Only six months after the outbreak of the First world war Britain, the strongest Maritime power, it seemed, had no rivals on the oceans, was in dire Straits. New, not taken seriously weapons — submarines — now threatened to “foggy Albion” hunger and deprivation.
Every month the submarine war was becoming a large scale. The crisis erupted in April 1915. This month victims of German submarine steel 155 British ships with a gross tonnage 516 394 so they killed more than 1,100 people. In addition, during the same time “u-bots” sunk 336, OOO tons of allied and neutral tonnage. Of all the merchant ships that left England in April, a quarter do not come back. And the loss was not only material but also moral: most Scandinavian and Dutch ship owners previously regularly supplying Britain, began to cancel flights. Finally the Germans would triumph: their plan is to put the “mistress of the seas” on your knees has never been close to implementation. Minus almost a million of tonnage of each month, and a year later the British, there would be no choice but complete surrender at discretion.
Was required to take urgent measures. The first possible solution was armed merchant ships with artillery. In the days when submarines attacked the “merchants” basically, from a surface position, shooting them from guns or undermining after the capture, this measure was quite effective. If out of four unarmed ships during the war, on average, destroyed three, then the presence of guns the proportion was the reverse, three of the four survived. However, this way of protection had significant shortcomings. The sea plied several thousand transports, and equip at least one weapon was not possible. Guns not enough; I had to rearrange them from the ships that came to port, onto ships, ready to leave him and go on a deadly path. The process dragged on for years, only to fall 1918 — after the war — more than four thousand commercial vessels received the long-awaited guns. In addition, for maintenance of a single gun required a crew of 5-7 people, and usually at least part of it consisted of sailors. Thus distracted people, so necessary on warships.
The second way was more rational. Just impossible to arm all merchant ships, therefore, should be to provide them with guards. There are unquestionable benefits: it is much easier instead of permutations of guns to send escorts from one group of vessels to another. Not so great was the shortage in personnel, and any, even relatively weak warship still had much more chances of success in the battle with the submarine, than an armed “merchant”. The agility and training of the crew of professional sailors not only made him a dangerous enemy of the German submarine, but was allowed if you need to use to perform a variety of tasks.
In the days of sailing ships the need for a separate class of escort ships did not arise: their role can perform any ships capable of combat capabilities to fight with the privateers — the same armed vessels. Only the emergence of a fundamentally new enemy — the submarine — caused the need for specialized warships, the main task was convoy protection, and if the case and the hunt for submarines. Since then, a new class of escort ships not only maintained their positions, but also became one of the most numerous in the modern Navy.
But back to the First world war. Shortly after it started and even before the crisis of 1915, the British developed the draft of the ship, originally intended primarily for minesweeping but also for the other daily needs of the fleet: towing, carry small important cargoes and escort service provided Design as simple as possible so that these vessels could build almost any civilian shipyard. The Admiralty was only supplied standard equipment, which allowed to reduce the period from laying to commissioning to five months. Now this figure is no surprise, however, at the beginning of the XX century for the provincial shipbuilding companies did not have any idea about pipeline Assembly, welding and other modern technological methods, such pace looked great achievement. The order for the first 12 ships, officially classified as class sloops-minesweepers, arrived on the first day of 1915; and after two weeks was followed by a repeat order — the need for escort vessels was felt all the more acutely. All sloops are named for flowering plants, why they are usually called “flower” (“Flower”),
Head “Akasha” (“acacia”) entered service in summer 1915. Her normal displacement was 1,200 tons, a speed of 16.5 knot, armament consisted of two 76-mm cannon and a pair of small-caliber antiaircraft guns.
Of course, it was not the ideal ship. The only screw provided him with the radius of the circulation of large cruisers, and in order to stay on course in the wind, in the regular equipment includes a special sail! However, the “flowers” turned out to be very useful units in the fleet. Their ammunition was protected by an armored “box”, due to a higher probability of detonating a mine nose shifted far aft. I must say that the measure was effective: some of the sloops explosions cellars literally pounded to pieces, but the shells not detonated. In addition, the purpose of the ships were given a reinforced bow and powerful bow bulkheads able to withstand a ramming blow to the hull of a boat.
