Thai Naval Force Development - Early 20th Century
The development of the Thai naval force has been continuous. During the reign of King Rama V, this became a long-term project as seen in the development scheme presented to King Rama V by Admiral of the Fleet H.R.H. Prince Paribatra, the then Chief Staff of the Navy Department, in 1905. The scheme was to build several warships within a 16-year period.
In the period of King Rama VI [r. 1910-1925], the structure of the naval force was first drawn up by a committee consisting of Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara, Admiral H.R.H. Prince Singhavikrom and Vice Admiral Phraya Maha Yotha. The Navy Department presented this project to King Rama VI in 1910 which detailed the development of the Royal Siamese Navy within 15 years. The process was divided into five phases.
The building of warships under this project was financially constrained. Therefore, only one or two warships were built at a time leaving a wide gap before another one or two were built. Each warship was not very different from previous types. The required types were gun boats, destroyers, torpedo boats, minelayers, and submarines. In 1911, Sua Khamronsin and Torpedo Boat No.4 were built. In 1913; the 900-ton HTMS Rattanakosin was built in England and completed in 1925. The delay was caused by the outbreak of World War I. Other important ships that the Royal procured were as follows:
- HTMS Phra Ruang was a 1,046_ton destroyer, built in England and commissioned on 11 October 1920. To help finance this procurement project, King Rama VI, together with other members of the royal family, government officials and ordinary people donated money. Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara went to Europe to procure the ship and brought it back to Thailand himself. This was the first time that a Thai national commanded a ship on such long distance. Also, this was the first time that the public donated money to procure a warship.
- HTMS Sua Khamronsin was a 375-ton destroyer, built at Kawazaki Dockyard, in Kobe, Japan, and commissioned on 18 June 1912. Lieutenant Commander Luang Pradiyat Navayuth commanded this ship back to Thailand from Japan. This was the first time that all the crew members were Thais.
- Royal Maha Chakri Barge (2nd barge) was a yacht with a displacement of 2,249 tons, built at Kawazaki Dockyard, in Kobe, Japan, and commissioned on 4 February 1918. In 1929, King Rama VII travelled to Java on this barge.
- HTMS Chaophraya was a sloop bought from the Royal Navy with a displacement of 762 tons. It was commissioned on 8 May 1923. Originally, this sloop was the Royal Navy's minelayer used in WorId War I.
In 1926, Vice Admiral Phra)ia Rachawangsan, Chief of Staff, Royal Siamese Navy, presented a project regarding the naval force called "Memorandum on the Organisation of the Siamese Navy" to the Minister of the Navy. He divided the naval force into two fleets as follows:
- Coastal Defense Division consisting "of four 1,000-2,000-ton gun boats, three destroyers, four torpedo boats, ten inshore patrol craft, two minesweepers, and a number of minelayers and mines.
- Offensive Division or Mobile Division consisting of two patrol boats, three destroyers, six speed torpedo boats, four submarines, ten inshore patrol craft, one speed minelayer, and a number of cargo ships and mines.
This project was a guideline for later warship procurement. In 1929, the gun boat HTMS Sukhothai was built with the same design as HTMS Rattanakosin. One inshore patrol craft called inshore patrol craft No. 2 was built at the Naval Dockyard, and three more inshore patrol craft Nos.3, 4 and 5 were built in England.
In 1933, Admiral Sindhu Kamalanavin, the then Chief of Staff, Royal Thai Navy made a suggestion to the Royal Thai Navy to procure two 400-ton torpedo boats, HTMS Trad and HTMS Phuket, from Italy and three inshore patrol craft Nos. 6, 7 and 8 from England. The ship procurement suffered financial constraints making it uncertain whether the naval force could efficiently meet the challenge in wartime. Hence, Admiral Sindhu Kamalanavin initiated a naval force support project aimed at making the warships capable of fulfilling the following missions:
- When other countries were at war, the Royal Thai Navy would remain neutral.
- In case Thailand had to go to war, the Royal Thai Navy would counter enemy's amphibious operations, and protect the military in the south of the Gulf of Thailand. At any rate, Thailand was not to become offensive because its force was defensive in nature.
The Royal Thai Navy warship procurement project was divided into two schemes: procurement of small vessels for inshore use, and procurement large vessel for offshore use. To achieve scheme 1, a large sum of money would be required. The Royal Thai Navy then sought Government approval to procure the following warships:
- 1 gun boat at a cost of 5 million baht
- 4 torpedo boats at a cost of 5.2 million baht
- 3 submarines at a cost of 6.9 million baht
- 1 minelayer at a cost of 0.5 million baht
- Grand total 17.6 million baht
Large Torpedo Boat
Sloop (Training Cruise)
Heavy Gun Boat
Small Torpedo Boat
2(RTMS Bang Rachan, RTMS Nong Sarai)
7 (RIMS Trad and others)
2(RTMS Tachin, HTMS Mae Klong)
4(HTMS Matchanu and others)
2(RIMS Sri Ayudhya,RIMS Thonburi)
3(RIMS Klong Yai and others)
2(H'tMS Sichang, RTMS Pangan)
Apart from developing naval capabilities as proposed to the government in the 1935 Naval Support Act, the Royal Thai Navy signed a contract for the construction of two cruisers from Italy on 22 September 1938. These were HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Taksin whose names were later given by His Majesty the King. Unfortunately the construction project was held up by the outbreak of World War II in which Italy was fully engaged. During the war Italy suffered greatly from the attack. As the Italian government needed more escort ships for maritime protection, Italy decided to mobilize the two ships the Royal Thai Navy had ordered. As a result, the two ships suffered severe damages from aerial attacks and sank. However, after the war, the Royal Thai Navy was reimbursed for the cost of both ships by the Italian Navy.
After World War II
The United States government provided a loan to the Thai government to purchase surplus war materials from the United States and the United Kingdom such as warships, auxiliaries, arms and equipment etc., which they no longer needed after the war. With a special deal, the Royal Thai Navy decided to procure the following vessels:
- 2 corvettes
- 3 antisubmarine ships (PC)
- 1 minesweeper, ocean (MS 0)
- 3 minesweepers, coastal (MSC)
- 2 landing ships, medium (LSM)
- 2 landing ships, light (LSD
- 4 landing craft, utility (LCU)
- 1 fuel tanker
In addition to these acquisitions, the Royal Thai Navy submitted a number of programs for its capability enhancement and modernization in 1948 and 1949 to the Defense Minister for approval. The proposed 1949 program with five-year implementation plans from 1950 to 1954 was considered of paramount importance to the Royal Thai Navy to complete its modernization. However, the program did not start until the Thai government had agreed to accept military assistance from the United States in 1951. Apart from the United States, the Royal Thai Navy also procured more ships from many allied countries.
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