U33 Sloop, F33 Frigate and T/B Destroyer
List of Commanding Officers
Lieut Cdr. W.F. Hollins April 1945
Lieut Cdr. C.P. Norman Oct. 1946
Lieut Cdr. J. McG Haly June 1947
Lieut Cdr. P. Rothwell March 1948
Cdr J.C. Cartwright March 1952
Cdr. J.A. Eardley-Wilmot Sept. 1953
Cdr. S.A. Porter Aug. 1954
Cdr. H.P. Westmacott Dec. 1956
Cdr. J.W. Powell June 1957-Nov. 1958
Cdr. E.G.N. Mansfield Nov. 1958-Jan. 1959
HMS Opossum was built as a sloop of the Modified Black Swan type, but from June 1947, all vessels designed or adapted for trade defence duties were classified as Frigates, and she was reclassified accordingly.
Built and engined by William Denney and Brothers, Dumbarton, she was laid down on the 28th July 1943, launched on 30th November 1944, and completed on 16th June 1945.
The Opossum was allocated to the British Pacific Fleet, and after working up at Tobermory and other bases left Portsmouth on 9th October for Singapore and Hong Kong, arriving in December. She visited Sydney and other Australian ports in the summer of 1946.
HMS Opossum left Singapore on 11th October 1947 to return home at the end of her commission, and arrived at Portsmouth on 17th November. She was reduced to reserve, and refitted during 1949. In the spring of 1952 she was brought forward to relieve HMS Black Swan on the Far East Station, leaving Portland on 23rd May 1952.
The war in Korea had then been in progress for two years, and from the Autumn of 1952 until after the armistice was signed in July 1953, the Opossum took part in operations there. Among various other duties she made a survey of the Han river estuary in January 1953.
“HMS Opossum was awarded the following Battle Honours”
In July 1954 she was employed in bombarding terrorist hideouts in Malaya.
On 12th March 1955 she visited Phnom Penh. His Majesty King Norodom Suramarit of Cambodia visited the ship and inspected the ships company on the 14th. This was the first occasion that a British warship had steamed more than 200 miles up the Mekong River to the capital since Cambodia became a sovereign state in 1953.
The Opossum left Penang on 27th December 1956, for a tour of duty in the East Indies Station, based on Aden. Towards the end of January 1957 she visited Mukalla and Socotra in the Arabian Sea. At Socotra, early in February she embarked 91 survivors from a Dhow wrecked while conveying pilgrims travelling from Pakistan to the Holy Shrine of Mecca. These survivors many of them women and children had been left almost destitute in a small village on the western coast of the island. They were embarked at the personal request of the Sultan of Quishn and Socotra since the limited resources of the Socotra were not able to support such an influx of people. They were disembarked at Mukalla in the Eastern Aden Protectorate where their welfare was attended to by the local authorities. The patient and stoical manner in which they accepted the situation left a great impression on the ship’s company.
Capt. R.N. Stuart.
Later in that month she visited British Somaliland and ports in the Aden Protectorate. From 5th March she visited Perim, where parties were landed and pitched camp. Later in March she visited Mogadishu and Mombassa, returning to Aden on the 31st. In April 1957, following disturbances in Jordan, the Opossum left on the 13th for Port Sudan to be available at short notice, if required at Akaba. She arrived a Port Sudan on the 13th and came under the orders of the C in C, Mediterranean. Her services being no longer required on station, she left on the 21st and arrived at Aden on 26th April.
HMS Opossum recommissioned in Singapore on the 17th June 1957, carried out her workup and after a short spell in Polao Tioman sailed to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to carry out an exercise with the Pakistani and Indian navies called ‘JET57’ eventually returning to Singapore via the Andaman Islands then to Honk Kong then started her last major journey and returned to Devonport from the Far East via Singapore, Mauritius and Simonstown, on 22nd January 1958, she was placed in reserve until whence she was scrapped in April 1960.
The whole ‘Opossum’ June 1957 commission crew swapped ships during that last journey with the crew of HMS Mounts Bay whose crew sailed her home, the ‘Opossum’ crew then sailed ‘Mounts Bay’ back to the Far East, staying out there until November 1958, flying home on the Airworks trooping flights.
Although she was completed too late to take part in World War two. Opossum’s sister ships of the Black Swan class played a crucial role in the Battle of the Atlantic. Six of the class were formed into the Second Support Group in 1942, under the command of the legendary Captain Johnny Walker. This new strike force was given a roving commission, away from the convoys, to hunt U boats in their most vulnerable grounds. Usually the Bay of Biscay, or mid Atlantic where the U boats could surface out of aircraft range. Captain Walker’s own ship was HMS Starling, accompanied by Wild Goose, Cygnet, Wren, Woodpecker and Kite. They used unorthodox methods, hunting the U boats with three or more in line abreast. If the U boat took evasive action it would invariably come under the depth charges of one of the Sloops on either side. They became a lethal strike force and took a heavy toll on Donetz’s U boats.
The last surviving ship of the class is the ex HMS Whimbrel (U29). She not only took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, but was also part of the Royal Navy fleet at the Japanese surrender in 1945. In 1949 she was transferred to the Egyptian navy and renamed TARIK. There have several plans to ship-lift her back to the UK to be a Battle of the Atlantic memorial. However, as of July 2016 this has not happened because of the cost. There is an interesting article on this ship in the Newsletters section, Christmas 2007 edition.