I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

John Mansfield, Sea-Fever

Late in the year of 1978, on a cold but clear morning in Plymouth, feeling very much alone I got my first close up view of a Leander Class Frigate.

In fact I was seeing a dozen or so, this was Frigate Alley, a cul-de-sac waterway at the far end of the Dockyard, in those days one bank was a mud flat at the foot of the hill that held the St Budeux married quarters, the other a concrete quay impossibly tangled with cables, littered with machinery and crates, and stalked over by serene cranes. The ships themselves lay nose to tail, three abreast, a hopeless grey tangle of aerials, masts and incomprehensible lumps of grey steel.

The noise was unbearable. The ship's rang like shattered bells to the screech of windy hammers and Jason's pistols stripping paint. Diesel exhausts burred with bass tones and filled the air with the miasma of a train station. To this day if I cross over a platform at Leeds or Doncaster and a big diesel is chuntering below the scent takes me back to Frigate Alley with dizzy speed.

Above all is the shrill shriek of steam escaping from safety valves and sputtering from leaky joints in thick black hoses trailing from ship to ship to shore, the scent of it is warm and fills the mouth with a metallic taste, like a recent filling.

I stood with my heavy canvas kit bag balanced on my shoulders, fresh out of training, a Yorkshire boy who had only ever been to sea once: on the Ostend Ferry with my school. Who had never even seen a warship until a few months ago when my parents took me to Hull to see the awesome Tiger pay a visit.

To my untutored gaze these Frigates looked vast, impossibly cluttered and complex, I watched the crews pick their way over the upper decks, about their incomprehensible tasks. It was the hardest and bravest step I ever took to set foot on the narrow gangway, steeply angled up to the flight deck of one of those steel monsters. I could have no idea that nearly 30 years later, when someone says "home" I think first of the Leander Frigates on which I was privileged to serve.

HMS Juno

Launched November 1965 she was a Type 12M (Modified) Frigate with the same hull, engines and turret as the original Type 12 Whitby and Type 12I (Improved) Rothesay Class Frigate.

The ships proved good, reliable sea keepers and formed the backbone of the Royal Navy Escort and Utility vessels through the Cold War.

The Leander Class Frigate was the third series of the highly successful Type 12 Frigate program, designed shortly after the Second World War and incorporating all the lessons learned from the hard won submarine war, 41 Type 12s were built for the Royal Navy, and many more exported or built under license.

A total of 26 Leanders served in the Royal Navy, they were the work horses of the Fleet, a Jack of all trades they served the RN for two generations, now not one remains.

This site is dedicated to gathering and preserving information about these iconical ships, I rely heavily on contributions, and appreciate any corrections!


As in the days of sail the Leander Class Frigate was designed to be a maid of all work, able to operate as a Fleet or convoy escort or as a patrol ship

When the first of the Type 12 ships was launched in July 1954 the only people in space were Flash Gorden and Buck Rogers. In that same month the BBC broadcasted it's first ever televised news program.

The whole nature of warfare was changing, a few weeks earlier the Americans had detonated a Hydrogen Bomb at Bikini Atoll. The Korean Was had ended the previous year after bringing the world to the very brink of nuclear war and Vietnam was being divided in a futile attempt to stop that too becoming a flash point.

There were no TVs aboard ship in those days, but the men would gather around chattering projectors to watch the latest Hollywood Blockbusters, "The Caine Mutiny" perhaps, or Hitchcock’s "The Rear Window." The musical hit of the period was "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

In the summer of 1993 the last of the Type 12's left active service in the Royal Navy, after four decades of service. In that time thousands of us served on them, and despite war, fire, collisions and terrorists, they always brought us home.

HMS Achilles

Launched November 1968 she was one of the last Leanders to be built. Here she shows off the sleek lines of this classical ship.