August 23, 2021 – HMS Tamar and Spey may dazzle, but HMS Severn vanishes – that’s the theory as the patrol ship becomes the third RN vessel to revert to an historic paint scheme.
Ahead of her recommissioning ceremony in London on Saturday, the ship has received the ‘Western Approaches’ livery – as applied to U-boat killers through much of World War 2.
The combination of blue-grey and green-grey on a background of white and light grey was first applied to destroyer HMS Broke in 1940 and was subsequently ‘worn’ by ships operating in the namesake approaches – extending about 1,000 miles from the UK into the Atlantic – to make it difficult for German U-boat commanders to spot them, especially in heavy seas.
HMS Severn is the first vessel to receive the paint job since World War 2 and while radar makes the use of maritime camouflage largely irrelevant, it is a tribute to sailors of the Battle of the Atlantic who operated in the same waters Severn regularly ploughs.
“Dazzle paint is really World War I, designed to confuse the enemy through a periscope or range finder,” explained Commander Phil Harper, Severn’s Commanding Officer. “This scheme is designed to camouflage, to hide ships at sea.”
It was applied in Falmouth Docks by the same team who gave HMS Tamar and Spey their new/old look in time for their deployment to the Indo-Pacific region later this month.
By then, their first generation sister Severn will officially be back in the RN family.
Although the Portsmouth-based ship has been fully operational since July last year following comprehensive regeneration, she’s not been able to hold a formal recommissioning service; lockdowns and Covid restrictions have repeatedly scuppered plans, but her date on the Thames is now set in stone.
Severn was decommissioned in October 2017 after 14 years’ service, chiefly patrolling UK fishing grounds to ensure trawlers were sticking to regulations.
However, 12 months later she was later deemed too important to UK defence to be disposed of; in November 2018 the Secretary of State announced that she would return to the Fleet.
That she did last summer following a refit and regeneration. It’s the first time a Royal Navy vessel has been brought back to life since the Falklands conflict in 1982.
HMS Severn’s primary role in her second life is a combination of navigation training, protection of UK waters and fishery protection.
Since returning to active service she has conducted six Fleet Navigator Officer Courses and one Specialist Navigator Course, training over 50 navigators including international students from Chile and New Zealand.