The next 12 sloops type “Azalea”, ordered in may, 1915, instead of 76-mm guns received two 120-mm guns. They were to be used for the protection of the anti-submarine barriers in the English channel that the Germans have repeatedly organized raids by light tanks, and increased armament was necessary. They were followed by another 36 units of the “Arabis” with a slightly more powerful machinery and improved vitality. The sloops for 15 m in the bow compartments filled with cork, to be able to stay afloat even after the explosion of a mine or torpedo.
The ships of the last series had two 102-graph paper instead of 120-mm guns. A lighter shell are allowed to develop a greater rate of fire and hitting from chetyrehmetrovy damaging submarine no worse than more large-caliber guns. So armed and following a series of sloops, escort-anti-the purpose of which was the main.
“Aubretia” notable “flayerov” first of all appearance. The fact that double-tube “flowers” had such a distinctive silhouette, is equally unlike any warship or a merchant ship, that the German submariners learned to recognize them quickly. So in January 1916 the Admiralty decided to completely change the face of the guards, making them similar in appearance to a small labotanica in the hope that the “bots” will not be able to navigate and will substitute itself for the British shells. The result was questionable, primarily due to habitability. About a hundred crew members were forced to be cramped up in an uncomfortable cabin and tiny add-ons. In addition, since “external design” instructed the shipyards-builders, each of the boats was ugly in its own way, and soon again, easily recognised by the German submariners.
1. A patrol ship, P-14, England, 1914
Produced by “Connell”. The normal displacement 615 t maximum Length of 74.5 m, beam 7.2 m, draft 2.4 m. Capacity twin-shaft steam turbine 3500 HP, speed 20 knots. Armament: one 102-mm gun, one 40-mm gun, two 356-mm torpedo tubes. Just 1915-1918 built 43 units. Most sold in the early 1920s, the R-12 was killed in a collision in 1918, R-57 in 1920, sold to Egypt, R-38 in 1925 renamed to “Spey” and was used to guard the fisheries to 1938
2. Patrol ship-trap RS-51, England, 1917
Built by “Secrets of the Iron Shipbuilding”. The normal displacement 690 t. the Length of the longest 75.3 m, width 7.8 m, draught 2.4 m. Capacity twin-shaft steam turbine 3500 HP, speed 20 knots. Armament: one 102-mm and two 76-mm guns. Just 1916-1918. built 20 units. The RS-55 and RS-69 in 1921-1922 transferred to the Indian Navy. RS-73 RS-74 was promoted to 1939 and 1948, respectively, and the rest sold at auction in 1921-1925.
3. The sloop “Chrysanthemum”, England, 1918
The normal displacement of 1290 T. maximum Length 80,0 m, beam of 10.7 m, draft 3.5 m. a single-shaft Power plants 2500 HP., speed 17.5 per node. Armament: two 102-mm and two 76-mm guns. In 1917-1918 constructed 28 units of the “flower guard” of the second series. Five ships were Otopeni torpedoes submarines until the end of the war (“Bergamot”, “Anchusa”, “Cowslip”, “Candytuft” and “Rhododendron”). Most of the rest sold at auction in 1921-1923. But the “Saxifrage” (renamed “President” and served as a training ship of the naval reserve) and “Chrysanthemum” are afloat still.
4. Patrol gunboat “Kilmun”, England, 1919
Built by “Doc Smith”. Displacement normal 895 t maximum Length of 55.5 m, width 9.1 m, draught 3.2 m. Capacity of steam power plant single-shaft triple expansion 1400 PS, speed 13 knots. Armament: one 102-mm gun. It was supposed to build 85 units, but an order for 30 of them were cancelled almost immediately, in March 1918, and most of the rest sold into private hands in 1919-1920. “Kilmun” was the only ship of the series, remaining in the Navy. In 1920 it was converted into a cable layer. It was scrapped in 1950
However, the story will be continued. Until the end of the war, the British laid almost 30 units. Again the order was given to various firms, who fully used the freedom granted to them. The famous Armstrong managed to build six of their sloops with three different projects! Weapons “Anchusa” and its sistership increased by two 76-mm guns; in addition, there were mortars and kickers of depth charges. This made them very formidable foes the Kaiser’s submarines. Disguise was still the focus of attention. So, when most of the merchant ships finally got their defensive armament, usually consisting of a single gun aft, the sloops-escorts, also appeared a fake wooden gun in the same place.
