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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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HMS PINK - Yard No 318 - Flower Class Corvette - Royal Navy - Built - 1942


 HMS PINK a "Flower Class" Corvette.  
Owners   Royal Navy
Registered     Keel Laid    20/05/1941
Type of Ship    Flower Class Corvette Launched    16/02/1942
      Commissioned    02/07/1942
Ship Details          
Length Overall    205' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    190' 0" Weather    
Beam    33' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     17' 6"       
Draught    11' 5"      
G.R.T.    849 tons      
Complement     85 Officers and Men      
Engines   1 x 4-cycle triple-expansion steam  engine, 2750 hp      
Props    1      
Speed    16 knots      
Armament     1 x BL 4 INCH Mk IX Gun two .50 inch (12.7 mm) twin machine guns,two .303 inch (7.7-mm) Lewis machine guns.

Two stern depth charge racks with 40 depth charges

Other known names        
Current Status   Total Constructive loss 27/06/1944, scrapped 1947    
Content on will be added as and when available. 
 The launch of HMS PINK at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb. 

This fine photograph shown above is one of HMS PINK at anchor.

(The photo is from the collection of the Brewer family, whose father Geoff, served as a Mid-Shipman on HMS PINK)

Operation Neptune 1944

Operation Neptune 1944

June 6th, 1944: the largest fleet in history landed Eisenhower's Allied army on the beaches of Normandy against Erwin Rommel's Nazi German defenses. Almost seventy years on from D Day, the story of the greatest armada seen in world history is still not widely known. It has been celebrated in only two major books, both titled Operation Neptune; the first was published just after the war in 1946, the second in 1974, although reprinted in a new edition in 2008. Both were full of details, but lacked visual appeal. With the forthcoming anniversary of D Day in 2014, the time is right for the story to be told again in the style of the Campaign series. Operation Neptune was the greatest naval operation ever undertaken, especially if looked at from the number of ships employed in the venture - over 7,000. This incredible enterprise is now completely overshadowed by the lan combat aspects of the invasion. When people think of D Day, they think primarily of troops storming the beaches and fighting their way inland. How these troops got to the beaches; how the seaward flanks of German defences were bombarded by accurate gunfire; how the fighting men were reinforced; how their casualties were evacuated back to England and how the later divisions were organised, transported and disembarked seems not to have been part of the public narrative of the invasion. It is now time that the work of planners, shipbuilders, logistic experts, and the men of the Royal and US Navies, and their allies, was shown to a modern audience. The planners of Operation Neptune were charged with returning Allied forces in strength to mainland Europe. Whilst the land aspects of the operation were left to the generals, the admirals had to ponder how the troops and their equipment could be transferred safely from quiet harbours in Britain on to a very hostile shore. The task required of them was immense. They had to find enough suitable mutually supporting beaches and assemble sufficient shipping to transport troops across the Channel. They also had to organise protection for the ships on passage and the bombardment of enemy defences covering the landing places. Landing craft had to prepared and crews trained to deliver the troops on time, in place and in correct order, then to introduce follow-up troops to a tight timetable and evacuate the wounded. Even more ships had to be found to re-supply those troops ashore. Then, when the assault phase was over, the US and Royal navies had to continue to support the enlargement of the lodgement with large calibre guns whilst their engineers built new artificial harbours and performed a host of other unspecified objects too numerous to mention. Operation Neptune was absolutely immense in its scope. In addition to the naval aspects of the operation other great feats of engineering were also undertaken. Artificial harbours, a 60 mile fuel pipe line under the ocean, artificial breakwaters and other engineering marvels made D-Day a supportable r

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,in the case of a ship for the Royal Navy this meant she also had to be commissioned as fit for purpose, once commissioned she was then considered ready for action and would take her place in the fleet. 

The Flower Class Corvette HMS PINK a sister ship to HMS LOTUS was one of the many gallant little fighting ships that were some what over shadowed by there larger more illustrious sister ships during the battle of the Atlantic, these little fighting ships were to help keep the United Kingdom in the war against the Nazi tyranny that was attempting to control the world at the time.

