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 LOCH KATRINE - Yard No 347 - Loch Class Frigate - Royal Navy - Built 1944

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HMS LOCH KATRINE - Yard No 347 - Loch Class Frigate - Royal Navy - Built 1944


Owners   Royal Navy
Registered     Keel Laid    31/12/1943
Type of Ship    Loch Class Frigate Launched    21/08/1944
      Commissioned    29/12/1944
Ship Details          
Length Overall    307' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    286' 0" Weather    
Beam    38' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     17' 9"      
Draught    12' 0"      
G.R.T.    1,891 Tons      
Complement     114 Officers and Men      

Triple expansion engine, producing 5500 ihp

Props    2      
Speed    19.5 knots      

1 x 4in, 4 x 2 pounder, 6 x 20mm AA, 2 Squids, Depth Charges  


Other known names        
Current Status   Broken up in 1967    
Content on HMS LOCH KATHRINE / HMNZS ROTOITI will be added as and when available. 

HMNZS Rotoiti (Navy Museum AAR 0032)

(Photo shown here with kind permission of The New Zealand Navy Museum)


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 LOCH KATRINE (K625) was the third and the last of the "Loch Class" Twin Screw Frigates ordered from the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, and her keel was laid down on 31st December 1943. The ship was launched on 21st August 1944 as the 1st RN ship to carry the name. Her build was completed on 29th December 1944.

Once commissioned into the Royal Navy she was quickly put to service on the Gibraltar convoys and fortunately she was not involved in much fighting but did have a slight collision with one of the Canadian Navy ships (HMCS EVENLODE) when she sustained some damage above the waterline.

As the war in Europe drew to a close she was tasked with the collection of surrendering U-Boats. The surrendered U-Boats were taken to an assembly point in Northern Ireland and from there they were disposed of in the deep waters of the NW Approaches.

Next it was off to the Far East as there was still a war going on, there she took part in preparations for the landings in Malaya but when they were called off she returned to Singapore where HMS LOCH KATRINE was anchored during the official surrender of the Japanese and thus ended the Second World War.

She was also involved in the repatriation of civilians interned in the area of the Dutch East Indies and escorted the craft carrying them back to Singapore.

She continued her work in the area as a guard ship and escort vessel into the summer of 1946 before she returned to the U.K. where she was put into Reserve status.

She was then part of a group of Ships sold to the New Zealand Navy.

The following information is from the staff at the New Zealand Navy Museum


Motto: Takaia (Bind together)


Battle Honours: Korea 1950-1953


This badge was approved by the Naval Board in February 1951. The flower is Akatea metrodiseros albiflora.  The motto is taken from the Maori proverb Rangitihi Upoko I Takaia ki te akatea 'Rangiitihi's head was bound up with the akatea'. 


RNZN Service:

This frigate was launched as HMS Loch Katrine and was completed in December 1944. She was sent to the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 and saw service there until the conclusion of the Second World War.

 In 1947 the RNZN sought seven frigates from the Royal Navy. In 1948 six frigates were approved for purchase at a bargain price of £1,500,000. The frigates were bought out of reserve and modernised and fitted for service with the RNZN. The initial crews came from HMNZS Arbutus and Arabis who had been returned to the Royal Navy. The RNZN formed the 11th Frigate Flotilla upon receiving the vessels.

HMNZS Rotoiti was handed over to the RNZN at Portsmouth and entered service with the RNZN on 6 June 1949. The government had thought of calling the frigate HMNZS Tarawera. During the process of making up the cap tallys the name was misspelled as HMNZS Rotoite which is what the ratings in the commissioning ship's company were forced to wear. It was subsequently changed.

At the outbreak of the Korean War in June of 1950, the government committed two of the frigates to the Untied Nations combined fleet. Rotoiti completed two tours off the Korean Peninsula October 1950 to November 1951 and January 1952 to March 1953. Her duties consisted of providing shore bombardments, patrolling, and landing raiding parties as she did in August 1951 when two prisoners were taken. Sadly, another raid cost of the life of a rating, the only RNZN casualty in combat. Rotoiti was paid off into reserve upon returning from Korea. In 1952, in thick fog, she collided with a Netherlands destroyer off the coast of Korea with some damage to both vessels.

