Staying shipshape

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I shall accept David Wragg’s definition of the UK supply ships being built in Korea as not being warships (Letters, 29 November). I myself have no hard conclusion one way or other as I rank them “sort of”.

He is correct about them being RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary), not strictly Royal Navy, but flying the blue and not the red ensign.

I used to sail on the RFA LSLs (Landing Ship Logistics), which acted both as supply and troop carriers, out of Marchwood, Southampton, and sometimes coming in at Rosyth. These bore the names of Knights of the Round Table.

The ships’ officers were Merchant Navy, but Royal Navy Reserve; the middle-ranking crewmen were Royal Corps of Transport and the odd-bodies were Hong Kong Chinese civilians (back in the 1970s). That placed us army passengers under normal military discipline.

Some of these ships served in the Falklands War and took bomb hits. This is why war memorials have several Chinese names on them (I know a lot of people were baffled by this).

In more peaceful times these ships were used for government scientific purposes as well as military ones.

This is why I fence-sit on their actual status – they are a sort of metal equivalent of the Territorial Army; now they’re military and now they’re not!

However, the bottom line is that these are British ships mainly for military purposes and four are being built abroad, so claims that these sort of contracts are placed only in the UK is not strictly true.

No shipyard, in Scotland or elsewhere, is going to worry too much about the actual status of a vessel, as long as it has the contract. It also shows that shipyards outside England are not blocked from gaining such contracts. That could include the future independent Scotland, despite the latest Labour back-stabbing from the likes of Michael Kelly (Perspective, 29 November) and his Westminster pals.

Thomas R Burgess

St Catherine’s Square