Source: Article in Military Modelling Annual 2, Argus Books
Ltd, Kings Langley 1975
‘HALCYON’ CLASS MINESWEEPERS- HMS ‘HARRIER’
Famous class and famous ship – a look at one of the ‘little
THE 21 ships
of the 'Halcyon' class were built from 1931 up until 1938,
just prior to the start of the Second World War. The first
ships were laid down under the 1931 estimates, with others
following in small numbers each year. The first seven ships
displaced some 815 tons, the next nine 835 tons, and the
last five had increased again to 875 tons, which was soon
increased by the addition of new equipment as the second
world war forced the Royal Navy to increase the potential of
all its warships, to cope with the threat of German aircraft
as well as the mine.
built in peacetime conditions, incorporated all the latest
refinements and equipment. Five of the class, (Gleaner,
Franklin, Gossamer, Jason,
were built as survey ships, but were rapidly re‑armed and
converted on the outbreak of war. They served in all
theatres of war, and almost all of the class found
themselves serving in Russian Convoys and, as will be seen,
they were continually modified as the war progressed.
is drawn in the large view, as completed on November 9,
1934. She has a main armament of two 4 inch guns, with a
secondary AA armament of a 2 pdr pom‑pom amidships, backed
up by four single .303 inch Lewis machine guns. The forward
mount was a Mk V gun on a Mk IV mounting, for high angle
anti‑aircraft defence, with the gun aft being a low angle 4
inch QF Mk V gun on a CP 11 mounting, the armament used for
the World War 1 destroyers of the ‘V' and 'W' class.
copies of the plans go to
Looking at the
drawing detail, start forward and work aft. The fo'c'sle is
a metal deck with steel footstrips, carrying the
steam‑driven anchor windlass. The main decking throughout
was 'Borneo' whitewood planking, 2 inches thick and 7 inches
wide. The decks were edged with teak margins. Moving aft is
the steel breakwater, with the forward seamen's mess stove
funnel close behind it. Then comes the high angle 4 inch
gun. In front of the bridge on the centreline is the
watertight hatch giving access to the seamen's and stokers'
mess below. On the starboard side is the watertight skylight
to the ship's sickbay, whilst to port are the ready‑use
ammunition lockers for the 4 inch gun.
the main deck level is the commanding officer's cabin,
pantry, and bathroom. Above these is the signal deck,
charthouse and wheelhouse, which also contains the engine
room telegraphs. At the top is the open navigating bridge,
showing the numerous voice pipes to other compartments as
well as the hydraulic depth‑charge release gear. At the
highest point is the gunnery rangefinder. Stowed on each
side of the bridge are heavy duty general service derricks
for storing and ammunitioning ship.
foremast is situated directly behind the bridge. Both masts
and funnel are raked at 11/8 inch per foot. At the foot of
the mast and slightly to starboard is the boiler room air
intake under which is the fan room. On top of this is a
locker for stowage of smoke shell. On the port side a
sounding machine is stowed, and the ladder for access to the
At the base of
the funnel are two watertight skylights to the crew's
galley, and on each side of the funnel are lumber racks for
stowage of wooden shores and collision mats, with lifebelt
racks stowed further aft. Further aft again in the deck is a
coaling scuttle for the galley fires, the ready‑use food
locker and a beef screen. Next is a bandstand for the 2 pdr
high angle pom‑pom, which is flanked on each side by a
Carley float. Behind these are 15 inch supply fan vents and
engine room skylights, followed by the 24 inch searchlight
platform, with rope reels stowed on the sides, and nearby
are the large 24 and 21 inch diameter ventilators.
wartime changes including single Oerlikon fore and aft.
Forward gun is trained to starboard. Note the scrambling nets
attached to the guardrails forward (above pendant number) and
on quarterdeck: these were rigged for rescue purposes (MoD).
decking has vanished from the bridge to the rear of this
platform, reverting to a plain metal deck without
foot‑strips, but having brown 'linoleum' (Corticene)
walkways along each side of the ship, between the various
obstacles on the centreline, and the sea boats. These are
two 27 ft whalers, and there is also a 25 ft motor boat.
Note that the two whalers are staggered, not directly
where the wooden decking resumes are more ready‑use lockers
for ammunition, lifebelt racks, and further aft the skylight
to the officers' galley, as well as the hatch, down to the
after lobby. Then comes the after gun mounting and behind
this is the wardroom skylight and wardroom stove funnel,
with the ladder down to the sweep deck.
– Harrier as built. Note the early type of 25 ft motor boat
with canvas canopies, and the dan buoys lashed neatly to the
mainmast shrouds (MoD).
On the sweep
deck beside the ladder, to port, we have a hatch leading
below to the ship's stores. The steam minesweeping winch is
then fitted on the centreline with two guide rollers behind
it, and astern of the starboard one is a small circular
hatch leading down to the steering gear compartment. Towing
bollards are fitted at an angle on each side of the rollers.
