HMSAS Wildebeest (TS-1935)


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The conversion of the two Lesotho type armoured cruisers to other duties in the late 1920's left the Southern African Navy shorter of training ships than they had thought they required. A lot of the crewmen from the UK who had transferred into the Southern African navy with their ships from 1920-26 had served their '20' and by the terms of service could retire with their benefits intact. To replace several thousand seaman fast coming into this category was going to require future planning if ships were not to be harbour bound due to lack of crew.

Like all navies, the SAN was short of cash from the recovery from the Depression. So to keep the new training ship as inexpensive as possible but as usefull as possible, second hand parts were to be used in the ships construction. The ship was also to be the biggest ship so far built by the Southern African Navy. The engines and 12" turrets were both second hand. The engines were the set that had been sourced for the conversion of Botswana. The main guns came from the pool of 12" twin turrets that were available from the conversion of the Agincourt and other 12" gunned battleships to other duties. Whatever armour that was fitted to the ship had been stripped off the same ships. Despite the bits and pieces fitted to it the Wildebeest was a fine looking ship with a modern cruiser style bridge and funnels. For all of its WW2 service it never left the Indian Ocean and its training duties. The highlight of its war being the tracking down and destruction of two of the Germanic States merchant raiders that were loose in the Indian Ocean. It was the Walrus aircraft and early radar that allowed this to happen. The aircraft allowed the ship to keep its distance while the aircraft interrogated the 'enemy' ship, passed the information to the Wildebeest which then checked the information with the Admiralty and either passed the ship as clean or detained the ship for further investigation using the large launch and boarding parties or sank it.

The Southern African Navy simply termed the ship as a Training Cruiser. It was too lightly gunned to be a battleship, and too slow to be classed as a battlecruiser. The lack of armour also meant that the ship was not built to fight enemy warships.


Displacement 14,000 tons std, 18,500 tons full load
Length 630 ft
Breadth 75 ft
Draught 24 ft
Machinery 4 shaft geared turbines, 34,000shp
Speed 24 knots
Range 8,500 miles at 14 knots, 3,000 miles at 24 knots
Armour 3" boxes around magazine and engine room

7" turrets, 1.5" belt, 1.5" deck, 1.5" secondarys

Armament 6 x 12" (3x2)

8 x 4.5" (4x2)

16 x 2pd (4x4)

11 x 20mm (11x1)

Aircraft 3
Torpedoes nil
Complement 900 + trainees



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