Meet HMS CAVALIER
Welcome to the HMS CAVALIER digital tour. For the best experience, please remain at the stops when accessing the information provided and watch your step as you proceed around the dock and onto the ship.
HMS CAVALIER arrived at The Historic Dockyard Chatham in May 1999 and now resides here in No.2 dry dock, the same location that Nelson’s flagship VICTORY was built and launched in 1765. VICTORY is best known as Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
HMS CAVALIER is a ‘C’ class Second World War Destroyer. She was built at the J. Samuel White & Company Ltd shipyard at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and was one of 96 ‘war emergency class’ destroyers ordered by the Admiralty between 1940 and 1942.
Destroyers protected conveys, took part in anti-submarine warfare, air defence, reconnaissance, patrols, mine laying and sweeping, and fire support.
HMS CAVALIER has a length of 110.5m, beam of 10.9m and a draught of 3m to 4.9m max. Her displacement is 2510 tons with a maximum speed from new of approximately 32 knots (35mph) ahead and 20 knots astern.
The engine room was fitted with two Parsons Turbines between them producing 40,000shp (shaft horse power). This power passed through a gear room and transferred to the twin shafts and propellers. At 20 knots she could cruise for 3900 miles. The ship’s electricity was also produced in the engine room from two steam turbine electricity generators.
Admiralty order – Job No. J6099: 24 March 1942
Keel laid: 28 February 1943
Launched: 07 April 1944
Commissioned: 22 November 1944
Final paying off: 07 June 1972
The National Destroyer Memorial
HMS CAVALIER is the last remaining Second World War Royal Navy Destroyer in existence. Today it is preserved as the National Destroyer Memorial alongside the Bronze monument which commemorates 142 Royal Navy destroyers sunk during the Second World War, with the loss of over 11,000 lives.
On one side of the monument is the Roll of Honour listing the names of the 142 Royal Navy destroyers lost during the war. It also records the sacrifice of the other British Dominion and Allied destroyers that were lost between 1939 and 1945.
The relief by sculptor Kenneth Potts depicts an imaginary action of a Destroyer on convoy protection duty. The ship is engaged in rescuing survivors from a sunken ship, a hazardous procedure that could result in the res becoming a victim of torpedo attack. You may be able to see the fin of a submarine on the horizon in the top right-hand corner of the Bronze.
The monument is 3.8m long and just over 3m tall. It sits on a granite plinth of recycled dock stone.
Stop 3 – The Propeller
What makes CAVALIER so special?
On being commissioned in November 1944 HMS CAVLIER was thrown straight into battle. She joined the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet, and quickly saw action.
In February 1945 she took part in three operations in the dangerous seas off Norway. She was one of three destroyers sent from Scapa Flow to escort the Merchant Ships of Arctic Convoy RA64, which had left the Kola Inlet in Northern Russia.
After being attacked by U-boats and enemy aircraft on 23rd February the convoy was scattered in a hurricane combining force 12 winds with ice. Together with other escorts HMS CAVALIER successfully rounded up the convoy, and on 1st March thirty-one of the thirty-four merchant ships arrived safely in the Clyde.
These missions earned HMS CAVALIER a well-deserved “Arctic 1945 Battle Honour”.
Towards the end of her career in 1971, HMS CAVALIER was challenged to take part in a race with the frigate HMS RAPID to decide which ship was faster. It was one of CAVALIER’s final duties that was to secure her a proud place in naval history.
The challenge was particularly interesting as RAPID, being a former “R” class destroyer, had a hull form and machinery outfit identical to that of CAVALIER. Both ships were now elderly by naval standards, but with the passing of the fleet destroyers, they were still two of the fastest vessels in the Royal Navy and the race attracted great publicity. On 6th July 1971 the two ships met off the Firth of Forth in perfect weather.
The Fastest of the Greyhounds
After two hours, the race had little in it, CAVALIER had worked level with Rapid when the frigate lifted a safety valve. HMS CAVALIER was declared winner by a mere 30 yards, over a distance of 64 miles! Her average speed was 31.8 knots, a speed very few more modern ships could achieve. Since then CAVALIER has been affectionately known as ‘The Fastest of the Greyhounds’.
Pennant Number – D73
All naval ships are identified by a pennant number. The letter prefix identifies the type of ship and the numerical suffix uniquely identifies an individual ship.
The original pennant number for HMS CAVALIER was R73. After the war, this was changed to D73. D for Destroyer.
The Cavalier Badge
All major warships were given a personalised and unique badge. The ship’s badge and motto were usually designed around the name of the vessel.
Due to the intensity of the war effort by the time HMS CAVALIER was nearing her launch date she was still without an official badge. On 3 August 1944 the shipbuilders cast their own badge, believed to have been designed by Lt. Cmdr. McBarnett the first Captain. This design depicted the famous painting by Frans Hals of the ‘Laughing Cavalier’ (1624). The motto ‘Cavaliers Up’ was also given to the ship at this time. Both were used by the first ships company for a short while until the official Admiralty badge that we see today was produced.