Four kite otter boards for minesweeping are stowed, two on
each side, against the splash plates, with Oropesa floats
inboard under the minesweeping davits. Only two depth
charges are carried, these being in two chutes right aft,
near the fairleads on each side, whilst at the centreline
right aft are sweep wire fairleads.
stowed in view on the upper deck include dan buoys on the
sweep deck and on the main mast. The semaphore apparatus on
the bridge, and large flag lockers stowed right aft at the
sides of the signal deck. The four Lewis gun positions are
situated, one on each side of the bridge, and on each side
of the mainmast. Other items include two potato lockers on
the port side behind the port whaler, which has a 16 ft
sailing dinghy stowed underneath it. The decks are littered
with the myriad of small details, hose racks, fire main
connections (painted bright red), mushroom vents from fuel
tanks, cleats, rope reels, voice pipes, bollards, and so on.
The watertight doors were the then new type of pressed
As can be seen the design carried a very
useful armament for the size of the ship, and was capable of
duties anywhere in the world. Her two oil fired Admiralty
three drum boilers and two‑shaft reciprocating engines of
1,770 IHP gave a speed of 16½/17 knots. The last five of the
class had geared turbines of 1,750 SHP giving a speed of 17
knots. The ship's company numbered about 80 officers and
men, and with the outbreak of war, and the chronic shortage
of escort vessels in the Royal Navy the class were soon at
work, screening the fleet.
constantly improved and modified, and so it was with this
class. By September 1939, with the outbreak of war,
Harrier had changed somewhat. She now had two high angle
4 inch guns, the after mount being replaced, and she also
had two quadruple. 5 inch machine guns mounted, one on each
side of the signal deck.
copies of the plans go to
drawing (assisted by the photograph) shows Harrier in
July 1942. The after 4 inch gun has been removed and its
place taken by two single 20 mm Oerlikons. The quad .5
machine guns are still mounted on the bridge wings, but a
type 271 search radar is mounted on the bridge. 1 have not
been able to establish when this was fitted, possibly
earlier that same year. Another new piece of equipment is
the direction finder frame fitted on a bracket forward of
the bridge, as well as depth charge throwers. The single 2
pdr gun aft has been deleted. One item not seen in this view
is the huge 'LL' minesweeping reel, fitted on the starboard
side at the forward end of the sweep‑deck. Thus she was
modified to be able to sweep all the current German mines,
both acoustic, magnetic, and the older type of moored mine,
for which the class had been built.
freshly painted in 1944. Note how bow is effectively painted
out’ against the sea. The LL sweep drum is covered up (MoD).
HMS Speedy in
1945, showing wartime changes. Note the later type of 25 ft
motor boat with wooden canopies. LL sweep drum is clearly seen
aft of fo’c’sle break (MoD).
of Speedy (J17) shows the fine lines of the class off
to good effect. Taken in 1945 we see that she has four twin
power‑operated 20mm Oerlikons mounted, two on the bridge
wings and two aft. Her steam minesweeping winch is covered
by a canvas screen with Carley floats stowed over the
framework. Her sister Britomart (J22) is similarly
armed, whilst their sister, Hussar (J82) taken in
August, 1943, has only single 20 mm Oerlikons fitted, two on
the bridge wings and two aft.
It is very
fortunate that these ships were able to accommodate the
weight penalties of this additional equipment. This was
achieved by deleting the 2 pdr gun and its bandstand, in
order to reduce top‑weight. The pole mainmast aft was soon
replaced by a short 'spreader'.
Fine view of
Harrier 1945, as described in text (MoD).
To return to
Harrier, we see her as in February 1945, as leader of
1st Minesweeping Flotilla after her refit at Leith. Her 'LL'
reel is plainly visible on the starboard side, and her
single 20mm Oerlikons are retained. She has an IFF
(Identification Friend or Foe) aerial mounted above her
covered 271 radar, with additional aids mounted on her mast.
Note, too, that her old stove pipe galley funnels have been
modified, being run up alongside the funnel, and to the
March 1943. Canvas dodgers are laced to guardrails abreast
forward gun. Close study of these pictures shows many varied
ships of the class were not quite as heavily armed as the
remainder of the class, particularly in the early years of
the war. But as will be seen the class on their small
displacement, was one of the most efficient minesweeping
escort vessels built anywhere in the world, having a good
antisubmarine and anti‑aircraft defence. Most of the class
names were of long standing, being given earlier to old
converted torpedo boat destroyers of the 1880s, these being
used just before the First World War as minesweeping trials
Eleven of the
class survived the war, thus almost half became war losses.
Franklin and Scott reverted to survey ships after the
war, being disarmed, and Sharpshooter (to be re‑named
Shackleton in 1953) and Seagull were similarly
disarmed and converted. I show my old ship HMS Scott as she
was after the war, in May 1946, painted white with a buff
funnel with her armament removed, and a full complement of
boats for survey work.
Last of the line. HMS Scott in 1946 painted in the white hull
and buff funnel of the ‘Survey Navy’, and fully refitted as a
survey ship. Note chartroom aft and merchant type foremast
NOTE; An updated version of this
article including revised drawings etc of Harrier by John
Lambert appears in Issue 230, May 2006 Marine Modelling
copies of the plans of HMS Harrier go to