RFA Dispenser



RFA Dispenser




Subsequent name:               Salvage Chieftain

Official Number:                     167863                                                          

Class:                                       KIN CLASS Coastal Salvage Vessel

Pennant No:                            A262

Laid down:                              30 November 1942 
Builder:                                    Smith’s Dock, Middlesborough
Launched:                               22 April 1943
Into Service:                            25 February 1948

Out of service:                         Various – see below

Fate:                                         Broken up


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



General Arrangement Plan


13 August 1942 ordered along with her sisters HELP, LIFELINE, SHIPWAY, SLEDWAY,  SUCCOUR and UPLIFTER

30 November 1942 laid down

22 April 1943 launched by Smith’s Dock Co Ltd, South Bank, Middlesbrough as Yard Nr 1117 named  HMS DISPENSER

8 October 1943 Admiralty Coastal Salvage Ship managed by Risdon Beazley. Captain Frank Ronald Hunter appoined as Master. He had previously been in command of the Salvage Ship Prince Salvor. He remained in command until 15 June 1946 at Malta. The Admiralty list of HM Ships has, for some incorrect reason, Dispenser as a commissioned HM ship in Gibraltar when she was at Middlesborough signing on a Merchant Navy crew.

22 October 1943 sailed Milford Haven in Convoy KX 11to Gibraltar arriving on 1 November 1943

10 November 1943 sailed Gibraltar in Convoy KMS 31 (Gibraltar – Port Said) and detached to Augusta

16 November 1943 sailed Augusta in Convoy VN 9 to Naples arriving on 18 November 1943

22 November 1943 commenced raising the jib, counterweight and turntable of a 150 ton crane which had been sunk and was obstructing the entrance to Berth 10 in the port of Naples. 

28 November 1943 commenced clearing Berth 71 at Naples followed by raising a destroyer sunk in Berth 13 with the assistance of lifting camels.

26 December 1943 her divers placed slings under a damaged dock caisson at the entrance of the ports dry dock. Half was raised on 28 December 1943 shortly followed by the other half

1 January 1944 proceeded to Bastia, North Corsica and cleared that port with the help of HMS Barholm for operational shipping by raising 7 wrecks in just 8 days

25 January 1944 returned to Naples and commenced work on raising a destroyer in Berth 33 with the assistance of camels and compressed air

14 February 1944 to 21 February 1944 was detached to Torre del Greco for clearance operations with the help of the captured sheerlegs Titano. They lifted a 600 ton sailing ship and a breakwater block laying barge. 

25 February 1944 had retruned to Naples but due to strong westerly gales all lifting work was suspended 

27 February 1944 with a lull in the weather assisted in refloating the fighter direction ship HMS BOXER and a tug LT221 which had dragged their anchors in a gale and both had gone ashore at Bagnoli. Both refloated by 6 March 1944

13 March 1944 the salvage officer – Captain Doust – reported that Dispenser and RN salvage ships had raised or salvaged 115 wrecks in the western part of the port of Naples.

28 March 1944 sailed Naples in Convoy NV 29 to Augusta arriving on 29 March 1944

5 August 1944 sailed Southend in Convoy ETC 59 (Southend – Seine Bay) to Southampton arriving the next day

13 February 1945 entered Marseilles, France after she had cleared a block ship sunk in the locks. Thence to Le Ciotat where the fitting out berth of the shipyard was blocked by three sunken tugs. Cleared

2 March 1945 arrived at Malta and involved in the salvage of Breconshire, RFA PLUMLEAF and AFD 8

24 April 1945 Captain Frank Ronald Hunter awarded the OBE (Civil Division) and Chief Diver Ernest Frederick Goodman awarded the MBE (Civil Division) for clearing block ships in mined waters at Marseilles, France under dangerous and difficult conditions

24 July 1946 at Central Civil Hospital, Malta Able Seaman Michael Grima discharged dead – stroke

August 1946 now flying the Red Ensign on charter under management of Risdon Beazeley Ltd, Southampton

