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Once Navy - Always Navy

H.M.S. ULSTER -Bombed off Japan 1945

Crown Copyright/MoD (1945).


On April 1st, 1945, while operating with a task force to the south of Japan, H.M.S. Ulster was bombed by a Japanese aircraft. The bomb, which was estimated to weigh between 250 and 500 lbs. fell only a few feet from the vessel and the explosion blew a large jagged hole in the plating on the starboard side, the centre of which was just forward of No. 54 bulkhead. At the time, the ship was steaming with both boilers connected and the main throttles in use.

Within three minutes of the explosion, the engine room and No. 2 boiler room had flooded to within 3 ft. of the deckhead. As soon as it was possible to enter the boiler room, examination showed that both main steam leads on the starboard side were extensively damaged, that both superheated and saturated exhaust ranges had collapsed, and that the main and auxiliary feed discharge lines were wrecked. The considerable surge of water which was entering and discharging from the ship's side rendered further examination impossible and in any case it was considered unnecessary.

Owing to the extensive flooding, the vessel had increased her draught by 29 ft. but remained upright. A considerable amount of top weight was immediately jettisoned and she was taken in tow by H.M.N.Z.S. Gambia, but was later turned over to a tug at the entrance to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

While the ship was under tow, steam was required at various times in order to work the capstan. No. 1 boiler was pumped up on the first occasion using water from the port fresh water tank and the 70-ton portable electric pump. Subsequently, No,1 boiler was fed with an auxiliary feed pump taking its suction from the main feed tank in the engine room. The total time steaming in this condition was 18 plus hours. At first, the exhaust steam escaped through the hole in the ship's side as the vessel rolled and up through the air intakes to the boiler room as it was impossible, owing to bad weather, to reach the atmospheric valves in No. 2 boiler room. On the third day it was possible to open the atmospheric valves, after which most of the exhaust troubles were over.

From the beginning of the tow it had been appreciated that it would be advantageous to trail the shafts and work went ahead to achieve this end.

Unfortunately, the shafts were not fitted with special trailing collars in the vicinity of the plummer blocks, so the thrust block covers were removed and preparations made to break the couplings immediately forward of the thrust blocks. All went well at first and the top three bolts of each coupling were removed without any trouble, As both the main engine turning gear bolts were in their stowage position below the throttles in the engine room, efforts were made to retrieve them with the aid of Salvus gear. This proved fruitless, however, as the surge of water was too great and much floating debris was moving from side to side. This fact was signalled to Gambia, who proceeded to manufacture a turning bolt. When in receipt of this bolt the port engine was turned slightly and immediately difficulties were encountered.

The slight turning apparently disturbed the forced lubrication system, resulting in a considerable volume of water rushing back into the gear cases and drain tanks.

The tops of the latter started to pant and were shored dawn, the head of water in the engine room being approximately 8 ft. above the tank tops. The thrust block covers were replaced quickly, but the water continued to squirt out of all the gear case joints, sight flow indicators and drain tank sounding tubes.

The electric F.L. pump was started, taking suction from the drain tanks and discharging via the starboard lubricating oil storage tank to the upper deck. This relieved most of the pressure in the gear cases, but was insufficient to empty them. For the remainder of the time afloat, these tanks remained full of sea water. During the time the turning bolt was being manufactured by Gambia, the strong-backs supplied for moving the main gear wheel forward when the coupling was broken, were erected in position. It was then discovered that only a slight pulling up of the strong-back, the bracket for which is welded to the engine room bulkhead, produced leakage in way of the welding and an effort to move the gear forward would most certainly have torn the bulkhead. A variation of strong-back was made in the ship.

On arrival at Leyte, Ulster was placed alongside Tyne and No. 1 boiler was thoroughly washed out and cleaned externally and internally. As was to be expected, the interior of the boiler was very dirty, and the cleaning operations took twice the normal time. The super heaters were opened, when it was found that the salt deposit was very slight and only in the vicinity of the Iower tubes of the downcomer headers.

Concurrently with boiler cleaning the boiler feed regulator and check valves were stripped and cleaned, the steam line to and exhaust line from the capstan engine were washed through with distilled water. The shuttles of the boiler room oil fuel and auxiliary feed pumps were removed and thoroughly washed, cleaned and oiled. All packing was renewed. The water in the steam lines was introduced on the forecastle, and each pump was washed through in turn. On completion of cleaning, the boiler was pumped up to "WW," using distilled water to which had been added 14 lb. U.S. boiler compound. Prior to docking, a conference was held at which the U.S. Navy undertook to repair the shell plating and No. 54 bulkhead. It was suggested by the U.S. authorities that the machinery which had been contaminated by sea water immersion, be treated as soon as possible with Tectyl. This is the trade name of a water absorbing oil, which besides displacing the water, forms a protective coating on metallic parts, It had frequently been used successfully in the U.S. Navy and the suggestion to use it in this case was adopted.

