RFA Swin



Previous name:                        Shipway
Subsequent name:                   Francis A Holmes

Official Number:                       167878                                        

Class:                                      KIN CLASS Coastal Salvage Vessel                        

Pennant No:                            A506    

Laid down:                              14 June 1943

Builder:                                   Alexander Hall, Aberdeen 
Launched:                               25 March 1944    
Into Service:                            23 October 1944 
Out of service:                         1967 
Fate:                                      Sold


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  Originally a class of 11 ships was planned but two were cancelled and of the remaining nine, seven saw brief service as RFA’s. They were re-rated as Mooring, Salvage and Boom Vessels in 1971. All were equipped with lifting horns and heavy rollers forward which enabled them to lift 200 tons dead-weight over the bows. In wartime they were armed with 2 x 20 mm AA guns and had a complement of 34


13 August 1942 ordered from Smith's Dock, Middlesborough to be Yard No: 1122. The order was transferred to Alexander Hall & Co Ltd, Aberdeen on 21 January 1943

14 June 1943 laid down

25 March 1944 launched by Alexander Hall & Co Ltd, Aberdeen as Yard Nr: 695 named  HMS SHIPWAY

August 1944 renamed HMS SWIN

23 October 1944 completed and was engaged on salvage work in NW Europe

November 1944 at Ostend  on wreck clearance work

25 November 1944 nn wreck clearance work at Terneuzen

19 January 1945 grounded on East Dyke, West Outer Harbour at Terneuzen in a gale but was soon refloated

31 January 1945 moved to Flushing

February 1945 to April 1945 at Flushing with HMS KINGARTH (later RFA KINGARTH) removing several dock gates. Discovered a 500lb bomb at a lock entrance and this was recovered for detonation

2 April 1945 at Flushing and then to Antwerp

1946 allocated to Liverpool as an RFA and was involved in the clearance of wrecks and the wartime Mersey Towers

16 April 1947 sailed Devonport to salvage a German E-Boat which had sunk in St Ives Bay

27 February 1948 Captain H J McBride appointed as Master and Mr H Legge appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

26 October 1949 at anchor in St Ives Bay

December 1949 at Sheerness

21 January 1950 to 14 March 1950 involved with other ships in the raising of HMS/m TRUCULENT which had sunk in the Thames Estuary with sixty four deaths

February 1950 due to bad weather returned to Sheerness and refuelled. After five days in port and together with HMS BARNDALE returned to HMS/m TRUCULENT and continued with salvage operations

22 March 1950 alongside the now floating submarine.

23 March 1950 entered Sheerness Dockyard with the submarine for docking

April 1950 to 17 December 1950 at Studland Bay, Dorset salvaged three wrecks - SONA (sunk 4 January 1942), mv ABEL TASMAN (mined and sunk 13 June 1940) and PRINCESS JULIANA

11 August 1952 Captain H J Perrett appointed as Master

2 January 1953 Mr A E Daw appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

1 March 1953 the Swedish ship Baalbeck collided in thick fog with the Nore Fort in the Thames Estuary demolishing two towers. Four solidiers who were part of the Army unit manning the fort were killed - see entry in 1957 below

10 April 1953 Captain W H Harrison appointed as Master

27 November 1954 involved in rescue attempts when the South Goodwin lightship was wrecked and the crew of seven were killed. Three surveys found that the ship had settled below the sand.

15 December 1954 involved in the recovery of HMS/m TALANT which was swept from No: 3 dock at Chatham Dockyard into the River Medway when the Caisson gave way and onto a mud bank on the other side of the river. The submarine was in refit and four dockyard employees were killed.

17 June 1955 involved with RFA KINBRACE in the raising of HMS/m SIDON at Portland Harbour when twelve members of the crew and a Naval Doctor from HMS MAIDSTONE were killed.

24 June 1955 HMS SIDON was raised and was beached close to the Chesil Beach Causeway to recover the 13 bodies aboard

17 November 1955 Captain W J Burling appointed as Master

4 December 1956 at Malta with RFA SAMSONIA alongside of her

6 December 1956 sailed Malta to Tobruk arriving 9 December 1956

10 November 1956 commissioned at Sheerness for service during Operation Musketeer - the Suez Crisis - and was  held in reserve at Tobruk

