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Sunday, 21 February 2010

S.S.GOTHLAND

SS GOTHLAND Ship No 192

The steamer Gothland had a long and full “War Service” during the conflict now known as World War II.
She was built in Leith at the Henry Robb Shipyards, ordered by The Currie Line, a famous shipping line associated with Leith.
She was of 1286 tons gross and was launched 9th March 1932 with an overall length of 250 feet and a beam of 38 feet; she was used on the Leith to Hamburg trade route in peacetime, a fine looking steamer.
With the outbreak of war every thing changed and The Gothland was taken over by the Ministry of Defence.


Atlantic Convoys and Nazi Raiders Atlantic Convoys and Nazi Raiders
In November of 1940, the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer attacked British Convoy HX-84. The merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, a converted passenger liner that was the convoy's only escort—armed only with antique 6-inch guns—charged the Nazi raider. While the Jervis Bay did not stand a chance of surviving the battle, her crew's fatalistic bravery inspired awe in all who witnessed the fight. Watson recounts how the Scheer's 11-inch guns turned the ship into a burning hulk in twenty-two minutes, but most of the convoy escaped. In November of 1940, the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer attacked British Convoy HX-84. The Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, the only escort and mounting antique 6-inch guns, charged the Nazi raider. While the Jervis Bay did not stand a chance of surviving the battle, her crew's fatalistic bravery inspired awe in all who witnessed the fight. Watson describes how the Scheer's 11-inch guns turned the converted passenger liner into a burning hulk in twenty-two minutes, but most of the convoy escaped. How did this confrontation come to pass? Both the necessity of arming a passenger liner and pretending it was a warship, and the building of the Admiral Scheer and her sister ships for the express purpose of commerce raiding, find their roots in the events, political decisions, re-armament polices, war plans, naval traditions, and blunders that arose in pre-war Britain and Germany. But this event holds a significance beyond the battle itself. The sinking of the Jervis Bay symbolizes the end of an era in naval warfare. The Armed Merchant Cruisers of the Second World War inherited a long, sometimes noble and sometimes ignoble history. Long employed in blockade or patrol duty, armed merchant cruisers ventured out for the first time to escort convoys, a defensive duty for which they were eminently unsuited, and for which the Jervis Bay paid a fearful price.


She was given a special role as a Convoy rescue ship, being half way between a fighting ship and a merchant vessel.
During the first two years of the war, the Gothland was employed in what was for her, long runs to Italy and North Africa.
Then in October 1941, she was called to higher service as a rescue ship attached to North Atlantic Convoys.
Many a ships master must have felt a bit more reassured as he saw the Gothland take up station at the tail of the many convoys knowing that in case of emergency she could help with every practicable rescue device known at the time and her hospital could cope with any injury or exposure.

Her skipper Captain Hadden and his men knew the huge risk they themselves ran in this most demanding of roles both on men and ship.
She was not designed for the stress of the long Atlantic rollers, nor the bitter weather off Nova Scotia and Labrador, which added tons of snow and ice to her upper structure.



For the next four years the Gothland continued the arduous and responsible duty, fortunately without serious damage from the constant threat of U Boat attack and air attacks which became so frequent that because of her great value and the large numbers of survivors from sinking ships onboard she was provided with a fighting ship escort.

Her experiences, exciting and tragic, would take a small volume in themselves to relate. But one interesting occasion should be recorded.
Near the end of April 1944 a request was made from the corvette HESPELER of the Canadian Navy to take on an appendicitis case from one of her crew. During the transfer the officers of the two crews met and discovered to there great joy that the corvette had only recently been completed at the Victoria Shipyards in Leith and she was making her maiden voyage, it seems that both Commanders were full of praise for there Henry Robb built ships.


Atlantic Escorts
HMCS HESPELER (Ship No 344)


Before being demobilised after the end of hostilities she came back to the yard for inspection.
To the satisfaction of the owners and the firm of Henry Robb it was found that after a prolonged period of excessive strain, the hull showed no sign of any structural defects, and the worst that could be found was a few slack rivets, a real testament to the shipbuilders who built her.

White Ensign Flying

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was a steward on board the Gothlnd..I too suffered an appendics incident and luskily we had a Doctor on board..
The crew of this ship saved many lives as operating as a rescue vessel during convoy duty
john hunter

Robbs Built Ships said...

Hi John,
Thanks for the comment on the S.S.GOTHLAND we would like to hear more about your time on her, and you can get in touch through the website of www.leithshipyards.com and send in to info@leithshipyards.com
many thanks again.

John Dingley said...

My uncle Ronald D. Dingley was a Radio officer on the Gothland. He worked with two other RO's their main job was to listen for subs with the latest top secret technology. He got this job after being rescued off the Caprella which was sunk by Uboat 100.
It seems that on rescue missions they were only allowed to take off key personel. Other crew had to fend for themselves. Many thanks John D. Dingley john.digley@gmail.com

james Mc Donald said...

My name is JimMcDonald,living in San Diego since 1976,I was on the Gothland on April 18,1945 when we picked up survivors from the Tanker Empire Gold,and the American freighter Cyrus H,McCormack,Mentioned in Dispatches,Decorated for Brave Conduct for getting the Captain aboard (from the freighter,his back was hurt),served on four of Currie Line ships,Lapland,Finland,Merkland,and Gothland.Was in the Xmas convoy to Murmansk when the Scharnhorst was sunk,