"THE FASTEST OF THE GREYHOUNDS"
BRITAIN'S LAST WORLD WAR II DESTROYER
Class : “CA” Class
Complement: 12 Officers, 180 Ratings (Wartime) (225)
Built By: J.S. White & Company
Launched : 7th April 1944
Completed: 22nd November 1944
Displacement: 2106/2530 tons
Length: 362 feet at waterline
Breadth: 38 feet 8 inches
Draught: 13 feet
Guns: 4 x 4.5 inch Mk IV / Twin x
40mm Bofors Mk IV
3 x 2pdr Pom Pom, 4 Depth
Charge Throwers, 2 DC rails.
8 x 21inch, Mark VIII Torpedo Tubes
Shaft Horse Power: 40.000hp on two shafts
Speed: 36 knots
Endurance: 2000 miles @ 22 knots
|The Admiralty originally ordered
Cavalier in March 1942 and her name was selected as HMS Pique
to be built by Cammel Laird. However, to continue in a sequence already in
use, she and seven other ships had their names changed to start with Ca
and thus she became HMS Cavalier. A re-order was formally placed on
12th August 1942, along with HMS Carysfort, on J Samuel White of
Cowes in the Isle of Wight, as due to shortage of materials, the orders
placed with Cammell Laird had not been started. She was eventually laid
down 28th February 1943 and launched on 7th April
1944 to be completed on 22nd November 1944. A member of her
crew at the time has related how trials were being conducted off the Isle
of Wight on D-Day.
Over 11,000 lives were lost in the Royal Navy destroyers sunk during World War Two. Those who survived tell of incredibly harsh conditions, the vessels awash with water, the open bridge and the sub-zero temperatures endured on Arctic convoys with the ever present threat of mines and torpedoes. The gun crews spent most of their time soaked to the skin, standing around the open gun mountings as the ship plunged into deep ocean troughs with no protection from the weather or the enemy.
The Second World War resulted in the loss of 153 RN destroyers. Since then time has taken its own toll and now just one destroyer remains, HMS Cavalier, a warship that once boasted proudly of being the fastest in the Fleet.
In 1997 talks took place that could have resulted in Cavalier seeing out her days as a tourist attraction in Malaysia. With the threat of such a humiliating end to this important part of British Naval heritage an urgent campaign was started to secure her a future closer to home.
HMS Cavalier, Her Service
HMS Cavalier gave sterling service to God, The King, The Queen and the Country during her 27 years with the Royal Navy.
She was one of 96 emergency destroyers ordered for the war effort between 1940-42. In early 1943 J.S. White & Co's shipyard at Cowes, Isle of Wight, was recovering from widespread damage by enemy bombing. In rebuilding, the company followed up an Admiralty request for British shipbuilders to develop the use of electric welding in warship construction. Cavalier was privileged to be among the first ships to be built with a partially welded hull, the forward and after parts, while amidships remained riveted to ensure strength. The welding proved very successful. The new process gave the ship additional speed and women were able to handle the welding more efficiently than the heavy job of riveting, important at a time when most men were required for active service.
Cavalier's keel was laid at the White yard on 28th February 1943. She was launched on 7th April 1944 and finally completed on 22nd November 1944.
HMS Cavalier joined the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet, and quickly saw action. In February 1945 she took part in three operations off Norway, "Selenium", a strike against enemy shipping, "Shred" to provide fighter cover for a minesweeping flotilla and "Groundsheet", an aircraft mine laying strike.
HMS Cavalier was one of three destroyers sent from Scapa to reinforce the escort of Arctic Convoy RA64, which had left the Kola Inlet on 17th February. After being attacked by U-boats and enemy aircraft on 23rd February the convoy was scattered in a hurricane combining force 12 winds with icing. HMS Cavalier went to round-up the convoy with the other escorts, and on 1st March thirty-one of the thirty-four merchant ships arrived safely in the Clyde. This mission earned HMS Cavalier a well deserved "Battle Honour".
Because of Cavalier's high speed capability, she was selected to help escort the then troopships RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, bringing thousands of American soldiers across the dangerous war zone of the Atlantic Ocean. The journey was completed at such speed that one of her crew described conditions on board as "horrendous."
In 1945, after the war in Europe was finished, Cavalier and other destroyers of the 6th Flotilla were detached to the Western Approaches Command and based on the Clyde. In June the 6th Flotilla was allocated to the British Pacific Fleet, and HMS Cavalier was taken in hand for refit at Rosyth. On completion in mid-August, the war with Japan had ended and the 6th Flotilla was ordered to relieve the 11th Destroyer Flotilla on the East Indies Station where Cavalier took part in the bombardment of Surabaja, Java. In June 1946 Cavalier returned to Britain and was reduced to reserve.
