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Three Frigates - The South African Navy comes of Age (2nd Ed)

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Story of the President Class Navy Frigates in the South African Navy.

For nearly two decades the three President Class frigates acquired by the SA Navy in the 1960s dominated the South African maritime scene. These three ships - President Kruger, President Steyn and President Pretorius were ordered from Britain in the 1950s.

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Data sheet

Author Rear Admiral Chris Bennett
Cover Type Paper-back
ISBN 10 1-920169-02-4
ISBN 13 978-1-920169-02-2
Number of Pages 290
Size A4
Publication Date 1 June 2006
Illustrations/Photos B&W Images throughout
Binding Perfect Bound

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Story of the President Class Navy Frigates in the South African Navy.

“Three Frigates” - The South African Navy comes of age.

By Rear Admiral Chris Bennett, SA Navy (Retired)

For nearly two decades the three President Class frigates acquired by the SA Navy in the 1960s dominated the South African maritime scene. These three ships - President Kruger, President Steyn and President Pretorius were ordered from Britain in the 1950s in compliance with the requirements of the so-called Simon’s Town Agreement.

In this book we find out not only about the ships themselves but also some of the political background at the time of purchase that led to their acquisition and for the first time we can read of some of the political background twenty years later that led to them being sidelined whilst still in ‘their prime’ and very useful ships.

We also find out how the SA Navy developed from 1953 when “we were a ‘mickey mouse’ outfit” to 1963 when “we were a pretty professional set up and able to hold our own with the Royal Navy”. Considerable comment is also given in various sections of the book on some of those areas where the author believes that National, SADF and/or SAN policies or procedures hindered the proper operational manning and deployment of these fine ships.

For the first time in a book on the SA Navy the full story of how the Navy became part of the so-called ‘Border War’ during Operation Savannah and what the President Class frigates achieved in that operation is told.

The main story of this book is not about the tragic loss of SAS President Kruger on 18 February 1982, however this important occurrence in the history of our Navy does get serious attention and the author does try to explain what happened, hopefully in terms that the non-naval reader will also understand. He also gives some reasonably detailed comment, especially on the official findings of the formal inquest into the death of one of her ship’s company as a result of that accident.

There are also many other happier stories from the time of their building in the UK, and on a number of diplomatic visits made by them to Argentina, Australia and Europe. Then there are visits to our own harbours and such incidents as entertaining ‘Snow White, the seven Dwarfs and some twenty chorus girls’ onboard the President Kruger, and other stories about the multitude of different characters who served in these beautiful ships over the years, some strange, some tragic, but mostly amusing.

The previous Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Johan Retief, whilst still in that post agreed to write a foreword for the book, and had the following comment on it:

" I found the draft compelling reading and, from my knowledge, an excellent history of a most important phase of the Navy’s history. There are clear lessons to be learnt, stretching from how to man ships properly to how to name ships. … … … It is essential that these lessons be retained for future generations as we move back into a large ship era. "

and

"Conclusion. To repeat myself, I think you have done remarkably well. I have read the draft for contents only and not for style, I am not qualified to do that. I presume that you are discussing the matter with an editor. I enjoyed that the fact that you interspersed the factual history with anecdotes, it keeps one interested. Well done. BZ"

Note: BZ, or Bravo Zulu phonetically, is ‘navalese’ for ‘Well done’ and was inked in by hand. It originates from the NATO book of two letter signal codes and means ‘Well done’.

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