Ton-class minesweeper

The Ton class were coastal minesweepers built in the 1950s for the Royal Navy, but also used by other navies such as the South African Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. They were intended to meet the threat of seabed mines laid in shallow coastal waters, rivers, ports and harbours, a task for which the existing ocean-going minesweepers of the Algerine-class were not suited.

HMS Glasserton in 1987
Class overview
Name: Ton class
Builders: John I. Thornycroft & Company, Southampton
Preceded by: Algerine class
Succeeded by: River class
In service: 1951–1994 (Royal Navy)
Completed: 119
General characteristics
Type: Minesweeper
Displacement: 440 long tons (447 t)
Length: 152 ft (46 m)
Beam: 28 ft (8.5 m)
Draught: 8 ft (2.4 m)
Propulsion: Originally Mirrlees diesel, later Napier Deltic, producing 3,000 shp (2,200 kW) on each of two shafts
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 33


The design of the class drew on lessons learnt in the Second World War when it became apparent that minelaying in coastal waters was more effective than in the deep sea; the existing fleet minesweepers were not well suited to deal with this threat. Design started at the Naval Construction Department in the City of Bath in 1947 and the first ship was ordered in September 1950; the class eventually numbered 119 vessels. The lead constructor was John I. Thornycroft & Company, although Ton-class vessels were also built at fifteen other yards.[1] They were diesel powered vessels of 440 tons displacement fully laden, largely constructed from aluminium and other non-ferromagnetic materials, with a hull composed of a double layer of mahogany planking. Their small displacement and shallow draft gave them some protection against pressure and contact mines and allowed them to navigate in shallow inshore waters. Primary armament was one Bofors 40 mm gun, although the South African variants also had an Oerlikon 20 mm cannon behind the funnel. RN vessels also had the same but they were gradually removed and an M2 Browning machine gun mounted midships. Sweeping equipment was provided for moored mines and magnetic mines.

It was originally planned to name the ships after insects, with names like Red Ant, Green Cockchafer and so on, but this plan was abandoned in 1952 and the Royal Navy ships of the class were given names of British towns and villages ending in "-ton", hence the name of the class. The contemporary but smaller inshore minesweepers were originally to be named after birds, but became the Ham-class, after towns and villages ending in "-ham".[1]

Sixteen of the class were converted to minehunters[1] by the incorporation of active rudders and the installation of the Type 193 minehunting sonar and associated equipment, including a very welcome enclosed bridge (the exception being HMS Highburton which retained her open bridge until decommissioning in the 1970s, this actually becoming a source of manliness to her crew when meeting other Ton crews). These vessels only retained mechanical "Oropesa" sweep capability.

The Ton-class served as patrol vessels in Borneo, Malaysia, Northern Ireland and Hong Kong. The minehunters played a significant role in the Suez Canal clearance after the Yom Kippur war. They also provided the backbone of the UK's Fishery Protection Squadron (4th MCM).

With the rundown of the Royal Navy fleet in the 1960s, many were sent to become base ships for the Royal Naval Reserve allowing reserve crews to get to sea for short periods without a lot of effort to organise a crew of significant size. Some of these had their names changed to reflect the RNR Division they were attached to. Five of the class in Royal Navy service were permanently converted to patrol craft for service policing of Hong Kong's territorial waters in 1971. These vessels, comprising HM Ships Beachampton, Monkton, Wasperton, Wolverton and Yarnton had their minesweeping gear removed and were fitted with a second Bofors 40 mm gun aft of the funnel. They also received new pennant numbers: Beachampton P1007, Monkton P1055, Wasperton P1089, Wolverton P1093 and Yarnton P1096.[2] Two vessels were converted into survey ships, one an air sea rescue vessel and one a diving tender.[1]

At the start of the Falklands War in 1982, the elderly Ton-class vessels were deemed to be unsuited to the long voyage to the South Atlantic, so five deep-sea trawlers were hired and hastily converted into minesweepers, although the crews were largely taken from the Ton-class mine countermeasures flotilla based at Rosyth.[3]

The RNR vessels lasted until the introduction of the River-class minesweepers in 1984. The remainder of the regular RN ships began to be retired with the introduction of the Hunt-class MCM vessels from 1980. The last RN Ton-class ship to be withdrawn was also the last to have been built; HMS Wilton (M1116) had been built in 1971 - 1972 with a hull made of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) instead of wood. She was the first major warship in the world using this technology, which was used for all of the succeeding Hunt-class ships. Decommissioned in 1994, Wilton now serves as a floating clubhouse for the Essex Yacht Club at Leigh-on-Sea.[4]


Royal Navy

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom received 115 Ton-class minesweepers during the 1950s. Several were later sold or transferred to other countries.

