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1903 - 1946: Ambrose (F08)

Built By: Raylton Dixon NE (Tees)
Fate: Scrapped at Inverkeithing November 1946
1903 - 1946: Ambrose (F08)
1903 - 1946: Ambrose (F08)

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Ambrose's Unique Conversion

From WARSHIPS Supplement 91 Winter 1987) © A. H. Joyce 1987

It has been a fact of life throughout the history of shipbuilding that a vessel which may have been the most modern of her time when built, equipped with all the very latest gadgetry, will eventually become as obsolete as her forerunners and have to make way for an even more up-to-date replacement. The former pride of the fleet is then either scrapped or sold off to less demanding owners.

Passenger liners on the whole have tended to be consigned to the breakers whilst cargo ships often carry on down the line with successive owners for many years before they also end up in the scrapyard. However, sometimes, after being sold, vessels have been converted for uses which the original owners could hardly have envisaged when they were built. A good example is the Ambrose, built at Middlesbrough in 1903 by Raylton Dixon NE for the Booth Steamship Company. The Ambrose remained with Booth Line until December 1914 when, like many other intermediate liners around that time, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as an armed merchant cruiser. The following year she was purchased outright by the Admiralty.

In 1917, she was converted into a submarine depot ship, a role which would certainly have surprised her original owners. (This was the practice at that time, the first purpose-built submarine depot ship, HMS Medway, not being built until 1929). The conversion work was carried out on the Clyde and would have involved, among other things, the installation of machine workshop and repair facilities, storerooms for spares, and the conversion of part of the passenger accommodation for the crew's rest and recuperation after their long patrols in the very cramped quarters of a submarine.

Possible that there were two conversions of HMS Ambrose – one on the Clyde and one at Liverpool – one of which was the conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser and the other to Submarine Depot Ship. The Ambrose still maintained her Booth Line name, although she was now, of course, HMS Ambrose.

After her conversion was completed she took up her first station in January 1918 at Berehaven, County Kerry, moving in November of the same year to Falmouth and in the following year to Devonport. In September 1919, as depot ship for the Fourth Submarine Flotilla, she sailed from Devonport to take up position on the China Station, where she remained until 1928. Ambrose left Hong Kong on 28 March 1928 to return to the UK and was paid off into the Maintenance Reserve at Rosyth on 4 December 1928.

For several years she acted as a depot ship for destroyers, being renamed HMS Cochrane in 1938. She continued as a depot ship during the second world war, finally being paid off on 1 March 1946 and consigned to the breaker's yard. She was broken up by T W Ward at Inverkeithing in 1946.


31-03-1903 : Launched
10-12-1914 : Commisioned
20-10-1915 : Sold to the Admiralty
28-03-1928 : After service in the China circle, Ambrose left Hong Kong to return to the UK
04-12-1928 : Paid off into the Maintenance Reserve at Rosyth on 4 December 1928.
01-06-1938 : Renamed HMS Cochrane
01-03-1946 : Paid off and consigned to the breaker's yard


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1928 - 1942: Medway (F25)1941 - 1946: Wuchang (F30)