ROGER Fry of Upwey has contacted us with an interesting story concerning the naming of HMS Osprey, Portland’s former naval base.

He also sent in the photograph of the HMS Osprey ship and her official insignia.

The photograph shows a modified Admiralty Whaler of the Z class – Z 12, launched by Smiths Dock Company, Middlesborough on September 10, 1915, and soon-to-be-named HMS Icewhale.

Mr Fry said: “Only 133 feet overall, 336 tons displacement and capable of 13 knots from a single screw to a triple expansion steam engine, little did anyone then know the legacy this little ship would leave to Portland for over 75 years.”

During the First World War, she was fitted with a 12-pounder gun and with her 14 sisters, split into three flotillas, patrolled Scottish waters. But just two years after the end of the war, all but two were surplus to naval requirements and put up for sale and only HMS Icewhale and Cachalot were retained.

Depth charges, anti-submarine howitzers and hydrophones for underwater listening for submarines had originated during the war and this had led to an experimental unit at Portland Naval Base to develop ASDIC – Anti-Submarine Detection apparatus.

By June 1920, research on theses sets was sufficiently advanced to fit one each in HMS Icewhale, sister Cachalot, as well as patrol boats P31, P38, P40 and P59 for sea trials with submarines.

Mr Fry said: “Attached first to the old depot ship HMS Gibraltar, then sloop HMS Heather, those assigned to Portland were HMS Icewhale and Cachalot, P40 with two PC boats, 73 and 74 for sea trials, research and development continuing in a shed ashore in the Naval Base. This continued until 1924 when Captain S D Tillard RN was appointed to a new seagoing command, HMS Osprey to lead the First Anti-Submarine Flotilla, based at Portland.

“The photograph depicts Captain Tillard on the bridge of his new command, steaming towards Portland after submarine exercises – the forecasing of one can be seen beneath the ensign, as can the name Osprey on the ship’s stern. But surprisingly, this steamship is a modified Z class Admiralty Whaler – research has shown her to be our HMS Icewhale ex-Z 12!

“Not happy with that name for an operational anti-submarine flotilla leader, possibly Captain Tillard and certainly the Admiralty selected a more suitable ex-destroyer name to rename the Flotilla Leader. Not content with that and previously unheard of for a ship of this small size, their Lordships authorised the issue of the Sealed Pattern for an official Ships Badge that same year.”

In 1928, with growing importance of anti-submarine research and trials units both at sea and ashore at Portland, the whole HMS Osprey command was transferred ashore and Portland Naval Base inherited our little whaler’s name HMS Osprey and her Ships Badge.

The whaler herself was sold for breaking in October 1928. From that time and including the arrival of Flag Officer Sea Training and the RN Air Station in 1959, her name and badge continued in everyday use until closure of the Base in 1995 and Air Station on March 31, 1999.