Illegal Post War Immigration to Israel – 1945-1948
Palestine was a British Mandate from 1923 to 1948. In 1948, the British Mandate came to an end and the first Arab-Israeli war broke out. In the post war years the British had a policy limiting the number of Jews allowed to immigrate, however, 20,000 Jews illegally immigrated to Palestine, mostly by sea, assisted by Jewish volunteers in the British Army. The British attempted to block illegal immigration by stopping ships carrying Jews to Israel; of which the SS Exodus is one of the best known. HMS Pelican and HMS Magpie participated in patrols to stop illegal immigration ships trying to reach Israel.
Malayan Emergency – 1948-1960
The Malayan economy was severely affected by the Japanese occupation. When the British liberated Malaya in 1945, there were problems with unemployment, low wages and high inflation. These problems were used by the Malayan Communist Party as propaganda against the British and to foment strikes which severely impacted Britain’s attempt to organize Malaya’s economy. Guerrilla warfare broke out in 1948 starting with attacks on British plantation owners. The crisis forced the British to develop anti-guerrilla tactics which were eventually successful, but it took until 1960 for the state of emergency to be over. This was one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western Powers during the Cold War.
Although this was mainly a land-based operation, the Royal Navy did have a role to play patrolling the Malayan coastline and HMS Mounts Bay was a participant in this operation, patrolling off the coast supporting anti-terrorist operations.
Korean War – 1950-1953
After liberation from the Japanese in 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided with the Americans occupying the south and Soviet Russia occupying the north. In 1950, North Korea invaded the south under Kim Il Sung. The Americans were nearly driven off the Peninsular, but fought back and the war, under General MacArthur, became an offensive war to liberate the North from communist control; a symbol of a global struggle between east and west. This war became a United Nations sanctioned operation involving several nations fighting with the Americans. Britain provided ground troops and a number of naval vessels during the war.
HMS Warrior transported troops and supplies to the Far East Station during the Korean War. Following the cease fire in 1953, she patrolled the Korean coastline. Warrior was sold to Argentina in 1958 and renamed ARA Indepencia.
Suez Crises – 1956
This was a short war that started when Israel invaded Egypt, across the Sinai Peninsula, after President Nasser seized and nationalized the Suez Canal. France and Britain then sent troops, ships and aircraft to support Israel in this operation. Although the joint operations were successful and Egypt was invaded from land and sea, after pressure from the United States both Britain and France were forced to withdraw. Relations between France and America took years to recover and America threatened Britain with serious financial damage if it did not withdraw. For Britain the Suez Crisis was a blow to British prestige and had a fundamental impact on British politics with the resignation of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who had held this post for only two years. It also saw the decline of British political influence as a world power. For Israel, this set the stage for the 6-Days War in 1967.
The Royal Navy had a major roll in this invasion, landing and supporting troops and bombarding shore installations. HMS Eagle was one of five aircraft carriers and took part in the invasion of Port Saïd and the landing of British troops there. Many naval vessels took part in the invasion of Egypt including 5 cruisers, which included HMS Bermuda, some 20 destroyers and other naval units.
Cyprus Civil Unrest – 1955-1964
In 1958, HMS Bermuda assisted in the reinforcement of Cyprus during a period of civil unrest. Cyprus had both Turkish and Greek populations. Britain annexed the island in 1914 and in 1923 Turkey officially recognized British sovereignty over the island. Greek Cypriots however, believed it was their natural and historical right to unite the island with Greece. This led to civil turmoil, riots and shootings ending in a partition of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish sectors after Turkey invaded the island in 1974. British rule ended in 1960 when Cyprus became a republic.
The Cod Wars with Iceland – 1958 to 1976
These were a series of confrontations between the United Kingdom and Iceland on fishing rights in the North Atlantic. Iceland increased its fishing exclusive zone to 200 miles which severely impacted the British fishing industry that had until now access to rich fishing grounds. The end result of the three periods of “military disputes” was a victory for Iceland. This caused severe hardships for British fishermen with thousands of skilled workers losing their livelihood, and millions of pounds damage done to Royal Naval vessels resulting from collisions with Icelandic fishing patrol boats. The hulls of naval vessels are thin and not designed to withstand any contact from the likes of sturdy Icelandic fishing patrol boats.
These were not wars by the usual definition but more of military disputes. In the end, an agreement was reached in Iceland’s favour when she threatened to withdraw from NATO which would have had a deleterious effect on the ability of NATO to patrol the GIUK (Greenland, Iceland, UK) gap against Russian submarines.