The small Corvette based on a design that came from a Whale Catching ship not only had to contend with some of the fiercest weather and seas in the world but the ever present danger from U-Boats and from attack by long range German Luftwaffe planes sent out to find the convoys that the Corvettes were tasked with protecting.

HMS PINK was a "later type design" than the original Flowers a somewhat improved ship with her forecastle deck running aft to almost midships, this had the effect of more protection for the crew against the elements. Known as a Modified Flower ClassCorvette, she was on escort duty in the North Atlantic as soon as she was ready. She was the final "Flower Class Corvette" built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb. 

Within a couple of months she was in the thick of the battle to keep the supply lines to Britain open, and on the 16th of Dec 1942 she was on hand to pick up 7 survivors from the Norwegian tanker Bello that was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic by the German submarine U-610.

Then while on escort duty to convoy ONS-5 with Lt. R. Atkinson, DSC, RNR in command. On May 4th, she had been detached from the convoy to become the only escort of four stragglers. On May 5th, they were 80 miles behind the convoy, when at 1154 AM a positive ASDIC echo was heard (range 2,200 yards). Atkinson, in spite of being short of fuel, decided to attack. The ship run over the target, and dropped 10 depth charges. The second attack was a salvo of 24 HedgeHog projectiles from an estimated range of 250 yards. A thrid attack consisted in another salvo of 10 depth charges, set at 250 and 385 feet. A fourth followed, this time set at 350 and 550 feet. As three large bubbles were seen 500 feet astern, Pink fired again the HedgeHog, but the projectiles failed as they exploded in contact with the sea surface. Then she made the last attack, ten depth charges set at 350, 550 and 700 feet. Fifteen minutes later an explosion was heard, and Atkinson thought he han sunk the sub. He was credited by the Admiralty with a "Probably Sunk", but in fact the target, that turned out to be U-358, although very severely damaged, the stricken sub managed to make it back to base.

Meanwhile, another u-boat, U-584, sunk the American merchant West Madaket that was under HMS PINK's protection, so she had the sad task of picking up the survivors from the sunken vessel West Madaket. The small convoy of three cargo ships and HMS PINK then continued on there way to port.

HMS PINK also took part in the invasion of Europe as an escort to the landings on the Normandy beaches, she was hit by a "Gnat" torpedo while covering the landing of troops and supplys for the invading armies. The torpedo was fired by U-988 (which was sunk itself 2 days later) she was towed back to Portsmouth but declared a constructive total loss and in 1947 she was scrapped. 

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.


HMS PINK seen here in her camouflage paintwork, before the D-Day landings.

(Photo credit unknown)



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From the Times newspaper May 3rd 2003


Triumph in the 'black pit'

Chris Hulme salutes the North Atlantic convoy that changed the face of the Second World War


APRIL 28, 1943. The convoy of 43 merchant steamers, their names painted out, had slogged through a week of appalling weather in the North Atlantic en route from Britain to Halifax, Nova Scotia.


German U-boats had been mauling such convoys since the start of the Second World War in what became known as the Battle of the Atlantic, exacting a terrible price in human lives for the food, raw materials and military supplies that Britain needed if it was to keep fighting.

As Andrew Williams writes in his book The Battle of the Atlantic: “By mid-December of 1942, there was only 300,000 tons of commercial fuel in the country and yet consumption was running at about 130,000 tons a month.” Some figures in the Admiralty were considering abandoning the convoy system — tantamount to an admission of naval defeat.

Despite the heavy weather, Robert Atkinson, the 26-year-old captain of HMS Pink, one of five Royal Navy warships protecting the freighters, regarded the crossing as routine.


He was already an Atlantic veteran, credited with the first night-time sinking of a U-boat. Six days into the North Atlantic, a coded signal from the Admiralty made it clear that convoy ONS-5 faced a greater peril than heavy weather. The largest-known fleet of U-boats was massing ahead and they were beyond air support.

The fighting lasted a week, but instead of the slaughter the Germans had come to expect, the Royal Navy fought back, changing the course of the war.

ON APRIL 28, Atkinson and the other captains in ONS-5 received a one-word signal from Commander Peter Gretton, aboard the destroyer HMS Duncan, the largest warship. It said: “Anticipate”.

