INS Eilat, or in its original name, HMS Zealous (R39), was a Z-class destroyer designed by the Royal Navy in the 1940’s. After being used by the British Navy during World War II, it was bought by the Israeli Navy in 1955 during Operation Kadesh. Today, 45 years after its sinking, we remember the highlights of its long service to the IDF.
- The HMS Zealous (R39) was designed by the Royal Navy in 1944.
- The INS Eilat fought in World War II as part of the British Navy fleet.
- It was then acquired the IDF Navy in 1955 in the first night of Operation Kadesh. It was the pride and joy of the then-new IDF Navy.
- During Operation Kadesh, INS Eilat participated in capturing the Egyptian HMS Mendip (L60).
- In 1959, the INS Eilat was featured in the movie “Exodus”, starring Paul Newman.
- In 1966, the INS Eilat fought in the Six Day War, as well as in the Battle of Rumani Coast.
On October 20, 1967, INS Eilat departed on its last voyage. The ship began a routine patrol near the beaches of the Sinai. On the following day, when the ship was 13.5 nautical miles from Port Said, an Egyptian missile boat attacked, firing a P-15 Termit anti-ship missile, causing damage to the deck of the INS Eilat. The communications and propulsion systems of the seasoned ship were disabled, a fire began to spread on deck, and the ship began to capsize. Approximately an hour and a half after the initial impact, another Egyptian missile boat left Port Said and attacked the destroyer. One of the missiles hit the ship astern, and caused a conflagration near the weapons storage area of the ship. The stores caught on fire, and their contents began to explode. All of the 199 crew members of the ship began to abandon ship.
After the crew was in the water, the ship exploded and sunk. As a result of the explosion, a depth charge was set off, and wounded the seamen in the water. The rescue operation, which took place over two days, was one of the most daring and successful of its kind in the history of the IDF. Out of the crew of 199 people, 47 died, and 91 soldiers were injured.