12 NAVY NEWS, OCTOBER 2011 656 Ultimate spear’s shield
Java ............................1811 Atlantic .......................1942 North Africa................1942 Arctic ..........................1943
RIDING the choppy waters of the Clyde, HMS Dasher – one half of the Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron – makes her way out to meet the most potent weapon
in Britain’s military arsenal. With her sister HMS Pursuer, and a cluster of raiding craft from the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, Dasher enforces Operation Imperious: safeguarding the nation’s strategic deterrence on the surface. Imperious ensures that the Royal
Navy’s quartet of ballistic missile boats – HMS Vanguard, Vengeance, Vigilant and Victorious – are escorted up and down the Clyde, providing an outer ring of steel for the leviathans as they set out on or
return from their three-month deterrent patrols. It’s a force protection role that for a long time was carried out by police launches.
But in the late Noughties, cover was beefed up initially by the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (who also defend the armaments depot at Coulport on Loch Long, home of the V-boats’ Trident missiles).
And since the spring of last year, an extra layer of protection has been given by new arrivals on the Clyde, Dasher and Pursuer.
The two boats were sent to Cyprus to safeguard its waters and Allied warships using them – the island was a crucial hub during operations in Iraq – and brought back home to the UK when they were no
longer needed in the Mediterranean. Rather than resume her pre-Cyprus duties – like the rest of the P2000 fleet, Dasher served a University Royal Naval Unit,
in her case Bristol – she was assigned to Imperious. In addition to protecting the bombers, the boat carries out similar duties in support of warships and submarines using Clyde Naval Base. The small 25-year-old boat is the fifth Dasher in a line going back to the end of the 18th Century.
The first was an 18-gun sloop of 1797 which became a convict hulk in 1832 and was broken up in March 1838. Next came a wooden paddle packet of 357 tons, launched at Chatham Dockyard on 5 December 1837 and sold in 1885. A late Victorian destroyer, launched at
Poplar in November 1894, was the third Dasher, but it did not remain in service to fight in the Great War, being sold in May 1912.
Dasher No.4, formerly the Rio de
Janeiro, was an 8,200-ton escort carrier, launched in the United States on 12 April 1941.
She is the most well-known Dasher
by far, thanks to her unfortunate demise which has been surrounded in mystery for nearly 70 years.
She was lost to a massive explosion in the Clyde during training in March 1943. The cause of the blast has never been identified – and authorities at the time ordered a cover up of Dasher sinking which cost the lives of 379 of the 528 men aboard.
Picture: CPO Tam McDonald, FRPU North OCTOBER 1 1917.
PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORIES – Sqn Cdr Frederick Rutland ‘runway’ just 50ft long.
more than three bloody years. The British Army is bearing the burden of fighting on the Western Front, struggling through the Flanders mud in the Third Battle of Ypres – better known as Passchendaele. Bolshevik agitation is on the verge of toppling Russia’s provisional government and instigating the second revolution of the year. And on top of one of
The world has been at war for
Royal Navy’s newest ‘castles of steel’, the mighty battle- cruiser Repulse, a seemingly ramshackle structure of wood and steel mounted on the turret of one of her 15in gun turrets: a
was crammed with sailors, eager to witness history in the making – history recorded for posterity by a naval photographer, whose image is now held by the Imperial War Museum. Aircraft
launched from similar platforms on cruisers since the early summer – and had scored a considerable success when a Sopwith Pup fighter launched from HMS Yarmouth downed a Zeppelin in the North Sea. The Admiralty was still rather
had already been The upper deck of the ship
reluctant to convert its capital ships – it didn’t want to turn an entire battleship into the wind so it could launch aircraft.
