The Adventures of a Conway Lad on RFA Resource 1968


Pennant No. A 480                    International Callsign GRFE                  Registered LONDON


Previous Name N/A                                                                         Lloyds Identity No. 6717423


Builder Scott’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Greenock. (Yard No. 242)


Launched 11th February 1966                                                               Completed 16th May 1967


Displacement (Light-ship) 13,285 tons.                         (Loaded) 20,510 tons.


Measurement Tonnage N.R.T. 8,040                   G.R.T. 18,029 DWT 7,225


Dimensions Length O.A. 640 ft.                    Beam 77 ft.                         Draft 28 ft.


Main Machinery 2 x AEI (Manchester) steam turbines.   2 x Foster Wheeler water tube boilers.

Single shaft.        Speed 21 knots.


Ships Badge The badge was originally granted in 1927, to a Fleet Repair Ship built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow in Furness.  She was the 3rd British warship to bear the name and was scrapped at Inverkeithing in 1954.


The origin of the badge design evolved from the fact that “HMS Unicorn”, which had been captured by the French in 1780, was then retaken in 1781 by the British man-of war called “Resource”, (built 1778).  The badge therefore depicts a sea-unicorn, to commemorate this event.  The motto, passed on from earlier warships is “Passim ut Olim”, (Everywhere as of yore).


Remarks Along with her sister-ship “REGENT”, the “RESOURCE” was a purpose designed Fleet Replenishment Ship, with a specialisation for the storage and issue of armament supplies.  A large range of victualling and naval stores were also carried in the warehouse style cargo spaces below decks.  Certain cargo compartments and the accommodation areas were fully air-conditioned.  These two ships were the only two RFA’s of their time to permanently carry a helicopter, (Wessex 5), along with a detachment of RN flight personnel, primarily to be used for the transfer of stores between ships whilst at sea.  This process is known as “Vertrep”, (vertical replenishment).


When the receiving ship was able to close with the storeship, loads were transferred via heavy jackstays, kept taut by electric automatic tensioning winches.  The jackstay rigs were positioned each side of 3 goalpost type gantries. In addition there was a special gantry for the transfer of ‘Seaslug’ surface to air guided missiles, then carried by the County class detroyers  The RAS jackstay high-points were modified from time to time, as trials were carried out with new designs of load lifting arms, aimed to reduce handling shocks to sophisticated weapons in a rough seaway.  The hull was strengthened for navigation in ice.


“RESOURCE” was finally taken out of service and sold to ‘Harlequin Shipping Ltd, (Electra Marine [London] Ltd), in 1997.  Renamed “RESOURCEFUL” and registered in St Vincent, she steamed to Alang, India to be broken up.  She departed Devonport on 24th June 1997, arriving at her final destination on 20th August 1997.



21st September 1967 to 4th March 1968

British Crew

Third Officer


I travelled north to join this new ship at Greenock, on the Clyde, where she had been built and had just completed her sea trials.  The “Resource”, along with her sister-ship the “Regent”, had been designed by the Ministry of Defence at Bath.  Consequently, both were functional but not the prettiest or most comfortable of ships.  They had the appearance of a tanker from a distance, with a large accommodation block amidships and another at the stern to cater for the large complement of personnel.  These two accommodation areas were linked by a pair of long alleyways which ran along each side of the ship, immediately beneath the main deck.  The alleyway on the port side, with crew cabins, was known as “Union Street”, after a thoroughfare well known to seafarers in Plymouth, and the starboard side alleyway with civilian stores personnel cabins was known as the “Burma Road”.  Deck Officer cabins were in the midships island, along with the radio officers, pursers, the helicopter pilot and the senior armament stores officers.  The after accommodation held cabins for the ship’s engineers, petty officers, junior armament stores officers and the RN helicopter maintenance detachment.  The officers’ lounge and dining saloon were aft, below the flight deck.


