Tag Archive | ireland navy

Warship Wednesday, April 3, 2019: She’s was a lucky and lovely Flower

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 3, 2019: She’s was a lucky and lovely Flower

Irish Maritime Archives# IE-MA-ACPS-GPN-308-2 (4814×3672)

Here we see the former Royal Navy HMS Bellwort (K 114), a Flower-class corvette, in her later life in 1947 at Dun Laoghaire Pier as the Irish Naval Service’s Long Éireannach (LÉ) Cliona (03)— named after the Irish goddess of love. Both before and after, she lived a very lucky life, which is remarkable as many of her class did not.

Ordered 12 December 1939 from George Brown & Co. in Greenock, Scotland, Kincaid, Bellwort was one of the nearly 300 Flowers completed during the conflict. Compact vessels at just 1,000-tons with a length of only 205-feet, they used a simple engineering suite and a single screw to make 16 knots, a speed high enough to combat WWII-era diesel-electric subs. Mounting a single low-angle 4-inch gun forward and a series of ASW weapons, they were designed to take the fight to Donitz’s unterseeboots and did it admirably.

Royal Canadian Navy Flower-class corvette HMCS Amherst, a great representative of the type. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

In all, the humble but effective corvettes served the RN, their Canadian, Indian and South African Commonwealth fleets, and a myriad of “Free” allied nations in exile such as the Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, and Greeks.

Bellwort, named for the lily of the same moniker, commissioned 20 November 1941 during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic while the British stood alone in Western Europe against the Italians and Germans.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 23642) The corvette HMS BELLWORT entering Victoria Wharf, Birkenhead. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119841

By 12 December, she was on her first convoy escort, tagging along with ON 049 for a week on the UK to North America run. Over the course of the war in Europe, Bellwort would be a part of well over 40 convoys in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean as well as off the West African coast including the Freetown-to-Takoradi run, bringing over 800 ships safely to port.

THE BELLWORT HOME AFTER WEST AFRICA SERVICE. DECEMBER 1943, FREETOWN. THE CORVETTE HMS BELLWORT AS SHE PREPARED TO RETURN TO BRITAIN FROM A YEARS SERVICE ON THE WEST AFRICAN COAST. (A 21837) The Commanding Officer of HMS BELLWORT, Lieut Commander Norman Gill, RNR (center) having an upper deck conference with some of his officers. He has marked off a position on the chart and the Navigating Officer (right) is making a note of it in his pocket-book. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154097

THE BELLWORT HOME AFTER WEST AFRICA SERVICE. DECEMBER 1943, FREETOWN. THE CORVETTE HMS BELLWORT AS SHE PREPARED TO RETURN TO BRITAIN FROM A YEARS SERVICE ON THE WEST AFRICAN COAST. (A 21836) Members of the BELLWORT’s crew just before she left her last African port. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154096

She was not always successful.

On one of these South Atlantic convoys, TS 37, in which Bellwort and three armed trawlers were charged with 19 merchants, German submarine ace Werner Henke and U-519 stalked the slow running group, ultimately sinking seven ships in a series of quick actions. The sub was later smoked by the USS Guadalcanal hunter-killer group and Henke died while trying to escape from an interrogation center in Virginia in 1944.

During the war, Bellwort also had to fight Poseidon. She was almost lost off South Africa in June 1942 while being towed by HMS Barrymore around the Cape of Good Hope. Poor sea boats, these hoggish craft had a reputation of being able to “roll on wet grass.” Arnold Whitehead, a rating on Barrymore, recalled the event for the BBC.

We, the crew, soon began to realize that the Cape of Good Hope in the southern hemisphere in wintertime could be rather an unpleasant place. A really tremendous storm was brewing up. The seas were becoming mountainous walls of water, and during the night the Bellwort slid down one side of one of the wave mountains and we slid down the opposite side, away from the Bellwort, which was helpless, of course, without rudder and no engines running. The six-inch steel hawser snapped like a violin string, the end attached to us striking our stern a frightening blow. We were left with the almost impossible task of trying to get the hawser reconnected to the corvette while looking to our own survival in what was now a raging hurricane. The wind in the ship’s rigging was making a fearful wailing noise, which was quite spirit-numbing.

