Named after a lake in north-western Imerina, Kinkony
was a modest gunboat ordered by the Royal Merina Navy in February 1933. Funds were allocated for three other ships of the same design, and this group came to be known as the Alaotra
class after the first to be completed. Work on Kinkony
began later that year at the Masinavalona Shipyard in Mahajanga. Initial estimates concluded that the time between keel-laying and completion would be around twelve months. However, the shipyard was unfamiliar with the requirements of a warship and the Kinkony
was not completed until late 1935. Vessels larger than a torpedo boat were traditionally built overseas, with Great Britain being the most common source. Kinkony
was commissioned before the end of the year.
The role envisaged for the Alaotra
class was that of customs enforcement. A pair would be assigned to the ports of Mahajanga and Toamasina. From these two points, the ships could support smaller vessels operating elsewhere along the coastline of Imerina. They would also be in the perfect position to protect government forces in either city if a revolt broke out. A decade had passed since the Andevo Revolt, but the threat of an uprising of the impoverished still loomed on the minds of the nobility. A third role, anti-submarine warfare, was also considered. However, few submarines other than those of Britain’s Royal Navy could reach Imerina at the time. Thus, while space was allocated for depth charges, they were not initially fitted. In order to fulfil the first two roles, the Alaotra class was completed with a pair of 4.7-inch (120 mm) BL Mark I guns, one forward and one aft. Four 13.2 mm (0.52-inch) Hotchkiss machine guns were also fitted in two twin mounts. These French machine guns were designed for the anti-aircraft role, but could depress sufficiently to engage surface targets. A number of light machine guns and rifles were also carried for self-defence and boarding actions. Speed was not a great concern, as most merchant ships could not exceed 12 knots. Reciprocating vertical triple expansion engines produced around 4000 hp (2.98 MW) from oil-fuelled boilers. Driving two shafts, these engines could propel the Alaotra
class to 18 knots. Each vessel of the Alaotra
class had a standard displacement of 1500 t and a complement of 125.
was assigned to the port in which she was built, and served there without distinction until 1940. Following the fall of France, she appeared off Hell-Ville and began monitoring French naval activities there. Imerina was not involved in the Second World War at that point, but maintained a close relationship with Britain. The information collected by Merina forces were passed on to the appropriate authorities in London. Kinkony
's presence was not welcomed by the French colonial authorities, who were loyal to the Vichy government, but there was little they could do. Any move against Imerina would catapult the small naval contingent stationed in French Madagascar to the attention of the Royal Navy. Thus, the French warships never left port. Kinkony
was occasionally replaced on station by one of her sisters. This allowed her crew to adopt an unofficial camouflage scheme in 1941, replacing the standard light grey of the Royal Merina Navy. It consisted of a ship silhouette in dark green atop a disruptive pattern of light green and grey.
On the 5th of May 1942, the government of Imerina issued an ultimatum to the authorities in Hell-Ville. They were instructed to decommission their ships and submit to an occupying force of some 5000 men. Britain had expressed its concern that Japanese submarines might use Hell-Ville or one of the smaller ports in French Madagascar as a base of operations. The following day, on the 6th, Kinkony
reported the French aviso D'Entrecasteaux
raising steam. Kinkony
was ordered to shadow D'Entrecasteaux
as that ship left port, but withdrew after her crew noticed that two of the submarines also stationed at Hell-Ville were no longer there. Kinkony
returned to Mahajanga while Imerina’s flagship, the old battlecruiser Radama I
, put to sea. D'Entrecasteaux
was sunk on the 9th by destroyers escorting Radama I
. Hell-Ville was later bombarded.
As Merina troops invaded French Madagascar, Kinkony
spent four months in port. Larger maintenance tasks had been neglected while off Hell-Ville and repairs were required. Depth charge racks were also fitted during this period. She was back at sea by the end of the year and spent the rest of the war patrolling Imerina’s home waters for submarines. Tasks further afield were handled by the fleet’s destroyers and flagship. The new depth charges were used in anger on three occasions, but there is no evidence to suggest that a submarine was sunk during these actions. Her sisters were more successful, sinking two submarines in combat off the Merina coast. The camouflage scheme introduced by Kinkony
’s crew in 1941 was later adopted by other ships of the Royal Merina Navy, with different colours used for ships expected to fight on the open ocean. In 1944, the 4.7-inch guns were replaced by a pair of 4-inch (102 mm) quick-firing guns. During the same refit, the obsolete 13.2 mm machine guns were replaced on a one-for-one basis with Oerlikon cannons. After the end of the Second World War, Kinkony
returned to her original role as a customs enforcement vessel. Her depth charge racks were removed soon after she resumed peacetime duties.
Imerina’s economy steadily declined in the aftermath of the Second World War and a major refit for Kinkony
scheduled for 1953 was cancelled. The outbreak of civil war in 1958 eliminated hope for a replacement vessel in the immediate future. Imerina’s economy steadily declined in the aftermath of the Second World War. A major refit for Kinkon
y, scheduled for 1953, was cancelled. An order for a replacement vessel, expected in 1960, was delayed indefinitely after civil a war broke out in 1958. Limping along on worn out engines, Kinkony
fired her guns in anger again in 1961 when socialist guerrillas marched on Mahajanga. In 1963, Kinkony
met her fate. General Ratsilikaina, a senior loyalist officer in the civil war, turned against the government a took power in a swift coup d'état. With conflicting orders and an unclear future, the crew of Kinkony
decided to scuttle her at anchor and deserted. The wreck was scrapped in 1965.