The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: Odds and Ends

Besides the exhibits covered in my earlier blog entries about The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, the museum has numerous ‘one off’ items on show that are less easy to group together or to categorise.


These ‘odds and ends’ include …

Royal Navy soft-skin motor vehicles

0-4-0 Locomotives

XE-8 Miniature Submarine
This miniature submarine was built for the Royal Navy in 1944 by Thomas Broadbent of Huddersfield. It was used operationally in the Far East, and was sunk as a target off Portland in 1952. It was salvaged in 1973 and is believed to be the only example of an XE-class miniature submarine in existence. XE-8 now forms part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

CMB 103 Coastal Motor Boat
Wooden coastal motor boats had been used during the First World War and had proven very successful. This example was built by Camper and Nicholson, Southampton, in 1920, and was designed to be used as a fast minelayer or torpedo boat. In the latter case she could be armed with up to six torpedoes. The hull was built of mahogany and featured a stepped hydroplane shape.

On completion CMB 103 went into reserve, and remained there until 1942. CMB 103 was then brought out of reserve and saw active service in the English Channel from 1942 until 1944, including service during the D-Day landings. She was laid up again at the end of 1944, and eventually displayed at the entrance to the former Coastal Forces Base (HMS Hornet) at Haslar, Gosport. CMB 103 now forms part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

Westland Dragonfly Helicopter
The Westland WS-51 Dragonfly helicopter was built by Westland Aircraft and was a license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-51. From 1950 onwards the Royal Navy used their Dragonfly helicopters in the air-sea rescue role, and it remained in use until it was replaced by the Westland Whirlwind helicopter in the late 1950s.

QF 3.7-inch Anti-aircraft Guns
The QF 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun was Britain’s main heavy anti-aircraft gun during World War II. It was mounted on either mobile or fixed mountings, and nearly 10,000 were produced between 1937 and 1945. It remained in service with the British Armed Forces until the late 1950s, when it was replaced by anti-aircraft missile systems.

VIC 56 Victualling Inshore Craft
The Victualling Inshore Craft were used by the Royal Navy as supply vessels in almost every port and anchorage used during the Second World War. The design was based upon that of the Clyde ‘Puffer’, and 98 of them were built to the orders of the Ministry of War Transport between 1941 and 1945. She was laid up and put up for disposal in September 1978, and then bought for preservation.

VIC 56 was built in Faversham, Kent, and launched in 1945. By 1947 she had been allocated to the Victualling Store Officer, Rosyth, and stayed in the Rosyth are for the next thirty years of her active service. Her first long-term berth was in Rotherhithe on the Thames, from where she later moved to at Trinity House Buoy Wharf, near the East India Dock. In late 2005 VIC 56 was moved to her current berth in The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.

Of particular interest is the fact that when she was built, VIC 56 was fitted with a boiler that was of a convertible coal/oil design. Due to the high coast of diesel oil, her boiler has now been converted to be purely coal-fired.


The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: The Royal Engineers heavy vehicle display

The Royal Engineers have a museum at Gillingham, Kent but it is not large enough for all the heavy vehicles in its collection to be displayed on site. To make them accessible to the general public, these heavy vehicles are currently on display inside on of the covered slipway buildings at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.


The vehicles and equipment on show included …

Chieftain (Willich) AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers)
In 1986, when the planned Chieftain AVRE did not materialise, the Engineer Workshops of 40 Army Engineer Support Group based in Willich, Germany, converted 12 Chieftain gun tanks into Chieftain AVREs for use by the Royal Engineers of BAOR (British Army Of the Rhine). They were an interim design, and were later replaced by vehicles that were converted by Vickers Defence Systems at Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1991 to 1994.

Giant Viper Mine Clearance System
Giant Viper was a trailer-mounted, mine clearance system, that was designed to clear areas that containing land mines. The system used rockets to launch a 250-metre-long hose, packed with plastic explosive, across a minefield. The explosive was then detonated, and the resultant explosion cleared a 200-metre-long, 6-metre-wide path through the minefield using sympathetic detonation.

Motor Tug Mk.VII and Trailer
The Motor Tug Mk.VII was used as a motor tug during bridging and rafting operations. This steel hulled boat was powered by a Rolls Royce marine B80 petrol engine, and was capable of reaching just over 10 knots.

M2D Amphibious Vehicle
The M2D was developed in Germany and used by BAOR. Individual vehicles could be used as ferries and several vehicles could be joined together to form a bridge capable of handling the heaviest armoured fighting vehicles.