During the night the skipper told us that the Barrymore was designed to withstand a roll of up to 45 degrees each way, and we had been rolling 50 degrees. The skipper’s detailed information was hardly likely to inspire confidence!

The situation aboard the Bellwort was grave in the extreme, with her crew all wearing inflated lifebelts on deck and ready to jump. The Barrymore turned on her searchlight to illuminate the scene while the end of the hawser attached to us was winched aboard.

It was at this point in the rescue attempt that I witnessed the most astonishing event I have ever seen. The seas were estimated to be 60 feet high. Torrential rain was also a major hazard, and we wondered if we would survive. The ship’s logbook recorded the conditions of the sea as ‘precipitous’, which was the worst of all on our graduated scale. In the midst of all this, a seaman was washed overboard. Within moments, by some miracle, the next giant wave brought him back on board, apparently none the worse for his ordeal!

Bellwort left her last charge, as part of the screen for Convoy MKS 103G from the Med to Portsmouth, on 27 May 1945.

Her war ended with reportedly heading to Lisbon to pick up the crew of a lost German U-boat, likely U-1277, which had scuttled on 3 June 1945 off the coast of Portugal.

With VJ Day, the peacetime Royal Navy didn’t need Bellwort and her sisters anymore. An amazing 33 Flowers were lost during the conflict, with most of those torpedoed and sunk by U-boats during convoy operations. As something like half of the convoy vessels in the North Atlantic were Flowers, it is no surprise. Most of the remaining ships were rapidly laid up and soon either sold for scrap or transferred aboard.

Out of service by October 1945, Bellwort along with sisters HMS Borage (K 120) and HMS Oxlip (K123) was sold to the Irish “for a bargain price” in September 1946 as the LÉ Cliona (03), LÉ Macha (01), and LÉ Maev (02), respectively. As with Cliona‘s goddess name, Macha is from an Irish goddess of war while Maev is named after Medb, queen of Connacht in Irish mythology.

If the pennant numbers sound low, that’s because the Irish Naval Service was only founded that year. Previously, the only armed vessels owned by Dublin was the old RN yacht HMY Helga, a 300-ton craft that picked up a pair of 12-pounders in 1936 to patrol as Muirchú for the Fisheries Service. During WWII, the armed neutral had to rely on Helga/Muirchú as well as a six-pack of small 60-foot Vosper MTBs (without berthing) for coast watching. The post-war Irish Naval Service was the Republic’s first foray into a blue water force.

For the next 25 years, these three surplus British corvettes were the sum total of the Irish navy until Dublin coughed up a naval program in 1969 for the purchase of three aging Ton-class coastal minesweepers (HMS Oulston, HMS Alverton, and HMS Blaxton) while the 184-foot LÉ Deirdre, the first vessel ever built specifically for the Naval Service, was constructed in Verlome Cork Dockyard as a replacement for the minesweepers.

Cliona via Irish Naval Archives

Le Cliona and M4, a Vosper 60-foot MTB, at Dun Laoghaire Pier 1947 IE-MA-ACPS-GPN-308-1

LE Cliona 03 (ex HMS Bellwort) in Irish service Via Flower Corvette Forum https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/theflowerclasscorvetteforums/le-cliona-03-ex-hms-bellwort-t546.html

All was not roses for the Irish corvettes. Used for grueling fisheries patrol work as well as in customs duties stopping potential gun running to the IRA, they saw their share of interesting encounters. In 1962, Cliona‘s luck almost ran out.

On 29 May, while participating in an annual live-fire exercise south of Roches Point, Cliona suffered damage after the explosion of a Hedgehog charge which had been dropped during the exercise. Leaking oil ignited which resulted in a serious boiler room fire onboard the vessel. The fire was eventually extinguished without any fatalities but the deeds of her crew who saved the ship largely forgotten for decades.

Taken out of service July 1969, Cliona was decommissioned on 2 November 1970 and the same day sold to Haulbowline Industries. She was later scrapped at Passage West in Cork. Her two Irish sisters, Borage/Macha, and Oxlip/Maev, were likewise sold to HI at about the same time and met similar fates. By then, except for a sister in Canada and a few others in the Dominican Republic and Angola, they were the last of the nearly 300 ship class.

