Depot ship

A depot ship is an auxiliary ship used as a mobile or fixed base for submarines, destroyers, minesweepers, fast attack craft, landing craft, or other small ships with similarly limited space for maintenance equipment and crew dining, berthing and relaxation. Depot ships may be identified as tenders in American English. Depot ships may be specifically designed for their purpose or be converted from another purpose.

Platypus (AWM P00444 060)
Submarine depot ship HMAS Platypus with a flotilla of submarines


Depot ships provide services unavailable from local naval base shore facilities. Industrialized countries may build naval bases with extensive workshops, warehouses, barracks, and medical and recreation facilities. Depot ships operating within such bases may provide little more than command staff offices,[1] while depot ships operating at remote bases may perform unusually diverse support functions. Some United States Navy submarine depot ships operating in the Pacific during World War II included sailors with Construction Battalion ratings to clear recreational sites and assemble buildings ashore,[2] while the Royal Navy mobile naval bases included specialized amenities ships to meet recreational needs of British Pacific Fleet personnel.[3]

Services provided by a depot ship depend upon whether typical client warship missions are measured in hours, or days, or weeks. A warship crew may be expected to remain at their stations for missions measured in hours, but longer missions may require provisions for dining, sleeping, and personal hygiene. The crew of small warships may carry individual combat rations and urinate or defecate from the weather deck. Longer missions typically require storage provisions for drinking water and preserved food, and some resting area for the crew, although rest may be limited to a sheltered spot to sit or recline. Cooking may be limited to warming food on an exhaust vent, and buckets may be used for bathing, laundry, and sanitary waste. Habitability standards vary among navies, but client warships large enough to include a head, bunks, a shower, a kitchen stove, refrigerated food storage, a drinking water distillation unit, and a laundry require little more than medical and repair service from a depot ship. Depot ships are similar to repair ships, but provide a wider range of services to a smaller portion of the fleet. Depot ships undertake repair work for a flotilla of small warships, while repair ships offer more comprehensive repair capability for a larger variety of fleet warships. Depot ships also provide personnel and resupply services for their flotilla. Some depot ships may transport their short-range landing or attack craft from home ports to launch near the scene of battle.[4] The following summary of World War II depot ships indicates the range of locations and warships served:

Boom defence depot ships

HMS St. Columba was the depot ship for the boom defence vessels at Greenock. The survey ship HMS Endeavour (J61) served as a depot ship for boom defence in Singapore and the Mediterranean Sea.[5]

Coastal forces depot ships

Requisitioned merchant ships HMS Aberdonian (F74) and Vienna (F138) and the French Belfort (U63) were used as depot ships for Coastal Forces of the Royal Navy. Aberdonian started at Fort William, Scotland, but spent most of the war at Dartmouth, Devon, while Vienna was in the Mediterranean. The Loch-class frigates Loch Assynt (K438) and Loch Torridon (K654) became coastal forces depot ships HMS Derby Haven and Woodbridge Haven, respectively.[5]

Destroyer depot ships

USS Altair (AD-11) moored in Pearl Harbor with destroyers on 8 February 1925
Destroyer tender USS Altair moored in Pearl Harbor with destroyers on 8 February 1925. Notice USS Litchfield (DD-336) Is in the foreground.

Escort vessel depot ship

HMS Sandhurst (F92) was a converted merchant ship used as a depot ship for coastal convoy escorts at Dover, Derry and Greenock.[8]

Landing craft depot ships

The first landing craft carrier was completed by Japan in 1935.[10] The United States Navy began launching dock landing ships in 1943.[11] The 8,580-ton Beachy Head-class ships HMS Buchan Ness, Dodman Point, Dungeness, Fife Ness, Girdle Ness and Spurn Point were used as depot ships for Ramped Cargo Lighters during the last year of World War II.[12]

Minesweeper depot ships

Nettlebeck, Brommy and Van der Groeben were depot ships for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd R boat flotillas, respectively. The 1st and 3rd flotillas were at Kiel, and the 2nd was at Cuxhaven.[13] HMS Ambitious (F169), Celebrity and St. Tudno served as depot ships for minesweepers. Ambitious was stationed at Scapa Flow, and St. Tudno was at the Nore.[5] Japan requisitioned Chohei Maru, Rokusan Maru and Teishu Maru from civilian service as depot ships for minesweepers.[14]

Motor torpedo boat depot ships

Tsingtau and Tanga were depot ships for the 1st and 2nd E-boat flotillas at Kiel and Hamburg, respectively.[13] Kamikaze Maru, Nihonkai Maru, Shinsho Maru and Shuri Maru were requisitioned from civilian service as depot ships for Japanese Motor Torpedo Boats.[14]

Patrol vessel depot ships

HMS Marshal Soult and the French ships Courbet, Paris, Coucy and Diligente were used as depot ships for vessels patrolling the English Channel after the Second Armistice at Compiègne.[5]

Seaplane depot ship

Includes both Seaplane carriers and ships intended to support the operation of large Flying boats, known as seaplane tenders in United States usage.