Caterpillar D8 Crawler Tractor
The Caterpillar D8 Crawler Tractor was developed during World War II and used by the Royal Engineers during and after the war. It could be used for all sorts of engineering tasks such as repairing or building roads and airfield runways, removing debris, or pushing pontoons. This example has some armour plate to protect the driver and a push plate for pushing bridging pontoons into a river.


The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: Ship models

Although the vast majority of the ship models held at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent are not on public display, a selection can be seen in the building that houses the ‘Steel, Steam, & Submarines’ exhibit.

HMS Achilles
HMS Achilles was an armoured frigate. She was completed in 1864 and served with the Channel Fleet until 1868, when she was re-fitted and re-armed. She then served as guard ship of the Fleet Reserve in the Portland District until 1874, when she was again re-fitted and re-armed. She then served as guard ship of the Liverpool District unit 1877, after which she spent a year with the Channel Fleet. From 1878 until 1880 Achilles was part of the Mediterranean Fleet, when she returned to the Channel Fleet.

She was decommissioned in 1885 but re-commissioned in 1901 to serve as a depot ship in Malta. (Whilst in Malta she was renamed Hibernia (1902) and then Egmont (1904).) She remained there until 1914, when she moved to Chatham, where she stayed until she was sold for scrapping in 1923. (Whilst in Chatham she was renamed Egremont (1916) and then Pembroke (1919)).

HMS Cressy
HMS Cressy was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1901. She served on the China Station from 1901 until 1907, when she transferred to the North America and West Indies Station. She remained there for two years, at which point she returned to the UK and was placed in reserve. HMS Cressy was re-commissioned shortly after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 and assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron.

On 22nd September 1914, HMS Cressy and her sisters, HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue, were torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-9, which was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen. 62 officers and 1,397 enlisted men were lost, of whom 560 served aboard HMS Cressy.

HMS Shark
HMS Shark was an Acasta-class destroyer. She as built in 1912 and was sunk during an unsuccessful torpedo attack on the German 2nd Scouting Group during the Battle of Jutland. She sank at approximately 7.pm on 31st May 1916 and only 6 of her crew survived.

HMS Cumberland
HMS Cumberland was a County-class heavy cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1928, and before World War II broke out she served on the China Station (1928 to 1935) and – from 1938 onwards – on the South American station. (HMS Cumberland was re-fitted between 1935 and 1938.)

After the Battle of the River Plate (which she just missed, having sailed at high speed from the Falkland Islands to join the rest of 2nd Cruiser Squadron off the River Plate), HMS Cumberland escorted convoys along the African coast and took part in the hunt for the German commerce raider Thor. She also took part in the attack on Dakar (in September 1940) where she suffered damage gunfire from a French coastal battery.

By October 1941 HMS Cumberland had joined the Home Fleet as part of 1st Cruiser Squadron. As a result she acted as an escort for numerous the Arctic convoys until January 1944. She was then transferred to the Far East, and became part of the Eastern Fleet’s 4th Cruiser Squadron.

HMS Cumberland returned to the United Kingdom in late 1945, and in 1946 she was placed in reserve. From 1949 until 1951 she was refitted at Devonport to act as a gunnery trials ship, and she remained in that role until she was sold for scrapping in 1958.

HMS Ajax
HMS Ajax was a Leander-class light cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1933, and except for periods when she was being re-fitted and repaired, she served until she was paid off in 1948. HMS Ajax was scrapped in 1949.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Achilles and HMS Exeter – in the Battle of the River Plate.

HMS Achilles
HMS Achilles was a Leander-class light cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1933, and from 1937 formed part of the New Zealand Division. She was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1941 and remained a New Zealand ship until 1946, when she was returned to the Royal Navy. In 1948 she was sold to the Indian Navy, and remained in service until she was scrapped in 1978.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter – in the Battle of the River Plate.

HMS Exeter
HMS Exeter was a York-class heavy cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1931, and served with the Atlantic Fleet between 1931 and 1935. In 1934 she transferred to the America and West Indies Station and remained there until 1939. As a result of the damage she received during the Battle of the River Plate she was modernised at Devonport between February 1940 and March 1941.

When re-commissioned HMS Exeter joined the Home Fleet, and undertook escort duties for Atlantic convoys until after the hunt for the Bismarck, at which point she was transferred to the Far East. HMS Exeter formed part of the ABDACOM (American-British-Dutch-Australian Command) naval force that was intended to defend the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) from a Japanese invasion. On 27th February 1942 HMS Exeter was damaged during the Battle of the Java Sea, and two days later – whilst on her way to Surabaya for repairs – she was sunk by a Japanese force of heavy cruisers and destroyers.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles – in the Battle of the River Plate.

