Previous name:                                         Orchy
Subsequent name:  

Official Number:                                        161920                                                   

Class:                                                      Special Service Freighter - Q-ship

Pennant No:                                             X72

Laid down:                             
Builder:                                                    Ailsa, Troon
Launched:                                                1 May 1930            
Into Service:                                             March 1940
Out of service:                                          18 June 1941
Fate:                                                       10 October 1959 broken up


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 9 small mainly coal-burning vessels were acquired , 6 for deep-sea work and 3 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


1 May 1930 launched by Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Troon as Yard Nr 415 named ORCHY for Wm Sloan & Co, Glasgow

June 1930 completed

10 July 1930 is Bristol City Docks 'T' Shed  from Glasgow loading a general cargo. Her Master was Captain Samuel J Hewitt

25 July 1930 arrived from Glasgow at Bristol City Docks and sailed again the same evening

14 August 1930 at Bristol City Docks 'T' Shed loaded cargo for Belfast and Glasgow

24 August 1930 arrived  at Bristol City Docks 'T' Shed from Glasgow

19 October 1930 arrived at Bristol City Docks from Glasgow

About 13 April 1931 while on passage from Belfast to Glasgow Captain Samuel J Hewett was taken ill. He was taken ashore in Glasgow and died in a local infirmary

17 April 1931 sailed Bristol

29 April 1931 sailed Bristol Docks for Glasgow

29 July 1931 arrived at Bristol City Docks 'T' Shed from Glasgow

16 September 1931 arrived at Bristol City Docks 'T' Shed from Glasgow

25 October 1931 arrived at Bristol Docks from Glasgow

27 October 1931 sailed Bristol Docks to Glasgow and Belfast

22 November 1931 arrived at Bristol Docks from Glasgow

24 December 1931 sailed Bristol Docks to Glasgow

26 March 1932 sailed from Bristol for Belfast and Glasgow

13 September 1932 at Bristol loading cargo for Belfast and Glasgow

26 July 1933 berthed at Bristol from Glasgow

22 January 1934 at Avonmouth discharging cargo from Glasgow

17 February 1934 at Avonmouth loading cargo for Belfast and Glasgow

17 May 1934 at Avonmouth loading cargo for Belfast and Glasgow

27 December 1934 at Avonmouth loading cargo for Glasgow

18 January 1935 at Bristol in collision with ss Cambria - suffered some damage

7 August 1936 sailed Bristol

26 July 1938 at Bristol loading cargo for Belfast and Glasgow

5 September 1939 requisitioned for Government Service and it was originally planned to use her as an Army Stores Carrier

11 September 1939 sailed Bristol Channel in convoy BC 1S to the Loire arriving two days later

17 September 1939 sailed the Loire in convoy BC1SR to the British Channel arriving two days later

October 1939 transferred to the Admiralty for conversion into a Special Service Freighter at Portsmouth Dockyard

15 October 1939 Commander Charles V Jack Royal Navy (Rtd) appointed as Commanding Officer

17 October 1939 commissioned as HMS Orchy

March 1940 conversion completed. Cover name RFA ANTOINE. Complement 69. Armed with 4 x single 4 inch guns, 1 x 12 pdr gun, 4 x Lewis machine guns, 2 x single 21-inch torpedo tubes, 36 x depth charges and was fitted with Asdic

14 April 1940 sailed Spithead for Portland after work-up to carry out Asdic trials, then to Holyhead at the start of her first cruise. Operated around the Home Coast - West Coast of  Ireland - North of Scotland  - SW Approaches

25 June 1940 at 51.26N 10.38W picked up the 19 survivors of the ss Catherine, a Panamanian registered cargo vessel, which had been sunk the previous day by the German submarine U47

26 June 1940 landed the survivors (see above) at Milford Haven

20 February 1941 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

23 February 1941 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

18 June 1941 as her presence in the SW Approaches did not attract any attacks from U-boats she was withdrawn from her Special Service role and was transferred to MoWT control as ORCHY

Between 22 July 1941 and 2 October 1942 undertook forty two sailings in convoy between Belfast Lough and Milford Haven or in reverse 

7 November 1942 in collision with the coaster Eveleen off Grey Point, Belfast Lough. The Eveleen sank but was refloated on 9 November 1943 - she was buckled across her deck due to the strain of hoisting and also the suction of the mud. She was beached in Ballyholme Bay but was later refloated again and taken to Belfast for repairs before re-entering service as Empire Eveleen for the MoWT in 1944




ss Eveleen (later to become Empire Eveleen)
Source Clydebuilt Ships Database

11 November 1942 at Bristol Craneman Donald Cook discharged dead - drowned

3 January 1945 Able Seaman John Matheson awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) - see the London Gazette page 136 of this date

25 October 1945 arrived Avonmouth from Belfast

1946 returned to her owners - name unchanged

9 January 1946 Fireman Edward Albert Hamilton awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) - see the London Gazette page 325 of this date

 Edward A Hamilton

Fireman Edward A Hamilton BEM


21 May 1946 berthed at Avonmouth from Glasgow and Belfast

19 June 1946 berthed at Avonmouth from Glasgow

28 March 1947 berthed at Avonmouth from Belfast

30 August 1947 berthed at Avonmouth from Glasgow and Belfast

October 1947 it was reported in the Free Presbyterian Magazine that the Master, Officers and crew of ss Orchy had donated £5 to the Ness Manse Building Fund (on page 120)

31 January 1953 discovered the wreckage of the ferry Princess Victoria which had foundered with the loss of 133 lives in the Irish Sea. Vessels engaged in searching for the Princess Victoria had been provided with a incorrect location until the Orchy found the wreckage elsewhere and reported it by radio

1955 owners restyled as Wm Sloan & Co Ltd. Glasgow

1956 converted from coal to oil fuel burning

June 1958 owners taken over by Coast Lines Ltd., Liverpool - name unchanged

10 October 1959 arrived at Troon for breaking up by West of Scotland Shipbreaking Co Ltd.




  1. RFA Antoine was a cover name for the 'Q' Ship HMS Orchy. The name Antoine was used when the ship was in port so her true identity was not disclosed. She never sailed as an RFA or in the RFA Fleet


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