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RFA Resurgent

Vessel type Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Year launched 1951
Cargo type Royal Navy supplies
Country of build United Kingdom

Originally intended as a passenger ship for the China Navigation Company, the RFA Resurgent ended up spending over 20 years in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – the civilian support service for the British Royal Navy.

The build

The RFA Resurgent was one of two sister ships that were built as passenger ships at Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering yard in Greenock in Scotland. Originally named Changchow (Resurgent) and Chungking (Retainer), they were built for the China Navigation Company at 477ft long with a grt of 9,357.

Both vessels were designed to carry over 620 passengers and were powered by a six-cylinder Doxford engine, with a service speed of 15 knots. However, when the Resurgent was commissioned into the RFA in 1957, the vessel operated with an RFA complement of 112 plus 34 Royal Navy stores staff. As well as supplying weapons, the Resurgent carried fresh, frozen and dry provisions, medical stores and survivors' kits.


Due to conflicts in Indonesia and political problems in China, plans to introduce the Changchow on China Navigation's services was halted. Instead, the Changchow spent almost a year on charter to the French operator Messageries Maritimes, running between France and Australia.

Renamed Resurgent at the end of 1952, the vessel spent a couple of years on charter to the British India Steam Navigation Company before an a 11-month conversion at Palmers Hebburn yard on the Tyne in NE England into an armament stores issuing ship. Upon its commission into the RFA in 1957, the Resurgent underwent armament storage and replenishment at sea trials off the UK coast, before sailing off to the Far East in autumn 1958.

The Resurgent's first voyage under the RFA was between Hong Kong and Singapore for a year, before returning to the UK for a refit at Devonport dockyard in 1960. In the following year, the Resurgent was one of nine vessels supporting the British forces in Operation Vantage, protecting Kuwait from Iraqi invasion.

In 1962, the Resurgent took part in two exercises with two other RFAs and ships from the Australian and New Zealand navies. It then took part in the royal review of the fleet on the Clyde, as one of five ships representing the RFA in August 1965.

After another refit at Smith's dock on the Tyne, the Resurgent served for three months as part of the Operation Magister task force supporting the British operation to withdraw from Aden in 1967. The vessel also took part in the Beira Patrol operations to enforce United Nations trade sanctions against Rhodesia.

In 1975, the Resurgent supported a joint services scientific expedition to Danger Island, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. A small rocky outcrop in the coral atoll was named Resurgent Island in honour of the ship.

In July 1979 the Resurgent carried out a final operational RAS with the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark, before a round trip via Bermuda and the Panama Canal to the US and Canadian west coast. The ship spent just over a year in lay-up before being sold for scrap in March 1981.


A great time: Stephen Piper remembers RFA Resurgent and sister ship RFA Retainer as 'naughty boy postings' that weren't actually harsh at all. Read more...


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