Ship namePennantLaunchedFate
AlcastonM11025 January 1953sold to Australia in 1961, renamed HMAS Snipe, broken up in 1985
AldingtonM117115 September 1955sold to Ghana in 1964, renamed Ejura, broken up in 1979
AlfristonM110329 April 1953broken up in 1988
AlvertonM110418 November 1953sold to Ireland in 1971, renamed LÉ Banba, broken up in Spain in 1984
AmertonM110516 March 1953broken up in 1971
AppletonM11064 September 1953broken up in 1972
Ashton (ex-Cheriton)M11985 September 1956broken up in 1977
BadmintonM114914 October 1954broken up in 1970
BeachamptonM110729 June 1953converted to Hong Kong Patrol craft 1971 and pennant number changed to P1007, broken up in 1985
BeltonM11993 October 1955broken up in 1974
BevingtonM110817 March 1953sold to Argentina in 1968, renamed Tierra del Fuego, broken up in 1995
BickingtonM110914 May 1952broken up in 1988
BildestonM11109 June 1952broken up in 1988
BlaxtonM113126 January 1955sold to Ireland in 1970, renamed LÉ Fola, broken up in Spain in 1987
Bossington (ex-Embleton)M11332 December 1955broken up in 1988
BoulstonM11126 October 1952broken up in 1975
BreretonM111314 March 1955broken up in 1992
BrintonM11148 August 1952sold in 1997, broken up in 1998
BroningtonM111519 March 1953became a museum ship in 1989, being scrapped as of 2016[5]
BurnastonM111618 December 1952broken up in 1971
ButtingtonM111711 June 1953broken up in 1970
CaltonM111824 October 1953broken up in 1968
CarhamptonM111921 July 1955broken up in 1970
CastletonM120726 August 1958sold to South Africa in 1959, renamed SAS Johannesburg, broken up in 1989
CauntonM112018 December 1952broken up in 1970
ChawtonM120924 September 1957broken up in 1977
ChedistonM112120 February 1953sold to Australia in 1961 and renamed HMAS Curlew; used as a fishing vessel.[6]
ChilcomptonM11226 October 1953sold and broken up in 1971
ChiltonM121515 July 1957sold to South Africa in 1958 and renamed SAS East London
ClarbestonM112318 February 1954broken up in 1987
ConistonM11019 July 1952broken up in 1970
CrichtonM112417 March 1953broken up in 1987
CroftonM12167 March 1958broken up in 1987
CuxtonM11259 November 1953broken up in 1992
DalswintonM112624 September 1953broken up in 1973
DarlastonM112729 September 1953sold to Malaysia 1960 and renamed KD Mahamiru
DerritonM112822 December 1953broken up in 1970. The machinery and fittings were reconditioned and installed in the prototype Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) minehunter HMS Wilton, launched on 18 January 1972 and commissioned on 14 July 1970; Preserved 2001
DilstonM116815 November 1954sold to Malaysia in 1964 and renamed KD Jerai
DuftonM114513 November 1954broken up in 1977
DumbletonM12128 November 1957sold to South Africa in 1958, renamed SAS Port Elizabeth, broken up in 1989
DunkertonM11448 March 1954sold to South Africa in 1955 and renamed SAS Pretoria; broken up in 2010
DurwestonM120118 August 1955sold to India in 1956 and renamed Kakinada
EddertonM11111 November 1953converted to a survey vessel in 1964 and renamed Myrmidon, sold to Malaysia in 1969 and renamed Perantau
EssingtonM113426 September 1956sold to Malaysia 1964 and renamed Kinabalu
FentonM11352 December 1955broken up in 1968
FiskertonM120612 April 1957broken up in 1977
FittletonM113626 September 1956broken up in 1977
FlocktonM11373 June 1954broken up in 1969
FloristonM113826 January 1955sold in 1968
GavintonM114027 July 1953broken up in 1991
GlassertonM11413 December 1953broken up in 1988
HazletonM11426 February 1954sold to South Africa in 1955 and renamed Kaapstaad; broken up in 1989
HextonM1143June 1954sold to Malaysia in 1963 and renamed Ledang
HickletonM113126 January 1955transferred to New Zealand in 1965
HighburtonM11302 June 1954broken up in 1978
HodgestonM11466 April 1954broken up in 1988
HoughtonM121122 November 1957broken up in 1971
