SHORT HISTORY OF P1567
SAS HENDRIK MENTZ / SAS GALESHEWE
Commander Leon Steyn
South African Naval Museum
P1567 was one of nine former Minister class strike craft in service with the South African Navy. The first six vessels were delivered to the South African Navy between 1977 and 1980. A second batch of three boats were ordered and taken into service between 1983 and 1985. P1567 (boat seven) was the first of these improved Batch 2 boats. With the exception of the first three boats (P1561-P1563) that were built in Israel, the other strike craft were all built locally by Sandock Austral in Durban. The original design of these vessels was based on the Israeli SAAR IV (renamed RESHEF) fast attack craft. These vessels of 450 tons packed a mean punch for their size. They could attain a speed of over 30 knots, while two 76mm guns and up to 8 fixed launchers for the Skerpioen SSM provided a lot of firepower for such a relatively small platform. While they were not ideally suited for our sea conditions they admirably formed the backbone of the SA Navy for more than three decades.
P1567 was launched on the afternoon of 26 March 1982 and named SAS HENDRIK MENTZ by Mrs Amy Edwards, wife of Vice-Admiral Edwards, Chief of the SA Navy. The ship was officially commissioned into the SA Navy on 11 February 1983, during which the Chief of the SA Navy, Vice-Admiral A.P. Putter, charged the first Officer Commanding, Commander J.A.J.B. Vorster with the command of the vessel.
The political changes of the early 1990s saw South Africa return to the international fold and SAS HENDRICK MENTZ pioneered the first of many subsequent South African Navy flag showing cruises around the world in the ensuing years. In May and June 1990 SAS HENDRIK MENTZ (Cdr R. Steven Jennings) accompanied by another strike craft SAS JAN SMUTS and the support vessel SAS DRAKENSBERG undertook a successful flag showing cruise of 15 200 sea miles to the Far East when they visited the Republic of China (Taiwan). This was the first time since 1945 that the South African naval ensign was flown in the Far East.
In February and March 1993 SAS HENDRIK MENTZ together with two other strike craft, the submarine SAS MARIA VAN RIEBEECK and support vessel SAS DRAKENSBERG crossed the South Atlantic to participate in the first ATLASUR exercise with the navies of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The strike craft was again part of the second ATLASUR exercise that was held in South African waters in May 1995.
In line with the post 1994 political changes, the names of the strike craft were changed on 1 April 1997; in time for Navy 75 celebrations and the Presidential Fleet Review. The class were re-designated as Warrior class strike craft and SAS HENDRIK MENTZ re commissioned as SAS GALESHEWE (the vessel was actually out of commission during this time). Cdr M.A. Girsa was appointed as its first Officer Commanding in 2002.
KGOSI (CHIEF) GALESHEWE was a chief of the Tlhaping tribe in South Africa. Galeshewe was captured in 1878 following an attack on Cornforth Hill near Taung and was subsequently sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for his part in the uprising. In 1897, during a rinderpest outbreak, he again clashed with the police and military at Phokwane near Hartswater. As a result, he was imprisoned for his part in the what became known as the Langeberg Rebellion. He died at Magogong, north of Hartswater, in 1927.
In February 2003 the SA Navy held a Freedom of Entry parade in Kimberley and the township of Galeshewe during which full ceremonial dress was displayed.
Apart from those already mentioned, SAS GALESHEWE participated in the following exercises and deployments: RED LION (various), OPERATION DESERT DUNE in 2001, ATLASUR V and OXIDE 2 in 2002, NDLOVU in 2005, DIVEX 06 and GOOD HOPE II in 2006, IBSAMAR I and GOOD HOPE III in 2008, GOLFINO in 2009, GOOD HOPE IV, INTEROP EAST and OPERATION KGWELE in 2010 and GOOD HOPE VI in 2014.
On 4 April 2001, the SAS GALESHEWE (Cdr M.A. Girsa), in support of SAS PROTEA assisted the Australian fisheries control vessel SOUTHERN SUPPORTER to intercept an illegal fishing vessel, the SOUTH TOMMY, 260 miles south of Cape Agulhas. Thanks to the strike craft’s presence, there was no resistance, the master and crew surrendered to Australian authorities, who took the SOUTH TOMMY in tow back to Fremantle Australia where the master and crew faced charges.
