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.
The "M/V UNDERWOOD" was one of the merchant ships on the stocks at Leith when war broke out. Building to the direction of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, Ltd., she was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport on completion. Her build had been held back by the need for warship building at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd, but she was finaly completed in July 1941 and was immediately pressed into service with runs to the French Coast with cased petrol for the hard pressed troops of the British Army in France and the Low Countries.
With her enormous, hatch opening of 96 feet. (With her sister ship, the "Port Tauranga," built three years earlier, the largest hatches on Lloyd's Register), made her ideally suited for the transport of tanks, aircraft, guns, and other vital supplies to Russia.
During a voyage from the Clyde to Portsmouth, (Jan 1944) the convoy in which she was sailing was subjected to a particularly daring attack by E-Boats. In misty weather the enemy craft lay close in shore near the Lizard, and as the convoy passed, attacked it from the land and least protected side. The "Underwood" was one of the vessels lost when hit by torpedoes from the fast motor torpedo boats of the enemy.
15 crew and 3 passengers lost there lives when the ship was attacked and sunk.
Yet another Leith Shipyards ship built at the Henry Robb yard was also lost in this same battle the escort ship HMS WALLASEA Ship No 339
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.