Rothesay Class Anti Submarine Frigates (Type 12 Modified)

As Type 12 Frigates, the principle role of the Whitby Class was to undertake anti-submarine warfare operations. They were designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and provide a fleet, convoy or task force with anti submarine defence. Six Whitby class frigates had been built and entered service between 1956 and 1958. In 1955 it was decided to update the design. The aft superstructure remodelled for the eventual fitting of a quadruple Seacat missile launcher, although a 40mm gun was carried in the meantime. A new thinner and taller ‘raked’ funnel design was introduced to avoid smoke problems and accommodation was improved through the addition of bunks and air-conditioning.

Twelve modified ships were planned and like the Whitby Class they were named after seaside towns: Rothesay, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Plymouth, Berwick, Brighton, Rhyl, Lowestoft and Londonderry. The tenth ship named Hastings was ordered in February 1956 but it was completed for the Royal New Zealand Navy and named Otago. Three further ships Weymouth, a second Hastings, and Fowey were ordered from Harland & Wolff, Yarrow and Cammal Laird but in 1960 the decision was taken to complete them as the first three units of the Leander Class- Leander, Ajax and Dido.

The Rothesay Class Frigates had a displacement of 2,380 tons and measured 370ft in length, 41ft in beam with a draught of 17ft. They were armed with two 4.5 inch guns, a 40mm Bofor Anti-Aircraft gun, two three barrelled Limbo anti-submarine mortars and twelve 21 inch torpedo tubes (later removed). They had a speed of 30 knots and a complement of 235.

Several Rothesay class Frigates participated in the Beira Patrol. This was undertaken between 1965 and 1975 and was part of the economic sanctions imposed following Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence. The patrol was designed to prevent oil from South Africa reaching Rhodesia through Beira and other Portuguese ports in Mozambique. The Rothesay Class also played an active role in the so called ‘Cod Wars’, where they acted as Fishery Protection Vessels and attempted to protect British trawlers. During these operations numerous skirmishes, collisions and rammings occurred with Icelandic Gunboats. They frequently represented the UK contribution to various NATO commitments including Standing Naval force Atlantic and Naval On Call Force Mediterranean (NAVOCFORMED) and hence were an important part of Britain Cold War defence. They also served as guardships at Gibraltar, the West Indies, the Far East and other locations ‘flying the flag’ and providing a credible deterrent.

Between 1966 and 1972 all nine Rothesay Class Frigates underwent two year refits at Chatham, Devonport, Rosyth or Portsmouth, during which they were modified to a much improved specification. The 40mm gun was replaced with Seacat missile system, radar and communication equipment was updated, accommodation improved and perhaps most significantly a helicopter flight deck and hanger were added. Although this required the removal of one of the two triple barrelled anti-submarine mortars, it allowed the Rothesay Class to carry the Westland Wasp helicopter which was a huge asset for anti-submarine operations. This modernisation was a vast improvement over the Whitby Class and brought the Rothesay class up to the standard of the succeeding Leander Class.

By late 1981 Falmouth, Brighton and Berwick had been assigned to the Standby Squadron at Chatham whilst Londonderry paid off into reserve in March 1982. Berwick was most likely going to be sold for breaking up whilst Falmouth had been placed on the sales list. However the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 had a large impact on the Rothesay Class. Two units- Plymouth and Yarmouth -were directly involved in the conflict and were the oldest of all the frigates and destroyers in the taskforce. The Fleet’s hasty deployment to the South Atlantic left several gaps in the Navy’s ability to meet operational commitments. In order to fulfil the tasks unfulfilled in Home Waters by those warships diverted to South Atlantic, Falmouth and Berwick were withdrawn from the Standby Squadron and underwent short refits before recommissioning, as did Rhyl and Lowestoft. They were fitted with extra Second World War vintage 20mm guns and received a complete grey repaint, which removed their pennant numbers and the black stripes at the top of their funnels and masts. Londonderry also recommissioned for training duties.

Nevertheless, the Rothesay Class were expensive to run and maintain compared to newer vessels entering service and the reprieve brought about by the Falklands War was temporary. Despite being prepared for South Atlantic service, Rhyl was found to be in poor condition and paid off in 1983 followed in 1984 by Londonderry, Yarmouth and Falmouth. Lowestoft left service in March 1985, followed by Berwick in October whilst Brighton, having been plundered for spare parts to keep her sisterships in service, was towed away for scrapping. Rothesay and Plymouth remained in service the longest, decommissioning in March and April 1988. Of the nine ships, three were sold for breaking up, five were sunk as targets and one, Plymouth, was retained for public display. (See also: Sinking the Type 12 Frigates). The withdrawal of the Rothesay Class also saw the withdrawal of the Wasp Helicopter, with new frigates and destroyers embarking the Lynx.

