RFA Sea Salvor



RFA Sea Salvor



Official Number:               180107                                                                         

Class:                             KING SALVOR Class Ocean Salvage Ship 

Pennant No:                    A503

Laid down:                       9 August 1942
Builder:                           Goole Ship Building, Goole

Launched:                       22 April 1943
Into Service:                     February 1944
Out of service:                  April 1971
Fate:                               Broken up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: –


Background Data:  There were originally 13 ships in this Admiralty-designed Class, 12 of which saw service as RFA’s. The final unit in the Class was completed as a Submarine Rescue Vessel under the White Ensign. All were basically similar and were used as Ocean Salvage Ships. They had a complement of 72 and during wartime were armed with 4 x 20 mm AA guns


22 April 1943  launched by  Goole Shipbuilding & Repair Co Ltd, Goole as Yard Nr 391 named  SEA SALVOR

4 December 1943 attempt made to dock Sea Salvor in USS ARD12 as a practice docking – not successful. The dock was reflooded and Sea Salvor remained berthed inside overnight

4 February 1944 registered at Goole as SEA SALVOR and as number 4/44 in the Registry Book

February 1944  placed under management of Risdon Beazeley Ltd, Southampton


1944 Sea Salvor


10 April 1944 during Operation Neptune based at Southampton until called for

7 June 1944 sailed the Solent in convoy ETC22A to Seine Bay arriving the next day

20 June 1944 off the North Coast of France by Courseulles attempted to place pumps on USS ATR15 which reported she was sinking. Unable to get alongside due to very heavy seas

7 August 1944 off Normandy stood by the US Liberty ship William L Marcy which had been torpedoed. The ship was damaged on her starboard side – no 5 hold – tunnel flooded. She saved but later scuttled in the North Sea

13 November 1944 sailed Milford Haven to join escorted convoy KMS 69G to Gibraltar arriving on November 1944

23 November 1944 sailed Gibraltar in escorted convoy KMS69 to Augusta arriving 27 November 1944

15 May 1945 Carpenter Robert Campbell awarded a Mention in Despatches for services during the build-up in Normandy and for salvage operations – details published in the London Gazette of this day

8 July 1946 Fireman Emanuel Muscat discharged dead. He died at Victoria Hospital, Gozo, Malta from typhoid fever

24 January 1948 Captain John W Boyes RFA appointed as Master

6 March 1948 sailed Malta for Cape Bon

19 March 1948 the UK press reported –


Press Report 19 3 1948 Sea Salvor


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 – Chief Officer Colin Campbell Cave RFA, Second Engineer Officer W Fenech RFA, Third Engineer Officer J S Clarke RFA, Diver S J S Smith, Diver George Sorley, Diver G Greeman, Diver Jack 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

August 1949 together with RFA Dispenser and salvage vessel Retrieve involved in the raising of HMS Breconshire from Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta where she had sunk in March 1942

21 November 1949 at Malta following an accident onboard medical assistance was sought from HMS Gravelines whose SBA was turned to and provided first aid  

18 January 1950 Chief Engineer Officer John W Younger RFA discharged dead – natural causes – heart attack.  He is buried in Kalkara Royal Naval Cemetery, Malta

24 February 1950, with RN ships, attended the Ben Line ship Benledi on fire at sea off Malta when a fire in the stoke hold burst the ships oil tanks while on passage from London to Hong Kong with general cargo.


Ben Line ship Benledi


Forty four members of the crew were picked up by HMS CHILDERS


Times 25 Feb 1950 Press Report


3 March 1950 arrived back in Malta with BENLEDI, which was declared a constructive total loss

18 April 1950 Captain W H Harrison RFA appointed as Master

2 September 1950 Mr W Fenech RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

15 December 1950 sailed from Malta with RN ships to a Bank Line ship the ss Etivebank which had run aground off the Sicilian port of Licata after the parting of a cable in heavy weather. The ship was said to be firmly ashore.

30 April 1951 sailed Malta to Gibraltar to attend and salvage NAV Bedenham which had blown up in the harbour while discharging ammunition

Times Press Cutting Sea Salvor Bedenham

Bedenham and Sea Salvor

RFA Sea Salvor by NAV Bedenham in Gibraltar Harbour

from the Daniel Ferro collection


7 January 1952 Captain John R Hayward RFA appointed Master



Captain John R Hayward RFA


2 June 1952 took the Minsweeper M1534 in tow to Malta after she had suffered a fire which had by then been extinguished

2 July 1952 Norwegian tanker Fernpark ran aground off Munxar Point, St. Thomas Bay, Malta while on its way to Marsaxlokk Harbour. RFA Sea Salvor attempted to tow her off but failed – RFA Rowanol took 1,000 tons of fuel oil off the Fernpark which allowed Sea Salvor to refloat her

ss Fernpark

ss Fernpark


10 July 1953 three RN ratings (AB John E Pragnell, L/S Edward J Slatter and Artificer Benjamin Thomas) and one RIN Rating (ERA Pery J Gaved) all from HMS Forth accidentally killed in the decompression chamber on RFA Sea Salvor during diving training at Malta.  All buried at the Kallkara Royal Naval Cemetery

