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 HMRT TURMOIL - Yard No 337 - Bustler Class Rescue Tug - Royal Navy - Built 1945

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HMRT TURMOIL - Yard No 337 - Bustler Class Rescue Tug - Royal Navy - Built 1945



  TURMOIL stands off the sinking Flying Enterprise

(photo credit unknown)

Owners   Royal Navy
Registered     Keel Laid    14/07/1944
Type of Ship    Ocean Rescue/Salvage Tug Launched    11/05/1945
      Commissioned    14/07/1945
Ship Details          
Length Overall    205' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    190' 0" Weather    
Beam    38' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     19' 0"      
Draught    16' 11"      
G.R.T.    1136 tons      
Complement     42 Officers and Men      
Engines    2 x Atlas Polar 8 cylinder diesel engines producing, 4,000 BHP      
Props    1      
Speed    16 knots      
Armament     1 x 3" AA Gun, 1 x 2pdr pom pom, 2 x 20mm AA guns      
Other known names   1957-RFA TURMOIL, 1965-NISOS KERKYRA, 1971-MATSAS    
Current Status   Broken up in Greece in 1986    
Content on Turmoil will be added as and when available. 


(photo credit unknown shown here with kind permission Rfaaplymouth)


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.

 His Majesty's Rescue Tug TURMOIL was the seventh of the "Bustler Class" tug to be built and launched from the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb as Ship No 337. 

At the end of the war she was chartered out by the navy and from 1946 to 1957 she was under charter to Chartered Overseas Towage & Salvage Co Ltd, London as Turmoil

She was then brought back to serve as RFA TURMOIL

The rescue tug TURMOIL was involved in many adventures and most of them happened after the war had ended, including the strange disappearance of a battleship lost at sea-6 November 1951 She sailed from her home port of Falmouth to assist her sister BUSTLER and aircraft from Gibraltar, the U.S.Navy and Portugal in the search for the old Brazilian battleship SAO PAULO which had broken adrift from its tow during a gale with a crew of eight aboard. The old battleship which was on her way to be broken up for scrap was never seen again and many theories have been put forward as to the reason for her loss, even some as far fetched as being taken by aliens, but in all likelihood she was just in the wrong place and too far from land during this very violent storm.

At the start of the year of 1952 she was involved in the attempt to rescue the Tramp Steamer "Flying Enterprise" an event that at the time was daily news to the people of Britain with pressmen on every available ship trying to cover the story.


TURMOIL standing off the Flying Enterprise

(photo credit unknown)

For more on the story visit "Flying Enterprise"

For news film of the rescue attempt by TURMOIL and the end of the Flying Enterprise. 

Two years later she was involved in another huge tow and feat of skilful seamanship when on the 30th of November 1954 she towed the stern portion of the World Concord to the Clyde after the Liberian Tanker broke in two. Originally she was to be towed to Liverpool but that port refused her entry. The tanker was eventually put back together again and continued to sail the seven seas.

TURMOIL was given a major refit at the Adrossan dockyard in 1961 but was then laid up before being sold to Greek shipping interests at Piraeus  in 1965

TURMOIL under her new names was to work for Greek towage companies for another twenty or so years before she was sold for scrap.

 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.


 TURMOIL as the Greek tug MATSAS

(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.

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.


