The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Home Hawthorns & Co Shipbuilders 1881 to 1924 LONDON Yard No 183 Hawthorns and Co Shipbuilders

Leith Shipyards

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LONDON Yard No 183 Hawthorns and Co Shipbuilders
 SS LONDON Yard No 183 built in 1921
Owners    Dundee, Perth and London Steamship Co
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Passenger cargo (Steam) Launched    Feb 1921
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall    250' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    35' 0" Weather    
Beam     Time to Water    
Depth Moulded      21' 1"      
G.R.T.    1,491 tons      
Other known names    1939-Holdfast, 1942-HMS HOLDFAST, 1946-Empire Taw    
Current Status    Broken up in 1953    
Content on SS LONDON will be added as and when available. 
HMS HOLDFAST seen here in this photo from the Atlantic-Cable website
Ships History
The Steam Ship LONDON was another fine Ship built at the Leith Shipyards of Hawthorns & Co, Shipbuilders and Engineers, before the yard was taken over by Henry Robb Shipbuilders in 1924.
A ship ordered by the Dundee, Perth & London Steamship Co for passenger trade use on the East Coast Route of the British Isles.
On 29 August 1937 she was sunk after a collision off the Humber and subsequently raised and repaired.
Two years later she was identified by the Admiralty as a vessel of some potential and use.

On 28 August 1939 she first requisitioned, by the Admiralty, for use as an examination vessel, and in October 1939 was renamed Holdfast. Returned to her owners in August 1940 and then re-requisitioned in January 1942.
The Admiralty had once more turned there attention to the SS LONDON and could see her use once converted as a cable/pipe layer.
Gutted and refitted by Green, Siley and Weir Ltd.; this involved the fitting of two 30 ft dia cable tanks each capable of holding 15 statute miles of 2 inch HAIS pipeline. Cable machinery loaned by the GPO was installed by Johnson and Phillips.

Following a series of tests it was finally decided to carry out a full trial with the laying of a pipeline across the Bristol Channel between Swansea and Ilfracombe, a distance of 45 miles.
As HMS HOLDFAST she was to play a massive part in the up-coming invasion of the European mainland, as no matter the outcome of the three allied armies landing on D-Day they would need fuel and this would be more fuel than could be supplied by ships full of "jerry cans" filled with petrol.
The amount of fuel required by three armies and the support could only be supplied by a pipeline, and thus "Operation Pluto" was organised and executed perfectly, an operation on which the future of World War Two depended and it was on of the ships built at the Leith Shipyards of Hawthorns & Co which made this all possible.
At the end of the war HMS HOLDFAST was transferred to the Ministry of War Transport, and she was renamed Empire Taw, and used along with other vessels in the recovery of the various pipes laid.
For more on the story of how the SS LONDON helped to win the war visit

We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info
or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along
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