Paddles left entire class at greater risk from enemy
HMS Cheltenham was one of 32 minesweepers of the Racecourse class built for the Royal Navy during World War One under the Emergency War Programme.
Designed to operate in Britain’s coastal waters, HMS Cheltenham and her sister ships were made of wood so as not to attract magnetic mines.
The vessels were also driven by paddlewheels which incongruously gave them the appearance of pleasure boats. The paddles proved problematic. In heavy seas the paddle boxes became chocked with water and slowed the ships to a standstill, not ideal when operating in U-boat infested seas.
Consequently, about a quarter of the Racecourse class fell prey to German submarines, among them HMS Ascot which had the unfortunate distinction of being the last Royal Navy vessel to be sunk by a U-boat in the war.
She was torpedoed near the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast. Happily, HMS Cheltenham survived. She was built in June 1916 on Clydeside by the Ardrossan Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, displaced 810 tons, was 235ft long, 29ft wide, had a top speed of 15 knots and a crew of 50.
HMS Cheltenham was in service until 1927 when she was broken up.