13 October 1953 berthed at Malta

20 January 1954 to 11 April 1954 involved in the recovery of the wreckage of the BOAC De Havilland Comet G-ALYP which crashed into the sea off Elba on 10 January 1954


Sea Salvors Diving Bell

RFA Sea Salvor’s diving bell used in the recovery of the Comet wreckage


Sea Salvors Comet wreckage 1954

The crew examine some of the wreckage from the Comet which had been recovered


20 March 1954 the Sunderland Daily Echo newspaper reported –


20 3 54 Sunderland Daily Echo Sea Salvour


15 April 1954 returned to Grand Harbour, Malta with HMS BARHILL after nearly 3 months working off Elba where 85% of the wreckage of the Comet was recovered


VIDEO OF THE SEARCH FOR THE COMET (Links to http://www.britishpathe.com)


28 May 1954 in the London Gazette of this day salvage awards for officers and crew members who had been involved in the salvage of the Norwegian ship Fernpark on 2 July 1952 (see above) with RFA ROWANOL, HMS BRIGAND, Tug Expert and Tanac V56 announced

1 January 1955 Diver Charles Docherty RFA awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours list of this day for salvage opeations on the BOAC De Havilland Comet G-ALYP 

BEM Sea Salvor

 Diver Charles Docherty RFA’s British Empire Medal

11 January 1955 at Malta Fireman Robert Gibbs discharged dead – heart failure

1 April 1955 Captain John W Boyes RFA appointed as Master

4 November 1956 was deployed on Operation Musketeer – the Suez Crisis – until 22 December 1956 – the entire crew qualified for the award of the Naval General Service Medal with the “Near East” Clasp


NGSM Near East


9 November 1956 while in service during Operation Musketeer at Suez raised a 4000 ton suction dredger ‘Paul Solente’ with RFA SALVEDA and LC’s 10 and 11

20 November 1956 at Port Said along with RFA’s SALVESTOR and (later) UPLIFTER was further engaged in raising wrecks after the Suez Crisis


Sea Salvor at suez


January 1957 at the Suez Canal engaged raising the ss Paul Solente


S.Salvor 1 57 at Suez

© IWM (A33686)


28 March 1957 Captain H M Campbell RFA appointed as Master

30 October 1957 Diver Jack (John) Richard Cresdee discharged dead. He is buried in Kalkara Royal Naval Cemetery, Malta. He was killed while surveying HMS/m  P36 which had been bombed in Lazzaretto Creek,  Malta and sunk on 1 April 1942 and had not been raised at the time. The submarine was raised eventually in August 1958 using LC23 and LC24 and beached near the Royal Malta Yacht Club



Image courtesy of British War Graves – with thanks


January 1958 near Latakia, Syria salvaged the 3649 ton ss Almerian with the ship came off the rocks on 21 February 1959

15 September 1958 at Malta Able Seaman Dominic Bonelo discharged dead – he died from a stroke

6 March 1959 Captain D M Gentle RFA appointed as Master

26 December 1959 2nd Officer John Crombie Brown RFA discharged dead. He is buried in Kalkara Royal Naval Cemetery, Malta

13 June 1960 arrived at Tobruk with HMS BARHILL to undertake Harbour works

7 July 1960 sailed Malta for Lampedusa

8 February 1961 with the Admiralty tug SEA GIANT and HMS STUBBINGTON towed Norwegian tanker BERGEHUS to Malta after an explosion in her boiler room 68 miles east of the island. One man was killed and four were injured on the tanker. The injured were flown to the island for urgent medical treatment

10 February 1961 berthed at Grand Harbour, Malta

13 February 1961 sailed from Grand Harbour, Malta returning to her berth later in the day

17 April 1961 sailed Malta for Exercises with RN and other Allied ships together with RFA Wave Baron, RFA Tide Austral, RFA Brown Ranger and RFA Fort Duquesne

6 November 1962 berthed at Gibraltar



RFA Sea Salvor at Gibraltar
from RFA Nostalgia

17 June 1963 Captain R H A Adams RFA appointed as Master

16 July 1966 arrived at Malta from Tripoli

8 August 1966 grounded at Izmir but was refloated

April 1967 Captain F R Murray RFA appointed as Master

1 January 1968 Mr J Scicluna RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

15 to 20 January 1968 following earthquakes in Sicily sailed together with HMS’s ASTON, CROFTON, STUBBINGTON and WALKERTON from Malta to Belice on the north west coast of Sicily. A total of 24 ship days were spent assisting. Sailed 21 January 1968 for Malta

April 1971 towed to Devonport by RFA BUSTLER to be laid up

8 January 1973 sold for scrap

18 January 1973  Arrived at Grays, Essex for breaking up by T.W. Ward Ltd.