Today, only the HMCS Sackville (K181), which the Canadians preserved in 1982 at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the only Flower left in the world. Notably, Bellwort/Clinoa escorted more convoys that she did.

Sackville via Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, please, if you are ever in Halifax, pay her a visit.

However, Cliona‘s crewmembers who saved her on that fateful day in 1962 were eventually remembered.

On 1 September 2016, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., presented Scrolls of Commendation to Lieutenant Pat O’Mahony, Able Stoker Bill Mynes, Chief E.R.A. Maurice Egan and Chief Stoker Gerry O’Callaghan, (the last posthumously) at a ceremony held on board L.É. Niamh in Dublin.

“Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., today (Thursday, 1 September 2016) presented Scrolls of Commendation to former crew members of the LÉ Cliona” Via Irish national archives

Before presenting the scrolls, Minister Kehoe praised the former Naval Service members “…each one of these four men fearlessly faced difficulty, danger, and pain while successfully extinguishing the fire that had taken hold on board the LÉ Cliona. The swift and selfless endeavors of each one of these four men ensured that tragedy was avoided and not a single life was lost.”

Minister Kehoe also paid tribute to “…the tremendous team effort that was made by the ship’s company. They ensured the safe return of the ship to port, once the fire had been brought under control. Even with the passage of time, their endeavors are not forgotten. I am delighted that I will have the opportunity of unveiling a plaque in recognition of their sterling work, in Haulbowline Naval Base, at the end of this month”.

As for her stint as Bellwort, David Willcock, the grandson of a former RN tar who sailed aboard her during WWII, has a tribute page.

Today, the Irish Naval Service, which began in 1946 with those three high-mileage Flower-class corvettes, is 72-years-old and still rocks a pair of vintage ex-RN corvettes of the 1980s Peacock-class, formerly used to patrol Hong Kong. But in addition, they also have six-purpose built OPVs that were built from the keel up for Ireland. The newest of these include four of the very capable Samuel Beckett-class vessels, which go 300-feet and tip the scales at 2,250-tons, each larger than the Cliona and her sisters. Appropriately, they are named for poets.

Besides protecting Ireland’s EEZ and territorial waters, the force has been involved in Mediterranean search and rescue operations with the EU for the past two years. In short, it’s a proper force now.

Specs:

Plan of HMS Bellwort reference NPA6884, housed in box ADRB0154 Via RMS Greenwich

Displacement: 1020 tonnes
Length: 205 ft.
Beam: 33 ft.
Draft: 14 ft.
Powerplant: Single reciprocating vertical 4-cylinder triple expansion by John Kincaid Greenock, 2 fire tube Scotch boilers
Maximum Speed (designed) 16 Knots
Sensors: SW1C radar, Type 123A sonar
Complement:
85 designed, up to 100 in wartime RN service
5 officers, 74 ratings (Irish Service)
Armament: (1941)
1 X 4″/45cal (102mm) BL Mk.IX gun
1 X Mk.VIII 2-pounder pom-pom AAA gun
2 X 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
1 X Mk 3 Hedgehog mortar,
4 X depth-charge throwers,
2 X depth charge rails with 40 depth charges

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They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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A Libyan dream, by way of Cork

The Libyan National Army (LNA) has taken delivery of the flagship Al-Karama (Dignity) offshore patrol vessel, the former Irish vessel LÉ Aisling.

The LNA released a video on May 17 showing the arrival of the vessel at Benghazi naval base. It was welcomed by the head of the Libyan navy, Commodore Faraj Al-Mahdawi Al-Tarhouni, military advisor Major General Abdullah Aoun and other dignitaries.

The Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, controls much of eastern Libya and named the new vessel after the operation to secure Benghazi in 2014.

“The arrival of this vessel is a qualitative leap for our fleet and another success of our armed forces added to the chain of successes locally and internationally,” the LNA said, adding the vessel would be used to protect Libya’s territorial waters and fight against terrorism, human trafficking and illegal immigration.

