RFA Amherst

 

Previous name:                        Fort Amherst

Official Number:                       164573
                                                                        
Class:                                     Armament  Stores Issuing Ship

Pennant No:                            A238

Laid down:
Builder:                                   Blythswood, Scotstoun
Launched:                               16 October 1935
Into Service:                            15 July 1952
Out of service:                         1964
Fate:                                       Broken up

 

Items of historic interest involving this ship: -

 

Background Data:

She was originally purposely designed as a small cargo passenger ship for the Red Cross Line, a subsidiary of Furness, Withy & Co Ltd and sailed between Newfoundland, Nova Scotia , New York and the British West Indies as FORT AMHERST. Along with a twin sister, she provided not only inter-port passenger services, but full cruise opportunities as well. She had accommodation for 85 x 1st Class and 26 x 2nd Class passengers and was named after one of the forts at the entrance to St Johns, Newfoundland. Her sister ship was named FORT TOWNSEND after the other fort and she subsequently became the Saudi Royal Yacht MANSOUR, before being converted in 1960 into the Chandris cruise liner ROMANTICA and was finally scrapped in 1984. By 1951, both ships had become redundant, partially as early victims of competition from aircraft, and were put up for sale. FORT AMHERST was purchased by the Admiralty as a replacement for NAV BEDENHAM which had blown up at Gibraltar on 27 April 1951 as it would have taken several years before a replacement vessel could be built. She was suitable in hold capacity with her accommodation reduced to carry just 12 passengers. Her mechanical condition was not as satisfactory as her hull and her original Scotch boilers were replaced with 2 water tube ones which had been made for a LOCH CLASS frigate in 1945. She was renamed AMHERST to avoid confusion with the larger FORT CLASS of stores ships. After some initial teething troubles after entering Admiralty service, she settled down on the U.K. - Malta run, via Gibraltar, carrying armament stores and service passengers. She also made one voyage to Durban to bring home wartime ammunition. She was replaced in the Mediterranean by KINTERBURY and THROSK during the summer period and by HEBE and BACCHUS (3) in the winter period

16 October 1935  launched by Blythswood Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Scotstoun as Yard Nr: 39 named FORT AMHERST for Furness Lines (Furness, Withy & Co Ltd, Managers) London 

January 1936 completed

 

Fort Amherst ship

ss Fort Amherst

 

13 March 1936 docked at New York half a day late through thick fog

2 June 1936 sailed Halifax for New York

3 June 1936 at Hospital at Halifax 2nd Engineer Officer William R Nelson discharged dead from an appendicitis

W R Nelson

2nd Engineer Officer William R Nelson

4 June 1936 ran aground in fog off Martha's Vineyard in Vineyard Sound striking rocks and suffering damage to her hull forward - 26 passengers removed by the US Coast Guard Cutter Argo. She was kept afloat by pumps removing water from No 1 hold. Sailed by her own power to Vineyard Haven for repairs. Reports in the press blamed this accident as the cause of a potato price increase in some parts of New York State. Part of her cargo were sacks of potatoes

7 June 1936 berthed at New York for survey

17 December 1936 berthed at New York

6 February 1937 provisions on board reported as 'running low' as the ship was caught in an Arctic ice jam off Newfoundland for over a week - reported in the Rochester Evening Journal and Post Express (New York)

4 March 1938 sailed St Johns NF to Halifax but was caught fast in slob ice 25 miles south of Cape Race. She was freed from the ice by gale force winds. Arrived Halifax 7 March 1938

