The British Pacific and East Indies Fleets

The forgotten fleets that fought the Japanese in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

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Air Store Issuing Ship



No Badge issued
 

Pennant No. B531

 

Battle Honours


None
 

 

 

 

Specifications

Builder: North Vancouver Ship Repairers Ltd, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Displacement: 2,878 GRT

Length: 440 ft

Beam: 57 ft

Draught: 22 ft 9 in

Speed: 11 Knots

 Crew complement: 115

 

Commanding Officers

Not known

 

 

 

 

Related items

None

 

 

 

 

Reminiscences


None
 

 

 

 

Gallery


None
 

 

 

 

M.F.A. FORT COLVILLE

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Image: Australian National Maritime Museum Object No: ANMS0596[036]

Early history

The FORT COLVILLE. was laid down as Yard Nr 129 at the shipyard of the North Vancouver Ship Repairers Ltd, North Vancouver Canada. She was launched on July 15th 1943, she was one of 16 Canadian built Park and Fort class vessels requestioned for conversion into Stores Issuing Ships for the Ministry of War Transport, and later the first to be outfitted as an Air Store Issue Ship (ASIS). She was completed on September 19th 1943 as a bareboat charter for the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) under the management of Alfred Holt and Company Ltd., Liverpool.

She sailed from Port Alberni, Vancouver Island for passage to the Uk on October 3rd 1943 carrying a cargo of Lumber, Lead, and Phosphates. After calling at Los Angeles on the 8th, she entered the Panama Canal for Cristobal. She Sailed for New York on November 3rd, calling at Key West, arriving New York on November 13th. Here she joined the 59-merchant ship convoy HX-267 which sailed for Liverpool on November 18th 1943. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on December 3rd.

At the start of the New Year FORT COLVILLE next sailed for the Tyne departing Liverpool on January 3rd arriving at Loch Ewe the next day, here she joined convoy WN.528A which sailed on the 7th for Methil on the Firth of Forth arriving there on the 9th. Transferring to convoy FS1326 she detached for the Tyne arriving on January 10th.
 

Conversion to an Air Stores Issuing Ship: January – June 1944

FORT COLVILLE appears to have spent the next five months on the Tyne in the hands of a local dockyard for conversion to a Merchant Fleet Auxiliary (MFA) to operate as Air Stores Issue Ship. This work involved creating 15 storerooms, three in each of her five holds, in addition a special store, with constant temperature and humidity was installed for carrying radar, wireless equipment and photographic stores. She was stored with British and American aircraft spares for the front-line aircraft types in use with the Fleet Air Arm, having stowage for 30,000 different items.
 

Deployed for Operation DRAGOON: August 1944

On completion of the work, she sailed from the Tyne on June 18th 1944 in convoy FN.1391 to Methil arriving the next day. Joining convoy EN.399 on the 20th she arrived at Liverpool on June 22nd to join the combined convoy OS.81 (Liverpool to Freetown)/ KMS.55 (Liverpool to Port Said). Her ultimate destination was the Mediterranean to join with the allied forces gathering for the invasion of Southern France, Operation DRAGOON planned for August 1944. The convoy separated on July 3rd; on entering the Mediterranean FORT COLVILLE detached with the Algiers contingent arriving there on July 6th. She sailed for Gibraltar on July 18th joining convoy MK.S55 (Port Said to Gibraltar) arriving on the 20th.

She next sailed from Gibraltar on July 25th convoy KMS.57 to Malta arriving on July 30th; the seven carriers of Rear Admiral Troubridge’s Escort Carrier Squadron, ATTACKER (879 squadron with 28 Seafire), EMPEROR (800 squadron with 23 Hellcat), KHEDIVE (899 squadron with - 26 Seafire), PURSUER (881 squadron with 24 Wildcat), SEARCHER (882 squadron with 28 Wildcat), HUNTER (807 squadron with 24 Seafire) and STALKER (809 squadron with 23 Seafire), had arrived on the 25th and were exercising off Malta between August 2nd and 12th.

