Type 14 Blackwood Class Frigate
There are some names we are destined never to forget in our lives, one of them I submit is our first Drill Instructor. I only knew Chief Petty Officer Hughes for a week, the first week of my Basic Training, but he is blazoned into my mind, his broad Scottish accent ("Ah' no Scottish, Ah'm British!" He would bellow) his fierce glare, rough beard and his soothing reassurance "Is nay bo'er!" I remember much of what he ever said, from his colourful and pornographic menemonics on how to iron the old serge uniforms and best of all his bed time stories.
Sorry, if you were expecting some flesh eating monster from an American tale of life on Paris Island! Chief Hughes looked after his recruits like a mother hen, he would roar with terrifying force at any older hands foolish enough to call out insults as he marched us clumsilly along, but the worst mistakes possible made by us were greeted the same: "Is nay bo'er!"
When we gathered about our bunks in Euryalus Mess at night, with the air filled with the unforgetable scent of steam scorched serge and our uniforms ranked on the hangers ready for morning Chief Hughes would settle us down with tales of his life in the Service, "swinging the lantern" he called it, gently indoctrinating us in what was to come.
His tales of the Suez Crises in particular held us enthralled, it being then the last time British warships had fired shots in anger. I always recall his description of the Daring Class Destroyer as the last ship built for war. It is the only point I have ever come to dispute with him, the Daring was not the last ship built purely for war, the Type 14 was.
In the Type 12 the RN found a superlative anti-submarine warship, granted problems with the torpedo system and the cruise engines blighted her, but still, she was fast, well armed and well equipped. The problem was the WWII had shown that quantity was equaly as important as quality, more so perhaps when one considers the relative success of the improbable Flower Class Corvette.
Although the Type 12 had been designed to be mass produced at need she was in many ways over engineered for her main task of convoy escort and serious design went into producing a no-frills escort which would do that and only that. The Type 14 was designed to complement the Type 12, operating in a ration of three to one with the Type 12 as the force leader. The concept would emerge again in the original design of the Type 23 Frigate but in the case of the Type 14 the design went ahead as intended.
Like the Type 12 the 14 was built around a pair of Limbo Mortars, she would also carry 2 x 21" anti-submarine torpdeo tubes and three 40mm Bofors. Radar was minimal with a single navigation set, but Sonar was fully equipped, the same as the Type 12.
Propulsion was cut down to a single shaft and Turbine but with two boilers she could make an impressive top speed of 27 knots.
The ships made no pretence at any other role than anti-submarine, the bofors gave a modicum of self defence against aircraft and fast patrol boats but they could not have hoped to survive in a hostile air environment without the resources of covering fire or aircraft which was to be the province of the Type 41 and Type 61.
The Blackwoods were pure and simple an anti-submarine ship designed to act as close screen on a convoy, very much a modern Corvette.
Like the Type 12 the Type 14 had been designed with an eye to mass production, indeed, a rumour long held sway in the RN that the pre-fabricated segments of dozens of Type 14s lay in various waerhouses around the country. Unlikely, but if it had come to war there can be little doubt the Type 14 would have become the work horse of the RN in the Atlantic.
The problem was the Type 14 was designed and built too well to her task. She was practically useless for anything but anti-submarine work, in a Navy starved of funds and manpower and increasingly finding itself restricted by political number counting the Type 14 was an expensive option and production was cut short. In keeping with the classification of the time she was rated second rate Frigate.
With the advent of Soviet ships and submarines mounting long range anti-shipping missiles the Type 14 was dealt a further blow, with no space for an upgraded AA system they were relegated to training duties where they continued to cut a dash for years.
Ironically, since they were designed to hunt submarines, one of them would become the first warship to be sunk by a submarine post WWII, the Khukri, built for India, was sunk by a submarine on the 8th of December 1971 by a French built Daphne Class Submarine operating with the Pakistani Navy.
