HMS Botlea before being commissioned and under her former name of African Prince



True name:                                         HMS Botlea

Previous name:                                 Glennevis  African Prince  Pentridge Hill

Subsequent name: 

Official Number:                                 137842                                                                          

Class:                                                  Special Service Freighter - Q ship

Pennant No:                                        X15 - F113

Laid down:                             
Builder:                                                Ayrshire Dockyard Company, Irvine, Scotland
Launched:                                           1917
Into Service:                                        1939      
Out of service:                                     March 1941
Fate:                                                     Scuttled 30 December 1945


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 flew 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


1917 launched by Ayrshire Dockyard Co Ltd, Irvine as Yard Nr: 445 named GLENNEVIS for African Steam Ship Co Ltd (J. Gardiner & Co, Managers) Glasgow . 

May 1917 completed for the Rio Cape Line (Furness, Withy & Co, Managers) London

15 February 1920 sailed Buenos Aires for Liverpool

23 April 1920 sailed London for Rosario

19 May 1920 arrived at Monte Video from London

31 August 1920 sailed St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands

3 September 1920 sailed Porto Alejandro for Liverpool

11 September 1920 arrived at Liverpool

22 September 1920 sailed Liverpool for New York

28 October 1920 sailed New York to Buenos Ayres

1 March 1921 berthed at Liverpool from Buenos Ayres with three passengers. Captain W M Higgins was Master

19 March 1921 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

1922 renamed AFRICAN PRINCE by her owners

20 May 1922 sailed Hull in ballast

4 June 1922 arrived at New York from Hull

12 July 1922 sailed the River Tees for Dundee

13 July 1922 at Dundee loading cargo for New York

17 July 1922 at Leith

21July 1922 sailed Dundee for New York

5 August 1922 at New York

29 September 1922 berthed at Dundee

15 October 1922 berthed at New York having sailed from Dundee

7 March 1923 arrived at New York

15 March 1923 arrived at Philadelphia

10 May 1923 at Santos

7 August 1923 arrived at Philadelphia from the River Plate

20 April 1924 sailed Durban

30 April 1924 at the Government Hospital, Durban Fireman & Trimmer Antonio Pais discharged dead with malaria

21 September 1924 arrived at Victoria from Rio de Janerio

19 December 1924 sailed St Vincent CV

11 July 1925 sailed Santos for New Orleans

5 November 1925 sailed Bahia for New Orleans

13 January 1926 arrived Rio de Janerio from New York

21 June 1926 sailed St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands for London

17 September 1926 arrived Santos

3 January 1927 sailed Newport News

22 May 1927 at Sanatorio Rio, Rio de Janerio Fireman & Trimmer Jospeh Lima discharged dead from a fractured pevis due to a fall

5 November 1927 at Rio de Janerio Sailor Paul Luszeck discharged dead having been killed by a locomotive

8 November 1927 berthed Santos from Rio de Janerio

16 September 1928 sailed River Mersey for Tunis

1930 laid up Rothesay Bay during the Depression

18 June 1930 sailed West Hartlepool for Antwerp

12 May 1932 at Rosella Hospital, Geralton, Western Australia Chief Engineer Officer William W Sinclair discharged dead suffering from acute pyclities

30 June 1932 berthed at Barry Docks from St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands with 1 passenger and 1 DBS. Captain William R Harries was Master

