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Mystery Ship, Portsmouth Harbour, 1930s

Paul Bradley

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3 hours ago, Paul Bradley said:

Well, at least we can agree its not HMS Courageous! 🤣


It does appear that the area where X turret should be has been built up. Were any others of the class disarmed? 


Erne was stripped of her armament in 1952 and became a static RNVR at Southampton. But no extra deckhouses were added and, anyway, she had gained a lattice mast in 1945.


Starling joined Redpole as a navigation training ship in 1946. Crucially for me however is that she retained the tall lattice mast she had gained in 1945 in anticipation of her service in the Pacific. Here is a photo of how she appeared in 1946 in that role.



By 1957 she had gained yet more superstructure on the quarterdeck and behind the funnel.


Wren (on quarterdeck) & Wild Goose (in place of X gun and on the quarterdeck) gained some extra accomodation in 1946 for service in the Persian Gulf but again both had lattice masts and kept most of their armament.


Woodcock was another that kept her tripod mainmast postwar but had a short lattice aft supporting her radar like Redpole. But she came home from the Pacific in 1946 and went straight to reserve with no further active service.


Their good AA armament made the Black Swans a priority for refitting for the Pacific immediately the war in Europe ended, although not all got there in time. They were then quite active in the postwar period, having been built on traditional naval lines rather than austere emergency basis, up until being sent to reserve mostly in the early-mid 1950s. But that service tended to be in the further flung parts of the world; Far East (think Amethyst up the Yangtse river in 1949), Persian Gulf, South Atlantic, Caribbean etc and they kept their armament.


Someone made a suggestion that the mystery photo may have been taken in Malta. I think that unlikely. Photos taken in Malta tend to be from an elevated position in one of the forts looking down on the subject as they entered or left harbour. The mystery photo is taken from close to sea level.


I've even thought about it being one of the pre-war or postwar temporary conversions of sloops, frigates or minesweepers to survey ships but cant find anything that fits the bill.


Derby Haven or Woodbridge Haven are still the closest that I can get to fitting that mystery photo.


Oh and here is Enchantress in her pre-war Admiralty yacht configuration and in her final, partially disarmed (she kept her Oerlikons only), wartime configuration returning home to pay off in March 1946 after a brief service with the British Pacific Fleet. Sorry, I was mistaken about her getting a lattice mast. She was sold for mercantile service in Oct 1946.





Edited by EwenS
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Ewen, that's stellar detective work - I appreciate your help! I'd agree that the photo is mis-labelled in all respects and is most likely a postwar shot of one of the two Havens. I'll report back to the FB group with this conclusion.



Edited by Paul Bradley
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You are welcome. The Black Swans have been a favourite of mine since I bought a book about British Escort ships as a kid way back in the 1970s.


Out of interest what kind of suggestions were being made over on your FB Group? FB is just something I can't get into.

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Typical Shoreham class pre-war



Note two masts and bulwark along the sides of the quarterdeck, the height of the funnel relative to the top of the bridge and the length of the forward deck from bow to the bridge.


Only 7 of 8 built survived the war.


Bideford - destored 5/45 & laid up at Milford Haven until scrapped

Fowey - to Portsmouth 1/46 for a refit that was cancelled. Sold on civilian market that Oct. Here is her final RN fit



Rochester - disarmed training ship from 7/45 with extra accomodation in place of aft 4" gun but nothing forward of the bridge.



Shoreham - operational in Far East and Persian Gulf until 7/46. Then home to pay off and sold 11/46.

Dundee - sunk in WW2

Falmouth - operational in Far East & Persian Gulf until 12/46. Then to reserve until rescued in 1952 as an RNVR drillship based at Newcastle.

Milford - to reserve in 1946 after serving latterly as a sub target vessel for which she remained armed without any deckhouses, and a tall structure on the aft end of the bridge to carry the Type 271 radar lantern. Also partial bulwark on quarterdeck.

Weston - in reserve from 6/45 before scrapping.


So Im just not seeing either the opportunity or the layout for the mystery ship to be a Shoreham class I'm afraid.

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