HMS Birdham (M2785)

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History
Name: HMS Birdham
Namesake: Birdham
Builder: Jason Taylor
Launched: 19 September 1955
Completed: 5 March 1957
Fate: Sold 1980
General characteristics
Class and type: Ham class minesweeper
Displacement:
  • 120 tons standard
  • 164 tons full
Length: 106 ft 6 in (32.46 m)
Beam: 22 ft (6.7 m)
Draught: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Propulsion: 2 shaft Paxman 12YHAXM diesels, 1,100 bhp (820 kW)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 2 officers, 13 ratings
Armament: 1 × 40 mm Bofors / 20 mm Oerlikon gun
Notes: Pennant number(s): M2785 / IMS85

HMS Birdham was one of 93 ships of the Ham-class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Birdham in West Sussex.

References[edit]

  • Blackman, Raymond V.B., ed. Jane's Fighting Ships 1952–1953. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953.


References[edit]

  • Blackman, Raymond V.B., ed. Jane's Fighting Ships 1952–1953. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953.


Many of these minesweepers were built in the 1950s to counter a perceived threat from Russian minelaying aircraft, and when built they were laid up ashore in specially constructed buildings, the Clyde base being in the Gareloch, the site still being used as a boat storage facility although the stores buildings and some of the storage sheds have been demolished (2009). In the 1960s some boats were taken from storage and used for other purposes, many going to units of the RNXS (Royal Naval Auxiliary Service) which had evolved out of the RNMWS (Royal Naval Minewatching Service): this was a part-time organisation manned by civilian crews. The 'X' was used instead of an 'A' so as to avoid confusion with a Royal Naval Air Station. Vessels used by the RNXS were referred to as XSV (Auxiliary Service Vessel) and had black painted hulls. Two vessels used in Scotland and Northern Ireland were the XSV Tongham and the XSV Birdham. During the summer of 1967 the Birdham was returning to the Clyde from a training cruise when she suffered an engine room fire off Lochranza. Campbeltown Lifeboat was called out and they called in to Lochranza to board the part-time Arran Fire Brigade who had all been on the golf course! A new bulk carrier the "Gallic Bridge" was on trials nearby and stood by, providing additional extinguishers and taking off some crew members and a Navy helicopter attended. The engine room of the wooden-hulled craft was sealed, starving the fire of oxygen, and the craft towed to Great Harbour Greenock where the Fire Brigade attended and made the vessel safe. The skipper of the craft, Ian Crosbie was later awarded an MBE for Gallantry, the entry in the July 1968 London Gazette reading as follows: Ian CROSBIE, Section Naval Auxiliary Officer, R.N. Auxiliary Service. Mr. Crosbie was Skipper of the XSV "Birdham" during a training cruise when an electrical fire started in the engine room. Mr. Crosbie called a ship to his assistance and this vessel took off those members of "Birdham's" crew who were not required to fight the fire. Mr. Crosbie and four crew members then continued for four hours fighting the fire which was finally brought under control. The "Birdham" was then taken in tow and brought into Greenock eight hours after the fire had started. Mr. Crosbie displayed considerable courage in his handling of the fire in XSV "Birdham", which is a wooden ship and where there was a serious danger of fuel explosion. He put himself at risk, saved his ship and brought the vessel safely to port.

XSV Birdham was subsequently repaired and continued in use with the RNXS until these craft were replaced by Fleet Tenders.