HMS Ambrose (1903)

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HMS Ambrose and Attached Submarines Art.IWMART911.jpg
Drawing of HMS Ambrose, dazzle-painted, anchored in a dock. Three submarines are alongside, and a fourth is seen broadside to port.
United Kingdom
Name: SS Ambrose
Owner: Booth Line logo.png Booth Steamship Co
Builder: Sir Raylton Dixon & Co, Middlesbrough
Yard number: 496
Launched: 31 March 1903
Maiden voyage: 20 September 1903
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Ambrose
  • 10 December 1914
  • Bought 20 October 1915
Commissioned: 10 December 1914
Renamed: HMS Cochrane, 1 June 1938
Reclassified: As submarine depot ship, 1917
Fate: scrapped 1946
General characteristics
Type: armed merchant cruiser
Tonnage: about 4,000 GRT
Displacement: 6,600 tons
Length: 387 ft 9 in (118.2 m)
Beam: 47 ft 6 in (14.5 m)
Draught: 20 ft 9 in (6.3 m)
Installed power:
Armament: 8 × 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns
General characteristics
Type: Submarine depot ship
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h)
Complement: 238
Armament: 2 × 1 - QF 12-pounder anti-aircraft guns

HMS Ambrose was a cargo and passenger liner bought by the Admiralty from the Booth Steamship Company early in World War I and converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Later in the war she was converted into a submarine depot ship and spent most of the 1920s supporting submarines in the Far East. Upon her return home in 1928, Ambrose was placed in the Reserve Fleet. She was later modified to support destroyers and did so throughout World War II before she was sold for scrap in 1946.


Ambrose was 387 feet 5 inches (118.1 m) long overall, had a beam of 47 feet 6 inches (14.5 m), and a draught of 20 feet 9 inches (6.32 m).[1] She was rated at approximately 4,000 GRT.[2] The ship had one propeller shaft powered by a vertical triple-expansion steam engine rated at 6,350 indicated horsepower (4,740 kW) that used steam generated by an unknown number of coal-fired cylindrical boilers.[1] In passenger service, she had a crew of about 102 officers and crewmen. SS Ambrose could carry 149 passengers in first class and 330 in steerage as originally built.[2]

As an armed merchant cruiser, Ambrose's armament consisted of eight 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns and she displaced 6,600 tons.[3] After her conversion to a submarine depot ship, Ambrose is noted as having a maximum speed of 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h), an armament of two quick-firing 12-pounder anti-aircraft guns, and had a crew of 238 officers and enlisted men.[1] Much of her passenger accommodations would have been modified to serve the crews of her submarines as part of her conversion.[4]

Construction and career[edit]

Ambrose was built by the Sir Raylton Dixon and Company shipyard, as yard number 496, in Middlesbrough for the Booth Steamship Company. The ship was launched on 31 March 1903 and began her maiden voyage, from Liverpool to Manaus, Brazil, on 20 September. She apparently ran aground on 3 October 1906 and was repaired by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn. The repairs also included an increase in her passenger capacity through an enlarged poop deck and lasted until 30 March 1907.[2]

The ship was requisitioned and commissioned as HMS Ambrose on 10 December 1914 for service as an armed merchant cruiser.[3] She was purchased on 20 October 1915[3] and converted into a submarine depot ship in 1917.[4] Ambrose was stationed at Berehaven, Ireland in January 1918 and transferred to Falmouth, Cornwall in November. In 1919, the ship was based in Devonport, then under command of Commander Cecil Talbot (19 September 1918 to 30 October 1920).

On 1 October 1919, she and HMS Titania were both commissioned to support the 4th Submarine Flotilla in Hong Kong and to replace HMS Rosario. She, under the command of Talbot, and Titania, under the command of Frederick Avenil Sommerville,[5][6] departed for the Far East.

HMS Ambrose sailed to Hong Kong with six L-class submarines of the 4th Submarine Flotilla (L1, L3, L4, L7, L9 and L15), arriving there in January 1920. The submarines of the 4th Flotilla that accompanied Titania and Ambrose are identified on the website.[7] They were all of the L-Class.

She remained in Hong Kong until 1928. She sailed from Hong Kong on 28 March of that year and was paid off into the Maintenance Reserve on 4 December at Rosyth.[4]

A Newspaper article appeared in the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 31 March 1928.[8]

"SUBMARINES EXPECTED. H.M.S. Concord (Captain A.F. Pridham, R.N.) is expected to arrive in Singapore on April 2 from Colombo and to sail on April 5 for Hong Kong. H.M.S. Ambrose (Commander A. Poland, D.S.O., R.N.) accompanied by H.M. Submarines L.1, L.2, L.4, L.5, L.7 and L.8 is due in Singapore on April 3 from Hong Kong and leaves on April 9 for Colombo."

A Newspaper article appeared in the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 9 April 1928 as HMS Ambrose departed Singapore for England.[9] The Larut, mentioned in the article, was Armed Trader LARUT (R, 894t, 1927), sunk off Sumatra on 22 Jan 1942.[10]

"SHIPPING NOTES. H.M.S. Ambrose and the submarines left at 6 o'clock yesterday morning for Home. The master of the Larut reports that the Brothers Light was not burning at three o'clock yesterday morning. The Blue Funnel Liner Achilles, which left Penang on Wednesday, has 538 pilgrims on board bound for Jeddah from Singapore and Penang, the number from Penang being 270."

The sources are unclear when she was converted to support destroyers;[4] she was renamed HMS Cochrane on 1 June 1938.[3] Cochrane served as a depot ship during World War II and was paid off on 1 March 1946.[4] The ship was sold for scrap in August and arrived at the breaker's yard at Inverkeithing on 13 November 1946.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lenton, p. 586
  2. ^ a b c O'Neill
  3. ^ a b c d e Colledge & Wardlow, p. 12
  4. ^ a b c d e Joyce, p. 18
  5. ^ "Frederick Avenel Sommerville, RN".
  6. ^ "Frederick Avenel Sommerville, RN".
  7. ^ "L-Class Boats". Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  8. ^ "The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942)". 31 March 1928. p. 8.
  9. ^ "The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942)". 9 April 1928. p. 12.
  10. ^ "Singapore 1942".