HMS Tiger (C20)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
HMS Tiger (C20) in 1963.jpg
HMS Tiger before her conversion
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Tiger
Ordered: 1942 Additional Naval Programme
Builder: John Brown Shipyard
Laid down: 1 October 1941
Launched: 25 October 1945
Commissioned: 18 March 1959
Decommissioned: 20 April 1978
Fate: Scrapped, starting October 1986
General characteristics
Class and type: Tiger-class light cruiser
  • 11,560 tons as built
  • 12,080 tons after conversion
  • 555.5 ft (169.3 m) overall
  • 538 ft (164 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 64 ft (20 m)
Draught: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Speed: 31.5 knots (58 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (14,816 km) at 16 knots (29.6 km/h)
Complement: 716 (885 after conversion)
  • As built:
  • Four × QF 6 inch Mark N5 guns (2 × 2)
  • Six × 3-inch (3 × 2)
  • After conversion:
  • Two × 6-inch (1 × 2)
  • Two × 3-inch (1 × 2)
  • Two × Sea Cat quad missile launchers
Aircraft carried: After conversion: Four helicopters (originally Westland Wessex, then Sea King)

HMS Tiger was a conventional cruiser of the British Royal Navy, one of a three-ship class known as the Tiger class. Ordered during World War II, she was completed only after its end. The cruiser was later converted to a helicopter-carrying and guided missile cruiser in the early 1970s. She remained in service as such until placed in reserve in 1978 and was discarded in 1986.

Construction, redesign and commissioning[edit]

Tiger started out as Bellerophon; she was laid down in 1941 at the John Brown Shipyard as part of the Minotaur class of light cruisers. These vessels had a low construction priority due to more pressing requirements for other ship types during World War II, particularly anti-submarine craft. Bellerophon was renamed Tiger in 1945, and was launched, partially constructed, on 25 October 1945. She was christened by Lady Stansgate, the wife of William Benn, the Secretary of State for Air, and mother of MP Anthony Wedgewood Benn. Work on Tiger was suspended in 1946, and she was laid up at Dalmuir.

Construction of Tiger resumed, but to a new design, with Tiger becoming the name ship of the class. The new design was approved in 1951, but construction did not resume until 1954. The ship had semi-automatic 6-inch (152 mm) guns in twin high-angle mounts with each gun capable of shooting 20 rounds per minute, and a secondary battery of fully automatic 3-inch (76 mm) weapons which delivered 90 rounds per minute per gun. She had no lighter anti-aircraft armament or torpedo tubes. Air conditioning was fitted throughout the ship, and a 200-line automatic telephone exchange was installed. Each 6 inch and 3 inch mounting had its own director, linked to a dedicated radar on the director. Tiger was finally commissioned on Clydebank in March 1959.

Early career[edit]

The early part of Tiger's first commission was spent, under Captain R. E. Washbourne, on trials of her new armament. After workup, now under Captain R. Hutchins, Tiger went on a round of autumn flag-showing visits to Gdynia, Stockholm, Kiel and Antwerp. At the end of 1959 she deployed to the Mediterranean for a year as the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet. Rear-Admiral Michael Pollock flew his flag in her as Flag Officer, Second-in-Command, Home Fleet, from 1965 – 1966.

The ship took part in operations in the Far East during the Indonesian Confrontation in the early 1960s. In October 1966, the ship was visiting Cardiff at the time of the Aberfan disaster. The crew assisted with the rescue and recovery operation.[1] Later in the year she hosted talks between Prime Ministers Harold Wilson (UK) and Ian Smith of Rhodesia. The latter had unilaterally declared independence from Britain due to Britain's insistence on the removal of white minority rule. Tiger was placed in reserve in 1966 before undergoing conversion to a "helicopter and command cruiser" from 1968–72 in HMNB Devonport.