W R Harries NON RFA

Captain William R Harries

14 November 1935 arrived at Greenock from Rothesay Bay

24 January 1936 sailed Cape Town for Port Elizabeth

28 January 1936 sailed East London for Durban

31 January 1936 sailed Durban for Lorenzo Marques

1 February 1936 arrived at Lorenzo Marques from Durban

5 February 1936 sailed Lorenzo Marques for Madagascar

13 February 1936 sailed Majunga for Diego Suarez

19 February 1936 sailed Tamatave for Reunion

26 March 1936 sailed Rangoon

18 April 1936 sailed Port Said

6 May 1936 sailed from the Keil Canal to Gdynia

11 May 1936 arrived at Gdynia from Rangoon

20 May 1936 sailed Gdynia for the Tyne

1936 purchased by Dorset Steamship Co Ltd, London and renamed PENTRIDGE HILL

15 September 1937 sailed the River Tyne to Hull in ballast

16 September 1937 berthed at Middle Dock, Hull

28 March 1938 arrived at Piraeus

8 May 1938 sailed Istanbul

4 August 1938 at Marseilles 2nd Mate Francis A Evans discharged dead with blood poisoning


 2nd mate evans

2nd Mate Francis A Evans


14 February 1939 arrived at Buenos Ayres

1939 acquired by the Board of Trade (later MoS and MoWT) and renamed BOTLEA under management of Sir William Reardon Smith & Sons Ltd, Cardiff

14 September 1939 Lieutenant Commander Thomas B Bruton Royal Naval appointed in command.

16 September 1939 commissioned as HMS BOTLEA

14 December 1939 conversion completed. Cover name RFA LAMBRIDGE. Complement 84 under the  command of Commander Thomas B. Brunton Royal Navy. Armed with 7 x single 4-inch guns, 4 x Lewis machine guns, 4 x single 21-inch torpedo tubes and 100 depth charges

22 December 1939 sailed Chatham for Sheerness then to the Solent area for work-up

3 January 1940 sailed from the Solent area on her first cruise and operated in the North Atlantic for the remainder of that year

8 January 1940 stopped off Dakar by HMS NEPTUNE while in the Lambridge disguise - she was not detected as a 'Q' ship


HMS Neptune



19 February 1940 Able Seaman John Page C/J 22317 discharged dead. Drowned. Remembered with pride on the Chatham Naval Memorial

March 1940 at Gibraltar

April 1940 at Bermuda

28 August 1940 sailed Bermuda in convoy HX69 to Methil arriving 13 September 1940 - on convoy papers listed as RFA Lambridge thus maintaing her cover as a Q ship

27 January 1941 berthed at Simonstown Dockyard, South Africa for boiler cleaning a repairs to minor defects

6 February 1941 sailed from Simonstown Dockyard, South Africa

5 March 1941 at Colombo she hoisted the White Ensign for service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser with Pennant Number F 113

20 May 1941 arrived at Bombay escorting HMS CAPETOWN which was under tow of the tug TAIKOO for repairs

22 June 1941 sailed Aden under the command of Commander T I Scott-Bell DSC Royal Navy (Retd)

31 July 1941 berthed at Simonstown Dockyard, South Africa from Aden to be de stored and de ammunitioned in order to revert service as a merchant cargo ship

12 August 1941 sailed from Simonstown Dockyard, South Africa

1 October 1941 transferred to MoWT control

16 January 1942 sailed Cape Town independently to Lourenco Marques arriving 23 January 1942

7 February 1942 sailed Lourenco Marques independently to Cape Town arriving 13 February 1942

29 August 1942 sailed from Liverpool to New York arriving on the 18 September 1942

24 December 1942 sailed from Liverpool in convoy ON(S)156 to New York arrived 17 January 1943

22 April 1943 arrived at Cape Henry

4 June 1943 Bosun Robert Fraser awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) in the Birthday Honours List 1943 - details published in the London Gazette of this day

8 August 1943 sailed Liverpool to Freetown in convoy OS53 arrived on 27 August 1943

15 June 1944 sailed Cape Town to Durban in convoy CD43 arrived on the 19 June 1944

10 August 1944 sailed Durban independently to Mombassa arriving on 21 August 1944

29 August 1944 sailed Mombassa independently to Durban arriving on 9 September 1944

22 September 1944 sailed Durban independently to Lourenco Marques arriving 24 September 1944

4 October 1944 sailed Lourenco Marques independently to Mombasa arriving 13 October 1944

23 May 1945 sailed Bone independently to Gibraltar arriving 26 May 1945

29 May 1945 sailed Gibraltar independently to Middlesborough arriving 7 June 1945

17 June 1945 sailed Middlesborough to the Tyne arriving the same day

30 December 1945 considered to have no further commercial use so was scuttled in position 55.30 N 11..00 W loaded with a cargo of poison gas shells as part of Phase 1 of Operation Sandcastle




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


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