RFA Growler (1)

RFA Growler 1

RFA Growler (1)

Previous name:                             Marquess of Anglesey
Subsequent name:                        Branksea

Official Number                             145367

Class:                                          Naval Stores Carrier

Pennant No:                                 X29

Laid down:

Builder:                                         Edwards & Symes, Millwall     
Launched:                                    1890  
Into Service:                                 1914

Out of service:                               30 November 1921     
Fate:                                            Sold out of service


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


1890 Launched by Edwards & Symes, Millwall as Yard Nr: 220 named MARQUESS OF ANGLESEY

1890 completed

October 1891 War Department ship

26 October 1905 arrived Portsmouth Harbour

5 September 1906 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

11 October 1906 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

8 December 1906 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

15 August 1907 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

21 July 1909 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

3 September 1910 arrived at Portsmouth Dockyard

15 December 1910 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

2 August 1912 arrived at Portsmouth Dockyard

7 February 1913 sailed Portsmouth Dockyard

22 February 1913 arrived at Portsmouth Dockyard

18 March 1913 berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard

8 May 1913 berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard

17 May 1913 at Portsmouth Dockyard moved berths into No: 1 Basin

1914 Naval Stores ship in World War 1 renamed GROWLER

April 1914 Captain J H Skinner RFA appointed as Master

15 May 1914 arrived at Portsmouth Harbour

17 May 1914 arrived at Portsmouth Harbour then sailed the same day

December 1919 Navy List shows the Master to be J H Skinner Esq - no date of appointment shown

30 November 1921 sold out of service and sold to H.J. Beazley

1922 sold to William A. Wilson, 16 Carlton Road, Southampton and renamed Branksea

15 October 1925 Captain Edward C Diaper discharged dead ashore in Weymouth

Captain E C Diaper

Captain Edward C Diaper

1927 owners now Branksea S.S. Co. (G.I. Corbu Manager)

20 April 1927 berthed at Brixham

31 August 1927 ashore in thick fog at Lannacombe, near Start Point while on passage from Par to Terneuzen, Holland with china clay. Torbay life boat was launched to rescue the crew

8 September 1927 refloated

2 May 1928 sold to Dundee Sand and Lighterage & Co Ltd. 21 Dock Street, Dundee (Charles M Murdock Manager) name unchanged

4 May 1928 Press Report from the Dundee Evening Telegraph -

Branksea - Growler 1 - Press Cutting

14 May 1928 arrived at Earl Grey dock, Dundee in tow

10 March 1933 berthed at Earl Grey dock, Dundee

15 March 1933 sailed Perth

6 February 1935 while moored at Earl Grey dock with the crew ashore a fire broke out on board - the fire was quickly extinguished

5 December 1935 press report from the Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette on the ship sinking

Branksea - Growler -ship sunk

7 December 1935 ship refloated

16 May 1936 while grabbing for sand in the River Tay found the body of Mrs Mary Cruickshank floating in the water. Mrs Cruickshank had been reported missing since 10 April 1936. The body was recovered and brought ashore

1940 owned by Tay Sand Co. Ltd name unchanged

20 August 1940 while under the tow of tug Prizeman enroute to Scapa Flow sank at 57'00''N 02'02''W three miles off Girdleness. Cause Unknown. No losses

Prizeman 1925

Tug Prizeman 




RFA Growler (2)





RFA Growler
RFA Growler (2)

RFA GROWLER 2 HMS Growler in wartime with deck gun forward


Subsequent name:              Caroline Moller, Castle Peak, Growler, Welshman, Martial

Official Number:                 181186

Class:                                  BUSTLER Class Fleet Tug

Pennant No:                        W105 /  B743 / A111

Laid down:                          31 January 1942

Builder:                                Henry Robb, Leith
Launched:                           10 September 1942
Into Service:                        16 May 1943

