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 ENGADINE - Yard No 500 - Helicopter Support Ship - Admiralty - Built 1966

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RFA ENGADINE - Yard No 500 - Helicopter Support Ship - Admiralty - Built 1966


Owners    Admiralty (MoD)
Registered    London Keel Laid    09/08/1965
Type of Ship    Helicopter Support Vessel Class I passenger Launched    16/09/1966
     Official Number 334674 Commissioned    15/12/1967
Ship Details          
Length Overall    420' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    385' 0" Weather    
Beam     58' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld      35' 4"      
Draught     23' 0"      
G.R.T.    6,384      
DWT    3836      
Complement     81 Officers and Men, plus 113 in training      
Engines   1 x 5-cyl two stroke Sulzer oil engine producing 4,400 shp at 130 rpm      
Props    1 Bronze Fixed      
Speed    16 knots      
Other known names   N/A    
Current Status   Broken up in 1996    
as content on RFA ENGADINE become available it will be added here. 
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 Helicopter support/training ship RFA ENGADINE (K 08) was the largest ship built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd. She was the second Royal Navy ship to carry the name.

She was ordered by the Admiralty (MoD) in August 1964 at a time which was something of a boom for the shipyard; along with the large order for merchant ships from Ellerman Lines it was a good time to be a shipbuilder in Leith, with full employment and a large order book.

She was the first purpose built Helicopter training ship in the Royal Navy, and was built to Merchant ship specifications and manned by RFA and Royal Navy personnel; she had a high standard of accommodation and also the only ship at the time in the Royal Fleet Auxuilary to be fitted with stabilizers designed by the Edinburgh firm of Brown Brothers Ltd.

Such was the work load at the yard that some of her build in modular form was sub contracted out to a shipyard across the other side of the River Forth, it was to Burtisland Shipyards on the Fife side, that some of the modules were built, nothing new here as Henry Robb shipyards had helped to pioneer the self same thing during World War II to build and launch many of the ships that were launched during wartime.

Indeed today's two huge aircraft carriers being assembled at Rosyth on the River Forth are being built the self same way through a collaboration of the small amount of shipyards that are left in the U.K.

After fitting out in the basin at Leith she was towed down the river under the Forth Railway Bridge to the then Royal Dockyard at Rosyth to be fitted with her secret stuff (Electronics etc) See photographs below of her short journey across the Forth.





After commission she was attached to the Western Fleet and based at Portland.

With the increasing use of helicopters from destroyers and frigates, there was a requirement to train pilots to operate in deep water, away from coastal stations. RFA ENGADINE was Britain's first purpose built aviation support ship and fulfilled this role.

Although operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary The ship was however to be jointly manned by RN
and RFA personnel - an idea that was by no means popular at first. She would
train more than 100 at a time and had a small permanent RN compliment to
augment the RFA personnel.

In addition to four Wessex helicopters, Engadine could carry either two Wasp or two Sea Kings. She was also capable of operating small, pilotless target aircraft (Drones). These were housed in a small hanger above her main helicopter hanger.




The photograph above shows RFA ENGADINE underway and is re-produced here by permission of Donald

(Photo credit is unknown) 

RFA ENGADINE was based at Portland for her entire career. In 1976 she was deployed off Lebanon should she be required to evacuate British Nationals.

At the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review RFA ENGADINE carried members of the press and followed behind the Royal Yacht Britannia.

During the Falklands War she served as a helicopter repair ship under the Command of Captain D.F Freeman. Where she became another of the Leith Built Ships to serve in the conflict with Argentina over the possession of the Falkland Islands, ENGADINE spent the entire time in San Carlos Water or "bomb alley" as the men who were there called it due to the heavy risk from attacks by the Argentine Air force, her role became even more important with the sinking of the container ship Atlantic Conveyor carrying a cargo of helicopters and spare parts amongst other war cargo for use in the Falklands.




1982. RFA Engadine at anchor in San Carlos Water with two Sea King ranged. Taken from RFA Fort Grange. Rumour had it at the time that she had slipped away from home waters and no one knew where she was until she appeared down South. It was a lovely story. (Photo was taken by Mike Day and re-produced here with permission)



 By the mid-1980s, RFA ENGADINE was rapidly approaching obsolescence, and so the ship was laid up at Devonport in 1989 and was then sold to a private greek company who were to continue her operating but this came to nothing and she was just laid up until being sold again in 1996 for scrap, she was broken up in India and her place was taken by RFA ARGUS a converted Merchant vessel. 






(photo credit unknown)


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 ENGADINE at the quayside

(photo credit unknown)


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.



RFA ENGADINE leaving the dry dock at Leith to begin her short journey down the River Forth to the then

Royal Dockyard at Rosyth to be fitted with her avionics gear and further electronic systems. 

(Photo was taken by Alexander Birt and is re-produced her by kind permission)




RFA ENGADINE being eased into the Loch Gates at Leith on her way to Rosyth

(Photo credit Alexander Birt)




RFA ENGADINE passes under the Forth Rail Bridge on her way to Rosyth

(photo credit Alexander Birt)

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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+2 #6 Clive Hamilton Taff 2014-11-20 21:29
Quoting David Bolton:
I was Ships Cook on the Engadine during the Falklands war.
Before we sailed for the operation, we had a celebration for 25,000 deck landings, (more than a carrier!)
I baked a cake for it, roughly 3 feet long and coloured and carved into a model of the ship.
Captain Freeman, didn't want me in the photo's, but I was not leaving my cake, so got my pic taken with the cake.

I was on the ship in the Falklands as a JCR galley and steward and remember you and the cake...very happy times spent in the RFA espeicially the Engadine, my first ship!! Hope you are well
(Clive Hamilton) Taff
+2 #5 David Bolton 2014-10-10 20:13
I was Ships Cook on the Engadine during the Falklands war.
Before we sailed for the operation, we had a celebration for 25,000 deck landings, (more than a carrier!)
I baked a cake for it, roughly 3 feet long and coloured and carved into a model of the ship.
Captain Freeman, didn't want me in the photo's, but I was not leaving my cake, so got my pic taken with the cake.
+1 #4 Carol Freeman 2014-07-13 23:59
We would be very interested to hear from anyone who knows what happened to the RFA Captain in the Falklands, David Frederick Freeman and if anyone is in touch with him today..
+1 #3 James Morrison 2013-12-22 00:09
I sailed on this ship first on sea trials when the catering was done by boys from Leith nautical college we were then taken on as catering boys I stayed on the vessel for over one year the commander of the ship was Captain Charles Stuart Bonshaw Irwin DSO DSC RD RFA also the day to day running was done by merchant seamen and royal navy ran the training of pilots and flight deck crew not r n personal
+1 #2 G P Connon 2013-10-14 05:52
I was stationed on the Engadine for roughly a week or 10 days during the time of her being used as a trial for Harrier's
+1 #1 andrew rennie 2013-01-05 12:10
Thank you for an informative website, however may I point out the following?
Your "Although operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary she was manned by Royal Navy personnel- usually 81 officers and men"
The ship itself was manned by personnel of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in a classic Merchant Navy fashion; the RN contingent purely assisted the RFA personnel in military areas, such as communications, Flight Deck, helicopter control, handling and operations.

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