Keeping the Deeds Alive

I’ve always had a staunch, somewhat old school take when it comes to traditional naval ship names. In short, it is hard for a plank owner rushing aboard to bring a new ship to life if it is named after some smarmy politician who never wore a uniform or activist and be told to “live up to the legacy” of that person. Ships should be named for five things: maritime heroes (Halsey, Farragut, Munro, Puller et. al), historical former ships (Wasp, Wahoo, Ranger), places (especially if they are also former famous ships, e.g. Nevada, Brooklyn), battles (Lexington, Midway, Hue City), and aspirations (Independence, Freedom).

That goes not just for the U.S. Navy but for any fleet.

With that in mind, the word from First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin this week that the first five names for the future Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy are familiar.

Each name has been selected to represent key themes and operations which will dominate and shape the global mission of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines: carrier operations (Formidable); operational advantage in the North Atlantic (Bulldog); forward deployment of ships around the globe to protect UK interests (Active); technology and innovation (Venturer); and the Future Commando Force (Campbeltown).

We’ve covered the unsinkable aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (R67) in a past Warship Wednesday, but HMS Cambeltown (notably the ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131), famous for the St. Nazaire Raid; the sixth HMS Bulldog (H91), the destroyer whose capture of a complete Enigma machine and codebooks from the German submarine U-110 in 1941 no doubt helped shorten the war; the 12th HMS Active (F171), the frigate whose blistered 4.5-inch gun chased Argentine troops across every hill around Port Stanley in 1982; and the third HMS/m Venturer (P68), the only submarine in history to have sunk another (the very advanced Type IXD2 U-864) while both were submerged; are no less important to naval history.

The well-known image of the fifth and most famous HMS Formidable on fire after the kamikaze hit on 4 May, photograph A 29717 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

The “Trojan Horse Destroyer” HMS Campbeltown rests on the St Nazaire dock gate shortly before she will explode, March 1942

HMS Bulldog, in her three-shades-of-blue North Atlantic camouflage. IWM Photo No.: FL 1817

RN photo of frigate HMS Active escorting Lanistes through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, mid-1987 Armilla patrol

HMS/m Venturer in Holy Loch in 1943. Because of her, U-864 and her cargo of 65 tons of mercury as well as Junkers Jumo 004B jet engine parts (used in the Messerschmitt Me 262) never made it to Japan as a result of an amazing underwater action. IWM A-18832.

Bravo Zulu, ADM Radakin.

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