All these ships then have been in operation right from the early days, but, besides these, two Royal Navy ships have been out there during these Preparatory and Build-up Phases: H.M.S.
Salvictor, a salvage vessel, and H.M.S. Messina.
The Salvictor arrived at the island in early October and has been busy, among other tasks, laying mooring buoys. She is fitted out with bow troughs for this purpose, but she is also able to hoist in and carry a D.U.K.W. and so has been useful for ferrying and a host of general -duties.
H.M.S. Messina is classified as an L.S.T. (Landing Ship Tank). This type of ship was developed during the war when it became obvious that we would need at some time or other to undertake a major invasion operation on the coast of Europe. Sir Winston Churchill (then Prime Minister) demanded ships that could land on beaches anywhere in the world and, to provide something quickly, merchant ships were converted and fitted with bow doors that could open allowing a
140-foot ramp to be extended from the tank deck to the beach. Developments went ahead in Britain on the design of special ships for the job, but it soon became clear that so many would be required that not only would we need larger ships but also American aid to build them. The first ships were ordered in February, 1942, and delivered in the November. The American shipyards continued to supply us with them, but by the end of 1944 they were also being built both here and in Canada.
Messina arrived at the island in August as the Headquarters Ship for the Senior Naval Officer in the area and was used in general support of the landing operations. Besides her six
L.C.M.'s (Landing Craft Mechanized) being available for off-loading stores and equipment from the supply ships, she has been fitted with additional evaporators which enable her to make up to 100 tons of fresh water per day for consumption afloat and ashore, and also large refrigerators in the tank deck where she
can store fresh and frozen provisions until they are required on the island.
Her specially fitted W/T equipment enables her to act as the main communication link between Christmas Island and the United Kingdom.
Messina has also taken all the plant, materials and stores required on
Malden Island, using her L.C.M.'s and D.U.K.W.'s to land them there over the beach. She can carry these D.U.K.W.'s in the holds normally used for tanks and, by opening up the bow doors whilst at anchor, they can simply be driven out of the hold and into the water. There is no danger of flooding the hold under normal circumstances, but in 1951 Messina's bow doors broke open in a gale whilst on passage from the Persian Gulf to Aden and there was imminent danger of her sinking in the heavy seas.
It is interesting to note that it was H.M.S. Warrior who went to her assistance, but actually she managed to secure her own doors without any outside help.
Since being launched in 1945, she has operated in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea and at Abadan during the oil crisis there in 1951. Her refit for "Grapple" has
included, besides the additional equipment required for the Operation, improved accommodation up to the latest Admiralty standards with bunks and a cafeteria system of messing.