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 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.
His Majesties rescue Tug GROWLER was another of the much needed type designed and built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, she was to go on and have a very interesting service life at war and for a long time during peace.
"GROWLER" was put to good use as a rescue tug first in the battle of the Atlantic. She was also one of the tugs along with her sister ship BUSTLER that took part in Operation Pluto just after D-Day, this was the operation to supply the invading armies with enough fuel to allow them to take the fight inland to Germany, and it was in fact an amazing feat.
Along with the Mulberry Harbours that were constructed immediately after D-Day, Operation Pluto is considered one of history's greatest feats of military engineering. The pipelines are also the forerunners of all flexible pipes used in the development of offshore oil fields
Operation Pluto was the name given to the giant spools (floating drum) that carried the pipeline from the British mainland to the coast of France, the way that all future underwater pipe lines would be based on, GROWLER and BUSTLER along with another smaller tug towed the drums around 72 miles and they were escorted by two "Flower Class" Corvettes one of which happened to be another ship built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, she was the Corvette "DIANTHUS".
BUSTLER and GROWLER towing the huge pipe spool drum to take fuel across the channel.
Another photo of the huge drum codenamed (Conun-Drum) being towed across the English Channel to the coast of France at Cherbourg.
The photo above gives some idea of the scale of the huge drums, this is one that slipped a tow and was washed up on the French Coast.
4 May 1945 Was part of Force 135 for Operation Nestegg - the Channel Islands Liberation
To be Continued.
After the war she was based in Singapore from 1946, then in 1947 she was chartered to Moller Towages Ltd., Hong Kong, she was then renamed Caroline Moller. 1952 Re-chartered by Moller to Hong Kong Salvage & Towage Co Ltd., renamed Castle Peak.
In 1954 she returned to UK Admiralty, re-renamed RFA Growler (pennant A 111).
1958 Chartered by United Towing Co Ltd., Hull renamed Welshman. Then in 1963 she returned to Admiralty service at Devonport, renamed Cyclone (pennant A 111). RMAS from 1970.
GROWLER after her return to the British Admiralty and re-named CYCLONE (A111)
(photo from RFAAPlymouth)
1977 Laid up at Gibraltar. she was then sold in 1983 to Eagle Tugs Ltd., Georgetown, Cayman Islands, and based in Mombasa, renamed Martial.
1985 Arrived Gadani Beach, Karachi for scrapping by Adam Hardware Industries, Karachi.
So she was to meet with her enevitable end after 42 years of service and too many adventures to mention here.
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.