Out of service:                     1977
Fate:                                    Broken up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:   At the outbreak of WW2 there was a need for modern Fleet Tugs to augment the existing numbers, and experience dictated use of a proven, pre-war design to be built in a commercial shipyard. The answer was provided by Henry Robb of Leith who built 8 ships of this Class for the Royal Navy , making them the first RN Fleet Tugs powered by 2 x 8 cylinder diesel engines. The tugs were ordered in pairs. Oil fuel capacity was 405 tons which gave a range of about 1700 miles. As completed, the Class was armed with 1 x 12 pdr AA gun, 1 x 2 pdr AA, 2  x 20 mm AA  and 4 x Lewis .303 machine guns and had a complement of 42. They were designed for ocean towing, salvage and rescue and had a 30 ton bollard pull but were not suitable fior harbour work. Early in the War they were involved in trials of pressure-minesweeping methods, where a dumb barge was towed behind the tug with the aim of exploding mines intended for merchant ships and warships. Unfortunately the pressure wave created by the tug alone was sufficient to detonate the mines, so the trials were abandoned. Post-War, the Class was ripe for commercial charter and eventually 6 of the Class saw service as RFA’s


10 September 1942 launched by Henry Robb Ltd, Leith as Yard Nr: 328 named HMS GROWLER by Mrs Colin Sarel

18 March 1943 sailed Methil in convoy EN206 arriving at Loch Ewe on 20 March 1943

April 1943 the Commanding Officer was Temporary Lieutenant Commander William M Dobbie RNR

Dobbiw w m

Temp. Lt Commander William M Dobbie RNR
as a Merchant Navy Apprentice in 1920

20 April 1943 in the Admiralty War Diary of this date it was reported to the C in C Western Approaches that the ship Lena Luckenbach had been in collision with another ship at 55.10N 09.40W. The Lena Luckenbach was holded between 1 and 2 holds, was down by the head and might sink but initally was making her way towards Londonderry. Her crew then abandoned her to take passage on the ss Lightning to Liverpool. Rescue tug Growler was sailed with best speed from Campletown to take the Lena Luckenbach in tow 

lenal uckenbach

ss Lena Luckenbach

30 April 1943 Convoy ON181 sailed Liverpool to New York City. Additional escorts (Escort Group B3) including HMT Growler joined the convoy on 1 May 1943 until 12 May 1943

8 May 1943 during the convoy ON181 was sent to HMS DANEMAN, an escort trawler, which was taking in water into the engine room and boiler room and had no power. Taken in tow.

9 May 1943 the tow between Growler and HMS DANEMAN parted. Thirty one of the crew were saved by Growler. Thirteen others were picked up by the FS Renoncule - two were dead. Four were missing and not recovered

13 May 1943 sailed New York in Convoy HX 239 as Rescue Tug

20 June 1943 sailed the Clyde to Londonderry towing LST406,

28 October 1943 joined Convoy MKS27G which had sailed Gibraltar on the 14 October 1943 as escort for its arrival into Liverpool

24 December 1943 sailed Campbeltown to Moville to rendezvous with an outward-bound convoy which left the next day

30 December 1943 accidently rammed by the tanker Donna Bella. While badly damaged she made Iceland for temporary repairs before returning to Princes Dock, Glasgow 

February 1944 returned to Campbeltown

February 1944 sailed Campbeltown to Moville to rendezvous with an outward-bound convoy which left the next day to St Johns, Newfoundland returning to Campbeltown in March 1944

April 1944 sailed Campbeltown to the Gareloch and towed the French Battleship Courbet to Devonport to be converted into a breakwater during the Allied landing in Normandy

7 June 1944 sailed Weymouth with RFA SAMSONIA (as HMS Samsonia) towing the old French Battleship Courbet to act as a breakwater during the Allied landing in Normandy

10 June 1944 sailed from where Courbet had been scuttled with her Captain and crew to Portsmouth

19 July 1944 sailed Portsmouth in convoy FTC41 to Southend arriving the next day

27 July 1944 sailed Seine Bay in convoy FTC49 to Southend arriving the next day

December 1944 towed AFD38 and a compressor barge from Great Yarmouth to Harwich

27 December 1944 reported in the Admiralty War Diary for this day - Rescue tug Growler was enroute to Rouen to assist tug Empire Jane and Empire Silas to tow the ship Ole Wegger down the River Seine. Strict instruction were given that co-operation with the relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of this tow as any unforseen accident would close the port of Rouen for an indefinite period

