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GLEN LINE FLEET

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GLENROY (3) was built in 1938 by Scott & Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 9809grt, a depth of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4in and a service speed of 18 knots. In 1939 she was acquired by the Admiralty and converted into a fast Fleet Supply Ship but was not immediately required so operated for Glen until June of that year when she went to Liverpool and was converted into an infantry assault ship identical to the Glenearn. During her conversion she was damaged by an air raid and eventually left for the Mediterranean on 31st January 1941 to form part of Z force. On 22nd April 1941 she grounded at Alexandria and, consequently, took no part in the evacuation of Greece, but in the May was sent to assist the evacuation of Crete. She was hit by incendiaries, was damaged during the withdrawal and returned to Alexandria for repairs.. In the following November she carried a full cargo plus a deck cargo of 16 lighters to participate in Operation Aggression - supplying besieged Tobruk. During this operation she was hit by an aerial torpedo and was initially taken in tow by the cruiser HMS Carlisle but had to be beached near Mersa Matruh. Made more watertight she was refloated and towed to Alexandria for repairs which took until November 1942 when she returned to Cardiff for further repairs and then to Belfast to be converted into a Landing Ship Infantry (Large). She returned to service on 21st February 1943 but only as a care and maintenance ship pending future deployment in the Normandy landings. Like the Glenearn she took part in the rehearsals and then the full scale landings when she was damaged by a mine laid by E-boats, returning to Cardiff for repairs. In January 1945 she went to the Pacific to join the East Indies Squadron until 21st June 1946 when she was released from military service and returned to Glen Line. Reconverted by Siley, Cox & Co at Falmouth to her original specification she returned to the Far East service on 27th May 1948. On 29th October, 1966 she sailed from Kobe to the breakers yard at Onomichi. (Picture from the Iain Lovie Collection)

DENBIGHSHIRE (1) was built in 1938 by Nederlandsche Scheepvaarts Maats in Amsterdam with a tonnage of 8983grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4 in and a service speed of 18 knots. In 1941 she took part in two of the regular Malta convoys, 'Substance' and 'Halberd' and after the latter was set on fire in Malta and spent some months there before making a break for Alexandria. During the period of the Malta convoys there were 31 solo runs, single ships carrying food and general supplies making a dash with minimum cover.. Of the 31 runs 9 ships were sunk, 1 ship had to turn back and 22 were successful. The Denbighshire undertook several of those solo runs. However, Malta was really dependent on the massive convoys, 'Pedestal' being the most well known, as these carried the vital fuel oil and ammunition. In 1945 Denbighshire served in the Pacific Fleet alongside the Glenartney until late 1946 when she resumed commercial service. She was transferred to Blue Funnel in December 1967, renamed Sarpedon (6), and in May 1969 she was sold for scrap after 28 years, the longest serving Glen Line ship. (Photo from the Iain Lovie Collection)

