The History of Leith

January 7, 2011

The Coast Lines Fleet

It was natural that these modern coasters and short-sea traders,
which Sir Alfred Read, the Chairman, said at the time of their launching
had established a new standard of efficiency and economy in British
coastal shipping, should have been called upon early in the war for
national service.
The ” Pembroke Coast ” became a military store ship in December
1939, served the Army in France without incidents, and received her
first attentions from the enemy in May 1940 when she sailed for Norway.
During her several days’ stay at Harstadt, the ” Pembroke Coast” was
attacked every few hours by dive bombers. She was loaded with cased
petrol. On the wooden jetty beside her, there were over 1000 tons of
petrol and nearby were eight large storage tanks. Under a very heavy
attack, the naval and military authorities in charge of operations ordered the crew to abandon ship and take cover in the hills. The Captain protested vigorously, but had to obey orders. Eventually the storage tanks were struck by bombs and set on fire. The crew, who at this moment were sheltering in a nearby pig-sty, from which the regular inhabitants had previously been removed, decided whatever orders might have been issued, they would try to get their ship to a safer position. When they reached the wharf they found that a stream of burning oil was pouring down from the tanks, the ” Pembroke Coast ” and other ships were burning—there was nothing that could be done. The next day the wharf was completely burnt out. The ships, including the ” Pembroke Coast,” were drifting about the fiords endangering the
passage of other vessels, and the ” Pembroke Coast” was eventually
sunk by our own vessels.
M.V. ” British Coast.” This ship also became a petrol carrier, first around the coasts of Great Britain, then around the West African
coast. Later, she was in the D-Day invasion fleet. Throughout the
war she was a lucky ship, and in spite of narrow escapes, received no
direct damage.
Another sister ship, the ” Atlantic Coast,” was damaged many
times whilst voyaging round the east coast of Scotland, but escaped
direct hits. In 1940 she detonated an acoustic mine, which severely
damaged the engine-room, but she was got safely to harbour and, after repair, saw a long period of service on the west coast of Africa before
she returned again to take part in the invasion of the Normandy beaches.
M.V. ” Ocean Coast.” This ship, which at the outbreak of war
was probably the best equipped and fastest vessel in the British coastal
service, after a long period of service in home waters made several
voyages to Gibraltar, and, like her sisters, served the West African
coast before returning to take part in the invasion of Normandy. On
occasions she received attention from the enemy, but fortunately
escaped damage.

source-Leith Built Ships on War Service

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