The three periods of dispute were:
First Cod War 1958-1961
Second Cod War 1972 -1973
Third Cod War 1975-1976
Each period of dispute ended in a victory for Iceland. Royal Naval vessels sustained considerable damage from being rammed by Icelandic fishing boats and fisheries patrol vessels. Naval vessels have thin skinned hulls not designed to withstand ramming by other vessels including fairly small, well built fishing boats. Subsequently many vessels had to retire to port to conduct repairs to their damaged hulls. This reduced Britain’s role in NATO for anti-Russian submarine patrols and with Iceland’s threat to leave NATO and close US bases the “war” came to an end in Iceland’s favour.
Some of the Royal Naval vessels that took part in these hostilities are:
Evacuation of Tristan da Cunha – 1961
In 1960/61 HMS Leopard sailed to Tristan da Cunha to assist in evacuating the residents when the island’s volcano became active. During August and September, the eruption started with earthquakes and landslides followed by magma pushed upwards. A fissure opened up and destroyed the canning factory. A hasty decision was made to temporarily evacuate to a nearby uninhabited island followed by a rescue mission to bring the islanders back to Britain. Leopard was one of the three ships that assisted in the rescue.
The Islanders were house in the South of England and found good jobs with children going to school; it was thought that they would never want to return to their isolated and barren islands. However, after surviving a brutally cold winter and not having any immunization against the flu, they all lobbied to return and in 1962 were resettled on Tristan da Cunha. They had rejected the booming consumer society of England’s swinging sixties to return to a simple life style they badly missed.
The Island residents returned to Tristan in 1962 and these stamps commemorate their voyage back home.
Cuba – Bay of Pigs – 1961
After the failure of the CIA backed Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco, HMS Rothsay was diverted to Bermuda from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the event she was needed to protect British interests in Cuba. In 1962, Rothsay was in Nassau and had a 30-second part in the James Bond film “Thunderball.”
Indonesian-Malaysia Confrontation – 1963-1966
The Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (Also called the Borneo Confrontation) was a violent conflict that stemmed from Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia. Although combat operations were primarily conducted by ground forces, aerial forces played a vital support role and naval forces ensured security of the sea flank. In 1965, the scale and intensity of Indonesian operations began to subside after Suharto’s grip on power began to ease; there had been an attempted coupe on 30 September 1965. The conflict was deemed to be over after a conference on 28 May 1966.
HMS London and HMS Andrew were part of a powerful naval contingent protecting the coast of Borneo against infiltrating junks.
Rhodesian Bush War – 1964-1979
The Blockade of Rhodesia, also known as the Beira Patrol, was a civil conflict lasting from 1964 to 1979 where three forces were pitted against one another; the Rhodesian government forces under Ian Smith, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army under Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army of Joshua Nkomo. It was a conflict fought to end white minority rule, neither side achieved a military victory and a compromise was reached leading to elections held under British supervision where Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
Britain imposed an oil embargo on Rhodesia during this period and stationed naval vessels off the Mozambique port of Beira where oil was off loaded into a pipeline to Rhodesia. Patrols lasted until 1975 and included a total of 76 naval vessels cruising the Mozambique Channel and stationed off the port of Beira, including:
Six-Day Aden War – 1967
The Six-Day Aden War was an emergency triggered by Gamel Abdul Nasser’s pan-Arabist doctrines that were precipitated by the British, French, Israeli attack on the Suez Canal. It started in 1963 with two rival Arab organizations attacking the British, and often each other. Britain finally withdrew from Aden in 1967 and closed their naval base in Aden, which dated back to 1839.
HMS Eskimo was one of several Royal Naval vessels that supported land operations during this incident.
Bermuda Riots – 1968
Racial unrest had been building on the island for many years and this came to a head in April of 1968 when rioting took place near Hamilton; until 1960 Bermuda was a deeply segregated society. A state of emergency was declared and British troops were flown out from Britain and HMS Leopard was diverted to Bermuda. The presence of troops and a warship had a sobering effect on rioters and law and order was restored and life returned to normal. Several reforms were enacted following these riots which started a process of integration.
Aer Lingus Crash of Flight 712 – 1968
Aer Lingus flight 712 left Cork with a destination of London on 24 March 1968. Shortly after leaving Cork, the aircraft crashed into the sea, close to the Irish coast. There were many rumours and conspiracy theories as to the cause, from a missile strike to a mid-air collision, but the most likely cause was metal fatigue. For a while a rumour persisted that HMS Penelope had launched a missile which accidentally struck the plane but Penelope carried no sea-to-air missiles and was 120 miles away at the time of the crash. She was however involved in the search for wreckage and bodies.
Anguilla Crisis – 1969
This maybe the first and only time a country launched an insurrection to become a proper colony. Anguilla had always been administered from St. Kitts; although the island would much rather have been administered directly from Britain. When Britain granted independence to its West Indian colonies in the 1960s, it, without thinking, lumped Anguilla together with St. Kitts. There had been much hostility between these two Caribbean islands and the leader of St. Kitts once declared that he would reduce Anguilla to a desert. Warnings to Britain of this animosity between St. Kitts and Anguilla fell on deaf ears. Shortly after St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla became independent, Anguillans chased 17 police officers from St. Kitts off their island and they then hoisted the Union flag, declaring independence from the newly associated state.
