We would like to thank Sea Breezes for permission to reproduce these articles
This instalment of the Lamport and Holt fleet story covers the period from June 1941 until the end of the Second World War, and puts on record some more of the heroism and hardships suffered by seagoing personnel as the result of enemy action.
The Lamport and Holt Fleet
an history by P. M. Heaton
1941 – 1945
THE Phidias, was the next loss, under the command of Capt E. Parks. She was intercepted by a German submarine in the North Atlantic on June 8,1941, which opened fire on the surface, and after a chase she discharged a torpedo which sank the Phidias, with the loss of eight of her crew of 51.
The Balzac was the next of the fleet to be lost to the enemy, on June 22, 1941, and the following extract is taken from "The Secret Raiders", by David Woodward.
"On June 22, 1941, a ship was sighted from the German raider Atlantis at dawn. As the light improved she was seen to be a medium-sized armed vessel, towards which the Atlantis steered a collision course. Rogge (master of the Atlantis) opened fire at about 9,000 yards and the enemy, made RRR with her radio, which the Atlantis successfully jammed."
"Then the British ship began zig- zagging and, handled very skilfully, presented the smallest possible target to her enemy. After 40 salvoes - 190 rounds - had been fired by the Germans, only four hits had been made, and the forward 5.9 in. battery as well as the No.5 gun broke down, owing to a defect in the recoil mechanisms. The guns were cooled with sea water and partly manhandled into position, while Rogge turned to bring the disengaged battery, on the other side of his ship, into action. As this was being done the enemy stopped and lowered her boats. She was the Balzac of 5,372 tons, from Rangoon to Liverpool with 4,200 tons of rice. Of her crew of forty-seven, four were killed."
"In the long running fight the Balzac had had plenty of time to have got her RRR through and it was accordingly necessary for the Atlantis to disappear from the West side of the South Atlantic".
The 43 survivors from the Balzac were taken prisoner, and eventually arrived in Germany where they were to remain for the rest of the war.
It had been a gallant effort by the Balzac to escape from the raider, but owing to her slow speed it was impossible, but she had still forced the raider to use valuable ammunition, and caused her to change her area of patrol.
The Biela, under the command of Capt D. Anderson, left Liverpool on January 31, 1942, for Buenos Aires. On February 14, the steamer Start Point picked up a distress call indicating that the Biela was being attacked by a submarine about 400 miles South West of Cape Race. Nothing more was ever heard of the Biela or her crew of 49, and it was assumed that she had succumbed to a submarine attack, which she tried to fight off.
The Willimantic, a steamer built in the United States in the First World War, was managed by Lamport and Holt, on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport. She was on passage Capetown for Charleston, U.S.A., under the command of Capt Everett, when she was attacked by a submarine. At the time her chief officer was M. Delaney, and second officer, B. M. Metcalf. The following is the latter's account of the loss:
"On June 24, 1942, at 0345 hours we were suddenly attacked by a submarine in position 26N 54W, which opened fire on the surface. First she blew away the wireless room and after end of the chartroom, killing the two radio officers. The next shot blew away the 3.5 in. gun on the poop. I was officer on the watch at this time, and the captain tried to keep the submarine astern, but this was difficult because the submarine could not be seen in the darkness, except when she fired her armament. Eventually the ship caught fire amidships, and with shrapnel flying about Capt Everett ordered abandon ship.”
"The two starboard boats were launched successfully, but the other two were never launched, as a hit was recorded on them whilst they were attempting to put them in the water, killing the third officer, M. Hartley, and an A.B., another A.B. being wounded in the ear.”
"Capt Everett was taken aboard the submarine as a prisoner, and the submarine commander then furnished Mr. Metcalf with a chart, and having apologised for the sinking of their ship and the deaths of their shipmates, the submarine set off on a North Easterly course, evidently having been on patrol for some time, and being out of torpedoes.”