Submarine depot ships

HMS Maidstone
Submarine depot ship HMS Maidstone with submarines alongside
USS Pelias (AS-14) tending submarines c1943
Submarine tender USS Pelias with submarines alongside
Whang-Pu starboard
Whang Pu is representative of the depot ships requisitioned from civilian service


Some depot ships support a naval base. HMAS Platypus was the base ship at Darwin, Australia during World War II.[8] In the Royal Navy, under section 87 of the Naval Discipline Act 1866, the provisions of the act only applied to officers and men of the Royal Navy borne on the books of a warship. When shore establishments began to become more common it was necessary to allocate the title of the establishment to an actual vessel which became the nominal depot ship for the men allocated to the establishment and thus ensured they were subject to the provisions of the Act.[36]

See also

  • Stone frigate, a shore establishment listed as a ship for the purposes of naval organization.


  • Auphan, Paul; Mordal, Jacques (1959). The French Navy in World War II. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-8371-8660-9.
  • Blair, Clay (1975). Silent Victory. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company.
  • Kafka, Roger; Pepperburg, Roy L. (1946). Warships of the World (Victory ed.). New York: Cornell Maritime Press.
  • Lenton, H.T. (1968). Navies of the Second World War. Royal Netherlands Navy (Doubleday ed.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • Lenton, H.T. (1975). German Warships of the Second World War. New York: Arco Publishing. ISBN 0-668-04037-8.
  • Lenton, H.T.; Colledge, J.J. (1964). British and Dominion Warships of World War II. Doubleday & Company.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday & Company.
  • Watts, Anthony J. (1966). Japanese Warships of World War II. Doubleday & Company.


  1. ^ a b c d e Lenton (1975) pp.391-394
  2. ^ "Euryale". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  3. ^ Lenton & Colledge, pp.333&335
  4. ^ Lenton & Colledge, p.333
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lenton & Colledge, pp.341-348
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Silverstone, p.285
  7. ^ a b c d e f Silverstone, p.283
  8. ^ a b c d Lenton & Colledge, p.336
  9. ^ a b c d e f Lenton & Colledge, p.338
  10. ^ Watts, pp.307-309
  11. ^ Silverstone, p.263
  12. ^ Lenton & Colledge, p.350
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Kindell, Don. "FRENCH, POLISH, GERMAN NAVIES, also US SHIPS IN EUROPE, SEPTEMBER 1939". Naval History. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  14. ^ a b Watts, p.322
  15. ^ a b c d Silverstone, p.288
  16. ^ a b c d e Lenton & Colledge, p.334
  17. ^ a b Blair, p.821
  18. ^ Blair, p.239
  19. ^ Silverstone, p.287
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander; Cundall, Peter. "SENSUI-BOKAN!". Combined Fleet. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  21. ^ Blair, pp.447&533
  22. ^ Blair, pp.131&136
  23. ^ Blair, p.582
  24. ^ Blair, pp.200,227,305,447,766&820
  25. ^ Blair, pp.59,194-195,411&582
  26. ^ Blair, pp.60,168,646&807
  27. ^ Auphan & Mordal, p.390
  28. ^ Kafka & Pepperburg, p.480
  29. ^ Blair, pp.582&646
  30. ^ Blair, pp.109&363
  31. ^ a b Kafka & Pepperburg, p.806
  32. ^ Blair, pp.61&213
  33. ^ Lenton (1968) p.123
  34. ^ Blair, p.847
  35. ^ Blair, pp.225,344,346,533&766
  36. ^ Warlow, Ben (2000). Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy. Liskeard, Cornwall: Maritime Books. p. 6. ISBN 0-907771-73-4.
Busta Voe

Busta Voe, (HU665350), in the north central Mainland, lies between the village of Brae and the island of Muckle Roe. At the head of the voe is the Delting Marina and Boating Club.

During the First World War Busta Voe was a Naval Anchorage of the 10th Cruiser Squadron which was tasked with the Northern Patrol helping to blockade German supplies and prevent German warships from entering the Atlantic from the North Sea. Initially obsolescent cruisers were used but these were later replaced by Armed Merchantmen which had better seakeeping qualities. HMS Gibraltar was the depot ship for the squadron.

