HMSAS Natal (K 10)
Frigate of the Loch class
|Navy||The South African Navy|
|Built by||Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. (Wallsend-on-Tyne, U.K.)|
|Ordered||13 Feb 1943|
|Laid down||18 Oct 1943|
|Launched||19 Jun 1944|
|Commissioned||9 Mar 1945|
Laid down as HMS Loch Cree.
Handed over to South African Navy on 1 March 1945 and completed on 9 March 1945 as HMSAS Natal.
Her trials completed, HMSAS Natal - launched in 1944 as HMS Loch Cree - was granted a two-day postponement of her scheduled sailing-date. Her commanding officer, (Lt.Cdr. David Alfred Hall, DSC, SANF(V)) - had asked for this on grounds that his crew needed more time to familiarise themselves with this class of vessel. Most crew members - all volunteers - had not served in purpose-built warships before. They had come off tiny whalecatchers and trawlers, converted in South African ports to serve as a/s vessels or minesweepers.
About 0900 on March 14, 1945, HMSAS Natal sailed from the Tyne, bound for Scapa Flow in the Orkneys and then for the anti-submarine training base at Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Four hours later, with the crew still shaking-down and finding their way around their new ship, a southbound vessel, Sheaf Crown, signaled urgently that a merchantman had just been torpedoed and sunk in her vicinity. This was off the east coast of Scotland, and the position given by Sheaf Crown showed that the sinking had occurred just five miles to the north of HMSAS Natal, off the fishing harbour of St Abbs near the Firth of Forth. The frigate arrived there to find survivors of the sunken vessel - later identified as the Danish cargo vessel Magne - bobbing about in a lifeboat and several life rafts.
A veteran Royal Navy V & W destroyer, HMS Wivern, was on the scene, and while Lt-Cdr Hall was offering the assistance of his newly-commissioned vessel, the frigate made a positive submarine contact off the port beam, using her new-type `sword' Asdic scanning equipment (Set 147B) which allowed for a vertical as well as a lateral fix to be made. Loch-class frigates had also been fitted with `Squid' - a top secret ahead-firing weapon using depth-charge mortars - and this was now used with devastating effect, with the firing of two salvos of six mortars each. These brought up a quantity of light diesel oil and pieces of wreckage. HMSAS Natal suddenly lost Asdic contact after the second attack - in which more oil and a metal tank surfaced - and it was assumed the U-boat had gone straight to the bottom.
This was later confirmed when a hunter-killer group, sent from the Tyne and led by HMS Ascension, depth-charge blasted the sea-bed at the exact position of the attack - 55.57N, 01.57W - and brought a considerable quantity of U-boat flotsam to the surface. This included a hand-carved shield depicting a diving U-boat - a memento that was sent to `Natal' by C-in-C Rosyth who, with a Board of Admiralty headed by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, sent signals to the frigate congratulating her on her early `kill'.
HMS Wivern claimed a share in the kill, on the basis of a depth-charge `attack' she made later that day on an oil-slick 10 miles south of Natal's encounter with U-714. But this was discounted by naval authorities. It was later learned that the destroyer, with her outdated equipment, had at no stage been able to make Asdic contact with the submerged U-boat and that her depth-charge `attack' on an oil-slick later in the day had produced no wreckage. All the recognised authorities have credited HMSAS Natal solely with this successful attack. HMSAS Natal's feat so soon after commissioning was described at the time as "unique in the annals of the Royal Navy".
The ship received an RN battle honour (`North Sea 1945'), and a number of individual decorations were awarded, including a Bar to Lt-Cdr Hall's DSC, won for gallantry in the Mediterranean.
HMSAS Natal had an active role in the closing stages of the Battle of the Atlantic, as part of the RN's 8th Escort Group, after which she was sent to the Far East where in mid-1945 she took part in Operation Zipper - the Allied reoccupation of Malaya, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies. After a long and distinguished career - the latter part of it as the SA Navy's hydrographic survey vessel - the 27-year-old `Natal' was finally towed south of Cape Point in 1972, and sunk as a gunnery target.
|Former name||HMS Loch Cree|
Commands listed for HMSAS Natal (K 10)
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|1||T/Lt.Cdr. David Alfred Hall, DSC, SANF(V)||Early 1945|
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Notable events involving Natal include:
14 Mar 1945
German U-boat U-714 was sunk in the North Sea near the Firth of Forth, in position 55°57'N, 01°57'W, by depth charges from the South African frigate HMSAS Natal and the British destroyer HMS Wivern.