With the arrival of deep sea creatures for 2023 at the Dockyard, our Warship Wednesday takes a mythical twist. HMS MERMAID was a ‘one off’ ship that was re-fitted at Chatham before commissioning into the Royal Navy as MERMAID with a class name of ‘Yarrow Type’.
Originally built by Yarrow Shipbuilders for the Government of Ghana and classified as a ‘Frigate Despatch Vessel’. The vessel was designed to be fitted out as a presidential yacht for the then President Nkrumah but a change of government in Ghana resulted in the ship not being required. The ship had been launched and cancelled in the same year, 1966. The ship was eventually taken into Portsmouth Dockyard in 1972 and arrived in Chatham Dockyard in 1973 for a re-fit to meet Royal Navy requirements, and to be commissioned as MERMAID.
MERMAID was 339ft long x 40ft wide and displaced 2520 tons fully loaded. Armament was 2 x twin 4inch gun mountings, 4 x 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns and 1 x Squid anti-submarine launcher.
During her Royal Navy career MERMAID was involved in a collision with the coastal minesweeper HMS FITTLETON while conducting a replenishment at sea. Both ships had an association with Chatham Dockyard.
FITTLETON had been re-fitted twice at Chatham; January 1965 and January 1967. FITTLETON sank on 20th September 1976 following the collision, twelve members of the ships company lost their lives. The collision was due to the hull characteristics of MERMAID producing hydrodynamic forces which caused suction between the two ships forcing FITTLETON to collide with MERMAID, despite attempts by FITTLETON to counter the effects. The ship was salvaged and made watertight for towing to Chatham Dockyard.
When the ship first arrived at Chatham the superstructure behind the Bridge had not been fitted out. This space had originally been designed to be fitted out as a large presidential suite, and a ‘dinning out area’ on the upper deck for open air banquets.
“I had entered the Design Division at Chatham in January 1973 and one of my first tasks was to measure all the bulkhead openings within the “presidential suite” area and prepare the working drawings and material lists for fitting internal doors; an ideal job for a novice draughtsman!”
MERMAID was eventually sold to the Malaysia. She was later decommissioned in 2018 and is now a museum ship.
This month’s Warship Wednesday was written by Reading Room, Volunteer Tony Peacock.