HubberstonM114714 September 1954broken up in 1992
IlmingtonM11488 March 1954sold to Argentina 1967 and renamed Formosa; broken up in 2004
InvermoristonM11502 June 1954converted to air-sea rescue vessel; broken up in 1971
IvestonM115114 October 1954became a sea cadet training ship in 1993; broken up in 2015[7]
JacktonM115228 February 1955sold to Australia 1961 and renamed HMAS Teal
KedlestonM115321 December 1953broken up in 1992
KellingtonM115412 October 1954sea cadet training ship in 1993, broken up in 2009
KemertonM115627 November 1953broken up in 1975
Kildarton (ex-Liston)M116223 May 1955sold in 1969
KirklistonM115718 February 1954broken up in 1991
LalestonM115818 May 1954broken up in 1985
LantonM115930 July 1954broken up in 1970
LetterstonM116026 October 1954broken up in 1971
LevertonM11612 March 1955broken up in 1972
LewistonM12083 November 1959broken up in 1986
LullingtonM116331 August 1955sold to Malaysia in 1966 and renamed Tahan
MaddistonM116427 January 1956broken up in 1975
MarytonM12033 April 1958broken up in 1969
MaxtonM116524 May 1956broken up in 1989
Monkton (ex-Kelton)M115530 November 1955converted to Hong Kong Patrol craft 1971 and pennant number changed to P1055; sold in 1985
NurtonM116622 October 1956broken up in 1995
OakingtonM121310 December 1958sold to South Africa in 1959 and renamed Mosselbaai; broken up in 1989
OulstonM112929 September 1953sold to Ireland in 1971 and renamed  Grainne, broken up in Spain 1987
OvertonM119728 January 1956sold to India in 1956 and renamed Karwar
PackingtonM12143 July 1958sold to South Africa in 1959 and renamed Walvisbaai
PenstonM11699 May 1955broken up in 1970
PictonM117020 October 1955broken up in 1969
PollingtonM117310 October 1957broken up in 1987
PunchestonM117420 November 1956broken up in 1977
QuaintonM117510 October 1957broken up in 1979
RenningtonM117627 November 1958sold to Argentina in 1967 and renamed Chaco, broken up in 2004
Repton (ex-Ossington)M11671 May 1956sold and broken up in 1982
RoddingtonM117724 February 1955broken up in 1972
SantonM117818 August 1955transferred to New Zealand 10 April 1965
SeftonM117927 November 1958broken up in 1978
ShavingtonM118025 April 1955broken up in 1987
SheratonM118120 July 1955sold in 1997
ShoultonM118210 September 1954broken up in 1981
SingletonM118318 November 1955sold to Australia in 1961 and renamed HMAS Ibis
SobertonM120020 November 1956sold in 1993
Somerleyton (ex-Gamston)M11391 July 1954sold to Australia in 1961 and renamed HMAS Hawk
StrattonM121029 July 1957sold to South Africa in 1959 and renamed Kimberley
StubbingtonM12048 August 1956broken up in 1989
SullingtonM118420 July 1955converted to a survey vessel in 1965 and renamed Mermaid; broken up in 1970
SwanstonM118510 September 1954sold to Australia in 1961 and renamed HMAS Gull
TarltonM118618 November 1955sold to Argentina in 1967 and renamed Río Negro
ThankertonM11724 September 1955sold to Malaysia in 1966 and renamed Brinchang
UptonM118715 March 1956broken up in 1991
WalkertonM118821 November 1956used as Dartmouth Training Ship (Britannia Royal Naval College) in the 1970s; reversed onto the Plymouth breakwater in 1977;[8] broken up in 1990.
WaspertonM118928 February 1956converted to Hong Kong Patrol craft 1971 and pennant number changed to P1089; sold in 1986
WenningtonM11906 April 1955sold to India in 1956 and renamed Cuddalore
WhittonM119130 January 1956sold to India in 1956 and renamed Cannanore
WistonM12053 June 1958broken up in 1982
WlkiestonM119226 June 1956broken up in 1976
WolvertonM119322 October 1956converted to Hong Kong Patrol craft 1971 and pennant number changed to P1093
WoolastonM11946 March 1958broken up in 1980
WottonM119524 April 1956broken up in 1992
YarntonM119626 March 1956converted to Hong Kong Patrol craft 1971 and pennant number changed to P1096