28 August 1947 raised the wreck of RFA PLUMLEAF (1) at Malta

24 November 1947 Fireman George R Glass discharged dead. He is buried in TYNEMOUTH (PRESTON) CEMETERY in Sec. J. R.C. Grave 2793

Glass 1

Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project

27 January 1948 Captain W H Harrison appointed as Master

25 February 1948 paid off as an R.N. vessel and became RFA DISPENSER with an RFA crew

28 July 1949 as a result of their consideration of a report made by the Flag Officer, Malta their Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty  expressed their satisfaction for the valuable services rendered during the course of difficult and complicated salvage operations during the raising of AFD No.8 at Malta by – Second Officer R V Marchant RFA, Diver S J S Smith, Diver G Sorley, Diver G Greeman, Diver J Cresdee, Diver P F McSweeney, Diver C A Rayner, Diver Attendant J A Ball, Diver Attendant J Agius, Diver Attendant J Magri, Diver Attendant J Farrugia, Chargeman E Camilleri and Chargeman S Saliba

April 1950 involved in trials with HMS ACHATES off Gibraltar and later returned to Portsmouth in late 1950

4 May 1950 Captain John R Hayward RFA appointed as Master


Captain John R Hayward RFA

7 August 1950 along with RFA SEA SALVOR and HMS RETRIEVER she began raising the wreck of the wartime Malta Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE which had been sunk on 27 March 1942. The wreck was raised “bottom up“

Breconshire salvage

The raising of the Breconshire – © IWM (A 31714)

10 April 1951 sailed from Portsmouth

16 June 1952 sailed from Portsmouth

28 August 1951 the Admiralty Pink List shows DISPENSER to be Portsmouth based

1952 refit at Portsmouth and then into Class II reserve

5 March 1953 the Portsmouth Evening News reported this day that the ship’ s Master, Captain Jack Ivory, had pleaded Guilty at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court to stealing £239 from the ships safe on 1 October 1952. He was fined £50 and ordered to pay £6 6sh costs. He had been sacked.

October 1953 chartered to Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association (L&GSA) – but not handed over until 4 December 1953

1 December 1953 to 1 October 1958 on charter to Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association, for 5 years, name unchanged at a rate of £3,000 per year to replace the Association’s salvage vessel RANGER

16 March 1954 sailed Liverpool to Hartlepool arriving on 21 March 1954 and involved with salvaging the 1,871 ton Guildford off Whitby which had capsized on 10 March 1954. Her recovery took six weeks.

6 December 1954 sailed Liverpool to assist in the salvage of the tanker Olav Ringdal Jnr which had exploded at Swansea and broke in half and killed three crew members. Released from the salvage work on 6 January 1955 to attend the 6,207 ton Luso which had stranded on Sully Beach, east of Barry, South Wales.  She managed to refloat the Luso on 9 January 1955 and then returned to Swansea to assist in refloating the two halves of the Olav Ringdal Jnr.

27 January 1955 assisted in the salvage of the 7,279 ton ship Bobara which had run aground 5 miles south of South Stack, Anglesey – ship raised.

October 1956 back to Admiralty control for Suez – arrived 27 November 1956. Left Suez on 22 January 1957, was at Gibraltar on 3 February 1957

9 November 1956 sailed for Malta enroute to Suez

27 November 1956 arrived Suez Canal for wreck clearance operations

18 January 1957 sailed Port Said along with her sister UPLIFTER

22 January 1957 sailed Suez

25 January 1957 arrived with UPLIFTER at Malta. A Royal Navy Press Officer said that the British Salvage ships had raised 13 wrecks in the Suez Canal in the face of every conceivable form of obstruction and irritation from the Egyptians. He further claimed the Egyptians denied British ships ‘certain essential stores’ – reported in the Times of 26 January 1957

