HMS Solebay was one of the ships ordered in 1942 for the first two flotillas of Battle Class Fleet Destroyers. HMS Solebay was built on the Tyne by R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd and like all of the Battle Class built them she was fitted out as a Leader. These ships had additional accommodation for a Captain (D) and his staff. A Captain (D) was the commander of a destroyer flotilla.
The design of new destroyers that became the Battle Class was the direct result of an instruction from Winston Churchill in March 1941 to take steps to counteract the menace of the JU 87 dive bombers. The Prime Minister considered: -
1. We run the risk of being driven out of the Central Mediterranean
2. We have sent out ships with inadequate armament.
3. Certain types of weapon are available capable of providing a cure for dive bombers. Special vessels with batteries of these might be used in the Mediterranean as AA ships.
The Admiralty Board generally agreed with the Prime Minister’s views, with the important exception that they firmly believed that defence is most easily carried out from the ship under attack. The major problem was finding the resources needed for both the anti-submarine war in the Atlantic and the anti-aircraft war in the Mediterranean. A further difficulty was that pre-war the Admiralty had neglected the growing air threat and as a result there were no modern British naval anti-aircraft gun designs and little manufacturing capacity.
Further details of the development of destroyer building, Hawthorn Leslie and the Battle Class design will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
Orders placed in 1942
Cammell Laird – Gravelines, Hogue, Lagos and Sluys
Fairfield – Cadiz, Camperdown, Finisterre, St James and Vigo
Hawthorn Leslie – Armada, Saintes and Solebay
Swan Hunter – Barfleur, Gabbard, St Kitts and Trafalgar
HMS Solebay Specification
- Type: Destroyer
- Royal Naval service: 1947-1967
- Builders: R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd
- Yard: Hebburn-on-Tyne, Co. Durham
- Yard number: 659
- Laid down: 03 February 1943
- Launched: 22 February 1944
- Commissioned: 25 September 1945
- Displacement (light): 2,385 tons
- Displacement (half oil): 2,906 tons
- Displacement (deep): 3,289 tons
- Length (between perpendiculars): 355 feet
- Length (waterline): 364 feet
- Length (overall): 379 feet
- Breadth: 40 feet 3 inches
- Depth: 22 feet
- Draught (light): 12 feet 3 inches
- Draught (half oil): 13 feet 11 inches
- Draught (deep): 15 feet 2 inches
- Engines: Parsons single reduction steam turbines
- Engine builders: R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd
- Works: St Peters, Newcastle upon Tyne
- Power: 50,000 shp at 320 rpm
- Propulsion: 2 screws
- Speed: 32.7 knots at deep displacement
- Boilers: 2 Admiralty 3-drum type.
- Boiler pressure: 400 lb/sq.in at 700 degrees F
- Oil: 726 tons plus 40 tons diesel
- Endurance: 4,400 nautical miles at 20 knots
- Main guns: Four 4.5 inch Mark III guns in twin through-deck Mark IV 80 degree elevation mountings.
- Secondary guns: Eight 40 mm Bofors 40/L60 guns in twin Mark IV mountings. Four 20 mm Oerlikon guns in two twin Mark V mountings. Two 20 mm Oerlikon guns in two single Mark VIIA mountings. One Vickers .303 machine gun.
- Ammunition: 480 rounds 4.5 inch semi-armour piercing, 720 rounds 4.5 inch high explosive and 100 rounds 4.5 inch star shells. 11,520 rounds Bofors 40 mm ammunition. 14,400 rounds Oerlikon 20 mm ammunition. 5,000 rounds .303 machine gun ammunition.
- Torpedoes and tubes: Two sets of quadruple hand-worked tubes and 8 Mark IX 21 inch torpedoes
- Anti-submarine weapons: Two depth charge rails and four depth charge throwers. 60 depth charges
- Complement: 268 (as Leader) maximum war accommodation 337
A Hawthorn Leslie photograph of HMS Solebay sailing out of the Tyne. Lord Collingwood's Monument visible aft of the funnel and Tynmouth Priory above the A turret of the ship.