On August 10th FORT COLVILLE sailed from Malta to Bizerta, Tunisia arriving August 14th. Operation DRAGOON commenced in the early hours of August 15th. The carrier force withdrew to Maddalena, Sardinia, to refuel and rearm and it is presumed that FORT COLVILLE rendezvoused with them in Arzachena bay to issue required stores, before returning to Bizerta.

She departed Bizerta on September 3rd joining convoy MKS.60 (Port Said to Gibraltar) arriving on the 7th. She sailed from Gibraltar on the 9th with convoy MKS.60G which Rendezvoused with SL.169 at sea on the 10th and proceeded to the UK. FORT COLVILLE arrived in Falmouth on September 16th.

She appears to have remained at Falmouth until the start of November 1944 when she sailed for St Helen's Roads, Isle of Wight, on the 2nd, arriving the next day and joining convoy MTC.25 to Southend arriving on the 4th. The next day she sailed with convoy FN.1532 (Southend - Methil) detaching to the River Tyne on the 6th. From the Tyne she sailed to join FN.1536 to Methil on the 10th, arriving the next day.
 

Allocated to the British Pacific Fleet Train

FORT COLVILLE spent just over a month at Methil, possibly for further dockyard work and re-storing to reflect a new role. She had been nominated for support of the British Pacific Fleet as an ASIS; She scaled to only carry spares for the five front-line aircraft types in use with the BPF, Avenger, Corsair, Firefly, Hellcat, and Seafire aircraft.

She departed Methil in convoy FS1668 to Southend on December 16th 1944 arriving on the 18th, before continuing on to Milford Haven in convoy TBC .14 on the 21st, arriving on Christmas Eve 1944. She next joined the combined convoy OS.100/ KMS.74 which had sailed from Liverpool the day before. The convoy split on December 26th and FORT COLVILLE continued to Port Said independently, passing Gibraltar on New Year’s Eve, arriving Port Said on January 7th 1945. After transiting the Suez Canal, she arrived at Port Suez on the 14th, continuing on to Aden calling there on the 19th. She now proceeded independently to Sydney, NSW, Australia where she arrived on February 17th to join the BPF.
 

Operations with Task Force 112, the Fleet Train

The main force of the BPF (Force 63) had arrived in Sydney on February 9th to assemble and prepare for operations with the U.S. Fifth Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance USN. They were now redesignated Task Force 113: the assembled vessels of the Fleet Train would become TF 112. On her arrival in Sydney, FORT COLVILLE was immediately tasked with issuing air stores to the BPF fleet carriers in an attempt to address a shortfall in stocks; they had left Ceylon with significant shortfalls in spares and equipment that had not been available before sailing and many could not be drawn from stores in Australia. TF 113 sailed from Sydney on February 28th for passage to the intermediate base at Manus in the Admiralty Islands.

FORT COLVILLE sailed from Sydney on march 3rd for Manus, arriving there on March 13th to join the logistic support ships of the Fleet Train, which was assembling there in preparation for moving up to the forward anchorage in the Philippines. The assembled ships now formed Task Force 112, and elements of the force began moving forward to be ready to support the fleet at Ulithi Atoll and at Leyte in the Philippines. FORT COLVILLE sailed for Leyte Gulf, with Task Unit 112.1, the second Fleet Train convoy on March 19th, in company with HMS LOTHIAN (flagship Rear Admiral, Fleet Train) HM Ships SLINGER, TYNE, and ARTIFEX, and the civilian manned ships EMPIRE SPEARHEAD, WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, BACCHUS, AASE MAERSK, DENBIGHSHIRE, ROBERT MAERSK, THYRA S., and HERMELIN; they anchored in San Pedro Bay on the 26th. An earlier support group, Task Unit 112.2.1 comprising of the CVE STRIKER (with replacement aircraft), Sloop CRANE, frigate FINDHORN, destroyer WHIRLWIND and the tankers SAN AMBROSIO, CEDARDALE and SAN ADOLPHO had sailed from Manus on March 17th to be ready to replenish the ships of the BPF, now designated Task force 57, which sailed for Ulithi Atoll, some 900 miles north of Manus, on March 18th.

