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 1939 to 1945 HMRT SAMSON - Yard No 322 - Bustler Class Rescue Tug - Royal Navy - Built 1941

Leith Shipyards

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HMRT SAMSON - Yard No 322 - Bustler Class Rescue Tug - Royal Navy - Built 1941


 Second of the "Bustler Class" Tugs built at Leith.


 HMRT SAMSONIA a "Bustler Class" Rescue Tug on trials in the Forth.


Owners   Royal Navy
Registered    Admiralty Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Ocean Rescue/Salvage Tug Launched    01/04/1942
      Commissioned    14/09/1942
Ship Details          
Length Overall    205' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    190' 0" Weather    
Beam    38' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     19' 0"      
Draught    16' 11"      
G.R.T.    1100 tons      
Complement     42 Officers and Men      
Engines   2 x 8 cylinder Diesels (Atlas Polar)BHP 3020      
Props    1      
Speed    16 knots      
Armament    1 x 12 pdr AA gun, 1 x 2 pdr AA, 2  x 20 mm AA  and 4 x Lewis .303 machine guns      
Other known names   1942-SAMSONIA, 1947-Foundation Joesephin, 1974-Jaki    
Current Status   Broken up 1979    
Content on HMRT SAMSONIA will be added as and when available. 

The rescue Tug "SAMSONIA"

(Photo is courtesy of RFA Plymouth)


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.

 Second ship of the class to be built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, originaly named "SAMSON" but name was changed during her build to SAMSONIA.

 The BUSTLER Class of tug was designed and built in the shipyards of Leith, and Henry Robb where to provide 8 ships of this Class for the Royal Navy, making them the first RN Fleet Tugs powered by 2 x 8 cylinder diesel engines. The tugs were ordered in pairs. Oil fuel capacity was 405 tons which gave a range of about 1700 miles. As completed, the Class was armed with 1 x 12 pdr AA gun, 1 x 2 pdr AA, 2  x 20 mm AA  and 4 x Lewis .303 machine guns and had a complement of 42. They were designed for ocean towing, salvage and rescue and had a 30 ton bollard pull but were not suitable for harbour work. Early in the War they were involved in trials of pressure-minesweeping methods, where a dumb barge was towed behind the tug with the aim of exploding mines intended for merchant ships and warships. Unfortunately the pressure wave created by the tug alone was sufficient to detonate the mines, so the trials were abandoned. Post-War, the Class was ideal for commercial charter and eventually 6 of the Class saw service as Royal Fleet Auxiliaries.

HMS SAMSONIA was based at Campbeltown during the war and was one of the famous Campbeltown Navy, the rescue fleet who saved so many and help Britain continue the fight during World War II.

Continuing on the proud tradition of Henry Robb built tugs; her original name was to be "Samson"

She was an order for the supply of Ocean Going Diesel salvage tugs, all of them "Bustler Class" With second of the class being the tug "H.M.S.SAMSONIA"

They were required to carry out salvage and rescue work along with convoy escort duties.

They were large and very powerful tugs put to good use during World War II and for long after as well.

She was 1,100 tons with a length overall of 190 feet and beam of 38 feet and six inches, with a draught of 19 feet.

She was to complete the longest ever non stop tow of a submarine when towing H.M.S.TURPIN from Jamaica to Portsmouth a distance of some 5,200 Nautical Miles.She was laid down on 1st February 1941.

She was launched 1st April 1942 and was to go on to have many wartime adventures.

She was chartered to a Canadian salvage Company after the war and she was involved in many adventures and also had a book written about her many adventures in this dangerous business.

On the  14 September 1948 the steamship Leicester was abandoned by her crew in hurricane force winds,

200 miles south of Cape Race, Newfoundland. Then the Foundation Joesephine managed to locate the Leicester with a heavy list on her. She was 800 miles from Bermuda and St. John's Newfoundland, 900 miles from Halifax and 1,100 miles from New York 

On the 27 September 1948 a tow was connected to the Leicester with some difficulty and the tow was commenced to Bermuda. Then on the 9th of October 1948 the Foundation Josephine was blown onto Ferry Point, Bermuda, while her tow the steamship Leicester was blown into Whalebone Bay.

It took until the 22nd October before she was refloated and she was then towed to Halifax, Nova Scotia and entered Dry Dock for 3 months of repairs.





After her return to the Royal Navy she was sold to a Yugoslav salvage Company in 1974.

She was in use for another 13 years, until broken up in 1987.


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.








(Photo is courtesy of RFA plymouth)

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.

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.




 !Above with her bow gun in this photo by Mel Clark courtesy of RFAPlymouth) 


As told by W.Henderson the son of Chief Petty Officer T.Henderson


Tomas Henderson Chief Petty Officer


Man in command was Lt Commander Ralph Kimber  MBEM –Royal navy.


My fathers name is Thomas Henderson rank Chief Petty Officer While the only tow that the family can remember was the Durham Castle Liner-sunk by a Mine while on Tow about early 1940’s.


A son of Leith CPO T.Henderson who served on HMRT BUSTLER and HMRT SAMSONIA


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0 #2 william henderson 2014-02-12 08:27
while surfing the webb I came across two Tugs built by Henry Robb Shipbuilders Leith the Bustler and the Samsonia. My father served on both of these Tugs during the Last war, first the B 1940 the S in 1941 which he remained on till the end of the war, many a story he could tell on the great Tows the ships were involved in. his name was as follows P O Thomas Henderson, sorry I have no momentos except a photo of him in his uniform-------- -Bill Henderson
0 #1 george macdonald 2012-02-01 11:21
my late father that passed away last november aged 86 years old sailed on H.M.S SAMSONIA from 43'-46',had many fond memories on and of her.

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