4 August 1938 berthed at Montreal from Halifax

1 September 1938 berthed at New York from Halifax

2 January 1940 sailed Halifax independently to New York arriving 5 January 1940

6 January 1940 sailed New York independently to Halifax arriving 8 January 1940

8 January 1940 sailed Halifax independently to St Johns N.F. arriving 10 January 1940

13 January 1940 sailed St Johns N.F. independently to Halifax arriving 15 January 1940

15 January 1940 sailed Halifax independently to New York arriving 18 January 1940

20 January 1940 sailed New York independently to Halifax arriving 22 January 1940

31 December 1941 sailed St Johns NF in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving 2 January 1942

2 January 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to New York arriving on 5 January 1942

6 January 1942 sailed New York in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving on 9 January 1942

10 January 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to St Johns.NF arriving 12 January 1942

16 January 1942 sailed St Johns NF in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving on 18 January 1942

24 January 1942 sailed New York in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving on 25 January 1942

25 January 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to St Johns.NF arriving 29 January 1942

5 February 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to St Johns.NF arriving 7 February 1942

8 February 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to New York arriving on 10 February 1942

13 February 1942 sailed New York in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving on 15 February 1942

17 February 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to St Johns.NF arriving 19 February 1942

23 February 1942 sailed St Johns NF in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving 25 February 1942

27 February 1942 sailed Halifax in unreported convoy to New York arriving on 1March 1942

4 March 1942 sailed New York in unreported convoy to Halifax arriving on 6 March 1942

9 March 1942 sailed Halifax in Convoy HX179 detached to St Johns NF on the 11 March 1942 and arriving the next day

15 March 1942 sailed St Johns N.B in convoy CL9 to Halifax arriving on 17 March 1942

18 March 1942 sailed Halifax in convoy XB1 to Cape Cod Canal arriving 20 March 1942

22 March 1942 sailed St Johns N.B. in Convoy BX 2 to Halifax arriving on 24 March 1942

3 May 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 13 to Halifax arriving on 5 May 1942

21 May 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 19 to Halifax arriving on 23 May 1942

17 June 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 25 to Halifax arriving on 20 June 1942

9 July 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 28 to Halifax arriving on 11 July 1942

30 July 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 31 to Halifax arriving on 1 August 1942

26 August 1942 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 35C to Halifax arriving on 28 August 1942

4 October 1942 sailed Halifax in Convoy HF 5 to St John NB arriving on 7 October 1942

Fort Amherst1942

ss Fort Amherst at St. Johns awaiting to join a convoy in 1942

28 April 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 47 to Halifax arriving on 30 April 1943

22 June 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 59 to Halifax arriving on 24 June 1943

26 June 1943 sailed Halifax in Convoy HS 93 to Sydney CB arriving on 28 June 1943

30 June 1943 sailed Sydney CB in Convoy BW 36 to Wabana arriving on 2 July 1943

21 July 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 64 to Halifax arriving on 24 July 1943

17 August 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 69 to Halifax arriving on 19 August 1943

11 September 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 73 to Halifax arriving on 13 September 1943

29 October 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 80 to Halifax arriving on 1 November 1943

24 November 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 84 to Halifax arriving on 26 November 1943

18 December 1943 at Roosevelt Hospital, New York Fireman Brandon Burton discharged dead from natural causes

21 December 1943 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 88 to Halifax arriving on 23 December 1943

10 January 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 91 to Halifax arriving on 12 January 1944

27 January 1944 sailed Halifax in Convoy HF 98 to ST Johns NB arriving on 29 January 1944

4 February 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 94 to Halifax arriving on 6 February 1944

2 April 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 102 to Halifax arriving on 4 April 1944

2 May 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 106 to Halifax arriving on 4 May 1944

1 June 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 110  to Halifax arriving on 3 June 1944

23 June 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 113 to Halifax arriving on 25 June 1944

16 July 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 116 to Halifax arriving on 19 July 1944

14 September 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 125 to Halifax arriving on 16 September 1944

17 October 1944 sailed Halifax in Convoy HS 179 to Sydney CB arriving on 19 October 1944

19 October 1944 sailed Sydney CB in convoy BW 142 to St John NF arriving on 21 October 1944

22 November 1944 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 134 to Halifax arriving on 25 November 1944

15 January 1945 sailed Halifax in Convoy HS 203 to Sydney CB arriving on 17 January 1945

17 January 1945 sailed Sydney CB in convoy BW 165A to Wabana arriving on 19 January 1945

4 February 1945 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 144 to Halifax arriving on 6 February 1945

17 April 1945 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 157 to Halifax arriving on 19 April 1945

21 April 1945 sailed Boston in Convoy HS 221 to Sydney CB arriving on 23 April 1945

23 April 1945 sailed Sydney CB in Convoy BW 172 to Wabana arriving 25 April 1945

12 May 1945 sailed Boston in Convoy BX 162 to Halifax arriving on 14 May 1945

16 May 1945 sailed Halifax in Convoy HS 226 to Sydney CB arriving on 17 May 1945 

18 May 1945 sailed Sydney CB in Convoy BW 179A arrived Wabana on 19 May 1945

17 October 1945 sailed from Bermuda - reported by the the USN Operating Base at that port

1 April 1946 sailed Halifax for St John's Newfoundland

5 July 1946 berthed at Halifax from New York

6 July 1946 sailed Halifax to St Johns, Newfoundland

5 May 1948 arrived and berthed at New York

30 July 1948 at Pier 96 North River, New York Engineer's Steward Charles A Lotmore discharged dead having drowned

21 August 1949 at sea Boilermaker Thomas A Buck discharged dead - disappeared presumed lost overboard

20 September 1949 berthed at Halifax from New York

31 October 1950 berthed at Halifax from St Johns, Newfoundland

9 December 1950 berthed at Halifax from New York

1951 advertised for sale and sold to the MoT

30 November 1951 Captain Cyril L Doughty appointed as Master

 

Capt C L Doughty

Captain Cyril L Doughty 
early in his career at sea

November 1951 purchased by the Admiralty as a Naval Armanents Vessel in replacement of the NAV Bedenham which had exploded at Gibraltar on 27 April 1951

