At the end of the Second World War it was generally accepted that the emphasis on mining
had shifted from deeply laid moored mines to ground mines laid in the shallow approaches
to ports and harbours. A design team was formed in Bath in 1947 and by 1949 had produced
two designs of an advanced concept for inshore and coastal work.
The onset of the Korean War and discovery of new, highly sensitive, Russian magnetic
mines accelerated production of the non-magnetic Coastal Minesweeper. The result was a very
sturdy and flexible craft, with a double mahogany hull over an aluminium frame, with nonmagnetic
fittings, capable of undertaking ocean passages, and able to sweep both moored and
Upperworks and many of the fittings were constructed from light aluminium
alloy and other materials with the lowest possible magnetic field, to achieve optimum safety
when sweeping for magnetic mines. The ships were protected from pressure mines by their low
displacement and the threat from
moored mines was greatly
reduced by their shallow
The ships were originally to have been named after insects, perhaps recalling the gunboats
on the China Station in the 1920s, but in 1952 this proposal was dropped and the TONs
were named after villages ending in “…ton” e.g. Coniston, Ashton, Houghton, Wilkieston, Fiskerton etc.
They were the last wooden warships to serve in the Royal Navy and were also its most
numerous class. 118 TONs were built and the design was adopted by other navies.
TONs saw action at Suez (twice), Cyprus, in the confrontation with Indonesia, the Persian
Gulf and in Northern Ireland. In addition to
minesweeping and mine hunting, they
carried out roles as diverse as patrol
craft for fishery protection duties
and to counter piracy, illegal immigration,
and terrorist gunrunners.
They acted as gun
platforms and diving tenders
and were the mainstay
of the Royal Naval Reserve.
Crew members, of all
ranks, held responsibilities
far beyond their years and
many a future Admiral
had his first experience of
sea command in a TON
minesweeper. HRH Prince
Charles commanded HMS
Bronington in 1976/77.
Last of the Wooden Walls has been produced to mark the 25th Anniversary of the TON
Class Association. It aims to provide a brief history of the TON Class of Mine Counter
Measures Vessels, together with highlights of some of the principal campaigns and deployments
in which they engaged, plus milestones in the
growth of the Association.
It has taken over three years for the Editorial
Panel to assemble, assess, select and edit
contributions from a wealth of material
from ships’ logs, personal diaries, reminiscences
and the odd unprintable ‘dit’. The
panel comprises: Peter Harrison, Rob Hoole,
Peter Down, Bob Dean, Jeremy Stewart and
FROM THE FOREWORD BY HRH
THE PRINCE OF WALES
I was privileged to end my career in
the Royal Navy in command of HMS
Bronington in 1976. It was certainly
the most challenging of all my
appointments, but also the most rewarding.
My lasting impression of
Bronington and the Ton Class
minesweepers is of the crew's professionalism
and jaunty informality;
their comradeship and sense of humour.
We made the most of that
humour within the ship, the
squadron and all the Ton Class
based in Rosyth and I am very
pleased that one of my fellow commanding
officers at that time is the
Association's current President...
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 127 2, hardback, 297x210mm, 160 pages. Published March 2012. Reprinted June 2015.