In a major contrast to these war-like operations, in 1951 Rotoiti was instrumental in retrieving a merchant ship which had been captured by pirates. Rotoiti was on her way home, off the coast of China when a distress signal was received from a British merchant ship, SS Hupeh, which had been attacked and captured by pirates. Any hostile act on the part of Rotoiti would have resulted in the murder of the crew and passengers of the Hupeh and so Rotoiti took up a shadowing position. Eventually the pirates offered to leave the ship and its passengers unharmed if they were promised safe custody to a nearby island. With the safety of life paramount, this proposal was agreed and the incident ended peacefully.

In 1954 a refit was undertaken and she was recommissioned in February 1957.

In 1957, Rotoiti in company with HMNZS Pukaki participated in Operation GRAPPLE, the series of nuclear tests carried out by the British at Christmas and Malden Islands. Her duties were to act as a weather ship and also to observe the tests. Rotoiti under took tours on the Far East Station between 1958 and 1961. Part of the duties was to maintain the ceasefire of the Korean War.

In 1961, as part of Operation DEEP FREEZE, Rotoiti was fitted out as a weather picket ship and to act as a SAR vessel for American aircraft flying between Christchurch and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. She undertook seven tours of duty (consisting of 10-12 days on station) during the summers of 1961, 1962 and 1963. This hard work in the Southern Ocean took a great toll on the vessel and her hull was in bad shape after the final tour in 1963.

On 6 August 1965 HMNZS Rotoiti was paid off from the RNZN. She was sold for breaking up in September 1966 along with the Kaniere and left Auckland in January 1967 for Hong Kong where she was broken up.

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



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.

She was then part of a group of Ships sold to the New Zealand Navy.

There she was re-named HMNZS ROTOITI and her many and varied adventures continued and thanks to Jim Dell who served on her for the story and history below.

The Loch Class Frigates:-

These were developed from the slightly smaller River Class frigates and were designed as anti-submarine convoy escorts. In 1947, NZ looked at buying seven of these frigates from the RN – six for anti-submarine work and the seventh as a survey ship. However, by June 1948, the seventh frigate was put on hold.

All six Lochs served as AS escorts protecting shipping in the North Atlantic approaches to the British Isles. Loch Eck (Hawea) was on Russian convoys to Murmansk in 1945 and was responsible / aided in the sinking of 4 U-Boats. All paid off into reserve 1945-46.

The six frigates were refitted at Devonport, Portsmouth, Chatham and Sheerness and prepared for the RNZNs needs. Initial manning came from the corvettes Arabis and Arbutus and further crew members came from a recruiting drive from the RN.

Loch Eck K422              Hawea F422 1/10/48 to 15/2/57 - ZMXF

Loch Achray K426         Kaniere F426 28/9/48 to 22/12/60 - ZMXG

Loch Achanalt K424    Pukaki F424 13/9/48 to 24/5/65 - ZMXD

Loch Katrine K425       Rotoiti F625 7/6/49 to 6/8/65 - ZMXK

Loch Shin K421             Taupo F421 13/9/48 to 26/1/53 - ZMXC

Loch Morlich K517        Tutira F517 11/4/49 to 31/8/51 - ZMXJ

The six frigates formed the 11th Frigate Flotilla in August 1948, with Taupo designated as Senior Officer. This changed when the first four ships arrived in NZ and from March 1949, the NZ Squadron had the SO in HMNZS Bellona.

All six Lochs were named after NZ Lakes.

Historical events:

HMNZS Rotoiti served during the Korean War twice - 7/10/1950 - 21/11/1951 and again 7/1/1952 - 19/3/1953. On her return to New Zealand from her first tour, Rotoiti was alerted that a merchant ship had been taken over by pirates off the Yangtze River in the China Sea. The ship was the China Navigation steamer HUPEH. The ship was located by radar and after a stand-off, the pirates agreed to be landed on an island and Rotoiti escorted the HUPEH and her crew to Hong Kong. In another incident, Rotoiti collided with a Dutch destroyer in thick fog off the Korean coast in June 1952, resulting in damage to both ships.

The Malayan Emergency - Rotoiti served during the Malayan Emergency 1958-1959 and again 1960-1961. All RNZN ships were attached to the British Far East Strategic Reserve and based in Singapore.

Operation Grapple - HMNZ Ships Pukaki and Rotoiti departed Auckland 14/3/1957 for Christmas Island in the Pacific where the British Government was conducting hydrogen bomb tests. The two ships acted as weather ships stationed some distance from the island during the test explosions. They remained on station until they returned to Auckland 16/7/1957. They then returned to the test area in October 1957 and back to Auckland mid-December of the same year.

