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The Invergordon Archive

Floating Docks


It should be noted that all of the Admiralty floating docks were designated their AFD number in 1925. Roman numerals were initially used for numbering the docks, but later dropped.

AFD5 - Capacity 31,500 tons. Built by Cammell Laird 1912. Known as the Portsmouth dock.
This dock was moved to Invergordon on the 6th September 1914 so that there was a repair dock facility capable of taking Dreadnoughts in the North, pending completion of Rosyth dockyard. Moorings for the floating dock were apparently put down sometime after September 1913, after the government had been pestered in Parliament on the subject ever since HMS Dreadnought entered service.
The first record I can find of a ship being docked in AFD5 at Invergordon is that relating to HMS Australia who entered the dock on July 15th 1915.
Pic #442 is interesting because of the date, which looks like 27/5/20. The dock is clearly under tow and could be leaving Invergordon on its way back to Portsmouth where it would remain until 1939, when it was moved to Alexandria. I have a record that states that AFD5 was at Invergordon until 1919, so either the date on the card shown in the picture is wrong, or the record, normally reliable, is incorrect!

Despite various comments on this web site, I can only find documented evidence of there being two docks at Invergordon in 1918, certainly only one dock capable of lifting Dreadoughts. AFD4, the other 33,000 ton dock was on the Tyne at this time. There just weren’t any other large docks around, especially in the North, which was one of Jellicoe’s concerns, due to the time taken to get the large ships of the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow to southern docks for dry-docking. A 45,000 ton dock was designed for Invergordon in 1913, but it was never ordered.

Swan Hunter built a 10,000 ton dock (suitable for cruisers and destroyers), for Furness Withy for use at their New Waterway Shipbuilding Co. at Schiedam, Holland. The Schiedam Dock, yard number 0971, was launched in 1914, but before being transferred to its owners, it was leased by the Admiralty and was in use at Invergordon from the 23rd September 1916 until April 1920.

This I believe is the second dock mentioned above and is the one shown servicing USS San Francisco. At 10,000 ton lifting capacity, the dock length would have been around 450 feet. San Francisco’s length was about 325 feet, and that seems to “look” right in the photograph.

As this dock was leased and not built for the Admiralty and didn’t have a designation name it is difficult to track down; it was returned to its original owners before the AFD numbering was initiated.

The only other dock I know of being at Invergordon was the 240 ton dock AFD16, which was there much later in 1942.
AFD16 and its sister docks 14 & 15 were small 250 ton capacity docks originally intended for coastal force sized craft.

AFD16 was laid down on the 3rd of December 1941, and completed in February 1942. On the 25th of February she was towed, by the tug Empire Larch, to Invergordon, where she remained until 1943. I can find no details of her operational service whilst there.
AFD16 left Invergordon on the 29th of October 1943 under the tow of the tug Goliath, and escorted by the trawler Flatholm, bound for Lerwick, arriving on the next day. Here, the dock stayed until 1945, possibly servicing the Norwegian MTB Flotilla, but I can’t confirm that. After a brief period at Lyness between the 29th of August and the 4th of October 1945, AFD16 was moved to Portsmouth, arriving on the 15th October. Here she remained until sometime in 1949.

Flying Boat Floating Dock

This was designed by Mr. John N. Norbeth, son of a Pembroke Dock lay preacher, and who started his illustrious career in the Admiralty as a shipwright apprentice at Pembroke Dockyard in 1877. He rose to become Assistant Director of Naval Construction, retiring in 1923.
The following is a potted history of the craft:
1921 dock built at the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness; was constructed in a dry-dock and floated out rather than being built and launched in the conventional manner - quite unusual for that period.
1922 the dock was involved in an exercise to test operational effectiveness when operating away from shore based stations, and this took the form of a five week cruise along the South coast as far as the Scilly Isles stopping at a number of locations on route. The group consisted of the seaplane carrier Ark Royal, the floating dock and its tug St Martin with an escorting destroyer Tintagel.
There were four seaplanes embarked for the exercise, two Felixstowes, a Short Cromarty and a P5 ?; apparently a great deal was learned both about theory and practice.
1922 Portland, Dorset
1922 - 1928? (Mid twenties) Modified - the derricks have been replaced by horizontal runway beams with travelling block and tackles, also the deck house arrangement has been enlarged and enclosed at the sides.
1928 Portland, Dorset
1931 Portland, Dorset
1932 Sullum Voe, Shetland
1932-38 Pembroke Dock, SW Wales
1938 Invergordon, NE Highlands
1941 Sullum Voe, Shetland
1943 Port Ellen, Isle Of Islay
1944 Oban, West Highlands
1945 Alness, NE Highlands
1947 Sold out of service

This information has been provided by Clive Sweetingham and other contributors to a fascinating web forum at World Naval Ships: http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5167
Invergordon Harbour Warships in the harbour and a view of the floating dock. The three old warships, Algiers, Temeraire ...
Dry Dock (Floating Dock) Casting Off Tugs manoeuvring the Dry Dock just outside the harbour. The picture is dated 27th May 1920. Another ...
In the Floating Dock From the document mentioned in the 'Group' description it is possible that the vessel in the floatin...
In the Floating Dock See picture #1348 - this is the stern view.
Battleship in the Floating Dock A stern view of a battleship in the floating dock. The picture has been taken from inside the floati...
HMS Malaya in the Floating Dock at Invergordon after Jutland The photo is of HMS MALAYA in a Floating Dock at Invergordon. The picture was taken just after the B...
Self-Docking Floating Dock This outline sketch gives the structural layout of a Floating Dock and the various dimensions. The d...
The Floating Dock Submerged This fascinating picture has been copied from the excellent book by Marinell Ash - 'This Noble Harbo...
HMS Malaya in the Floating Dock This picture of HMS Malaya just in the Floating Dock, I believe, follows on from picture #1360 and i...
Floating Dry Dock at Invergordon Another view of the empty floating dock. This could be the first in the series leading up to the arr...
HMS King George V at Invergordon The caption says: HMS "King George V" in the Floating dock at Invergordon Dec 1919.
Floating Dry Dock This craft is reported to have been towed from Pembroke Dock to Invergordon in 1938 to facilitate th...

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