RFA Uplifter


RFA Uplifter
Lower image – © IWM (FL 20469)



Subsequent name:  
Official Number:                     167872                                                                               

Class:                                     KIN CLASS Coastal Salvage Vessel

Pennant No:                           W06 / A507

Laid down:                              13 March 1943 
Builder:                                    Smith’s Dock, South Bank, Middlesborough
Launched:                               29 November 1943

Into Service:                            6 April 1944

Out of service:                         1977 
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


Uplifter has served at differing times as an Naval Salvage vessel (HMS) and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary Salvage vessel (RFA)

Managed initally by Metal Industries as a merchant navy manned costal salvage vessel. 


13 August 1942 ordered

13 March 1943 laid down

29 November 1943 launched by Smith’s Dock Co Ltd, South Bank, Middlesbrough as Yard Nr: 1121 named  HMS UPLIFTER

6 April 1944 completed

20 May 1944 arrived in the Thames from Harwich for operation OVERLORD. Given the funnel marking ‘S’ to identify Allied salvage vessels working in the Normandy assault beaches area

June – September 1944 Vessel working in the areas of the Normandy assault beaches.

Captain Lt Cdr Victor Campbell RNVR. Chief Officer George Norman Elliott MBE. Salvaged  3 HM Ships, 3 Merchant Vessels, a large number of Landing Craft and 3 German TLC MK 111 in Port-en-Bassin harbour.Period includes the gales of 19-21 June which caused some 800 vessels to drift ashore and had to be recovered. Prime Minister Winston Churchill described Port-en-Bassin as ‘a most valuable acquisition’ and it was developed as the main supply port for petrol until the PLUTO pipeline was on stream. Captain appointed an MBE for the ship’s achievements. The citation read   ‘the work of the personnel engaged on salvage or repair operations was outstanding and the large number of ships and craft, some seriously damaged, salved and repaired are evidence of the skill, resourcefulness and endeavour of the Officers and men concerned’. The ship subsequently involved in salvage operations, with two other salvage ships, at the port of Flushing.  Diver Hugh Ross Allan was awarded the British Empire Medal for work during Operation Overloard

21 August 1944 sailed Seine Bay in unescorted convoy FTC 74 to Southampton arriving the next day

9 May 1945 the Scotsman newspaper reported –


9 5 1945 Scotsman Uplifter


29 January 1946 arrived at Aberdeen

16 February 1946 at Montrose sands the diesel barge Peterborough Merchant was raised by RFA Uplifter having ran aground with a cargo of zinc while on passage from Greenock to the River Tyne

September 1947 to December 1947 involved in surveying the wreck of the 1897 battleship Bulwark which had been lost in an internal explosion off Sheerness in November 1914. 

9 December 1947 the Thanet Advertiser newspaper reported –


9 12 1947 Thanet Advertiser Uplifter


4 March 1948 arrived Kames Bay, near Rothesay, to assist her sister RFA SUCCOUR in refloating the trials cruiser HMS EMERALD which took three months to accomplish

Emerald 18


December 1949 in refit at Sheerness

8 November 1950 arrived at Portsmouth and the Portsmouth Evening News reported –


Ports EvenNews 8 11 50 Uplifter


21 March 1951 entered Chatham Dockyard from the River Medway for duties during Navy Days

30 March 1951 in Chatham Dockyard berthed on HMS TROUBRIDGE and moved to be berthed on HMS REWARD

9 April 1951 sailed from Chatham Dockyard into the River Medway

18 April 1951 involved with RFA KINBRACE and RN ships in trying to locate HMS/m AFFRAY

1 May 1952 at Dungeness

30 May 1951 entered Chatham Dockyard from the River Medway 

9 June 1951 sailed from Chatham Dockyard into the River Medway

29 November 1951 berthed on the Pilot Tier, River Tyne

18 June 1952 involved with RFA KINBRACE and another tug and succeeded in getting the British steamer Baron Douglas which had run aground near Hastings refloated after a collision with a Yugoslav ship Korenica


Baron Douglas

ss Baron Douglas


July 1952 in refit at Sheerness

21 August 1952 sent with two tugs to an American Liberty ship ‘Western Farmer’ (7,239 tons) which was badly holed in a collision with a Norwegian tanker Bjorgholm (11,732 tons) 18 miles ESE of Ramsgate and which broke in half and her bows sank


Western Farmer 01

The after part of the ss Western Farmer


22 August 1952 The Times newspaper reported …


RFA Uplifter Times report


10 November 1952 along with her sister SUCCOUR she sailed Dover to assist in wreck clearing operations in the New Waterweg, Hook of Holland after the Panamanian freighter FAUSTUS had breached the North Pier there before sinking 3 days earlier and partially blocking the entrance

12 November 1952 the Portsmouth Evening News reported …


12 11 52 Ports Evn News


1 February 1953 in dry dock at Sheerness when water poured into the dock and entered the engine room through several openings which could not be closed. All hands were ordered ashore and as the last man got ashore the brow collapsed. Petty Officer Samuel John Horlick C.JX 154853 from HMS BARSOUND organised a party of five ratings to make Uplifter as watertight as possible. For his efforts the Petty Officer was awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division) for gallantry.