Atkinson, now 87, has vivid memories of what happened next. It was 5pm, already dark, cold winds buffeting the ship. He gathered his men on a lower deck. “There’s going to be a hell of a battle tonight,” he told them. “I’m not sure how many of us will see daylight. I intend to see it if I can. It’s up to us.”

By midnight five U-boats were harassing the convoy. This moonlit engagement spilt over into the next day, and the next. “The weather got worse and worse,” Graham Bence, Commander Gretton’s operations officer, recalls.

“The convoy had to heave to. You put the ship’s head into the wind and kept the screw turning. You were all but stationary.”

On May 4 the skies cleared. Ahead of ONS-5 at least 53 U-boats — the largest pack ever massed in one patrol area — were waiting in the “black pit” between Iceland and Greenland. In the afternoon, the first of the U-boats made contact, sinking two freighters.

By midnight, another ship had gone. Five more merchant vessels were to follow in the night. Atkinson had been given the task of protecting four stragglers, struggling to keep up 80 miles behind the main convoy. They stayed clear of trouble until the following morning, May 5. Then HMS Pink picked up what Atkinson calls “a first-class asdic (sonar) contact — the clearest and sharpest I ever heard”.

Briefly, he agonised over whether to chase the U-boat or stay with his ships. “It’s a very human thing,” he says. “You wanted to fight back, to get at them.” He opted to attack. “The asdic operator was the key man,” he says. “He called continuously, ‘Ship approaching, 1,500 yards. Sharp echo, ship turning to starboard. Ship stopped, sir. Ship turned away from us, got his wake.’ We were persistent — we never let the submarine go.

“After about the fifth depth-charge attack, huge quantities of oil came to the surface and we could hear him trying to blow his ballast tanks.” HMS Pink launched one more assault. “A most powerful explosion shook the ship, low in note, like a deep grunt.” It was not the hoped-for kill, but Pink was later credited with putting U-358 out of service.

Their victory was not without cost, however. Just before they caught up with the stragglers, a huge column of smoke began to rise. One of the merchant ships, West Madaket, had been hit. “My worst fears had been realised,” Atkinson says. “But any officer would have done the same faced with my choice.”

Ahead, in the main part of the convoy, another four freighters had been picked off during the day and one submarine, U-638, destroyed. In thick fog, the unprecedented battle raged on into darkness. One Navy commander noted succinctly in his report: “23 ships in 10 columns . . . calm sea, heavy mist . . . at 00.41 the first of about 24 attempted attacks from every direction except ahead was detected and the battle continued without stopping until 06.20.”

While this barrage of torpedoes, depth charges, attempted rammings and drastic manoeuvring raged, the convoy ploughed on. Four more U-boats were sunk and several others seriously damaged before May 6 dawned. As more Royal Navy ships joined the fight, the mass of U-boats disbanded and slipped away. The battle had been won.





HMS PINK at full ahead (note-the Bow Horn's attached to take the anti-mine acoustic hammer) thanks to Bob for pointing out that the "A" frame on the bow in fact held the anti-mine acoustic hammer box.

 (Photo credit unknown)

Acoustic Hammer info:-


By Rob

The first
known use of an acoustic mine occurred in 1940. However work on an acoustic countermeasure
had already been initiated by HMS Vernon and the Sweeping Division of its Mine
Design Department. This resulted in the SA acoustic hammer box in the bow
compartment of a vessel (usually a converted trawler) but later bow-mounted
about 12 feet below the water. By 1942, the bow
mounted hammer box was one of the most common acoustic countermeasures and was
being streamed abeam, usually in combination with the LL magnetic sweep. The
hammer boxes contained a pneumatic or electric driven riveting hammer mounted
to strike against a 7/16 inch thick 19 inch diameter steel diaphragm. The
pneumatic hammers proved more reliable than the electric type and were
incorporated into the standard hammer box designated 'A Mark 1' which was
either suspended over the bow of a minesweeper or towed in combination with the
magnetic sweep.