After docking, and as the water was running out of the engine room, fresh water was sprayed over all machinery and 20 seamen followed on with rags and dried out as much as possible. No. 2 boiler room was treated in a similar manner, but in this case it was not so straightforward. The extensive damage and general disorder was aggravated by lighting difficulties, although much had been anticipated and a comprehensive run of temporary leads was rigged.

At this time, the labour situation was good, as, in addition to the ship's staff, a boiler cleaning party and 2 E.R.A.s plus 6 E.R.M.s on loan from Tyne were available. Owing to fleet requirements, however, 2 E.R.A.s. and 4 E.R.M.s were withdrawn shortly after docking and from then onwards all the work in the ship was carried out with the assistance of 4 E.R,M.s only, two joining from Resource.

As hands were available from other departments, it was found possible to carry out much of the work concurrently. Details are given under sub sequent headings.

Main turbine F.L. System

Salt water was pumped out of the forced lubrication drain tanks and gear cases by means of the electric F.L. pump, and drained out of the thrust and adjusting blocks. The; main oil cooler drain plugs were removed and coolers were found to be full of good oil. All the strainers and pump were cleaned out. The F.L. drain tanks were washed out with fresh water and wiped out. They were then refilled with fresh water, which was pumped round the system (coolers being by-passed) for six hours, the engines being moved slowly by hand at intervals. There was a considerable delay at this stage as it had been intended to run the main F.L. pumps on air, but this proved impossible and the 70-ton portable electric pump was rigged up to take its suction from the drain tank manhole, discharging via an adaptor fixed on top of the F.L. strainer by-pass cock. The fresh water was then pumped out of the F.L. tanks and drained from the thrust and adjusting blocks. The drain tanks were then cleaned.

About 150 gallons of Tectyl was run into each drain tank and pumped round the bearings for 11 hours, the engines being turned at intervals. Tectyl appears to be a type of paraffin, but is much more oily to the touch. lt has the property of adhering to steel in place of water and is stated to be soluble in lubricating oil.

Tectyl was then pumped back into the storage tank and an attempt made to renovate it by means of the oil separator. This failed, however, so the Tectyl was returned to the U.S. authorities in an emulsified state. The drain tanks and thrust and adjusting blocks were then thoroughly cleaned out.

The main gearing was opened up and cleaned, together with all bearings and sumps. After thorough cleaning, the drain tanks were filled with S.M.L.O. which was pumped round the system for three days. At the end of this time it was badly emulsified and a considerable amount of Tectyl was floating on top. The drain tanks were again emptied, thrust and adjusting blocks drained and gauzes removed. The drain tanks and F.L. strainers were carefully cleaned and the system refilled with clean S.M.L.O.

Interior of main turbines.

All the salt water was drained out and the condensers and L.P. turbines washed through with fresh water. The condensers were filled with fresh water to the underside of the turbine shafts which were turned to wash the blading, the turning being arranged to coincide with the movement of engines previously mentioned. Water was then drained off to about 6 in. above the top of the condenser tubes. Carbon packing was then removed from the turbine glands.

Spraying of the turbine blading with Tectyl was then carried out through all available orifices, using Nuswift fire extinguishers which were found to give a far more penetrating spray than the nozzles supplied with the Tectyl. The turbine access doors were then replaced and the spraying process repeated several times. It was found that an oily atmosphere was produced inside the turbines which it was hoped would penetrate to the fixed blades in the top casings.

All the Tectyl was then pumped off the top of the water in the condensers to prevent its access to the feed system. The condensers were then emptied, washed through and the sumps cleaned.

Turbo auxiliaries

Stop valves and exhaust valves were removed, F.L. systems drained out and the cooler tube stack removed. All exhaust lines were washed out with fresh water through the valve cover on the feed heater and also from the capstan.

The turbine casings and F.L. systems were washed through with fresh water. Turbine covers of the extraction pumps, turbo-generators, distiller pump and circulators were removed and all parts washed through, cleaned and checked. The main feed pump turbines were filled with Tectyl and turned. All carbon glands were removed, journals cleaned and carbon packing adjusted. Governors and trip gear were then cleaned and refitted.

Reciprocating auxiliaries.

All steam and exhaust valve covers were removed and the cylinders washed out with fresh water. Packing was then removed, shuttles refitted and the cylinders sprayed with Tectyl. The pumps were then closed up, glands repacked and the turning gear positioned.

In dealing with the pump ends of reciprocating pumps, the glands were unpacked and the barrel washed out with fresh water. If the barrel was of ferrous metal, Tectyl was also applied.

Miscellaneous items.

Owing to the flooding of the engine room, practically everything had been damaged by salt water. This necessitated the careful checking of pressure gauges and instruments of all kinds. These were removed, examined and rinsed in fresh water, being afterwards tested and adjusted by the repair ship.