Six Month's on M.T. "Turmoil"
Story as told by Sean

I joined the R.T. "Turmoil" as Second Radio Officer in Falmouth early afternoon on 23.3.1962 after an overnight ferry crossing from Ireland and a long train journey from London. So began six of the most unusual months almost to the day of my sea going career. My first sight of the tug as she sat beside the wharf left me not all that impressed. Her towing deck was level with the quay and she looked small and a bit ugly. However, on closer inspection her raked fore and main mast masts made her look fast, her oversized buff funnel made her look powerful and her slightly flared bow and the short distance from her stem to the point where her hull reached full beam width made her look belligerent. Later that afternoon when the tide had dropped, looking down at her from the quay side she just looked ugly and untidy again.
On boarding her, the bosun showed me to the Captain's cabin and over the next few days I tried to get used to life on a ship which was so much different to anything I had sailed on over the previous five years spent on much larger and more opulent vessels of the Indo China Steam Navigation Company out of Hong Kong. The first thing I did was pack away my uniforms since it was obvious they would not be 'wanted on voyage' on a vessel where dress was not only informal but almost optional. It took a while to get used to a captain who wore a trilby hat on the bridge and a Chief Engineer who seemed to live in a boiler suit which had once – probably a century previously – been white but which was now a mass of oil and grease stains.
"Turmoil" was undergoing a minor refit at the time but officially she was on salvage station and a few days later the call came in to say that a Norwegian vessel with the unlikely English name of "Fernhurst" had lost steering somewhere off the notorious "Minkies" (Minquiers) near Jersey. Many of the crew were ashore and for the next five minutes "Turmoil's" siren boomed around Falmouth harbour calling them back on board: most of them made it and we quickly found ourselves in a full speed race for the casualty against one of United Towing's vessels which, I think, was the "Merchantman". The "Merchantman" was a sister of "Turmoil" (NV) and when we arrived on scene we found a beautiful modern French tug also standing by so it was two battered British versus a French belle for the job. We all laid off the casualty for two days hopefully waiting on a Lloyd's open form which never came as the casualties company signed a contract salvage job with a Belgian towing company leaving us all three with nothing to do but head back to port. This was something I was delighted about as I was totally unused to being almost hove too on a very small vessel in a lively enough sea, I had spent a lot of time bent over a bucket in the radio room.
When we tied up in Falmouth the ship's agent arrived with a telegram for me saying my then girlfriend – now my wife of over fifty years – had been rushed to hospital in London with an appendix. So I headed for London by train, fortunately having first changed into my uniform, fortunately because on arrival at the hospital at ten o clock the following morning, one look at the uniform and any rules about visiting hours went out the window. My girlfriend having been operated on successfully, I was able to catch a late night train back to Falmouth where I managed to jump on board just as the "Turmoil" was casting off and heading for Newcastle to pick up some barges for Milford Haven. We picked up the barges all right but never got them to Milfod Haven.
Early morning, somewhere southwest of the Isle of Wight a coded message came through for the Captain which resulted in our making a dash for Falmouth where we dropped the barges to a harbour tug and again found ourselves going flat out for Appledore to 'rescue' one of our own vessels the "Britonia". "Britonia" was under construction in Appledore shipyards which, it was thought, were about to go bankrupt. The vessel had been launched and was about to finish 'fitting out' but, as ownership of the vessel would be a matter of legal dispute should the shipyard go 'bust' we were tasked with the job of going in and getting her out. This we did in quite a spectacular 'cutting out' operation.
It was a beautiful sunny evening with flat calm seas when we arrived off Appledore which was fortunate as we had only an hour or so to get across the sand bar at the entrance to the harbour and get back out again. We had to traverse the entire harbour front to reach the shipyard where "Britonia" was tied up. This we did at some considerable speed sending fishermen and sunbatheers scrambling up the rocks for the promenade and leaving moored yachts and pleasure craft heaving in the considerable wake thrown up by our passage. "Turmoil's" engines made quite a lot of noise at speed but so did the sound of our wake crashing on shore. Nevertheless, the sound of our passage failed to cover the choice language of those scrambling for their lives or being thrown about on their moored harbour craft. To make a long story short, we got alongside the "Britonia", our bosun and a few deckhands hands sent a watchman on his way – not difficult since the bosun was waving a fire axe which might be needed to chop through mooring lines - got a towing wire on board and in a matter of minutes we were under our way again much to the chagrin of Appledorians just recovering from our previous transit. One of our crew swore afterwards that he heard someone shore scream "J---s C----t here she comes again and this time there are two of 'em". I do know we heard the sound of a couple of police car sirens and saw the flashing lights as they raced along the promenade.
Anyway, we just about made it across the bar but it must have been a close run thing as we left a pretty large muddy stain on the sea's surface astern as we headed for Milford Haven. The weather was good enough which was fortunate as we had not had time to attach a bridle – two thick nylon lines made fast to the bows of the tow terminating in a steel ring to which the towing wire was attached and which acted as a 'shock absorber' in a sea – to the tow and, being light she was pretty lively. Also, she had no lights so we had to keep her on a 'short' tow and light her up with our search light if any other vessels came close. On arrival at Milford Have just before light next morning, under instructions form the ship's agent, we tied "Britonia" up to a mooring buoy, the agent put a crew on board her – possession being nine points of the law - and, having delivered some mail, sent us on our way out to sea before the authorities could get hold of us. So, we headed south towards "Lands' End for orders" picking up a BBC news broadcast which mentioned something about piracy. A few hours later we received a radio message ordering us to Copenhagen to pick up a T2 tanker mid-section for Baltimore in Maryland USA and we never did hear anything else about the "Britonia" incident except that we received a message from the "Owners" thanking and congratulating us for our good work.
Much more of this story will be on the new E-Books about the ships built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd
Keep checking back for further details



