Abdiel class minelayer: Wikis


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HMS Ariadne minelayer.jpg
HMS Ariadne
Class overview
Name: Abdiel
Operators:  Royal Navy
In service: 1941
In commission: 1941 - 1972
Completed: 6
Active: 0
Lost: 3
Retired: 6
General characteristics
Type: Minelayer

2,650 tons standard

3,415 tons full(1938 group) / 3,475 tons (WEP group)
Length: 400½ feet (p/p), 418 feet (o/a)
Beam: 40 feet
Draught: 11¼ feet (14¾ feet full)
Propulsion: 4 Admiralty 3-drum water-tube boilers, Parsons geared steam turbines, 2 shafts, 72,000 shp (54,000 kW)
Speed: 39¾ knots (38 knots full)
Range: 1,000 nmi (2,000 km) at 38 knots (70 km/h)
Complement: 242

(1938 group)
6 x QF 4 in (100 mm) Mark XVI guns on twin mounts HA/LA Mk.XIX.
4 x QF 2 pdr (40 mm) Mk.VIII on quadruple mount Mk.VII.
8 x 0.5 in Vickers machine guns on quadruple mount Mk.I (later up to 12 x 20 mm Oerlikons on single mounts P Mk.III or twin mounts Mk.V).
156 mines.
(WEP group)
4 x QF 4 in Mark XVI on twin mounts HA/LA Mk.XIX.
4 (Apollo) / 6 (Ariadne) x 40 mm Bofors on twin mounts "Hazemeyer" Mk.IV.
Up to 12 x 20 mm Oerlikons on single mounts P Mk.III or twin mounts Mk.V (later up to 6 x 40 mm Bofors on single mounts Mark V "Boffin".

156 mines.

The Abdiel class were a class of six fast minelayers commissioned into the Royal Navy and active during the Second World War. They were also known as the Manxman class and as "mine-laying cruisers".



The Royal Navy ordered the first four ships in 1938, with a further two acquired as part of the War Emergency Programme. They were specifically designed for the rapid laying of minefields in enemy waters, close to harbours or sea lanes. As such they were required to be very fast and to possess sufficient anti-aircraft weaponry to defend themselves if discovered by enemy aircraft.

A large mineload of up to 150 mines was required to be carried under cover, therefore a long, flushdecked hull with high freeboard was required. The mines were laid through doors in her stern and she carried her own cranes for loading. In size they were almost as long as a cruiser, but laid out much like a large destroyer. However, the three straight funnels were an instant identifying feature. Top speed was specified as 40 knots (74 km/h). To achieve this they were given a full cruiser set of machinery and with an installed output of 72,000 shaft horsepower (54,000 kW) on four shafts they made 39.75 knots (73.62 km/h) light and 38 knots (70 km/h) deep load. To put this into perspective, the contemporary "Town" class cruisers had 80,000 shp (60,000 kW) and a full load displacement of 12,980 tons, just short of four times that of the Abdiels.

The ships were initially to be armed much as destroyers, with three twin CP Mark XIX mounts for the QF 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII gun (which had a maximum elevation of only 40°) in 'A', 'B' and 'X' positions, a quadruple "multiple pom-pom" mounting Mark VIII for the QF 2-pdr Mark VIII and a pair of quadruple 0.5 inch Vickers machine guns.

Wartime modifications involved adding Radar Type 279 at the masthead, a primitive metric wavelength air warning set, later replaced by Type 286 then Type 291 as they became available. Radar Type 285 was fitted to the rangefinder-director on the bridge, this was a metric set and could provide target ranging and bearing information. The centimetric Radar Type 272, a target indication set with plan position indicator (PPI), was fitted to the front leg of the foremast. Following the loss of Latona to air attack, the surviving ships were re-armed with three twin HA/LA Mark XIX mounts for the QF 4-inch (100 mm) L/45 Mark XIV gun with an elevation of 70° to remedy the shortcomings in anti-aircraft defence. Those on the stocks were armed with these mountings from new, but 'B' mount was suppressed and replaced (in Ariadne only) by a twin "Hazemeyer" mounting Mark IV for the 40 mm Bofors. Both Ariadne and Apollo had two such mountings sided amidships, replacing the pom-pom in 'Q' position, and these mounts carried their own Radar Type 282 for target ranging. Six single 20 mm Oerlikon guns were initially added on pedestal mountings P Mark III, although these were later replaced by powered twin mountings Mark V. In 1945 Ariadne was refitted in the United States in July 1945 for far eastern service, when the Bofors mounts were replaced by American pattern models (Mark I) with off-mounting "simple tachymetric directors" (STD) fitted with Radar Type 282 and the Oerlikon mounts regunned with Bofors guns (this combination was known as the "Boffin").


Although they were effective ships in their intended role, the combination of high internal capacity and exceptionally high speed meant that they were extremely valuable fast transports. As such for much of their service they were used for running supplies; particularly men and matériel to isolated garrisons such as during the siege of Tobruk and Malta in Operation Harpoon. With three funnels and the outline of a destroyer, Welshman was camouflaged to appear like the Vichy French "contre torpilleurs" (large destroyer) Le Tigre[1]. For this, a false bow was fitted, funnel caps were added, the mine chutes were plated over and a false deckline was painted on to camouflage the high flush-deck. Manxman received a similar disguise to pass for the Vichy cruiser Leopard so she could pass Corsica and mine the approaches to Livorno.

Latona was hit by a 250 pound bomb in the engine room that caused a serious fire, which spread to the munitions she was carrying and caused her loss on 25 October 1941. Welshman was torpedoed and sunk by U-617 in 1943. Manxman took a torpedo in her engine room but survived, although repairs took two years.

Apollo, Ariadne and Manxman survived the war and saw post-war service, with pennant number flag superior changed from "M" to "N". Apollo served as a despatch vessel and Manxman as a mine warfare support ship.

A story - or legend - has grown that, during the Suez Crisis of 1956, Manxman overawed an American Carrier Group. Manxman reportedly shadowed them; the US Admiral increased speed, eventually to 'Devil take the hindmost' - over thirty knots - and then Manxman swept past - showing the signal "See you in Egypt". It is far from clear whether this episode happened, or is an attempt to gain some credibility for the British from their humiliation of the Suez Affair; 'knowledge' about it was common in the Merchant Navy of the 1970s.



1938 group

War Emergency Programme (WEP) group

  • Ariadne — built by A. Stephen & Sons Ltd, laid down 10 October 1941, launched 5 April 1943, commissioned 12 February 1944, sold for scrapping June 1965
  • Apollo — built by Hawthorn Leslie and Company, laid down 15 November 1941, launched 16 February 1943, completed 9 October 1943, sold for scrapping 1962.

See also


  1. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/88/a1985088.shtml BBC World War II; People's War, retrieved August 30, 2006
  • British and Empire Warships of the Second World War, H T Lenton, Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-277-7
  • Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946, Ed. Robert Gardiner, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 0-87021-913-8


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