Motor armatures, starters and other electrical fittings were washed through in fresh water and sent to H.M.S. Artifex for baking and refitting.

The feed tanks were washed out with fresh water and thoroughly cleaned out. They were then refilled with fresh water and boiler compound in the proportion of 2 lb. per ton added.

In order to ensure that no damage had been overlooked, careful checking of the main turbines and turbo-auxiliaries was carried out. This included finger plate readings, blade tip clearances and so on.

Machinery repair.

The work included the following items:-

(a) Starboard main steam pipe, after length, from No. 1 boiler replaced by plain pipe 5 in. diameter.

(b) Turbo and saturated exhaust pipes in way of damage renewed.

(c) Feed heater drain pipe renewed.

(d) Superheater drain pipes in way of damage renewed. [e) Starboard main steam Iead to No. 2 boiler blanked.

(f) Auxiliary feed discharge to heater, and main feed discharge to No. 1 boiler, pipes and fittings in way of damage renewed.

(g) Main feed discharge to No. 2 boiler blanked.

(h) Steam and exhaust leads to auxiliaries in No. 2 B.R. blanked.

(j) No. 2 starboard fan removed complete.

(k) Auxiliary circulator removed and pipes blanked.

(I) Temporary lead from saturated steam range to No. 2 B.R. bilge ejectors rigged.

(m) Starboard telemotor leads renewed in way of damage,

(n) Port T/G armature baked and made fit for use (half load).


Very little of the lagging which had been under water remained when the ship docked, and its replacement was one of the most difficult problems encountered.

A small supply was flown up from Sydney, but this was hopelessly inadequate and it was necessary to "scrounge" from other ships. Much of the lagging from No. 2 boiler room which was no longer necessary was utilised, and a large supply of millboard was obtained from H. M.S. Illustrious, together with two rolls of asbestos cloth. Luckily one of the stokers had some experience of lagging and he, together with eight seamen, formed the lagging team.

All pipes were covered with a thick layer of millboard and then bound and sewn with asbestos cloth. Machines such as the main circulator and extractor pumps were packed around the rotor casings with millboard and asbestos cloth jackets made to fit.

When warming through for the first time, the effect of the drying lagging was most unpleasant. The engine room became very hot due to being full of steam, and the smell was most objectionable.

Throughout the remainder of the time when under main steam the engine room temperature was always 8" F. above the normal for the engine room.

The "hot-spots " were in the immediate vicinity of the H.P. turbines where the lagging of the rotor casings had been considerably impaired by the action of the sea water. No excessive bearing temperatures were experienced but all were taken at half-hourly intervals whenever steam was on the main engines.

The aforementioned work was carried out by the ship's staff of H.M.S. Ulster, and comprised engine room ratings, torpedo men and seamen, assisted by working parries from H.M.S. Tyne. The pipe work was carried out by H.M.S. Resource. The ship docked in the U.S. dock at Leyte on April 10th, undocked on April 19th and carried out sea trials on May 10th.

Trials. During the basin trial the whole feed system became badly contaminated and No.1 boiler salinity rose to about 50 grains per gallon. After the trial, the feed tanks were pumped out, cleaned and refilled with distilled water, and the extraction pumps discharged to bilge until clear. No.1 boiler was then shut down, opened out and washed through.

During the sea trials, slight contamination showed, but this cleared eventually and impurities began to concentrate in the boiler. After the sea trials the boiler was again washed through and refilled with distilled water and U.S. boiler compound.

By the end of the sea trials, the main turbine oil was getting very thick, so the oil system was cleaned out and replenished on return to harbour. There was little water in the oil, and it is thought that the Tectyl was probably responsible for the emulsification occurring. Typical bearings and adjusting blocks were examined and found to be in satisfactory condition. Trials were carried out in stages ending up with half an hour at 21 knots, an astern trial at 100 r.p.m. and steering trials.

Leyte to Sydney.

The voyage was completed non-stop, oiling from H.M.S. Striker being carried out en route. This operation, by buoyant hose method, presented rather more difficulty than usual. Both Chadburns turbometers had been condemned by Tyne and neither worked. In addition, one of the H.P. ahead receiver pressure gauges faiIed. By having an E.R.A. on each throttle backed up by two leading stokers, detailed to count the revolutions of each engine, the station keeping improved considerably. On one occasion, however, Ulster moved close up, under the counter of the oiling ship and the telegraphs altered to slow astern. No difficulties occurred in executing this order, but a little later, when ordered to stop, it was found impossible to close the starboard astern throttle.

As only 50% of the astern nozzles are controlled by nozzle valves, a considerable amount of ahead steam was required until the oil hose was disconnected shortly afterwards.

