Halcyon Class Minesweepers

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HMS Scott - Halcyon Class Survey Ship

Although the original Halcyon design was for a fleet minesweeper it was also considered to be suitable for use as a survey ship. Four ships of Halcyon design were ordered to replace the Royal Navy's existing survey ships. Two (FRANKLIN and SCOTT) were to be used exclusively as survey ships, the other two (GLEANER and JASON) were designed to be easily converted to minesweepers should the need arise. In the event, both of these latter ships spent their war years as minesweepers. After the war they were replaced by SEAGULL and SHARPSHOOTER as survey ships. The following article
from the World Ship Society publication ‘Warship' - 'Surveying Sloops and Minesweepers - R 0 Morris' summarises the history of the Halcyon Class Survey Ships. For more information see the history of each ship.

     Halcyon Class Survey Ships

Sloops were to be designed primarily for minesweeping and simply fitted for their survey role. 

The fit for surveying was similar to the Convoy Sloops. No armament was to be fitted, though the Survey Minesweeping Sloops were fitted for but not with the standard Halcyon armament of 2 x 4-inch guns and small arms. A large chartroom was built at the after end of the forecastle deck, and the bridge was enlarged to make it more commodious for sextant angle fixing. A large derrick was fitted on the forecastle for handling survey beacons (floating marks like very large dan buoys). 

The two types could be distinguished at a glance by their masting. FRANKLIN and SCOTT the surveying ships, stepped their foremasts on the forecastle, rigging the beaconing derrick directly to the mast. 

HMS Franklin 1947 - Halcyon Class Survey Ship FRANKLIN 1947  HMS Scott - Halcyon Class Survey Ship SCOTT

GLEANER and JASON, the minesweeper conversions, though built in the surveying configuration, stepped their foremasts in the standard Halcyon position aft of the bridge, and carried a stump for the derrick in the W gun position. All, in their pre-war surveying configuration, carried pole mainmasts stepped just forward of the chartroom.  

HMS Gleaner - Halcyon Class Minesweeper and Survey Ship GLEANER 1937   HMS Jason June 1938 (as survey ship) - Halcyon Class minesweeper JASON 1938

The four ships were built as follows:  

Ship Built by Laid down Launched


GLEANER Gray, Hartlepool 17.06.1936 10.06.1937


JASON Ailsa, Troon 12.12.1936 6.10.1937


FRANKLIN Ailsa, Troon 17.12.1936 22.12.1937


SCOTT Caledon , Dundee 30.08.1937 23.08.1938


GLEANER, JASON and  FRANKLIN all started surveying in home waters in the summer and autumn of 1938, to be joined by SCOTT in 1939. FRANKLIN was the only one to serve overseas, working on the Labrador coast in the summer of 1939. 

JASON and GLEANER quickly reverted to general service on the outbreak of war. They were armed, and became to all intents and purposes standard Halcyons, and like their sisters were employed as much on escort duties as on minesweeping. FRANKLIN and SCOTT each received a single 3-inch AA gun in a bandstand for'ard of the foremast on the forecastle and a varied fit of small arms. They kept the big chartroorn aft, but lost their mainmasts to topweight compensation. They were employed on a variety of tasks, mainly in support of minelaying and mine clearance, but also surveying new fleet anchorages and bases in the United Kingdom and northern waters. One little-known exploit was that when BISMARCK broke out SCOTT was send ahead of HOOD and PRINCE OF WALES to check on the position of the edge of the pack ice off Greenland. Fortunately for her she did not encounter the German squadron. 

After the war FRANKLIN and SCOTT were quickly disarmed and restored to full surveying status. A minor distinction which identifies them post-war is that while FRANKLIN'S mainmast was restored to its pre-war position for'ard of the chartroom, SCOTT'S was stepped on the chartroom roof. For a period in 1946-47, while operating in the Thames with HDMLs attached to her, FRANKLIN had a heavy rubbing strake fitted on her quarters just above the waterline. Though SCOTT also operated with MLs at this time she was not, apparently, fitted with this. 

Though both JASON and GLEANER survived the war, neither returned to surveying. Instead, SEAGULL and SHARPSHOOTER were given to Hydrographer in 1945 and converted to replace them. They introduced the third variant in surveying Halcyon masting, since though they, like their predecessors, were fitted with a beaconing derrick and stump on the forecastle and maintained their foremast aft of the bridge, they did not have their mainmasts restored, so a Halcyon in surveying white and buff without a mainmast must be one of these later two.   

HMS Sharpshooter as Halcyon Class survey ship SHARPSHOOTER 1950 Chartroom added postwar

SEAGULL  HMS Seagull as Halcyon Class Survey Ship

SHARPSHOOTER went out to the Far East in 1946 to relieve the verminous converted yacht WHITE BEAR, and surveyed round the Malay Peninsula and Borneo for two years before the arrival of the first of the converted BAYS - HMS DAMPIER. Apart from this, all four spent the remainder of their days in home waters. 

SEAGULL was the first to go. Having spent the 1950 season with a reduced crew mainly in Torbay, she paid off that autumn, and was scrapped by Demmelweek and Redding in Plymouth in 1956. FRANKLIN was paid off at the end of the 1952 season and went to the breakers at Dunston, also in 1956. 

HMS Shackleton (HMS Sharpshooter) - Halcyon Class Survey Ship  HMS SHACKLETON

SHARPSHOOTER was renamed SHACKLETON in June 1953 to bring her into line with all the other surveying ships named after famous explorers and surveyors. At this time she was fitted with a topmast to her derrick stump to carry a forward steaming light, needed after the exemption of warships from the Collision Regulations for lights was written out in their 1952 revision. She soldiered on until 1962, when she ended her surveying season and entered Devonport with the Hydrographer embarked on 9th November to pay off for disposal. She was broken up at Troon at the end of 1965. SCOTT lasted two more years in service, paying off in November 1964 but preceding her sister to the breakers in Troon, arriving in June 1966.


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This site was last updated 01/17/12