n Journal for Contemporary History - Snelstomers : torpedojaers in Suid-Afrikaanse Vlootdiens, 1950-1975

Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



It is the purpose of this article to give a review of the role played by destroyers (those 'greyhounds of the seas') in the South African Navy (SAN), 1950 to 1975. In 1950 the South African Naval Forces (from 1951 known as the SAN), acquired its first ever destroyer, namely HMSAS Jan van Riebeeck (formerly HMS Wessex). She was followed in 1953 by her sister ship, SAS Simon van der Stel (formerly HMS Whelp). For more than a decade these were the largest and most formidable ships in the small but gradually expanding SAN. Both destroyers were in reserve from 1957 to 1964, but just when it seemed as if modern developments with regard to submarines and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) had left them obsolescent, they were given a second lease of life when they were rebuilt, from 1962 to 1966, into helicopter-carrying ASW ships. In this capacity, and also as training ships, the SAN's destroyers played a vital role in the development of the SAN until 1975, when they reached the end of their operational lives and were consequently withdrawn from service. In the article the history of the SAN's destroyers is throughout placed in context of both political and other developments at home as well as the Cold War internationally.

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