Each Royal Navy commander received a congratulatory signal from Winston Churchill. “While 13 merchant ships were lost,” says Williams, “nine U-boats were sunk and several others badly damaged. For the Germans it was an unsustainable rate of loss — one U-boat sunk for every two Allied merchant ships.”


For several months, the Germans withdrew almost entirely from the Atlantic. When they did return, they were no match for the British ships.

ON MONDAY, a last public acknowledgement will be made of the immense contribution made by seafarers in the Second World War when the Admiralty commemorates the Battle of the Atlantic for the 60th and final time. (A 60th, as opposed to 75th, anniversary was chosen because of the advanced age of the dwindling band of veterans.)

About 100,000 people are expected to attend the event in Liverpool, the Allied base during the campaign. Nine visiting warships from six navies will be open to visitors.

As for Atkinson, he came to understand the cost of war most devastatingly. He was one of four brothers from a Northumberland family who went to sea — two in the Royal Navy and two in the Merchant Navy. All his siblings were killed in action.

A former chairman of British Shipbuilders, he was knighted in 1982. He says that harrowing memories of the war remain — picking up some survivors of torpedoed ships, but having to abandon others, for example. “Dreadful,” he says simply. “Fire on the water, people struggling. I can still see them in my eyes.”




 HMS PINK at sea (photo credit unknown)

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.

Geoff Brewers story (Mid-Shipman)

My knowledge of my father's war are rather limited as he didn't speak of it all that much but he did speak of trying to sink, or perhaps blow up mines by shooting at the horns and I think he said Pink claimed a U Boat during one crossing, although I don't think he was aboard at that time. That may have been just before he joined her.


Geoff Brewer Mid-Shipman HMS PINK (Brewer Family collection)


He served on three ships during the war. Pink was his first ship... as a 'mid' I think. I understand he did at least one trans Atlantic convoy in her and spoke of her being pretty uncomfortable in big seas.

I believe he also served on at least one escort convoy to Russia after that, but possibly not aboard Pink. I don't think Geoff was aboard Pink during the Normandy landings.

At some point he served on two other ships:  HMS Quality G62 and  HMS Kempthorne G483. 


Mid-Shipman Geoff Brewer (Far right with side arm) at the surrender of some unknown German U-Boats. (Brewer family collection) 

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.

 Some more words on the part played by the gallant little fighting Corvettes, from Ahoy Mac's web blog.

A brief comment on Anti- Submarine Warfare Ships.
With its available speed, manoeuvreability, and armament, the Destroyer was generally accepted as the ultimate and most deadly anti-submarine warfare ship. The eventual successor, the Destroyer Escort was yet to enter the scene and the Battle of the Atlantic in any significant numbers.

The River Class Frigates were very good anti-submarine vessels, of 1370 tons, and a reasonable speed of 20 knots gave them every chance of dealing with any threat posed by the opposing German boats. The Black Swan Class Sloops of similar size and speed were also most useful ships in this fight to the death.

However, the real surprise in this seemingly never ending fight to the finish that raged across the Atlantic from the start of WW2 up to the present time of reporting was, the slower, smaller, Flower Class Corvettes, their names all coined from WW1 Flower Class Sloops. This class of WW2 ships started to come down the slipways in 1939, designed as Minesweepers, and for anti-submarine work in the English Channel and North Sea, their immediate relative was a commercial whaler Southern Pride.

The class was easy to construct, with a single screw, but above all they could be rolled out from non Naval Yards across the United Kingdom. In all, some 221 Flower Class or Modified Flower Class Corvettes came off the slipways in UK and Canada, alas only one of this breed remains today, launched in 1941, HMCS SACKVILLE, now fully restored , is on display at Halifax in Nova Scotia, the port of departure for so many east bound convoys over 1939- 1945. These little ships, with a relatively short length of 205/208 feet, had a small turning circle, and eventually carried up to 50 depth charges, had a long range of 3,850 miles at 12 knots on only 213 tons of oil fuel, very economical.