BRECONSHIRE (1) was built in 1939 by Taikoo Dk & Engineering Co. at Hong Kong with a tonnage of 9776grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 3 in and a service speed of 18 knots. On completion she was acquired by the Admiralty and converted into an Auxiliary Supply Ship and commissioned as HMS Breconshire. On 15th April she ran into Malta supported by Admiral Cunningham's naval strength and an enemy attack on this fleet enable a number of empty merchantmen to to make a break for Alexandria. Between 21st-26th July she participated in 'Operation Substance' when a convoy of six ships fought through to Malta allowing the Breconshire and six empty cargo ships to escape eastwards. In all, HMS Breconshire made more trips to Malta than any other merchantman. Ensuring the survival of Malta was vital and every effort was made to keep the island supplied, so much so, that on 17th December 1941 three cruisers and fourteen destroyers were deployed to ensure that the Breconshire got through. However, in March 1942, under the command of Capt. Colin Hutchinson RN, she was to fight her last battle. She left Alexandria on 20th March, as commodore ship, with a cargo mainly consisting of high explosive and kerosene, accompanied by Clan Campbell (Clan Line), Pampas (Buries Marks) and the Talabot (Wilhelmsen). The next day, by which time the Clan Campbell was straggling, the convoy was met by Admiral Vian on HMS Cleopatra, three other cruiser and 16 destroyers. Aircraft provided overhead cover and three submarines were patrolling to the north. On the 22nd there were several ineffective attacks by Italian Savoia bombers but HM submarine P 36 reported heavy Italian surface fleet steaming to intercept. At 13.30 an aircraft dropped a line of flares to guide the Italian force towards the convoy and with them began the Battle of Sirte Gulf. Six destroyers and the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Carlisle were delegated to protect the convoy while the remainder of the escort steamed off to meet the oncoming Italians. Although a smoke screen was laid to screen the merchantmen bombing had started by mid-afternoon and was continuous with all the ships being straddled but, fortunately, not hit. By late-afternoon the Italian cruiser Littorio, three cruisers and twelve destroyers arrived on the scene and the convoy was ordered to alter course, southward, into the Sirte Gulf. Laying a smoke screen Vian's fleet went after the Italians whose objective was to get round the smoke to get a clear shot at the convoy. As they broke through Vian's cruiser fired a broadside of torpedoes which caused the Italians to turn away. The manoeuvre was repeated but after another broadside was fired the Italians withdrew and the battle was over. However, by now the merchantmen were so far south that they could not possibly reach Malta, some 240 miles away, under the cover of darkness. As the main escort no longer had the fuel or ammunition to provide effective cover Vian ordered the merchantmen to break convoy and head for Grand Harbour, Valetta at full speed. The Breconshire set off at 17 knots accompanied by the destroyers HMS Southwold and HMS Beaufort and the A.A. cruiser Carlisle and by daybreak they were only 20 miles from home. But enemy aircraft were already circling waiting to attack. Air support was requested but nothing was available to cover the ships as they approached Malta. On 23rd March a single Junkers 88 commenced the first attack which was followed by Me 109 fighter bombers who scored three hits. The Ju 88's returned at regular intervals scoring more hits by which time Breconshire was lying dead in the water, 10 miles from Malta. The cruiser, HMS Penelope left Valetta Harbour to take the ship in tow but twenty feet waves caused the tow to part leaving her to drift towards the protective minefields. By noon she managed to anchor short of the minefields and two cruiser and four destroyers gave her anti-aircraft protection. During the following night the anchors dragged and the mines were close enough to be clearly visible from the ship. HMS Southwold managed to get a tow line aboard but in doing so hit a mine and broke her back finally sinking later that day. The air attacks recommenced but the Breconshire was not hit and by midnight the weather abated sufficiently to allow HM tugs Ancient and Robust to reach the stricken ship. At 2.00 am on the 25th she was under tow but a strong wind prevented entry into Grand Harbour so it was decided to put her in Marsaxlokk Bay. As the ship turned the swell caused her to veer madly. Breconshire signalled the Ancient 'I have a strong tendency to come up into wind', to which Ancient replied 'You're telling me!' At 10.00 Breconshire entered the bay and moored to No.1 buoy and her exhausted crew were taken off for some well earned rest. The tanker HMS Plumleaf was delegated to go alongside and take off the kerosene and fuel oil but this could not be done until the tanks were freed and opened. While this was being done HMS Plumleaf was bombed and beached. The Luftwaffe, being determined to destroy the three merchantmen who made it, increased their air attacks with the Pampas and the Talabot being rendered unrecognisable and Breconshire being repeatedly dive bombed. On 26th March hasty repairs were commenced so that she could be towed into Grand Harbour. The air attacks resumed and at 18.30 a lone Ju 88 scored four direct hits which caused a fire that was quickly brought under control. Miraculously the ship did not explode but she was settling and listing to port and by sunset the port rail was under water. At daybreak on the 27th she was still afloat but fires had again broken out, abaft the No.3 hold was a blazing inferno and ammunition was beginning to explode. The Captain and fourteen officers went out to her by launch but attempts to scuttle her fail because of the intensive heat. Moments after Capt. Hutchinson slid off the ship she rolled on her side and then capsized. In April 1954 she was raised and, upside down, towed to Trieste where, after examination to see if repair was possible, she was broken up.

GLENGYLE (5) was built in 1939 by Caledon SB & DD Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 9919grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4 in and a service speed of 18 knots. On delivery she was taken over by the Admiralty and converted into a fast supply ship, flying the white ensign as HMS Glengyle. In April 1940 she was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry (L) capable of carrying 700 troops and was commissioned on the following 10th September. The LSI-(L)'s were not armoured as it was Winston Churchill's plan to operate hit and run commando raids on enemy coats to boost morale. On 31st January 1941 she sailed for the Mediterranean via the Cape of Good Hope to join Z Force and in the April (19th-20th) took part in the raid on Bardia. Between 24th -28th April she assisted in the evacuation of Greece with the 15th Cruiser Squadron when a total of 4,500 troops were lifted from Raphto and on 19th May carried 3,000 troops to Suda Bay, Crete. On 29th - 30th May in company the Anchor Line's Cameronia they lifted 6000 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from Sphakia in Crete and on 8th June took part in the invasion of Syria at Litani River with the cruisers Pheobe, Perth and Calcutta. In January 1942 she was used on the Malta run from Alexandria and in the following April returned to Glasgow to train for the raid on Dieppe where, on 19th August, she was present somehow disguised as a tanker. In the following November she was back in the Mediterranean carrying US troops to Oran as part of the North African landings, Operation Torch. and in 1943, in company with the Monarch of Bermuda and four other transports, was present at the Sicily landing at Pachini, Operation Husky. In the September she took troops to Salerno then was detached to Bombay for Far East operations but was recalled for another Italian landing. She took part in the Anzio landings in January, 1944 and then returned to Liverpool for a refit as an LSI-(L). On commissioning in the following July she sailed for the Far East carrying the 5th Airborne Division to Bombay and in the August joined Operation Armour at Trincomalee. As part of a task force which included the Union Castle vessel Llanstephan Castle she took the Third Commando Brigade to relieve Hong Kong arriving shortly after the war had ended on 2nd September. In the October, operating for the Australian Naval Board, she put an Australian garrison ashore at Singapore and then picked up a contingent of Australians a Tarakan and took them to Brisbane repeating the task at Balikparan, Labaun and Morotai. On 29th January 1946 she left Australia for Kure in Japan with garrison troops and then to Subic Bay in Manila where she evacuated British POW's and took them to the Clyde. On 17th July she returned to Glen Line and was refitted for commercial operations by Vickers, Armstrong at Newcastle rejoining the fleet on 3rd March 1948. In October 1970 she was transferred to Blue Funnel and renamed Deucalion (5) but only until June of the following year when she was broken up at Kaohsiung. (Photograph from the Iain Lovie Collection)

