HMS Cavalier, Kent

On 20th February 1943 HMS Cavalier's keel was laid, and she was launched on 7th April 1944. An innovation of the time, HMS Cavalier was built, by JS White & Co Ltd on the Isle of Wight, with a partially welded hull for improved speed. Ready for action by November 1944, HMS Cavalier joined the 6th Destroyer flotilla, home fleet, and was soon taking part in several operations off the Norwegian coast.

In February 1945 HMS Cavalier was one of three destroyers sent to escort Arctic convoy RA64. The convoy came under attack by U-boats and aircraft before being scattered in hurricane force gales. HMS Cavalier assisted in rounding up the convoy and ensuring their safe passage to the Clyde, with the loss of only 3 out of the 34 ships. Due to her increased speed, HMS Cavalier frequently escorted the great 'Queens' whilst on troop ship duties.

After the wars in Europe and Japan had finished, HMS Cavalier underwent a refit at Portsmouth before relieving the 11th Destroyer flotilla in Jarva. Returning to Britain in the summer of '46, she was reduced to reserve. During the mid 1950s HMS Cavalier had her armament upgraded, and again found herself serving in the Far East, off Singapore. Whilst returning from Australia in December 1962, HMS Cavalier was ordered to the Far East once again, her third time in two decades. This time she assisted in defending the kingdom of the Sultan of Brunei, where a rebellion had broken out over the proposed formation of Malaysia.

Back on home territory, HMS Cavalier was on exercises in the Bristol channel during the summer of 1970 when she intercepted an SOS call from a coaster that had caught fire and subsequently been abandoned by its crew. Battling very heavy seas, members of the ship's crew managed to board the stricken vessel and attach a towing hawser. The vessel, thought to be sinking, was towed safely in to Milford Haven where the ship's company received a salvage award of £11,000 for their efforts.

Achieving her place in the record books the following summer, HMS Cavalier narrowly won a race with the frigate HMS Rapid, over a 64 mile course on the Firth of Forth, on 6 July 1971. Averaging 31.8 knots she was declared the fastest ship in the fleet. On 5 July 1972, after 27 years service, HMS Cavalier was laid up and returned to Chatham awaiting disposal. She was rescued from the breakers and moved to Southampton as a museum ship, a venture that unfortunately failed, as did a later move to Newcastle on Tyne to fulfil the same role.

Purchased by the Historic Dockyard, Chatham in 1999, HMS Cavalier now resides in dry dock undergoing restoration. Standing as a tribute to the men whose lives were lost in action with the Destroyer flotillas, HMS Cavalier maintains the honour of flying the White Ensign, although not a serving ship of the line. Guided tours are currently available over parts of the ship, but as the restoration progresses the public will be allowed access to other areas, once it is safe to do so.


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