8 December 1951 at Glasgow to convert into a Naval Armanents Vessel

7 January 1952 Mr D Williams appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

15 July 1952 with her hull survey satisfactory, she entered service as NAV AMHERST

28 July 1952 sailed Glasgow for Milford Haven to load

30 July 1952 at Milford Haven loading cargo

9 August 1952 sailed Milford Haven to Malta

23 August 1952 at Malta to discharge and have attention to her boilers and ballast requirements

10 December 1952 in the House of Commons to the written question to the First Lord of the Admiralty ' What purpose had the Admiralty purchased the NAV Amherst, how much had been paid for her, what view had been given by the Admiralty Naval Constructors, what were the dates, duration and cost of her first refit at Glasgow, of further repairs at Milford Haven, and her prolonged repairs at Malta and whether she is due for further attention?'  The First Lord replied that the ship had been purchased in November 1951 to replace the NAV Bedenham which was lost in an explosion at Gibraltar. Inspection in dry dock by Naval Constructors revealed only minor defects. Her conversion into a NAV had taken place at Glasgow between 8 December 1951 and 28 July 1952. Some minor work was undertaken at Milford Haven while loading between 30 July 1952 and 9 August 1952. At Malta between 23 August 1952 and 21 November 1952 alterations to her boilers and the loading of ballast was undertaken as a result of experience on the outward voyage' The cost of purchase was not disclosed. The repairs at Milford Haven had cost £722 and in Malta £9,250.  

17 December 1952 in the House of Commons the manning of the AMHERST was raised with the First Lord of the Admiralty as to why she had not been made a Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The First Lord replied 'The Amherst is manned and managed in the same way as the Bedenham which she replaced; but the conditions of service of the officers and crews of the Amherst and of other smaller naval armament carrying ships are now under consideration'. A further question asked - Is it not a fact that this ship is used to some extent for trooping duties, as she is a very old and rather decrepit passenger ship? Would she not be more effective if she could be brought under the Royal Fleet Auxiliary so that the passenger accommodation, of which there is very much, could be more throughly used than by the use if only tweleve cabins, as at present? The First Lord replied 'The whole question is under consideration. I must admit that certain anomalies exist in this case. I am quite prepared to take them into account during my further consideration.'

30 March 1953 Mr L Cochrane RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

15 June 1953 took part in the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead along with six other RFA‘s

3 August 1953 a Chief Engineer Officer was transferred to the Armament Supply Department for service for trips to Malta

15 September 1954 Mr A Hemingway DSC RFA (Lieutenant (E) RN Rtd) appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

24 August 1955 Captain Cyril L Doughty RFA appointed as Master

19 September 1956 sailed from Grand Harbour, Malta

31 October 1956 was deployed for Operation Musketeer- the Suez Crisis - along with 34 other RFA’s

16 July 1957 Captain Alistair C Gibson RFA appointed as Master

28 January 1958 Captain Norman R McLeod RFA appointed as Master

1958 along with RFA EDDYBEACH she played a minor role in the film “The Silent Enemy” starring Laurence Harvey about Italian frogmen and their wartime actions at Gibraltar during which RFA DENBYDALE was seriously damaged. The role of their depot ship OLTERRA was played by RFA WAR BRAHMIN

13 June 1959 Captain John Ditchburn RFA appointed as Master

27 October 1959 Mr E Burke RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

10 December 1959 sailed Malta for Gibraltar

11 January 1960 arrived at Malta from Gibraltar

20 March 1960 arrived at Malta from Gibraltar

2 May 1960 Captain A H Tarr RFA appointed as Master

8 September 1960 at Plymouth

23 December 1960 at Plymouth

1961 freighted the nuclear reactor for the submarine HMS/m DREADNOUGHT to the USA

10 May 1961 sailed Malta for the UK

12 June 1961 Captain Alfred M Uglow RFA appointed as Master until 21 July 1962

Amherst3 1961

RFA Amherst being refuelled by RFA Wave Chief in 1961

11 October 1961 Mr J A MacPherson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

18 June 1962 sailed from Malta for the last time

June 1962 completed her final voyage home from Malta

July 1962 laid up at Devonport

May 1963 placed on the Disposal List

22 May 1963 offered for sale 'as lying' at Plymouth in The Times of this day

June 1963 sold to Dutch breakers

15 October 1964 demolition commenced by Jos de Smedt, Antwerp

 

Notes;

She was named after Fort Amherst, in St John’s, Newfoundland and the original fortifications there, built in the 1770’s, were named for William Amherst who successfully recaptured St John’s from French forces in 1762. There is also a Fort Amherst in Kent which was built in 1756 to protect the south eastern entrance to Chatham Dockyard and the River Medway against a French attack

Additional information

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