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Mystery Ship, Portsmouth Harbour, 1930s


Paul Bradley
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This was posted in a Facebook group I belong to. The photo is apparently taken at Portsmouth Harbour in the 1930s;  I'll not reveal what the thought is on what ship as I don't want to colour your judgement, but I am quite certain it isn't what it's claimed to be. But can the BM Hive Mind identify this mystery ship?

 

51576714952_d8a4e5d69d_o.jpg

 

Apologies for the small size and very poor quality. 

Edited by Paul Bradley
clarity
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The vessel appears to have the classic lines of an early Black Swan class sloop, but that wouldn't fit in with the time period.  With the exception of HMS Flamingo, commissioned November 1939, the class weren't commissioned until the 1940's.

I presume the claims are that it is HMS Amethyst but that would make it a postwar photo.

 

Mike

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2 minutes ago, Modelholic said:

A Grimsby class sloop? although the funnel doesn't look tall enough.

Tom

The Bittern class were very similar and had the shorter funnel.  Both Grimsby and Bittern classes would fit the timescale.   How sure is the timeline?  It could be a postwar view of a Black Swan.

 

Mike

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23 minutes ago, Whitewolf said:

Maybe I'm going mad here, but it almost looks like a small carrier?

I believe that is because the vessel has its awnings set up.  These were canvas sheets that were used as sun shades in hot weather. 

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Mike

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Don’t ask me why but the “feel” of the photo is postwar not 1930s. I’d hazard a guess that it is a River class frigate. That is based on the shape of the hull and break in the forecastle.

 

i don’t think it is a Black Swan as the foremast seems vertical, whereas that in the Bittern, Egret and Black Swan classes was angled slightly aft. Also the flare on the bow seems to go right deck edge. In a Black Swan there is small vertical lip at the deck edge in the bow separating the flare from the deck edge.

 

I think I can make out a sponson for a gun mount just aft of the break in the forecastle which again is not a feature of the Sloop classes.

 

To be honest my first reaction was that it was HMS Nith postwar in her configuration as an LSH(S) when she had acquired some extra superstructure. Then I realised there is no after mast present in the photo nor an angled funnel cap. She is the only River I can think of with a sponson in that aft location. She had lost her 4” guns by this stage for more light AA. Waveney and Meon were also converted in similar fashion. Meon also had 2 masts. But I’ve never seen a photo of Waveney.

 

That said the photo quality is awful awful so it could even be a “carrier”!

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37 minutes ago, bootneck said:

I believe that is because the vessel has its awnings set up.  These were canvas sheets that were used as sun shades in hot weather. 

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Mike

You could be right, but the lines look too smooth and the funnel doesn't look like that of a sloop, but the picture quality is awful!! I would be interested to know what it is supposed to be?

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Some interesting answers - thanks, guys!!

 

It is from a small batch of photos that included some of the sinking of Ark Royal and one of wartime Renown in heavy seas. This particular photo is claimed to be HMS Courageous, which it is patently not! But before I go off half cock, I wanted to see if we could ID it. My thought was possibly the Dutch destroyer leader HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck, which did visit Portsmouth shortly after the outbreak of war. 

 

But it really is a crappy photo!

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1 hour ago, bootneck said:

The vessel appears to have the classic lines of an early Black Swan class sloop, but that wouldn't fit in with the time period.  With the exception of HMS Flamingo, commissioned November 1939, the class weren't commissioned until the 1940's.

I presume the claims are that it is HMS Amethyst but that would make it a postwar photo.

 

Mike

 

 

I am not at all sure of the timeline, except that it's with a batch of early wartime photos. Your thoughts of  Black Swan are very promising though - it certainly has a similar outline. How many went into service before being camouflaged? Timewise, I am hesitant to rule out anything, but wouldn't there be a large black pennant number on the hull if it were postwar? 

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1 hour ago, Paul Bradley said:

 My thought was possibly the Dutch destroyer leader HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck, which did visit Portsmouth shortly after the outbreak of war. 

Don’t think it’s Jacob v H: all the photos I have show a fat funnel with a raked top.  Hull lines don’t look too similar either.

