Kingfisher-class sloop

The Kingfisher class was a class of nine patrol sloops of the British Royal Navy built in three groups of three each during the 1930s, that saw service during World War II, mainly on East coast convoys in the North Sea.

HMS Shearwater
Class overview
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Grimsby class
Succeeded by: Bittern class
Built: 1934–1939
In commission: 1935–1950
Completed: 9
Lost: 2
General characteristics
Type: Sloop-of-war
  • Kingfisher group;
  • 510 long tons (518 t) standard
  • 680 long tons (691 t) full load
  • Kittiwake group;
  • 530 long tons (539 t) standard
  • 700 long tons (711 t) full load
  • Shearwater group;
  • 580 long tons (589 t) standard
  • 750 long tons (762 t) full load
  • 234 ft (71 m) p/p
  • 243 ft 3 in (74.14 m) o/a
Beam: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
  • Kingfisher group; 6 ft (1.8 m)
  • Kittiwake group; 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
  • Shearwater group; 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Complement: 60


The Kingfisher class was an attempt to build a patrol vessel under 600 tons, due to the lack of clauses on vessels this size in the London Naval Treaty of 1930. It was intended it would escort coastal shipping in wartime. Its small size and the resultant short range that this entailed (it was based on a scaled-down destroyer) rendered it unsuitable for open ocean work.

The design had a number of shortcomings: firstly, it was designed to too high a standard; constructed to full naval warship specifications and powered by geared steam turbine engines, it was not suitable for mass production; and, it was armed with only a single 4-inch gun forward and depth charges aft, which severely limited their ability to defend themselves, let alone their charges.


The woeful lack of defensive armament was addressed early in the war by adding a multiple Vickers machine gun on the quarterdeck in the Kingfisher and Kittiwake groups, as per the Shearwaters. As they became available, two single 20 mm Oerlikon guns were added, on single pedestal mounts on the deckhouse aft, with the useless machine gun being replaced later with a further pair of such weapons. Centimetric Radar Type 271 was added on the roof of the bridge as it became available, this was a target indication set capable of picking up the conning tower or even the periscope or snorkel of a submarine. Radar Type 286 air warning was added at the masthead. The ships that had the Mark V gun on the open mounting HA Mark III had a shield added to give the gun crews a measure of protection on the exposed fo'c'sle.


Kingfisher group

Kittiwake group

  • Kittiwake (L30) — built by John I. Thornycroft and Company, Woolston. Ordered on 21 January 1936, keel laid down 7 April 1936, launched 30 November 1936, and completed 29 April 1937. Sold into mercantile service 1946 as Tuch Shing.
  • Sheldrake (L06) — also built by John I. Thornycroft and Company, Woolston. Ordered on 21 January 1936, keel laid down 21 April 1936, launched 28 January 1937, and completed 1 July 1937. Sold into mercantile service 1946 as Tuch Loon.
  • Widgeon (L62) — built by Yarrow and Company, Scotstoun. Ordered on 13 January 1937, keel laid down 8 March 1937, launched 2 February 1938, and completed 16 June 1938. Sold for scrapping 1947. Widegon also had pennant number P62.

Shearwater group

In fiction

Nicholas Monsarrat, the author of The Cruel Sea, served in two Kingfisher-class sloops: HMS Guillemot in 1942 as First Lieutenant, and HMS Shearwater in 1943 as Captain, after they had been reclassified as corvettes. HMS Dipper and HMS Winger were fictional Kingfisher class corvettes in his stories East Coast Corvette (1943) and Corvette Command (1944)


  • Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
  • British and Empire Warships of the Second World War, H Trevor Lenton, Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-277-7
  • British Destroyers and Frigates; the Second World War and After, Norman Friedman, Chatham Publishing, ISBN 1-86176-137-6.
  • Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946, Ed. Robert Gardiner, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 0-87021-913-8
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