The astern manoeuvring valve was eventually closed by using a large spanner on the square formed on the end of the valve spindle. Subsequent examination at Sydney showed that the ball thrust on the valve spindle had been considerably attacked by salt water and had seized up.

Later on in the day of oiling, the weather deteriorated and the pitching of the ship caused an excessive axial movement of the armature and main gear wheel of the port T/G. The forward diesel generator was started, the ship's electrical load transferred and the T/G stopped. The gear case was opened up and it was discovered that the roller and ball thrusts on the main gear wheel journals were loose. Again, salt water was put down as the cause of the failure.

The gearing and associated ball and roller races of the starboard T/G were examined, and found to be in perfect condition, so the gearing was changed over complete from the starboard to the port machine. The coupIing bolts of the armature presented no difficulty but, when tightened up the effort to turn the rotating parts was considerably greater than before and it was decided not to run the machine in this condition.

The remaining five days of the trip were made with the diesel generators taking the ship's load.

At Sydney, the gear wheel journal was built up by nickel spraying and then ground to fit the spare ball and roller races. No subsequent trouble has been experienced with this machine.

The main engine lubricating oil became very thick and discoloured and very little success attended efforts to separate the impurities. The emulsifying effect of Tectyl was again noted, and its rather distinctive odour could still be detected in the oil on arrival at Sydney. A sample of the oil taken at this time was allowed to stand for four days. At the end of this period a layer of Tectyl about 1/16 in. thick had separated out and floated on the top of the S.M.L.O. The entire lubricating system was thoroughly cleaned, a considerable quantity of sludge being found at the bottom of the drain tanks. The system was then refilled with new S.M.L.O.

The chloride content of the boiler water had risen from 2 to 15 grains per gallon after one week's steaming, but remained constant at that figure. At Sydney the boiler was cleaned externally and internally, and on arrival in U.K. the chloride content of the water was five grains per gallon.

At Sydney, Ulster had no priority with regard to repairs, again due to heavy Fleet requirements in this direction. The ER. department had some slight assistance during the boiler cleaning period, but the considerable amount of stripping and refitting of machinery was wholly undertaken by ship's staff.

An alternative electrical supply for the engine room fans was run from the for'd switchboard, and this too was accomplished by the ship's staff.

From Sydney to Pearl Harbour the performance of the machinery was fairly satisfactory. The new boiler gauge glasses proved to be of a most inferior quality and the average daily consumption was three. The lubricating oil, despite great efforts at separation, steadily deteriorated. Because of this, the starboard lubricating oil storage tank was pumped up with oil from the system and allowed to settle for two days. After this period, the good oil which had separated out was siphoned down to the drain tanks and the storage tanks cleaned out. This practice was a regular routine throughout the remainder of the trip. At Pearl Harbour the lubricating oil system was once again thoroughly cleaned. New boiler gauge glasses manufactured by Pyrex were obtained, and there were no subsequent failures.

Thirty-six hours after departure-from Pearl Harbour an unusual " roaring noise " was reported in the furnace of No. 1 boiler. Although there was no distortion of the flame in the furnace, coupled with the fact that the funnel exhibited no white smoke, it was assumed that a Superheater element was defective, and a careful check of the consumption of feed water was made.

During the following 24 hours the consumption jumped from 9 to 25 tons, and the assumption was proved correct. The evaporator, however, was maintaining its output, and despite the extraordinary expenditure of feed water it was found unnecessary to ration water from the ship's tanks.

At San Diego the defective element was Iocated and removed, pugs being inserted in the headers. The boiler was tested by water pressure to 300 lbs. per sq. in., and found to be satisfactory, The U.S. Navy yard at San Diego wiIIingly undertook any machine work, but the removal of the element was carried out by ship's staff.

Shortly after leaving Panama, the neck of the top disc of the lubricating oil separator fractured, and from then on the machine was not run.

At Bermuda, all the dirty Lubricating oil was landed and after a thorough cleaning of the F.L. system it was filled with new S.M.L.O. On arrival in the United Kingdom this oil was fairly dirty but exhibited no signs of emulsification and no trace of the Tectyl remained.

Two days prior to the ship leaving Sydney all the engine room department with the exception of the C.E.R.A., chief stoker and seven stokers were drafted, their reliefs coming from other ships which had been on the station a long time.

Although the majority of the new arrivals were from destroyers, it was some little time before they were conversant with the rather peculiar conditions in Ulster, and this proved to be a severe handicap at first.

Other troubles were those associated with pressure gauges and engine-room lighting. Many of the former either registered inaccurately or shed all the paint off their faces, necessitating marking lines on them with scribers or paint. Despite great effort by the torpedo branch, it was quite impossible to wash through the engine room bilges without putting many of the lights out and this practice was discontinued. Pumping out the bilges too was a problem, as much of the lagging which had washed off the pipes still remained and continually choked up the suction strainers.


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