The official badge references some components from Prince Rupert’s family coat of arms, most notably the lozenge design and use of a lion. The motto became ‘Of One Company’.
To reduce stress to the ship’s hull, both propellers from HMS CAVALIER have been removed. Each propeller weighs almost 4 tons and has a diameter of 3.2 metres.
One propeller remains here on the dockside, whilst the other has been returned to the Isle of Wight presented as a public memorial in recognition of the shipbuilders of J. Samuel White and Company Ltd. and the sailors who gave their lives for their country.
Prior to the Second World War, construction of ships like HMS CAVALIER could take three or four years. During the war welding started to be used in ship construction, this reduced build time to 18-24 months. Onboard you can see both rivetted and welded construction.
HMS CAVALIER was originally ordered to be built with rivetted construction, however in 1942 White’s Shipyard at Cowes was blitzed. During repair the shipyard was re-fitted with welding equipment from the United States, so a hybrid approach was chosen for building HMS CAVALIER.
The process of welding was lighter work than heavy riveting and hammering. This meant the depleted male workforce could be increased by using women, who now worked in the shipyard, to replace the men on active service. During this time women took on many roles previously seen as male jobs.
On the bow, you can see several welded joints, however this is a later repair – HMS CAVALIER collided with a tanker whilst under tow for refit in Gibraltar Dockyard in the 1960s.
The Main Guns
When first built the main armament on board comprised of four 4.5 inch Quick – Firing MKIV Guns in single mountings. The main guns could fire a 55lb shell up to a range of 10 nautical miles and could fire at both airborne and surface targets. During later refits and modernisation, X gun, one of the four main guns, the torpedo tubes and depth charge throwers were replaced with the Squid System and the Seacat Missile system.
The Squid Deck
The Squid was an anti-submarine weapon comprising of two, three-barrelled mortars that launched six depth charges ahead of the ship on to a submarine target detected by sonar. During the 1950’s refit this weaponry was added and replaced the two quadruple MK 9 tubes for 21” torpedoes that were fitted on the main deck at launch.
Forward and above the Squid Deck is the Seacat mounting added during the 1960’s refit. From here surface-to-air guided missiles were launched.
The Seacat GWS-20 was a short-range surface-to-air missile system intended to replace the Bofors 40mm gun used during air attacks. The design enabled warships to be refitted with the system with the minimum amount of modification.
It was a small, subsonic missile powered by a two-stage solid fuel rocket motor and was fired from a seating position in front of the launcher. It had a speed of Mach 0.8 which is nearly 1000kms/hour (954).
Situated below the Bridge is the Wheelhouse.
From the Wheelhouse the Quartermaster of the Watch steered the ship assisted by his Bosun’s mate and orders were passed from the Officer of the Watch to the Engine Room. Messages were delivered through the large red horn called a voice pipe.
So why didn’t they have the steering wheel (the Helm) on the bridge? In the event of an attack by enemy aircraft, the Bridge is an exposed target. The position of the Wheelhouse within the ship gave it protection from damage during combat. If the Bridge suffered an enemy strike control of the vessel could be restored by re-establishing communication with a secondary position located beneath the quarter deck at the aft end of the ship.
At the Aft of the ship is a small raised platform, the Emergency Conning Position from where the ship could be controlled if the Bridge was rendered inoperable by attack.
The ship’s daily routine was also controlled from the wheelhouse using the ship’s broadcast system.
On each side of the Flag Deck stands a single mounting anti-aircraft 40mm Bofors gun.
The Bridge formed the highest part of the ship from where the Officer of the Watch, the Commanding Officer’s representative, would issue commands.
The Compass Platform and Bridge
Although largely exposed to the elements, the Bridge offers an uninterrupted panoramic view from which to control the ship. To protect the crew from the sun whilst on duty in the Far East a canopy was later added over the structure.
The Open Bridge housed the various instruments the Officer of the Watch would need to carefully monitor the ship’s speed, course, engines, helm, radar, sonar, signal lamps, search-lights and out positions. The Signal communication lamps on the bridge had a range of up to 3 miles depending on weather conditions and were used when maintaining radio silence.
From her launch until her final decommission HMS Cavalier underwent a series of refits and upgrades.
Here, sailor Cliff East, tells us of a time he almost came into close contact with the Radar.
Petty Officer’s Mess
The Petty Officers Mess is located on the port side of the ship.
This was the living and sleeping accommodation for originally 12 senior ratings who slept in hammocks. With the introduction of bunks, this number was reduced to 8 with any additional Petty Officers reverting to using hammocks.
