The History of Leith

January 4, 2011

A Mercy Ship

Perhaps the most fitting ship with which to begin this section is the steamer ” Gothland,” for the reason that, in her special role of convoy rescue ship, she stands half-way between a fighting ship and a
merchant vessel.
The ” Gothland” is 1286 tons gross and was built at Leith for the Currie Line, Ltd., in 1932, to trade between Leith and Hamburg.
During the first two years of the war, the ” Gothland” was employed in what was, for her, long runs to Italy and North Africa.
Then, in October 1941, she was called to higher service as a rescue
ship attached to North Atlantic convoys. Many a master must have
felt reassured as he saw the ” Gothland ” take station at the tail of the
convoy, knowing that in case of emergency she could help with every
practicable rescue device and that her hospital could cope with any
injury or exposure. Only Captain Hadden and his officers knew the
risk they themselves ran in the demand they made on their ship. She
was not designed for the stress of the long Atlantic rollers, nor the
bitter weather off Nova Scotia and Labrador, which added tons of snow
and ice to her upper structure.
In the winter of 1943 the ” Gothland ” collided with an iceberg in
dense fog. Fortunately the damage to her bow was all above water-line
and she was able to continue her journey.
For four years the ” Gothland ” continued the arduous and responsible
duty, fortunately without serious damage from air attacks,
which became so frequent that, because of her great value and the
large number of survivors often on board from sunken ships, she was
provided with a fighting ship escort.
Her experiences, exciting and tragic, would need a small volume in themselves to relate. But one interesting occasion must be recorded.
Near the end of April 1944 a request was received from the corvette
” Hespeler ” of the Canadian Navy for the ” Gothland ” to receive an
appendicitis case from her crew. During the transfer the officers met
and discovered with great joy the corvette had only recently been
completed at the Victoria Shipyards and was making her maiden voyage.
It seems that both Commanders were full of praise for their vessels.
Now ” Gothland ” is back on her peace-time trade, with her
Captain wearing a well-deserved O.B.E. ribbon and three of the crew
the B.E.M. Before being ” demobilised,” she came to the Yard for
inspection. The satisfaction of the firm was as great as that of the
owners to find that after a prolonged period of excessive strain, the hull showed no sign of any structural defects, and the worst that could be found was a few slack rivets.

source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

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