From: Alan Dean, The Wirral
Regarding Robert Wyatt’s letter in the March edition and his referral to mysterious name alterations, he may remember when he was 2nd Mate on Elder Dempster’s Fian in the 1970s when I was Purser when the ship was in Apapa. Blue Funnel’s Theseus came in to top up on her voyage from Australia, and left with the name “HMS Donald Duck” and “Go by sea, go ED” painted on her hull.
From: Arnold Gardiner, Belfast
I found your article about the Port of Belfast in the March issue fascinating.
My parents moved to Belfast when I was six (a very long time ago!), and my father went to work at Harland & Wolff, along with my uncle. They told me endless stories of the ‘yardsmen’ and the things they got up to and I believed that, given a fair chance, they could do anything, including building some of the best ships in the world.
Sadly, no ships have been built here for some years and much of the old ‘yard’ is derelict, but the two big cranes and the oil rigs which visit regularly, still dominate the Belfast skyline. Also, many large cruise ships visit us regularly, including the QE2 on her final tour some years ago.
I have been painting for many years and below is my water colour of the QE2 at Belfast.
From: M. W. Richardson, Torpoint, Cornwall
In the April edition you state that the 2,042gt RMS Duisburg was the first large cargo ship to visit Trafford Docks in over 20 years. You are incorrect as this accolade goes to the 4,783gt Arklow Brook of Arklow Shipping, built in 1995 by Appledore Shipbuildingin North Devon.
This was in 2001 and we loaded at Bayonne with a full cargo of maize for discharge at Trafford Park. On discharge we had to ballast the ship so that the fore mast and aft mast were level so that we could pass under the new bridge opposite the Imperial War Museum and turn around in the old docks. Safe to say there had to be no wind. The skipper was Captain Spenser who was a relief captain at the time. It was a very happy ship with a crew at the time of nine.
Thanks for an excellent magazine.
From: John Lane, Leicestershire
The task of escorting merchant ships by the Royal Navy goes back many years but this protection seems to have been neglected, or should I say misapplied, in the early part of WW1. I am sure the RN did its best but it appears in the months of March and April 1917 no less than 62 vessels are listed in your magazine as lost and I suspect that total did not include all of the ships sunk in that period. From what I understand these losses did not start to be seriously reduced until merchant ships sailed in convoys and were properly defended by naval escorts.
It would have been thought after this terrible demonstration that the British Government would have taken steps to ensure we always had an adequate number of suitable escorts on hand ready to protect merchant ships in the event of a conflict when carrying vital products to this country, especially foodstuffs, but they did not. In fact, our government was caught out again at the beginning of WW2 when with a population of about 45 million we did not have enough convoy escorts and had to go cap in hand to the USA to get 50 of their old destroyers (at a price) to help out.
Now with an increased population of about 65.4M and being only about 60% self sufficient, what do we have right at this moment to escort merchant ships bringing food to this country in the event of a conflict or even the threat of one? Well in truth – not much.
Of course food can be brought to these isles through the Channel Tunnel, that is until it is threatened by sabotage which will bring us back again to the faithful merchant vessel
Actually right now to escort the food bearing merchant ships in the event of conflict we have a grand total of nineteen warships consisting of thirteen half-life frigates of which I believe only 8 are fully configured for ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) with the weapons and detection systems. We also have six new destroyers which, the last I heard, were receiving corrective treatment for their unreliable engines.
Now great emphasis is being put on the construction of two great aircraft carriers for which so far there are no aircraft (all of our suitable Harrier VTOL fighters were sold to the USA who currently continue to use the type in front line squadrons) The role of these new ships continues to be somewhat unclear but have no doubt, they will be great status symbols.
All this leads me to wonder, unless our leaders have something special tucked up their sleeves, what on earth are they doing?
From: Clive Spencer, Tauranga, New Zealand
Having, on this dull and drizzly afternoon been browsing through a pile of old magazines, including the January 2016 edition of ST&Y. The feature story ‘Forgotten Fleet’ in this edition was all about Turnbull Scott & Co. Ltd., the well known tramp-ship owners and was most interesting to an ex tramp-ship man like me.
The motor vessels Redgate and Parkgate whose pictures are included, were representatives of a fairly large number of so called Empire ships which were constructed to the order of the Ministry of War Transport, by a variety of British ship-yards towards the end of the Second World War. The main external difference between ships of this type is that some of them had topmasts and some did not. It could, however, be that the topmasts were fitted at the end of hostilities.
I believe that the class of vessel in question was known as the ‘PF Tramp-Ship Type’. Maybe the ‘PF’ stood for prefabricated. The type was fairly prolific with units distributed among quite a few tramp-ship companies., also, some cargo liner companies. From memory I recall that Reardon Smith’s had a couple, the Fresno City and the Great City. Runciman’s had the Brockleymoor, Hain’s owned three, the Trevose, Trevethoe and the Tresillian. I served the first three years of my apprenticeship in the Trevose . She was a comfortable vessel to be in.
An internal feature of these ships were the higher than usual tween-decks. I heard somewhere that this was to facilitate the stowage of military tanks. Confirmation of this and also what the PF stood for would be appreciated. I wonder how many ships of this type were built. It is extremely doubtful whether any survive until the present day.