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SHIPS OF THE ROYAL NAVY No.663 Defending the nation’s interests


NAVY signs new Defender. New defender undergoes trials with the Royal Navy.


£1bn Defender makes debut. Yes, yes, yes, we could continue with footballing puns aplenty. But then it’s not a bad analogy when referring to the fifth Type 45 to join the Fleet. She’s got the best kit in the


surface fleet. She can tackle dozens of opponents simultaneously


(we


can’t tell you how many, that’s obviously classified). We can, however, tell you how


many Sea Viper missiles she can shoot: 48 (you can count the launchers by standing on the bridge and looking down on the silo). All firing at once against incoming aerial targets would be quite a volley...


After commissioning in


Portsmouth on the first day of spring, she’ll spend the remainder of the first half of 2013 preparing for her biggest test to date: Operational Sea Training off Plymouth in the autumn. Pass that and she’ll be fit to make her international debut in early 2014.


Dodgy footballing analogies


aside (or should that be a-side?), HMS Defender does have formal links with a league side. As with the rest of the Type 45 flotilla, Defender has split allegiances: she’s affiliated to the cities of Glasgow and Exeter. But when it comes to football


teams, there are no divided loyalties: Exeter City all the way. The sailors don the club’s


colours when representing the RN wherever they go. The bond between ship and


club was cemented at the end of last year when the Grecians hosted Rotherham United (the visitors won 1-0). The Defenders were given a tour of the stadium and mementoes were exchanged on the pitch at half-time between the club’s chairman and Cdr Phil Nash, Defender’s CO, and members of


Onslow in tow and helped her back to Aberdeen. Defender


survived the


remainder of the war to be scrapped in 1921, but the name was back in little more than a decade, this time as a D-class destroyer.


The Mediterranean was her


battleground when war came, coming through the evacuations of Greece and Crete in the spring of 1941 when many RN vessels (including her sister Diamond) did not. Fate caught up with her in


July that year on the Tobruk run, supporting the besieged North African fortress. She was attacked by Junkers 88 ace Gerhard Stamp; the bomb actually missed the destroyer, but the blast was sufficiently close and powerful to break her back. No-one aboard was killed and


the Australian destroyer Vendetta took her in tow initially, but ultimately


she proved beyond


saving and she was scuttled off the Egyptian coast. The penultimate Defender was the 13th of the popular Daring class to be ordered – but the fifth to be laid down as many ships in the destroyer programme were cancelled.


When the order was placed


● The sun shines on the righteous... A glorious summer’s day (just the one in 2012...) greets HMS Defender as she arrives in Portsmouth for the fi rst time


Picture: LA(Phot) Chris Mumby, FRPU East


the ship’s team were presented to a very appreciative crowd. Just under 4,000 people saw the sailors that day – but that’s not the biggest crowd Defender has enjoyed during her short life to date. No, an estimated 10,000 people


gathered on the south bank of the Clyde on Trafalgar Day 2009 to see her sponsor, Lady Julie Massey, send the partially- completed ship scurrying down the Govan slip and into the river. The latest Defender joins a


proud lineage going back to the end of the 18th Century. Previous incarnations have included a gunboat, a gun brig (lost off Folkestone in 1809), and a captured French privateer. In the days of steam, the Defender name was resurrected in 1883 in a small torpedo boat, one of four dispatched to New Zealand to defend the colony. Armed with a ‘spar torpedo’, she was expected to ram her foes, embedding the torpedo in their hull; it would explode beneath the


PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORIES


THIS – depending upon your perspective – is either the aftermath of one of the most stirring episodes from the Royal Navy’s WW2 annals… …or a fl agrant breach of neutrality committed by pirates… Our photographic rewind through the past 100 years or so of the RN with the Imperial War Museum takes us to Jøssingfjord, 200 miles southwest of Oslo, in the second half of February 1940. It was here that Fate caught up with the German


tanker, after spending six months trying to evade the clutches of the Royal Navy. Since leaving Texas in August 1939, her crew had not set foot on land. The Altmark had ranged around the Atlantic supporting the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Graf Spee as she waged her guerre de course against British shipping. Since mid-December, however, the tanker had been a support ship without a ship to support, for the Graf Spee had been scuttled off Montevideo after running into the Royal Navy at the Battle of the River Plate. She made for home, carrying 299 British sailors in her hold, men captured by the Graf Spee before the warship sank their vessels.


By Februay 15, Altmark was almost back in Germany, hugging the coast of Norway. She had not escaped the attention of the Norwegian Navy, whose men carried out boarding inspections – but failed to fi nd the Britons held prisoner below. The


next day, however, an RAF Hudson


reconnaissance aircraft spied the tanker, the name A L T M A R K – painted in brilliant white on her stern – clearly visible.


A Royal Navy task force was already at sea, hunting the tanker: fi ve destroyers and two cruisers. Barely an hour later, the force caught up with its prey. The Altmark made a dash for the confi ned waters of Jøssingfjord, just a mile and a half long and a few hundred metres wide. It was no sanctuary. After dark on February 16, British task force fl agship HMS Cossack entered the narrow waters with orders to board and seize the German tanker and free the prisoners – with or without the Norwegians’ co- operation.