After a few months of “comic opera,” Britain sent out a diplomat to sort things out, the utterly incompetent William Whitlock. When he arrived on the island he totally dissed the Anguillan leader and crowd who came to welcome him. Some young toughs, not controlled by the provisional government, intimidated Whitlock, who then fled the island. Britain, believing that the “Queen’s representative” had been fired on, launched a plan to invade. Two naval ships, HMS Rothsay and HMS Minerva, 135 paratroopers and 40 Scotland Yard police officers arrived on the island to be greeted by a horde of foreign journalists and no resistance from the local population. The world’s press was derisive in its commentary. “Britain’s Bay of Piglets,” “The War of Whitlock’s Ear” (a reference to the War of Jenkin’s Ear – 1779) and “The Lion that Meowed,” a comical reference to the Peter Sellars movie “The Mouse That Roared,” were some of the press headlines. There was a happy ending to this comical affair as Anguilla got what it wanted all along; direct rule from Great Britain.
HMS Fulmar – Naval Air Station Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth, in the north of Scotland on the North Sea coast, became a RNAS air station in 1946, named HMS Fulmar, and remained a naval air station until 1972 when it was transferred back to the R.A.F. and it’s name reverted to R.A.F. Lossiemouth. During this period, Lossiemouth was instrumental in the training of aircrews using Fairey Fireflies and Supermarine Seafires with Buccaneers arriving in 1961.
This cover celebrates Naval Air day at Lossiemouth, July 10, 1971.
1st Belize Crisis – 1972
Guatemala had claims on Belize (formally British Honduras) dating back to Spanish independence. This claim was forgotten until the 1930s when the government of Guatemala claimed a treaty signed in 1859 was invalid. A series of meetings began in 1969 but ended abruptly in 1972 when British intelligence suspected an imminent invasion and in response sent HMS Ark Royal and 8,000 troop to Belize to conduct amphibious exercises.
2nd Belize Crisis – 1975
Tensions flared again in 1975 when Britain deployed troops on the border backed by six fighter jets (Hawker Sidley Harriers) anti-aircraft missiles and the frigate HMS Zulu. At this point the tensions were defused, largely as a result of Guatemalan soldiers deserting and returning to their homes.
60th Anniv. Of the Formation of the Royal Naval Air Service 01 July 1914 in 1974
In 1910, Lt. George Colmore became the first naval officer to become a qualified pilot, his training paid for out of his own pocket. He was issued with a Royal Aero Club certificate and the club then offered the navy two aircraft to train pilots. The club also offered the use of its airfield which shortly became “Naval Flying School, Eastmore.” In 1912, this naval wing became part of the Royal Flying Corps. The naval wing expanded to include seaplanes and additional airfields and for the first time aircraft participated in naval maneuvers with the Royal Navy, using the converted cruiser HMS Hermes as a seaplane carrier. On 01 July 1914, the Admiralty made the Royal Naval Air Service, the naval wing of the Royal Flying Corps, part of the military branch of the Royal Navy. At the outbreak of WWI, the Royal Naval Air Service officially came under the control of the Royal Navy.
On 01 April 1918, the RNAS was merged with the RFC to form the Royal Air Force. In 1937, the navy regained its own air service when the Fleet Air Arm, then a part of the Royal Air Force, was returned to naval control.
Signed by the Commanding officer R.N.A.S. Yeovilton and Admiral of the fleet Sir Caspar John, 1903-1984. He was a pioneer in the Fleet Air Arm and fought on a cruiser in WWII.
Final Disembarkation of Air Group from HMS Ark Royal – 1978
Before being decommissioned and sent to the breakers yard, all of the ship’s aircraft are disembarked. This was the 4th ship named Ark Royal, the previous ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in the Mediterranean in 1941. The image shows a Buccaneer and a Phantom jet, a Sea King helicopter and a Gannet anti-submarine aircraft arranged over Ark Royal. She was broken up the following year.
285th Anniv. Of the Birth of Admiral Lord George Anson – 23 Apr. 1982
HMS Anson was named after Admiral George Anson, 1697-1762. He developed among other things the system of rating naval ships by the number of guns.
Anson saw action escorting nine Russian convoys.
1944 – provided cover for the successful attack against KM Tirpitz.
1945 – Accepted the surrender of Japanese forces occupying Hong Kong.
The cover is signed by Rear Admiral E.R. Anson, Flag Officer Naval Air Command, a descendant of Admiral George Anson.
Rear Admiral Anson was Flag Officer at Yeovilton, following that, in 1962, C.O. of Buccaneers on Ark Royal and Victorious. later he became Commander (Air) at Lossiemouth.