Admiral Graf Spee
Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser (originally termed a Panzerschiffe or armoured ship). She was commissioned into the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) in 1936, and after working-up she participated in five non-intervention patrols during the Spanish Civil War.

Just before war broke out in 1939 Admiral Graf Spee was deployed to the South Atlantic, and between September and December 1939 she sank nine Allied ships. She was eventually intercepted by HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, and HMS Achilles on 13th December 1939 off the mouth of the River Plate, and during the ensuing battle all four ships suffered damage. The Admiral Graf Spee sought refuge in Montevideo in neutral Uruguay, where she remained until 17th December, when her commanding officer – Captain Hans Langsdorff – scuttled her in the River Plate estuary. He subsequently committed suicide on 19th December.

HMS Cavalier
HMS Cavalier was a Ca-class destroyer.

HMS Hermione
HMS Hermione was a Leander-class frigate. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1969. In 1980 HMS Hermione was modernised in Chatham Dockyard … and she was the last warship to leave the dockyard before it closed. Her twin 4.5-inch guns were removed and replaced by Exocet anti-ship missiles and Sea Wolf anti-aircraft missiles. She was decommissioned in 1992 and sold for scrapping in 1997.

HMS Chatham
HMS Chatham was a Batch 3 Type 22 frigate. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1990. After having a very active career (she took part in NATO operations off the coast of former Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1994, acted as guardship to the royal yacht HMY Britannia during the withdrawal from Hong Kong in 1997, and fired her guns in anger during Operation Telic in 2003), she was decommissioned in February 2011 as part of the programme of defence cuts and sold in July 2013 for scrapping.

HMS Endurance
HMS Endurance was a Royal Navy ice patrol vessel that served from 1967 to 1991. She was originally built in Denmark in 1956 as the Anita Dan and bought in 1967. She was converted into an ice patrol vessel by Harland & Wolff and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Endurance in 1967.

She was scheduled to be withdrawn from service as a result of the 1981 Defence White Paper, but the outbreak of hostilities with Argentina when the latter invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia changed that decision. She took part in retaking of South Georgia (her two Wasp helicopters attacked the Argentine submarine Santa Fe, which was later abandoned by her crew) and subsequent operations in the South Atlantic.

A survey of HMS Endurance‘s hull in 1991 found it was not sound enough for her to continue to operate in Antarctica, and she was decommissioned.

Nuclear submarines
In 1968 a nuclear submarine refitting complex was built in Chatham Dockyard. The complex had special refuelling cranes and a health physics building. In June 1981 it was announced that, as a result of the 1981 Defence White Paper, the dockyard – including the nuclear submarine refitting complex – would be run down and the dockyard closed by 1984.


HMS Ocelot

One of the warships preserved at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, is HMS Ocelot. She was the last conventionally-powered submarine to be built in Chatham for the Royal Navy.

HMS Ocelot (S17) is also the last-surviving example of the Royal Navy’s Oberon-class diesel-electric submarines that is preserved in the UK. (Her sister-ship HMS Onyx was preserved in a museum in Birkenhead, Merseyside, but when the museum closed she was towed away and eventually scrapped. Other examples of the class are preserved in Germany, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Chile.)

When built, HMS Ocelot‘s characteristics were as follows:

  • Displacement: Surfaced: 2,000 tons; Submerged: 2,450 tons
  • Length: 295.2 ft (90.0 m)
  • Beam: 26.5 ft (8.1 m)
  • Draught: 18 ft (5.5 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 × 3,680 hp Admiralty Standard Range V16 diesels driving two shafts; these also powered 2 × 1280 kW generators, whose output could be stored to drive the 2 × 3,000 hp electric motors that were used when the submarine was submerged
  • Speed: Surfaced: 12 knots; Submerged: 16 knots
  • Range: 10,350 nautical miles at surface cruising speed
  • Diving depth: 650 ft (200 m)
  • Complement: 7 officers and 62 men
  • Sensors: Type 1002 surface search and navigation radar; Type 187 Active-Passive attack sonar; Type 2007 long range passive sonar
  • Armament: 8 × 21 in (533.4 mm) torpedo tubes (6 bow and 2 stern torpedo tubes); 20 torpedoes

The Oberon-class submarines were a development of the preceding Porpoise-class, and proved to be very quiet. Although originally designed to be attack/hunter-killer submarines, they were often used for clandestine operations. The design proved to be very popular, and examples were used by the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the Brazilian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Chilean Navy.