The Norwegians did not co-operate. Nor did the Altmark. After an abortive attempt to break out of the fjord, she unsuccessfully tried to drive the Cossack into the steep shore.


At this point Cossack struck. Brandishing pistols, machine-pistols and carbines, three dozen offi cers and men stormed the tanker. For a few minutes there was “wild shooting”. Two German stewards and a stoker fell down. A handful of Altmark’s crew tried to fl ee across the ice. Cossack’s


12 : FEBRUARY 2013


searchlights fell upon them, as did bullets. Several Germans fell through holes in the ice, others made it to the shore – by which time the Altmark herself was in Royal Navy hands. When the door to the hold was eventually opened, a voice inquired: “Are there any Englishmen down there?” “Yes – we’re all English!” came the response. “Well, the Navy’s here!” The prisoners cheered. By midnight they were aboard the British destroyer and bound for Leith. Within a day they would be free men, “the whole English-speaking world thrilled” by their rescue. The Norwegians protested against a fl agrant breach of their neutrality. The Nazis branded the Royal Navy ‘global pirates’ and the ‘The Navy’s here’ became one of the most popular phrases of the day. But the Altmark incident, as it has become known, cemented plans in Berlin for the invasion of Norway; it was clear, Hitler decided, that however neutral the Scandinavian country proclaimed to be, she was powerless in the face of the great powers. In a little over six weeks, Germany invaded Norway to ‘protect’ that neutrality.


After their victory in Norway, the Nazis erected a plaque in Jøssingfjord: Here, on February 16 1940, the Altmark was attacked by an English pirate.


It was


destroyed in 1945 when the Germans surrendered. The Altmark resumed her duties as a tanker for the Kriegsmarine – but the name was tarnished. Retitled Uckermark, she once again supported commerce raiding operations before being sent to the Far East in the autumn of 1942 carrying supplies for the Japanese war effort. She reached Yokohama and delivered 5,000 tons of fuel before blowing up in mysterious circumstances in the harbour. Such was the force of the blast it killed 53 crew but also wrecked the raider Thor and the captured Australian liner Nankin berthed next to her. As for the actions in Jøssingfjord, they’re regarded by some as the last major boarding fought by the Royal Navy – but it is not the end of the boarding story, of course. Today board and search is the mainstay of RN operations in the Middle East and Caribbean in particular. Training is imparted in a building at HMS Raleigh which, in part, aims to recreate a merchant ship. It’s name, appropriately, is Cossack. ■ THIS photograph (HU 27803) – 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.


www.navynews.co.uk


waterline. Technology had improved somewhat by the time of the next Defender, an Acheron-class destroyer which saw action at Heligoland Bight in the first days of war in 1914 as well as the two seminal big-gun clashes of the conflict: Dogger Bank and Jutland. At the latter, she was holed by shrapnel from a German 12in shell


cruiser Lion. Patched-up, intended for the then took the damaged destroyer


battle- she


she was Dogstar, but the ship was renamed Defender before the first steel was cut at Alexander Stephen’s yard on the Clyde. As Cold War warriors go, Defender led a remarkably varied life. She took part in operations off Korea, located the wreck of the Prince of Wales off Malaya, bombarded the Johor coast during the Malay emergency, brought the last king of Iraq to Britain on a state visit, escorted Britannia on a royal tour of the Baltic then was sent straight to Suez during the 1956 crisis, took part in the withdrawal from east of Suez and finally served as a target ship in the Forth – and that’s just a quick potted history. She was broken up in the spring of 1972.


Heligoland ....................... 1914 Dogger Bank ................... 1915 Jutland ............................ 1916 Calabria ........................... 1940 Spartivento ..................... 1940 Matapan .......................... 1941 Malta Convoys ................ 1941 Greece ............................. 1941 Crete ................................ 1941 Libya ................................ 1941


Class: Type 45 destroyer Pennant number: D36 Motto: Defendendo vinco – by defence, I conquer Builder: BAE Systems Laid down: July 31 2006 Launched: October 21 2009 Commissioned: March 21 2013


Displacement: 8,500 tons Length: 500ft (152m) Beam: 70ft (21.2m) Draught: 24ft (7.4m) Speed: in excess of 30 knots Complement: 190 (can accommodate up to 235) Propulsion: 2 x Rolls Royce WR21 gas turbines; 2 x Wartsila diesel generators; 2 x Alstom electric propulsion motors


Armament: Sea Viper anti- air missile system featuring Aster15 and Aster30 missiles held in SYLVER launcher; 1 x 4.5in Mk8 main gun; 2 x 30mm guns;


Helicopter: 1 x Lynx or 1 x Merlin


2 x Phalanx automated Gatling guns;


Surface Ship Torpedo Defence system


Facts and figures


Battle Honours


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