During the 1995 Nat West Island Games, Busta Voe was the venue for the sailing events.

Currituck-class seaplane tender

The Currituck-class seaplane tenders were four ships built for the United States Navy during World War II. The role of a seaplane tender was to provide base facilities for squadrons of seaplanes in a similar way that an aircraft carrier does for its squadrons.

The four ships of the class were:

USS Currituck (AV-7)

USS Norton Sound (AV-11)

USS Pine Island (AV-12)

USS Salisbury Sound (AV-13)The ships were named for features on the United States coast.

Destroyer tender

A destroyer tender, or destroyer depot ship in British English, is an auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships. The use of this class has faded from its peak in the first half of the 20th century as the roles of small combatants have evolved (in conjunction with technological advances in propulsion reliability and efficiency).

Don-class submarine tender

The Don-class submarine tender was the NATO reporting name for a group of submarine tenders built for the Soviet Navy in the late 1950s. The Soviet designation was Project 310 Batur.

HMS Abastor

HMS Abastor was a Royal Navy training establishment involved in the planning of PLUTO, the undersea pipeline that supplied the allied troops with fuel during the liberation of Europe in 1944. It was situated at Tilbury, in Essex. There was another PLUTO training establishment under the name HMS Abatos at Woolston, Southampton. Abastor's nominal depot ship was NAB Interlude (43627), a Naval Auxiliary Boat which took the form of a petrol-driven harbour launch. It was in service as a depot ship from 1 November 1943 through until July 1945, when it was transferred back to being a harbour launch.

HMS Bonaventure (F139)

HMS Bonaventure was a submarine depot ship of the Royal Navy. She was initially built for civilian service with the Clan Line, but on the outbreak of the Second World War she was requisitioned by the Navy and after being launched, was converted for military service.

HMS Hazard (1894)

The sixth HMS Hazard was a Dryad-class torpedo gunboat. She was launched in 1894 and was converted into the world's first submarine depot ship in 1901. She collided with the submarine A3 on 2 February 1912, killing 14 men, and was herself sunk in collision with SS Western Australia on 28 January 1918.

HMS Vulcan (1889)

HMS Vulcan was a British torpedo boat depot ship launched in 1889, later converted to a submarine tender in 1908-09. As a training hulk, she was renamed HMS Defiance III in 1931 and used for training at Torpoint, Cornwall. She was scrapped in Belgium in 1955.

India-class submarine

The Project 940 Lenok class (a type of salmon) (known in the West by its NATO reporting name India class) was a military submarine design of the Soviet Union.

The submarines of this class were designed to function as mother ships for two Poseidon Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles (DSRVs).

While India class boats have been seen going to the aid of Russian Submarines involved in accidents, they have also been observed working in support of Russian Spetsnaz operations. The boats had decompression chambers and medical facilities on board. Two vessels of this class were built for the Soviet Navy. Both were scrapped in the 1990s.

Japanese aircraft carrier Akitsu Maru

Akitsu Maru (あきつ丸) was a Japanese landing craft depot ship and escort aircraft carrier operated by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). In some sources Akitsu Maru and her sister ship Nigitsu Maru (にぎつ丸) are also considered to be the first amphibious assault ships.

Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō

Ryūhō (龍鳳, "Dragon phoenix") was a light aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was converted from the submarine tender Taigei (大鯨, "Big Whale"), which had been used in the Second Sino-Japanese War. One of the least successful of the light aircraft carrier conversions due to its small size, slow speed and weak construction, during World War II, Ryūhō was used primarily as an aircraft transport and for training purposes, although she was also involved in a number of combat missions, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Jingei-class submarine tender

The Jingei-class submarine tenders (迅鯨型潜水母艦,, Jingei-gata Sensuibokan) were a class of submarine tenders of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), and served from the 1920s through World War II. Two vessels of this class were built between 1922 and 1924 under the Eight-eight fleet plan.

Landing craft carrier

Landing craft carriers or landing craft depot ships were an innovative type of amphibious warfare ship developed by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. The prototype was developed in secrecy under the pseudonyms Ryujo Maru and Fuso Maru using features later adopted by other navies for dock landing ships and amphibious transport docks. Additional ships were built after combat experience validated the concept, but most were completed after the Japanese invasions of the early war, and used primarily as troopships during later operations. Today's amphibious assault ships bear a strong similarity to this concept.

List of support ships of the Royal Navy

This is a list of support ships of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. There are currently no active ships. In World War I, obsolete hulks and cruisers were generally used for maintenance and support. Many commercial vessels were taken up from trade during both wars to act as depot ships. The first ship built specifically for the role was the Medway of 1928. Converted ships below are given with dates of conversion.

