Armed boarding steamer

An armed boarding steamer (or "armed boarding ship", or "armed boarding vessel") was a merchantman that during World War I the British Royal Navy converted to a warship. AB steamers or vessels had the role of enforcing wartime blockades by intercepting and boarding foreign vessels. The boarding party would inspect the foreign ship to determine whether to detain the ship and send it into port, or permit it to go on its way.

StateLibQld 1 48656 Suva (ship)
HMS Suva in 1919


On 28 September 1914 Admiral John Jellicoe, commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet, sent a telegram in which he pointed out that he did not have enough destroyers available to enforce the blockade. Furthermore, the weather was often too severe for the destroyers. Although Jellicoe did not mention it, after the loss on 22 September of the cruisers HMS Cressy, Aboukir, and Hogue, he also did not want large warships making themselves sitting targets for submarines by stopping to examine merchant vessels.[1]

The first request was for 12 vessels, all to be capable of 12–14 knots (22–26 km/h; 14–16 mph), be able to carry enough coal for five days at sea, have wireless, and have boats suitable for boarding parties to use. Each armed boarding steamer was to carry two 3-pounder guns (47 mm/L50), and be under the command of an officer from the Royal Navy. These 12 vessels were requisitioned in October and completed by mid to late-November. Other vessels followed.[1]

The Navy found that cross-Channel passenger vessels were particularly suitable because of their large cargo capacity. As experience with the programme increased, the armed boarding vessels received heavier armament.[1] The Royal Navy realized the need for heavier armament after the German auxiliary cruiser SMS Meteor attacked and sank the armed boarding ship HMS Ramsey on 8 August 1915. The navy wanted to arm the boarding ships with some obsolete 14-inch torpedo tubes, and modern 4-inch (100 mm) guns (possibly the BL 4 inch naval gun Mk VII); Meteor had sunk Ramsey using both a torpedo, and gunfire from two 88 mm (3.5-inch) guns.[Note 1]

The Navy pressed the vessels into other roles. Some carried depth charges for anti-submarine duty while escorting convoys. Still others, particularly in the Mediterranean, served as transports.


See also

Notes, citations, and references


  1. ^ Friedman states that Meteor sank the armed boarding vessel King Orry.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Friedman (12014), p. 62.
  2. ^ Friedman (2014), P. 402, Fn. 14.
  3. ^ Tennent (2006), p.148.
  4. ^ Tennent (2006), p.69.
  5. ^ Tennent (2006), p.104.
  6. ^ Tennent (2006), p.105.
  7. ^ Greenway (2013), p.101.
  8. ^ Tennent (2006), p.111.
  9. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit during WWI: Sarnia". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  10. ^ tennent (2016), p.156.
  11. ^ Tennent (2006), p.138.
  12. ^ Tennent (2006), p.225.
  13. ^ Tennent (2006), p.10.


  • Friedman, Norman (2014) Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactic and Technology. (Seaforth Publishing). ASIN: B01C6D0JVS
  • Greenway, Lord Ambros (2013) Cross Channel and Short Sea Ferries: An Illustrated History. (Seaforth Publishing). ISBN 978-1848321700
  • Tennent, A. J. (2006) British Merchant Ships Sunk by U-boats in World War One. (Periscope Publishing). ISBN 978-1904381365
Action of 16 March 1917

The Action of 16 March 1917 was a naval engagement in which the British armed boarding steamer Dundee and the Warrior-class armoured cruiser HMS Achilles fought and sank the German auxiliary cruiser SMS Leopard, which sank with all 319 hands and the six men of a British boarding party.

Amenities ship

An amenities ship is a ship outfitted with recreational facilities as part of a mobile naval base. Amenities ships included movie theaters and canteens staffed by mercantile crews of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary service. These ships were intended to provide a place where British Pacific Fleet personnel could relax between operations.

Coastal submarine

A coastal submarine or littoral submarine is a small, maneuverable submarine with shallow draft well suited to navigation of coastal channels and harbors. Although size is not precisely defined, coastal submarines are larger than midget submarines, but smaller than sea-going submarines designed for longer patrols on the open ocean. Space limitations aboard coastal submarines restrict fuel availability for distant travel, food availability for extended patrol duration, and number of weapons carried. Within those limitations, however, coastal submarines may be able to reach areas inaccessible to larger submarines, and be more difficult to detect.

French submarine Floréal

Floréal was one of 18 Pluviôse-class submarines built for the French Navy in the first decade of the 20th century.

On 2 August 1918, Floréal collided with the Royal Navy armed boarding steamer HMS Hazel in the Aegean Sea and sank.

General stores issue ship

General stores issue ship is a type of ship used by the United States Navy during World War II and for some time afterwards.

The task of the general stores issue ship was to sail into non-combat, or rear, areas and disburse general stores, such as canned goods, toilet paper, office supplies, etc., to ships and stations.

Guard ship

A guard ship is a warship assigned as a stationary guard in a port or harbour, as opposed to a coastal patrol boat which serves its protective role at sea.

HMS Amsterdam

Three ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Amsterdam, after the city of Amsterdam:

HMS Amsterdam (1804) was the Dutch frigate Proserpine, launched in 1801, that the British captured in 1804 when they captured Suriname. She was sold in 1815.

HMS Amsterdam (1914) was a merchant vessel launched in 1894 and taken into service in 1914 as an armed boarding steamer. She was returned in September 1919.