Operation ICEBERG One March 27th – April 23rd 1945 Forward area Support for the four Fleet Carriers, ILLUSTRIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS, was provided by the Maintenance Carrier UNICORN, Aircraft Component Repair ship DEER SOUND and ASIS FORT COLVILLE. This small group of ships operated from San Pedro Bay, Leyte, the Philippines as part of Task Unit 112.1.1. Captain C. M. Merewether, C.O. UNICORN had responsibility for air logistics managing the supply of replacement aircraft and spares from the rear base in Australia to the fleet, for aircraft repairs, for replacement of personnel, and the administration of the aircraft repair-and store ships. At this time the fledgling Air Train consisted of a small number of escort carriers (CVEs) of the 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron (30ACS) under Commodore W.P. Carne in STRIKER. Two CVEs, SLINGER & STRIKER would operate as replenishment carriers taking reserve aircraft forward to the fleet with the Logistic Support Group (LSG) for issue during replenishment periods, a third CVE, SPEAKER carrying 1840 Hellcat Squadron flew Combat Air Patrols (CAP) over the LSG.

The BPF, (TF 57), began their first round of strikes for operation ICEBERG One on the March 26th, joining US Task Force 58 for joint attacks on islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in support of preparations for US landings on Okinawa. On completion of ICEBERG One operations TF 57 withdrew to Leyte 32 days after sailing from Ulithi. The Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines close to the ships of the waiting Fleet Train on April 23rd. TF 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days with six periods of replenishment at sea. Over the next seven days the Fleet embarked stores, ammunition, replacement aircraft and squadron aircrews were returned to full strength in readiness for the second phase of ICEBERG operations.

Withdrawal to Australia to replenish May 3rd – July 10th 1945 FORT COLVILLE sailed from Leyte on May 3rd, two days after TF 57 had sailed to resume strike operations, to proceed to Sydney to resupply. She arrived in Sydney on May 17th. By the time she departed Leyte her stocks of air stores had been seriously depleted, she had left Sydney with a reduced store complement after meeting the shortfalls of the fleet in late February; in some cases, UNICORN and FORMIDABLE had been required to supply some urgent spears from their own stocks.

The ships of TF 57 withdrew from the forward area on May 25th on completion of ICEBERG operations and proceeded to Manus and Australia for replenishment. On May 27th the BPF was redesignated Task Force 37 when it became part of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet. Meanwhile the Fleet Train also withdrew from Leyte to Manus sailing in two convoys, one on the 20th and the second on the 25th. Manus would be the main base for the Fleet Train for the next round of operations planned for July 1945.

After nearly a month in port making repairs and storing, the ships of TF 37, and elements of TF 112, sailed from Sydney on June 28th to return to Manus, arriving there on July 4th; TF 37 sailed from Manus for the forward area on the 6th. FORT COLVILLE sailed from Sydney, for Manus on July 10th.

Operations at Manus July 18th – August 30th 1945 On arriving at Manus on July 18th FORT COLVILLE re-joined the Aviation Repair Organisation which now comprised of UNICORN, DEER SOUND, the newly arrived Aircraft Maintenance Carrier PIONEER which had arrived on June 21st and a second ASIS, FORT LANGLEY that arrived on station on July 16th. The arrival of  FORT LANGLEY greatly bolstered the supply of air stores, she had been stored in Vancouver and sailed directly to Manus with 98% of her store allocation on board. This collection of ships was anchored off Pityilu Island where a shore-based test flight operated and a small stock of reserve aircraft was maintained.The war ended just under a month after FORT COLVILLE arrived on station; she was to remain at Manus until August 30th before sailing for Hong Kong.
 