LÉ Aisling was built in Ireland in 1979 and from 1980 was in Irish Naval Service as a patrol vessel until decommissioned in June 2016. It was sold to Dutch broker Dick van der Kamp for 110,000 euros in March 2017 at auction and subsequently offered for resale for 685,000 euros. The vessel sailed over 625,000 nautical miles during its years of active service.

According to IHS Jane’s, the Aisling was re-registered by Universal Satcom Services FZE based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April. It sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar at the beginning of May on its delivery voyage.

The Emer-class offshore patrol vessel is 214-feet long and displaces 1,020 tons. Top speed is 16kts and crew complement is 46. It appears she was delivered to Libya without weapons, although the latter have many at hand they could equip her with.

Named after a style of visionary dream poem, the former Irish Navy’s offshore patrol vessel was built at Verolme Cork Dockyard (and the last greyhull to leave that yard).

Armed with a single 40mm Bofors L70, a couple of 20mm GAMBO cannon and some 7.62mm GPMGs, Aisling made a name for herself in a running battle with the Spanish fishing trawler Sonia (330-tons) in 1984, firing 600~ rounds in warning shots while the Spanish vessel attempted repeatedly to ram. Sonia later sank after Aisling broke contact.

The same year she captured the trawler, Marita Ann, sailing with 160 guns (including some stolen M2 Brownings via National Guard armories) and 71,000 rounds of ammo aboard rumored to have been sent to the IRA by connections of Whitey Bulger.

She also responded to the Air India Flight 182 disaster and others lost at sea.

Class leader LÉ Emer (P21) commissioned into the Nigerian Navy as a training ship and renamed NNS Prosperity in 2015 after a Nigerian businessman’s scheme to use her as a personal yacht fell through. Sister LÉ Aoife (P22) was donated to Malta as P62 in 2015 to help that country pluck migrant refugees from the Med. The half-sister and prototype to the Emer-class, the one-off LÉ Deirdre (P20), was stricken in 2003 and, after a career as a yacht, was scrapped in Florida in 2014.

A dream no more

Irish Warship L.É. AISLING, 2006 armed with Bofors L70 40mm & 20mm GAMBO's Via Shipspotting http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=178486

Irish Warship L.É. AISLING, 2006 armed with Bofors L70 40mm & 20mm GAMBO’s Via Shipspotting http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=178486

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Btw.

Named after a style of visionary dream poem, the former Irish Navy’s Emer-class 1,000-ton offshore patrol vessel LÉ Aisling (P23) will be put up for auction at the Carrigaline Court Hotel on March 23rd where Cork auctioneer Dominic Daly will seek to obtain the best price for the State for the ship.

One of four Irish Naval Services ships to be built at Verolme Cork Dockyard (and the last greyhull to leave that yard), LÉ Aisling commissioned in 1980 and was stricken last June after over 35 years of service.

Armed with a single 40mm Bofors L70, a couple of 20mm GAMBO cannon and some 7.62mm GPMGs, Aisling made a name for herself in a running battle with the Spanish fishing trawler Sonia (330-tons) in 1984, firing 600~ rounds in warning shots while the Spanish vessel attempted repeatedly to ram. Sonia later sank after Aisling broke contact.

The same year she captured the trawler Marita Ann, sailing with 160 guns (including some stolen M2 Brownings via National Guard armories) and 71,000 rounds of ammo aboard rumored to have been sent to the IRA by connections of Whitey Bulger.

She also responded to the Air India Flight 182 disaster and others lost at sea.

The 214-foot Aisling reportedly put in 628,856 nautical miles in her 35 years and thought was given to making her a museum ship, though that has apparently fallen through.

She is the last of her class in Ireland.

Class leader LÉ Emer (P21) commissioned into the Nigerian Navy as a training ship and renamed NNS Prosperity in 2015 after a Nigerian businessman’s scheme to use her as a personal yacht fell through. Sister LÉ Aoife (P22) was donated to Malta in 2015 to help that country pluck migrant refugees from the Med. The half-sister and prototype to the Emer-class, the one-off Deirdre (P20), was stricken in 2003 and, after a career as a yacht, was scrapped in Florida in 2014.

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