Conversion and later career[edit]

This reconstruction included replacing the after 6 inch mount and 3 inch mounts with a flight deck and hangar to operate four Wessex (and later Sea King) helicopters. Tiger also had new radars, Sea Cat anti-aircraft missiles, and taller funnels. She had excellent command, control, and communications facilities installed, and found use as a flagship to task groups. The refit was very expensive; some[who?] say the many millions to convert Tiger, as well as her sister ship Blake to helicopter cruisers drained much needed resources better used elsewhere. She was recommissioned in 1972. Her large crew made her an expensive ship to operate and maintain. When the economic difficulties of the early seventies came around, this led to a defence manpower drawdown that resulted in manpower shortages; although Tiger remained in service long enough to take part in the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II.[2]

The de-activated HMS Tiger at Portsmouth Navy Days in 1980, showing the large flight deck and hangar added in 1968–72.

Decommissioning and disposal[edit]

In 1978 Tiger was placed in reserve, and on the disposal list in 1979. Both Tiger and her sister-ship Blake were listed as part of the Standby Squadron, and moored inactive at HMNB Chatham.

When the Falklands War broke out in early April 1982, both ships were rapidly surveyed and it was determined both were in very good material shape, and both were immediately drydocked (Tiger in Portsmouth and Blake at Chatham) and recommissioning work was begun.

During reconstruction and in the following years, material cannibalised from Lion was used to patch both Tiger and Blake. Tiger reportedly had so much material from Lion that her crew nicknamed her "HMS Liger".

Whilst there was speculation that their 6-inch guns would be useful for shore bombardment, the real reason for their potential deployment was the size of their flight decks (the third largest in the Royal Navy at that time after the aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible), and the potential to use them as mobile forward operating and refuelling bases for Task Force Harriers. (Blake had already operated RAF Harriers briefly for proving trials in 1971, and Harriers had refuelled on Tiger). Their benefit would be more as platforms to extend the range and endurance of the Harriers and as a refuelling stop on the way back to the carriers, rather than as somewhere to operate offensive missions from, or as somewhere to place a pair of Sea Harriers as an extended-range CAP (Combat Air Patrol) ahead of the two carriers (and reducing their own exposure to air strikes), but the need to take off vertically rather than the use of a ski-jump severely reduced the Harriers' endurance and weapons carrying capability, and in late May 1982 after the loss of the destroyer Sheffield and the Argentian cruiser General Belgrano the refits were stopped.

There were also doubts about the two ships' self-defence capabilities, (the 6-inch and 3-inch armament had never been reliable) and this coupled with the large complement (and potential loss of life were one of the cruisers to be lost), caused much anxiety in the Admiralty. That, along with where to find 1,800 capable and qualified crew in a hurry at a time when the Royal Navy was already downsizing, sealed the two ships' fate. The UK simply could not afford its own Belgrano disaster, either materially or politically.

Although Chile showed a faint interest in acquiring Tiger (and sister-ship Blake), this did not get past the discussion stage, and Tiger lingered on, tied to a mooring buoy in Portsmouth harbour. Tiger existed in a slowly deteriorating condition until mid-1986, when she was sold for scrap. She was towed to Spain and scrapping started in October 1986.

Commanding officers[edit]

From To Captain[3]
1959 1959 Captain R E Washbourne DSO OBE RN
1959 1961 Captain Ronald E Hutchins RN
1961 1963 Captain William Wilberforce Graham RN
1963 1965 Captain Hardress L Lloyd DSC RN
1965 1967 Captain Geoffrey J Kirkby RN
1968 1972 Conversion
1971 1973 Captain Dudley T Goodhugh RN
1973 1975 Captain Michael L Stacey RN
1975 1976 In refit
1976 1978 Captain Simon Cassels CBE RN
1978 1978 Captain George M K Brewer RN


  1. ^ Jenkins, David (2013) [1993]. Shipping at Cardiff: Photographs from the Hansen Collection (2nd ed.). Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 9781783163229. OCLC 935680065. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Official Souvenir Programme, 1977. Silver Jubilee Fleet Review, HMSO
  3. ^