Letters to the Editor from the June 2015 issue

From: Dick Gorter, Netherlands – Author of ‘Nederlandse koopvaardijschepen in beeld’ (Dutch merchantships in Focus)

I would like to comment on the Silver Line article by Norman Middlemiss in Shipping Today of December 2014.

As always is the case with the articles by Norman Middlemiss, I enjoyed reading the story of Silver Line. However I would like to make a comment regarding the Silver Java Pacific Line. In 1915 three Dutch shipping companies, Stoomvaart Maatschappij ‘Nederland’ (Nederland Line), Rotterdamsche Lloyd and Java-China-Japan Lijn started a new service from Java and some other ports in the Far East and the west coast of the USA, which was named ‘Java-Pacific Lijn’. Java-China-Japan Lijn (which would continue in 1947 as Koninklijke Java-China Paketvaart Lijnen (Royal Interocean Lines) after taking over the long distance-lines of Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij) became managers of the new service. As from 1st January 1931 the three Dutch companies and Kerr Line joined forces and continued as ‘Silver Java-Pacific Line’, Kerr using Silver-ships. Summarizing: Java-Pacific Line was not a forebear of Java-China- Japan Line but a joint-venture of three Dutch companies.

From: Tom McLaren, Master Mariner retd., Edinburgh

I read with interest the feature about the Australia Star in the Dec. issue. I was working by a New Zealand Shipping Company vessel loading general cargo in Liverpool and the Australia Star was berthed nearby. She was a fine looking cargo liner. One thing intrigued me about her. Why was a modern vessel fitted with old fashioned luffing type lifeboat davits.

I inquired at the time why this was. I was informed that she was originally planned to have gravity lifeboat davits, but when the owner of Blue Star Line saw that there was not a clear view of the funnel due to the gravity davits and lifeboats obstructing the view of the funnel, the luffing type were fitted.

I could never understand why this was allowed by the Board of Trade, just for aesthetic reasons.

It would be interesting to have Captain Sandy Kinghorn’s comments on the above.

From: Nick O’Nion, by e-mail

Reading David Aris letter in December’s edition he mentions Paul Kemp’s book, Convoy. I was lucky enough to purchase a copy of this in a discount book store in Dover six years ago. When I was eighteen I started work in Tilbury Dock for a Stevedores, Metropolitan Terminals Ltd., long since gone. The boss there was a Captain M.S. Work, who was an Orcadian, and was serving with the Blue Funnel Line pre-war and an RNR officer. During the war he served with Escort Groups, and on page 215 he’s named as in command of the Bamborough Castle attacking U387. Captain M.S. Work DSC, RNR. retired to the Orkney Islands, and I understand that he died about six years ago and was over 100 years of age. It brought back memories of London Docks full of ships, and weekends on Tilbury Landing Stage photographing passing ships.

From: Gerard Thirion, Macon, France

Many thanks for the good article by Norman Middlemiss concerning Campana in the November issue. In front of this there is a little error. The funnel colours of SGTM vessels was black with a broad red band. In the photos of Campana it does not appear because the bottoms of the funnels are not visible due to the double- banked lifeboats.

In addition, after 1950, the funnel was adorned with a shield representing the SGTM house flag, but I don’t think Campana had that because, at that time, she was chartered to Chargeurs Reunis on Indo-China services and bore their funnel colours.

From: Don Jones, Cowes, Isle of Wight

I would refer to Norman Middlemiss’ Forgotten Fleets article, detailing the South American Saint Line, which appeared in the October 2014 issue. In the article reference is made to the loss of the SS Shakespear, owned by the Shakespear Shipping Co. Ltd. and it appears that an error has crept in. It states that the vessel was torpedoed, but she was in fact sunk by gun fire.

I thought the following would be of interest to your readers. A submarine was sighted fine on the starboard bow at 0700hrs on the morning of the 5th January 1941 and the master Capt Charles Bailey immediately altered course to bring the submarine astern. At approx. 0730hrs the submarine opened fire, the very first shell hitting the mainmast and bringing down the main wireless aerial. My father Percy Jones was 3rd officer on board and was in charge of the gun crew allotted to the 4 inch gun fitted on the poop. A gun battle continued for some 2 hours before ‘the enemy at very close range scored a direct hit on the gun, killing or injuring all of the gun crew’.

Shipwrecked Mariners Xmas

The master gave orders to surrender and under continued gun fire from the submarine the surviving crew abandoned ship. The submarine continued to shell the vessel and my father records that the last time he saw the ship, she ‘appeared to be full of shell holes, was on fire amidships and was settling by the stern’.

After 5 hours drifting in the waterlogged life boats, the submarine reappeared and to cut short a long story the submarine which was the Italian Cappellini (commanded by Salvatore Todaro) put the surviving crew of the SS Shakespear ashore on Sal Island, one of the Cape Verde Islands.

I note that reference is made to the Shakespear Shipping Co. being purchased by the South American Saint Line during the war. At the time of her loss, the SS Shakespear was being managed by Glover Brothers (London) Ltd., who had been managers on behalf of Shakespear Shipping throughout the 1930s.

From: Derek McCallum, by e-mail

Re the excellent article about Texaco Tankers by Norman Middlemiss, a small addition to that re the Ohio is that she was on loan to the Ministry of War Transport who placed her under Eagle Oil management, Capt. D. W. Mason master.

She started off with 13,000 tons of cargo and finally discharged 11,000 tons in Malta. Capt. Mason received the George Cross and the chief engineer J. Wyld, the D.S.O. Thanks for an excellent magazine.

From: Capt. J. Main, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

You may recall that you published an article by me “A look back to the 40’s” in Shipping Today and Yesterday in 2007/8 on the Blue Funnel round the world service on “Agamemnon”, for which I was very pleased.

I have been a contributor to the magazine since then and must congratulate you on your article “Blue Funnel and Glen Line” in the November 2014 issue, it was really excellent.

I was with Blue Funnel and Glen Line for more than 30 years starting as a Mid Shipman on 1943 until the end of 1956 as Chief Officer, when I was appointed as Assistant Wharf Manager at Holt’s Wharf, Kowloon, Hong Kong. I became Wharf Manager in 1970.

The wharf was sold for further development and I handed it over to the new owners at the end of 1972, and I returned to UK early in 1973.

I then spent several years with Offshore Marine (a subsidiary of Cunard) and finally spent some 10 years as a lecturer in Nautical Studies at the local college in Fraserburgh, retiring at the age of 65 in 1991.

I enjoy the magazine very much.

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