Class Details

Ship Pennant Deck Code Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned
Rothesay F107 RO Yarrow November 6th 1956 December 9th 1957 April 23rd 1960
Londonderry F108 LD J.S White November 15th 1956 May 20th 1958 October 18th 1961
Brighton F106 BR Yarrow July 23rd 1957 October 30th 1959 September 29th 1961
Yarmouth F101 YM John Brown November 29th 1957 March 23rd 1959 March 26th 1960
Falmouth F113 FM Swan Hunter November 23rd 1957 December 15th 1959 July 25th 1961
Rhyl F129 RL HMD Devonport January 29th 1958 April 23rd 1959 October 31st 1960
Lowestoft F103 LT Alex Stephens June 19th 1958 June 23rd 1960 September 26th 1961
Berwick F115 ? Harland & Wolff June 16th 1958 December 15th 1959 June 1st 1961
Plymouth F126 PL HMD Devonport July 1st 1958 July 20th 1959 May 11th 1961

HMS Lowestoft (F103). Thanks to Graham Kelsey for providing this photograph.

Above: An aerial shot of HMS Lowestoft. This photograph gives a good view of her helicopter flight deck and hanger, which distinguished the Rothesay Class Frigates from the earlier Whitby Class. Thanks to Graham Kelsey for providing this photograph. (See: Graham Kelsey's Memories of HMS Lowestoft)

