As the war ended there were still a number of Algerines being built and these were allocated to two new flotillas. The first was the 3rd MSF based at Rosyth and comprised BRAMBLE (SO), MAMELUKE, MANDATE, MARVEL, MYRMIDON, MYSTIC, NERISSA and POLARIS, whilst the second, designated the 4th MSF comprised MARMION (SO), OSSARY, MARINER, ORCADIA, PLUTO, PYRRHUS, ROMOLA and ROSAMUND. In addition, FIERCE also built too late for the war, completed in November, 1945 as a M/S HQ ship for Far East service, was allocated to the Mediterranean to work with other Algerines, first in minesweeping and later as a part of the “Palestine Patrol”. NIGER was also completed as a M/S HQ ship and for a short time did serve with the British Pacific Fleet, but returned to UK in December 1946 to become HQ ship for BYMS flotillas at Sheerness. At the end of 1946 there were still eight flotillas of Algerines still operational plus FANCY, ROSARIO and SPANKER which were working for the Vice Admiral Commanding British Naval Forces in Germany. The remainder, about 30, were either in Reserve, already broken up or had been returned to the United States.
Those in the Mediterranean allocated to the “Palestine Patrol” included FIERCE, ROWENA, MOON, OCTAVIA, PROVIDENCE and STORMCLOUD. Although a number of destroyers, particularly the new “CH" class (CHEQUERS, CHIVALROUS, CHEVRON etc) and corvettes were being used for this work, the Algerines were considered especially suitable because they were able to go quite close inshore, were sufficiently fast and very manoeuverable.
The task of the Patrol in 1946-47 was to try and prevent ships carrying illegal immigrants into Palestine. In the main these immigrants were the released displaced person, victims of the Nazi concentration camps, Jews who wished to establish the State of Israel. This work was at times unpleasant and distressing to the crews of the naval vessels involved and a number of those taking part have described their feeling of disgust at what they were called upon to do. The ships used by the immigrants were often unseaworthy and totally unsuited to the transport of human beings, who were often crowded into holds without proper sanitation and inadequate food and water. One Commanding Officer has described it as a ghastly and horrifying experience one immigrant ship “with ordure everywhere even overrunning the ship, and dripping down the ship’s side … there was this ghastly stink and horribleness and I had to be very careful who I chose as guards (of captured ships) as I could not put very young and impressionable sailors, of which we had many, on board”.
The task of the minesweeping Algerines did not finish when war ended. There was still the enormous task of clearing the tens of thousands of mines from the Mediterranean, from round the coasts of Britain and the coasts of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany and Norway, a task to involve hundreds of minesweepers of all types and size. Although not now faced with the possibility of enemy sea or air attack, nonetheless the work was usually exhausting, often difficult and at times quite dangerous. The Algerines took their fair share of the burden.
One particular sweeping operation which fell into the difficult and dangerous category was Operation “Retail” on 12th November 1946 when the 5th MSF of WELFARE (SO) Cdr Q. P. Whitford), SKIPJACK, TRUELOVE, SEABEAR and SYLVIA covered by the guns of the cruiser ORION, swept the channel off Corfu where three weeks before the British destroyers VOLAGE and SAUMAREZ had been mined with heavy loss of life. It was thought that the mines had been deliberately placed by Albania in what was supposedly a clear channel with the express purpose of sinking British warships. The aim of the 5th MSF was twofold, clear the channel of mines and if at all possible to recover mines for examination. Both tasks were carried out. SEABEAR was the first to explode a mine and, altogether 32 were raised, two of which, with great skill, were recovered. On examination it was shown quite conclusively that they were newly-laid mines, and must have been in the water only a few weeks before VOLAGE and SAUMAREZ were hit.
By December, 1947 only two operational flotillas of Algerines were still in being, the 1st MSF at Plymouth comprising BRAMBLE (SO), MANDATE, COCKATRICE, MARVEL, MYRMIDON, MYSTIC, NERISSA and POLARIS, and the 2nd MSF led by FIERCE (SO) with CHAMELEON, PLUCKY, RECRUIT, RIFLEMAN, ROWENA, SYLVIA and STORMCLOUD.
Algerines as Fishery Protection Vessels
Between 1946 and 1959, a number of Algerines were converted to Fishery Protection Vessels, for which duty they were admirably suited, Changes were made in the armament, most replacing the Oerlikon (usually twin by this time) with the single 40mm Bofors, and all having the depth charge rails removed. The latest radar and sonar was also fitted.
The first to take part in Fishery Protection duties were LENNOX, WAVE and WELCOME, and for the next ten years the class formed the backbone of the Fishery Protection Flotilla, the title changing in 1952 to the Fishery Protection Squadron, finally in 1957, giving way to Type 14 anti-submarine frigates and “Ton” class coastal minesweepers. A total of nineteen Algerines served in this service, some for temporary short periods, others for much longer, such as MARMION (11yrs), WELCOME (11yrs), MARINER (10yrs), ROMOLA (10yrs), WAVE (8yrs), TRUELOVE (6yrs), COQUETTE (5yrs), BRAMBLE and LENNOX (3yrs). The HOUND had the distinction of being the last Algerine to serve in the Squadron (September, 1956 to March, 1959).
During her service with the FPS WAVE went aground off St Ives in September, 1952 having been caught in a gale whilst paying a courtesy visit. For a time it seemed as though she might finish up some way up the High Street, being almost a total wreck. Despite being badly damaged she was able to be repaired and rejoined the service some four years later.
During the period 1948 to 1958 a number of Algerines were taken out of reserve for short periods and used in the 4th Minesweeping Squadron. These included BRAMBLE, MANDATE, CHEERFUL, COCKATRICE, LAERTES, PICKLE, PINCHER, RATTLESNAKE and RINALDO, all of which at various times did a stint with the Fishery Protection Service.
In 1953 at the Coronation Review at Spithead the Algerines were well represented with 17 ships, 16 being British and glorying in the new title of “Ocean Minesweepers”, the odd ship out being the representative of Thailand (the PHOSAMTON ex-MINSTREL). But gradually the year of the Algerines in the Royal Navy was drawing to its close. By 1955 no operational minesweeping flotilla remained, only the Fishery Protection vessels and a few hulks in reserve.
Ships Sold Abroad
Between 1947 and 1958 fifteen of the Royal Navy Algerines were either sold or transferred to foreign navies. In addition, nine were returned direct to the United States Navy of which five were sold to Greece. Most of those going to other navies have now been disposed of, one of the latest to be broken up being LARNE (the Italian ALABARDA), which, after a period as a frigate became an orphanage ship based at La Spezia. The only positively known Algerine still afloat is PELORUS, now renamed PIETERMARITZBURG, and serving with the South African Navy as an accommodation ship at Simonstown. Despite exhaustive enquiries of the countries concerned the fate of POSTIILLION (Greek MAHITIS), ARCTURUS (Greek PIRPOLITIS), MARINER (Burmese YAN MYO AUNG) and MINSTREL (Thai PHOSAMTON) are all unknown. It is possible that one or perhaps two are still sailing the seas upon which their sister ships gave such valiant and praiseworthy service to the Royal Navy over a period of seventeen years of war and peace.