They proved to be great ships on the Atlantic run, although never designed to sail those perilous seas, they survived the worst weather that the Atlantic could throw at them, they were uncomfortable sea ships, but most of all, they were safe ships, and throughout all their ordeals on the North Atlantic run, not a single man was ever washed overboard from a Flower Class Corvette. They took tons of ocean over their bows, they would "Roll on a damp grass!" but they always shook themselves clear and came up to plough on and on.

The Cruel Sea.
It was the Flower Class Corvette on which Nicolas Monsarrat based his famous novel The Cruel Sea, and his Compass Rose went on to dominate Naval fictional history.


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0 #10 Ewan robertson 2016-12-27 18:14
Fraser, I think uncle tommy was either pursar or quarter master on the pink from what my dad told me. Regards ewan
-1 #9 Peter Sellar 2014-12-18 22:21
Wonderful story on H.M.S. Pink. The corvette helped win the Battle of the North Atlantic and I believe during the war 236 were built, 136 in Canada.10 corvettes attached to the R.C.N were sunk and the only one now afloat lies alongside in Halifax N.S and is being used as a museum.
+1 #8 Lorna stone 2012-11-08 22:10
My grandfather served on the Pink cyril stone (nick name ted) stoker. he was on the pink when they hit the u boat and when the pink was hit, he was one of 4 to stay on board to keep the Pink a float, him the captain, another stoker and some one else. I believe it took 3 days to be towed back, as the ship that towed the Pink only did it at night and cut her loose in the day. my grandfather spent the whole time in the engine room with the other stoker chest deep in water and oil. and was fed rum and gin to keep them warm. when the HMS PINK arrived back to dry dock they were ordered off and the ship sunk because no one was pumping the water out.
0 #7 Bob Todd 2012-10-09 07:27
The Pink was a corvette fitted for minesweeping and in the photographs the A bracket at the bow holds the anti-mine acoustic hammer and not anti-torpedo nets
+1 #6 Phil Esgate 2012-10-01 20:09
My Dad (Alexander Esgate) was on board HMS Pink as Signalman, on both the Atlantic convoys and on the Normandy landings. They were assisting the Canadians at the time of the Landings. My Dad told me that he was on the beach with the Canadians when a shell hit nearby and he was paralysed (shell-shocked) by it and then taken to South Africa to recouperate in a hospital.
+1 #5 James Poulter 2012-09-05 21:30
Quoting Pamela Davies:
My father, Hugh Davies, served on the HMS Pink, for pretty much the whole time the ship was in service. He was an ordinary telegrapher and later a telegrapher. I have been able to track down the convoys that they escorted, but when it comes to the Normany landing, things are not so clear. If anyone has information as to what PINK was doing before she was torpedoed, and how the crew were rescued, I would be very grateful to hear from you.

Hi Pamela. My Grandfather was Sub Lieut (Engineer) Benjamin Poulter and was awarded the MBE for his part in saving the ship after it was torpedoed during the Normandy landings. I will see if I can find out any more about that...
+1 #4 Pamela Davies 2012-08-06 23:58
My father, Hugh Davies, served on the HMS Pink, for pretty much the whole time the ship was in service. He was an ordinary telegrapher and later a telegrapher. I have been able to track down the convoys that they escorted, but when it comes to the Normany landing, things are not so clear. If anyone has information as to what PINK was doing before she was torpedoed, and how the crew were rescued, I would be very grateful to hear from you.
+1 #3 David Lewis 2012-03-30 07:32
I believe my Father AB james Lewis served on HMS Pink and I can remember him describing the sinking as he said he was on watch at time and so survived the attack, was picked up by an American warship and taken to New York. Any further details would be welcome. He was later posted to HMS Ajax.
+1 #2 Fraser Robertson 2011-09-25 22:00
My late father Tom Robertson (Thomas James Robertson) served on the Pink, and I recall was involved in the reunions back in the early 80s(?). I've just read 'The Battle of the Atlantic' Men and Events, by Thomas Woodrooffe, which was most interesting, and got me thinking about the part my father played in WW2.
+1 #1 Philip Brewer 2011-05-30 07:04
My father, John Geoffrey Brewer, served on Pink. He started as a midshipman and by the end of the war had become a sub lieutenant. I would be glad to learn of anything concerning Pink's history

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