There were thirteen ships made available to Britain and bareboat charted by the Ministry of War Transport, assuming `EMPIRE' names on their completion. They were fitted out as military transports (Landing Ships, Military (Large)) and all were in readiness for the Normandy invasion.
They had troop decks to take about 1,500 men and were ballested with concrete, they were never intended to carry cargo. Equipped with 18 LCA's (Landing Assault Craft) with nine on each side they were well fitted. Armament consisted of one 4 inch, one 12 pounder, twelve 20mm AA guns, 4.7 inch guns forward and aft and smoke making apparatus.
Based upon the American C3 Victory ships and designated `Weapon' class, they were powered by turbine engines with a top speed of 18 knots. It was said they were probably one of the best secrets of the war.
The crews of the `Weapon' class signed COMNO articles (Central Office Merchant Navy Organisation). COMNO was responsible for manning all the ships in the invasion and ensuring they were kept manned. Every seaman signing COMNO articles was a volunteer, hence it became known as the `V' scheme.
During 1944-45 nine of the ships were transferred to the Royal Navy and given names of British Derby winning horses (between 1877 and 1924). The ROCKSAND, SAINFOIN, SANSOVINO, SEFTON and SILVIO all went to the Far East, attached to the East Indies fleet.
When returned to the United States after the war, some retained their EMPIRE nomenclature.
Lloyds Registers 1944 to 1965
Imperial War Museum
Guildhall Library, London
The Empire Ships - Mitchell & Sawyer