Her Majesty's Army Vessel St George, proudly flying the Blue Ensign with Crossed Swords and Lion and Crown superimposed, made her way to a designated anchorage at Spithead, with senior officers of the Royal Corps of Transport and Royal Navy aboard. Although the weather was perfect, with calm seas, bright sunshine and a slight breeze, nonetheless a deep depression lay over the anchorage as the occasion, an Army Fleet Review, was a melancholy one, marking as it did the demise of the Army's civilian-manned fleet after over 400 years' continuous operation. The date was 30 September 1988 and this ceremony was to commemorate the forthcoming transfer of a large number of the Army's ships, including the St George herself, to the Director of Marine Services (Naval).
At noon the Reviewing Officer, Major General C.E.G. Carrington СБЕ, Director General of Transport and Movements, standing on the flag deck of St George, took the salute as various craft from 18 Maritime Squadron RCT sailed past in formation led by RCTV Yarmouth Navigator, a training vessel providing facilities for the teaching of seamanship, navigation and engineering to the seagoing soldiers of the Maritime Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport. The other vessels participating were mainly range safety craft, which were deployed around the coasts of Britain to patrol military firing ranges from the English Channel to the Hebrides and usually manned by the civilian seamen of the Army Fleet. In contrast St George, an ammunition ship, was manned by military personnel.
Those present at the ceremony, especially the civilian officers and ratings, must have been keenly aware of the poignancy and nostalgia surrounding the Review as the ships faultlessly performed their various evolutions before returning to HM Gunwharf, their base at Portsmouth alongside HMS Vernon. Probably nobody was feeling a greater sense of loss than Lieutenant Colonel G.J. Yeoman MBE RCT, Commanding Officer 20 Maritime Regiment, who, with the transfer of HMAV St George to the Navy, had seen his complement of large ships reduced by a third. The late Frank Bourne, then Master Superintendent of 18 Maritime Squadron RCT, must also have had similar feelings of loss, as he looked back on his career in the Army's Navy from the time when he joined as a Boy Seaman in the mid-1940s.
However, despite the loss of the civilian-manned ships and their crews, this was by no means the end of the British Army's fleet of ships as the following pages will show.
List of Illustration
Introduction and Acknowledgements
1 From Henry VIII to the Great War
2 The Great War and After: 1914-39
3 The Second World War (I): 1939-43
4 The Second World War (II): 1944-45
5 The Inland Water Transport RE: 1939-45
6 RASC to RCT: 1945-65
7 RCT to RLC: 1965-93
8 The Royal Logistic Corps: 1993 to the Present
I Board of Ordnance Fleet taken from Estimates of 1839/40
II War Department Fleet List 1911
III War Department Vessels 1898-1914
IV Vessels Constructed 1920-39
V Responsibilities Regarding Waterborne Craft:
War Office Directive, June 1944
VI Control of Water Transport Services, Post-War Policy
VII Particulars of RASC Craft 1939-45
VIII Military Crew Complements of RASC Vessels
IX Organisation of IWT, Persia and Iraq, 31 December 1942
X Organisation Chart of the RASC Fleet as at 1 September 1945
XI Marine Craft - RASC Vessels
XII Brief Record of the Names of the LCT Mk VIIIs operated by RASC/RCT Crews
XIII RASC Fleet List 1964
XIV HMAV Ardennes - Commissioning Order 1977
XV Army Fleet Review, 30 September 1988