“The Reward”, was a Bustler class diesel rescue tug, sister ship to the Bustler, Samsonia, Growler, Hesperia, Mediator, Turmoil and Warden, all of which were built at Robb’s during WWII. She was ordered by the Admiralty to dimensions of 190 x 38.6 x 19 with a deadweight of 538 and speed of 16 knots.
She was built with “British Polar” diesel engines of type M48M with 8 cylinders and a GT of 1136. She was laid down on 6th April, launched on 31st October 1944 by Mrs Holden and commissioned on 12th March 1945.
HMS Reward began her long career as part of force 135 for Operation Nest Egg, the liberation of the Channel Islands in May 1945. She then sailed in a convoy which included her sister ship “Growler”. In August of the same year, her greaser, John Barrett McGubbin was discharged dead and in November 1946 she took part in the rescue of the steamer Josiah P Cressey when its engine flooded and it had to be towed into Fishguard.
In March 1947 she was involved in Operation Snow White, working with another of her sister ships, “Mediator” to tow AFD35 to Malta, and in October of the same year she sailed from Portsmouth to Rosyth with HMS Nelson. In January 1951 she took part in the Home Fleet’s Spring Cruise in the Mediterranean and in 1952 was laid up at Chatham, and later taken to Pembroke Dock.
Active again in 1953, she was part of the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead in June and the Home Fleet’s Autumn Cruise from Invergordon, which included Operation Mariner, in September. She was then involved in the Home Fleet’s spring training in Tangiers in 1954 and helped to tow AGILE to Malta in 1960.
On 1st May 1962 she was chartered by the United Towing Company Ltd. of Hull, and was renamed “Englishman” until she was taken over by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and renamed “RFA Reward”
(for further excellent information on the RFA see: HISTORICAL RFA
On 12th December 1964 she collided with the East German “Stralsund” and in 1970 she was transferred to the Port Auxiliary Service and her name modified simply to “REWARD”. That same year she towed HMS Troubridge to Newport, Gwent, to be broken up and in October 1972 she was placed in reserve.
In January 1975 she was towed to Chatham for conversion into a Naval Patrol Ship and commissioned on July 11th at Port Edgar in Scotland, once again as “HMS Reward”, with Lieutenant Commander Angus Sandford Royal Navy as her commander. She provided a headquarters and support for the Scotland and Northern Ireland Explosive Ordnance Demolition Team which responded to an alleged plant by a terrorist group on the Phillips Petroleum Gas Rigs off Great Yarmouth.
On 10th August 1976, she was involved in a collision in the Firth of Forth, this time with a German-owned container ship, SS Plainsman, in fog. HMS Reward sank as a result.
Twenty days later she was raised by a civilian floating crane, “Brunel”. During the operation to raise her, one of the steel ropes snapped and knocked a door off its hinges, which broke the collar bone of one of the civilian drivers, Mr A Brady of Greenock, feisty to the last!
After two attempts to raise her from the 100 feet of water between the two Forth Bridges had to be abandoned, it was third time lucky. The photograph above shows the damage done to her. She was taken to St David’s Harbour, Inverkeithing, where the photograph was taken. One of the navy’s oldest serving ships, she was assessed, and it felt expedient to demolish her, and so ends her story.
You may also be interested in : Model of Bustler Tug in Museum
Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2011