HMS Cavalier was refitted at Portsmouth and modernised at Thornycroft's, Southampton, between 1955 and 1957. Her capabilities were enhanced as a general-purpose escort ship. The latest Mk 6M fire control and remote power control were fitted to her guns; her after torpedo tubes were replaced by a deckhouse with two Squid anti-submarine mortars and a twin Mk 5 Bofors anti-aircraft gun fitted above. This modernisation did little to alter her wartime structure with its lattice mast, single funnel and the crew remaining at the mercy of the elements for much of the time. July 1957 was spent in the far east again, joining the 8th Destroyer squadron at Singapore.
On 8th December 1962 an armed rebellion against the formation of Malaysia broke out in Burnei, Sarawak and North Borneo. HMS Cavalier was returning from an Australian cruise and ordered to proceed at high speed to Singapore. She arrived on the 9th, embarked troops of the Queen's Own Highlanders, vehicles and stores, and sailed at full speed to help defend the Sultan of Brunei and his Kingdom. On arrival off Brunei she acted as communications HQ Ship and many members of her ship's company guarded 400 rebels taken prisoner on Papan Island until the arrival of HMS Tiger with a Royal Marine detachment.
In September 1964 she was fitted with a quadruple Seacat GW20 missile system and later joined the Home Fleet. In May 1967 she was in the Far East again and before joining the Western Fleet one year later, Cavalier had exercised several operations with the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. In 1969 Cavalier rejoined the Home Fleet. HMS Cavalier was with the Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal in early September 1970 when she intercepted an SOS during night exercises. In a very heavy storm in the Bristol Channel a Scottish coaster, Saint Brandan, was on fire. The crew had been taken off by a French trawler and the vessel abandoned, apparently about to sink. However, the ship stayed afloat and after standing by for 36 hours, still in heavy weather and with the derelict coaster nearing the rocky Welsh coast, HMS Cavalier succeeded in putting a boarding party on board and secured a towing hawser. The two ships made slow progress away from immediate danger and finally reached safety at Milford Haven 52 hours after the original SOS. For the remarkable seamanship displayed in this operation the ship's company of HMS Cavalier later found themselves with a £11,000 salvage award for their troubles!
However, it was one of Cavalier's final duties that was to secure her a proud place in Naval history. Following a challenge set during an exercise in 1970 a race was arranged between HMS Cavalier and the frigate HMS Rapid to decide which ship was faster.
The challenge was particularly interesting as Rapid, being a former "R" class destroyer, had a hull form and machinery outfit identical to that of HMS Cavalier. Both ships were now elderly by Naval standards, but with the passing of the fleet destroyers, they were still two of the fastest vessels in the Royal Navy. A national newspaper donated a trophy for the "Fastest Ship of the Fleet", attracting great publicity. On 6th July 1971 the two ships met off the Firth of Forth in perfect weather.
After two hours the race had little in it, HMS Cavalier had worked level with Rapid when the frigate lifted a safety valve. HMS Cavalier was declared winner by a mere 30 yards, over a distance of 64 miles. Her average speed was 31.8 knots, a speed very few more modern ships could achieve. Since then Cavalier has been affectionately known as "THE FASTEST OF THE GREYHOUNDS".
After a record 27 years, of Royal Navy service for such as ship, HMS Cavalier was approved for disposal in December 1971 and returned to Chatham for the last time on 5th July 1972 where she was laid up to await her fate……….
After the Royal Navy
During 1977 the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma instigated the first HMS Cavalier Trust to save the ship from being scrapped.
Cavalier was bought for £65,000 and towed from Chatham to Portsmouth by naval tugs on 11-12th October 1977. On Trafalgar Day, 21st October, she was formally handed over to the Trust and left Portsmouth under tow of commercial tugs for Southampton where it was intended for her to become a floating museum dedicated to the destroyers and men lost in battle during World War II. She was opened to the public in August 1982 but later sold to become the centre piece of Brighton's new marina. HMS Cavalier was next offered a new home with South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council. In 1987 she moved to Hebburn where she was to be part of a new museum celebrating Tyneside's long ship building history and the area's strong Navy association. Alas, the plans were never realised and HMS Cavalier was left to languish in a lonely, derelict dry-dock……………...
The offer of a home in a Malaysian theme park was an improvement to the terrible fate she would have suffered at the hands of a scrap dealer. However, for Britain's last World War Two destroyer to finish up so far from home was unacceptable to many.
Saved! from Newcastle (The Story)
HMS Cavalier arrived at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham in May 1999 and was placed in the famous No 2 dry-dock, the site where HMS Victory was built.
Tours above decks started almost immediately. A dedicated team of volunteers including ex-Cavalier crewmen took almost two years to restore the forward compartments of the ship that were opened in July 2001.
Consultation is taking place to consider how HMS Cavalier can become a national memorial to over 11,000 seamen who perished in 142 RN ships plus over 10,000 allied seamen and 62 destroyers lost by the enemy during the last dreadful World War II, and to all those men and women who built these warships during those terrible years. Here survival will offer younger generations the chance to see and experience the living and fighting conditions their Fathers, Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers endured fighting for the freedom enjoyed today.