LOW SUNLIGHT reflects off the steel flanks of three warships in Malta’s Grand Harbour and bounces of the water as brightly decorated local dgħajjes – a type of small boat, the design of which may date back to the Phoenicians – bob around them.
This is an interesting picture not just because of the naval units it captures but also because it gives an insight into a different life when Malta was more financially dependent on the Royal Navy than on tourism. (1)
Completed too late to see war service the aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (R 31) would see serve on loan with the Royal Canadian Navy, before being commissioned into the Royal Navy. It would join United Nations forces in Korea before becoming as a trials ship and testing many innovations destined for use by the Royal Navy. In 1959 the ship was commissioned as Argentina’s very first aircraft carrier. (2)
Another image taken at around the same time from the the air of the same three ships shows part of Warrior’s flight deck (ahead of the forward lift) stacked with stores a number of the carrier’s aircraft parked midships.
Behind HMS Warrior is the US Navy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA 134). It operated in the North Atlanitic and Meditteranean and was one of the last all-gun cruisers in the United States’ Navy. (3)
It was deccommissioned in 1961 and placed in reserve until it was taken to be scrapped in 2006. (4)
The final ship in the line-up (on the far right of the image) is HMS Gambia (C 38).
Affectionately known as FRED – Fearless, Reliable, Efficient and Dependable by her crew – HMS Gambia was a Crown Colonies Class light cruiser, a class of ship similar to HMS Belfast but differing in size and armour. (5)
Looking for a suitable example of the British MK XXIII 6-inch gun and its turret to add to the museum’s collection, a team from Imperial War Museum visited Portsmouth Naval base on the south coast of England in April 1967.
HMS Gambia was awaiting disposal and was looked over. While inspecting the ship the team realised that there was the chance to preserve a whole light cruiser and not just a single turret.
However one of the deciding factor in favour of HMS Belfast being aquired and preserved – first by the Belfast Trust which operated between 1975 and 1978 (6) and then by the Imperial War Museum – was that that ship was structurally in better condition than Gambia. (7) (8)
HMS Gambia went to be broken up in December 1968. (9)
(1) https://www.maltauncovered.com/culture/maltese-boats-luzzu/ – retrieved 13 March 2019
(2) https://www.militaryfactory.com/ships/detail.asp?ship_id=HMS-Warrior-R31– retrieved 13 March 2019
(3) https://www.goldstarmuseum.iowa.gov/about/ussdm – retrieved 13 March 2019
(4) https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/ca-134-program.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019
(5) http://hmsgambia.org/ – retrieved 13 March 2019
(6) https://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=268074&subid=0 – retrieved 13 March 2019
(7) http://hmsgambia.org/last.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019
(8) https://britainatwar.keypublishing.com/2018/11/30/hms-belfast-a-national-treasure/ – retrieved 13 March 2019
(9) http://hmsgambia.org/last.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019