|Displacement||950 tons standard; 1,160 tons full|
|Machinery||Triple expansion reciprocating steam engine rated at 2,750ihp|
|Range||3,500nm at 12 knots|
|Armament||1x4in BL Mk.IX gun, 1x7.70mm quadruple Vickers .50 machine gun, 2x7.7mm twin Lewis machine guns, 25 depth charges|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
This article refers to the entire Flower-class; it is not about an individual vessel.
ww2dbaseIn January 1939, Mr. William Reed OBE of Smith's Docks Co. at Middlesbrough, England, United Kingdom was approached by the British Admiralty with a request for a design of a cheap and simple multi-role warship capable of being built in the multitude of small civilian shipyards not usually accustomed to building to naval standards. Smith Docks was highly regarded by the Admiralty because it had designed the Z-class whaler during World War I and was famed for its reputation for the construction of whale-catchers. Reed's resultant design suggestion was based on a larger version of the company's new whaler, Southern Pride, with a number of modifications. The length, for instance, was increased by 30 feet to give a higher speed, and two marine oil-fired boilers were to be fitted as these could be supplied in about 16 weeks instead of water tube boilers which would not be available for at least seven months.
ww2dbaseThe design was rapidly approved and, with war becoming ever more likely, a bulk order was placed with the aim of creating a viable anti-submarine force where none had existed before. The first order, for twenty-six vessels, was soon followed by others, and by the end of 1939 no less than 110 vessels of this kind were under construction at various shipyards around the country (including by some large ones, such as the Harland and Wolff yard at Belfast).
ww2dbaseAt the outbreak of war, some 180 Royal Navy ships were fitted with Asdic, the only known method of underwater submarine detection. Of these, 150 were destroyers, 24 were sloops and six were coastal patrol vessels. The majority of the destroyers were naturally required for fleet work and therefore not available for the protection of mercantile convoys. The sloops turned out to be unable to withstand the normal gales experienced in winter in the north Atlantic, leaving the coastal patrol vessels, later classed as corvettes, with such destroyers as could be spared from other duties, as the back-bone of Britain's escort forces.
ww2dbaseThe Flower-class corvettes, which began to be commissioned in mid-1940, proved to be remarkable little ships with a fantastic ability to keep going in weather in which other ships, such as destroyers, were unable to operate. Their crews however needed strong stomachs, for they rolled excessively in heavy seas and their general habitability was extremely poor. They suffered too from lack of speed - the four-cylinder, triple-expansion engine, as adopted, (simply because patterns for its manufacture were already in existence) was frequently some two or three knots slower than a surfaced U-boat and was well below the minimum of 20 knots required for anti-submarine operations as specified by the naval staff.
ww2dbaseLack of size was another drawback which meant that there was insufficient space aboard to accommodate the more sophisticated anti-submarine weapons and equipment as they were developed. Nevertheless from mid-1941 forward-firing hedgehogs began to be fitted and the number of depth charges carried almost doubled. With enlarged bridges, improved minor weaponry, radar, and an ever-increasing crew the vessels gradually became overloaded and had to carry permanent ballast, to the detriment of freeboard and seaworthiness. By the closing months of World War II the Flower-class corvettes had been improved as much as they could be. But even with up to six 20-millimeter mountings, they were relegated to the sidelines by the new emergency-built vessels now joining the fleet in large numbers.
ww2dbaseDespite their shortcomings the Flower-class corvettes gave sterling service in the Battle of the Atlantic and elsewhere. Although improved escort vessels, such as the Castle-class corvettes and River-class frigates would become available after 1943, the sturdy little Flower-class corvettes continued to provide the backbone of Allied convoy escorts. In total British shipyards would turn out 145 and Canadian shipyards constructed a further 121, many to a modified design. The Canadian-built variants had a greater displacement (1,015 tons standard, 1,240 tons full load) due to a greater typical crew size (96 officers and men) and a slightly heavier weapons load (1x4in BL Mk.IX gun, 2x2pdr 'pom pom' guns, 4x or 6x20mm Oerlikon cannon, 1x Hedgehog depth charge projector, 70 depth charges). Thirty-six Flower-class corvettes were lost in World War II, half to submarines, but they helped kill over fifty U-Boats.
Janeís Warships of World War II (Harper Collins, 1996)
Janeís Fighting Ships of World War II (Studia Publishing, 2001)
Corvettes (John Lambert, War Monthly Magazine)
Warships of the Second World War (Purnellís History of the World Wars Special, 1973)
Last Major Revision: Sep 2011
Flower-class Corvette Operational Timeline
|2 Jan 1939||The British Chief of Naval Staff called for a suitable coastal escort vessel capable of being fitted for minesweeping.|
|27 Feb 1939||The British Admiralty approved William Reed's sketch design for a coastal escort vessel requested during the previous month.|
|25 Jul 1939||The British Admiralty placed an order for 26 Flower-class corvettes under the 1939-40 Naval Estimates.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935