Hebe Class Stores Freighters

Hebe 1962In September 1960 it was announced that the Admiralty was to charter 2 small single-screwed Admiralty-designed freighters from a commercial company which would be built specifically for Admiralty sea freighting duties. They were designed to carry the greater proportion of their bulk cargo of naval stores in specially-designed containers which would be constructed by Chatham Dockyard which would become known as chacons, thus setting a pattern of containerisation which was followed in ever-increasing steps in the commercial world.


These 2 ships were built on tanker lines, with their machinery spaces and accommodation aft, so leaving 3 large holds and ‘tween decks forward, with No 3 ‘tween deck having 2 refrigerated spaces and facilities for 12 refrigerated containers. The holds were served by a combination of 10 x 5 ton, 1 x 20 ton and 1 x 25 ton derricks. They could also carry 2 grades of lubricating oil and a quantity of fresh water too and initially maintained a U.K. – Gibraltar – Malta – Suez Canal – Aden – Singapore service, but after the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 they were routed via the Cape of Good Hope with frequent calls at Cape Town and Simonstown. Neither of them had any replenishment at sea capability. They were chartered for a period of 19 years.

In their latter years they were mainly involved in the run-down of the overseas bases at Singapore, Mauritius, Masirah, Salalah and Malta and on completion of these tasks the only regular employment for them was the freighting of stores to Gibraltar and Cyprus and in 1978 questions then began as to the economics of this in the face of competition from commercial shipping lines. The Royal Marines came up at the last minute with an operational requirement for one of the ships – HEBE – to carry explosives as she was the only one of the pair capable of doing so. Before Admiralty Board approval was given for the ship to be retained for this purpose, she was substantially damaged at Gibraltar by a serious fire which proved to be the result of arson! The other ship then had to be converted to carry explosives to meet Royal Marine requirements, which effectively ensured her retention in service until the designated expiry of her charter.

The 2 ships in the Class were BACCHUS (3) and HEBE.


RFA Bacchus

Builder: Henry Robb Ltd, Leith.

Launched: 4 June 1962 Completed: 8 November 1962

Yard Nr: 483 Official Nr: 304368 Signal Letters: GHVE

Tonnages: 4823 grt 2442 nrt 5200 dwt 7958 full load displacement

Dimensions: 379’03” (o.a.) x 55’02” x 22’01”

Machinery: 1 x 5 cyl Sulzer diesel by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd,
Wallsend. 5500 bhp.

Speed: 15 knots

Complement: 36

Pennant Nr: A 404

Battle Honour: None recorded

Fate: Was returned to her owners on 1 October 1981. Sold commercially and renamed CHERRY LANKA the following month. Arrived at Gadani Beach for demolition by Goodluck Corporation prior to 31 December 1985


Hebe 1962

Builder: Henry Robb Ltd, Leith

Launched: 7 March 1962 Completed: 6 April 1962

Yard Nr: 482 Official Nr: 304252 Signal Letters: GHVD

Tonnages: 4823 grt 2441 nrt 5200 dwt 7958 full load dsiplacement

Dimensions: 379’03” (o.a.) x 55’02” x 22’01”

Machinery: 1 x 5 cyl Sulzer by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend. 5500 bhp

Speed: 15 knots.

Complement: 36

Pennant Nr: A 406

Battle Honour: None recorded

Fate: Her accommodation was gutted by a serious fire resulting from arson while berthed at Gibraltar with the loss of one life. She was declared a constructive total loss, her charter was cancelled and she was returned to her owners in December 1978. Sold commercially in 1979 and renamed GOOD GUARDIAN. Renamed GUARDIAN in 1981. Renamed WAFA in 1987. Arrived Famagusta for demolition by Cypriot breakers on 16 September 1987.