Operation Deepfreeze - HMNZ Ships Pukaki and Rotoiti relieved US Navy weather picket ships at 60 degs, South 170 degs, East. Rotoiti was the first ship to be fitted out and she sailed from Auckland, October 1961 for her first patrol to provide weather information and be on emergency standby for the US Aircraft flying between Christchurch and McMurdo.

Based at Dunedin, each patrol lasted for 10 to 12 days, with two patrols in October/November and one or two in January/February. Rotoiti did three tours in the 1961/62 season, two in late 1852 and her last two ending in December 1963. Weather and sea conditions were usually bad to severe, with icebergs, snowstorms and icing-up among the natural hazards. Pukai and Rotoiti were both withdrawn from service shortly afterward because of the hammering to their hulls.

Communications Fit –

Original fit -


MF/HF Receivers: 2 x B28, 1 x B29, 1 x B19,

Direction Finding: FM12 (MF DF), FH4 (HF DF),

HF Transmitters: 60EQR (Emergency HF), 89M,

VHF Transceivers: 86M, TBS.

Later fit - B28/29/19 replaced by B40/B41. Type 618 replaced 60EQR - 1 in W/T office and 1 down aft.  Type 603 replaced the 89M.

Aerials -  AWG whip for the 603 and 2 x AWA whips for reception. 2 x AWH whips for 618s.

During Operation Deepfreeze, the USN loaned a Collins KWM2a 100Watt SSB set.

Power and distribution - There were two switchboards - one forward and one aft, to which the generators supplied power and from which a tree system of distribution was employed.


Type 293 early warning radar - foremast

Type 277Q early warning radar - mainmast (fitted to Pukaki and Rotoiti - the others may have had 277P)

Type 974 navigation radar – foremast

HMNZS Rotoiti's battle honours are as follows:

New Zealand Operational Service Medal - issued for active service and peacekeeping missions since 1945.

Korean War

The Korean Medal (British)

United Nations Medal (Korea) (UN)

Korean War Service Medal (Korean)

Operation Grapple

New Zealand Special Service Medal (Nuclear Testing)

Malayan Emergency

Naval General Service Medal 1915 -1962 Clasp "Malaya" (British)

Malaysian Service Medal (Pingat Jasa Malaysia) (Malaysian)



This photo was sent to me by Philip Morgan. His father, John, (now passed on and former merchant seaman) took this photo in New Plymouth in the early 1960's. One of the few photos I have seen of our Lochs in colour.


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.


More on the operations carried out by the New Zealand "Loch Class" Frigates 

Operation GrapplePukaki and Rotoiti departed March 1957 to act as weather ships stationed in the Christmas Island area from where the British Government conducted hydrogen bomb tests. Both ships returned in July 1957 and went back again October and November of that same year. Pukaki did two more stints in 1958.


The first bomb was dropped just after 10.30am on 15 May 1957 by a RAF Vickers Valiant. Pukaki was 45 miles away and the blast rolled over the frigate, felt even at that distance as a heavy pressure on the eardums. A few hours later Pukaki steamed for a rendezvous with the carrier HMS Warrior, passing within six miles of “Ground Zero”. Personal tags and dosimeters detected no contamination.



Duties in Antarctica
(A) Pukaki and Hawea escorted Endeavour to the edge of the pack ice in December 1956 when Endeavour (I) was used to support the Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition.
(B) Operation Deepfreeze - Rotoiti and Pukaki relieved USN destroyers as weather picket ships at 60South 170East. Rotoiti did a total of seven tours on station between 1961 and 1963 and Pukaki did five between 1964 and 1965. Each patrol lasted between 10 and 12 days and the ships were based in Dunedin during the “Deepfreeze” summer seasons.


Ice and heavy seas (photo from Jim Dell)

Weather and sea conditions were usually bad to severe, with icebergs, snowstorms and icing-up among the natural hazards. Both ships were withdrawn from service within months on account of poor hull condition.





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0 #1 Sue Pace 2014-02-08 09:11
I believe my father Ernest George Payne, he was known as whacker Payne, sailed on her during her service in Malaysia and Singapore-he used to talk of evacuating the Dutch women and children from Burma (I think). He was awarded the Burma Star. By coincidence I moved to New Zealand in 2002 and now live very close to Lake Rotoiti-Loch Katrine's HMNZS name.

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