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OR more than four decades the Six knights 1. Forecastle deck 27. Upper poop deck 53. Anemometer
of the Round Table of the Royal Fleet
2. Electric ramp winch 28. Chief engineering officers’ cabins 54. Stern ramp cable
Auxiliary were the mainstay of Britain’s
3. Windlass 29. Officers’ cabins (P & S) 55. Kedge anchors
amphibious operations.
Wherever troops and their equipment needed to
4. Hinged pole foremast 30. Officers’ bathroom 56. Upper deck
be delivered on to hostile – or friendly – shores, at
5. Anchor lights 31. Crew hospital 57. Crew’s cabins
least one of the Sirs could be found.
6. Masthead lights 32. Dispensary 58. Crew’s WCs
The knights – known as the Sir Lancelot or
7. 4.25 – 8.5 ton electric crane (P & S) 33. Military officers’ WCs 59. Emergency generator room
Round Table-class – took shape in the mid-1960s, 8. No.1 hatch ramp 34. Military officers’ cabins 60. Laundry
led by Sir Lancelot herself, completed by Fairfields 9. Life-raft davit (P & S) 35. Stern ramp winch 61. Troop kit room
on the Clyde in January 1964.
10. Vehicle deck 36. Boat deck 62. Armoury
The remaining five vessels – Sirs Galahad and
11. No.2 hatch ramp 37. Captain’s quarters 63. Inflatable life-rafts
Geraint built by Alexander Stephens, just along the
Clyde from Fairfields, and Sirs Bedivere, Tristram
12. 20 ton electric crane 38. 26ft class ‘B’ motor lifeboat 64. Linen & web equipment
and Percivale built by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn-
13. Troop cafeteria 39. Air conditioning plant 65. Bulk linen store
on-Tyne – arrived on the scene between December
14. Service Pantry 40. Main engine exhausts 66. Chain locker
1966 and March 1968.
15. Warrant officers’ & Sergeants’ lounge 41. 32ft class ‘A’ motor lifeboat 67. Ammunition
All served not the Royal Fleet Auxiliary initially 16. Warrant officers’ & Sergeants’ mess 42. CO2 bottle room 68. Danforth anchor
but the Army... and were operated by the British 17. Stewards’ mess 43. Flight deck 69. Ready-use magazine
India Steam Navigation Company.
18. Troop WCs 44. 32ft class ‘B’ motor lifeboat 70. Contactors room
The sextuplets were transferred to the RFA
19. Troop recreation room 45. Navigating bridge deck 71. Bow ramp winches
at the beginning of 1970, each crewed by by 18
officers and 50 ratings.
20. Military office 46. Military radio office 72. Bow door machinery
In essence the knights were military ferries, able
21. Dining saloon 47. Wheelhouse top 73. Main deck
to carry up to 340 soldiers or Royal Marines and kit
22. Asian crew’s galley 48. Direction finding loop 74. Workshop
– admittedly in fairly rudimentary accommodation
23. Kedge anchor mooring winch 49. Compass 75. Vehicle securing gear
– and another 200 troops for short periods. 24. Berger fairlead 50. Mainmast 76. Bosun’s store
The heart of the ships were their huge vehicle 25. Crew’s mess 51. Masthead lights 77. Battery charging room
decks which ran the length of the vessels. Stern
26. Petty officers’ mess 52. Radar antennae 78. Electronics workshop
and bow ramps allowed the quick loading and
disembarkation of vehicles and stores – which
could be 16 Challenger tanks or a mix of more than
30 Land Rovers and other vehicles.
Aiding loading and offloading was a flight deck,
designed originally for the Wessex helicopter, and
two pontoons which could serve as makeshift
ferries from ship to shore, or could form a 240ft-
long pontoon bridge fulfilling the same function.
The ferry nature of the knights with their flat-
bottomed hulls meant they were not great sea-
They did, however, prove to be extremely
The lives of the knights have been characterised
by war – the Falklands and two Gulf conflicts – and
peace; with their helipads and roll-on, roll-off ferry
capacity, they have proved crucial in delivering
aid in humanitarian crises, such as the floods in
East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) in the winter of
All six ships were dispatched to the Falklands
in the spring of 1982, four within four days of the
Argentine invasion of the South Atlantic islands,
Sir Bedivere and Sir Tristram later, having returned
from Canada and Belize respectively.
All served with distinction – and in harm’s way
– in the struggle to liberate the Falklands.
Sir Lancelot was badly damaged by an
unexploded bomb in San Carlos; Sir Galahad was
also struck by an Argentine bomb – which failed to
explode; one bomb glanced off Sir Bedivere.
Galahad’s luck ran out a fortnight later at Bluff
Cove when she and Sir Tristram were bombed by
enemy jets.
The resulting conflagrations killed seven RFA
sailors and 43 soldiers, carried to Bluff Cove to
prepare for the assault on the Falklands’ capital
Both ships were abandoned as the fires raged,
but Sir Tristram was hastily repaired and pressed
into service as temporary accommodation in the
islands before returning to the UK for a complete
Sir Galahad, however, was beyond saving. After
a memorial service at the war’s end, she was towed
out into the Atlantic and sunk by HMS Onyx.
Of the six knights, only one was still in active
service by 2007, RFA Sir Bedivere. She was
extensively modernised – and extended – during
a refit in the mid-1990s and was, in the summer of
2007, serving as a ‘mother ship’ for patrol boats of
the Iraqi Navy, under the tutelage of a British-led
team training the fledgling maritime force.
But one of her sisters is likely to outlive her. In
May 2007, Sir Tristram was towed
out of Portsmouth Harbour
for a refit in Falmouth; once
overhauled, Tristram was due
to head up Fareham Creek and
serve as a training vessel for
Royal Marines in place of the
aged Rame Head.
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