SAS GALESHEWE saw the changing of the guard on 4 November 2003 when the first new Valour class frigate, SAS AMATOLA (Capt D.G. Jamieson – himself a former SC OC) arrived in False Bay from Germany. AMATOLA entered Simon’s Town to a joyous welcome in the company of SAS DRAKENSBERG, escorted by three strike craft, SAS ADAM KOK, SAS ISAAC DYOBHA and SAS GALESHEWE (Cdr J Uys).
On 4 September 2006, SAS GALESHEWE became the first operational front-line war ship, in the South African Navy, to be commanded by a female Officer Commanding, Lt Cdr M.M. Clulee. The late Cdr Clulee, would also take command of another strike craft SAS ISAAC DYOBA in 2007.
With the introduction of the new Valour class frigates (fitted with Exocet SSM) the outdated Skerpioen SSM system were phased out of service and removed in 2007. The removal of the missile boxes and later on, the rear 76mm cannon provided extra space for a small RHIB and MRS boarding party. Subsequently, from 2012 to 2014, three of the four remaining Warrior-class strike craft were refurbished by SA Shipyards in Durban and recommissioned as offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). SAS GALESHEWE together with SAS ISAAC DYOBHA (P1565) and SAS MAKHANDA (P1569) were home ported at the re-established Naval Base Durban to form the new Patrol Squadron, while SAS ADAM KOK (P1563) remained in reserve.
In 2014 the SAS GALESHEWE became the first OPV to be assigned duties for Operation COPPER. This anti-piracy operation, in the Mozambique Channel was initiated in 2011 and originally only saw the rotational deployment of the four Valour class frigates and SAS DRAKENSBERG. But the three refurbished OPV’s operating from Durban, offered a more economical alternative.
During July and August 2018 SAS GALESHEWE took part in another Operation COPPER, this time in tandem with the hydrographic survey vessel SAS PROTEA. This was the first time in many years that the SA Navy deployed two ships to COPPER. The two vessels operated completely independent from foreign support and did not enter any harbour during the three-week deployment. SAS PROTEA served as the operational support vessel for SAS GALESHEWE, supplying the OPV with fuel, stores and fresh water. The two ships also successfully completed several Replenishment-at-Sea (RAS) operations during the operation. Whilst on patrol, SAS GALESHEWE would sail close to the coastline, and SAS PROTEA would sail further out. This allowed the two ships to cover more area than a single vessel could on its own.
GALESHEWE sailed from Durban on 18 July, embarked on her last voyage, and arrived in Simon’s Town on 21 July 2020. Originally, the vessel was scheduled to be decommissioned in March, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic the ceremony and related activities were cancelled. The naval ensign was lowered for the last time on 8 October 2020. P1567 was a pioneer in many ways and decommissioned after more than 37 years of service in the South African Navy.
SAS GALESHEWE was one of three remaining Warrior class Offshore Patrol Vessels that will be replaced by the new Project BIRO Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV). The first of three vessels is due to be delivered in June 2021.
Compiled by Cdr Leon Steyn,
SA Naval Museum (November 2020)
P1557 – LIST OF OFFICER COMMANDERS 1982 – 2020
SAS HENDRIK MENTZ
Cdr J.A.J.B. Vorster 22 November 1982 – 4 March 1985
Cdr B.R. Donkin 4 March 1985 – 12 April 1985
Cdr J.E.G. Kamerman 23 April 1985 – 27 February 1989
Cdr R. Steven Jennings 27 February 1989 – 2 August 1991
Cdr A. Claydon Fink 18 June 1992 – 11 February 1994
Cdr R.J. Ludik 11 February 1994 – 15 May 1996
Cdr M.A. Girsa 14 November 2000 – 21 January 2002
Cdr A.J.K. Uys 21 January 2002 – 3 June 2004
Cdr G. Wessels 3 June 2004 – 5 September 2006
Cdr M.M. Clulee 4 September 2006 – 31 July 2007
Cdr G. Hallett 31 July 2007 – 12 November 2009
Cdr C.H. Gwala 12 November 2009 – 6 October 2011
Cdr T.M. Motsene 6 October 2011 – 24 May 2013
Cdr S. Ngidi 23 November 2013 – 1 December 2015
Cdr M.R. Gola 1 December 2015 – 10 April 2019
Cdr V.A. Mabuza 10 April 2019 – 8 October 2020