Help keep the site going

Saturday, 21 April 2012


The photo above is from a booklet kindly sent to me some time ago by the then Commanding Officer of HMS HERALD I. M. Bartholomew, Commander Royal Navy, on the occasion of HMS HERALD celebrating 21 years of service in the Royal Navy in 1995.

(If the Commander should see this would he be so good to contact the website at

We now arrive at the ships built at the Leith Shipyards of Robb Caledon (Henry Robb) from around the late 1960's and into the 1970's with some fine and well known ships built in the yard at this time including Ship No 508 BRANSFIELD which was an Antarctic Survey Ship Ice strenghtend for work in the Antarctic in support of the British Antarctic Survey teams down there.

Also the launch of the biggest tug built in the U.K. at the time the mighty tug LLOYDSMAN Ship No 509
built for the famous United Towing Company of Hull.
Ship Construction Ship Construction
Ship Construction, Seventh Edition, offers guidance for ship design and shipbuilding from start to finish. It provides an overview of current shipyard techniques, safety in shipyard practice, materials and strengths, welding and cutting, and ship structure, along with computer-aided design and manufacture, international regulations for ship types, new materials, and fabrication technologies. Comprised of seven sections divided into 32 chapters, the book introduces the reader to shipbuilding, including the basic design of a ship, ship dimensions and category, and development of ship types. It then turns to a discussion of rules and regulations governing ship strength and structural integrity, testing of materials used in ship construction, and welding practices and weld testing. Developments in the layout of a shipyard are also considered, along with development of the initial structural and arrangement design into information usable by production; the processes involved in the preparation and machining of a plate or section; and how a ship structure is assembled. A number of websites containing further information, drawings, and photographs, as well as regulations that apply to ships and their construction, are listed at the end of most chapters. This text is an invaluable resource for students of marine sciences and technology, practicing marine engineers and naval architects, and professionals from other disciplines ranging from law to insurance, accounting, and logistics. Covers the complete ship construction process including the development of ship types, materials and strengths, welding and cutting and ship structure, with numerous clear line diagrams included for ease of understanding Includes the latest developments in technology and shipyard methods, including a new chapter on computer-aided design and manufacture Essential for students and professionals, particularly those working in shipyards, supervising ship construction, conversion and maintenance


Then onto a couple of Ro-Ro Container ships one of which tradically went down with the loss of one of her crew in the North Sea she was called the M.V.HERO Ship No 511

Then the next launch at the yard was the Oceanographic survey ship for the Royal Navy
 HMS HERALD and some of her story is started below.

HMS HERALD was an order from the M.o.D. Navy for a Hydrographic Survey ship to be built at the Leith Shipyards of Robb Caledon.

She seemed to take forever to build and she was on the stocks for a couple of years, this was mainly due to changes that were forced on the yard by the navy team that was in attendance at the yard, no sooner would a deck level be complete and along would come the navy and insist that this deck or bulkhead would have to come out or be moved due to all the constantly changing gear that she was being fitted with.

The British Pacific Fleet The British Pacific Fleet
In August 1944 the British Pacific Fleet did not exist. Six months later it was strong enough to launch air attacks on Japanese territory, and by the end of the war it constituted the most powerful force in the history of the Royal Navy, fighting as professional equals alongside the US Navy in the thick of the action. How this was achieved by a nation nearing exhaustion after five years of conflict is a story of epic proportions in which ingenuity, diplomacy and dogged persistence all played a part. As much a political as a technical triumph, the BPF was uniquely complex in its make-up: its C-in-C was responsible to the Admiralty for the general direction of his Fleet; took operational orders from the American Admiral Nimitz; answered to the Government of Australia for the construction and maintenance of a vast base infrastructure, and to other Commonwealth Governments for the ships and men that formed his fully-integrated multi-national fleet.This ground-breaking new work by David Hobbs describes the background, creation and expansion of the BPF from its first tentative strikes, through operations off the coast of Japan to its impact on the immediate post-war period, including the opinions of USN liaison officers attached to the British flagships. The book is the first to demonstrate the real scope and scale of the BPF’s impressive achievement.

as always just click on the highlighted words (Ship Names) to be taken to the website where you can read all about the ships built at the Leith Shipyards.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Leith Ships 1965 to 1970

The Leithshipyards website is now getting into some of the later ships that launched from the yard of Henry Robb from the late 1960’s and onward through the turbulent times that were the 1970’s.

We feature such ships as the “S”Class ships for the Ellerman Wilson Group, the largest single order for ships received at the yard outside of World War II

The “S” Class ships were the SALERNO,  SALMO,  SORRENTO, SILVIO and SANGRO.

SORRENTO seen here in a photograph by Stuart Smith and shown here with permission.