Falkland Islands War – 1982
The Falklands Crisis, also known as the Malvinas War in Argentina, was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom triggered by the Argentinian invasion of the South Sandwich Islands followed by the Falkland Islands on 02 April 1982. Tensions started when on 19 March a group of scrap metal merchants (infiltrated by Argentinian marines) raised the Argentinian flag on South Georgia Island. Britain responded by sending the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance to South Georgia with a party of marines. This triggered Argentina to send an invasion force to the Falklands ahead of the naval planned schedule to ward off any British reinforcement of the islands. The Falkland Islands and the South Georgia Islands had been British Crown Colonies since 1841 and the Islanders were predominantly descendants of British settlers and had made it clear that they favoured British sovereignty. A number of events led up to these hostilities.
The Admiralty had plans to withdraw the Endurance and she would not be replaced leaving no British naval presence in the South Atlantic and the South Georgia Station was to be closed for a lack of funding. This was seen by Argentina as a sign that Britain would not be able to defend its South Atlantic territories. The political situation in Argentina was very unstable. The Galtieri government was unpopular due to chronic economic problems and there was widespread civil unrest caused by its human rights violations during the “dirty war.” Invading the Malvinas would do much to bolster its dwindling legitimacy and so the original Argentinian Naval plan to ‘recover’ the Falklands before January 1983 was revised to a date in 1982 between July and October. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was trending low opinion polls before the invasion and when hostilities ended in Britain’s favour she was re-elected with an increased majority the following year.
The British government had no contingency plan for an invasion of the islands and a task force was rapidly put together from whatever vessels were available with orders to sail south. The whole task force eventually consisted of 127 ships: 43 Royal Naval vessels, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and 62 merchant ships. The task force included two aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, the nuclear-submarine HMS Conqueror and the ocean liners Queen Elizabeth II and Canberra, which were used as a troop ships.
The first action was the retaking of the South Georgia islands. On 25 April the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe, which had just resupplied troops, was spotted and attacked by the British; it was seriously damaged and was put of action. Following this engagement, marines, SAS and SBS troops were landed on South Georgia and Argentinian troops shortly surrendered without any resistance. HMS Antrim and HMS Plymouth participated in a short naval bombardment.
The first naval loss of the war was the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, a WWII US light cruiser, by torpedoes from the nuclear powered submarine HMS Conqueror. This had a crucial strategic effect; the elimination of any Argentine naval threat. The entire Argentine naval fleet returned to port and never left again during the fighting. Two days later the British suffered their first naval loss when HMS Sheffield was hit by Exocet missiles and sank a few days later. An official report severely criticized the ship’s firefighting equipment, training and procedures and a number of the ship’s crew including two officers who were found negligent in their duties.
The Royal Navy played a major role in this war transporting troops, aircraft and materiel to the South Atlantic and assisting in landing troops, attacking Argentinian positions on the islands and defending British positions from Argentinian attacks, mostly from aircraft and Exocet missiles. Although several naval vessels were hit by Argentinian bombs, thirteen bombs did not explode due to the low altitude that they were released from; not allowing the fuses to arm. Argentine pilots were forced to fly low in an attempt to evade British Harriers and anti-aircraft guns and missiles.
The British landed troop on 13 May on beaches surrounding San Carlos Water. Following this landing were landings at Goose Green and Darwin. British troops advanced across the islands arriving at Port Stanley on 11 June. After two days of fierce battles, Port Stanley was taken and a cease fire declared on 14 June, and the Argentinian commander duly surrendered.
Militarily, the Falklands conflict remains the largest air-naval-land combat operation between modern forces since the end of WWII. As such, it has been the subject of intense study by military analysts and historians.
The British lost the following vessels during the war:
HMS Sheffield – Hit by an Exocet missile.
HMS Ardent – Struck by nine bombs, three exploded doing considerable damage.
HMS Antelope – Struck by two 1,000lb bombs which did not explode. However, during defusing the bombs, one of them exploded which caused the missile magazine to explode and subsequently broke the ship in two.
HMS Coventry – Hit by three bombs, two of which exploded.
SS Atlantic Conveyor – A container ship carrying helicopters and war supplied, was hit by two Exocet missiles.
RFA Sir Galahad – Hit by several bombs whilst waiting to deploy soldiers in Port Pleasant.
The brief war brought many consequences for both sides. In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher’s popularity soared and the war was a factor in the turnaround in the fortunes of the Conservative government who had been trailing in the polls. Proposed naval defense cuts were abandoned and the islanders had full British citizenship restored and major investments by the UK greatly improved their lifestyle.
In Argentina, the defeat meant that a possible war with Chile was avoided. Argentina returned to a democracy in 1983 with the first free election being held since 1973. It also had a major social change destroying the military’s image as the “moral reserve of the nation” that they had maintained through most of the 20th century.
