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 UNDERWOOD - Yard No 291 - Motor Cargo Vessel - France Fenwick - Built 1939

Leith Shipyards

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UNDERWOOD - Yard No 291 - Motor Cargo Vessel - France Fenwick - Built 1939

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Owners    Ministry of War Transport
Registered    Port of London Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Cargo Vessel Launched    15/01/1941
      Handed Over    July 1941
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    255' 0" Weather    
Beam    45' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     21' 6"      
G.R.T.    1,990 tons      
Engines    250 hp, 8 cyl diesel engines      
Props    2      
Other known names   N/A    
Current Status   Sunk by German E-Boat 1944    
Content on the MV UNDERWOOD will be added as and when available. 
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.

  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.


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.



The above photograph sent in to the website by Lynne Brown and shown her by permission is from the Merchant Navy memorial at Tower Hill and shows the members of the MV UNDERWOOD'S crew who lost there lives when the ship was attacked by E-Boats in 1944 during World War Two.

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.

My Grandfather Able Seaman Harry Ashmore was a Gunner on MV Underwood and was lost at sea when it was sunk.

AB Harry Ashmore was just a general everyday man doing his bit during World War 2 and this was to cost him his life.Along with all the others during this conflict they should not be forgotten.

The scroll above says it all.


scroll back to top


0 #13 David Ashmore 2014-07-22 10:01
Thanks Lynne, I have had a look on Google but cant locate the info you suggested.
+1 #12 Lynne Brown 2014-07-21 14:07
David. will give you details. But not the Lat and Longitude also try and google The Weekend Sailor it told the story of Jenny Foreshaw who went to Cornwall in search of more details about the convoy. It's very interesting , hope it's still there. I do have a copy that I printed in 2005.
0 #11 David Ashmore 2014-07-20 21:58
My Grandfather Able Seaman Harry Ashmore was a Gunner on MV Underwood and was lost at sea when it was sunk. We would like to know where the wreckage of the ship is? Also we would love to see pictures of the memorial with his name engraved on it.
+1 #10 colin adams 2014-07-08 19:01
my father stanley leonard adams ab was killed when the mv underwood was sunk
+1 #9 Lynne Brown 2014-04-08 20:28
Have a photograph taken at Tower Hill Memorial with Percy Plumpton
Name on it
Would be happy to send but not sure how to put it on the site
+1 #8 Lynne Brown 2014-04-07 07:05
Quoting k adams:
My great uncle, Percy Plumpton, was lost on this ship and has not been forgotten.

We're did your uncle come from
+1 #7 k adams 2014-04-06 22:58
My great uncle, Percy Plumpton, was lost on this ship and has not been forgotten.
+1 #6 ian mcrae 2014-01-31 06:23
[I would be interested. in Dec 2012 I sent some info to David Betts and can pass that on to you.
Regards Ian McRae
0 #5 robert johnson 2012-09-10 16:37
Quoting Ian McRae:
Son of radio officer Alexander McRae.

Have a letter from J T Duncan ship owners and brokers to my late grandfather who was making enquiries about George turner it states your fathers name and he is buried at Penzance cornwall also the captain
McNeal please get in touch if you would like a scanned copy e-mailing
Robert Johnson
0 #4 robert johnson 2012-09-10 16:02
I`ve scanned some old documents if you are interested about robert turner.
Lynne Brown is my sister.

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