentions supporting activities that were conducted on the island during WWII.

P.S. Neither of the words Cayman or Caman returned in my text query of Robert Jackson, The Royal Navy in World War II (Shewsbury, England: Airlife, 1997).

  • This K-Class Frigate did not enter RN service until after the death of the person in question. Its keel had not been laid in 1941 when the record was created.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 0:30
  • @Fortiter (1) I don't know when the record was created (only the date of the events said in the record); (2) with regard to H.M.S. Cayman, I couldn't find its earliest dates ("...was originally a ..."), only the reference that it was eventually renamed as ....
    – GeneJ
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 9:36
  • uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/280.html shows keel of HMS Cayman was laid 15 Jul 1943 but rating was transferred to Caman on 9 Aug 1941.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 11:32
  • 1
    Many thanks for your replys which is much appriciated. I also thought of the Island Cayman but the spelling on the service records is recorded as caman (maybe mis-spelt).Interestingly there seems to be a Navy connection between the Cayman Islands and Trinidad during the war.I'll research this avenue further and once again many thanks. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 7:56
  • 1
    All the information on his records are written in capitals ? The information given is very basic and covers some information on his personnel details and the list of shore bases/ ships he has served with.He served from 1 Jan 1941-9th Aug 1941 at the UK naval bases Raleigh,Europa, Paris and Skirmisher (with HMS Coriolanus) before being posted to CAMAN 9th Aug 1941. The only other entry is noting his death at HMS Benbow rose-motor launch base 1943. The motor launch boat ML1174 he was serving on when he died was only Commissioned 16 Jan 1943. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 11:10

My late father is also recorded as serving on HMS Benbow around 1942. Furthermore amongst his anecdotes were stories about being in Trinidad. He did refer to HMS Cayman / Caman once, but at the time I thought this was another vessel. I used to have a letter of commendation from his commanding officer and photograph, that he used post-war, when he was applying for positions about 1945-6. I suspect HMS Benbow was not a ship, rather a RN ship dockyard / repair / maintenance station. Can anyone confirm this? Is this of help?

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