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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Leith Shipyards

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Ship Repair

Henry Robb shipbuilders first jobs before they managed to secure any new build orders, was for the repair and conversions of ships that were damaged during World War I, and among the many and varied jobs carried out to start with was a remarkable ship with a truly amazing story attached to her and that vessel was called the S.S. BRUSSELS.

The ship arrived in Leith an almost complete wreck after being completely under water for a while when she was scuttled by the German Forces that had captured the ship in 1916 during the war (To end all wars, as they said at the time)

As I started to look into the story of this ship and amazing story came to light about her capture and about the fate of her crew and in particular her very brave and selfless Captain.



Built in 1902 by Gourlay Bros., Dundee (Yard No.202) for the Great Eastern Railway Co., Harwich.   She was 1,380grt and measured 285 x 34 x 15½ ft.   Powered by two 3 cylinder triple expansion engines driving two propellors she was capable of 16½knots.   She entered service in May 1902 on the Harwich Antwerp route.   At the start of the First World War her Captain Charles Fryatt attempted to ram the German Submarine U33 off the Maas Lightship.   This action together with others involving escape from Uboat attacks led to both him and his ship becoming celebrities in Holland & Britain.   This angered the Germans who mounted an operation to capture him.   On the 23 rd June 1916 the BRUSSELS was captured by the German torpedo boat destroyers G101 & G102 and taken into Zeebrugge.   On July 27th 1916 Captain Fryatt was tried by a German Court for his "war-like" acts and executed by firing squad 2 hours later.   International outrage followed.   The Germans renamed her BRUGGE and she was used as a depot ship.   On the 23rd April 1918 she was scuttled by the Germans during the British assault to seal off Zeebrugge Harbour.   Captain Fryatt's body was returned home and was interred at Dovercourt.   In 1919 the ship was raised by the Admiralty and as a prize of war by technicality she was gifted back to the U.K. by the Belgian Government, and later towed back to the Tyne.   She was bought at auction in 1920 for £2,700 by J Gale & Co and after a complete refit at the Henry Robb shipyard at Leith, Scotland. She was renamed LADY BRUSSELS and was in the service of the Dublin & Lancashire Steam Ship Co and shortly afterwards taken over by the British & Irish Steam Packet Co, Ltd., Dublin, and used on their service from Preston to Dublin. In May 1929 she was broken up at Port Glasgow by Smith & Co.


The capture of the S.S.BRUSSELS 1916.

On the night, June 22/23, 1916 with refugees on board and cargo of foodstuffs, the 'Brussels' left the Hook of Holland. Two days later she was heard of as captured and taken into Zeebrugge. It is not certain how she was captured, but it would appear that some array of force was shewn, that it occurred suddenly and that knowledge of the ship's position was indicated. After a time postcards were received in Harwich from the ship's staff at Ruhleben; (The German prisoner of war camp where most of the male members of the crew were detained for the remainder of the war) one came from the captain at the same place; and finally cards came from the stewardesses at Holzminden, near Hanover. All reported themselves well but in need of parcels. The last news received by his wife from Captain Fryatt was sent from Ruhleben, July 1st and reached her July 29th the morning after his death at Bruges. Various reports have appeared as to the fate of the Belgian refugees.

When the S.S. 'Brussels' was raised from her bed under the Zeebrugge waters, where she had remained since the British raid on the harbour, she was towed to Antwerp. Having been in the service of the Germans, and retaken in Belgian waters she was a prize belonging to the Belgians. At Antwerp, on Monday, April 26th, at 3.0 p.m. the famous ship, as an act of international courtesy, was presented by the Belgian Government to the British. The Belgians were represented by their Minister of Marine, M. Poulet, and the British by their ambassador, Sir Francis Villiers. At the same time, on behalf of H.M. King Albert, M. Poulet gave Sir Francis the Belgian Maritime War Cross, posthumously awarded to the late Captain Fryatt. A distinguished company attended on board the old ship and the speeches dilated upon her war history and upon the heroism which actuated Captain Fryatt and his brethren in the mercantile marine in those days. By request of the Ministry of Shipping, a G.E.R. captain took temporary charge of the 'Brussels' when once again the Union Flag flew over her.

Assisted by three tugs, she left Antwerp for England on May 17th. During the voyage, it is reported, that she was flooded in the 'tween decks, and the three tugs employed had a difficult task to keep her from disaster. The steamers she passed paid sea compliments, and there was a civic reception by the Mayor of South Shields when she arrived in the Tyne on May 20th. A life-sized photograph of Captain Fryatt draped in crepe and backed by the Union Flag was placed on the deck house.


Captain Fryatt
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A Guide to Ship Repair Estimates in Man Hours

A Guide to Ship Repair Estimates in Man Hours

Don Butler has compiled an invaluable list of the man-hours required for ship repair estimates. All ships must undergo regular dry-docking for examination by a third party surveyor; this is a mandatory requirement for ships which ply their trade on either world wide or coastal area basis. This dry-docking period is usually used as a time to carry out known damage repairs, cleaning and painting, upgrades and regular machinery overhauls. The author provides estimates for all situations which may arise, enabling the repair superintendent to anticipate costs, and therefore to prepare an accurate repair specification well in advance, for issue to the repairer. Don Butler has gathered the information in this book over more than twenty years in the repair field. He is a holder of the DTI Combined first class Engineers Certificate of competency for steam and motor ships and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers (F.I.Mar.E). He is also a Member of the Society of Consulting Marine Engineers and Ship Surveyors (M.C.M.S). Produced for technical superintendents of ship owners and ship managers; outlines the manner in which ship repair companies compile quotations. Made up of man-hours rather than monetary value, to assist long-term pricing; books of 'prices only' will have no long-term relevance, whereas time in man-hours will be universally applicable and more durable.

The Raid on Zeebrugge

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<hrdata-mce-alt="Ship Repair WWII" class="system-pagebreak" />

The Shipyard of Henry Robb

 Was to repair many, many ships and also convert a lot of ships, it was during World War II that the leith shipyards of Henry Robb really came into its own, and the record for ship repair is one where a ship was repaired for almost every day of this conflict which lasted for more than 5 years.




 The outstanding wartime ship repair record of the Henry Robb shipyard at Leith.






 This is a typical type of repair that was required during World War II and this one was the repair that a tanker needed to have done.

As well as the many Merchant Ships repaired there was an endless list of Royal Navy ships in constant need of repair after many actions against the U-Boat menace.


 HMS SharpShooter-Repairs





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