Admiralty Floating Dock No.18 – in HK 1945 to 1955
Stephen Davies: The rectangle marked ‘floating dock’ in the chart below, moored with six anchors (important to keep the beast firmly in position when moving ships in and out with the dock flooded down) is Admiralty Floating Dock (AFD) No.18. The chart was issued by the UK Hydrographic Office in their emergency issue of updated charts in September 1949.
As far as I know no AFDs were ever given names, just the prosaic number. However some (though not AFD18) had crests and even battle honours, the same as ordinary Royal Navy ships.A biography of AFD18 is given below.I think by far the most fun thing about its story (and that of any of the world-wandering AFDs) is the catalogue of enormous transoceanic tows at incredibly slow speeds. Taking just one example, think of the 45 days to go from Cochin to Darwin. That’s c.3,650 nautical miles at around 3.4 knots – you could almost have walked as fast.
Even better, it was an entire mini-fleet since at the same time AFD18 was being towed from Cochin to Darwin, so was AFD20. Each AFD had two tugs towing with a spare (Empire Sam) one astern steering and the whole shebang had an escort of two frigates. So long and slow was this convoy (formally Convoy WO 4A) that on 27th April it rendezvoused in mid-ocean with RFA Eaglesdale (ex-Empire Metal, 8028GRT) to refuel and replenish.
AFD18’s tugs were HM Rescue Tug Cheerly (1315 tons full load, ex-USS ATR-95, built 1943 – one of the UK lend-lease Favourite Class), and HM Rescue Tug Advantage (1315 tons full load (same design as Cheerly) another lend-leaser, ex-ATR41 (neither of these two tugs ever actually saw service in the US Navy before transfer).Advantage ended up being owned by China Merchants, with Harbour Tug Empire Sam towed astern of either AFD18 or AFD20 (sources differ)
The escort was the River class frigates HMS Helford and HMS Plym (it was a River class frigate, the Aire, that became HMS Tamar for a few months at the end of 1946, renamed Aire she set out for Singapore and decommissioning, but was wrecked on the Parcels though I think got off by tugs and scrapped). AFD20 had only two tugs, HM Tugs Eminent (lend-leaser, ex USSBAT-10 and another tug that was sold to China Merchants post-war) and Destiny (another lend-leaser that was till in service in 2005!) plus other, unnamed escorts.
The AFD 18 actually had the most amazing career:
12.6.1942 arr. Oran, Algeria for USN use
12.1944 dep. Oran for Manus, PNG, via Cochin, India
25.1.1944 dep. Malta
5-19.2.1944 under repair Port Said
27.2.1944 arr. Aden
9.3.1944 dep. Aden
3.1944 arr. Cochin.
24.5.1944 arr. Darwin
19.6.1944 dep. Darwin
8.7.1944 arr. Milne Bay, PNG
19.8.1944 arr. Lorengau, Manus, PNG
11.1945 arr. Hong Kong
6. 1955 dep. HK for Sembawang, Singapore
12.1968 transferred to Singapore Govt. ownership
6.1978 Broken upAFD18 was used exclusively for small vessels, her max lift capacity being 2750 tons – one of a few that size built at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic to a Clark Stanfield design for the emergency docking of escorts and destroyers.
This article was first posted on 3rd July 2015.
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