23 January 1945 sailed Antwerp in convoy ATM44 arriving at Southend the following day

4 May 1945 was part of Force 135 for Operation Nestegg - the Channel Islands Liberation

22 May 1945 sailed Liverpool in convoy OS130KM until it dispersed at 47.56N 8.39W on 24 May 1945 HMS REWARD (which became RFA Reward) was in the same convoy

12 February 1946 towed submarine U181 (then Japanese I07) to the Malacca Straits for sinking at  03 05N 100 41E

29 November 1946 Sub-Lieutenant (E) William Gennis RNVR discharged dead. He is remembered with pride on the Liverpool Naval Memorial.

April 1947 chartered to Moller Towages Ltd., Shanghai and renamed Caroline Moller

22 September 1947 with two other tugs managed to pull the 4,000 ton Shell Oil tanker Cyrena off a reef off Katvia Island, New Guinea

9 December 1948 berthed at Fremantle

14 December 1948 sailed North Wharf, Fremantle towing the fire damaged ss Cecil G Sellars to Singapore and then Hong Kong

16 December 1948 put into Champion Bay, Western Australia and anchored off Geralton with engine problems

10 January 1949 sailed from Champion Bay, Western Australia with the fire damaged ss Cecil G Sellars in tow after her engines were repaired

22 June 1949 arrived at the Schilpad Reef in the Arafura Sea north of Australia and rescued the crew of the ss Inchmark which had run aground and became a total loss. 

1 July 1949 arrived at Hong Kong after attempting salvage operations on the British ship Inchmark which had gone aground at 07.05S 132.03E and became a  total loss on 29 May 1949.

21 July 1949 guaranteed safe conduct was given by the Nationalist Chinese Government for the Caroline Moller to go to Shanghai to tow the bomb damaged Blue Funnel Steamer Anchlises to Kobe, Japan for repairs.

29 July 1949 sailed Shanghai to Kobe, Japan with ss Anchlises in tow - arrived 4 August 1949

26 December 1950 sailed Hong Kong to assist an Pan-American ship 'Islas Visayas bound to Amoy, China. The Islas Visayas reported she had been boarded by pirates.

16 January 1952 took in tow the British freighter Admiral Chase between Colombo and Sumatra again after the tow broke. The ship was being towed to Hong Kong for engine repairs

3 May 1952 rechartered by Moller Towages Ltd to Hong Kong Salvage & Towing Co Ltd and renamed Castle Peak

11 August 1952 sailed Hong Kong to salvage the freighter Plymouth Star which was aground off Wenchow, China

8 February 1953 berthed at Sydney, NSW from Formosa

27 February 1953 sailed Sydney, NSW to Japan with ss Dilga and ss Dundula in tow to ship breakers. The tugs Master was Captain Waites

6 April 1953 arrived at Yokohama from Sydney, NSW towing the ss Dilga and ss Dundula for delivery to the ship breakers

22 November 1953 towed the British Registered freighter Tefkros into Hong Kong from the Formosa Strait with a broken rudder

6 December 1954 returned to the Admiralty and renamed HMS GROWLER - pennant number A111

12 April 1955 arrived at Blyth from Trieste

1957 transferred to the RFA as RFA GROWLER

6 May 1957 off Yorkshire coast standing by two fender barges, her tow, which had broken away of the tug the previous day in heavy weather

5 October 1957 with RFA ENFORCER towed AFD22 from Falmouth to Sheerness Dockyard

1958 to 1963 chartered to United Towing Company Ltd and renamed Welshman

2 June 1958 assisted in towing the battleship HMS HOWE to the breakers yard at Inverkeithing when the Howe ran aground while approaching the facility