 

I’ve toyed with the idea of this being HMS Bittern in her earlier incarnation as the Admiralty yacht HMS Enchantress.  She had been modified during building with extra accommodation aft in lieu of the 2 after guns.  That explains the hull form and the odd outline aft.  Against that, she is not in Admiralty yacht colours (eg black hull), the foremast seems to be stepped too far forward, there doesn’t appear to be an after mast, neither funnel nor mast are raked and there appears to be a sponson out to the deck edge aft.  So not an idea with a lot going for it, really.

 

My second thought is whether it was a British build for an overseas navy but I can’t offer any candidates.

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Another reason for it not being an interwar sloop of any class is the lack of a mainmast. The foremast is apparent in the photo and, despite the poor quality, I would have expected a mainmast of similar size, as in the inter war sloops, to show up just as well.

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Time to put two other candidates in the ring. The pair of Loch class frigates converted while under construction to Coastal Forces Depot Ships. Derby Haven & Woodbridge Haven. As part of that conversion they received additional superstructure on the squid deck, between the bridge and the funnel and on the aft gundeck. They also had a vertical pole foremast but no mainmast. There were detail differences between the two eg armament. And for at least a while Derby Haven carried no side pennant number.

 

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161874

 

Photo50DepotDerbyHaven1PS.JPG

 

 

 

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121669

 

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120917

 

Edited by EwenS
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Gentlemen,

I took the liberty of asking on another site about Paul's photo.

These guys are like Jedi Ninjas when it comes to ship recognition.

Apparently, there's a pennant number visible F82 so HMS Magpie

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/warships1discussionboards/mystery-photo-t20157-s6160.html

post 6163

Tom

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I think they are looking at the wrong photo, such as the one I posted as an example of awnings fitted on HMS Magpie F82.  The original photo does not appear to have a pennant number displayed.

 

Mike

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49 minutes ago, Richard G said:

I think it might be a Shoreham class sloop. If so my guess would be HMS Rochester. She has the cut down stern and in Nov 1944 was refitted to become a training vessel attached to HMS Dryad in Portsmouth

 

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I doubt it. There is no superstructure forward of the bridge. The mystery photo seems to have at least one level if not two, hiding under that awning. Also the foremast slopes whereas that in the mystery photo seems vertical to me. And the funnel seems too tall relative to the bridge. Here is another photo of Rochester with a clear view of the forward end.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205159598

 

 

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Is it possible the photo was not taken at Portsmouth, based on the awnings, dress of the figures in the foreground and shadows? Looks like somewhere warm, maybe Malta? 

 

I thought it might be Pelican post war with awnings. There are photos online of her post war with one mast and the black funnel band.

 

However I think the photo of Derby Haven is more convincing. The proportions of the superstructure (unusual solid block running most of the length of the ship) and funnel seems right. Also the furthest aft part of the deckhouse on the quarterdeck is wider than the rest which creates a very distinctive shadowed area just in front of it, which is present in both photos.

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It's entirely possible it's not Pompey at all, but that's what it was labelled as. No idea what those figures are standing on in the foreground - it isn't anything that looks like it's on the Gosport side, but I don't know the Portsmouth side well enough to rule it out. 

 

Of course, it's possible the photo was taken at Pompey in a heatwave..... :rofl2:

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The Black Swans were all wartime completions and the photo looks postwar not 1930s. But by 1945 the majority of the class had been refitted with lattice foremasts which, even allowing for the poor photo quality, would appear much thicker than in the photo. Later completions from about 1944 had them from the start. Here is Black Swan herself fresh from refit with her lattice mast heading for the Pacific in 1945.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Black_Swan_(L57)#/media/File%3AHMS_Black_Swan_1945_IWM_FL_2274.jpg

 

The only ships of the class I can immediately think of retaining the tripod were Pheasant (in reserve throughout the post war period until scrapped) and Redpole. The latter was disarmed and acquired a deckhouse in X gun position. BUT cruciallly retained her very prominent after mast structure carrying the Type 277 radar set as here. Even allowing for the poor photo quality, I would expect it to be visible.

WXMemoirGS03a.JPG

 

And that Black Swan tripod just seems too sloped compared to the photo, which still seems to me to be a near vertical pole mast.

 

The only other Black Swan option might be one of the Indian ships with which I’m less familiar because photos are rare.

 

And before anyone asks, Pelican (sole survivor of the Egret class) and Enchantress (sole survivor of the Bittern class) had also gained lattice foremasts by 1945. Pre-war both ships had prominent mainmasts as well.

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