Five hundred years of naval history ended in late September when the world’s last armored, gun-armed cruiser was decommissioned by the Peruvian Navy. The Navy’s long-time flagship BAP (Buque Armada Peruana) Almirante Grau lowered her flag for the last time after 45 years of service. With her departure, the world’s last warship designed primarily as a platform for her guns is gone and a line of development stretching back to the 15th century has ended. The BAP Almirante Grau was replaced as fleet flagship by BAP Montero, a Carvajal class frigate built by Servicios Industriales de la Marina (SIMA) and commissioned into the Navy in 1984.
The decommissioning ceremony also saw the BAP Montero renamed Almirante Grau, since traditionally flagships of the Peruvian Navy bear the name of famous Peruvian Admiral Miguel Grau Seminario.
Before entering service with the Peruvian Navy, BAP Almirante Grau was known as HNLMS De Ruyter. The De Ruyter commissioned into the Dutch Navy in 1953, but her history goes back significantly further than that. She and her sister, the De Zeven Provincien, were laid down by Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) for the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1939. The construction was interrupted by the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. The Germans continued work on the two ships with the aim of commissioning them into the German Navy, but work progressed very slowly due to other shipyard priorities and assiduous sabotage by the Dutch resistance. On December 24, 1944, she was launched for use as a blockship in the Nieuwe Waterweg of Rotterdam, but was never utilized for that purpose.
After the end of World War II, the cruiser was modified to reflect the lessons of the war. Armament consisted of four twin Bofors 152mm L53 guns, four twin Bofors 57mm L60 guns, and eight single Bofors 40mm L70 guns. She was also fitted with an armor belt of 50-76mm and a deck of 50mm, while the turrets and the conning tower have 50-125mm armor.
Although it was planned to convert her into a missile ship, a lack of funds prevented this from happening and she was decommissioned in 1973 and replaced by a Tromp class missile frigate. The Almirante Grau was modernized several times in Peruvian service, receiving modern radars and a new command system, but her primary armament always remained her eight 6-inch guns.
The cruiser’s fate now remains uncertain. One might hope that as the last of her kind and after such long service, she would be preserved as a museum.
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