Argentine Navy

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
Chacoex-HMS Rennington purchased in 1967broken up in 2004
ChubutM3ex-HMNZS Santon acquired in 1967broken up in 2004
Formosaex-HMS Ilmingtonbroken up in 2004
NeuquénM1ex-HMNZS Hickleton acquired in 1967purchased in 1971 and broken up in 1996
Río Negroex-HMS Tarlton purchased in 1967
Tierra del Fuegoex-HMS Bevington purchased in 1968broken up in 1995

Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy bought six ex-Royal Navy minesweepers of the Ton class in 1961, and all were in service by 1962. Individual ships were decommissioned over the years until the final ship in service, Curlew, was decommissioned and repurposed as a civilian fishing vessel. Curlew had been updated as a mine hunter in 1967-1968 while the same treatment was given to Snipe in 1969-1970.[9]

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
CurlewM 1121ex-HMS Chediston purchased in 1961decommissioned in 1990, converted to civilian fishing vessel.[6]
GullM 1185ex-HMS Swanston commissioned 19 July 1962decommissioned 7 November 1969
HawkM 1139ex-HMS Somerleyton commissioned 18 July 1962decommissioned 7 January 1972, broken up
IbisM 1183ex-HMS Singleton commissioned 7 September 1962decommissioned 4 May 1984
SnipeM 1102ex-HMS Alcaston purchased in 1961broken up in 1985
TealM 1152ex-HMS Jackton commissioned 30 August 1962decommissioned 14 August 1970, serving as a training ship


Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
Ejuraex-HMS Aldington purchased in 1964broken up in 1979

Royal Hong Kong Police

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
BeachamptonP1007ex-HMS Beachampton converted in 1971broken up in 1985
MonktonP1055ex-HMS Monkton converted in 1971sold in 1985
WaspertonP1089ex-HMS Wasperton converted in 1971sold in 1986
WolvertonP1093ex-HMS Wolverton converted in 1971sold in Hong Kong in 1986 and converted to a floating restaurant; destroyed in a fire in 1991
YarntonP1096ex-HMS Yarnton converted in 1971sold in 1986. broken up in 1986


Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
Cannanoreex-HMS Whitton purchased in 1956
Cuddaloreex-HMS Wennington purchased in 1956
Kakinadaex-HMS Durweston purchased in 1956
Karwarex-HMS Overton purchased in 1956


Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
BanbaM1104ex-HMS Alverton purchased in 1971broken up in Spain in 1984
Folaex-HMS Blaxton purchased in 1970broken up in Spain in 1987
GrainneCM10ex-HMS Oulston commissioned 30 January 1971broken up in Spain in 1987

Royal Malaysian Navy

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
Brinchangex-HMS Thankerton purchased in 1966
Jeraiex-HMS Dilston purchased in 1964
Kinabaluex-HMS Essington purchased in 1964
Ledangex-HMS Hexton purchased in 1963
Mahamiruex-HMS Darlaston purchased in 1960
Perantauex-HMS Edderton purchased in 1969
Tahanex-HMS Lullington purchased in 1966

Royal New Zealand Navy

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
HickletonM1131ex-HMS Hickleton commissioned 10 April 1965decommissioned in December 1966 and transferred to Argentina as Neuquén in 1967 (sold in 1971)
SantonM1131ex-HMS Santon commissioned 10 April 1965decommissioned in December 1966 and sold to Argentina as Chubut in 1967

South African Navy

Ship namePennantAcquiredFate
DurbanM1499undergoing restoration at Port Natal Maritime Museum for exhibition as a museum ship
East LondonM1215ex-HMS Chilton purchased in 1958sold to an Italian film company
JohannesburgM1207ex-HMS Castleton purchased in 1959broken up in 1989
KaapstadP1557ex-HMS Hazleton purchased in 1955broken up in 1989
KimberleyM1210ex-HMS Stratton purchased in 1959
MosselbaaiM1213ex-HMS Oakington purchased in 1959broken up in 1989
Port ElizabethM1212ex-HMS Dumbleton purchased in 1958broken up in 1989
PretoriaP1556ex-HMS Dunkerton purchased in 1955broken up in 2010
WalvisbaaiP1214ex-HMS Packington purchased in 1959sold to the Walt Disney Company to portray the R/V Belafonte in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; Converted to private yacht in Dubai 2012[7]

See also


  1. "Ton History". The Ton Class Association. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  2. Critchley, Mike (1978). British Warships & Auxiliaries. Maritime Books. ISBN 0 9506323 0 9.
  3. Hoole, Rob (June 2007). "The Forgotten Few of the Falklands". Mine Warfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Association. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  4. "Wilton M1116". The Ton Class Association. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  5. "The Final Indignity". The Ton Class Association. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  6. "Chediston M1121". The Ton Class Association. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  7. "Iveston M1151". The Ton Class Association. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  8. "Three careers and a brush with death – but still a driven man". 29 October 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  9. Chant, Chris (1979). The World's Navies. Chartwell Books. ISBN 0890092680.

Further reading

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