musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: HMS

Four Ships Week

Regular readers will know that I have slowly been adding in reminders about important dates in South African naval history. The most prominent being in February when I commemorate Three Ships Month. Sadly though, it does not all end with those 3 disasters (although technically the Mendi was not a naval vessel as it sailed with a civilian crew while doing trooping duties). 

There are however four more ships that I am adding into these reminders, and they were all lost in April of 1942.  The men killed in these sinkings were seconded to four British warships that were lost in what has become known as “The Easter Sunday Raid“. 

I am not in a position to elaborate about the disasters that befell these ships, as there are others who have done a much better job than I have. I am heavy reliant on Wikipedia for the information below.

HMS Cornwall, was  a County-class heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1920s. Cornwall was transferred to the South Atlantic in late 1939 where she escorted convoys before returning to the Indian Ocean in 1941. she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in March 1942 and  was sunk on 5 April by dive bombers from three Japanese aircraft carriers during the Indian Ocean Raid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cornwall_(56)

HMS Dorsetshire, was a County class heavy cruiser  and a member of the Norfolk sub-class, of which she was one of two ships (HMS Norfolk was the other).  Launched in Portsmouth in January 1929, she was completed in September 1930.  After a long and varied career she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet to support British forces in the recently opened Pacific Theatre of the war.   On 5 April, Japanese aircraft spotted Dorsetshire and her sister Cornwall while en route to Colombo; a force of dive bombers then attacked the two ships and sank them. More than 1,100 men were rescued the next day, out of a combined crew of over 1,500. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dorsetshire_(40))

HMS Hermes, was the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier, her construction began during the First World War but she was not completed until after the end of the war.  She  was commissioned in 1924, and served briefly with the Atlantic Fleet before spending the bulk of her career assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet and the China Station.  When the Second World War began she was briefly assigned to the Home Fleet and conducted anti-submarine patrols in the Western Approaches  before being  sent to patrol the Indian Ocean. She was refitted in South Africa between November 1941 and February 1942 and then joined the Eastern Fleet at Ceylon.

While berthed in Trincomalee on 8 April a warning of an approaching Japanese fleet was received, and she sailed that day for the Maldives with no aircraft on board. On 9 April she was spotted by a Japanese scout plane, and she was subsequently attacked by several dozen dive bombers shortly afterwards.  Without air cover she  was quickly sunk although most of the survivors were rescued by a nearby hospital ship, but 307 men were lost in the sinking. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hermes_(95))

HMS Hollyhock, a Flower-Class Corvette, was laid down on 27 November 1939 and launched on 19 August 1940. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 19 November 1940. Hollyhock was bombed and sunk by Japanese naval aircraft on 9 April 1942 east of Ceylon in the Indian Ocean, along with the aircraft carrier Hermes, the Australian destroyer Vampire and two tankers.  53 men lost their lives in the sinking.  (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-20Cor-Flower-Hollyhock.htm)

64 South Africans lost their lives as members of the crew of these 4 ships.  Unfortunately these losses were conveniently shunted aside in the quest to sanitise history, but slowly we are recognising that there is much more that we need to discover and commemorate.  

Further Reading:

The major inspiration for this post is The Observation Post, a  blog that was set up to keep contemporary South African Military history alive and reveal the truth – because historical “truth” in South Africa is so often skewed to some or other political agenda.

Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Dorsetshire

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Cornwall

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hermes

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hollyhock

DRW © 2018. Created 02/04/2018.  The Observation Post is created by Peter Dickens 

Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:47

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
 
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.

graving02

Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry Dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry Dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

Liverpool also had two docks in the Canning Dock area that interested me and both we occupied. The first by the MV Edmund Gardner, a former pilot cutter that was launched in 1953. I was hoping to look around her but she was fenced off and painted in dazzle camouflage. 

The other dock was occupied by De Wadden, a three-masted auxiliary schooner built in the Netherlands in 1917.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
 
DRW © 2015-2019. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017, more images added 24/06/2019
Updated: 24/06/2019 — 18:57

Popping into Portsmouth

On the afternoon of 19 April I made a half day trip to Portsmouth with my landlord. It was a spur of the moment thing so there was no real itinerary or end destination. I did however want to at least see HMS Warrior and HMS Victory if possible. Anything else would be a bonus. The weather was sunny, but extremely windy in Porstmouth, so much so that some of my images were at crazy angles as I tried to take pics. 
 
First vessel on view as HMS Warrior, and she is magnificent. We did not have the time to go on board any of the attractions, but some quick pics will do for this post. She is much bigger than I expected and is really a unique vessel in so many ways. 

 

Dominating the skyline of Portsmouth is the Spinnaker Tower and of course the buildings that form the Historic Naval Dockyard predate it by many years. There are quite a lot of really beautiful old buildings in the city, but time was not on my hands to explore any of them.

 At the Historic Dockyard is the long lived HMS Victory, much to my dismay her upper masts and spars had been removed. This venerable old lady is really worth seeing because she is a unique vessel, and in a class all of her own. Over 250 years old, she still looks as good as when she was built. The removal of the yards and spars have to do with her ongoing restoration, and hopefully in a few years she will get them back. 

 

Close to the Victory is the Monitor M33, a 1915 vintage vessel that is neither glamorous, or as famous as the wooden wall close by.  (At the time of writing this post she was not open to the public, but she has since been undergoing preservation so that she can finally be opened).

 

Behind her lay modern warships of the Royal Navy, and I had to wonder what it must have been like here during the World Wars. The drydocks and inner basins would have been occupied that’s for certain.

   

There was a lot of ferry traffic about too, with vessels destined for the Isle of Wight, the continent, and other ports close by. Strangely enough there were none to Southampton.

We then headed to Southsea to have a look at the hovercraft that goes across to Ryde. It was not in yet so I took a look at the surging waves and the shingle beach. The wind was still blowing a gale and it was decided unpleasant.

While we waited a cross channel ferry came past and we decided to go take a closer look at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. How many ships have passed down this channel? If only the sea could talk.
The Memorial is a magnificent structure, but again it is just so difficult to photograph because of its sheer sze and the number of plaques on its walls with 24600 identified casualties listed there. I would like to revisit the Memorial and rephotograph it.
 

By this time the hovercraft had made an appearance and I headed towards its “landing pad” as it beached itself.

 

By the time I got to the pad it was almost ready to leave, and inflating its skirts it turned and charged down the beach, hitting the water in a burst of spray, which was then flung straight at me as it headed off once again. I was drenched, but it was worth it!

Then it was time to go home again, we wanted to head out and have a look at the forts on a hill protecting Portsmouth so headed out there. The view was spectacular, but the glare did make it difficult to take photographs. These images are all 1500 pixels wide

   

Then we headed off for home. The weather was starting to get odd, and the artillery museum at Fort Nelson was closing so there was no real need to stay any longer. Portsmouth is on my list for a day trip, but first I must get to Isle of Wight. But even before that, we had to get home.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 01/04/2016

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:51
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