The History of Leith

January 4, 2011

A Strange Tow

A sister ship, H.M.S. ” Samsonia,” also had a difficult tow which
could only have been accomplished by one of the largest tugs in the
world. She towed a 7000 ton ship 1400 miles at double the speed of an
older tug from which she took over, despite the fact that the tow was
badly damaged aft and could not steer and sheered about so badly that at times she was broadside on to the tug. In addition there were repeated attacks from enemy aircraft which the tug beat off with her own guns.
One of the strangest feats of salvage ever performed also goes to
the credit of ” Samsonia.” One day in the spring of 1943 she received
a signal asking her to search for a Lockheed bomber which was adrift
on a raft out in the Atlantic. The officers smiled, but orders are orders
in the Navy, and the tug searched the area indicated for some hours
and were on the point of giving up when a tiny speck was sighted on
the horizon. The tug went towards it and there, right enough, was the
Lockheed on a raft. It had been stowed like that on the deck of a
merchant ship that was torpedoed and floated off when the ship sank.
That aircraft was towed safely to Britain, and soon after the people in a German town had cause to know it had been saved.
Still another fine piece of salvage work by ” Samsonia ” must be
recorded. In company with H.M. Corvette ” Aubrietia ” and the tug
” Eminent,” in the early winter months of 1943, she fought an eightday
battle with fierce gales. The three vessels brought safely in to port
a 4000 ton merchant ship, torpedoed in mid-Atlantic. Ninety-five per
cent, of her valuable cargo of tank and aircraft parts, phosphates and
vaccines were saved.
The First Commanding Officer of ” Samsonia” was Lieut.-
Commander Owen Jones, O.B.E., R.N.R.
source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

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