"After spreading the boat cover as an awning and rigging up another jury sail, I discussed with the chief officer in the other boat as to his intentions. He decided to steer due West and make for the American coast. I had already decided to make .for Antigua, SSW 800 miles, as I thought trying to cross the Gulf Stream was impractical. Mine had the advantage of fair winds and current and estimated I would make it in 10 days. He also was of the opinion that they had a better chance of being picked up. I didn't, knowing that in war time ships were routed well away from shipping lanes. After a short discussion I set course SSW and he to the West, but after a while he altered course to the South. We waited until nightfall for him to catch up as he was a few miles behind.” (The chief officer’s boat landed at St. Kitts, British West Indies, 12 days later).
"When darkness fell I decided to carry on. My next day's noon position showed that we were making 3 knots, and were still on course. We steered by compass during the day and the stars by night. The sail was a dipping lug only, but we fitted an extra jury sail which helped a lot. The wounded A.B. was attended to, having a piece of shrapnel in his left ear; this was subsequently removed a fortnight later in hospital at Rio de Janeiro.”
"During the boat passage I rationed the men to 1/8 pint of water daily and one meal consisting of corned beef mixed with crushed biscuit, all we had. During the day the men were kept under cover as much as possible, and wet themselves frequently with sea water, in an effort to keep cool.”
"On the sixth day in the boat, at about 1000 hours we sighted a ship, and having set off flares, noted that the ship was signalling by Aldis - 'Proceeding to pick you up', and altered course towards us. The sail was then taken down, and we went alongside in a seamanlike manner, where having boarded, discovered that she was the Norwegian Tamerlane, and at first found my legs to be terribly weak after the boat passage. I was greeted by a stewardess who hugged me, and was weeping profusely. Having reported to the master, Capt Kraft, I informed him as to the other boat, which I estimated to be 20 miles or so to the NNE; he agreed to alter course to search for it, but after a while received a message to the effect that there were submarines in the vicinity, and he had to abandon the search."
After seven days they were landed at Rio de Janeiro, and subsequently came home aboard the Royal Mail liner Highland Monarch.
The next loss was the Bruyere on September 23, 1942, when homeward bound from Buenos Aires; she was torpedoed in the approaches to Freetown, fortunately without loss of life. The crew landed at Freetown in the ship's boat. The following day, the Defoe, which was only two years old caught fire after an explosion had occurred aboard, which was not directly due to enemy action, the bow being blown off up to the foremast. She was abandoned, and sank shortly after. At the time she had been on a voyage from Manchester to Famagusta with drums of liquid chlorine and aeroplane varnish.
The following month the Laplace was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine on October 29, off the South East African coast, while homeward bound from India. The entire crew survived.
The Browning was the next vessel of the fleet to be lost, and I am grateful to Capt Metcalf for the following details.
The Browning under the command of Capt I. Sweeney, sailed from Liverpool, light ship for Barrow, in the early hours of October, 1 or 2, 1942, following extensive repairs in consequence of grounding along with four or five other vessels in convoy, at Belfast Lough a few months earlier.
At Barrow, she loaded a full military cargo, consisting mainly of ammunition (high explosive shells), tanks, four bulldozers on deck, a large quantity of cased petrol and oil in No. 1 lower hold, and about 100 tons of gelignite and shell fuses in No. 1 'tween deck. Her ballast tanks were thoroughly cleansed and treated, then filled with fresh water.
She eventually sailed from Barrow under sealed orders towards the end of October, joining up with the Liverpool section of a convoy at Liverpool Bay, and later with the Scottish section off Northern Ireland. Altogether there were between 50 and 60 ships, Capt Sweeney of the Browning being the Vice- Commodore.
On clearing Northern Ireland, evasive and zig-zag SSW'ly courses were steered under a normal naval escort. The weather being reasonable, a good tight formation was kept, no enemy being sighted, although some occasional depth charging was carried out by the escort, reminding all to be on the alert.