15 June 1953 took part in the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead along with 7 other RFA’s in Line ‘A’,

30 January 1954 at Portsmouth and recovery work began on LCT 1048 which had been beached in Stokes Bay, off Gosport, during 1949 after which she had been used as a target

28 May 1954 sailed from Chatham Dockyard to the River Medway

1 June 1954 notice was given in the London Gazette that the Admiralty was paying Salvage money to those involved from RFA UPLIFTER and RFA KINBRACE in the salvage of the ss Baron Douglas on the 18 June 1952. Special payments of an additional £25.00 were made to W. Brown and J. Turvey of RFA Uplifter

8 August 1954 entered Chatham Dockyard from the River Medway

11 December 1954 entered Chatham Dockyard from the River Medway

25 January 1955 sailed from Chatham Dockyard into the River Medway and then to Sheerness

1 March 1955 assisted in the recovery of RFA EDDYREEF which had flooded at Shotley due to a failed circulation pump.

1955 involved in secret bomb recovery from Orford Ness

July 1955 a Bosun and two men with a boat from UPLIFTER allocated to accompany the American swimmer Florence Chadwick during an attempted non-stop swim across the English Channel and return.

July 1955 placed in reserve at Chatham Dockyard.

12 November 1956 commissioned at Chatham for service during Operation Musketeer – the Suez Crisis – which also involved 34 other RFA‘s

10 December 1956 arrived Port Said to assist in wreck clearance operations. RFA’s SALVESTOR and SEA SALVOR were also engaged in this task

18 December 1956 raised the hopper Neptune at Port Said

25 January 1957 berthed at Malta together with RFA DISPENSER

9 February 1957 at Gozo together with the harbour tug Tanac refloated the Malta Gozo Ferry Bancinu after she broke adrift from moorings in Mgarr harbour during the night of 23 January 1957. The Bancinu was holed for’ard and pumps had to be used to keep her afloat

1.2 Gozo Ferry on the Rocks

The Malta to Gozo ferry Bancinu on the rocks in Gozo Harbour with HMS Uplifter (just visible) salvaging her

1.4 HMS Uplifter Ferry entering Valetta Harbour Feb1957

HMS Uplifter in Valetta Harbour with the salvaged ferry Bancinu alongside
images both courtesy of David Witchalls

7 March 1957 returned to Chatham and reserve at Sheerness

28 March 1957 in No: 6 dry dock at Chatham Dockyard

February 1959 underwent refit and preservation at Sheerness

1959 in reserve at Pembroke Dock.

6 May 1963 Admiralty Board approval was obtained to convert her and her sisters KINBRACE and KINGARTH into Salvage, Mooring and Boom Vessels

6 June 1964 arrived Liverpool to transfer her redundant boiler to her sister DISPENSER

19 June 1964 boiler removed and installed in her sister

7 July 1964 was towed back to Pembroke Dock to await conversion

2 June 1966 arrived at St Andrews Dock, Hull

16 June 1966 conversion began to re-engine her by St Andrews Engineering at Hull with 1 x British Polar Atlas diesel engine. 630 bhp. 9 knots. Single screw

17 May 1967 conversion completed at a cost of £173,400

27 June 1967 was accepted after conversion and was now in grey livery

24 March 1968  Aer Lingus Vickers Vicount EI-AOM crashed off County Wexford near the Tuskar Rock Lighthouse. Sixty one passengers and crew of the aircraft were killed.

30 March 1968 at Milford Haven put on notice to sail to the scene of the aircrash to join various RN units including the deep diving vessel HMS RECLAIM

20 May 1968 arrived on scene with divers to replace HMS CLARBESTON

29 May 1968 returned to Milford Haven

13 June 1968 back on scene preparing moorings and positioning of  HMS RECLAIM

16 June 1968 provided assistance to HMS RECLAIM

21 June 1968 landed some of the recovered wreckage

22 June 1968 left from the scene having been stood down operations – the tides were too strong

14 July 1968 with HMS RECLAIM and HMS SHOULTON returned to the search area

23 July 1968 off loaded wreckage recovered during previous 10 days – 2.5 tons approx. mostly engines at Rosslare Harbour

24 July 1968 stood down again due to strong tides

13 August 1968 returned to the search area with HMS RECLAIM with Irish ship CLIONA

20 August 1968 decision taken by C in C Plymouth to withdrawl from the scene on 21 August 1968. UPLIFTER required to recover all moorings before departure

21 August 1968 to Milford Haven

29 August 1968 lifted all moorings and anchors, leaving area clear. Irish shipping continued the search for wreckage through September and ended on 4 October 1968.

1970 transferred to RMAS

31 July 1977 to Rosyth

5 to the 10 May 1979 used to ascertain clearance over the wreck of HMS NATAL in Nigg Bay, the Cromarty Firth which sank after an internal explosion on 30 December 1915

1985 in reserve and put up for disposal

September 1985 was used as a bombing target off Fraserburgh during which she was holed after grounding on an old target and was taken back to Rosyth for lay-up pending disposal..

27 June 1986 sold for demolition by Jas A. White at Inverkeithing. Demolition lasted for a couple of years

June 1986 broken up at Inverkeithing




Was managed by Metal Industries Ltd during WW2.

She was the longest-serving of the KIN CLASS under the White Ensign