Tag Archives: HMS Salisbury

So long, Tyr, King of the Cod Wars

The mighty Landhelgisgæslan (Icelandic Coast Guard) cutter Tyr, with a bone in her teeth. She was the bane of many British Tars in the frigate force in the 1970s.

Named for the Norse god “concerned with the formalities of war—especially treaties—and also, appropriately, of justice,” the modified Icelandic Coast Guard Ægir-class offshore patrol vessel Tyr was built at Aarhus Flydedok A/S in Denmark in 1974-75, at a time when the smallest (by population) member of NATO was fighting some of the strongest members of the Alliance, over fish.

The two-vessel Ægir-class were humble little gunboats, some 233-feet overall on a reinforced ice-strengthened steel hull. Weighing in at a slight 1,500-tons (at their largest), their West German-made diesel suite sipped gas and gave them an impressive 9,000nm range at 17 knots, enabling their 22-man crew to stay at sea virtually as long as the groceries held out.

Their sensors were commercial. Their original armament was an old 57mm low-angle Hotchkiss-style gun built under license at the Royal Danish Arsenal in Kopenhagen in the 1890s. The shells for the guns were pre-WWII dated. They had helicopter decks that could accommodate the country’s three small helicopters, a commercial Sikorsky S-62A variant (TF-GNA) and two U.S. surplus Bell 47Gs (TF-HUG and TF-MUN, named after Odin’s two ravens)

Tyr was more robust than her half-sister Ægir, and was the largest vessel in the ICG until 2011, carrying the fleet’s flagship position for most of her career.

The reason Iceland, which had no official military, needed such vessels was to chase off interloping European trawlers inside the country’s 50-mile limit, reaping the bounty of Icelands cod fisheries. The ICG, in turn, fought off the West Germans (1972-75) and, much more spectacularly, the British in what was termed the First (1958-59) Second (1972-1973) and Third (1975-76) “Cod Wars.”

The Icelanders got aggressive with the British anglers, cutting their nets with specially-made devices.

This brought in the support of the RN, and the ICG and a host of British frigates spent most of the early 70s trying to ram and avoid ramming each other.

The UK frigate HMS Mermaid collides with the Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Thor in March 1976, in one of the incidents in the Cod Wars between the two countries.

The principal RN frigates sent to fight in the Second and Third Cod Wars


Ægir specifically cracked hulls with HMS Scylla (7 June 1973) and HMS Lincoln (22 September 1973) while the late-arriving Tyr counted coup on HMS Salisbury and HMS Tartar (1 April 1976) as well as HMS Falmouth (6 May 1976).

Icelandic patrol boat Ægir circles around for a run at HMS Scylla


Tyr and Salisbury

HMS Falmouth rams Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr May 6, 1976, almost rolling the smaller gunboat, taken from the Tribal Class Frigate HMS Tartar (F133)

In time, Iceland and the UK patched things up and most of the ICG’s older vessels were retired but Tyr and her sister Ægir continued in service for another 40 years, participating in NATO maritime operations, being very active in EOD removal along Iceland’s coastline, and helping old “mother” Denmark police and secure the sovereignty of the Faeroes and Greenland.

She also had run-ins with the whale hippies over Iceland’s traditional harvest.

Tyr rammed by Greenpeace.

They were given extensive modernizations in 1997 and 2005 that upgraded the ships, replaced the old 57mm hood ornament with a more modern 1960s 40mm Bofors, and other improvements.

Once the Cold War thawed, there were other missions, and the class was sent to the Med to help in the EU’s counter-migrant operations there, with Tyr saving over 400 souls in one 2015 incident alone off the South East Coast of Italy.

Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr on EU fisheries duty in the Med

Class leader Ægir was retired in 2012, after a new construction OPV, Thor, was commissioned.

Now, with the South Korean-built Freyja joining the Icelandic fleet late last year, Tyr has recently hung it up as well.

Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr, 2021

Perhaps she will be saved as a museum. One could only hope.

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.

First of the line, laid down in 1951, the Salisbury-class frigate HMS Salisbury (F32), seen here 5 December 1974. She would later be sold to Egypt and, after that deal was canceled Sale to Egypt canceled whilst on the delivery trip, was retained by the RN as a harbor training ship Devonport. She was later sunk as a target, 30 September 1985. Image via IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205396006

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.

The UK frigate HMS Mermaid collides with the Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Thor in March 1976, in one of the incidents in the Cod Wars between the two countries. At the time she was one of the few frigates still in the RN with a twin QF 4 inch Mk XVI gun mount, designed in WWII. 

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.

KD Hang Tuah, ex-HMS Mermaid, ex-Black Star, soon to be museum ship. Note, her 4-incher was replaced by a more modern 57mm Bofors in 1992