HMS Barcross 1943.jpg
HMS Barcross
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Barcross
Owner: Royal Navy
Builder: Blyth Harbour and Dock Company Blyth, Northumberland, England
Laid down: 15 April 1941
Launched: 21 October 1941
Decommissioned: 1947
Out of service: Transferred to South African Naval Forces, 21 January 1943
Renamed: HMSAS Somerset in 1943
Identification: Pennant number: Z185
Naval Ensign of South Africa (1951–1952).svgSouth Africa
Name: HMSAS Somerset
Namesake: Dick King's horse[Note 1]
Builder: Blyth Shipyard
Commissioned: 21 January 1943
Renamed: SAS Somerset, 1951
Homeport: Simon's Town
Identification: Pennant number: P285[1]
Badge: SAS Somerset badge.png
South Africa
Name: SAS Somerset
Owner: South African Navy
Decommissioned: 31 March 1986
Homeport: Simon's Town
Identification: Pennant number: P285[1]
Fate: Moored at Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town, since 2 September 1988 as part of Iziko Museum[2]
General characteristics
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)
Range: 3000 mi
Complement: 32
Armament: 1 × 12-pounder gun

SAS Somerset was a Bar-class boom defence vessel of the South African Navy, now preserved as a museum ship in Cape Town.


Somerset was originally built in Blyth, Northumberland, by Blyth Shipbuilding Company[3] and commissioned as HMS Barcross in 1941.[4] 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 defence 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 lain 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.[5]

She is now used as a museum ship, has been moored on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town since 2 September 1988,[6] and is the only boom defence vessel remaining in the world,[7] as well as the only remaining ship of the Royal South African Navy.



  1. ^ The ship was named after famous horse that carried Dick King from Durban to Grahamstown in 1842. The connection is perpetuated in the seahorse on the ship’s crest.


External image
Photos of the exterior and interior of SAS Somerset at
  1. ^ a b Pennant Numbers in the SA Navy Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Iziko - Museums of Cape Town (SAS Somerset)
  3. ^ "SAS Somerset". National Historic Ships. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  4. ^ Du Toit, Allan (1992). South Africa's Fighting Ships: Past and Present. Ashanti. pp. 139–144. ISBN 1-874800-50-2.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Du Toit, Allan (1992). South Africa's Fighting Ships: Past and Present. Ashanti. p. 144. ISBN 1-874800-50-2.
  7. ^ "SAS Somerset". Transport in South Africa. Retrieved 24 September 2010.