HMS ABDIEL – N21
HMS Abdiel was laid down at Thornycroft’s Woolston shipyard on 23rd May 1966, launched on 22nd January 1967 and commissioned on 17th October 1967.
Designated by the Ministry of Defence as an “Exercise Minelayer”, her official role was to train Royal Navy personnel in minelaying operations using dummy naval mines and to act as a Forward Headquarters ship for mine clearance operations. She was, however, capable of laying offensive mines during wartime, although the policy of successive British Governments since the mid-1960’s has been opposed to use of sea and land mines by UK forces.
ABDIEL’s “vital statistics” were:
Displacement: 1460 tonnes full load, Length 265 ft, Beam 38 ft 6 ins, Draught 10 ft.
Propulsion: Two shafts driven by 18-cylinder Paxman diesel engines, 2,960 bhp
Speed: 16 knots.
Ships Company: 98, plus additional MCM staff for exercises and operations.
Navigational Radar: Type 978
Armament: Offensive 44 mines, Defensive single Bofors 40/60 cannon.
As well as laying dummy mines for many mine countermeasures exercises in European waters involving RN and NATO ships and then being the headquarters ship coordinating the mine hunting and clearance phases of those exercises, ABDIEL fulfilled her role as an MCM support ship in a few “live” operations; notably the two phases of Operation Rheostat, clearing debris and explosive ordnance in the Suez Canal in 1974/75 and on the Armilla Patrol from 1987 to 1988.
ABDIEL was “twinned” with Hartlepool and visited the port on several occasions, where the lifebuoy was presented to the town as a mark of friendship.
ABDIEL was paid off in 1988 and sold for scrapping.
After the disposal of ABDIEL, the Royal Navy had no dedicated minelaying vessel, although provisions were made for “suitably modified vessels” (primarily submarines) to undertake this task if required. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary CARDIGAN BAY acts as the Afloat Forward Support Base for RN Mine Countermeasures Vessels currently deployed to the Gulf.