10 November 1958 in collision with the paddle tug GRINDER at Portsmouth

19 November 1959 arrived at Hong Kong towing the USS Shamrock Bay to the ship breakers there

31 August 1961 Captain Ernest Bond - the tug Master - discharged dead - he collapsed on the bridge while the vessel was on passage from Canada to Genoa

15 December 1961 sailed the Tyne towing a 2800 ton mobile oil platform 'Admar Constructor' 

4 January 1962 lost the tow with the 'Admar Constructor' in heavy weather off the coast of Spain.

23 October 1963 returned to the Admiralty at Devonport and renamed RFA CYCLONE - pennant number A111

4 January 1965 Mr A Daw appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

June 1965 suffered collision damage at Swansea - no further details

19 June 1965 Captain F Murray appointed as Master

14 December 1965 sailed Portsmouth with HMS/m's SEA SCOUT and SERAPH in tow to Briton Ferry for demolition

16 December 1965 while towing HMS/m Seraph to the breakers at Briton Ferry the tow parted. A naval crew were flown by helicopter to the submarine and the tow was re-attached

10 February 1966 arrived with tow at Briton Ferry

21 March 1966 sailed Portsmouth with HMS BERRY HEAD in tow for Devonport

10 July 1966 arrived at Devonport from the Middle East with HMS KEDLESTON in tow

10 July 1967 Captain D M Gentle appointed as Master

7 August 1967 sailed Portsmouth with HMS/m SOLEBAY in tow for demolition

11 August 1967 arrived at Troon with HMS/m SOLEBAY

23 September 1967 sailed Devonport with HMS URSA in tow for Newport for demolition

23 September 1969 to 26 September 1969 alongside at Portsmouth Harbour with ETV Whimbrel outside of her

1971 transferred to the PAS

21 April 1973 towed ship Arquina which had been badly damaged by fire into Teneriffe for examination

1977 laid up Gibraltar

October 1982 on Disposal List at Gibraltar

16 April 1983 sold to Eagle Tugs Ltd (Shipmarc Ltd, Managers), Georgetown, Grand Cayman and based at Mombasa and renamed Martial


Martial 83

Tug Martial, formerly RFA Growler, alongside at Mombasa
Copyright Kevin Patience - published with his consent
21 January 1985 sailed Djibouti for demolition at Karachi

30 January 1985 arrived Gadani Beach, Karachi for breaking up by Adam Hardware Industries (Private) Limited, Karachi



  1.  Was part of the British Pacific Fleet hence the B pennant number


Ships of the same name

Growler. A gun vessel launched by Perry’s, Blackwall on the 10 April 1797, 169 bm, 76 x 22.5 feet, armed with 10 x 18 pdr Carronade, 12 x 9 pdr.  Captured by the French off Dungeness on the 20 December 1797.

Growler. A gun-brig of 178 bm launched by Adam’s, Bucklers Hard on the 10 August 1804, 80 x 22.5 feet armed with 10 x 18 pdr carronades, 2 x 12 pdr.  Sold out of service  on the 31 May 1815.

Battle Honours for this Vessel: BASQUE ROADS 1809, GROIX ISLANDS 1812. 

Growler. A wood paddle sloop of 1,059 bm launched by Chatham Dockyard on the 20 July 1841, 180 x 36 feet.  Broken up in 1854.

Growler. A mortar vessel of 117 bm, 65 x 21 feet armed with 1 x 13 inch mortar, launched by Wigram, Blackwall on the 31 March 1855, renamed MV 4 on the 19 October 1855.  Transferred to Chatham as a landing stage on the 16 December 1863.

Battle Honours for this Vessel: BALTIC 1855.

Growler. A wood screw gunboat of the “Albacore” class, launched by Wigram, Blackwall on the 8 May 1856.  Broken up at Malta in August 1864.

Growler. Composite screw gun vessel of 584 tons launched  by Laurie, Glasgow on the 1 December 1868, 155 x 25 feet armed with 1 x 7 inch, 1 x 64 pdr and 2 x 20 pdr.  Sold in November 1887.

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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