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 Ships Built in Leith 1918 to 1939 GALLIONS REACH - Yard No 229 - Steam Hopper Dredger - Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co - Built 1936

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GALLIONS REACH - Yard No 229 - Steam Hopper Dredger - Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co - Built 1936



Ship No 229 from the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb was the steam hopper GALLIONS REACH

 The above picture (credits unknown) shows a model of

her sister ship Lady Scarbourgh.

Which was identical to the GALLIONS REACH before

she was converted to a Grab Dredger.

Owners    Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Steam Hopper Dredger Launched    20/08/1936
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    178' 0" Weather    
Beam    34' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Moulded     17' 6"      
G.R.T.    796 tons      
Engines   3cylTE 15.5"x26"x42" 30" stroke 200psi steam engine by C. D. Holmes, Hull      
Props    1      
Other known names        
Current Status   It would seem that she lays half sunk at a wharf in Greece as of April 2011    

Content on the GALLIONS REACH will be added as and when available. 



The Dredger GALLIONS REACH after her conversion to a grab dredger complete with deck cranes.

(photo credit unknown) 

Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk

Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk

It could have been the biggest military disaster suffered by the British in the Second World War, but against all odds the British Army was successfully evacuated, and 'Dunkirk spirit' became synonymous with the strength of the British people in adversity. On the same day that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister, Nazi troops invaded Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The eight-month period of calm that had existed since the declaration of war was over. But the defences constructed by the Allies in preparation failed to repel a German army with superior tactics.The British Expeditionary Force soon found themselves in an increasingly chaotic retreat. By the end of May 1940, over 400,000 Allied troops were trapped in and around the port of Dunkirk without shelter or supplies. Hitler's army was just ten miles away. On 26 May, the British Admiralty launched Operation Dynamo. This famous rescue mission sent every available vessel - from navy destroyers and troopships to pleasure cruisers and fishing boats - over the Channel to Dunkirk. Of the 850 'Little Ships' that sailed to Dunkirk, 235 were sunk by German aircraft or mines, but over this nine day period 338,000 British and French troops were safely evacuated. Drawing on the wealth of material from the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive, Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk presents in the words of both rescued and rescuers in an intimate and dramatic account of what Winston Churchill described as a 'miracle of deliverance'.

The Steam Hopper dredger GALLIONS REACH was named after a part of the River Thames where she was to spend most of her working life. 
Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to
pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her
on just like any other disposable commodity.

Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was
hoped for a long and successful working life.

The Steam Hopper GALLIONS REACH also had her part to play during World War II, and also took part in the rescue of troops from Dunkirk. She was an order from the Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co Ltd for a Hopper Dredger to work on the river Thames, built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb in 1936 just three years before the outbreak of World War II.

At the outbreak of war she was converted for service as a salvage vessel, a rams horn and sheaves were fitted over her bows, her main deck was strengthened and a large winch placed forward of the wheel house, she was also painted in the colours of the "Grey Funnel Line". (Royal Navy)

After the war she was laid up in the Norway Dock with only a watchman on board, early in 1951 she sailed under her own steam to Hull, where she was converted back to a hopper grab dredger.

"The Gallions Reach" returned to Surrey Docks about six months later, repainted in PLA colours. She was oil fired with two single ended scotch boilers, each with three furnaces; and she was fitted with three modern Priestman cranes, these cranes were fitted with separate totally enclosed duplex slewing engines., The machinery and driver were protected from the weather by a spacious cab.

 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.



The above is a photograph showing the GALLIONS REACH rusting away at a wharf in Kerkyra, Greece

(Photo courtesy of Pam)

 Latest news on the photograph above is that this may well not be the original GALLIONS REACH as some of her old crew have been debating this subject and they have concluded that this cannot be the same ship, so the mystery of the whereabouts of this famous old ship will continue for some time longer, the website would like to thank Del for his information on the ship.


Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

During the evacuation from Dunkirk during the early years of World War II when every ship available was used to try and rescue the remains of the British and French armies from the relentless advance of the German army to the coast of Mainland Europe the dredger GALLIONS REACH played her part when she rescued 123 troops from the beaches and brought them back to Great Britain.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.

Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.

 A couple of photographs shown here of the famous old ship GALLIONS REACH which have been sent in by one of her old crew Del Sowter and they are shown here by kind permission

This photograph shows the old girl in dry dock date unknown

A real working ship and wartime hero to boot!