One incident occurred when the chief engineer reported a fracture of about 18 in. in the main intake pipe adjacent to the sea valve, which could be aggravated and prove disastrous in the event of heavy weather and/or extensive depth charging. I was ordered to see if anything could be done, and reported my findings. Whereupon I was told to carry on, and with the assistance of the bosun, carpenter and lamp trimmer, the fractured part of the pipe was paralled round with burlap strips with a mixture of Stockholm tar and red lead powder, then served tightly round with a 1 in. wire, and the whole thing was covered with a cement box.
Being under sealed orders, conjecture as to our destination was rife. Some large operation was obvious, rumours spreading thick and fast, and the galley wireless' had a rare old time. The captain and I thought North Africa, but when we passed Gibraltar, well to the westward, we gave up surmising. We had steamed about 300 miles southward of the Straits, when we received an Admiralty message to open the sealed orders, and learned that the Allied Command were to land at several points on the North African coast. Our destination, the first, being Oran. The message ended to the effect, that this was the start of the Allied offensive and hopefully the turning point of the war, and a large measure of its success depended on the Merchant Service, in whom the command had the utmost confidence.
When darkness fell that night, the convoy turned and headed for a point West of the Straits, which was reached the following night at about 2200 hours. A course was then set East, and the convoy formed into double lines ahead; which must have stretched for at least 10 miles. We passed Gibraltar like ghost ships at about midnight and by dawn were all well into the Mediterranean. Apart from an enemy aircraft, nothing else was sighted to give concern; nevertheless all were on the alert and the guns were continuously manned.
At 0800 hours on November 11, the convoy being then 60 miles North of Oran, Capt Sweeney was ordered along with the rest of the Oran section to detach from the main convoy and to commodore the section into Oran. Shortly after, we passed close by the well-known passenger ship Viceroy of India just as she sank after being torpedoed earlier.
Later a destroyer hailed the Browning with instructions to proceed into Arzew Bay, as evidently Oran was not yet clear, the French having put up a lot of resistance. The section anchored in the afternoon and the Browning was boarded by a naval officer, who instructed Capt Sweeney to commodore five other ships into Oran the following day.
The six ships weighed anchor at 1100 hours on November 12, and proceeded double line ahead towards Oran. After rounding the point, course was set South for Oran. Shortly after noon we received orders from the escort to form single line ahead; this was in order to narrow the sweep of the minesweeper ahead, as we were approaching the 100 -fathom line.
We were about 12 miles from Oran, when at about 1300 hrs. there was a violent explosion forward, and the Browning shuddered violently, a sheet of flame shot up skywards, and peering through the pall of heavy smoke I could see that the foredeck was aflame, the fore topmast was hanging like a donkey's hind leg, the lower mast leaning at a crazy angle to which was attached the 50-ton heavy lift derrick; one bulldozer had gone over the side to port, and the one on the starboard side was hanging over side lashings which had either carried away. The fore end of the wheel-house was blown in against the steering wheel, the helmsman, fortunately, unhurt, was still standing at his post.
The Browning was settling fast by the head, and the order was given to abandon ship, whereupon we launched the life- boats, and in an effort to clear the ship, with the danger of her cargo exploding, we double banked oars. Later being picked up by a corvette, we had left the Browning about 20 minutes, when she being well down by the head, there was a heavy explosion, probably from No. 2 hold, but still the olld ship stood firm, then followed another, possibly from No. 4 or 5 hold, and finally a third explosion followed after about five minutes by the grandfather of them all, shooting flame and a pall of smoke which ended in a huge ring miles up in the air. The Browning had vanished, literally blown to pieces, parts of which were noted falling into the sea over a wide area.
On making a roll call it was learned that a young deck boy was missing; he had been by No. 1 hatch, when the ship had been hit by the torpedo, and had been blown clean over the side.
Eventually being landed at Oran, they subsequently came home aboard the Empress of Scotland.