Ship Histories

Ship History
Rothesay Launched by the Countess of Selkirk. Rothesay was modernised between 1966 and 1968 at Rosyth. In March 1969 Rothesay landed troops on Anguilla. In 1973 she undertook ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection Patrols. Rothesay attended the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review with sisterships Plymouth and Berwick. There were plans to withdraw Rothesay from service in 1983 although these were abandoned. In 1985 Rothesay underwent a refit in preparation for her new role in the Dartmouth Training Squadron. Rothesay paid off on March 13th 1988 having travelled 800,000 miles in her career. She was sold for breaking up in Spain.
Londonderry Londonderry was modernised between 1969 and 1970 at Rosyth. In 1970 Londonderry patrolled Malaysian waters during the Indonesian Confrontation. She emerged from a refit in 1979 with armaments removed and extra mast added for he new role as a trails ship for Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment. In 1980 she evaluated pump jet propulsion system. In March 1982 Londonderry paid off into reserve. Although due for disposal, Londonderry was reprieved by the Falklands War and became Dartmouth Training Ship. Londonderry paid off 29th March 1984 and became a Harbour Training Ship at Gosport attached to HMS Sultan. She remained in this role until 1988. Londonderry was then towed out and sunk as a Target on June 25th 1989.
Brighton In October 1967 Brighton was the first warship to become Gibraltar Guardship. In 1968 Brighton was a founding member of a new NATO Squadron formed at Portland. This eventually became STANAVFORLANT (Standing Naval Force Atlantic). In the late 1960s/early 1970s Brighton underwent a modernisation at Chatham Dockyard during which she was fitted with a flight deck and hanger. In 1974 she helped evacuate British Citizens from Cyprus, following the invasion by Turkey. In 1975 she undertook ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection patrols. Brighton paid off into the Standby Squadron in 1981 and served as a source of spare parts for her sisterships reprieved from disposal by the Falklands conflict. Brighton arrived on the Medway for breaking up on September 16th 1985.
Yarmouth Yarmouth as the first Rothesay Class Frigate to enter service. On July 13th 1965 Yarmouth collided with the submarine Tiptoe. Between 1966 and 1968 Yarmouth was modernised at Portsmouth. On November 9th 1970 Yarmouth provided assistance to Ark Royal after she collided with a Russian Destroyer. She also launched a search and rescue operation for missing Russian sailors. Yarmouth undertook ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection Patrols in 1973 and again in 1976. During one of these patrols on February 24th 1976 she collided with the Icelandic Gunboat Thor and four days later she collided with the gunboat Baldur. In 1978 Yarmouth was onhand after the tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground of Ushant and she helped to clean up some of the leaking oil. At twenty-two years old years, Yarmouth was the oldest of the Royal Navy frigates and destroyers participating in the 1982 Falklands Conflict and was the only one to emerge from the conflict unscathed. Upon arrival in the area, Yarmouth was assigned to protect the aircraft carriers. On May 4th the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Sheffield was hit by an exocet missile, killing twenty people. Yarmouth, together with Type 21 Frigate Arrow, came to the Sheffield’s assistance. Whilst Arrow fought the fires Yarmouth searched for a possible enemy submarine. When Sheffield was finally abandoned six of her crew were rescued by Yarmouth. On May 8th Yarmouth took the hulk of Sheffield under tow and headed towards a safe anchorage. However after 27 hours of towing Sheffield had taken on too much water and sank. Yarmouth then provided anti submarine and air defence cover for the amphibious vessels and troop ships. On May 21st Yarmouth went to the aid of HMS Ardent and rescued many of her crew, transferring them to SS Canberra and on May 25th Yarmouth attacked and destroyed an Argentine A-4C aircraft. Later she was involved in providing gunfire support during the final assault on Port Stanley. When County Class Destroyer Glamorgan was hit by an exocet missile, Yarmouth provided medical and firefighting help. After the liberation of Port Stanley Yarmouth participated in the expulsion of Argentine forces from Southern Thule and her commanding officer, Commander A Morton, attended the surrender onboard HMS Endurance. On July 7th Yarmouth departed the Falklands with Type 42 Destroyers Cardiff and Exeter, the last of the original taskforce ships to leave, with the exception of Invincible. On November 22nd 1982 Yarmouth was rammed in the stern whilst alongside at Portsmouth by the Leander Class Frigate Minerva. Yarmouth paid off on April 24th 1984 and was sunk as a target on June 21st 1987.
Falmouth Falmouth was modernised at Portsmouth in the early 1970s. In 1974 Falmouth and sistership Lowestoft sailed on the First Flotilla Deployment to the Far East. In 1975 and 1976 Falmouth undertook ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection Patrols and on May 6th 1976 was involved in three collisions with the Icelandic Gunboat Tyr, sustaining damage to her bow. Falmouth returned to Portsmouth for immediate repairs: her damage bow was removed and a new bow welded into place. The Falklands Crisis prompted Falmouth to be taken off the sales list on April 13th 1982 and she recommissioned nine days later. In 1983 Falmouth undertook a South Atlantic Patrol. Falmouth paid off in November 1984 and became a Harbour Training Ship at Gosport between 1984 and 1988. She was then sold for breaking up in Spain.
Rhyl In March 1966 Rhyl undertook the Beira Patrol with carrier Ark Royal. Rhyl completed a modernisation at Devonport in 1972. In 1974 Rhyl helped evacuate British Nationals from Cyprus, following the Turkish invasion. Having been deemed uneconomical to repair for further service Rhyl paid off in 1983 She was sunk as a target in the Atlantic, west of Ireland in August 1985.
