Reproduced with permission of the MOD


RFA Lyness



Subsequent name:                 Sirius,   Texas Clipper III

Official Number:                     309818                                                 

Class:                                     NESS CLASS Stores Support Ship

Pennant No:                           A339

Laid down:                             7 April 1965
Builder:                                  Swan Hunter, Wallsend on Tyne
Launched:                              7 April 1966

Into Service:                           22 December 1966
Out of service:                        see below
Fate:                                       Sold to the United States Navy


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  The requirements for this Class, derived from an extensive feasibility study, placed in 1963, and undertaken in connection with the stowage, handling and issue of stores at sea, led to an order for three ships being placed in December the following year. They were MoD (Navy) designed to meet specific requirements and they were replacements for the War-built  FORT CLASS. They were perhaps the most successful Class of RFA’s ever built and served as floating supermarkets. One was stored as an Air Stores Support Ship carrying some 10,000 items of naval and victual ling stores but with over 80,000 items of aircraft and naval stores to meet the requirements of aircraft carriers and their escorts. The other two carried varying quantities of up to 40,000 different items of general naval stores including stocks of clothing, mess gear and medical supplies, together with dry and refrigerated food which enabled the Fleet to remain at sea for considerable periods. They also carried up to 350 tons of portable water. With the demise of the British aircraft carriers, which this Class was designed to support, their need decreased and ultimately all three were sold to the United States Military Sealift Command. The major change made then was the addition of a hangar complex on all three vessels. When built, the Class cost approx £10½m


7 December 1964 ordered

23 March 1966 Mr A M Henderson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

7 April 1966 launched by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend as Yard Nr: 2016 named LYNESS. Named after the Naval Base in existence during both World Wars at Scapa Flow. The Lady Sponsor was  Mrs J. M. Widdecombe, wife of the then Director of  Naval Victualling

31 October 1966 Captain Frank S Samson RFA appointed as Master

13 December 1966 sailed the River Tyne for preliminary trials

22 December 1966 completed 3 months ahead of schedule

February 1967 at Portsmouth and visited by RFA Engineering Cadets from Poplar Technical College and Southampton College of Technology

15 March 1967 and 16 March 1967 off Portland involved in Helicopter Trials involving a Wessex Mk 5 XT484 from the RNAS Culdrose. 69 landings during day time were made and 31 landings at night time

21 April 1967 berthed at Malta from Athens

25 April 1967 sailed Malta

3 August 1968 her Ship’s Badge was officially presented to her

November 1968 took part in Naval Exercises in the Mediterranean with 17 RN vessels and 33 other ships from Greece, Italy, the USA and France together with RFA's OLWEN (2), OLMEDA, TIDEPOOL and RESOURCE

24 January 1969 together with RFA OLWEN sailed Portsmouth in support of RN ships on a three month cruise circumnavigating South America. RFA LYNESS carried a large and varied assortment of marine and general engineering products from British manufacturers

6 April 1969 Captain Donald G M Averill RFA appointed as Master

 Cap Don Averill

Captain Donald G M Averill RFA

28 July 1969 took part in the Western Fleet Reviewat Torbay along with RFA’s ENGADINE, OLMEDA and RESOURCE along with the aircraft carrier HMS EAGLE and 34 other warships of the Western Fleet

27 October 1970 berthed at Malta from Plymouth

19 November 1970 to 11 December 1970 humanitarian assistance - in Operation Burlap - the U.K. military relief operation to East Pakistan following extensive damage and flooding caused by a hurricane, along with HM ships TRIUMPH, INTREPID and HYDRA and RFA’s SIR GALAHAD (1), RESOURCE, OLWEN (2) and STROMNESS

RFA Olwen  Lyness Febex 1971

      February 1971 during Operation FEBEX RASing with RFA Olwen (2)                    between Singapore and Hong Kong

kindly donated by Tony Babb


21 December 1970 at Plymouth

24 February 1971 on the River Tyne

28 August 1971 at Portsmouth Navy Days Wessex HAS1 helicopter No: XM837 was conducting a winching demonstration and made a precautionary landing on RFA LYNESS

1 December 1971 off Malta RASed with HMS ARK ROYAL - stores and provisions

20 March 1972 at Plymouth (see note 4)

April 1972 provided stores support for HMS St ANGELO, the shore base at Malta after a new Malta Agreement had been reached

30 May 1972 at Plymouth (see note 4)

21 December 1972 at Plymouth (see note 4)

24 April 1974 at Devonport

23 October 1974 berthed on the River Tyne

24 January 1975 in the Caribbean RASed with RFA OLWEN (2)

21 April 1975 at Norfolk, Virginia to take part in Operation Springboard

10 July 1975 at Plymouth

23 July 1975 at Bermuda

12 September 1975 in Grand Harbour, Malta with various RN ships and RFA's BACCHUS (3), OLNA (3), SIR GALAHAD (1) and RFA SIR TRISTRAM after naval exercises

15 September 1975 sailed Grand Harbour, Malta for further naval exercises

30 September 1975 at Plymouth

28 October 1975 at Plymouth

2 February 1976 at Plymouth

1 May 1976 at Plymouth

10 June 1976 at Norfolk, Virginia, USA

21 July 1976 at Plymouth

5 January 1977 on the River Tyne

5 July 1977 on the River Tyne

24 June 1977 to 29 June 1977 took part in the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead with eight other RFA's and units of the Royal Navy and foreign navies. Carried Official guests from Southampton Ocean Terminal along the lines of ship being reviewed by HM the Queen and returned to Southampton Ocean Terminal

