Saturday, 9 April 2016

HMS Girdle Ness

During the early 1960s I was very keen on joining the Royal Navy, and my interest included knowing as much as I could about the various types and classes of ships were in service. Unfortunately poor eyesight meant that my plans never came to fruition ... but I still retain an interest in all things naval to this day.

At the time one ship that intrigued me was HMS Girdle Ness. She was the trials ship for the Seaslug surface-to-air missile system and was very much a ‘one off’ design. She seemed to have a very large superstructure for the size of her hull, and her only armament was a triple Seaslug launcher that was positioned ahead of her bridge.

HMS Girdle Ness began life as a repair and maintenance ship, and was one of twenty one such ships in the Beachy Head-class. They were all Victory-type ships (i.e. an enhanced version of the Liberty ship with more powerful engines and increased speed). She was originally named Penlee Point and was built by Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd. (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). She was laid down on 7th December 1944, launched on 29th March 1945 and commissioned on 6th September 1945.

On entering service Girdle Ness was used as an accommodation ship at Rosyth from 1946 to 1952, being placed in reserve in 1951. In February 1953 she was moved to Devonport Dockyard, Devon, for conversion into a trials ship. The conversion began in May 1953 and was completed in 1956, and Girdle Ness was re-commissioned on 24th July.

During her conversion the entire superstructure was removed and most of the forward part of the hull gutted to provide space for the missile launcher and its attendant magazines. When she was finally completed in her new guise she had a large, boxy bridge structure forward of which was a triple Seaslug launcher.

One of the reasons why Girdle Ness was chosen for conversion was a result of a 1950 Admiralty Ship Design Policy Committee recommendation. The committee proposed that three missile-equipped types of ship would be required by the Royal Navy:
  • A: Task Force Ship, capable of 30 knots, and armed with 2 x triple Seaslug launchers
  • B: Ocean Convoy Escort, capable of 17 knots, and armed with 2 x triple Seaslug launchers
  • C: Coastal Convoy Escort, capable of 12 knots, and armed with 1 x triple Seaslug launchers
The Girdle Ness was chosen to be a prototype for the Type C: Coastal Convoy Escort, although this idea was dropped before she came into service. (The Director of Naval Construction gave consideration to the conversion of light fleet aircraft carriers into A: Task Force Ships, but after initial drawings were made, the whole idea was dropped.)

During the course of her life as a missile trials ship Girdle Ness fired 209 Seaslug missiles. When the trials ended, she returned to Devonport and was paid off on 5th December1961. She was then reclassified as an accommodation ship, and after her return to Rosyth she was re-commissioned on 1st December 1962 and served alongside HMS Duncansby Head at Donibristle. HMS Girdle Ness was decommissioned in early 1970 and was scrapped in Faslane from August 1970 onwards.


  1. Very interesting History BOB of the HMS Girdle Ness- certainly the transformation completed in 1956 shows a completely different profile to the original- very modern lines for a ship that is near 60 years old. Regards. KEV.

    1. Kev,

      I always liked the look of this particular ship because it was so odd, and was sorry when she was sold for scrap.

      All the best,