Somehow, yet again, I am in a mad rush, so this may lack some polish. If I get any time I will try and tidy things up a bit
Fremantle Class Frigate
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the fledgling Royal Westralian Navy was put under immense strain to meet operational requirements, worsened in the first two years of the war with the loss of the gifted destroyer Swordsman
and the newly built sloop Tryall
. Looking to remedy the RWN’s severe lack of combat vessels, the Willcock Labor Government instructed the Naval Board to examine potential solutions. A plan was formulated that would approach the issue from a number of angles, but with a general focus on massively increasing self-sufficiency in Westralia’s naval industry. Initially, to address the immediate losses, the Naval Board recommended to look to purchasing or leasing old destroyers from friendly or allied countries.
However, the main components of the plan involved the production of naval vessels within Westralia, beginning with license production of existing foreign designs (and importantly associated machinery, systems and weaponry where possible). Having identified a crucial need for escort ships to protect supply lines stretching across the Indian Ocean, the initial emphasis was to be on building destroyers and frigates. Most notably, this resulted in Westralia producing a small number of River
-class frigates and later Allen M. Sumner
More importantly for the future of the Westralian naval industry as a whole, however, would be a new class of escort ships almost entirely designed in Westralia. At first meant to be a derivative of the relatively simple Zuytdorp
-class of sloops, Westralia’s first indigenously built warships, design work on what would become the Fremantle
-class of frigates began in late-1941, just prior to Japan entering the war and opening up the Pacific theatre. Assisted by engineers from Great Britain, the design evolved over time, incorporating new technologies and weapons as well as lessons learnt in the manufacturing of the small number of River
The end result was a reasonably large ship for its class, being 104.5m in length and displacing 1,890 tons at standard. At some developmental risk, it had been decided to fit the class with a diesel-electric drive generating a total of 14,000shp through two screws, allowing the Fremantle
s to push 24 knots in a sprint whilst maintaining an impressive 11,000nmi range at a slow cruise. Notably, the Fremantle
-class was amongst the first ships to be fitted with the highly effective Squid anti-submarine mortar, serving as its primary armament in the anti-submarine role, though two depth charge racks and two throwers made up a secondary armament. In conjunction with this, it was fitted with Type 144 and 147B ASDIC and Type 277 surface search radar, making the class broadly comparable in capability to the Loch
-class frigates coming out of Britain.
A pair of twin 4.7inch gun mounts fore and aft made up the main gun armament, being the last vessels in the RWN to use the caliber before the service began its shift to standardizing with the US 5-inch gun caliber. Two twin- and two single- Bofors mounts filled out the anti-aircraft firepower of the ship, though many saw this as somewhat inadequate in the face of the Pacific theatre.
-class, despite having come into existence as a response to the pressures of the early war period, was introduced late into the hostilities, with the HMWS Fremantle
only being commissioned into service in October 1944. Overall, nine of the class would be built, with the initial five vessels being rushed into service before the end of the war, and three of those seeing combat in the Pacific theatre. Ultimately, the final five of the class would have drastically shortened service lives with the RWN, being completed following the end of hostilities and being sold off to foreign navies or scrapped. However, Fremantle, Busselton, Geraldton
would go on to become the backbone of the post-war RWN Frigate Force, seeing some upgrades in the 1950s along with deployments to the Korean theatre alongside RWN destroyers and the cruiser Westralia
Displacement: 1,890 tons standard
Machinery: Diesel-electric drive for 14,000shp through 2 shafts
Speed: 24 knots
Range: 11,000nmi at 11 knots