HMS Argonaut (F56)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Argonaut.
HMS Argonaut in the Potomac River in 1995
HMS Argonaut in 1995
Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Argonaut (F56)
Operator: Royal Navy
Builder: Hawthorn Leslie and Company
Laid down: 27 November 1964
Launched: 8 February 1966
Commissioned: 17 August 1967
Decommissioned: 31 March 1993
Honours and
awards:
Falklands War
Fate: Scrapped in 1995
General characteristics
Class & type: Leander-class frigate
Displacement: 3,200 long tons (3,251 t) full load
Length: 113.4 m (372 ft)
Beam: 12.5 m (41 ft)
Draught: 5.8 m (19 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers supplying steam to two sets of White-English Electric double-reduction geared turbines to two shafts
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 4,600 nautical miles (8,500 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 223
Armament: As built:
1 × twin 4.5 inch (114 mm) guns
1 × quadruple Sea Cat anti-aircraft missile launchers
1 × Limbo anti-submarine mortar
From 1980:
4 × Exocet anti-ship missile launchers
2 × quadruple Seacat anti-aircraft missile launchers
2 × single 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns
2 × triple torpedo tubes
Aircraft carried: 1 × Westland Wasp helicopter
From 1980:
1 × Lynx helicopter

HMS Argonaut (F56) was a Leander-class frigate of the Royal Navy. She was built by Hawthorn Leslie and Company of Hebburn. She was launched on 8 February 1966 and commissioned on 17 August 1967. On 31 March 1993, Argonaut was decommissioned. She was broken up a few years later.

Service history[edit]

1967–1982[edit]

In her first year, Argonaut had the honour of escorting the liner Queen Mary on her final voyage to the USA where Queen Mary would then become a hotel and museum-ship.

In 1971, Argonaut, like many other RN vessels, took part in the long-running Beira Patrol, an operation that was designed to prevent oil reaching Rhodesia via the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, due to Rhodesia having declared unilateral independence under the rule of Prime Minister Ian Smith in 1965, a move that was widely condemned across the world.

In 1973, "Argonaut" recommissioned, completed a six-week 'work up' at Portland, visited Brest in France and completed a stint as Gibraltar guard ship. Also, following Iceland's declaration of a 200 mile fishing limit, Argonaut carried out fishery protection duties for British trawlers inside that area.

In 1974, from mid January, Argonaut spent nine months as part of the group deployment, Task Group 317.1, led by Flag Officer Second Flotilla (Commander Task Group 317.1). The other ships in the task group were the County Class destroyer HMS Fife, the frigates of the 7th Frigate Squadron(of which Argonaut was one): HMS Ariadne, HMS Danae, HMS Londonderry, and HMS Scylla (Captain 7th Frigate Squadron), and two Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (one tanker and one solid stores).

"Argonaut" was one of the few British ships in the area that was not called upon to help evacuate British civilians after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus at early 1975. "Argonaut" joined the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (Stanavforlant) later that year.

Argonaut underwent Exocet modernisation between 1976–80, giving her a potent anti-ship capability.

In 1981, Argonaut deployed as the Armilla Patrol ship in the Persian Gulf, a deployment that had actually only been created the year before.

Falklands War, 1982[edit]

In 1982 the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina. An advanced group of British vessels began to steam towards Ascension Island on 2 April, a territory that would play a strategic part in the eventual liberation of the Falkland Islands. On 19 April, Argonaut, along with Ardent and two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Regent and Plumleaf finally headed for Ascension Island. On the 29th, the group finally arrived at Ascension, and on 6 May the Argonaut Group departed the island for the Falklands. On the 16th, the Group joined the large Amphibious Group centred on Fearless and Intrepid, and on the 18th the Group met up with the Carrier Battle Group.

On 21 May Argonaut, along with other destroyers and frigates, provided close escort for the amphibious vessels during the successful landing at San Carlos Water. On that day, Argonaut was attacked twice by Argentinian aircraft. The first attack, by an Argentinian Navy Aermacchi MB-339, flown by Lieutenant Crippa, caused some damage, including to her Type 965 Radar, while the second attack was launched by five A-4 Skyhawks call sign Leo, which hit Argonaut with two bombs. Neither exploded, although one killed two sailors, Able Seaman Iain M. Boldy [1] and Able Seaman Matthew J. Stuart, when it entered the ship's Sea Cat missile magazine, detonating two missiles. Plymouth came to the assistance of Argonaut and towed her away from immediate danger. Both bombs were still active, and it took some days to deactivate them. This was very risky work, as demonstrated on 24 May when Antelope sank after an unexploded bomb detonated while experts were attempting to deactivate it.

On 20 June the Falklands were liberated and the war was declared over. On 26 June Argonaut arrived home to Devonport Dockyard, where she underwent repairs for her battle damage. During the repairs, new sonar equipment was fitted.

1982–1993[edit]

Argonaut came into the spotlight in 1987, when Richard Branson, attempting to cross the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon had to ditch. Argonaut rescued Branson, retrieved his balloon and transported it back to safety.

In 1990, Argonaut was present at the 75th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, where many Government officials from a number of countries, as well as Gallipoli veterans, were present to mark the event. Three years later, on 31 March 1993, Argonaut was decommissioned, her long career now over. She was broken up two years later.

Commanding Officers[edit]

From To Captain
1970 1972 Commander J M Webster RN
1973 1974 Commander Casper William (Bill) Carnegie Swinley RN
1974 1975 Commander Christopher S. Seal RN
1979 1981 Captain Charles E T Baker RN
1989 1990 Captain John P Clarke RN
1990 1992 Captain William K Hutchison RN
1992 1993 Captain R P Stevens RN

References[edit]

Publications[edit]