GLENORCHY (2) was built in 1939 by Tailoo Dock & Engineering Co. at Hong Kong with a tonnage of 8982grt a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4 in and a service speed of 18 knots. On delivery she embarked upon commercial operations but only until June 1940 when she was requisitioned for government supply work in the Mediterranean where she took part in the Malta convoys but before the Africa campaign really got underway. In late 1941 she returned to the UK where she was fitted with anti-aircraft guns. On 3rd August she sailed from the Clyde with a full cargo of stores for Malta and between 10th - 13th August took part in the most famous Malta Convoy WS21 S, Operation Pedestal. Fourteen ships sailed from Gibraltar escorted by the battleships Nelson and Rodney, four fleet aircraft carriers Eagle, Furious, Indomitable and Victorious, seven cruisers and thirty destroyers with four submarines patrolling between the convoy and Italian Naval bases at Naples and Taranto- a formidable force. In addition a decoy convoy sailed from Alexandria but had to turn back after twenty four hours. On 13th August at 04.30 she was torpedoed and sunk by E-boats five miles north west of Keliba lighthouse, Tunisia. She was one of five vessels sunk in the Narrows and there were no survivors. Of the fourteen ships which set out from Gibraltar only five arrived at Grand Harbour, Valetta; Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star, Brisbane Star, Rochester Castle and the badly damaged oil tanker Ohio. The other ships which failed to make it were Almeria Lykes, Clan Ferguson, Deucalion, Empire Hope, Dorset, Santa Elisa, Waiarama and the Wairangi.

GLENARTNEY (4) was built in 1940 by the Caledon Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 9795grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4in and a service speed of 18 knots. She was delivered in 1940 with a shortened funnel and masts with a pole mast fitted well to the port side of the bridge to confuse U-Boat commanders who lined up mast and funnel for a bearing. Although painted grey she operated commercially until 1941 when she was used as a fast supply ship.. On December 1942 she took part in Operation Portcullis when, as part of a four ship convoy, she was escorted through to Malta with vital stores. In 1944 she formed part of the Pacific Fleet and, at one time, undertook experiments in the high speed transfer of stores at sea. She was released back to Glen Line in mid 1946 and refitted for commercial service and the Far East run. In 1967 she was sold for scrap and sailed from Kobe en route to the breakers yard at Onomichi on 16th March. (Photo from the Iain Lovie Collection)

GLENGARRY (3) was built in 1940 by Burmeister & Wain at Copenhagen with a tonnage of 9311grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4 in and a service speed of 18 knots .Before completion she was seized by the Germans when Denmark was invaded and allocated to the Hamburg Amerika Line and renamed Meersburg. She was later used as a depot ship for U-boat flotillas 25 and 27, based at Kiel. In 1942 she was converted into a mine laying Armed Merchant Cruiser, renamed Hansa and equipped with 9 x 3.7in guns, 26 Anti-aircraft guns and four torpedo tubes. Although used, in 1944, for mine laying training in the Baltic she never undertook her intended role which was to mine the Russian Convoy routes. Recovered by the British on 4th May 1945 at Kiel she was renamed Empire Humber, and in 1946 she was released back to Glen Line when, after an 18 month refit rejoined the fleet as the Glengarry. She was transferred to Blue Funnel in 1970 and renamed Dardanus (6) but reverted back to Glen and Glengarry in 1971 for a voyage to Sakkaido in Japan where she was scrapped. (Photo from the Iain Lovie Collection)

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