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April 18th Focus: Bar class

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April 18th



 



1916 – Royal Sovereign – Revenge-class – Commissioned



 



Allies



Laid Down – 29



Launched – 59



Commissioned – 32



 



Not Allies get nothing



 



One battleship!?! And that a relatively boring R class ship whose class has already been covered. But every day we do this there are of course smaller ships, smaller than the destroyers that are the smallest ships in WoWs. Doing research for a day a little while ago I saw entries for a type of ship that struck me as odd:



“Boom Defense Vessels”.



 



1942



 



A boom?  In the 20th century?



 



 am familiar with booms, log and chain defenses used to block a channel or harbor in sailing ship days, but what were these? I conjured an armed vessel tasked with defensing a boom. But booms in the 20th century? And today another one of these mystery vessels shows up with the unlikely name of HMS Barflake. She was launched on this date in 1942 and mined and sunk on 22 November 1943 off Naples, Italy. Boom Defense? In Naples? In 1943?



 



What’s going on here?



 



Back in my salad days at The Enormous State University I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a fellow from Ireland by way of Australia, so I’ve experienced firsthand how folks from the British Commonwealth are separated from their American cousins by our common language. Seeing that these “Bar” class ships were listed as British I suspected that something like this was happening here. Indeed, US Navy usage calls a Boom Defense Vessel an Auxiliary Net Layer (AN). The Royal Navy also called these and similar ships net layers, net tenders, or gate ships. So, it’s not a barrier of logs and chains as in sailing ship days, but steel nets and floats to protect against torpedo and submarine attack.



 



I had of course read about and seen pictures of anti-submarine nets, but I had never given much thought to the ships that must be required to work and maintain these nets. These must have been busy ships as in some anchorages hundreds of ships moved in and out of harbor and dock daily.



 



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HMS Barhill



 



77 net layers served with the US Navy and the Royal Navy had at least as many it seems as there were 71 of the Bar class alone.



 



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As you might imagine of harbor auxiliaries these are small, slow, weak ships as we would view them through the “warship” lens.  Half the size of a destroyer at 750 tons standard they can only make around 10-11 knots. One source indicates they were COAL fired and used Vertical Triple Expansion engines. They carried 30 or crewmen and a single 3” gun of varying models.  They were hard working ships and the sailors on them required expert skills in handling the steel nets used to protect harbors and warships.



 



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US Sailors working with a “net”



 



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A net and floats ready to be laid



 



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And they were handy ships and pressed into service for other harbor duties like salvage and buoy service. A number of them lasted in service for 30 years and more. And to my surprise there is one you can go see, if you fancy a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. The former Bar class Boom Defense Vessel HMS Barcross is now a museum ship after service as the SAS Somerset. She can be seen at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. She is the only remaining ship of her type in the world.



 



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Three ships to the same basic design were constructed by Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company, Sydney and defended the harbor at Darwin for which action all three earned a Battle Honour.



 



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HMAS Kangaroo



 



HMAS Karangi participated in the 1953 atomic tests at Monte Bellow Islands.



 



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HMAS Karangi



 



Karangi’s hulk is still visible in Homebush Bay.



 



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And here is an article entitled “Fixed Naval Defenses in Darwin Harbour 1939-1945”. It has appearances by the Australian version of the boom defense class vessels.



 



http://www.navy.gov.au/history/feature-histories/fixed-naval-defences-darwin-harbour-1939-1945



 


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