In principle, the “flower” series quite satisfactorily fulfil their tasks. The main drawback was only a rather large size — more than 1200 tons, zamglavy and the high cost of construction. In parallel with their development of the Admiralty have created a number of alternative projects of smaller patrol vessels. The most original was undoubtedly “PI-bots” (P-boats). The letter P from the English first Patrol, clearly testified about their main purpose. The British fully demonstrated its originality. Moreover, only a 600-ton boats had twin-shaft turbine installation (!), allowed to develop up to 20 knots, they had very low freeboard sides and a tiny chimney, almost invisible in the background only add-ons in the middle of the body. In General, everything was done to the hunter resembled its victim — a large submarine, which he had drown his 102-mm gun or 40 mm automatic “POM-Poom”. However, this “multirole fighters”, as originally classified their Admiralty, was to “talk” and larger enemies. They have in the stern housed a pair of fixed torpedo tubes. The idea was that, away from the strong surface enemy, “PI-bot” unfolded to him the stern and sent a parting torpedo salvo before using his speed. All of them have been used where it was assumed, having served throughout the war in the English channel, infested by German submarines, destroyers and boats.
Another idea of the Admiralty were the guards trap. “Flowers” and “Pee-robots” have had only very limited elements of disguise, able to fool only the very careless diver. Meanwhile, the leadership of the fleet firmly believed that a well-disguised bait can become the main means of combating submarines. So at the end of 1916 was followed by an order to rebuild the ten “Wee-bot”, for the most part already inherent in the ships-traps. Initially, the series received the letters PQ (the letter Q the British referred to their “secret” anti-submarine vessels), but in the end it was decided the designation PC. The original project has changed beyond recognition: ready PC really resembled a small trading steamers with an elevated forecastle and middle superstructure. For secrecy had to pay a hefty price. About add-ons added about 15% extra weight, and the stability of the ships was extremely low. Not to say that they have had success, however, the Admiralty ordered ten more in 1917. Interestingly, one of them, PC-74, survived until the Second world war, had stayed for two months in the old role of the trap, but in October 1939 was redesignated as ordinary Conjoint and served until 1948.
So was the case with the specialized patrol vessels. However, the bulk of the escort ships were mobilized trawlers, drifters and kitobazy. It is not surprising that during the four years of the great war, several attempts to streamline the production of ships for these classes, organizing their construction under the control of the Admiralty. For example, kitobazy had a number of attractive qualities, one of which was the excellent maneuverability, the other — the shallow draft, safe for the passage of the minefields, and the third — lowest price. The Admiralty suggested the firm “the Smith’s Dock” from Middlesbrough to put a dozen such vessels over very short time — three months after submission of the drawings. The factory agreed and received an order for five units. They entered service in 1915 and received the special designation Z.
Patrol whaling is, in fact, a typical trap. It’s hard to imagine a more innocuous-looking boat than the 40-meter Z outwardly clumsy on the nose which adorned the mock harpoon gun, hardly able to intimidate the commander of “u-bot”. However, in the stern of the boat under a canvas shelter lurked 76-mm gun, which could easily be the case because the “bait” could turn literally on the spot. For night actions had the spotlight — something quite strange for a whaling ship, but I was a resourceful British found a way out. The spotlight is also covered with canvas, on which painted a big wheel! From other purely military properties it is possible to note the strengthened bow and a decent separation into watertight compartments.
But despite good maneuverability, military kitobazy as their peaceful prototypes suffered from poor seakeeping and heavily covered with waves. Naturally, in this state, they did not constitute a great danger to submarines. It was therefore decided to stop building 2. and focus on trawlers, recognized best as a massive and cheap patrol ships.
The Admiralty had established the production trawlers of several types of civil drawings, however, they remained, in essence, non-military courts with too low speed, seaworthiness and cruising range, and therefore little suited for a permanent escort service. Only in mid-1917 was followed by an order for a specialized “fast trawler”, issued several of the recognized builders of vessels of this class, in the first row which were all the same, “Smith, Doc.” By the way, this plant was the only really built the whole series (the other orders were cancelled). Classification changed again, and the ships of the “keel” (it is from these letters began their names) were kolodkami, although the armament, and appearance gave them a typical “fishing” nature. As usual, not without a disguise. At this time, hoping to confuse the German submariners symmetric case with almost the same highly raised bow and stern. In the end, “keel” much like a toy paper boat. At a cost of about 40 thousand pounds instead of a single battleship could build about 50 such guards. In fact, had to make do with only 37 units of 85 ordered — the war is over. Most of them have not even received weapons and entered the bidding. Britain finally returned to civilian life.