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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 MV KATHARINE II - Yard No 160 - Motor Vessel - War Department - Built 1930

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MV KATHARINE II - Yard No 160 - Motor Vessel - War Department - Built 1930


KATHARINE II Ship No 160 was the very first ship built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the armed forces.

She was first in a long line of ships built for use by the Army and not the Navy this time.

 KATHARINE II as the ship ordered for the Royal Army Service Corp

(Photo credit unknown)

Owners    War Department, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Diesel Motor Vessel Launched    01/05/1930
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    114' 0" Weather    Wind N.E.
Sea Choppy
Beam    22' 0" Time to Water    28 sec's
Depth Moulded     8' 0"      
G.R.T.    180      
Engines    Twin diesel engines by H.Widdop & Co      
Props    2      
Speed    9 KNOTS      
Other known names   1959, KATHERINE MITCHELL    
Current Status        

Content on the KATHARINE II 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.

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.

KATHERINE II was the first ship built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the armed forces.

She was a twin screw motor vessel of 180 tons, and was commissioned by the naval branch of the "Army"

Royal Army Service Corps.

KATHERINE II was to serve throughout the 6 years of World War II and she no doubt had many adventures supplying clandestine operations against the coasts of mainland Europe and perhaps landing Commando's in strikes against the might of the "Third Reich"

She was used by the services for a further 14 years after the war and was then sold to Government contractors for further work.  

She worked as part of a small flotilla of ships known as barges at the time of which she was by far the largest, They continued under contract to support the Army's needs for transport from Woolwich Arsenal and elsewhere around SE England for several years.

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 photo above as the KATHERINE MITCHELL believed to have been taken when docked at Penryn in Cornwall but this fact is still being researched.


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 picture shows the KATHARINE II laid up on the beach before she was sold by the MoD

from a photo cutting supplied by Doug.

The following info is from Doug Lawrence who served as "Mate" on her after she had been sold on by the Government.

KATHERINE II was sold out of service by the MOD in 1959 and passed to H.R.Mitchell, Government contractors of Woolwich Arsenal who renamed her KATHERINE MITCHELL Off No.300925, and employed her in the carriage of explosives between Felixstowe, Zeebrugge, The River Thames, Antwerp, Rotterdam and once to Duisburg.

Mitchells removed the boatdeck and after accommodation to create a magazine abaft the engineroom and bridge for the carriage of detonators with the explosives going in the main hatch.

By this time she had two 150 Gardner engines. Everything was done by compressed air, engine start, steering and anchor windlass. She had engine room control and carried an engineer/driver.

She had a  22 foot long raised foc'sle head with a wooden deck. At the break of the foc'sle there were two whaleback deckhouses. The one to port was the galley, just big enough for a coal stove and worktop but no sink or running water. Fresh water was carried in a square 40 gallon iron tank bolted to the deck behind the galley. 

The starboard deckhouse contained two toilets - perhaps going back to her time with the M.O.D ... with one for the officers and one for the men!!. One of the toilets had been covered over with a sink and that was the only wash place on board - there was no shower. With no running water in either, to flush the toilet was simply a matter of a bucket of water from over the side.

She only had one anchor and no hawse pipe with the cable running out alongside the stemhead as was common in the spritsail barges. There was a davit in the bow to raise the anchor half inboard while at sea. The main hatch was 44 feet long and 12 feet across. She had a small petrol windlass at the foot of the mast. But the cargo derrick was very short and only reached halfway down the length of the hatch so you couldn't get the last beam out.

With her after accommodation taken out, everybody lived in the foc'sle. There were four wooden bunks, wood panelling on the bulkheads. A long settee with folding table and a pot bellied stove - but the space was shared with the cable locker which was covered only by wooden hatch boards, and that area was unusable for extra living or for storage space.

Left over from her MOD days, she had a patent log and a leadline. An aldis lamp in its own wooden box in the wheelhouse, a Very pistol for signalling plus signal flags in a beautifully built flag locker.

For the "Mates" continued story see page 2. 

For a story from a former Skipper of this fine little ship see page 3

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.


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+2 #3 Edwin Bishop 2012-05-15 22:30
My father Bob bishop was a skipper on the Katherine II and i lived and still do when she grounded on canvey island near the scars elbow ,it was a big story in the evening echo , must be a different incident from the one mentioned , she was on her way to Chapmans to load a City line ship he was not dismissed
+3 #2 Carole Bishop 2012-04-02 08:52
My father Captain Robert Bishop was the skipper of the Katherine while working for the Mitchells out of the Arsenal for several years diuring the 1950's and 1970's it is wonderful to see the photos of her on this site thank you
+1 #1 Doug Lawrence 2011-09-10 23:08
Hello - I sailed as mate (1961-63) in the KATHERINE II after she was sold by the MOD and became the KATHERINE MITCHELL. - Regards Doug Lawrence

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