There were also cultural impacts, which were wide ranging in both the UK and Argentina. The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges described the war as “a fight between two bald men over a comb.” The words Yomp (Royal Marine slang for a long distance march with full kit) and Exocet entered into the British vernacular and the war provided material for film, TV drama and theatre. In Argentina, the government banned the broadcasting of British songs, which triggered the rise of local rock musicians.
Some ships that participated in actions during the Falkland War:
HMS Dreadnought was Britain’s first nuclear powered submarine. She did not take part in the war but was sent to the South Atlantic in 1977 to deter possible Argentinian aggression against the Falklands.
Hermes was the flagship of the British task force and was deemed too valuable to operate close to the battle zones. Subsequently her Harriers had to operate at the limit of their endurance. Hermes was never attacked by Argentinian aricraft.
HMS Penelope was a Leander-class frigate, launched in 1962, sold to Chile in 1991. She was part of the “Bristol Group” and did not arrive in the Falklands until 12 May. She was rumored to be the last ship attacked by Argentinian aircraft. She undertook Falkland Patrols in the tense years after the war and did not return home until 1983.
HMS Minerva was a Leander-class frigate, launched in 1964, scrapped in 1992. She was part of the “Bristol Group” and did not reach the Falklands until 12 May. She did not suffer any damage during engagements.
HMS Charybdis was a Leander-class frigate, launched in 1967, sunk as a target in 1993. She was undergoing extensive modifications when war broke out and was rushed into service with the fleet heading south. After the war she was deployed on Falkland Island patrols.
HMS Hydra was a deep ocean hydrophonic survey vessel, launched in 1967, sold in 1986. She became a hospital ship during the war and was the last vessel to return to the UK after hostilities ended.
HMS Invincible was launched in 1977, scrapped in 2010. She had been offered for sale to Australia when war broke out; the sale was cancelled. On the voyage south she mistakenly locked her Sea Dart missiles on a Brazilian Varig Boeing 707, instead of an Argentinian Air Force 707. A Harrier was sent up to investigate and this interception was reported in the Brazilian press, along with a claim that the passengers were alleged to have been frightened. Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward, the task force commander, made the comment that “inconvenience to passengers’ underwear regretted, unless any of them were Argentinian.” She carried 8 Sea harriers and 12 Sea King helicopters.
HMS Brecon was a Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessel, launched in 1978, decommissioned in 2005. She saw service in the aftermath of the war.
HMS Exeter was a Type-42 Destroyer, launched in 1978, scrapped in 2011. She shot down three Argentinian aircraft with Sea Dart missiles. She attended the 25th anniversary of the war as the last remaining commissioned naval vessel to have served in the Falklands.
The Q.E.2 sailed from Britain as a troop carrier. Nearing the Falkland Islands, she turned off her radar and implemented a complete blackout. Sailing further south, she encountered fog and icebergs and was forced to turn on her radar to avoid collisions. She disembarked troops and continued on to South Georgia which had now been re-taken. She spent the war sheltered in Cumberland Bay, far from any possible attack by Argentinian aircraft. Her loss would have been a huge blow to British prestige and a boost to Argentinian prestige particularly because of the ship’s name, Queen Elizabeth 2.
The South Sandwich Islands are 300 miles south east of South Georgia. They were retaken by Royal Marines shortly after South Georgia was retaken.
HMS Liverpool was the last Type-42 destroyer in service, launched in 1978, scrapped in 2014. She did not see action during the war but arrived shortly after the campaign ended to relieve other naval vessels. She stayed on station for six-months after the war.
HMS Herald was a Hydrographic Ocean Survey vessel which saw duty during the war as a hospital ship.
SS Canberra acted as a troop ship carrying troops out to the war zone. She was not seriously damaged by any Argentinian jets as they had been told she was a hospital ship and not to attack her. After the war she repatriated captured Argentinian prisoners back to Argentina.
HMS Fearless. Seven ships bore the name Fearless. The last, a Fearless-class landing platform, launched in 1966, participated in the Falkland Islands war. She was paid off in 2002.
HMS Active. 12 ships were named Active, the first in 1758, the last in 1972.
By the mid 1980’s she was suffering from hull cracking and had steel plates welded on each side of the ship. Active participated in the war as part of the Bristol Group. She was stationed east of the Islands during the day, while escorting supply convoys to San Carlos.
40th Anniversary of D-Day Landings – 1984
HMS Dryad was a “Stone Frigate”; a shore establishment, that was an operations centre for D-Day operations.
Yugoslav Wars – 1993-1995
The Yugoslav Wars were a series of interrelated wars of ethnic conflicts and wars of independence fought in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001.
During the Bosnian War, HMS Invincible supported NATO troops in this conflict.