London-class battleship

The London class was a group of five predreadnought battleships built for the British Royal Navy in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The class comprised London, Bulwark, Venerable, Queen, and Prince of Wales. The ships of the London class were very similar to the preceding Formidable class, with the main differences being their armour layout. They were armed with a battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and they had top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). They are sometimes referred to as being part of the Formidable class due to their similarity, or as being a class of three ships, with the last two forming their own Queen class. The five ships were built between 1898 and 1904 at the Portsmouth, Devonport, and Chatham Dockyards.

All five ships of the class served with the Mediterranean Fleet at the start of their careers; their peacetime years were uneventful, apart from accidental collisions with other ships. Starting in 1907, the Royal Navy began transferring the ships back to home waters, where they served at various times with the Home Fleet, Channel Fleet, and Atlantic Fleet. In 1912–1913, London was used to test the use of ramp-launched airplanes from ships. By 1912, all five members of the class had been transferred to the 5th Battle Squadron, Home Fleet, where they remained through the outbreak of the First World War in July 1914. After Britain's entry into the war in August, the ships escorted the British Expeditionary Force to France. Venerable shelled German troops in October and Bulwark was destroyed in an accidental magazine explosion in November.

Beginning in March 1915, the London-class ships began to be transferred to the Mediterranean Sea to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign; London, Queen, and Prince of Wales supported the Landing at Anzac Cove in April, but they were withdrawn in May to reinforce the Italian fleet blockading the main fleet of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the Adriatic Sea. At the same time, Venerable was transferred to the Dardanelles, where she supported Allied troops ashore in August before also being sent to the Adriatic at the end of the year. Queen was converted into a depot ship in late 1916 and London and Venerable were withdrawn to Britain, where they were decommissioned and later converted into a minelayer and depot ship, respectively. Prince of Wales became a barracks ship in 1917. All four ships were ultimately sold for scrap in 1920 and broken up between 1920 and 1922.

Mayasan Maru

Mayasan Maru was a Japanese landing craft depot ship used extensively to transport Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) troops during 1943 and 1944. After avoiding damage in seven separate submarine attacks in earlier convoys, she was sunk in the East China Sea by the submarine USS Picuda on 17 November 1944 while part of Convoy Hi-81. The sinking caused one of the highest maritime casualty counts of World War II. Some 3,536 lives were lost.

Stone frigate

Informally, a stone frigate is a naval establishment on land. The term has its origin in Britain's Royal Navy after its use of Diamond Rock, off Martinique, as a 'sloop of war' to harass the French. (The British Navy was prohibited from ruling over land, so the land was called a boat.) The command of this first stone frigate was given to Commodore Hood's first lieutenant, James Wilkes Maurice, who, with cannon taken off the Commodore's ship, manned it with a crew of 120 until its capture by the French in the Battle of Diamond Rock in 1805.

Until the late 19th century, the Royal Navy housed training and other support facilities in hulks—old wooden ships of the line—moored in ports as receiving ships, depot ships, or floating barracks. The Admiralty regarded shore accommodation as expensive and liable to lead to indiscipline. These floating establishments kept their names while the actual vessels housing them changed. For example, the gunnery training school at Portsmouth occupied three ships between its foundation in 1830 and its move ashore in 1891 but all were named (or renamed) HMS Excellent.

As ships began to use increasingly complex technology during the late 19th century, these facilities became too large to continue afloat and were moved to shore establishments while keeping their names. An early "stone frigate" was the engineering training college HMS Marlborough, moved ashore to Portsmouth in 1880. The gunnery school continued to be named HMS Excellent after its move ashore to Whale Island in 1891. By World War I there were about 25 "stone frigates" in the United Kingdom.

Under section 87 of the Naval Discipline Act 1866, the provisions of the act only applied to officers and men of the Royal Navy borne on the books of a warship. When shore establishments began to become more common it was necessary to allocate the title of the establishment to an actual vessel which became the nominal depot ship for the men allocated to the establishment and thus ensured they were subject to the provisions of the Act.The use of stone frigates continues in the Royal Navy and some other navies of the Commonwealth of Nations, including the Royal Canadian Navy, the Indian Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Submarine tender

A submarine tender is a type of depot ship that supplies and supports submarines.

Ugra-class submarine tender

The Ugra class was the NATO reporting name for a group of submarine tenders built for the Soviet Navy in the late 1960s. The Soviet designation was Project 1886. One further ship, INS Amba was built for the Indian Navy to a modified design. The ships were intended to provide afloat support, including supplies, water, torpedoes, fuel, and battery charging; minimal repair facilities. Often employed as flagships/command ships for submarine squadrons

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


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