The short battle was a global wake up call, the Daphne had tracked the Khukri and fired before the Khukri or her sister ship even knew she was there. Most of the crew were killed and it is India's greatest single wartime loss. The loss confirmed for the RN that only in the combination of aircraft and ship could the modern submarine be defeated, or by another submarine. Within a few years the RN had rid itself of every major warship that was not aircraft equipped, including the Type 14.
With hindsight the battle was not as one sided as first appeared, Khukir and her consort had set up a predictable patrol course and Khukri in particular was behaving in a manner that made her an easy target. Once the commander of the Daphne had worked out the courses he had only to wait and let the Khukri cross his sites. Despite being armed with homing torpedoes the Daphne failed to sink the consort which was helpless with it's Limbos malfunctioning.
All the class were named for Captains who served in the Napoleonic wars, and followed on from the WWII Captain Class Frigates lend leased from the USA. Exmouth would was converted to Gas Turbine, being fitted with a Proteus and an Olympus Turbine, the Olympus went on to be used in many ships and the Proteus powered the Brave and Bold Class fast patrol boats. Russel and Duncan survived for some time as harbour training ships, the Russel based in Portsmouth alongside HMS Diamond, I do not know where Duncan was based.
I saw Russell in 1978, by which time both she and Diamond were static, that is to say they did not actualy go to sea. They had been equipped with classrooms but the main function was to give us sprogs a feel for finding our way about a ship. We learned the basics of Damage Control, starting with the identification system for locating anything from a deck to a pump, then went on to do fire fighting drills, flood control and so on. On one of the ships, I cannot recall which one, anyone wanting to specialise as a Radio Mechanic had to climb the mast and go out onto the yardarm to touch the AJE "Christmas Tree" aerial. I remember that very well, I had (have) a morbid terror of heights but desperatly wanted the prestigious job of Radio Mechanic (you had to also be top in the Electrics Class to be selected). It was a case of grit your teeth and do it, but the mast was in a poor state of repair and the yardarm creaked and shook alarmingly, though I was to find that was nothing to doing it at sea!
HMS Diamond caught fire during our time on her, she had the galley on it for the permenant crews of the two ships, and for our lunches since we did not live on the ship but commuted each day from Collingwood. The chef liked his sack time and arranged for one of the watch keepers to fire up the deep fat fryer for him so he did not have to get up so early. But one morning the fryer was left too long and burst into flames causing severe damage. With no money to repair her she was towed off to a bouy and then sold for scrap, a poor end for the ships Chief Hughes loved so much.
|Duncan||F80||17-12-1953||30-5-1957||21-10-1958||Thornycroft||Decoomssioned 1984 and scrapped 1985|
|Dundas||F48||17-10-1952||25-9-1953||9-3-1958||J S White||Scrapped 1979|
|Exmouth||F84||24-3-1954||16-11-1955||20-12-1957||J S White||Scrapped 1979|
|Grafton||F51||25-2-1953||13-9-1954||11-1-1957||J S White||Scrapped 1971|
|Murray||F91||30-11-1953||25-2-1955||25-2-1955||Alex Stephen & sons||Scrapped 1970|
|Palliser||F94||15-3-1955||10-5-1956||13-12-1957||Alex Stephen & sons||Scrapped 1979|
|Pellew||F62||5-11-1953||29-9-1954||25-7-1956??||Swan Hunter||Scrapped 1971|
|Displacement||1,180 tons standard, 1,535 tons full load|
|Range||5,200 NM at 12 knots (probably calculated using the Cruise Turbine, unlikely to actualy be able to achieve that given the problems with the Y-100 cruise turbine)|
|Propulsion||(Part Y-100) 1 x English Electric double reduction geared turbine, 2 x Babcock and Wilcox Boilers, single shaft, 15,000 SHP|
|Radar||Type 974 Navigation
Type 291 Air Warning
|Sonar||Type 174 Search
Type 170 Limbo attack
Type 162 Bottom Search
|Armament||2 x Limbo Triple Barrelled Mortars
2 x twin 21" anti-submarine torpedo tubes on Blackwood, Exmouth, Malcolm and Pallister
3 x 40mm Bofors Mk IX, aft gun later removed on all ships.