|Builder:||Blyth Harbour and Dock Company Blyth, Northumberland, England|
|Laid down:||15 April 1941|
|Launched:||21 October 1941|
|Out of service:||Transferred to South African Naval Forces, 21 January 1943|
|Renamed:||HMSAS Somerset in 1943|
|Identification:||Pennant number: Z185|
|Namesake:||Dick King's horse[Note 1]|
|Commissioned:||21 January 1943|
|Renamed:||SAS Somerset, 1951|
|Identification:||Pennant number: P285|
|Owner:||South African Navy|
|Decommissioned:||31 March 1986|
|Identification:||Pennant number: P285|
|Fate:||Moored at Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town, since 2 September 1988 as part of Iziko Museum|
|Class and type:||Bar-class boom defence vessel|
|Displacement:||750 tons standard, 960 tons maximum|
|Length:||45.72 m (150.0 ft)|
|Beam:||9.76 m (32.0 ft)|
|Draught:||3.37 m (11.1 ft)|
|Propulsion:||One vertical triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine|
|Speed:||11.75 kn (21.76 km/h)|
|Armament:||1 × 12-pounder gun|
Somerset was originally built in Blyth, Northumberland, by Blyth Shipbuilding Company and commissioned as HMS Barcross in 1941. HMS Barcross and her sister ship HMS Barbrake arrived at the Cape Station at Simonstown, in 1942 and was transferred to Saldanha Bay for boom defense operations directly thereafter. In 1943 she was re-designated as HMSAS Barcross as she was transferred to the South African Naval Forces for the remainder of the war. In 1946 Barcross was purchased by the South African Government and was used for the dumping of ammunition off Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. On completion of these services, she was transferred to Salisbury Island in Durban and was subsequently laid up at Salisbury Island. In 1951 her name was changed to Somerset. In 1953 whilst still decommissioned Somerset was used in the raising of the sunken minelayer Skilpad (ex:Spindrift) at Salisbury Island.
During 1955 Somerset was brought back into service and during this period she was tasked in salvaging the remains of two Harvard training aircraft following a mid air collision over Table Bay. Six weeks later she recovered a third Harvard which had crashed into the sea off Bok Point. In 1959 during a refit, Somerset had her coal fired boilers converted to be fired by furnace oil. She was responsible for the laying of an oil pipe line at the port of Mossel Bay, this was to serve the oil terminal.
In 1961 Somerset salvaged the South African railways tug Schermbrucker which had sunk in East London harbour. In 1967 she was fitted out with new boilers and a reconditioned main engine. In 1968 her services were called on again to assist the cable ship John W. Mackay to raise and repair the newly inaugurated overseas telephone cable in the shallow waters off Melkbosstrand. During 1969 Somerset raised the old whale catcher Wagter 11 in Saldanha Bay and subsequently towed her back to Simonstown. During the same year, she salvaged a floating crane which had capsized and sunk at Port Elizabeth. In the early hours of 24 July 1974 Somerset was dispatched to Cape Agulhas to assist with the salvage of the Oriental Pioneer, poor weather conditions and bad luck rendered this effort unsuccessful.
In 1981 the fishing trawler Aldebaran was successfully raised in Port Elizabeth having laid on the bottom for over two and a half years. Somerset also acted as a standby vessel during submarine shallow water diving operations. In 1983 she assisted in the salvaging of a barge and two whale catchers at Saldanha Bay. In March 1986, Somerset was finally paid off. In 1988 the old boom defence vessel was donated as a museum ship, moored at the waterfront at Cape Town. Her original R.N. badge can be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock.
She is now used as a museum ship, has been moored on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town since 2 September 1988, and is the only boom defence vessel remaining in the world, as well as the only remaining ship of the Royal South African Navy.
SAS Somerset on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, September 2010 (stern view)
|Photos of the exterior and interior of SAS Somerset at sa-transport.co.za|