In addition to the normal manning requirement of RFA officers and crew for a vessel of this size, these ships also carried a large contingent of armament stores personnel.  Their responsibility was to manage the vast amount of naval and aircraft munitions held on board.  She also carried a wide range of ordinary naval stores and victualling supplies for transfer to warships at sea.  “Resource” was however, principally an armament supply ship, with her dangerous cargo carried in deep holds, with decks interconnected by large electric lifts.  When not in use, the lift platforms were stowed at the main deck position and the deck sealed pneumatically, to prevent the ingress of water.  Any item of stores held below decks had to be readily accessible, therefore each hold compartment was fitted out like a warehouse and serviced by mini forklift trucks and other specialised handling equipment.


For security reasons, much of the hold space was ‘out of bounds’ to RFA personnel.  That was unless they had been ‘positively vetted’.  Less painful than it sounds, this meant that the individuals background and character was researched in depth by the Ministry of Defence.  This procedure was usually reserved for armament staff and senior RFA officers, (1st Officer and above).


Finally completing builders trials and leaving shipyard hands shortly after I joined, we sailed from the Clyde and carried out a lengthy loading process in Plymouth Sound.  All our cargo came out to us by barge from the armament depot at Ernesettle.  Armament ships hardly ever went alongside anywhere in the U.K. because of the nature of the cargo.  The exception was at Glen Mallen Jetty in Loch Long, which serviced the remote and large NATO armament depot that was built into the hillside of Glen Douglas.  As a result, going ashore anywhere else meant taking a long ride in a liberty boat, with the associated and usually infrequent boat routines.


On completion of loading at Plymouth, we sailed the short distance to Portland for our FOST (Flag Officer Sea Training) “work-up”.  Because of the new ship design and types of replenishment rigs that had been fitted to the ship, our “work-up” was unusually long and arduous.


As is usual for 3rd Officers, I held the 8-12 watch, with duties much as described in the narrative for the “Bacchus”.  Additionally, when in company or on exercise with warships or other RFA’s, there was the added interest, both day and night, of convoy station-keeping, various manoeuvring signals to be de-coded and acted upon and frequent replenishments to keep you busy.  Helicopter operations were another interesting distraction.


In port there was no respite from the tedious watch-keeping, as strict gangway and duty watches had to be constantly maintained.  I found that gangway watches were a real chore and usually very boring.  The one relief from tedium was handling the boisterous libertymen that came staggering up the gangway from the last liberty-boat after a good run ashore.  Some were frequently trying to smuggle bottles of spirit on board, which the captain had forbidden to the crew.  The situation at the top of the gangway often got quite tense, with the subsequent logging, (not flogging!), of serious offenders the following morning in front of the captain.


Being an armament ship, the Royal Naval Armament Department had acquired a pair of beautiful old brass mortars from some source, which were kept highly polished by the quartermasters and displayed either side of a decorative lifebuoy at the top of the gangway.


Ports of call whilst I was aboard were rather mundane and mainly located around the U.K. coast.  These included Plymouth Sound, Portland Harbour and the jetty at Glen Mallen.  At these places we frequently carried out load adjustments, to suit the future requirements of ships that we were programmed to meet at sea.  Between ports we replenished many ships and took part in many exercises.  Our one break from this intensive routine was a trip to Lisbon and on to Gibraltar, before returning again to U.K. waters.


I finally paid off the “Resource” at Plymouth, having by now gained enough sea-time to go to college and study for all the examinations which, if I passed, would gain me a Board of Trade “First Mate (Foreign Going)” Certificate.


The subjects covered to obtain this qualification were:

“Navigation” (3 hours, min. 70% to pass),  “Chartwork” (2 hours, min.70% to pass), “Ship Construction & Stability” (3 hours, min.50% to pass), “Meteorology” ( 2 hours, no minimum pass mark but marks do count towards overall average percentage), “Ship Maintenance, Routine and Cargo Work” (3 hours, min 50% to pass) and “Elementary Magnetism, Electricity and the Gyro Compass” (2 hours, no minimum pass mark but marks do count towards overall average percentage.


As with 2nd Mates, the written exams were followed by an “Oral” examination and a “Signals” examination.