Upon entering Royal Naval service Solebay was assigned to the 19th Destroyer Flotilla as part of the British Pacific Fleet. She undertook trials at Portland and was then despatched to Malta to work-up, but before she was cleared for operational service the war with Japan ended and Solebay was reassigned as leader of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla in the Home Fleet.
Solebay spent 8 years in the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. An early activity was her participation in Operation Deadlight, when over 100 surrendered U-boats were sunk 150 miles North East of Ireland, using gunfire and depth charges. On one occasion, Solebay sank a U-boat using only 11 rounds from her A Turret. She was subsequently posted as German Guardship before returning to Chatham for her first refit in early 1947.
Solebay rejoined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, which involved her undertaking several voyages to the Mediterranean and European ports, with one visit to the West Indies. Most of the time however she was carrying out recruiting visits to UK ports. In 1953 Solebay took part in the Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead, before proceeding to Chatham for a major refit involving the modernisation of her anti-aircraft and anti-submarine armament. On completion of the refit, Solebay was reduced to reserve.
In 1957 Solebay was re-activated, commissioned and became leader of the 1st Destroyer Squadron, spending the next eighteen months with the Home and Mediterranean Fleets. All of the ships in the squadron then received a refit and were recommissioned in 1958 before being deployed to the Far East in April 1959.
On the night of 25 August 1959 the Squadron was taking part in Commonwealth Naval Exercise “Jet”, to the north of Ceylon when one of its destroyers, HMS Hogue, was involved in a major collision with the Indian cruiser Mysore. Hogue suffered considerable damage and sadly one of her crew was killed and three others injured. Solebay and her sister, HMS Lagos, towed the severely damaged Hogue into Trincomalee.
Photo of bow of HMS Hogue taken after her arrival at Trincomalee.
In April 1960 the Squadron returned to the UK. Solebay remained leader of the 1st Destroyer Squadron, but with some replacement ships from the 3rd Destroyer Squadron. After working-up at Portland the Squadron was despatched to the Mediterranean to relieve the 7th Destroyer Squadron at Malta. Unfortunately as Solebay was coming up to her buoy in Sliema Creek, she rammed the moored leader of the 7th Squadron, HMS Trafalgar. Both ships required dockyard attention, which had the effect of delaying the departure of the 7th Squadron until after Christmas. Solebay was not the most popular ship in the Mediterranean Fleet!
During 1961 Solebay participated in a number of RN and NATO exercises, plus port visits. During a visit to Corfu she hosted the Greek Royal Family and Prince (now King) Juan Carlos of Spain. Solebay was senior escort to the Royal Yacht for the Queen’s state visit to Italy. After that duty Solebay continued to escort the Royal Yacht carrying the Duke of Gloucester to the dedication of the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Gallipoli.
In November 1961 the Squadron returned to Portsmouth for leave before joining the Home Fleet. Early in 1962, Solebay was selected to escort the Royal Yacht for the Queen’s visit to West Africa.
After Solebay returned in April 1962, she was paid-off and became harbour training ship in Portsmouth. She was placed on the disposal list and was finally broken up in Troon in 1967.
British Destroyers: Edgar J March: Published by Seeley Service & Co Ltd: 1966
Jane’s Fighting Ships – 1946/47 and various subsequent editions
Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships – 1922 to 1946 and 1947 to 1982
Warships of World War II: H T Lenton & J J Colledge: Published by Ian Allen Ltd: 1973
Power on Land & Sea: J F Clarke: Published by Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd: 1979
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Solebay: A wikipedia article, which provides a brief history of the ship.
http://www.tosd.demon.co.uk/history.htm HMS Solebay Association website
• Photo 1: Taken by a Hawthorn Leslie staff photographer and subsequently used in the company’s advertisements.
• Photo 2: http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/74362 used with permission from CEYLON220.
• Photo 3: http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/64774/si/Solebay used with permission from yorky jim
Article compiled and written by Fred Henderson