SS Amsterdam (1930) was a merchant vessel launched in 1930, requisitioned in 1939 as a troop transport and in 1944 converted to an LSI(H) - Landing Ship Infantry (Hand-hoisting). Recommissioned HMS Amsterdam, she carried elements of the United States 2nd Ranger Battalion to Pointe du Hoc on D-day. Later converted to a hospital ship, she hit naval mines in the English Channel and sank in 1944.

HMS Dundee

A number of ships of the Royal Navy have been named Dundee, after the city in Scotland.

HMS Dundee (1909), an armed boarding steamer of the First World War

HMS Dundee (L84), a sloop of the Second World War

HMS Perth

HMS Perth was an armed boarding steamer of 2,505 grt that served in both world wars. Built in 1915 for the Dundee and Newcastle Steam Shipping Co, she was hired by the Royal Navy and fitted with three 4.7" guns. She served mainly on the East Indies Station in World War I and was returned to her civilian owners in August 1919. In 1940 she was again requisitioned and served as a convoy rescue ship until the end of the war. In 1945 she returned to civilian duties and in 1946 she was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and renamed Lafonia.

HMS Ramsey

Three ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Ramsey

HMS Ramsey - originally Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's passenger ferry The Ramsey, commissioned in 1914 as an armed boarding steamer, and sunk in 1915.

HMS Ramsey (G60) - originally USS Meade (DD-274), a Clemson-class destroyer transferred from the US Navy in 1940.

HMS Ramsey (M110) - is the tenth Sandown-class minehunter, launched in 1999 and currently in service.

HMS Suva

HMS Suva was an Armed boarding steamer of the Royal Navy during World War I. She was also commissioned briefly into the Royal Australian Navy before being returned to her owners. She was sold in 1928 and renamed Sirius and sold again in 1929 and renamed Bohol. An Imperial Japanese air raid on Manila in 1942 during the Second World War sank her.

HMS York

Ten ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS York after the city of York, the county seat of Yorkshire, on the River Ouse.

HMS York (1654), 52-gun Speaker-class frigate launched 1654 as Marston Moor; renamed York upon the Restoration 1660; ran aground and wrecked 1703

HMS York (1706), 60-gun fourth rate launched 1706; sunk 1751 at Sheerness as a breakwater

HMS York (1753), 60-gun fourth rate launched 1753; broken up 1772

HMS York (1777), 12-gun sloop-of-war Betsy captured from the Americans; purchased into the Royal Navy March 1777; captured by the French, 1778; recovered by the British; recaptured by the French, July 1779; renamed Duc D'York; armed with eighteen, 4-pounder guns; broken up 1783

HMS York (1779), was the former East Indiaman Pigot, which the Royal Navy purchased in 1779 for use as storeship in the West Indies; sold in 1781 to local buyers in India.

HMS York (1796), 64-gun third rate, intended to be the East Indiaman Royal Admiral; purchased on the stocks 1796 and converted; wrecked 1804

HMS York (1807), 74-gun third rate launched 1807; converted to a convict ship 1819; broken up 1854

HMS York (1907), a former merchant ship used as an armed boarding steamer in the First World War

HMS York (90), York-class cruiser launched 1928; damaged by Italian motor launches and scuttled in Crete May 1941; scrapped 1952

HMS York (D98), Type 42 destroyer launched 1982; Decommissioned in 2012

Mine countermeasures vessel

A mine countermeasures vessel or MCMV is a type of naval ship designed for the location of and destruction of naval mines which combines the role of a minesweeper and minehunter in one hull. The term MCMV is also applied collectively to minehunters and minesweepers.


A minehunter is a naval vessel that seeks, detects, and destroys individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines. A vessel that combines both of these roles is known as a mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV).

Ocean boarding vessel

Ocean boarding vessels (OBVs) were merchant ships taken over by the Royal Navy for the purpose of enforcing wartime blockades by intercepting and boarding foreign vessels.

Repair ship

A repair ship is a naval auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to warships. Repair ships provide similar services to destroyer, submarine and seaplane tenders or depot ships, but may offer a broader range of repair capability including equipment and personnel for repair of more significant machinery failures or battle damage.

SS Italia (1904)

SS Italia was an ocean liner launched in 1904; built by the Cie. Française de Navigation et de Construction Naval in Nantes.

During World War I it was operated by the French Navy as an armed boarding steamer of 1,305 tons. On May 30, 1917, the SS Italia was torpedoed and sunk by the Austro-Hungarian Navy submarine U-4 (Captain Rudolf Singule) in the Mediterranean Sea 46 miles southeast of Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy.

SS Sarnia (1910)

TrSS Sarnia was a passenger vessel built for the London and South Western Railway in 1910. During the First World War, she served in the Royal Navy as the armed boarding steamer HMS Sarnia.

TSS Duke of Clarence

TSS Duke of Clarence was a passenger vessel operated jointly by the London and North Western Railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR) from 1892 between Fleetwood and northern Irish ports. In 1906 the LYR bought her outright and transferred her to their summer service from Hull to Zeebrugge, returning to the Irish Sea in winter. During the First World War Duke of Clarence served as an armed boarding steamer. She resumed passenger service in 1920, passing through changes of ownership in the reorganisations of Britain's railway companies in the 1920s, until she was scrapped in 1930.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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