Allied Warships

HMS Barcross (Z 185)

Boom defence vessel of the Bar class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeBoom defence vessel
PennantZ 185 
Built byBlyth Dry Docks & Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Cowpen Quay, Blyth, England, UK. 
Laid down15 Apr 1941 
Launched21 Oct 1941 
Commissioned14 Apr 1942 
End service 

In 1942 Barcross and her sister ship HMS Barbrake arrived on the Cape Station at Simonstown, where she was docked in the Selborne dry dock. She then proceeded to Saldanha Bay for boom defence operations. In 1943 the prefix HMSAS was added to her name since she was now operated by the South African Naval Forces until the end of hostilities. In 1946 Barcross was purchased by the South African Government, and was engaged in dumping ammunition off Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, after which she was based at Salisbury Island in Durban. In 1947 she was laid up at Salisbury Island. In 1951 her name was changed to Somerset. In 1953 whilst still decommissioned Somerset was used in the raising of the sunken minelayer Skilpad (ex:Spindrift) at Salisbury Island. During 1955 Somerset was brought back into service and during this period she was tasked in salvaging the remains of two Harvard training aircraft following a mid air collision over Table Bay. Six weeks later she recovered a third Harvard which had crashed into the sea off Bok Point. In 1959 during a refit, Somerset had her coal fired boilers converted to be fired by furnace oil. She was responsible for the laying of an oil pipe line at the port of Mossel Bay, this was to serve the oil terminal. In 1961 Somerset salvaged the South African railways tug Schermbrucker which had sunk in East London harbour. In 1967 she was fitted out with new boilers and a reconditioned main engine. In 1968 her services were called on again to assist the cable ship John W. Mackay to raise and repair the newly inaugurated overseas telephone cable in the shallow waters off Melkbosstrand. During 1969 Somerset raised the old whale catcher Wagter 11 in Saldanha Bay and subsequently towed her back to Simonstown. During the same year, she salvaged a floating crane which had capsized and sunk at Port Elizabeth. In the early hours of 24 July 1974 Somerset was dispatched to Cape Agulhas to assist with the salvage of the Oriental Pioneer, poor weather conditions and bad luck rendered this effort unsuccessful. In 1981 the fishing trawler Aldebaran was successfully raised in Port Elizabeth having laid on the bottom for over two and a half years. Somerset also acted as a standby vessel during submarine shallow water diving operations. In 1983 she assisted in the salvaging of a barge and two whale catchers at Saldanha Bay. In March 1986, Somerset was finally paid off. In 1988 the old boom defence vessel was donated as a museum ship, moored at the waterfront at Cape Town. Her original R.N. badge can be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock.


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