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Dark Class Boats

Introduction by Philip Simons
(Lead Analyst, Audit Team, Lloyds Register. Fairplay Ltd)
With further research by Ted Else

A 'Dark' Class Fast Patrol Boat - illustration from the boys comic 'Eagle' (26th July 1958)

The "Dark" class, or Admiralty "Type A", were designed as interchangeable MTB/MGB's and were the first Royal Navy fast attack craft to be fitted with diesel engines. These were of course much less vulnerable that previous petrol engined craft and had a much-extended radius of action.

The boats were of composite construction, alloy framing with wooden decks and skin and could easily be changed into Torpedo Boat, Gun Boat or Minelayer configurations. Dimensions were LOA 71ft 8ins, Beam 19ft 5ins, and with a 'dry' Draught of 6ft 1ins. Normal complement were 15. Main Armament could be 4 x 21in Torpedo Tubes, or 2 x 21in with a forward mounted 40mm Bofors gun. A single 4.5ins Gun mounted on the forward mounting with a 40mm Bofors mounted aft or carry up to 16 Mines. Displacement was 50 tons standard, 64 tons full load.

Main machinery was 2 Napier Deltic 18 cylinder marine diesel engines delivering 5000shp = 47 knots. In later builds the Foden generator could be used to power a pre-engaged electro/hydraulic motor on the Starboard shaft for 4knot silent running. A total of 27 units were originally ordered by the Admiralty, spread over 7 builders including the design contractor Messrs Saunders Roe of Beaumaris, Anglesea Nth Wales, however due to a change in MOD thinking concerning Coastal Forces within NATO, nine were cancelled in 1955. One 'Dark Horseman', actually part built and on the stocks at Messrs McGruer (Clynder) but they completed Dark Hero P1115 launched March 16th 1957. Saunders Roe, the designers, built 6 for the Royal Navy. Dark- Adventurer (P1101). Aggressor (P1102). Antagonist (P1103). Avenger (P1105) Biter (P1104) with an all aluminium version (skin, frames and decks)- Dark Scout (P1120). They had 3 cancelled- Attacker, Battler, Bowman. (No Pennant numbers for cancelled craft). Messrs Saunders Roe also exported the all Aluminium version to- Burma (5 units- T201-T205), Finland (2 units, Vasma1 and Vasma2) Japan (1unit name, or number as yet unknown). This craft arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base on 29th July 1957, accepted into the Japanese Naval Defence Force on the 2nd September 1957 and given the Pennant Number of PT9, finally being ‘struck off’ in 1972. Messrs Vosper (Portchester) were contracted to build 7- Dark Buccaneer (P1108), Clipper (P1109), Highwayman (P1110), Rover (P1107) but had 3 cancelled- Chaser, Chieftain and Crusader. Messrs Taylor (Chertsey) contracted to build 2- Dark Fighter (P1113) Gladiator (P1114) Messrs Millar (St Monace) built 1- Dark Hunter (P1116) this vessel was the first actually launched (March 16th 1954) and not the class leader (P1101). Although 'laid down' first, that boat was launched in October 1954. Messrs Thornycroft (Hampton) built 1- Dark Hussar (P1112) having 2 cancelled-Defender and Explorer. The last RN "Type A" to be launched was Dark Scout (P1120) on March 28th 1958, one year after Coastal Forces, as a separate entity within the RN, officially ended.

List of constructed Admiralty type "A" craft
Showing Contractor and Launch dates - (Courtesy Ted Else)

Dark Adventurer


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

October 28th 1954

Dark Aggressor


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

December 9th 1954

Dark Antagonist


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

December 11th 1954

Dark Avenger


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

September 6th 1955

Dark Biter


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

June 23rd 1955

Dark Buccaneer


Vosper (Porchester)

September-30th 1954

Dark Clipper


Vosper (Porchester)

February 9th 1955

Dark Fighter


Taylor (Chertsey)

October 4th 1955

Dark Gladiator


Taylor (Chertsey)

December 5th 1956

Dark Hero


McGruer (Clynder)

March 16th 1957

Dark Highwayman


Vosper (Porchester)

March 29th 1955

Dark Hunter


Miller (St. Monance)

March 18th 1954

Dark Hussar


Thornycroft (Hampton)

May 16th 1957

Dark Intruder


Morgan Giles (Teignmouth)

July 6th 1955

Dark Invader


Morgan Giles (Teignmouth)

September 5th 1955

Dark Killer


Thornycroft (Hampton)

September-26th 1956

Dark Rover


Vosper (Porchester)

August 30th 1954

Dark Scout


Saunders-Roe (Beaumaris)

March 28th 1958

Cancelled Craft
No Pennant Numbers issued - (Courtesy Ted Else)

Saunders Roe

Dark Attacker



Dark Battler



Dark Bowman



Dark Chaser



Dark Chieftain



Dark Crusader



Dark Horseman

Part built


Dark Defender



Dark Explorer


Fast patrol craft from HMS Hornet (above) Dark Adventurer, Dark Aggressor and Dark Biter excercise at speed near Portsmouth in January 1957. (Crown Copyright)

HMS Dark Aggressor P1102 (above) firing a full salvo of four torpedoes. This unusual shot is believed to be the only one of such a firing. It was taken by Lt Sugden RN and appeared in the Sauders Roe Magazine, "Saro News". Quite a costly exercise even though they would probably be recovered after this test firing. (Photo courtesy of Ted Else)

Dark Antagonist (above)July 1957

Dark Clipper (above) at Radio Beacon premises, Malta 21st June 2001
(Photo courtesy of Ted Else)

T201 (above) was an aluminium version of the 'Dark' class and was one of five built for the Burmese Navy. The 7th Ferry Crew from 'Hornet brought her back from the Saunders Roe's yard at Beaumaris, Anglesea, in late 1955 and she is seen shortly before the first launch. It would have been about a fortnight after this shot was taken that the Ferry Crew arrived to take her on the first part of her long voyage to Burma. She was finally shipped as deck cargo on a freighter from Weymouth as was the two others of the class. Messrs Saunders Roe built other all aluminium Darks , but a decision by the Government of the day sounded the death knell for all UK Coastal Forces and the class as a whole had a very short career in the Royal Navy. (Photo courtesy of Ted Else)

T201 on sea trials (above) believed to be off Anglesea (probably with the RN 7th Ferry Crew aboard as we had arrived to see her first launch and was aboard for her subsequent initial sea trials and journey South to Weymouth. (Photo courtesy of Ted Else)

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