 TURMOIL in Malta (date unknown, photo credit unknown)

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0 #11 Stephen Card 2017-11-24 17:00
Only saw once.... 1972. Then she was as MATSAS and she was at anchor at Gib. I took a snap but she was not close enough to enjoy. Re the photo... ZWARTE ZEE, L. Smit & Co. Anyhow, the tug behind is not TURMOIL, this would be the SALVONIA, also OTS. She was formerly the THAMES... L. Smit & Co.
0 #10 Jeannette Tighe 2017-11-03 20:26
We had the pleasure of visiting Cobh a few weeks ago just before the hurricane and met a lovely gentleman who lives there, who was a crew member on the Turmoil. He showed us a picture of the tug and crewmen that hung on the wall of the pub. His name was Buddy Stoat. I was touched by his Turmoil stories, his experience as a seaman including riding out the last hurricane at sea and his warmth and friendliness to two American visitors. Perhaps he can be of help identifying former Turmoil crew.
0 #9 Graham Hall 2017-10-31 13:28
Hi I was mess boy and then cook on the Salvonia and Neptunia OTS tugs same company as owned the Turmoil I am currently getting together info , pics , and if poss plans of any of those ships mentioned I wish to make a model of one of the ships and do a painting of the Turmoil and Flying Enterprise I now live in Falmouth and remember the public house Bosuns Locker had lots of memrobillia of the Turmoil on the walls of the pub Sadly none Now remains and not a clue what happened to them If anyone can help with photos or similar please send to my email address which I will supply with a follow up reply
0 #8 harry 2015-12-25 18:20
Nice story about gallant tug- real seagoing tug
which kind of tug already forever gone . thank for the story
0 #7 Margaret 2015-05-14 00:30
Would anyone who had any connections or know anyone who does, remember my dad, Tommy (Tom) Hawthorn. He worked on the Turmoil. Look forward to hearing from you.
-4 #6 Pat Leech 2015-03-24 18:40
I was a deckhand on the Turmoil until her last trip,we paid off in Pembroke docks,many good times
Pat Leech
-1 #5 andy parker 2014-08-30 04:26
Hi , my great uncle was the captain at the time of the "flying enterprise" incident, Capt Dan Parker, a nice bloke so my dad informed me, i have clippings of the incident , and there is a book around about the turmoil, and even a traing model (which i have )
0 #4 victoria stanley 2014-02-02 16:32
My Granddad, Courney Jane sailed on this ship, always told me about trying to save the enterprise. He passed away on the 29/12/2013
+1 #3 David Heyes 2014-01-13 12:49
My brother in law Courtney Jane, served on Turmoil out of Falmouth in the 1950s sadley he has just passed away.
0 #2 Brian Smith 2013-11-04 17:18
My uncle Davy Smith served on Turmoil circa 1950s. Maybe John Crane would know him.
I am building an 4ft r.c scale model of Turmoil Any details or photos for colour would be appreciated.
Does any know how the towing gear operated?

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