HMS Scylla (F71)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other ships with the same name, see HMS Scylla.
HMS Scylla F71 La Galissonniere D638 1978.jpeg
The British frigate Scylla and the French destroyer La Galissonniere underway during NATO exercises on 18 November 1978
RN EnsignUnited Kingdom
Name: HMS Scylla
Operator: Royal Navy
Builder: Devonport Royal Dockyard
Laid down: 17 May 1967
Launched: 8 August 1968
Commissioned: 12 February 1970
Decommissioned: December 1993
Fate: Sunk as an artificial reef on 27 March 2004
General characteristics
Class and type: Leander-class frigate
Displacement: 2,500 tonnes
Length: 113 m (371 ft)
Beam: 13 m (43 ft)

HMS Scylla was a Leander-class frigate of the Royal Navy. She was built at Devonport Royal Dockyard and was the last RN frigate to be built at the Dockyard so far. Scylla was launched in August 1968 and commissioned in 1970. It was the start of a long and eventful career that ended with her sinking as an artificial reef in 2004.


In early 1966, the British Admiralty ordered a "Broad-Beam" Leander-class frigate, Scylla from Devonport Dockyard.[1] Scylla was laid down on 17 May 1967, launched on 8 August 1968 and was commissioned on 14 February 1970, receiving the pennant number F71.[2]


HMS Scylla (right) and Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Odinn collide, during the Second Cod War

She came into to the public limelight in 1973 when she collided with the Torpoint ferry. That same year, Scylla took part in the Second Cod War during the fishing dispute with Iceland. She performed patrols against harassment on fishing boats by any Icelandic vessels. During that conflict, Scylla was rammed by the Icelandic gunboat Aegir, a vessel that took part in a number of incidents with British vessels over the years.

In 1975, Scylla was again in action against Iceland during the Third Cod War due to further fishing disputes. She once again patrolled against harassment to British fishing trawlers by Icelandic gunboats and other vessels. In 1976, Scylla performed royal escort duties, and the following year took part in the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations, taking part in the Fleet Review at Spithead. During that review Scylla was placed in between HMS Berwick and her sister-ship HMS Euryalus.[3]


In 1980, Scylla performed humanitarian relief when Cayman Brac, part of the Cayman Islands, experienced a powerful hurricane. Between 1980 and 1984, Scylla underwent modernisation, including having Exocet and Sea Wolf missile launchers fitted, forcing Scylla to miss the Falklands War of 1982. She performed numerous patrols and guard ship duties, being used at times as guard ship for the West Indies, a duty still prominent for the present-day RN frigate, as well as patrolling the Persian Gulf as part of Armilla Patrol.


Her final deployment came in 1993 when she deployed to the South Atlantic as part of the British commitment to its territories in the region. By then she was showing her age, and was becoming difficult for the ship's engineers to maintain. While on patrol there, Scylla suffered steering problems and subsequently collided with the accompanying RFA tanker Gold Rover. Scylla suffered only superficial damage, though Gold Rover suffered hull damage which was later repaired. Scylla visited a number of ports across South America during her time there, before heading for the Caribbean on her way home. She entered Portsmouth for the last time, and was decommissioned in December 1993. In 1992 HMS Scylla, with the Commanding Officer, Officers and Members of the Ships Company in attendance, was granted the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.

Sinking and use as a dive site[edit]

HMS Scylla after her Seawolf-conversion, in 1989

In 1998, her sister-ship Sirius was torpedoed by the submarine Spartan as a target-ship, making Scylla the last remaining Leander left in the United Kingdom. She lay in a state of disrepair for ten years until 27 March 2004, when she was sunk off Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, to form an artificial reef, the first of its kind in Europe. Her last commanding officer, Captain Mike Booth, and former crew members were present during the sinking. Daniel Green, a keen diver and student of a local school who won a BBC competition to sink the ship, and David Bellamy OBE, had the liberty of pressing the plunger to detonate the ship. The ship was 'planted' on a 24-metre (79-foot) sandy seabed at 50°19.655′N 4°15.162′W / 50.327583°N 4.252700°W / 50.327583; -4.252700Coordinates: 50°19.655′N 4°15.162′W / 50.327583°N 4.252700°W / 50.327583; -4.252700 approximately 500m from the wreck of the liberty ship James Eagan Layne,[4] which has been a popular dive site for many years.

A lot of work was done to ensure the ship was safe and easy to explore inside, such as cleaning the oil from the hull to prevent marine contamination, and as expected, she has become a very popular dive site, situated some 40 minutes by boat from Plymouth. The bridge, rear helicopter bay and deck and the side passages are all visible. Additionally there were penetration dives possible, which had all been made safe for diving until a 2014 survey of the site suggested penetration dive operations be suspended.[5]

In August 2006 a team of marine biologists from the National Marine Aquarium and simulation experts from the University of Birmingham conducted a dive with a Videoray ROV onto the wreck of the Scylla. The dive lasted just over an hour, with the main purpose being to investigate the growth of marine life on the wreck and to collect data for a unique artificial life and serious game project, the Virtual Scylla addressing interactive educational tools for teaching climate change and ocean awareness.

Since then there has been a number of deaths amongst amateur divers visiting the wreck. There are fears that the continuing deposition close to the wreck of dredged waste from the Tamar estuary has led to large quantities of silt spreading through the ship and frequently mixing with the moving water reducing visibility, thereby preventing divers from finding their way out before their air supply diminishes.[6]

The sinking of Scylla has benefited Devon and Cornwall's economy, with a large increase in visitor numbers to the National Marine Aquarium and local diving schools reporting a large increase in divers wanting to experience the wreck.[citation needed]

Commanding officers[edit]

From To Captain
1972 1974 Captain Oliver P Sutton RN
1978 1980 Commander J D L Backus RN
1990 1992 Commander Malcolm Williams RN
1992 1993 Captain Mike Booth RN


  1. ^ Osborne and Sowdon 1990, p. 38.
  2. ^ Osborne and Sowdon 1990, p. 109.
  3. ^ Official Souvenir Programme, 1977. Silver Jubilee Fleet Review, HMSO
  4. ^
  5. ^ Nichols, Tristan (1 September 2014). "Divers told not to dive inside "dangerous" Scylla wreck". Plymouth Herald. Retrieved 5 September 2014. 
  6. ^