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Sir Lancelot Round Table class Landing Ship Logistic [LSL]

RFA Sir Lancelot (L3029) was a Round Table class landing ship logistic of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the first of the class. The six original Round Table class Landing Ship Logistic [LSL] were ordered by the Ministry of Transport from 1964 to 1968 and were operated by the British Indian Steam Navigation Company on behalf of the British Army. However in 1970 they were transferred to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary [RFA]. Classified as landing ships logistics (LSL) they have often been described as a cross between a Roll On / Roll Off Vessel and landing ship. These ships were 137 metres long, displaces 6,700 tonnes and has a complement of 49. She could embark up to 340 troops and up to 50 vehicles, including tanks. The ships of this class have been replaced by four much larger and more capable Bay-class vessels.

During the Falklands conflict in 1982 operations in support of an amphibious landing within range of enemy aircraft and without the assistance of airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft or land-based all-weather fighters inevitably risked ship losses. Sir Galahad was sunk and Sir Tristram and Sir Lancelot were damaged.

On the night 7/8 June 1982 RFA Sir Galahad was despatched with support units and the Welsh Guards. On 8 June the cloud lifted and, before the final elements had been disembarked from the landing ships, RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram were hit by an air strike at Fitzroy. Both ships were abandoned. The Sir Galahad, which had a large number of men on board, was burnt out. 50 men lost their lives, of whom 32 were from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. The courageous efforts of the helicopter pilots and rescue boat crews, who took their craft again and again into the flames and blinding smoke rising from the stricken vessel, prevented greater loss of life. But for the bravery o the seamen and the dedication of all those who assisted ashore the loss of life would have been much greater. Later that day a pair of patrolling Sea Harriers destroyed four Mirages over Choiseul Sound.

After RFA Sir Tristram was damaged during the Falklands Campaign, the ship returned to service late 1985 after extensive repairs on the river Tyne. Launched on the 12th December, 1966, Sir Tristram was one of six 'Sir Lancelot' Class logistic landing ships, and one of three built by Hawthorne Leslie (the others being Sir Bedivere, 1966, and Sir Percivale, 1967). Designed to displace 5674 tons fully loaded, they were initially chartered by shipping companies, but were taken over by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 1980. Sent to the Falklands in company with Sir Galahad, she survived being bombed and returned in 1983 when she underwent a refit, being lengthened 29 feet and fitted with a new bridge.

Retired in December 2005, she is now berthed in Portsmouth as a static training ship. In 2006 it was decided to regenerate the ex LSL Sir Tristram for a new role as a special forces training platform to replace the aged Rame Head and relocate the facility from Portsmouth Harbour to Portland in Dorset under a project name of Project Newman. A&P were awarded the contract to regenerate the vessel for the new role with the work being done in A&P Falmouth on behalf of MPH IPT. This last of the RFA Sir Class Landing Ship Logistics was replaced by the introduction of the new LSD(A) Bay Class and was retired from RFA service in 2006. As the vessel structure remains very sound the vessel was ideally suited to further use as a static training vessel.

Two commercial vessels, named 'Sir Lamorak' and 'Sir Caradoc' were chartered until Sir Galahad (II) and Sir Tristram (Modified) entered service. By the mid 1990s it had been decided that three remaining original ships of the class were to undergo SLEP (Service Life Extension Program), although the Navy briefly considered buying the Australian landing ship Tobruk. Sir Bedivere completed the SLEP but plans for Sir Percivale and Sir Geriant to do the same were abandoned due to the high cost. Instead they were replaced by two new vessels.

Sir Lancelot was built for the British Army but transferred to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service in 1970. Paid off from the Royal Navy in 1989 and used commercially for survey work and for a short time as an offshore casino at Cape Town in 1991. Acquired by Singapore in October 1992, she was recommissioned 05 May 1994 with new engines. The ship was refitted to upgrade accommodation and fit a 40 mm gun and Mistral SAM. Fitted for bow and stern loading with drive-through facilities and deck-to-deck ramps. Facilities provided for onboard maintenance of vehicles and for laying out pontoon equipment. Mexeflote self-propelled floating platforms can be strapped one on each side. Carries 850 tons of oil fuel. Fitted with two 20-man hyperbaric chambers to support submarine rescue operations. Operational: The ship is also used in the training role for cruises of up to five weeks.

The last of a class of landing ships that played a vital role in the Falklands War and both Gulf conflicts, Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Sir Bedivere returned from a year-long mission in the Middle East to bow out of service 18 February 2008. His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, was there to meet Sir Bedivere on the ship's final arrival at the Sea Mounting Centre at Marchwood in Southampton Water. In his capacity as Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the Prince joined the head of the RFA, Commodore Bob Thornton, on board the vessel almost a year to the day since her departure to the Gulf on her last operational mission.

RFA Sir Bedivere entered service in 1967. Sir Bedivere, more than 40 years old, was one of six landing ships which began entering service in the 1960s, all named after King Arthur's knights. During the Falklands War, Bedivere was hit by a 1,000lb Argentinian bomb which bounced off the ship without causing casualties and exploded in the sea. Almost ten years later she saw service in the first Gulf War when she delivered equipment and supplies to 7th Armoured Brigade. In 2003 she was back in the war zone for the conflict with Iraq.

The year 2009 saw the Falmouth facility of the A&P Group successfully complete the conversion of the 137m former Royal Fleet Auxiliary Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) Sir Bedivere (L3004) into the Brazilian Navys support vessel NDCC Almirante Saboia (G-25). A&P were responsible for a six month duration, whole ship regeneration and integration contract involving all ship systems brought alive after six month lay up period after decommissioning by RFA Flotilla.




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