king gruffydd




True Name                                          HMS King Gruffydd

Previous name:                                   AMBATIELOS   War Trooper

Official Number:                                  167645                                                                  
Class:                                                 Special Service Freighter - Q ship      
Pennant No:                                        X28  F116

Laid down:                             
Builder:                                                 HK & Whampoa, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Launched:                                            11 October 1919
Into Service:                                         1939
Out of service:                                      17 March 1943
Fate:                                                     Torpedoed and Sunk


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:


In 1939 Winston Churchill gave authority for a number of merchantmen to be requisitioned for service as Q-ships, although for security purposes they were referred to as Special Service Freighters. A fleet of nine small mainly coal-burning vessels were acquired , six for deep-sea work and three for coastal work. All were commissioned as HM ships under their original names but were given RFA cover names and on entering harbour and while in harbour they wore the Blue Ensign, behaved as RFA’s and adopted the RFA commercial practices. None of them was really suitable for their intended roles and met with a complete lack of success. Their Q-ship service officially ended on 2 March 1941


11 October 1919 Launched by Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Co Ltd, Hong Kong as Yard Nr: 564   named WAR TROOPER for the Shipping Controller and was purchased by Nicolas E. Ambatielos, Argostoli while fitting out

December 1919 completed as AMBATIELOS for the above owners

28 January 1920 sailed Colombo for Rotterdam

13 February 1920 sailed Port Said

10 May 1920 sailed Queenstown, Ireland for Hampton Roads

22 October 1920 arrived at Philadelphia from Cardiff

15 January 1923 the Lincolnshire Echo reported -

Lincolnshire Echo 15 Jan 1923 Maunder


June 1923 auctioned by order of the Admiralty Marshall following a dispute with the owners who had failed to take delivery; purchased by King Line Ltd (Dodd, Thomson & Co Ltd, Managers) London and renamed KING GRUFFYDD

2 October 1923 arrived at Philadelphia from Fowey

5 May 1924 arrived at Portland, Dorset from Bahia Blanca

23 September 1924 sailed Callao for San Francisco

1 December 1924 sailed Colon

6 May 1925 sailed Durban, South Africa for Australia

19 June 1925 arrived at Walaroo from Port Thevenard

29 June 1925 arrived at Albany from Walaroo1 July 1925 after loading bunkers sailed Albany for Durban, South AFrica

3 June 1927 arrived Port Piries, South Australia to load zince concentrates

15 June 1927 sailed Port Pirie, South Australia for Avonmouth

18 July 1927 arrived Port Natal

20 July 1927 sailed Port Natal

13 August 1927 sailed St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands

28 August 1927 arrived at Avonmouth

10 September 1927 sailed Avonmouth

17 September 1928 at Rosario, Argentina Able Seaman George Browning discharged dead from drowning

6 May 1929 on board 1st Mate Thomas L Simpson discharged dead - committed suicide by shooting


Thomas L Simpson

1st Mate Thomas L Simpson


20 June 1930 sailed Las Palmas for Falmouth

2 July 1930 berthed at London from Bunbury, Australia with four stowaways as passengers. Captain Leonard W Litton was Master

8 July 1930 arrived at Hull

1930's laid up at Liverpool during the Depression

16 February 1931 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west bound

25 February 1932 sailed Las Palmas having loaded bunkers

24 April 1932 sailed Bahai Blanca for Maderia

1 June 1932 passed Southend

2 July 1932 ship under repair at T W Greenwell & Co Ltd., South Dock, Sunderland

25 April 1933 sailed Falmouth passing the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

25 May 1933 at Liverpool

16 November 1933 sailed from Barry Roads but had to put back when the main stop valve stop chest burst

21 February 1934 sailed Port Natal for Las Palmas

19 March 1934 cleared Las Palmas for Falmouth

8 September 1934 arrived at Melbourne

15 September 1934 sailed Port Piries, South Australia for Melbourne and UK ports

4 December 1934 at Brunswick Dock, Liverpool Fireman and Trimmer Jacob Lutis discharged dead after he disappeared


Jacob Lutis

Fireman & Trimmer Jacob Lutis


19 December 1934 sailed Barry for Tampico

8 March 1935 berthed at Sydney, NSW

22 March 1935 berthed at Adelaide

9 May 1935 sailed Port Pirie, South Australia for Shanghai via Port Lincoln

18 August 1935 ship signalled her owners that the port bunkers were on fire but the Master considered he could secure control. The ship was 250 miles NE Singapore

21 August 1935 the ship further reported that the fire was not extinguished but was being subdued. The ship was 215 miles from Sabang, Sumatra

22 August 1935 arrived at Sabang. Hull not damaged by the fire

23 August 1935 sailed from Sabang for Aden

18 November 1936 berthed at Los Angeles

19 November 1936 sailed Los Angeles

14 April 1937 arrived Kingston, Jamaica from Pacific ports

10 June 1937 arrived at New York

19 June 1937 sailed New York

29 July 1937 sailed Balboa

2 October 1937 at Victoria, British Columbia

5 October 1937 at Port Alberni

24 November 1937 at Immingham

2 December 1937 arrived at Hull

9 December 1937 arrived at Barry in ballast

17 December 1937 radioed she was 25 nmiles SW of Lands End for Port Natal

21 February 1938 at Port Sudan

29 March 1938 at Port Natal

29 April 1938 sailed St Lucia

19 June 1938 arrived at Rotterdam

24 June 1938 arrived River Tyne

17 May 1939 sailed Falmouth and passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

30 June 1939 arrived Vancouver

4 July 1939 sailed New Westminster

11 July 1939 sailed Port Alberni

31 July 1939 arrived at Balboa, Panama when on passage from Vancouver to Hull

14 September 1939 requisitioned by the Admiralty for conversion into a Special Service Freighter by Chatham Dockyard

21 October 1939 commissioned as HMS KING GRUFFYDD

17 November 1939 conversion completed. Cover name RFA MAUNDER. Complement 99 under command of Commander Edward M Loly R.N. Armed with 7 x single 4-inch guns, 4 x Lewis machine guns, 4 x single 21-inch torpedo tubes and 100 x depth charges