Two days after the loss of the Browning, the Lalande was hit and damaged by a submarine torpedo in position 36,08 N. 03.46 W., but survived and made port. On June 18 1943, the Lalande was again damaged, this time by an aircraft bomb, off Cape Espichel, Portugal, but again she was fortunate in making port.
The Delius, homeward bound from India, was attacked by a glider bomb on November 21, 1943, and was badly damaged. As a result she dropped astern of the convoy, and after great efforts by the crew to control the fire aboard, she managed to rejoin the convoy, and subsequently made port. The attack occurred in position 46.46 N. 18.30 W. The following is an account compiled by the carpenter, which was kindly sent me by Mr F. J. Page, who was serving aboard as an A. B. at the time.
"Just before dawn on a Friday morning, we left a West of England port, bound for India, in convoy, and on our first Sunday at sea a man was lost overboard. Nobody saw him fall, and it was not until the ship astern put up the signal "man overboard" that it was noticed that he was missing. Each ship in line threw life-belts to him as they passed, but by the time the escort reached the spot, he had disappeared.”
"From that time onwards it seemed as though we had a hoodoo on board; nothing seemed to go right, even the food went bad as the refrigeration went wrong; however nothing else happened until we got into the Indian Ocean. It was at the end of the monsoon season and the weather was very hot when the chief steward was taken ill; after three days of lingering with this illness, which we took to be simply the effects of the heat, he appeared on deck at about 5 o'clock in the morning, lay down in a hammock that was stretched on the boat deck, and died. We were all shocked at this, and began to think that it really was an unlucky trip. We buried him at sea, and those readers who have seen a burial at sea, will agree with me when I say, that it was a very solemn occasion. We carried on from there to our port of discharge in India, and there our bad luck showed itself again.
“All hands on board, with very few exceptions, fell ill with malaria or dysentery, or both. We managed to get over it however, and started for home again, wondering what else was in store for us. We were not left waiting long, because we had hardly arrived at the Suez Canal when the chief officer fell ill, and took to his bunk. On arrival at Port Said he was so bad it was decided to put him ashore to hospital. Little did we know that we would not see him again, , for four hours after being admitted to hospital he died.”
"So we left Egypt minus three of our original crew, and fully convinced that fate was not on our side. We safely passed through the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic Ocean. We had barely got clear of Gibraltar however, when a single enemy plane came out, and commenced to circle the convoy, keeping well out of range of our guns. Each night he would go away; but the following morning he was back. The fact that he did not attack us convinced us that he was only acting as a spotter for other planes or submarines. After some days like this, it was noted on one day that the plane was not to be seen, so we decided that this was the day for our final piece of bad luck.
"Sure enough at about 3.15 p.m. the aircraft warnings sounded and we all, took up our action stations. Being the ship's carpenter, I was in the repair party, and so I took up my station with the bosun on the boat deck. About nine planes came out and most of these got through to the convoy. They first attacked a ship that had dropped astern of the convoy a snort distance, owing to some engine trouble; they dropped about ten bombs, of which only one scored a hit, but unfortunately that one was enough to sink her.”
"After this, the Delius, became the target, and as a bomber came towards us from the direction of the stern quarter, a strange thing happened. A small plane appeared to drop from the rear of the bomber, and gathering speed all the time, flew over the top of the bombers, circled and came at us. We were taken completely by surprise, and thought it was an R.A.F. fighter that had come to protect us. However, as it appeared to be making straight for us, we decided to take no chances, and our gunners fired at it, and scoring a direct hit, it exploded near the ship.”
"Then it dawned on us that this was Jerry's secret weapon, that we had heard rumours about, and was called a "shelic bomb". The advantage of this new bomb for the enemy, is that the parent plane can keep out of range of our guns, and direct his shelic bomb by radio control to whichever target he wishes. This he did to us, after we exploded the first bomb. He flew past and went towards another ship, launched his bomb, which turned around and came back at us.