Lowestoft In February 1966 Lowestoft became the first ship to undertake the Beira Patrol. She was modernised at Chatham between 1967 and 1970. On April 21st 1972 Lowestoft was enroute to Durban from Simonstown when she came to the aid of the SS Silver Castle, a Liberian tanker ablaze and leaking oil. Lowestoft managed to bring the fire under control and tow the vessel to safety. In 1973 she undertook a ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection Patrol. In 1974 Lowestoft and sistership Falmouth sailed on the First Flotilla Deployment to the Far East. In 1975 Lowestoft stood off Vietnam. Graham Kelsey recalls Lowestoft's involvement with Vietnam: "We were enroute from Hong Kong to Singapore when Saigon fell and the refugees were all trying to get out of the country. We decked every available area of the ship with Jacks and were overflown a number of times by Migs. The refugees were multi national and were moving up and down the coast, as we went north they would go south and so on for four days, at the time the ship was all prepared for bringing them on board ie extra food etc. We were in constant radio contact with shore but could not arrange a rv. In the end we were down to four tons of fuel and had to do a RAS static. We never took any refugees on board but the incident was cause for big discussion in Parliament". (See: Graham Kelsey's Memories of HMS Lowestoft). Between 1975 and 1976 Lowestoft undertook further Cod War patrols. On February 18th 1976 she collided with the Icelandic Gunboat Thor and returned to Portsmouth for repairs (See: Graham Kelsey's Memories of HMS Lowestoft). In 1978 an industrial dispute at Portsmouth led to her undergoing a refit at Falmouth. Between 1977 and 1981 Lowestoft acted as a Sonar Trials Ship, carrying monitoring equipment on her flight deck. Among the machinery she evaluated was the Type 2031 ‘I’ Towed Array Sonar. In 1982 her flight deck was restored for helicopter operations once again, in anticipation of her new role as Gibraltar gaurdship. On May? 11th 1982 Lowestoft provided a gun salute in the Solent for the requisitioned liner Queen Elizabeth II, as it brought survivors from Ardent, Antelope and Coventry home from the Falklands. Lowestoft paid off in March 1985 and her experimental Type 2031 ‘I’ Towed Array Sonar was removed and fitted to Leander Class Frigate Arethusa. On June 8th 1986 Lowestoft was sunk by Mk24 Tigerfish torpedo fired from Churchill Class nuclear submarine Conqueror.(See also: Sinking the Type 12 Frigates).
Berwick In 1966 Berwick undertook the Beira Patrol and on April 10th she intercepted and boarded the tanker Manuela, forcing her to turn around. Between 1969 and 1971 Berwick underwent modernisation at Chatham Dockyard. In November 1971 she was onhand off the volcano threatened island of St Vincent. Berwick undertook Cod War Patrols between 1972 and 1973. In 1977 Berwick attended the Silver Jubilee Review at Spithead along with sisterships Rothesay and Plymouth. On May 26th 1982 Berwick was withdrawn from the Standby Squadron and prepared for service at Chatham Dockyard. In 1983 she attended the independence celebrations of St Kitts and Nevis. Berwick paid off on October 18th 1985 and was towed from Portsmouth on August 18th 1986 for use as a target. She was sunk by a Tigerfish Torpedo.(See also: Sinking the Type 12 Frigates). Doug Shaw recalls " I joined Berwick in 1963 on her second commission, spending several months in the USA before sailing out to the Far East.  Took part in the forcing of the Lombock Straits when President Sukarno closed off the Sunda Strat during one of his sabre rattling episodes." 
Plymouth HMS Plymouth was launched by Nancy, Viscountess Astor. In 1965 and 1970 she undertook Beira Patrols. Between 1966 and 1969 she underwent conversion at Chatham. In 1977 Plymouth was present at Spithead for the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review. Plymouth participated in the 1982 Falklands Conflict. She sailed with Tide Class Tanker RFA Tidepool and County Class Destroyer HMS Antrim to South Georgia with Royal Marines and SAS aboard. She then provided naval gunfire bombardment during the retaking of the island and it was in her wardroom that Lieutenant Commander Astiz signed the surrender document on March 20th. Plymouth was then assigned to provide cover for the aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels and was the first vessel to enter San Carlos Water. On May 21st she came to the assistance of the bomb damaged Leander Class Frigate Argonaut. Plymouth was attacked herself on June 8th by five Mirage aircraft. Although she managed to destroy two and damage another two, Plymouth was hit by four bombs and numerous shells. One shell hit her flight deck, detonating a depth charge and starting a fire. Another bomb entered her funnel and failed to explode, whilst the other two destroyed her anti-submarine mortar but also failed to explode. Five men were injured in the attack and Plymouth was assisted in putting the fires out by HMS Avenger. She then underwent emergency repairs from the Stena Seaspread before rejoining the fleet. After the surrender of Stanley, Plymouth was the first ship to enter Stanley Harbour. Plymouth left the Falklands with County Class Destroyer Glamorgan on June 21st, and returned to Rosyth on July 14th where she underwent full repairs. She had steamed 34,000 miles, fired over nine hundred 4.5 inch shells and destroyed five enemy aircraft. On 11th March 1984 Plymouth collided with the German frigate Braunschweig. In 1986 she suffered a fire in her boiler room killing two people and requiring repairs at Rosyth. Plymouth decommissioned on April 28th 1988, and was the last Type 12 in service. It was likely that Plymouth would have eventually been sunk at sea as a missile or torpedo target, or failing that, been sold for breaking up. However a dedicated group of volunteers, including Dr David Owen (former Devonport MP) campaigned to have her preserved for public display. She was opened to the public on an experimental basis for one year at Trinity Pier, Millbay Docks, Plymouth. She was bought by the Warship Preservation Trust in June 1990 and towed to Glasgow for the ‘Glasgow 1990’ celebrations. In 1991 she was taken to Cammal Lairds for brief repairs before she was put on permanent display at Birkenhead.


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© Written and researched by Jeremy Olver. First uploaded 26th December 2000. Updated 23rd January 2001. Disclaimer