United Kingdom

  • Oberon
  • Ocelot
  • Odin
  • Olympus
  • Onslaught
  • Onyx
  • Opportune
  • Opossum
  • Oracle
  • Orpheus
  • Osiris
  • Otter
  • Otus

Australia

  • Onslow
  • Orion
  • Otama
  • Otway
  • Ovens
  • Oxley

Brazil

  • Humaitá
  • Tonelero
  • Riachuelo

Canada

  • Ojibwa
  • Okanagan
  • Onondaga

Chile

  • O’Brien
  • Hyatt

HMS Cavalier

In the years leading up to the Second World War the Royal Navy began ordering a number of new destroyer classes, and some of these became the forerunners of the War Emergency Programme destroyers. HMS Cavalier was one of the last of these War Emergency Programme ships to be constructed.

The first of the destroyers that formed the basis of the War Emergency Programme destroyers were the O-class destroyers. Their hull design was based on the pre-war J-class destroyers. The latter were notable because their design incorporated several significant changes, including the introduction of extra strong longitudinals and weaker transverse frames rather than the more traditional strong transverse frames with weak longitudinals. The wisdom of this decision was born out by the survival of HMS Kelly when she was badly damaged in May 1940. Whereas a traditionally designed destroyer would have probably broken in two and sunk, the strong longitudinals held the ship together whilst she was towed back to port for repair.

The design also saw the adoption of a two boiler room layout. This reduced hull length and allowed for a single funnel, both of which reduced the ship’s profile and increased the arcs-of-fire of the ship’s light anti-aircraft armament.

The War Emergency Programme (and their immediate predecessor) destroyer classes were:

  • O-class or 1st Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • P-class or 2nd Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Q-class or 3rd Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • R-class or 4th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • S-class or 5th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • T-class or 6th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • U-class or 7th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • V-class or 8th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • W-class or 9th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Z-class or 10th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Ca-class or 11th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Ch-class or 12th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Co-class or 13th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Cr-class or 14th Emergency Flotilla (8 built)
  • Ce-class or 15th Emergency Flotilla (8 planned but never built)

HMS Cavalier was a member of the Ca-class, and when built her characteristics were as follows:

  • Displacement: 1,710 tons (Standard); 2,530 tons (Full Load)
  • Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.57 m) (o/a); 339 ft 6 in (103.48 m) (pp)
  • Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.90 m)
  • Draught: 10 ft (3.05 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers providing steam for 2 x Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines (40,000 shp) each driving a separate propeller shaft
  • Speed: 36 knots
  • Range: 4,675 nautical miles at 20 knots; 1,400 nautical miles at 32 knots
  • Complement: 186
  • Armament: 4 x QF 4.5-inch L/45 Mk IV guns on mounts CP Mk.V; 2 x Bofors 40mm L/60 guns on a twin “Hazemeyer” Mk.IV mount; 4 x QF 2-pounder Mk.XV on single mounts; 8 (2 x 4) 21-inch Mk.IX torpedo tubes; 80 depth charges

After serving as an escort for Arctic convoys, HMS Cavalier was sent to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet, where she provided naval gunfire support during the Battle of Surabaya. She then spent time in India before being sent back to the UK. She was paid off in May 1946 and was placed in reserve at Portsmouth.

HMS Cavalier was modernised during the late 1950s, and was re-commissioned in 1957. She was again sent to the Far East, where she joined the 8th Destroyer Squadron based at Singapore.

After modernisation HMS Cavalier’s characteristics were as follows:

  • Displacement: 1,710 tons (Standard); 2,530 tons (Full Load)
  • Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.57 m) (o/a); 339 ft 6 in (103.48 m) (pp)
  • Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.90 m)
  • Draught: 10 ft (3.05 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers providing steam for 2 x Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines (40,000 shp) each driving a separate propeller shaft
  • Speed: 36 knots
  • Range: 4,675 nautical miles at 20 knots; 1,400 nautical miles at 32 knots
  • Complement: 186
  • Armament: 3 x QF 4.5-inch L/45 Mk IV guns on mounts CP Mk.V; 2 x Bofors 40mm L/60 guns on a twin “Hazemeyer” Mk.IV mount; 4 x Bofors 40mm L/60 guns on single Mk.III mounts; 2 x 20mm Oerlikon guns on twin Mk.V mount; 1 x 20mm Oerlikon gun on single Mk.III mount; 2 x triple Squid anti-submarine mortars; 4 throwers and 2 depth charge racks (96 depth charges), 1 x quadruple GWS20 ‘Seacat’ surface-to-air missile launcher (This was added in September 1964)

HMS Cavalier was finally decommissioned in 1972. After spending time laid-up in reserve, she was sold in 1977 to the Cavalier Trust for £65,000. She was then moved to Southampton, where she became a museum and memorial ship in August 1982. This ventured proved to be unprofitable, and in October 1983 she was moved to Brighton.

