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.

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6 Comments on “HMS Cavalier”

  1. Dannoc says:

    Thanks for an interesting report and some great photo's

  2. Gonsalvo says:

    It is indeed a challenge to determine what ships from the past to preserve, and at what cost. I suppose we should be glad we have managed to keep as much as we have!

  3. johntheone says:

    I remember when she was in the Tyne. When I first seen her she was a commisioned ship and that was in 1967 in Gibralter

  4. Dannoc,

    It was my pleasure.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. Gonsalvo,

    We cannot preserve everything, but I am very sad that some ships – such as HMS Plymouth – were not preserved for posterity.

    All the best,

    Bob

  6. Johntheone,

    She must have been even more impressive when at sea … and going at full speed!

    All the best,

    Bob


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