Post War history

FORT COLVILLE arrived off Hong Kong on September 11th to assist in the rebuilding of the colony. Here she helped with the reconstruction of the Colony along with many other ships of the Fleet Train which had relocated to the Colony. She was released from Fleet Train duties on December 4th 1945 and sailed independently to Sydney, arriving December 18th.

It is probable that she was repurposed into a general store carrier on her arrival back in Australia; after loading stores in Sydney, she sailed for Hong Kong again on January 29th 1946, returning to Sydney on May 12th.

She next sailed from Sydney on May 30th bound for Trincomalee, Ceylon. It is possible she also called at Colombo and Singapore. She departed Ceylon to return to Sydney on July 15th, arriving at Fremantle on July 28th. Here she loaded more Naval stores while alongside at the North Wharf. She sailed on August 9th, ultimately for Sydney but put into Port Adelaide on the 15th for repairs to her boiler. She spent the next three weeks under repair, sailing on September 3rd. Her Boiler troubles returned once out to sea and she returned to Port Adelaide securing to F berth Krkenhead. for further repairs. She sailed again on September 12th, finally reaching Sydney on the 16th.

At Sydney she was moored in Walsh Bay and was to remain there for five weeks while her next cargo was organised. Eleven days after her arrival three of her Chinese crew were arrested for smuggling 1344 china bowls, 3740 china spoons, and 1600 chop-sticks into Australia. Her departure to return to the Ul was delayed in October by an Australian industrial dispute, Waterside works refused to load cargo and this caused serious delays in both loading and siling dates. FORT COLVILLE sailed from Sydney for the UK via Colombo on November 8th 1946.
 

Disposal

Nothing more is known of this ship between 1947 and 1950, it is assumed she remained under contract with the Ministry of Transport during this period. In 1950 she was sold to the Western Canada SS Co Ltd, Vancouver who renamed her LAKE KOOTENAY. She was sold again in 1954 to the Western Canada SS Co Ltd, West Hartlepool name unchanged. In 1957 ownership changed twice, first she was bought by Marimbula Cia Nav S.A, Monrovia and renamed ANDROS CYGNET before being sold again to Cia Maritima Las Perlas S.A, Monrovia and renamed THEOSKEPASTI, this company became Cia Maritima Las Perlas S.A, Andros name unchanged until 1965 when it became MARIETTA T. She arrived in Hong Kong on December 8th 1966 for breaking by Lee Sing Co.

 

Last modified: 12 April 2021

 


Primary information sources

Additional sources:

TROVE The National Library of Australia on-line database
Articles from digitised Australian newspapers relating to ship movements and activities accessed April 2021

Historical RFA History of MFA FORT COLVILLE

 



 

 

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HM Ships COLOSSUS, GLORY, VENERABLE and VENGEANCE. GLORY did not arrive in Sydney until August 16th.

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At the end of June 1945, the Admiralty implemented a new system of classification for carrier air wings, adopting the American practice one carrier would embark a single Carrier Air Group (CAG) which would encompass all the ships squadrons.

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Sturtivant, R & Balance, T. (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm’ list 899 squadron as conducting DLT on the Escort Carrier ARBITER on August 15th. It is possible that the usual three-day evolution was cancelled due to the announcement of the Japanese surrender on this date and was postponed for a month.

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The reminiscences of

Gordon served with the radio section of Mobile Repair UNit No.1 (MR 1) at Nowra, he was a member of the local RN dance band, and possibly the last member of MONAB I to leave Nowra after it paid off. .

Drafted to

Coming home

In March 1946 I joined 812 squadron, aboard HMS Vengeance, spending some time ditching American aircraft north of Australia. Eventually we sailed for Ceylon ( Sri Lanka ) landing at Trincomalee and setting up a radio section at Katakarunda. In the belief that we were exhausted we were sent to a rest camp at Kandy for a few weeks. We moved down to Colombo to pick up Vengeance and returned to Portsmouth via the Suez Canal . I was discharged in November 1946.

Gordon Theaker