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 HMS GUILDFORD CASTLE - Yard No 344 - Castle Class Corvette - Royal Navy - Built 1943

Leith Shipyards

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HMS GUILDFORD CASTLE - Yard No 344 - Castle Class Corvette - Royal Navy - Built 1943


One of the Castle Class Corvettes to be built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb.
She was laid down as Guildford Castle but during building she had her name changed to HMS HESPELER in preperation for her transfer to the Canadian Navy.
 The Castle Class Corvette HMS Guildford Castle re-named HMCS
HESPELER (Pendant K489)
Owners   Royal Navy
Registered     Keel Laid    23/05/1943
Type of Ship    Castle Class Corvette Launched    13/11/1943
      Handed Over    11/03/1944
Ship Details          
Length Overall    252' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    225' 0" Weather    
Beam    36' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     17' 6"      
Draught    11' 6"      
G.R.T.    1,370 tons      
Complement     100 to 110 officers & men      
Engines    4 cyl triple expansion engine, developing 2,980IHP      
Props    1      
Speed    17 knots      
Armament     1 x 4 in gun, Squid projectile, 6 x Oerlikon guns, 15 depth charges      
Other known names   HMS HESPELER, HMCS HESPELER, 1947 Chilcotin, 1958 Stella Maris    
Current Status        
Content on HMCS HESPELER will be added as and when available. Canada: Check daily to see the Deal of the Day! Save up to 50% on featured hotels!


The Castle Class Corvette "Guildford Castle" as HMCS HESPELER

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.

HMS HESPELER was in fact never commissioned into the Royal Navy and went straight to being commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy.

She was a Castle Class Corvette, which had been developed due to the need for a more powerful and larger ship, to counter the danger of the U-Boat menace in the North Atlantic. The Castle Class ships were an inprovement on the smaller Flower Class, and with much better sea keeping qualities.

The ships were designed by Smith's Dock Company and as with the Flower Class, they used there experience with building and designing ships as whale catchers for the base design of the hull.

The ships were built using modular construction methods meaning that parts of the vessel coulld be built around the country in engineering workshops that were not used to building ships.

Henry Robb shipbuilders help pioneer this type of build and the Loftsmen at the Leith Shipyards were instrumental in this work being carried out to the highest standards.

HMCS HESPELER was to play a full part in the rest of the Battle of the Atlantic and was credited with the sinking of a U-Boat along with another ship. (See HMCS HESPELER)

HMCS HESPERUS was involved along with HMS HAVELOCK in the sinking of U-325
This action also involved the final "Kill" of World War II for the amazing Flying Boat SUNDERLAND Mk V
A Sunderland Mk V Flying Boat was called in by the two ships to deliver the final blow to the German Submarine. As part of 201 Squadron RAF and led by Lt Foster and his crew this last kill of the war was achieved on 20th April 1945

The Short Sunderland Flying Boat was a mighty and potent enemy of the many U-Boats engaged in operations against the Allied forces all over the world.



At the end of hostilities in mid 1945 the ships still had work to do with some being used as weather ships and some laid up awaiting desicions on what to do with the surplus warships.

The two "Castle Class Corvettes built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb transferred to the Canadian Navy were to be sold to commercial interests and would make there way around from the Atlantic side of Canada to the west coast Pacific side for work as cargo/passenger ships.

converted to passenger/cargo ships for the Union Steamship Company of British Columbia, and were known as the White Boats . They were operated from 1947 to 1958, but were heavy on fuel and had limited cargo capacity, for example they could not carry cars in the hold. 

The S.S.Chilcotin as she was then remamed to, was then seen by a far sighted shipping group who seen her potential in her use as a luxury small cruise liner, so she was purchased by the Greek Sun Lines and more work was carried out on her, she was re-named again this time as the S.S.STELLA MARIS so she was a real fore runner in this new emerging industry, and wonder how many wealthy passengers she carried who had no clue as to her past wartime exploits as a submarine hunter and chaser.

To be continued. 

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 above is from a postcard produced to advertise the cruise liner STELLA MARIS ex "Castle Class" HMCS HESPELER

Reproduced here with the kind permission of Reuben Goossens Maritime Historian, Cruise'n'Ship Reviewer & Author

The card is from his huge website on cruise ships at


Hespeler_Bell Canada: Beach Destinations: Time For Sun, Surf and Sand; Book Your Beach Getaway!

The SS STELLA MARIS reproduced with permission from the cruise liners site at  from a Photograph by a Mr. D.C. McCormick


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.


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