For more photographs and stories on the ship you will just have to wait on the book coming out about the Ships built at Leith!


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0 #10 David Howard 2016-05-02 17:55
I came across pictures of Gallions Reach in a You Tube video titled Londons Lost Docks - London Dock Scenes.

Hope this is of interest.


-1 #9 John Fawcett 2015-02-14 11:52
RON HENDERSON please contact me through the Leith Shipyards website at as the body was my grandmother. I would love to talk to you about it. As of Feb 14 2015 I am working opposite the dock on the Royal Wharf building site. My name is John Fawcett.
+2 #8 Roy Hedley 2014-10-15 18:54
My uncle , Robert Hedley was one of the crew of Gallions Reach when it went to Dunkirk.
0 #7 Tony Hodge 2014-06-16 15:01
I was (writer) Storekeeper aboard Gallions Reach. Joined Immingham, thence to Medway ready for D Day. In convoy on 10th June vessel immediately abeam was torpedoed (Brakenfied?) Worked on Salvage and Rescue mostly off Arromanches until August. We were at anchor when an American LST with the tide under her tail collided with us and carried away part of the bow ramp and we returned to Southampton for repairs.
+1 #6 ron henderson 2014-04-25 11:44
I was a cabin boy in the early sixties. First on the Westbourne then the Gallions reach. I was on board when we found the remains of a worsley motor car that had been driven into the dock.It was at first thought to be an insurance scam until the remains of a women floated up from the dock bed.The skipper alf hollands on reporting the find was told that we may about to solve the mystery of mr and mrs frank love who dissapeard ten years ago .The family of mrs love were convinced tha she had been murdered and that her husband had run off with her money. The truth is frank and mrs love had been on board one of his old ships(ex merchant seaman) had got drunk and had driven by mistake into the dock and had both drowned. On further dredging we found further evidence to confirm that both mr and mrs love were in the car when it entered the dock . mystery solved.The news of the world newspaper was offering a £1000 for info re the loves.which we claimed.I got £16.
0 #5 Patrick Firman 2014-02-02 15:43
The vessel in Greece is the former TYNE BAY, which was renamed GALLIONS REACH in 1984, and further renamed ANGELIKI III in 1990. She was reportedly lost in May 2003.

The GALLIONS REACH of 1936 sank in Furness Basin on the River Tees on 7 October 1971 and was broken up at Middlesbrough in January 1972.

This may duplicate information already supplied but I hope that this information clarifies the situation about the photograph taken in Greece.
0 #4 Del Sowter 2013-05-28 11:11
Now having looked at the photos, I have to conclude that this Gallions Reach in Greece is not the Gallions Reach of Dunkirk fame. My Gallions Reach was all riveted construction. The wreck shown bears no resemblance to the former. This is of welded construction, and therefore much younger.
0 #3 Del Sowter 2013-05-28 09:46
Just to let you know that I was a 15 year old deck boy on the Gallions Reach after her refit to a grab hopper.
I have photo's of her in her working life on the Thames.
When I became a deckhand and still on the Gallions we were working in the Canada Dock (Surrey Docks Complex)I was ashore with to mates moving ropes and this guy came up to us and appeared gobsmacked to see the old girl still about, as he remembered seeing her sailing off from Dunkirk with part of her on fire. He had tried to board her but was refused. He had to go and touch her. He was visibly moved. All the time the PLA owned the Gallions Reach, I was part of the crew, first a boy, then a deckhand, then finally as a crane driver until she was sold away. Seeing as the old girl was just a little younger than me, I did often wonder what happened to her. Thank you for enlightening me. Del Sowter
+1 #2 mark Harrison 2013-04-26 10:27
My Grandad was on that ship and he was given a very similar commendation.
His name was Gulle
0 #1 roger carson 2012-09-04 18:17
I believe my dad was one of the lucky 123!
He was a 20 year old artilleryman at the time, and told me years later that what with the crush of men in the hold, and the shifting tide, the ship grounded!
Suddenly there was someone at the top of
a ladder at the stern of the hold [my dad presumed it was the captain] He shone a torch on his own face, and called for quiet. When you see this light,I want you all to shuffle, and press as close to it as possible, and when I turn it off, get as far away as you possibly can.
This was repeated for several minutes, and eventually she came off the beach and headed for home.
I would like to thank all involved for making it possible for me to be born!

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