A Short History of HMS St Christopher

World War II

Between October 1940 and December 1944 HMS St CHRISTOPHER was recommissioned; this time as a Coastal Forces Training Base in and around Fort William. Although it only existed for a short time, its impact on the area was significant and long lasting. Indeed, some of the buildings it used can still be seen today in something approaching their original condition.

First commanded by Commander A.E.P. Welman, the base trained the crews of a variety of inshore patrol craft. There was also a large Admiralty Floating Dock (A.F.D.) moored in Loch Linnhe.

HMS St Christopher was apparently felt not to be important enough to merit its own ships badge but according to local people, an unofficial badge bore a striking resemblance to a traditional St. Christopher charm medallion. While there does not seem to be any record of what it looked like, the Lochaber Sea Cadet Unit (T.S. St CHRISTOPHER) uses a cast Aluminium version made in the 1950's by a teacher in the local high school and the British Aluminium Company. There is also a carved wooden plaque which can be seen in St Andrews Episcopal Church in Fort William. The church was used as the naval church during the Second World War. Other assertions have been made that the badge comprised a capital letter ‘C’ with a smaller capital ‘R’ inscribed within it on a red background. It would be really good if we could find out what the badge really looked like.

A number of courses were run at the establishment, most of which lasted a couple of weeks. For example, the torpedo course ran over two weeks during which trainees had to fire two practice torpedoes from two Motor Torpedo Boats. Students arrived and left each Friday night by train from Glasgow. In all, it is estimated that some 55,000 personnel of various nationalities passed through the base during its four years of operation.

Somewhat alarmingly, either a Westland Lysander or a Blackburn Skua 'would fly over to provide a gunnery target'. Where these aircraft were based and what they did, exactly is not known but they may have used a grass airstrip at Lochyside, a mile or so north of Fort William.

Plaque that used to hang in St Andrews Church, Fort William.

Hymn book at St Andrew’s Church with “St Christopher” stamped inside cover.