Sunday, June 28, 2009

Historical Photos Liberated – Seaward Defence Motor Launches.

Going Out On Patrol (1)

HDMLs were originally intended for the defence of estuarial and local waters against submarines but they proved such a sea-kindly and versatile design After the war HDMLs were adapted for other purposes such as surveying or were allocated to RNVR units to provide valuable seagoing experience for this important part-time navy. Some were sold to countries such as Burma, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and became the backbone of their smaller navies.

From the Royal Malaysian Navy roots in the Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve (SSNVR) in Singapore, harbour defence motor launches had been operated for seamanship and navigational training. These were built in by Thornycroft in Singapore specifically for the Straits Settlement RNVR were outside the normal Royal Navy numbering system for HDML’s. Instead the 23 metre boats received names instead with the first being HMS Penyengat and followed by HMS Pahlawan, HMS Panglima, HMS Penghambat, HMS Pengail and HMS Panji. HMS Panji was later transferred to SSNVR Penang after the branch was established although it seems that the HDML’s mainly operated in the Georgetown area on the west coast of Malaya. There was a number of casualties for the class during the war, these were HMS Penghambat, HMS Penyengat and HMS Panglima while the other three supposedly managed to escape to Burma to join the Burmese RNVR and survived the war.(3)

Thus it is no surprise that the first craft to constitute the Anti Bandit Patrol in June 1948 during the First Emergency consisted of 4 Fairmile type motor launches salvaged from the dockyard, refitted and rearmed with Oerlikons on bow and stern, twin Vickers machine guns on each side of the wheelhouse, and a Lanchester for each crew member. Two were sent up each coast, ML1335 and ML1336 west, ML1333 and ML1334 east, with a remit to stop and search fishing vessels and junks for illegal arms and immigrants. They were crewed (15 each) by the crew of the frigates which were in dockyard hands for a refit like the HMS Loch Glendhu and HMS London. ML1333 operated from Kuantan, halfway up the Malay Peninsular to Tumpat on the Siamese border, and spent her time going up rivers and checking off shore islands for gun runners to the Malaysian Terrorists, mostly coming from Siam. The craft were kept at sea during this period and were supplied by HMS Surprise and given information by Army Spotter planes. (2)


It is fitting therefore that these HDMLs were later progressively transferred to the Malayan Naval Force from the RN's 200th Patrol Squadron in Singapore from 1949 as per the records below, although at the time they were reclassified as Seaward Defence Motor Launches or SDMLs:

Pennant Number (EX) Built Transferred Name Deactivated

SDML 3501 (ex HDML 1081) 8.10.41 1951 Sri Kedah 1959

SDML 3502 (ex HDML 1105) 3.43 1949 Sri Trengganu 1970

SDML 3505 (ex HDML 1333) 15.9.44 1958 Sri Pahang 1965

SDML 3506 (ex HDML 1334) 16.10.44 1950 Sri Negeri Sembilan 1966

SDML 3507 (ex HDML 1335) 2.1.1945 1950 Sri Perak 1966

SDML 3509 (ex HDML 1336) 30.9.44 1949 Sri Selangor 1961

SDML 3508 (ex HDML 1385) 8..43 1950 Sri Kelantan 1965


As my second posting in the Historical Photos Liberated series, I hope you are happy with my presentation of photos of the SDMLs in action in the 1950s.

Notes :
1) Contributed By Daniel Spence, Sheffield Hallam University.
2)Related to me by Richard Lloyd, Editor of the HMS Ganges Association,

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