The ship remained in Brighton marina until she was moved yet again, this time to the River Tyne. It was planned to use HMS Cavalier as the centrepiece of a national shipbuilding exhibition centre and museum, but the plans for the museum came to nothing, and she remained there until the Cavalier Trust was reformed in 1998. The Trust arranged for HMS Cavalier to be moved to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, where she now resides permanently in No. 2 dry-dock.

HMS Cavalier’s quadruple GWS20 ‘Seacat’ surface-to-air missile launcher.

A QF 4.5-inch L/45 Mk IV gun on mount CP Mk.V. It is similar to those carried aboard HMS Cavalier.


HMS Gannet

HMS Gannet was a member of the Doterel-class of screw sloops (i.e. gunboats). She was built at Sheerness Naval Dockyard, Kent (not far from her current location in Chatham) and was launched on 31st August 1878.

When built, her particulars were:

  • Displacement: 1,130 tons
  • Length: 170 feet
  • Beam: 36 feet
  • Draught: 15 feet 9 inches
  • Propulsion: 1 x Two-cylinder Humphreys & Tennant horizontal compound expansion engine (1,107 ihp), powered by steam from 3 cylindrical boilers, driving a single propeller
  • Speed: 11.5 knots
  • Complement: 150
  • Armament: 2 x 7-inch RML guns, 4 x 64-pounder RML guns, 4 x MGs (By 1892 the 64-pounder guns had been removed and replaced by 2 x 5-inch BL guns)

During one of her periods of active duty HMS Gannet helped suppress the Slave Trade in the Red Sea as well as support the British enclave at Suakin.

HMS Gannet was decommissioned in 1895 and used as an accommodation hulk at Port Victoria railway station on the Isle of Grain. She was then converted into a Drill Ship for the RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) on the River Thames. In 1913 she was moved to the River Hamble, where she became the dormitory ship for the Training/School Ship Mercury, and she remained there until the school closed down in 1968.

In 2001, when I made my first visit to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, I took some photographs of HMS Gannet during the early stages of her restoration.

I was even able to find a photograph of HMS Gannet as she looked at the end of the nineteenth century.

By the time I made a return visit in 2003, HMS Gannet had been almost completely restored to her original appearance.

During my most recent visit I was able to go aboard HMS Gannet and take some more photographs of her.

HMS Gannet in August 2015.

HMS Gannet’s top deck, looking aft from her raised forecastle.

HMS Gannet’s midships top deck.

HMS Gannet’s top deck, looking forward from under her raised poop deck.

On HMS Gannet‘s forecastle are two examples of four-barrelled Nordenfelt machine guns.

Mounted underneath HMS Gannets forecastle is an example of a 7-inch RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) Gun. It was mounted on a traversing mount so that it could be fired through gun ports on either side of the bow.

A similar gun is mounted amidships.

Aft, mounted on HMS Gannet‘s poop deck, are a pair of 5-inch BL (Breech Loading) guns. These replaced the 64-pounder RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) Guns when HMS Gannet was rearmed.


Polemos and the One Hour Wargame combat system

Whilst sitting at my computer today, I happened to come across a file that contained the text of the rules of POLEMOS … so I re-read them.

These rules had no chance element in their combat resolution mechanism; casualties were inflicted automatically depending upon the type of units involved and the range at which the combat was taking place. I always thought that this must have made the resulting wargame rather sterile, and in the past I had given some thought to devising a replacement combat resolution mechanism.

Next to my computer was my copy of Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES rules book … and I was suddenly struck by the thought that the simple D6-based combat resolution mechanism in his rules could easily be be used with the POLEMOS rules.

This is not as daft as it sounds. In the POLEMOS rules the twelve units start with a strength of 10 figures … which is not that different from the basic 15 points allotted to six units in the OHW rules.

It is certainly something for me to think about over the next few weeks and months.