26 November 1939 sailed Sheerness for work-up in the Solent area

2 December 1939 on completion of work-up sailed from the Solent. 

19 December 1939 arrived Gibraltar

1 January 1940 sailed Gibraltar

11 January 1940 arrived in the Solent area and to Southampton arriving 14 January 1940

3 March 1940 sailed Southampton arriving Gibraltar 26 March 1940

5 April 1940 sailed Gibraltar returning 16 April 1940

17 April 1940 sailed Gibraltar to Freetown arrviing 7 May 1940

12 May 1940 sailed Freetown to Simonstown Dockyard arrving 7 June 1940

15 June 1940 sailed Simonstown Dockyard to Durban arrving 20 June 1940

21 June 1940 sailed Durban to Mauritius 15 July 1940

22 July 1940 sailed Mauritius returning 14 August 1940

20 August 1940 sailed Mauritius to Durban arrving 30 August 1940

4 September 1940 sailed Durban returning 24 September 1940

2 October 1940 sailed Durban returning 23 October 1940

26 October 1940 entered dry dock at Durban

1 November 1940 undocked from dry dock in Durban

22 November 1940 sailed Durban to Colombo arriving 11 December 1940

16 December 1940 sailed Colombo returning 6 January 1940

16 January 1940 sailed Colombo returning 6 January 1940

16 January 1940 sailed Colombo to Durban arriving 9 February 1940 

12 March 1941 openly hoisted the White Ensign for service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser with Pennant  Nr: F 116 then served in the East Indies

1 May 1941 East Indies Service ended

13 May 1941 with HMIS CLIVE took part in Operation Chapter - Cape Guardafui Channel the most easterly point of Africa. In order to facilitate the passage in this channel it was decided to undertake a combind operation to captrure and operate the Cape Guardafui lighthouse and to clear the north east corner of Italian Somaliland. This was done and the Italian troops there had immediately surrendered

20 May 1941 sailed with 23 officers and 96 prisoners of war and landed them at Aden on 24 May 1941

4 June 1941 joined the Red Sea Force

22 June 1941 sailed Aden

5 August 1941 berthed at Simontown Dockyard

14 August 1941 sailed from Simonstown Dockyard

1 September 1941 at Port Elizabeth reconditioning for return to commercial service

22 September 1941 transferred to MoWT control as KING GRUFFYDD

8 January 1942 sailed Port Elizabeth independently to Cape Town arriving 12 January 1942

13 March 1942 sailed Cape Town independently to Rio de Janeiro arriving 28 March 1942

5 April 1942 sailed Rio de Janeiro independently to Freetown arriving 18 April 1942

4 May 1942 sailed Freetown in convoy SL109 to Loch Ewe arriving 28 May 1942

31 May 1942 sailed Loch Ewe in convoy WN290 to Kirkwall arriving the next day

3 June 1942 sailed Kirkwall in convoy WN291 to Methil arriving the next day

6 June 1942 sailed Methil in convoy FS822 to Hull arriving the next day

15 July 1942 sailed Hull in convoy FN761 to Methil arriving 17 July 1942

17 July 1942 sailed Methil in convoy EN112 to Loch Ewe arriving 19 July 1942

19 July 1942 sailed Loch Ewe and joined convoy ON114 until it dispersed on 4 August 1942. Then sailed independently to New York arriving the next day

6 August 1942 sailed New York independently to Norfolk arriving 8 August 1942

23 August 1942 sailed Norfolk independently to New York arriving 26 August 1942

29 August 1942 sailed New York for Cape Cod Bay

2 September 1942 at Cape Cod Bay joined convoy BX36 to Halifax arriving on 4 September 1942

5 September 1942 sailed Halifax in convoy SC99 to the Clyde arriving 20 September 1942

4 October 1942 sailed the Clyde in convoy ON136 to New York arriving on 26 October 1942

28 October 1942 sailed New York independently to Philadelphia arriving the same day

15 November 1942 sailed Philadelphia independently to New York arriving the next day

25 November 1942 sailed New York in convoy SC111 but returned to Sydney, Cape Breton Island with collision damage on 3 December 1942

10 December 1942 sailed Sydney, Cape Breton Island in convoy SH68 to Halifax arriving 13 December 1942

16 December 1942 sailed Halifax in convoy SC113 to Liverpool arriving 2 January 1943

24 January 1943 sailed Liverpool in convoy ON163 to New York arriving 17 February 1943

5 March 1943 sailed New York in convoy SC122 to the UK

17 March 1943 while en route in convoy SC 122 from  New York to Loch Ewe she was torpedoed by U338 (Kapitänleutnant Manfred Kinzel) and sunk with 24 of the crew being killed at 51.55N 32.41W. 20 They are remembered with pride on the Tower Hill Memorial. The ship was carrying a cargo of steel, tobacco and explosives. The German U-Boat arm referred to attack on convoy SC122 and HX 229 as "Geleitzug Nummer 19". Of the fifty ships in convoy SC122 nine were sunk with a total weight of 53,094 tons. Those rescued from King Gruffydd were taken on board the Convoy Rescue Ship Zamalek. With a total of 165 survivors rescued from ships in this convoy the Zamalek sailed under escort directly to Gourock where they were landed on 22 March 1943.




  1. This ship was a Q ship - a commissioned Naval vessel which would assume its RFA name on entering harbour to hide its genuine identity. She never served as an RFA.



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