12 November 1956 sailed Chatham for Devonport

14 November 1956 arrived Devonport to embark water and stores

14 November 1956 sailed Devonport

17 November 1956 alongside at Porto de Liexoes, Portugal to discharge a member of the crew to hospital

19 November 1956 sailed Porto de Liexoes to Gibraltar

21 November 1956 arrived Gibraltar berthed alongside RFA KINBRACE on the South Mole

24 November 1956 sailed Gibraltar for Malta but was diverted to Algiers instead

27 November 1956 arrived Algiers, refueled and sailed again the same day for Tunis

29 November 1956 arrived Tunis and sailed again the same day to Malta

30 November 1956 arrived Malta moored alongside RFA UPLIFTER

6 December 1956 sailed for Tobruk where she was held in reserve

4 January 1957 sailed Tobruk for Tripoli, then Malta and finally U.K

5 February 1957 arrived back in Devonport to pay off and to revert to RFA manning

7 February 1957 entered refit

2 March 1957 reverted to RFA manning

24 May 1957 Captain John W Boyes appointed as Master

In mid 1957 together with RFA SUCCOUR and RFA KINBRACE were brought into remove those parts of the Nore Fort which were a potential hazard to navigation (see collision May 1957 above)

End of 1957 at Chatham

4 December 1958 called to assist after the Liberian freighter Prodromos and the Greek owned ship King Minos were in collision in the English Channel about 12 miles from Dungeness the previous day

1 June 1959 to 16 December 1959 at Devonport in refit and then placed in operational reserve at Pembroke Dock

July 1960 was reactivated for service at Dover with Captain John W Boyes reappointed as Master and manned by the crew from RFA KINBRACE

Swin at Dover

RFA's Swin and Succour removing part of the World War II Block ships at Dover
(Harry Winters Collection)

22 September 1960 Mr J Smith-Bowers appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

January 1961 at Portsmouth being repaired

May 1961 returned to Portsmouth for a refit until September 1961

10 November 1961 Captain C Anderson appointed as Master

December 1961 at Portsmouth for a boiler clean

May 1962 at Dover

September 1962 at Devonport

November 1962 at Portland working on Phoenix units

30 December 1962 from Dover was sent to Chatham to raise the wreck of the tug TID 97 which had become girded and sank whilst assisting the berthing of RFA HEBE. The tug was raised on 4 January 1963. Three of the tugs crew lost their lives

8 April 1963 to 20 April 1963 at Rye Arc Ltd of London for repairs

6 May 1963 to 22 May 1963 in repair

June 1963 sailed Chatham to start the final clearance of the wreck of the trawler Resolvo and the Boom Mooring Vessel Sparsholt that had sunk at Sheerness on 13 March 1942

August 1963 to September 1963 raised the BMV Sparsholt

27 September 1963 at Grimsby to undertake mooring maintenance for Shell at their Killingholme moorings

4 October 1963 sailed Grimsby for the River Clyde to help in the search for a Buccaneer aircraft which had been lost at sea

5 November 1963 arrived at Greenock

2 December 1963 arrived at Portsmouth

10 December 1963 at Portsmouth tank cleaning in preparation for a limited refit

16 December 1963 at Portsmouth taken in hand for a limited refit which commenced on 26 December 1963 and was completed on 20 March 1964

September 1964 at Loch Ewe

22 March 1965 arrived at Portsmouth

20 April 1965 to 18 June 1965 at Portsmouth undergoing DER

After 18 June 1965 sailed to Chatham

October 1965 at Portsmouth for a boiler clean

February 1966 at Portsmouth

July 1966 at Dover where she replaced Airmoor II as range vessel

19 August 1966 registry closed and no longer listed as an RFA

February 1967 paid off at Plymouth and laid up

July 1967 nine week refit at Portsmouth

14 March 1968 to 12 June 1968 limited refit at Portsmouth

12 June 1968 allocated to the PAS at Portsmouth

20 June 1968 to 17 October 1968  at Portsmouth for repairs

March 1970 again at Portsmouth for repairs

March 1971 to July 1971 in refit at Portsmouth

4 March 1972 a SRN6 Hovercraft overturned while approaching Southsea beach. Towed into Portsmouth Harbour where it sank. Swin used to recover the Hovercraft

February 1973 on the Disposal List Portsmouth

14 June 1973 offered for sale 'as lying' at Portsmouth Dockyard in the Times of this day

August 1973  sold for £26,500 to Salvage and Cable Ltd., Folkstone

1974 resold to East Anglian Electrics Group, Panama and renamed FRANCIS A HOLMES and was modified for cable laying duties

3 August 1975 extensively damaged by explosion and fire in the Mediterranean and was laid up at Zueitina in Libya

16 January 1976 broke adrift from her moorings, went aground on passage to the breakers and subsequently broke up




Francis A
The last remains of RFA Swin since renamed as Francis A Holmes
lying at Zueitina Port, Libya at 30° 53.387' N  20° 4.433' E in 1979 - she has since broken up further through bad weather and the environment
Image supplied and © David Flanaghan






Was managed by Risdon Beazeley Ltd, Southampton during WW2

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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