At the forward end of the Mess two ammunition hoists carry shells and charges from the magazine deep below deck. From here the 55lb shells were manually lifted to both the forward 4.5 inch Quick – Firing MKIV guns by being passed out through ports in the doors to the forward gun, and through the deckhead to B gun above, achieving a rate of fire of 12 rounds a minute.
The recoiling gun expelled empty shells onto the deck. Manning the gun was a difficult and dangerous job, especially in bad weather. The guardrails at either side of the gun were lowered when at Action Stations so that the gun could be depressed enough to fire at low angled targets. This would result in less protection to stop sailors going over the side!
Stop 8 – Forward Mess Decks
Living Aboard HMS Cavalier
The ship’s compliment of up to 225 crew had living areas divided across the ship.
The forward Mess Deck was home to 40 – 50 men who slept in hammocks attached to hooks in the deckhead. When bunks were added during later refits this still left a deficit, with 12 men still having to ‘sling’ hammocks. In addition to sleeping the men spent their rest time here playing games, reading, writing letters home, listening to music and eating their meals.
Unlike modern warships there was no separate eating area.
As the foremost living area in the ship in rough seas it could rise and fall up to 15 feet (4.5m) at a time and even more in a severe storm. Conditions could often be cold and wet, as water could leak in through portholes and areas from the upper deck.
When the main lights were turned off low red lights were switched on to replace them. This subdued lighting helped to preserve night vision but could make moving around the ship and avoiding obstacles more difficult.
Rum was introduced in place of Brandy as the daily spirit ration in 1687 after the conquest of Jamaica. It was served from the ‘rum tub’, an oak barrel with brass bands and lettering like the one we can see at the front of the Forward Mess.
The words “The Queen, God Bless Her” were traditionally fixed to the tub in brass letters.
Their ration was originally 1 pint a day for a man and ½ for a boy but in 1740, in an attempt to reduce drunkenness on board, this was watered down with a quart of water and issued at noon and 6pm. This was known as Grog. From 1850 the ration was reduced again to one quarter pint.
Rum was issued on board HMS CAVALIER in the presence of the Officer of the Watch each day at 11.50hrs. It was strictly controlled.
The Royal Navy issued the last daily rum ration on 31st July 1970. This day was known as Black Tot Day.
This passageway leads to the ‘Galley’ (kitchen), and out to midship.
On the starboard side are the Sound Reproduction Office, Ship’s Office, the Ship’s Canteen/NAAFI (shop), Senior Rates Bathroom and Crew Toilets (Heads).
On the Port side are The Transmission Station Annex, Radio Room and Radar Technical Office.
There were three galleys onboard. The main Galley situated amidships was located in the most stable part of the ship in bad weather. There were also two emergency galleys down aft. These could be used in bad weather if it was too dangerous to more forward to the Main Galley.
One commission calculated that the Main Galley had served 250,000 meals in what was a typical eighteen-month commission.
The men would sit 8 to 10 a table on their mess decks, enjoying dishes that were given humorous nick names like yellow peril (smoked haddock), bacon and eggs.
After breakfast the cooks would be responsible for washing up galley and cooking equipment, with the seamen responsible for cleaning their own mess tins and cutlery.
The kitchens and food preparation area on a ship are called the Galley.
Here sailor Phil Hatton tells us about the food served on board HMS CAVALIER.
The Ships Bell
The ship’s bell is located midship and was an important symbol to the ship.
It was rung for visitors, for calling the crew together and to mark the end of a watch. It would also mark time onboard by the number of ‘bells’ rung.
Crew members were even given permission to use the bell as a font in their children’s christening services. Any member of the ship’s crew could arrange for their children to be Christened on board the ship. The ship’s bell would be removed, inverted and filled with Holy water. The child’s name would then be inscribed on the inside of the bell.
Here Cliff East recounts a tale of maintaining the ship high above Midships in a precarious position.
First Lieutenant’s Cabin, Captain’s Day Cabin, and Wardroom
The Wardroom offered comparative luxury to the crew’s mess areas, with pictures on the wall, carpet, a dining table and a fireplace.
Mounted on the wall are an inclinometer that was used to measure the slant of the ship and a copy of the painting, the Laughing Cavalier (1624) by Frans Hals that was the inspiration for the ship’s first badge. You can also see portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip hanging on one wall.
This was an area designated for the use of officers only, with a certain level of etiquette adhered to at all times. It was taboo to discuss politics, religion or ladies.
The captain would not be a member of the wardroom but could be invited to join by its members. In the event of an emergency, the Wardroom could be set up as an emergency operating theatre.
The inclinometer hangs on the wall of the Wardroom.
It is used to mark the angle of pitch of the ship.
Here seaman Dave Cox tells us of a memorable journey on board HMS CAVALIER travelling across the Bay of Biscay to Gibraltar during a storm.