Few villages can claim the distinction of having a Royal Navy ship named after them and for that ship still to be in service. But the village of Cattistock has that honour. Or, more correctly perhaps, the Cattistock Hunt has the honour because HMS CATTISTOCK (M31) is a Hunt Class Minehunter all of which are named after hunts. She is the third Royal Navy ship to be fortunate enough to bear the name of our village.
Launched in 1981, HMS CATTISTOCK is a mine counter-measures vessel whose role is to detect and destroy mines and other sea bed anomalies. Displacing just 750 tons and powered by 2 diesel engines she has a maximum speed of about 17 knots and a ship’s company of 45 comprising 6 officers and 39 ratings. She is of GRP construction with a minimal magnetic signature to safeguard her from magnetic mines. Mines are detected using very high definition sonar and destroyed by placing an explosive charge beside them.
The first HMS CATTISTOCK was a First World War minesweeper. In those days minesweeping was exactly that. Minesweepers towed steel trawl wires supported by paravanes with explosive cutting devices to cut the wires of moored mines which were then sunk or blown up by gunfire. There were no hi-tech sonars in those days. Mindful of the old naval adage “Every ship is a minesweeper – once” these ships were at least designed for the job.
The Second HMS CATTISTOCK (L35) was a World War 2 destroyer that served with distinction throughout the war. She was present off the Normandy beaches on D-Day and subsequently badly damaged by shellfire with many casualties. After repair she served until the end of the war. This picture shows HMS CATTISTOCK entering Hamburg in July 1945.
Fortunately we see quite a lot of our adopted ship. If in home waters members of the ship’s company attend both Remembrance Sunday and the annual Carol Service in Cattistock and recently they’ve turned up at the Knob Throwing too. It’s not just a one way street because there are often opportunities for villagers to visit the ship at sea and in harbour.
Some of you may well be wondering what our namesake warship, HMS CATTISTOCK, is up to in these strange times. I recently dropped an email to her new Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Chris Sharp, only to find out that within months of joining the Ship, he and the rest of his Ship’s Company will be leaving her in a couple of days. Chris’ team have been conducting operational sea training in UK waters, but will shortly fly out to the Gulf to take over operational duties in HMS CHIDDINGFOLD.
Confused? Well I’m not surprised! It seems that to optimise manning and maintain shore time for Sailors, the Royal Navy is introducing a new personnel model in its Mine Countermeasures Community, based around a rotation of crews for the four ships now permanently based in the Middle East. As a result, it would seem that each UK based Ship (ie CATTISTOCK) will only have a set crew for 4-6 months and thus our opportunity to build relationships with individuals will be very limited from now on I’m afraid.
That said, I have invited the soon to be new CO – Lt Cdr Fletcher to the Village to rekindle the liaison, and I await his reply. It is most likely however that the crew will rotate once again early next year.
The six ships in HMS CATTISTOCK’s class are small but extremely effective Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs) boasting glass-reinforced plastic hulls to conceal their presence from the threat of sea-mines. Their sonars are capable of detecting and classifying an object the size of a football up to 1,000 metres. These ships clear the way of mines to allow safe passage for larger forces, swiftly detecting and destroying any hidden dangers. Our affiliated Ship is alongside in Portsmouth conducting the crew-change mentioned earlier.
In the meantime, HMS CATTISTOCK has a Twitter feed, so you can occasionally see what the Ship’s Company are up to if you subscribe to their account.
For any further details, please contact Stewart Kilby