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. The ship was to be the biggest ship so far built by the Southern African Navy. The 12" turrets were second hand and sourced from the Australis Navy from their conversion of the Agincourt (14x12") to the aircraft Carrier Van Diemen. The turrets were refurbished to increase elevation and thus range (from 16 degrees/20,000 yards to 30 degrees/28,000 yards).  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 in the battleship/battlecruiser category, it fitted nicely into the CB designation. The lack of heavy armour showed it was not meant to take on ships of capital rank. Something like a Deutschland class pocket battleship would have been a good match.


Displacement 17,000 tons std, 20,500 tons full load
Length 639 ft
Breadth 75 ft
Draught 24 ft
Machinery 4 shaft geared turbines, 60,000shp
Speed 27 knots
Range 8,500 miles at 14 knots, 2,500 miles at 26 knots

5.5" belt, 3" deck, 7"/5" turrets, 1.5" secondarys

Armament As built
6 x 12" (3x2)
10 x 4.5" (5x2)
12 x 2pd (3x4)
4 x 20mm (4x1)
8 x 0.5"mg (2x4)
As refitted to 1941
6 x 12" (3x2)
10 x 4.5" (5x2)
16 x 2pd (1x8, 2x4)
22 x 20mm (4x2, 14x1)
Aircraft 3
Torpedoes 6 x 21" (2x3) removed 1941
Complement 800 + trainees
Notes HMSAS Wildebeest (1935) stricken from Navy List 1960, scrapped 1964.


TS Wildebeest in its original configuration, with refitted parts looking more like mid 40's than completed mid 30's.


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