HMS Barcross 1943.jpg
HMS Barcross
United Kingdom
NameHMS Barcross
OwnerRoyal Navy
BuilderBlyth Harbour and Dock Company, Blyth, Northumberland, England
Laid down15 April 1941
Launched21 October 1941
Out of serviceTransferred to South African Naval Forces, 21 January 1943
RenamedHMSAS Somerset in 1943
IdentificationPennant number: Z185
Naval Ensign of South Africa (1951–1952).svg
South Africa
NameHMSAS Somerset
NamesakeDick King's horse[Note 1]
BuilderBlyth Shipyard
Commissioned21 January 1943
RenamedSAS Somerset, 1951
HomeportSimon's Town
IdentificationPennant number: P285[1]
SAS Somerset badge.png
South Africa
NameSAS Somerset
OwnerSouth African Navy
Decommissioned31 March 1986
HomeportSimon's Town
IdentificationPennant number: P285[1]
StatusMoored 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 typeBar-class boom defence vessel
Displacement750 tons standard, 960 tons maximum
Length45.72 m (150.0 ft)
Beam9.76 m (32.0 ft)
Draught3.37 m (11.1 ft)
PropulsionOne vertical triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine
Speed11.75 kn (21.76 km/h)
Range3000 mi
Armament1 × 12-pounder 12cwt gun

SAS Somerset was a Bar-class boom defence vessel of the South African Navy, now preserved as a museum ship in Cape Town. Formerly HMS Barcross, it operated in Saldanha Bay, transferred to South Africa Naval Forces during World War II and was purchased by South Africa in 1947.


Somerset was originally built in Blyth, Northumberland, United Kingdom, 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 Simon's Town, South Africa, in 1942 and was transferred to Saldanha Bay for boom defence operations directly thereafter. In 1943 she was re-designated as HMSAS Barcross when she was transferred to the South African Naval Forces for the remainder of World War II.

In 1946, the Government of South Africa purchased Barcross and 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 subsequently was laid up at Salisbury Island. In 1951 her name was changed to Somerset. In 1953 while still decommissioned Somerset was used in the raising of the sunken minelayer Skilpad (ex-Spindrift) at Salisbury Island.

During 1955 Somerset was recommissioned, and during this period she was tasked in salvaging the remains of two Harvard trainer aircraft following a midair collision over Table Bay. Six weeks later she recovered a third Harvard which had crashed into the sea off Bok Point. During a refit in 1959, Somerset had her coal-fired boilers converted to firing by furnace oil. She was responsible for the laying of an oil pipeline at the port of Mossel Bay to serve the oil terminal there.

In 1961 Somerset salvaged the South African Railways tug Schermbrucker, which had sunk in the harbour at East London. In 1967 she was fitted with new boilers and a reconditioned main engine. In 1968 her services were called on again to assist the cable ship John W. Mackay in raising and repairing 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 Simon's Town. 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, but poor weather conditions and bad luck rendered this effort unsuccessful. In 1981, Somerset raised the fishing trawler Aldebaran, which had lain on the harbour bottom at Port Elizabeth 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 for use as a museum ship, moored at the waterfront at Cape Town. Her original Royal Navy badge can be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne drydock.[5]

Now used as a museum ship, Somerset 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 that served in the South African Naval Forces



  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
image icon 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. ^ "HMS Barcross (Z 185) of the Royal Navy - British Boom defence vessel of the Bar class - Allied Warships of WWII -".
  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.

Coordinates: 33°54′30″S 18°25′03″E / 33.908426°S 18.417621°E / -33.908426; 18.417621