Montserrat Volcano – 1995
The until-then inactive volcano on the island of Montserrat erupted in 1995 burying the capital city Plymouth under metres of ash. The town was permanently abandoned in 1997 after it was burned and mostly covered by ash.
Beginning in July 1995, a series of huge eruptions sent pyroclastic flows and ash falls across wide areas of southern Montserrat. Residents were evacuated in August of that year as a precaution. More than two-thirds of the population was evacuated by the Royal Navy, most of whom never returned. HMS Liverpool played a vital role in evacuating some 7,000 people to nearby islands such as Antigua and Barbuda.
1st Gulf war – 1991
The 1st Gulf War, also called Operation Desert Storm, was a war waged by coalition forces led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Great Britain was a major contributor to the war and a number of Royal Naval vessels participated in the actions. Iraq completed its invasion of Kuwait in 10 hours with the Kuwaiti royal family and most of the military fleeing to safety in Saudi Arabia. The Coalition forces began their operations in January 1991 with bombing attacks followed by a ground invasion starting in February 1991. Kuwait was freed of Iraqi forces on 28 February, 100 hours after the invasion began.
The following Royal Naval ships saw service in the war:
HMS Opossum – An Oberon-class submarine, launched in 1963, decommissioned in 1993.
1990 – took part in bicentennial celebrations in Pitcairn island.
Participated in the Gulf War. On her return to Gosport, she was flying the ‘Jolly Roger’ which was the only indication she had deployed and recovered SAS and SBS personnel.
The Jolly Roger Flag and the Submarine Service
The use of the Jolly Roger flag by the submarine service started in WWI after the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, complained that submarines were “unfair, underhanded and damned un-English” and “that personnel should be hanged as pirates.” Hence the Jolly Roger flag.
Libyan Civil War – 2011
The First Libyan War was an armed conflict between forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. During the rebellion, a UN Resolution authorized member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. During hostilities, the Royal Navy blockaded Libyan ports and fired on ships attempting to deliver arms to Gaddafi. HMS Liverpool fired her main 4.5” gun at a variety of targets, destroying several shore rocket batteries, and she fired 54 shells at a truck convoy destroying or disabling most of the vehicles.
After the Falkland Islands War, HMS Hermes took part in a number of NATO exercises in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean as a commando carrier. In 1983, she took part in her last exercise as a strike carrier, carrying 24 Harriers. In 1986 she was sold to the Indian Navy where she remained until 2017 after which she was decommissioned and converted into India’s first maritime museum.
HMS Vanguard was the last battleship to be launched in the world and was the largest and fastest of the Royal Navy’s battleships. Although her design was started before the war, she was not launched until 1944. She became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet and then in 1949 became the flagship of the Home Fleet. She was involved in a number of NATO exercises and participated in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation review in 1953. The Admiralty announced in 1959 that she had become outdated and too expensive to maintain and would be sold for scrap in 1960.
Vanguard weighed 50,000 tons with a top speed of 30 knots. Her main armaments were 4 x 15” guns and 8 x 5.25” guns.
These were the largest naval guns installed on a British battleship; although there were plans for 18” guns to be installed on HMS Furious during World War I. Three 18″ guns were built and two were installed on Furious. The forward turret was removed during construction and the remaining gun did not see combat as it proved too powerful during test firing for the shallow draft of her hull. It was removed from the ship when she was converted with an aft flight deck for aircraft; with a full flight deck being added in 1920. The 18” guns were installed on two monitors and used for coastal bombardment duties with only 85 rounds ever fired before war ended.
The largest guns ever mounted on modern battleships were the 18.1” guns installed on the Japanese super battleships IJN Yamato and IJN Musashi; the largest battleships ever built. Yamato only fired her main guns once during the war and both ships were eventually sunk by American carrier launched bombers proving that the reign of the super battleship was over as they were too vulnerable to aerial attacks. This was the same fate that befell the German battleship KM Tirpitz, sunk by 12,000lb tallboy bombs in a Norwegian fiord in 1944.
An Amphion-class submarine, launched 1945, broken up 1972.
Alderney completed three commissions working with the Royal Canadian Navy out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1952 she developed issues while training with vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy off Bermuda and returned to Portsmouth for a long refit. In 1965 she was recommissioned for the eight time and was allocated to HMS Dolphin, the home of the Royal Navy Submarine Service.
HMS Blake was a light cruiser of the Tiger class, launched in 1945, scrapped in 1982. Blake was the last of the traditional Royal Navy gun-armed cruisers in the 20th century, armed with 4 x 6” guns. She was named after Admiral Robert Blake (1598-1657), the “father of the Royal Navy.”
In 1965 she underwent a major refit and was converted to a helicopter cruiser with a small flight deck and hanger replacing the aft guns.
1969 – She was deployed to Gibraltar to ‘fly the flag’ in response to Spanish hostility after the border was closed by General Franco.
1969 – An RAF Harrier landed on her deck.