There is also a large feature on the largest ship ever built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb she was called RFA ENGADINE a Helicopter Support ship built as a first for the Royal Navy.

Signals From the Falklands Signals From the Falklands
As John Winton, the best and most authoritative writer on currant naval matters, says in the foreword to this book 'The Navy has never been well known for its flair for publicity....Again and again during the Falklands War it seemed to me that the chances of giving the Navy a 'chuck-up' were being when the ships began to come home I let it be known that I was going to compile a book on the Navy's part in the Falklands'. The response was overwhelming and this, sadly, is is only a skimming from the cream of the response to his appeals Nevertheless it gives, without a doubt, as vivid an impression as we are likely to have of the feelings and experiences of those of all ranks and trades who served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary on that brief but remarkably successful campaign. Some of the contributors, like the aptly named Sam Salt will be familiar to many; others are not well known. Individuals though it may seem to give pride of place to any one contribution on an anthology such as this, it must be said that the words of Reverend Charles Stewart do stand out. In trying to resolve the virtually insoluble dilemma between 'Love Thy Neighbour' and 'Justifiable War' he succeeds where more famous theologians have often failed. All who served on board any ship which 'went south' in that strange nut epic endeavour in 1982 must be grateful to John Winton for having compiled this lasting tribute to tier bravery, and perhaps more characteristics, their abiding sense of humour.

The ice strengthened ship RRS BRANSFIELD is also featured this famous Red ship was the primary source of transport for expeditions to Antarctica for the Antarctic Survey Teams that braved the extreme conditions down there for up to 9 months at a time.

In what was another first for a Leith built ship she reached the furthest South that a ship had ever been able to achieve at the time and this was done on her maiden voyage down there we have some great photographs from her time down there from two men who spent time on her and at the station in Antarctica.

This photograph is from Ivan Stevenson who was in Antarctica with the BRANSFIELD and his photograph is reproduced here with his permission.


ENGADINE on a visit to Glasgow from a photograph taken by Paul (Fairfield)

And shown here with his permission.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

April 2012-Titanic 100 years on.


A model of the RMS TITANIC

Perhaps you may be aware of the fact that it is 100 years ago this month that the Titanic set out on her fateful maiden voyage and terrible as this event was it made me think about a similar disaster at sea which happened only 8 years prior to the Titanic going down and it involved as a proportion just as large a loss of life with even more women and children involved.

Transatlantic Liners
The ship was called the NORGE and she was on her way around the North of Scotland with a full cargo of poor immigrants looking for a new life in the new world of North America. (The Edinburgh Evening News recently done a story on her as well)

Image is from the website. The NORGE

Click through the link where you can find out more about this sinking.

The ship was a converted livestock carrier carrying mostly Scandinavian’s but no famous or wealthy people on this vessel. She was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons of Glasgow in 1891.

She foundered on the Isle of Rockall and it was entirely the Captains fault as he did not believe there were any rocks in the area. The sinking was not even reported for a few days and made the newspapers for a small time, there was as I have said a very large loss of life and in particular many women and children. Almost 600 passengers and 45 crew perished.

But the bit that really got to me about this story was the fact that after the disaster and lose of life the chairman (J.B.Ismay) of the White Star Line (Titanic owners) was to send to the owners of the Norge a telegraph to commiserate them on the loss of the ship one ship owner to another with no mention at all made of the huge loss of life. This was from the same chairman who 8 years later would be on the fateful Titanic and who would end up pushing women and children out of the way to get onto one of the few lifeboats on the Titanic.
So perhaps it is time we took off the rose tinted classes when we look back on this terrible event and be glad that some good did come out of it, such as making watertight bulkheads run right up to the underside of the main decks, and providing many more lifeboats for passengers along with the wireless act which required every ship to carry two wireless operators so that one would always be listening for distress calls..

It is an interesting topic with the sudden spate of “Cruise Line passenger ships” involved in sinking or collisions and makes one wonder what it is going to take before the owners and designers realise that some of those huge floating hotels are an accident waiting to happen which may make the Titanic disaster pail.

Picture above of the recent Costa Concordia sinking in which there was also loss of life

(Picture from the guardian newspaper)

I happen to think that the owners should be looking at double skinning the ships hulls at least to a height of around 2m above the water line.

Designing Liners

I am sure the owners and designers would whinge about cost and loss of internal area etc, (make the area usable for water ballast, pipes and systems with the area also filled with a foam plastic to aid buoyancy etc) and stability questions etc, but this could be done and help to make the floating glass and steel boxes a little bit safer to take to the sea in. Sure it would make the build a bit more expensive but would create more work for shipyard workers and I also happen to think that while great strides have been taken in the design of Lifeboats more needs to be done into how the Lifeboats get into the water from a heavily listing ship.

As always you will find a whole lot more about ships at the website and in particular about the ships built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb.