RFA Retainer



Previous name:                        Chungking
Subsequent name: 

Official Number:                       184289                                                                          

Class:                                     RETAINER CLASS Armaments/Victualling Stores Issuing Ship

Pennant No:                            A329

Laid down:                              11 October 1948
Builder:                                   Scotts Shipbuilding, Govan
Launched:                               19 January 1950
Into Service:                            July 1954
Out of service:                         April 1978
Fate:                                      Broken up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  There were two ships in this Class, which had originally been built as cargo/passenger liners for their owners’ China - Hong Kong - Amoy - Indonesia trade. As built, the Promenade and Upper Decks on each side were for the exclusive use of 48 x First Class passengers for whom their was luxurious accommodation in 2-berth cabins. They also had a Card Room, Lounge, Veranda Lounge and two Dining Saloons for European and Chinese palates respectively. There were no Second Class passengers but a steep social drop in accommodation in eight and ten berth cabins for three hundred and twenty Steerage Class passengers who also had their own Dining Saloon. Both ships proved surplus to requirements almost at once, as the trade at that time was overstocked with tonnage and the Chinese Communist Government stopped all immigration as soon as they came to power. The Admiralty purchased both ships and after employing them for a while on charter work, they were converted into Armament Stores Issuing Ships, although they also carried a proportion of Victualling Stores too. They were eventually replaced by RFA’s FORT GRANGE and FORT AUSTIN


19 January 1950  launched by Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Greenock as Yard Nr: 649 named CHUNGKING for China Navigation Co, London

31 July 1950 completed and after trials she was chartered by Cie des Messageries Maritimes, France for their France - South Pacific - Sydney service



16 February 1951 sailed Sydney, NSW for Noumea

21 June 1951 sailed Sydney, NSW for Marseilles, France

9 November 1951 arrived Sydney, NSW from Marselles, France

29 February 1952 purchased by the Admiralty from Butterfield & Swire Line - pending conversion for use as an RFA was chartered out to commercial shipping companies and placed under the commercial management of Buries Markes Ltd

6 April 1952 berthed at Sydney, NSW where Customs found an obscene film in a passengers possession. The passenger appeared before the Sydney Special Court where he pleaded Guilty and was fined £50

10 April 1952 sailed Sydney, NSW for Noumea

28 November 1952 arrived Liverpool and was offered for charter by the MoT

19 December 1952 renamed RETAINER and was chartered out to British India Steam Navigation Co, London

19 July 1953 at 45.16N 43.50W Chief Engineer Officer Arthur William Robert Mellish discharged dead - natutal causes - apparent heart failure

July 1954 taken in hand by Vickers Armstrong (Shipbuilders) Ltd at Palmers Hebburn Yard for conversion into a Stores Ship for service with the Far East Fleet as an RFA

18 September 1954 Mr William J Brown OBE DSC RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

31 January 1955 Mr J Edge RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

13 February 1955 Captain Douglas S Norrington RD RFA (Commander RNR) appointed as Master

18 April 1955 conversion work was completed and Retainer arrived at Portsmouth for exercises and testing equipment. She required 3,000 tons of ballast and this was loaded (temporarily) from RNAD's at Priddy's Hard, Bull Point, Milford Haven and Trecwn and consisted of a large number of depth charge ballast weights and inert and empty shells. The first NASO - Mr G H Chandler MBE was appointed - details from Naval Armament Journal - August 1955 edition - supplied by RFAHS member Michael Dyson

21 September 1955 to 28 September 1955 in the Norwegian Sea participated in the major NATO exercise of the year (Exercise Sea Enterprise) with units from the Royal Navy, RCN, RNN and the USN which included five British aircraft carriers, six submarines and twenty five other ship types

24 June 1956 at 49.40N 2.58W Able Seaman/Signalman Thomas McDonald discharged dead - natural causes

31 October 1956 supported Operation Musketeer- the Suez Crisis - along with 34 other RFA’s. Was in Task Force 325.8 - the Logistics Group supporting the carriers - along with  RFA’s FORT SANDUSKY, OLNA (2), TIDERACE and TIDERANGE

6 March 1957 Mr William J Brown OBE DSC RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

12 October 1957 Captain T G Hill RD RFA (Lieutenant Commander RNR) appointed as Master

18 June 1958 berthed alongside HMS BERMUDA in Akrotiri Bay, Cyprus

14 July 1958 sailed from Malta as a precautionary measure with a number of RN ships following the Iraq revolution

17 July 1958 berthed at Tobruk

20 July 1958 sailed Tobruk after discharging equipment for 45 Commando, Royal Marines

28 July 1958 sailed Akrotiri Bay, Cyprus

29 July 1958 RASed with HMS BERMUDA

15 September 1958 Captain Hubert G Carkeet RFA appointed as Master

21 August 1959 sailed Malta for Devonport

November 1959 RASed with HMS GIRDLE NESS supplying a Sea Slug Missile -

Retainer Girdle Ness

© IWM (A 34233)

10 December 1959 along with RFA's WAVE PRINCE,  RELIANT (2), TIDESURGE (1) and HMS's CENTAUR, SOLEBAY, LAGOS, FINNISTERRE, LLANDAFF and ALERT engaged in Queensland Centenary Celebrations

15 December 1960 Mr Kenneth I J George RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

12 January 1961 Captain Iorwerth B Roberts RFA appointed as Master

July 1961 saw service during Operation Vantage- the Kuwait Crisis - along with 12 other RFA’s

July - August 1961 supported the carrier HMS VICTORIOUS

24 November 1962 Captain Henry O L'Etrange DSC RD RFA (Commander RNR) appointed as Master

May 1963  accompanied the carrier HMS ARK ROYAL from the UK to the Far East along with RFA’s FORT DUQUESNE and TIDESURGE

24 September 1963 at Singapore

8 October 1963 Junior Engineer David Charles Stevenson RFA discharged dead. An inquest held on 24 March 1964 in Singapore recorded a verdict of Death by Misadventure finding that he had fallen down a ladder on the upper deck

27 May 1964 at Subic Bay, Phillippines with RFA's TIDESPRING (1), WAVE SOVEREIGN, RELIANT (2), FORT ROSALIE (1) and FORT CHARLOTTE arrived and together with HMAS SUPPLY formed Task Group 490.7. RFA TIDEFLOW which should have joined the Task Group remained at Singapore due to a mechanical breakdown

24 June 1964 at Singapore. Electrical Officer Jack H Paul RFA retired from the RFA Service after over 34 years service. His fellow officers onboard presented him with an engraved silver cigarette box to commemorate the occasion

J H Paul

© Dix Noonan Webb Ltd.

4 August 1964 Mr W F Young RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer


10 November 1964 Captain S C Dunlop MBE RFA appointed as Master


Retainer xmas card 1

Retainer xmas card 2

RFA Retainer's Christmas Card
© Dix Noonan Webb Ltd.

May 1965 was in Operation Seahorse - a SEATO maritime operation in the South China Sea - along with RFA RELIANT (2)

13 June 1965 together with RN & RAN units operating in exercies in the Assault area in the vicinity of Marang

1 November 1965 Captain P T Taylor RFA appointed as Master

11 April 1966 Mr T J W Humphrey RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

8 August 1966 Captain John D Fisher RFA appointed as Master

1 December 1966 at Plymouth

11 April 1967 Mr J S Aitken RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

10 September 1967 Captain G P A McDougall RFA appointed as Master

11 October 1967 to 25 January 1968 was part of Task Force 318 - the Aden Task Force- formed to cover the final British  military withdrawal from the area codenamed Operation Magister- along with nine other RFA’s

8 February 1968 her Ship’s Badge was officially awarded to her

21 May 1968 on the River Tyne at South Shields

29 July 1968 Captain C G Butterworth RFA appointed as Master

19 August 1968 on the River Clyde

14(?) November 1968 together with RFA BROWN RANGER involved in a search for a Wasp Helicopter from Portland which had crashed into the sea off Torquay

4 February 1969 at Gibraltar

18 February 1969 on the River Clyde

17 August 1969 on the River Clyde

9 October 1969 at Cyprus

15 December 1969 at Falmouth

4 March 1970 at Falmouth

28 July 1970 at Plymouth

7 January 1971 at Falmouth

1 March 1971 whilst refitting on the River Clyde, she was holed by the British Houlder Brothers ore carrier ST MARGARET which was being towed upriver

25 January 1973 Junior Electrical Officer J Goodyear RFA discharged dead

July 1973 deployed together with RFA's TIDEPOOL and OLNA in Joint Maritime Course 168

13 June 1975 berthed at Grand Harbour, Malta from La Madlena

17 March 1976 at Malta

17 August 1976 at Malta

19 August 1976 sailed Malta for Gibraltar

23 August 1976 RASed with HMS AMAZON then berthed at Gibraltar

27 August 1976 due to sail Gibraltar but delayed due to engine repairs

28 August 1976 sailed Gibraltar for Rosyth

31 August 1976 off the Lizard RASed with HMS LINCOLN

2 September 1976 arrived at Rosyth

21 September 1976 sailed for Plymouth arriving 24 September 1976 - alongside at Devonport

4 October 1976 sailed Devonport for Gibraltar. RAS'ed with HMS FEARLESS - 119 pallets transfered

6 October 1976 RASed with HMS SHEFFIELD

8 October 1976 anchored Gibraltar until 11 October 1976

11 October 1976 sailed Gibraltar for exercises in the Mediterranean 

15 October 1976 RASed HMS Fife - then anchored Marsaxlokk, Malta 

20 October 1976 sailed for RAS with RFA TIDEREACH for bunkers and fresh water. RASed with HMS FEARLESS - returned to Marsaxlokk, Malta

21 October 1976 forced to sail - gale blowing and dragged anchor

22 October 1976 returned to anchor at Marsaxlokk, Malta

25 October 1976 sailed to RAS with HMS FEARLESS while HMS FEARLESS simultaneously RASed with RFA TIDEREACH

29 October 1976 berthed at Trieste - later moved to anchorage in harbour

30 October 1976 drags anchor

3 November 1976 sailed Trieste - RASed with HMS FEARLESS

6 November 1976 exercises with HMS MOHAWK, USS, Italian naval units. RASed with HMS MOHAWK. RASed with RFA TIDEREACH to load bunkers and water

9 November 1976 RASed with HMS FEARLESS

11 November 1976 called at Gibraltar to drop off Radio Officer and pick up mail. Sailed to Plymouth arriving 15 November 1976

3 December 1976 sailed Plymouth for Bermuda via the Azores due to adverse weather conditions

4 December 1976 very rough seas - damage to fixtures and fittings sustained

14 December 1976 berthed HMS MALABAR, Bermuda

15 December 1976 ships cook transferred to isolation hospital on Bermuda with TB

17 December 1976 sailed Bermuda to rendezvous with HMS TARTAR

19 December 1976 RASed with HMS TARTAR

20 December 1976 RASed with HMS TARTAR again

21 December 1976 berthed in Port Everglades - Fort Lauderdale

27 December 1976 sailed Port Everglades for Cristobal

29 December 1976 0800hrs stopped in position 21° 02'N, 83° 43'W- water leaking into engine - under way at 1730hrs

2 January 1977 berthed Cristobal to bunker then transit of Panama Canal - sailed for Seattle

11 January 1977 in position 27° 42'N, 116° 25'W 0815hrs engine stopped for repairs until 12:45 heading for San Diego for engine repairs

12 January 1977 diverted back on course for Seattle as repairs completed

16 January 1977 berthed at Bangor Annexe near Seattle

24 January 1977 sailed for Manchester for bunkers then sailed for San Francisco

27 January 1977 berthed at NWS Concorde, San Francisco

2 February 1977 sailed San Francisco for Panama

13 February 1977 anchored off Panama City

14 February 1977 commenced transit of Panama Canal. Cleared Cristobal by 1030hrs

18 February 1977 Berthed Freeport, Grand Bahama for bunkers

19 February 1977 sailed for Sunnypoint

21 February 1977 berthed at Sunnypoint, North Carolina

24 February 1977 sailed for Plymouth

6 March 1977 0139hrs stopped for engine repairs until 0230hrs. Midday position 47° 23'N, 17° 40'W

8 March 1977 berthed at Plymouth

16 June 1977 at Rosyth

7 July 1977 at Plymouth

April 1978  arrived Rosyth to destore and then be laid up for disposal.

29 October 1979  towed from Rosyth to Barcelona for breaking up

19 November 1979 arrived at Barcelona to be broken up by Desguaces Cataluna SA

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website, by continuing to use the site you agree to cookies being used. More info.