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.


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


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


  • Humaitá
  • Tonelero
  • Riachuelo


  • Ojibwa
  • Okanagan
  • Onondaga


  • 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.

Just another couple of books …

On Saturday morning I paid one of my irregular visits to Falconwood Transport and Military Bookshop (5 Falconwood Parade, The Green, Welling, Kent, DA16 2PL). The shop was even more packed than usual, but despite this I did manage to find a couple of real bargains!

The first was an ex-library copy of F M von Senger und Etterlin’s TANKS OF THE WORLD 1983, which was published by Arms and Armour Press (ISBN 0 85368 585 1). The book has 828 pages(!) with 731 drawings and 603 photographs, and covers pretty well all the armoured fighting vehicles in production and/or service across the world.

Examples of some of the book’s pages are shown below:

The second book was an edition of JAPANESE NAVAL VESSELS AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, published in 1992 by Greenhill Books (ISBN 1 85367 125 8). The original book was compiled by Shizuo Fukui and published on 25th April 1947 by the Administrative Division, Second Demobilization Bureau. It was intended to ‘present in a very simple form a record of all the important vessels of the ex-Imperial Japanese Navy at the termination of the war‘. The original book was hand-written and contained numerous hand-drawn and annotated side views of the vessels included in the record.

What particularly interested me was the information about the lesser-known vessels used by the Japanese, including such oddities as the Maru-Yu transport submarines built and operated by the Japanese Army!

I have been to … Tøjhusmuseet (The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum), Copenhagen, Denmark

Sue and I visited Tøjhusmuseet (The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum), Copenhagen, Denmark some years ago, but at the time of our earlier visit the Museum was undergoing a lot of building work and reorganisation. By the time of this visit, most the work had been completed, and the display area had more than doubled in size.

Rather than repeat the coverage of the exhibits that were included in my earlier blog entry, I am going to concentrate on the new exhibits … although I could not resist photographing some of my favourites, which include a model of the building that houses the Museum as it was when it was used as an arsenal, …

… a Carden-Lloyd Tankette, …

… and a mobile armoured pillbox … which bears a striking resemblance to a Dalek on wheels!

Denmark did not take part in the First World War and 2014 marks a very different anniversary for the Danes; it is the 150th anniversary of the war with Prussia that ended with the area of Europe controlled by the Danish monarchy being reduced to almost half of its former size. As a result, the Museum has mounted a small display to mark this anniversary.

The Danish Armed Forces in Afghanistan
This exhibit was undergoing revision and expansion the last time we visited the Museum. It is now open, and gives a very realistic idea about the conditions under which members of the Danish Armed Forces operated in Afghanistan. It combines photographs, recreations, and sound to do this … and both Sue and I were very impressed by it.

(Please note that the lighting inside the exhibit was designed for dramatic effect and not for photography, hence some of the odd colours that appear in some of the following images.)

Arriving at Camp Bastion

Front-line Accommodation

Leaving Camp Bastion to go out on patrol

Afghan house

Patrolling the countryside

The impact of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device)

An Afghan polling station

An Afghan Market

Denmark’s Wars
On our previous visit the upper floor of the Museum had been close for renovation, but on this occasion it was open and housed a gallery entitled ‘Denmark’s Wars’.

To the right of the entrance to the upper floor was a collection of modern helmets displayed in the way that ancient armour is often displayed …

… as were a number of modern automatic rifles.

The exhibits included a number of sets of armour for horses …

… and men, …

… including some Japanese armour.

There were several display cases full of early weapons …

… and nineteenth century Russian uniforms.

There were also collections of military headgear, …

… examples of uniforms that were worn by various Norwegian monarchs, …

… military medals, …

… and models of artillery pieces.

The middle of the nineteenth century was also featured, and included two cabinets containing typical military uniforms of the period as worn by ordinary US soldiers.

The latter part of the nineteenth century was covered …

… as was the First World War, during which Denmark remained neutral.

There were several cabinets devoted to Denmark’s involvement in the Second World War …

… and the Cold War.

The role of the Danish Air Force was not forgotten, and there were two display cases full of large-scale models of aircraft used by the Air Force.

Uniforms of the Warsaw Pact

On my way back from posting the latest copy of THE NUGGET out to members of Wargame Developments, I paid a visit to Falconwood Transport and Military Bookshop (5 Falconwood Parade, The Green, Welling, Kent, DA16 2PL). On display they had a second-hand copy of ARMY, NAVY & AIR FORCE UNIFORMS OF THE WARSAW PACT … so I bought it.

The book was written by Friedrich Wiener, and the English-language edition was published by Arms and Armour Press in 1978 (ISBN 0 85368 252 6). The uniforms of each of the WARPAC countries (USSR, Bulgaria, German Democratic Republic, Poland, Romania, Czechosolvakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia) are described and illustrated with a number of photographs and some line drawings. There are also a number of colour plates at the back of the book.

What struck me as quite interesting was the fact that several of the former WARPAC countries no longer exist or have become members of NATO, and this book has added interest for me because of that.

My Hungarian World War II army … and other ‘finds’

Inside a file box that I found in one of the crates that was in the shed was a small Hungarian World War II army.

I created this army at a time when I was considering using Frank Chadwick’s COMMAND DECISION rules, and they represent a Hungarian Infantry Regiment with some supporting artillery. In the end I never used the rules, and the figures went into storage … although I have vague memories of having lent them to another wargamer for a time.

The figures were originally Spanish Civil War infantry that were sculpted by the late Dave Allsop. I modified some of them so that I could field heavy machine guns, machine gun crews, and gunners . I also scratch-built a field gun and a light anti-tank gun, which I used as masters from which I was able to create a silicon rubber mould.

The bases are looking a little ‘sad’, but I think that it will be possible to rebase the figures so that I can use them for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.

I have also made some other ‘finds’ during the great sort out. These include a number of 1960s/1970s-era pre-assembled and painted model British military vehicles manufactured and sold by Denzil Skinner …

… and a complete hard plastic 1920s/1930s-era wargames army created with figures from Fijumi, trucks from an unknown model railways supplier, artillery tractors scratch-built from Airfix US half-tracks, light tanks scratch-built from various bit and pieces, and artillery scratch-built from Airfix Napoleonic field guns and a Napoleonic board game.