More than two hundred units of the Royal Navy carry out duties as auxiliary ships. They include surveying ships, monitors, sloops, target ships and many other types which render invaluable assistance to the Navy as well as to navigation in general.
A NAVAL SURVEYING SHIP, HMS CHALLENGER, was built at Chatham in 1931 originally as a fishery investigation vessel. She has a displacement of 1,140 tons and her reciprocating engines, developing 1,200 horse-
THE Royal Navy has so many different functions to perform that it requires, in addition to the strictly combatant types such as capital ships, cruisers, destroyers and the like, a whole fleet of auxiliary vessels, large and small. Hence we find in the Navy List such categories as monitors, sloops, net layers, minesweepers, surveying vessels, river gunboats, special service vessels, yachts, tugs, trawlers and whalers, drifters, depot ships, a hospital ship, repair ships, and “miscellaneous small craft”, running into a total of well over 200 units. The majority of these possess only a limited fighting value, and some are unarmed, but every vessel has its appointed and indispensable place in the vast organization controlled by the Admiralty.
Of particular interest are the two “special service vessels”, Iron Duke and Centurion. Both are ex-
The Centurion, which also fought at Jutland, was disarmed about 1927 and converted into a wireless-
When about to be used as a target for the guns of the Fleet, the Centurion is abandoned by her crew, who are taken off in the destroyer Shikari. It is from the switchboard in this vessel that the subsequent movements of the target-
FORMERLY A BATTLESHIP of 25,500 tons displacement completed in 1913, HMS Centurion is now a wireless-
A SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP is attached to every group of submarine flotillas and acts as a supply ship. The Medway, of about 15,000 tons displacement, can “mother” as many as eighteen submarines. Completed in 1929, the Medway has a speed of 16 knots and is armed with two 4-
A SLOOP OF 990 TONS HMS Lowestoft was completed in 1934. She has a length of 266 feet overall, a beam of 34 feet and a draught of more than 7 feet. The Lowestoft’s engines develop 2,000 horse-
In the course of her career as a target the Centurion has been hit by thousands of shells, and but for the exceptional strength of her armour she would long since have gone to the bottom. After a “shoot” she presents a forlorn spectacle, with funnels and upper works torn and twisted, and shell holes gaping in her flanks, but as most of the damage is superficial it is speedily repaired. The possession of this robot ship enables naval gunnery to be practised under realistic conditions.
There are eight monitors in the Navy List of 1936, all dating from the war period, but the only two of any present-
On the foredeck rise a huge barbette and gun-
Sloops are used for all sorts of purposes. The oldest of those now in service were built for minesweeping, convoy and anti-
Barrage of Nets
No fewer than twenty-
The largest sloops are of the “convoy” class, 1,190 tons, with a speed of 18 knots and an armament of four 4.7-
The two net layers, Guardian and Protector, represent a type of more recent origin. Their principal function is to lay a barrage, or zareba, of antisubmarine nets round a squadron of men-
Distinct from the sloops are twenty four minesweepers named after towns -
FLAGSHIP OF THE GRAND FLEET in 1914-
Next in the list come the river gunboats, eighteen in number, for duty on the Chinese waterways. The largest are the eleven vessels of the “Insect” class, displacing 625 tons, with a speed of 14 knots. With few exceptions they mount the heavy armament of two 6-
The Royal yacht is, as its title implies, reserved for the use of the Sovereign and members of the Royal family. Built in 1899, the Victoria and Albert is still a beautiful and stately vessel, of 4,700 tons displacement, with a pronounced clipper bow, overhanging stern, two funnels and three raking masts. She has a speed of 20 knots, and is one of the few remaining vessels on the active list to burn, coal. The convoy sloop Enchantress is occasionally employed as an Admiralty yacht, for which purpose extra cabins have been built aft and one 4’7-
Over sixty trawlers and drifters were engaged in Naval service in 1936. Trawlers are used primarily for mine-
A Floating Club
The Navy’s depot ships form a fleet in themselves. Every flotilla group of destroyers and submarines has its own parent ship. She “mothers” her brood by keeping them supplied with fuel, provisions, stores and spare gear, and undertaking all save the heaviest repairs in her own workshops. She acts, too, as a floating club, where officers and men from the flotilla, when not on duty, can sleep and mess more comfortably than in their own quarters.
Two modern examples of this class of ship are the Medway, a diesel-
In HMS Resource, built in 1928, the Mediterranean Fleet has almost the equivalent of a floating dockyard. She is officially designated a Fleet Repair Ship, and contains plant for making good material damage to other vessels and for manufacturing any special gear they may require when away from their usual bases.
During the war of 1914-
The only notable type among the “miscellaneous small craft” is the motor torpedo-
“MOTHER” SHIP to a flotilla of submarines, HMS Cyclops, a submarine depotship of 11,300 tons displacement, contains all kinds of stores, fuel, spare gear and provisions. All but the heaviest repairs can be carried out from the Cyclops and the four other ships of her type.
[From part 32 published 15 September 1936]
“Troopships and Trooping” on this website.