1971 – She was present during the ’emotional withdrawal from Malta,’ supporting the commando carrier HMS Bulwark.
She was withdrawn from service in 1979 when she became the last Royal naval vessel to fire a 6″ gun.
1980 – she was refitted and became part of the Standby Squadron based in the Chatham Naval Dockyards. When the Falkland Islands war broke out, there was a plan to recommission her together with her sister ship HMS Tiger, but it was soon realized that they would not be ready in time to deploy, nor could they be effectively crewed, so work was stopped.
Chile showed interest in purchasing her together with Tiger but the deal did not go through. She was sold for scrap in 1982 and was the last cruiser serving the Royal Navy on her decommissioning.
HMS Chichester was a Salisbury-class frigate, launched in 1955, scrapped in 1981.
Her first commission took her to the Mediterranean and through to the Far East, returning via South Africa.
In 1968 she was deployed in fisheries protection duties.
In 1975 she was involved in the rescue of Vietnam Boat people, escorting them to Hong Kong.
HMS Vidal was named after the nineteenth surveyor Alexander Vidal and spent her career carrying out surveys for the navy and British Government. She formally annexed Rockall in 1955, due in part to developments in the Cold War. Rockall is an uninhabited granite islet 432 kilometres west of Scotland. It was first visited by HMS Endymion in 1810 at which time a landing party hoisted the Union flag on the island.
HMS Vidal was a survey ship, launched in 1951, scrapped in 1976
HMS Dreadnought was Britain’s first nuclear submarine, launched in 1960, decommissioned in 1980, Dreadnought was British built but with an American nuclear reactor. In 1971, Dreadnought became the first British submarine to surface at the North Pole. In 1977, accompanied by two frigates, she was deployed to the South Atlantic to deter possible Argentinian aggression against the Falkland Islands. Currently she is laid up in afloat storage in Rosyth Dockyard until she can safely be dismantled.
HMS London was a county-class destroyer, launched in 1961, sold to Pakistan in 1982.
In 1965, she was deployed to a powerful fleet that was a deterrent to Indonesia’s President Sokarno’s attempts to intimidate the new state of Malaysia.
In 1972, She acted as a guard ship for Belize for three months following Guatemalan threats.
In 1979, she was the last Royal Naval vessel to leave Malta when the government closed the base.
In 1981, she spent three months on duty in the West Indies as the Belize guard ship.
HMS Minerva was a Leander-class destroyer, launched in 1964, scrapped in 1992
In 1968, Minerva was deployed to the Caribbean for exercises and to show the flag.
In 1970, she was deployed on the Beria Patrol enforcing the oil blockade of Rhodesia.
In 1973, Prince Charles joined the ship for a tour of duty in the West Indies.
In 1980, she was deployed to the Mediterranean for Cold War duties, shadowing the Russian aircraft carrier Kiev.
In 1982, she was deployed to the “Bristol Group” and did not arrive until the end of the Falkland War.
In 1984, she returned to the South Atlantic on a deployment that included all of the British South Atlantic territories, including a stint as the Falkland guard ship.
HMS Amazon was the first Type-21 frigate built and an onboard fire in 1977 in the Far East drew attention to the danger of building warships with aluminium superstructures.
By the mid 1980s, Type 21 frigates were found to have cracks in their hulls requiring steel plates to be welded down each side of the ships.
HMS Amazon was a Type 21 frigate, launched in 1971, sold to Pakistan in 1993
She was the only ship of her class not to be involved in the Falkland War.
Oberon Class of Submarines
HMS Oberon was the lead ship of the Oberon Class of submarines, built between 1957 and 1978 . She was launched in 1959 and scrapped in 1991. Very little operational activity recorded for this submarine other than she ran aground in Rothsay Bay in 1960. The Oberon class submarines were designed to intercept and destroy Russian submarines in the Barents Sea before they could break out into the North Atlantic. This was a task she was well suited to as she was built for silent running and carried a full complement of anti-submarine electronics. Much of her service history is shrouded in secrecy. In 1991, she was to be sold to Egypt but that sale fell through and she was scrapped.
Swiftsure Class of Submarines
Six Swiftsure submarines were built and commissioned. The Swiftsure class was a class of nuclear-powered fleet submarines in service from the early 1970s until 2010. This class of submarine had British designed “whale-shaped” hulls that provided for maximum underwater efficiency. The other major change was in propulsion where in place of a multi-blade propeller a shrouded pump-jet propulsor was used.
Two Swiftsure submarines, HMS Spartan and HMS Splendid, were ordered to the South Atlantic two days before the Argentine invasion of the Falkand Islands in 1982, where they began enforcing a 200-mile exclusion zone that had been imposed by the British. They sighted and monitored Argentinian shipping but did not attack to avoid scaring off more valuable targets such as the aircraft carrier Veinticinco de Mayo. They provided valuable reconnaissance and effectively restricted the freedom of action of the Argentinian navy which spent most of the war confined to port.