It fell to one of the most celebrated fliers of the day to devise the solution: Sqn Cdr Frederick Rutland – ‘Rutland of Jutland’. He suggested building a short platform on top of a turret – B Turret in the case of Repulse – only it needed to turn into the wind, not the entire ship. To prove his point, Rutland climbed into a Pup and took off. Born on Trafalgar Day 1886, Frederick Joseph Rutland was typical of the colourful characters who pepper the early years of naval aviation: most possessed a somewhat renegade nature. All possessed
bravery bordering on the reckless. He earned his sobriquet in the eponymous battle in 1916. Rutland took a Short seaplane from HMS Engadine and scouted for the Grand Fleet, reporting the positions of numerous German light cruisers and destroyers (a communications mix- up meant his reports were never acted upon in time).
The next day, with Engadine still supporting the Grand Fleet in the aftermath of the battle, the seaplane carrier was asked to recover wounded men from the crippled cruiser HMS Warrior.
The two ships pitched violently as they conducted a transfer – not by jackstay, simply by being handed over from one ship to the other. The vessels bumped frequently, finally causing one of the wounded to slip from his stretcher into the North Sea. Warrior’s captain forbade his men jumping in to save him, but Rutland was convinced there wasn’t “any real risk”.
He attached a bowline,
jumped in and succeeded in hauling the poor soul back to the Engadine. Rutland’s efforts had been in vain; the casualty had been crushed between the two ships. That the flier did not suffer the same fate was “miraculous”. He was rewarded with the Albert Medal – his bravery, stated the citation, “is reported to have been magnificent”. So too his flying skills. In the right conditions, Rutland could get a Sopwith Pup airborne at sea from the makeshift platforms he so strongly advocated in barely 20ft.
In a few months the advent the
first aircraft carriers
Furious and Argus would render Rutland’s platforms largely obsolete.
But in the summer and autumn of 1917, Frederick Rutland was one of the doyens of the Royal Naval Air Service.
So why is Rutland of Jutland not No.87 in our long-running series championing Heroes of the Royal Navy? Well, largely because his post-
war career is chequered – to put it mildly. In the 1920s – and now an officer in the fledgling Royal Air Force following the transfer of naval aviators to the new Service in April 1918 – Rutland was ordered to the Far East. Whitehall ordered Rutland
to share his expertise in naval aviation so that Japan could forge its own naval air force and carrier fleet.
But at some stage during his time in the land of the rising sun, Rutland ‘went native’; his advising turned to spying, using
Pennant number: P280 Builder: Vosper Thornycroft, Southampton Entered service: 1986 Displacement: 54 tonnes Length: 20.8m (68ft) Beam: 5.8m (19ft) Draught: 1.8m (6ft) Speed: 16 knots Range: 550 miles Complement: 5 Propulsion: 2 x Perkins CV 12 (Challenger tank) engines
Class: Archer-class P2000 patrol boat
Armament: 3 x 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns; Kevlar armour protection
his import-export business as a cover.
For several years, he fed Tokyo
with reports on the US Navy in particular, acting as one of their agents in America – although at various times the FBI, MI5 and MI6 were monitoring his activities (among those spying on the spy was one Anthony Blunt... who all the while was feeding Moscow state secrets). As war between Japan and Britain and the USA loomed, however, he offered to act as a double agent – an offer which was rejected.
A few weeks later, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, he was interned, held captive without charge. Among
for Rutland’s release was old warhorse Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes – then MP for Portsmouth North and never a man to suffer fools.
Keyes had no time for defend- ing someone who “seemed to be hunting with the hounds and running with the fox.”
But he was convinced that Rutland had done “nothing inimical to British interests” and his insights into the Imperial Japanese Navy could prove invaluable.
Keyes’ pleas to Parliament
were to no avail. It was another 18 months before Rutland was released.
The pioneer flier never succeeded in clearing his name and took his own life in early 1949 aged 62.
As for Repulse, star of demonstration
1917, she was sunk within days of the outbreak of hostilities in 1941, destroyed by the Japanese air power the naval aviator had been sent to Tokyo to foster. n THIS photograph (Q 65579) – and 9,999,999 others from a century of war and peace – can be viewed or purchased at www.iwmcollections.org
. uk, by emailing photos@IWM. org.uk
, or by phoning 0207 416 5333.
Facts and figures
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