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HMS Seahawk

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HMS Seahawk,
HMS Seahawk
Photographs by Mr LS Tomlinson

HMS Seahawk was a World War II Royal Navy shore establishment located at Ardrishaig, responsible primarily for anti-submarine training, commissioned on January 1, 1941, and paid off on November 4, 1944.

RNAS Culdrose, based on the Lizard Peninsula near Helston, Cornwall, was later commissioned as HMS Seahawk c. 1947, and has retained the name continuously since that date.

Seahawk was not confined only to anti-submarine training, and carried out training for army personnel on board its boats, which operated from the jetty and harbour facilities located at Ardrishaig, which have changed little over the years to the present day. Craft operating at the establishment included the Fairmile B type, a harbour defence launch, a small survey motor launch, and other various other types.

We are grateful to John Burchell, whose site is dedicated to the people who served at HMS Seahawk, Ardrishaig, for permission to illustrate our article with images from that source.

Fuel supplies

Transferring fuel to 44 gallon drum,
Transferring fuel to 44 gallon drum
Courtesy of John Burchell

The boats operated at Seahawk were fuelled by high octane fuel, the same or similar to that used for aviation, and supplied in bulk by tanker or barge or, as shown in the photograph, in cans. The fuel was transferred to 44 gallon drums which were carried on the boats to extend their range. These cans may be similar to the fuel cans referred to in the description of the Montfode Fuel Depot, where Avgas was described as being shipped in one-gallon cans, however the cans shown in the photograph are clearly of greater capacity than one-gallon. Significantly, fuel transferred from tankers is described as requiring to be filtered through a chamois leather filter, while the canned fuel is being used directly. This suggests it was indeed Avgas, which would have to have been clean enough for use in aircraft, which could not afford to suffer engine failure from something as trivial as contamination.

ASDIC training HMS H33

Submarine H33 ASDIC training,
Submarine H33 ASDIC training
Courtesy of John Burchell

Part of the training activities which took place at Seahawk would have been familiarisation with ASDIC equipment, anti-submarine detection equipment which used sound to locate and target submerged submarines. The submarine shown in the photograph is believed to be HMS H33, a British H class submarine built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. Dating from World War I, and laid down on November 20, 1917, and commissioned on May 17, 1919. HMS H33 is reported to be one of the seven H class submarines to survive until the end of World War II, and was finally scrapped in Troon on May 19, 1944,[1] tending to confirm operation nearby.

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V Z9216

Whitley bomber crew rescue,
Whitley bomber crew rescue
Photographs by Mr LS Tomlinson
Whitley bomber crew rescue,
Whitley bomber crew rescue
Photographs by Mr LS Tomlinson

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V Z9216 of 19 OTU (Operational Training Unit) was forced to ditch at 01:25 in Loch Fyne on May 31, 1943, following a starboard engine failure during a night training flight. ML 115, from HMS Seahawk, took part in the rescue of the crew from waters to the north of the Isle Of Arran.

Quoted from the notes of Lofty Tomlinson:

The plane was on an instructional flight from Inverness to the Isle of Man when the starboard engines failed. Slowly the machine lost height until over Loch Fyne it was obvious she was not airworthy much longer. The boggy marshy mountainsides were unsuitable for a forced landing so the pilot ordered the S.O.S. to be sent out stating they were coming down in Loch Fyne. All five crew were Sergeants with the pilot a cheeky young cockney of the Max Miller type.

"Well" he said as he sipped his rum again "My borough has gone and raised fifty thousand quid for a bomber and now I have been and ditched the bastard".

- Courtesy of John Burchell[2]

MTB and PT

While the British operated the MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat, the Americans operated the similar PT (patrol Torpedo) boat.

These could, and did operate together in some areas, such as the Italian cost, and one account of such action notes that the British MTB was slower than the American PT boats, but was more heavily armed.[3]


1 Submarines, War Beneath The Waves, From 1776 To The Present Day, Robert Hutchinson.

2 Whitley MK V bomber Z9216 crew rescue

3 15th November 1943: With ‘The ‘Plywood Navy’ – boat duels with plane in the Med Retrieved November 15, 2013.

External links

Aerial views



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