2 September 1977 in the Celtic Sea RASed with HMS ARK ROYAL during which two crew members from 892 Squadron, RNAS embarked in the aircraft carrier were washed overboard by a heavy sea. The SAR was quickly launched and the two were safely recovered within 10 minutes

5 November 1977 berthed at Ras Hanzir, Malta

12 November 1977 sailed Malta

15 May 1978 off the US Virgin Islands and together with RFA's OLMEDA, RESOURCE (2) and PEARLEAF (2) engaged in RASes with HMS's ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE and ANTELOPE

14 June 1978 off Port Everglades and together with RFA OLMEDA RASed with HMS ARK ROYAL. Over a 7½ hour period supplied the aircraft carrier with 400 tons of fresh water

16 November 1978 to the west of Malta together with RFA's RESOURCE (2) and OLWEN (2) RASed with HMS ARK ROYAL

15 November 1980 chartered for 2 to 5 months by the USMSC

December 1980 sailed to Norfolk, Virginia

17 January 1981 bareboat Chartered by the USMSC

18 January 1981 renamed USNS SIRIUS (T-AFS-8) at Norfolk, Virginia




1 March 1982 purchased along with RFA TARBATNESS for $37m by the USMSC. Re-entered service after modifications which included the addition of a hangar complex to enable her to operate 2 x CH-46 helicopters

27 February 1985 Captain Edwin Rutter appointed as Master


Lyness sold as USNS Sirius

USNS Sirius

4 April 1990 berthed at Toulon, France

19 November 1998 a US helicopter from the ship crashed while conducting routine vertical replenishment with USS Stump (DD978) - Lieutenant Aaron J Barbosa USN and AMS2 Ross E Daniel logged as 'lost at sea'

USS Stump

USS Stump (DD978)

19 September 1999 berthed at NAS Norfolk

31 May 2000 berthed at Genoa, Italy

24 June 2000 berthed at Malaga, Spain

2 June 2001 visited Grand Harbour, Malta

3 May 2002 berthed at Alicante, Spain

14 May 2002 visited Grand Harbour, Malta

18 May 2002 berthed at Augusta, Italy

19 June 2002 RASed with USS John F Kennedy during support for Operation Enduring Freedom

16 July 2002 at Naval Support Facility, Manamra, Bahrein during Operation Enduring Freedom

August 2002 Captain Francis Tisak appointed

16 June 2003 berthed at Augusta, Italy

17 July 2003 visited Grand Harbour, Malta

20 September 2003 berthed at Norfolk, Virginia

 Sirius Patach 2004

20 January 2004 visited Grand Harbour, Malta

March 2004 at Dubai

1 July 2005 was stricken from the Navy Register, transferred to the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD)  and allocated to the Texas A & M University (Texas Maritime Academy)  to replace their training ship TEXAS CLIPPER 11. She was docked at the Mitchell Campus in Galveston and was renamed TEXAS CLIPPER 111. A proviso was that she could be reactivated by MARAD at any time in the event of a national emergency

10 September 2005 sailed Galveston as one of the numerous Hurricane Katrina relief ships to assist in the reconstruction of the Gulf of Mexico region under the command of Captain Sam Stephenson, Master. Provided accommodation and meals for Port Workers and Federal Responders and served as such until 23 November 2005

LYNESS after service

Berthed in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005

23 November 2005 moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to serve as relief ship in the wake of Hurricane Rita where she served until 2 March 2006. Due to these duties was uanble to conduct a planned conversion as required by the US authorities

January 2006 by the end of the month had provided 27,780 meals and 11,648 berths to college students, port workers and Federal responders who were working on relief duties after the two hurricanes

2007 used in an episode of the Fox TV show 'Prison Break'

2 February 2008 at Galveston, Texas

November 2008 conversion into a training ship cancelled due to lack of funds reverted to non-retention - awaits disposal

25 June 2009 sailed Galveston for lay up at the Beaumont Reserve Fleet Anchorage in Texas where she remained awaiting final disposal

Lyness being laid up


14 August 2009 status changed by the US Navy to 'Retention Fleet Support'

30 May 2014 arrived Brownsville, Texas for recycling by Esco Marine Inc




1.  Was one of the 11 storeships employed in the Mozchan on Beira Patrol duties.

2.  As SIRIUS her complement was 49 USN personnel and 115 Civilians

3.  Her replacement is the former refrigerated cargo liner INDIAN MAIL, launched on 27/07/68 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co in Virginia then delivered to MARAD on 13/12/68 and was originally operated by American Mail Line. She was purchased by American President Lines in 1978 and was renamed PRESIDENT JACKSON before being reacquired by MARAD on 01/04/88 when she was renamed CAPE GIBSON. She was assigned to the Ready Reserve Fleet and was berthed at Alameda, California then at the Saisun Bay Reserve Fleet site unless activated when she was operated by the Miliotary Sealift Command.. She was assigned as a training ship for the Texas A & M University to replace USNS SIRIUS in 2009 and was towed from lay-up on 01/10/09. She was docked at the Mitchell Campus on 19/10/09 and renamed TEXAS CLIPPER IV where she remains as a static training facility until the sum of almost $20m is found to upgrade her to go to sea again in the training role for approx 300 Cadets.

4. Locations kindly provided by Bosun George Collings RFA (Retired) from his Discharge Book



Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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