In the 1990, Splendid became the first British vessel to be armed with American-built Tomahawk cruise missiles. She fired these missiles during the Kosovo war at Yugoslav targets in Belgrade. She again fired these missiles during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Vanguard Class of Submarines
A class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines introduced in 1984 and currently in operation with the Royal Navy. These four submarines are the sole platforms for Britain’s nuclear weapons. They are Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance. Each submarine is equipped with up to 16 US built Polaris missiles, each missile carrying 8 warheads. The design of these submarines insures that they have an unlimited range and will not require refuelling with nuclear fuel for the life of the vessels.
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former yacht of Queen Elizabeth and was crewed by a volunteered crew drawn from the ranks of the Royal Navy, called Royal Yachtsmen. During her career, Britannia sailed more than 1 million miles transporting the Queen and various dignitaries on more than 690 visits. On her last foreign mission, before being decommissioned, she sailed from Hong Kong conveying the last governor, Chris Patten, and the Prince of Wales after Hong Kong’s handover to China.
Launched in 1953, decommissioned in 1997.
Britannia is now moored in the port of Leith in Edinburgh and is a popular visitor attraction.
HMS Battleaxe was a Type 22 guided missile frigate launched in 1977, sold to Brazil in 1997.
In 1982, she went to the Falklands as part of the Royal Navy task force to re-occupy the islands following the Argentinian invasion.
In 1979, She supported AUTEC trials in the Bahamas. The AUTEC, Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre, main base is on Andros island in the Bahamas where deep water simulated warfare is tracked and tested to maintain the naval ability of the United States.
HMS Alderney was an Island-class fishery protection vessel built after the Royal navy’s experience with the Icelandic Cod Wars. By 1990 this class of vessel was slowly being decommissioned with HMS Alderney and most of the other vessels in this class being sold to the Bangladesh Navy.
HMS Monmouth is a Type-23 frigate, launched in 1991, still in active service. She participated in exercises in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, involved in anti-piracy patrols off Somalia and in Canadian waters.
She was the first UK or US naval vessel to visit New Zealand since the ANZUS dispute when New Zealand initiated a nuclear free zone around the islands and refused visits by US warships as the US would never admit if nuclear weapons were aboard US naval vessels.
HMS Somerset is a Type-23 frigate, launched in 1994 and still in active service.
She has a enclosed hanger that can house either a Lynx or Westland Merlin helicopter.
In 2015, together with a Border Force cutter, they seized 3 tons of cocaine on a Tanzanian registered tug in the North Sea.
In 2016/17, she had the task of monitoring Russian naval vessels entering the United Kingdom’s exclusive economic zone.
HMS Norfolk was a Type-23 frigate, launched in 1987, sold to Chile in 2005.
In 1994, she became the first Royal Naval ship to visit South Africa in 20 years.
Other deployments included operations and exercises in the Far East and duties as a guard ship for the Falkland Islands and visits to Caribbean countries. She had additional deployments in the North Atlantic, Norway and the Mediterranean.
HMS Edinburgh – 1985
HMS Edinburgh was a Type 42 destroyer, launched in 1984, scrapped in 2013.
Two of her sister ships, HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry were sunk during the Falklands War.
In 2003, she was deployed to the Persian Gulf and took part in the 2nd Gulf War against Saddam Hussein.
Later deployments were to the Middle East and Far East and to the Falkland Islands, after the war had ended.
Seven British ships have been named Duncan, named after Admiral Duncan the hero of the battle of Camperdown, a major naval action fought in 1797 where the British captured eleven Dutch ships without losing any of their own.
These are some ships with this name:
1901 – A Duncan-class battleship which saw action against German installations on the Belgian coast, in WWI.
1932 – A D-class destroyer launched in 1932, scrapped in 1945. She saw service in the Mediterranean, West Africa and the Far East.
1957 – A Type 14 frigate which saw service from 1957 to 1985. She played a major role in the first Cod War with Iceland.
2010 – A Type 45 destroyer still in active service.
HMS Queen Elizabeth – 2014
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth-class of aircraft carrier. Launched in 2014, she is scheduled to enter service in 2020. The second ship in this class is HMS Prince of Wales, scheduled to be commissioned in 2020.
She is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, at 65,000 tons. She is named in honour of the first HMS Queen Elizabeth, a WWI super-dreadnought, which in turn was named after Queen Elizabeth I.
Unusual for an aircraft carrier, she has no catapults or arrester wires as she will operate with V/STOL aircraft.
She was launched by Queen Elizabeth II who smashed a bottle of Islay Island whisky on her hull rather than the traditional bottle of champagne, in recognition of her being built at the Rosyth Dockyard, in the Firth of Forth, Scotland.