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 1946 to 1984 RFA HEBE - Yard No 482 - Diesel Cargo - British.India.S.N. Co Ltd - Built 1962

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RFA HEBE - Yard No 482 - Diesel Cargo - British.India.S.N. Co Ltd - Built 1962


RFA HEBE (A406) Ship No 482

 RFA HEBE A406 Ship No 482

(photo reproduced here by permission of the P&O heritage site)


Owners    British.India.S.N. Co Ltd (Later part of the P&O Group)
Registered    London Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Diesel Cargo Launched    18/06/1962
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall    379' 3" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    350' 0" Weather    
Beam    55' 1" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     31' 0"      
Draught    22' 1"      
G.R.T.    4,823      
DWT    5,218      
Engines   5-cyl, 2SCSA Sulzer Diesel engine, built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle      
Props    1      
Speed    15 knots (Service) 17.41 knots (Trials speed)      
Crew     57 Officers and Men       
Other known names        
Current Status   Broken up 1987    
Content on RFA HEBE will be added as and when available. 

RFA HEBE underway

(photo credit unknown)


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, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.
Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was hoped for a long and successful working life.


The M.V.HEBE was an order from the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd, one of two ships ordered at the same time.

The HEBE was launched from the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb in 1962.

She was to be chartered out to the Admiralty on a 19 year bareboat charter, and as such was painted naval grey and renamed as RFA HEBE (A406).

The HEBE as it turned out was not to be the luckiest ship built in Leith, as she was involved in a couple of incidents that resulted in the lose of life and indeed the last incident was the end of the ship as a sea going vessel.


RFA HEBE started her service as a store ship for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) in 1962 and was used as a fleet stores ship, with her large hold capacity she was ideal for the purpose,with a cargo capacity of 7,103 cubic metres (250,850 cubic feet) including 113 cubic metres (4,000 cubic feet) insulated.

In the December of her first year and not eight months after being launched she was involved in an incident at Chatham Dockyard when the small harbour tug TID 97 was sunk in Basin 3 while berthing RFA HEBE

Three of the crew were killed.


A couple of years later she was involved in a mercy mission when along  with HMS OWEN she helped to rescued 140 refugees from Zanzibar after a revolutionary coup there. Those rescued were landed at Mombasa and included 126 British subjects.

In 1971 Management transferred to P&O General Cargo Division. Then in 1973 her ownership was transferred to Ownership transferred to The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, so she became a P&O vessel for the rest of her working time with the Ministry of Defence.


She was to continue her work on in her capacity as a store ship until 30 November 1978 when she was severely damaged by fire at Gibraltar.

Her super structure was so badly damaged that repairs were considered uneconomical

and the charter with the Ministry of Defence was cancelled and she was returned to P&O.

One member of the crew was killed in this devastating fire.


1979:  Sold to Good Luck Navegante SA (Good Faith Shipping Co SA, managers) Panama and re-named

Good Guardian.


1979:  She arrived under tow at Piraeus for repair.

1981:  Sold to Poseidon Shipping Co SA, Panama and renamed Guardian.

1983:  Arrived at Casablanca and subsequently reported under arrest.

1987:  Sold for $159,000 to Cyprus shipbreakers and renamed Wafa.

1987:  Arrived at Famagusta, Cyprus  for demolition.

So ended the career of HEBE Ship No 482



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.





RFA HEBE A406 seen here in 1972

(photo credit David Gerrard at


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.


(photo taken by F R Sherlock)

As told by Mike Day. 

A photo of RFA HEBE entering Malta, year not known. No deck cargo or chacons and fairly light forward. I was on her in 1970 when she was going to Singapore via the Cape. An interesting run for such a small ship. Then did a nice run round the Med after we had refitted in the Isle of Dogs.
A break from the fleetwork of the front line ships, supposedly to help me with the cargo work requirements of 1st Mates. No comment!!

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.



(Photo credit unknown) supplied by Mike Day.

RFAs HEBE and BACCHUS berthed in Chatham. This was an unusual event, naturally enough, when they were regularly running to Singapore via various Naval, Army and RAF bases, through the Med or via the Cape.


I've had a quick look at your site. It's very good. I am so pleased that someone is recording information about such a great little yard.
I have a very unusual photo of Hebe and Bacchus in Chatham together. Very unusual as they were both engaged on round trips to Singapore for the whole of their career. After the Suez closed they did alternate round trips around the Med bases and then around the Cape to Singapore.. They were an interesting break from Fleet ships but in all honesty I was pleased to get back to the real RFA.
They both replaced two old Fort ships which had done the Sinagpore run from the fifties. When the Suex was closed (I was on Hebe in 1970) they were the smallest ships going around the Cape of Good Hope.
Best regards, Mike Day



We now have some very good colour photographs of the RFA HEBE sent in to the website from Barry with a lot more to link to along with many more photographs of HEBE and other RFA SHIPS 

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.



There is a great story as well from someone who served on the HEBE and is well worth a read



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0 #1 Dave Cameron 2012-04-01 09:36
I remember in 1974 she was rigged to carry mexiflaoats for the RCT.We unloaded stores off the island of Maseriah in Oman and then joined her again at Salalah. Instead of watching the evening film on the back deck, we used to gather with a drink and watch the too and frow of rockets from the hills and the airstrip each night.

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