3 February 1957 arrived Gibraltar enroute U.K.

14 February 1957 reported by WT she was 10 nmiles NNW of Lands End

15 February 1957 arrived at Liverpool and returned to L&GSA

1958 further 5 year chartered to L&GSA

14 July 1958 raised the 900 ton cargo ship Cliffville off Meadowside Quay, Glasgow which had sunk on 12 May 1958

Mid August 1958 at Milford Haven loading explosives

26 August 1958 arrived Malta enroute to Turkey to lay moorings and two oil pipeline at Iskenderun

30 September 1958 the first oil pipeline was laid

2 October 1958 the second oil pipeline was laid

29 November 1958 sailed Turkey on completion of mooring laying

1 December 1958 the L&GSA signed a new charter agreement with the Admiralty at £3,000 p.a.

6 January 1959 arrived back in Liverpool

March 1959 at Hull to assist in the recovery of the trawler Stella Carina

3 October 1959 chartered by the Admiralty and sailed Liverpool to recover a trials unit off Perranporth, Cornwall

9 October 1959 delivered the trials unit to Devonport and returned to Liverpool

6 November 1959 returned to Devonport

11 November 1959 sailed Devonport with the trials unit for relaying it off Perranporth. The sailing had been delayed by bad weather

17 November 1959 the relaying task had been completed and she sailed for Liverpool

19 November 1959 arrived at Liverpool

21 March 1961 in the Manchester Ship Canal the sand dredger Mary P Cooper collied with m.v. Foamsville and sank – salvaged by the Dispenser over a period of 6 weeks



RFA Dispenser at work on salvaging the Mary P Cooper – ©  Peter Spilsbury – used with the kind permission of the copyright holder


3 November 1962 attended Church Bay, Rathlin Island to the scene of the sinking of the Fleetwood Trawler Ella Hewitt – uneconomical to attempt to raise her.

2 June 1964 was towed from her berth at Salthouse Dock to Brocklebank Dock, Liverpool to have the boiler from her sister UPLIFTER fitted as the latter was being converted to diesel propulsion

19 June 1964 had the boiler fitted at Harland and Wolff Ltd as her own one was worn out

7 July 1964 conducted satisfactory sea trials

13 July 1964 sailed Liverpool for Avonmouth

September 1964 ceased salvage work for the winter and returned to Liverpool

Mid May 1965 returned to Avonmouth and the tug Kingsgarth which had sunk at the entrance to the docks

9 June 1965 at Avonmouth with ASP’s lifted the tug and she was towed to the North Pier and then to Cashmoor’s ship breakers

28 September 1965 the GLC sludge carrier Sir Joseph Rawlinson in the Thames was in collision in fog with Westminster Dredging Black Deep which had been under tow of the tug Danube. DISPENSER attended and was temporarily based at Sheerness

Late 1965 returned to Liverpool from Sheerness for the winter

1 April 1966 returned to Sheerness and complete the recovery of the GLC sludge carrier with the assistance of the PLA’s Yantlet (the former RFA MOLLUSC)

1 October 1968 at Pembroke Dock was off-charter surveyed and on the next day returned to the MOD

November 1968 decision made to remove her from Class and her British registry

17 December 1968 ceased to be an RFA and was to be based at Rosyth replacing the BAR Class vessel BARFIELD

27 May 1969 to 29 August 1969 at Rosyth in refit

1971 allocated to the Forth Mooring and Salvage Squadron at Rosyth

1972 was absorbed into the RMAS

February 1972 to March 1972 had a limited refit at Rosyth

November 1974 to March 1975 was converted into a Trials Vessel for service at Rosyth to replace BDV BARFOOT

December 1975 became surplus to requirements

June 1976  approval given for her disposal  and placed on Disposal List at Rosyth.

23 May 1977 purchased for £30,000 by Mr Allan C Crothall who resold her to Britannic Marine Salvage who renamed her SALVAGE CHIEFTAIN. Re-engined with a Mirlees diesel engine at Maritime Engineering Services, Hull

1978 laid up at Grangemouth

June 1979 broken up at the New Holland Shipyard Ltd, New Holland, Linconshire