Last of the Yarrow diesel tin cans gets a reprieve
Just after VE-Day, the Royal Navy was able to skate on WWII production destroyers for a while, but by the early 1950s, it was realized that more…um…economical vessels could take up the slack that didn’t require fully-armed 30+ knot greyhounds to accomplish. Roles like ocean surveillance, escorting amphibious task forces and convoys could be filled by a reasonably seaworthy tin can of some 100m in length who, outfitted with a number of fuel-sipping diesels, could run on the cheap and at a lower speed than that needed by HMs carriers. Enter the Type 61 (Salisbury) and Type 41 (Leopard) class vessels.
Preceding the 27 iconic Leander-class frigates (which were 113.4m long and used steam turbines), it was planned to have 15 or 16 Salisbury/Leopards in service both with the RN and allied Commonwealth nations.
In the end, three of the planned ships– Exeter, Gloucester, and Coventry— were canceled post-Suez in favor of building more Leanders while another three went to India. The RN kept the rest around well into the late 1970s when they were scrapped or sold abroad (HMS Lynx went to Bangladesh who continued to use her until 2013 while the same country had ex-HMS Llandaff in inventory until 2016).
The last of these still afloat, was a kind of one-off design based on the Type 41/61 to be named the Black Star. Ordered specifically for the government of Ghana– the first British possession in Africa to gain independence– in 1964, she was completed by 1967 but languished at Yarrow Shipbuilders on the River Clyde in Scotland, with an unpaid balance and the regime that ordered her overthrown. Finally, in 1971, some £3,803,148 in outstanding loans made by the Crown to Ghana for the ship’s construction were written off and the ship was absorbed the next year by the Royal Navy, commissioning after modifications 16 May 1973 as HMS Mermaid (F76), the 16th such vessel to carry the moniker.
Mermaid saw brief and interesting service in the Cod Wars with Iceland– ramming and being rammed by Icelandic Coast Guard cutters.
Tragically, just after a NATO exercise, Mermaid sank the wooden-hulled Ton-class minesweeper HMS Fittleton (M1136) during what should have been a routine mail transfer at sea, which resulted in the death of 12, the worst peacetime accident involving the Royal Naval Reserve.
After just four years service with the RN, Mermaid was transferred to the Royal Malaysian Navy in April 1977 to replace a 1944-vintage Loch-class frigate. Commissioned by the RMN as KD Hang Tuah (with the same pennant number), she has been on active duty ever since.
As reported by The New Straits Times, Tuah, now 45 with over 250K miles on her hull, is set for retirement and will be turned into a naval museum.
The transformation of the ship into a museum will be done through collaboration between Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) Sdn Bhd and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.