HMS Scylla (F71)
The British frigate Scylla (Right) and the French destroyer La Galissonniere (Left) underway during NATO exercises on 18 November 1978
|Builder||Devonport Royal Dockyard|
|Laid down||17 May 1967|
|Launched||8 August 1968|
|Commissioned||12 February 1970|
|Fate||Sunk as an artificial reef on 27 March 2004|
|Class and 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)|
HMS Scylla (F71) was a Leander-class frigate of the Royal Navy (RN). She was built at Devonport Royal Dockyard, the last RN frigate to be built there as of 2016. Scylla was commissioned in 1970, taken out of service in 1993 in accordance with Options for Change, and sunk as an artificial reef in 2004 off Whitsand Bay, Cornwall.
Construction and career
In early 1966, the British Admiralty ordered Scylla, a "Broad-Beam" Leander-class frigate, from Devonport Dockyard, at a cost of £6,600,000. Scylla was laid down on 17 May 1967, launched on 8 August 1968 and commissioned on 14 February 1970, receiving the pennant number F71.
On 22 January 1973, Scylla collided with the Torpoint ferry, one of three separate collisions involving four warships on the same day. Scylla's collision had occurred while on sea trials following a refit. While Scylla resumed her journey, the ferry sustained a three-foot (0.91 m) gash at the bow. A court martial in May reprimanded Scylla's commanding officer, Captain Peter Sutton. In May, Scylla was deployed with other frigates to support the Royal Navy's operations against Iceland during the Second Cod War. The frigate conducted patrols to counter Icelandic coast guard ships targeting fishing vessels. On 1 June, the Icelandic gunboat Aegir collided with Scylla, the first such incident to occur during the fishing dispute.
Fishing relations with Iceland deteriorated further in 1975, and the dispute escalated into the Third Cod War. From February 1976, Scylla began operating in support of British fishing trawlers. In May, Scylla provided the escort to the royal yacht Britannia during Queen Elizabeth II's state visit to Finland. Scylla attended the Spithead Fleet Review, held in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. During that review Scylla was situated between Berwick and sister ship Euryalus.
In 1980, Scylla provided support when Cayman Brac, part of the Cayman Islands, was struck by a powerful hurricane. Scylla went into refit in 1980, to provision the frigate with Type 2016 sonar, Exocet and Sea Wolf missile launchers, and a Westland Lynx helicopter. The refit lasted four years, and cost £79,692,000, rendering the frigate unavailable for service in the Falklands. After being recommissioned, Scylla acted as guard ship for the West Indies and patrolled the Persian Gulf as part of Armilla Patrol.. In November 1986 at the end of her first Armilla Patrol, she was the escort to Britannia during the Prince and Princess of Wales' visit to the Middle East firing a Royal Salute off Matrah, Oman and also visiting Jiddah. The Princess of Wales flew home from Hurghada and Syclla then escorted Britannia north through the Suez Canal and on to Akrotiri, Cyprus where Prince Charles disembarked. While on Armilla Patrol in late December 1987, Scylla and USS Elrod twice intervened after two ships, the Korean Hyundai No 7 and British Eastern Power, were targeted by Iranian gunships. After the Korean vessel had been attacked south of Abu Musa Island, Scylla's crew launched the frigate's Westland Lynx helicopter and evacuated some of the ship's crew.
In 1990, Scylla underwent a 10-month refit at Rosyth. By 1993, Scylla had become the last representative of her class in active service. The frigate's last deployment came that year when she deployed to the South Atlantic. By then she was showing her age, and it had become difficult for the ship's engineers to maintain. Scylla suffered steering problems while on patrol and collided with the accompanying tanker RFA Gold Rover. While Scylla suffered only superficial damage, Gold Rover had to have repairs for hull damage. Scylla was decommissioned in December 1993. In 1992, Scylla, with the commanding officer, officers and members of the ship's company in attendance, was granted the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.
Sinking and use as a dive site
The ship was bought by the National Marine Aquarium for £200,000 and on 27 March 2004 Scylla was sunk off Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, to form the first such artificial reef in Europe. The ship was 'planted' on a 24-metre (79 ft) sandy seabed at Coordinates: approximately 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the wreck of the Liberty ship James Eagan Layne, which has been a dive site for many years.
Within three months of sinking the wreck was colonised by sea anemone, mussels and scallops and by six months sea urchin and starfish were found in large numbers. By 2021, 250 species have been recorded.
In 2007 two amateur divers were killed after entering 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. Following a 2014 survey the National Marine Aquarium who manage the site advised divers not to enter the wreck and solely to undertake scenic dives.
In September 2021, two divers were presumed dead by authorities on the wreckage zone after they failed to return to surface after hours of rescue and localization efforts did not find them.
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- Ships Monthly (1993), Vol 28, p. 12.
- Clark, Daniel. "Missing divers off Cornwall coast presumed dead after exploring HMS Scylla shipwreck". CornwallLive. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
- "HMS Scylla - scuba diving Plymouth, Southwest England, UK, Europe, dive site directory". www.divesitedirectory.co.uk.
- "Silt blamed for dive pair deaths". BBC News. 17 June 2009.
- Nichols, Tristan (1 September 2014). "Divers told not to dive inside "dangerous" Scylla wreck". Plymouth Herald. Archived from the original on 5 September 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- "Two missing divers presumed dead off Cornwall coast". BBC News. 4 September 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
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- Roberts, John (2009), Safeguarding the Nation: The Story of the Modern Royal Navy, Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 9781848320437