"As I said earlier, I was on the boat deck with the bosun, and with us was an ordinary seaman, and behind us was a gunner. As I saw the bomb coming I shouted to the others to take cover, and dived for a door leading into the funnel, which was the nearest cover available. I had hardly got there with these two seamen when the bomb landed on the foredeck.”
"I could not move forward or back, but just stood swaying from side to side; the blast hit us from one side then the other, and we saw all kinds of sparks, lumps of wood, metal, and a thick cloud of smoke go past us on the deck. I could not quite realise that we had been hit until I saw that the bosun was badly wounded, and the gunner was staggering around holding his stomach.
"The bosun died while I was with him, and after seeing the gunner was being cared for by the first aid party, I went to the fore deck where the lamp trimmer was trying to put out the fire caused by the bomb when it struck No.3 hold. He was throwing burning bags and pieces of tarpaulin over the side, and after a few minutes we thought that everything was out. Then we saw smoke coming from another hole and we went to investigate, having been joined by other men by this time.
"We discovered that it was just smoke coming along the top of the cargo in the shelter deck, so we commenced to cover up again. As we were doing so Jerry came back again and we all tried to find some hole to crawl into for protection, but he was only taking photographs of his handiwork, so we were all right.”
"We got back amidships to find that besides the bosun, our captain, a steward and an A. B. had been killed while quite a number of others were injured.”
"We sent out a call for a doctor, and shortly afterwards one was transferred aboard. I would like to say here how very good and sympathetic the naval escorts were to us. Every so often a corvette would come as close as possible and ask us if there was anything we needed, and they supplied us with hoses, medical stores, and even cigarettes.”
"That night we discovered that a piece of hot shrapnel had gone down a ventilator to the lower hold and the cotton which was stowed there was on fire. So a few of us stood by all night, pumping water down the ventilator in a vain effort to extinguish the fire. Next morning came the job of burying our dead. I mentioned before how solemn it is to witness a burial at sea. Imagine it as we watched four of our shipmates, one after the other, go into the sea; men who just a few hours earlier had been very much alive."
"Later we took on board three officers from the ship that had been sunk previously; they had volunteered to come on board to help us when they heard that we had only one officer left. And were they a help to us? Right here, I thank God for men like them, who although, they themselves had lost everything when their own ship was sunk, volunteered to go to the help of other comrades who needed help. They cheered us up with their wise- cracks and jokes, and at that time we needed their support, because besides the fire we discovered that the water we were pumping into the hold was lodging on the starboard side of the ship and was giving the ship a very bad list.”
"To make matters worse, a heavy sea came up which held the ship further over. It was so bad that none of us on board thought that she would right herself each time she rolled over. We were expecting her to turn right over, and had that happened not one of us would have been saved. The water in the hold had now penetrated into the steward's stores, entry into which was possible from the main deck.”
"So we started the portable pumps going to try and pump the water away and to right the ship. The trouble was, that the cargo of peanuts in the hold were floating round in the stores kept getting into the sucker of the pump, stopping the water from going out. As a result, at least one of us had to stay down there all the time to keep the suction clear. Some of us were down there at least eight hours at a time. So we carried on for the rest of the voyage, 1,000 miles to go, and the ship on fire with a very serious list to starboard, and with injured men on board.
"At times the ship fell back from the convoy, but eventually managed to catch up and keep her station. The engineers in an effort to save her, drilled holes in the bulkhead between the engine room and No.3 hold, through which they pumped steam to help control the fire.
"In spite of all this we managed to get the ship into a British port. We had no compasses, no degaussing gear, the steering gear was faulty, and two of the six cylinders of the engine were out of action. The ship was steered by the stars at night while making port."
"I would like to point out that the bringing home of this ship from the point where we were bombed was entirely due to the 28-year-old second mate, who was the only officer we had left. On the death of the chief petty officer, he took over the job; and when the captain died, he took over the captain's position in command. It was owing to his endurance and good spirits that we were able to carry on. “
"To give an example, owing to the fact that the dining saloon was wrecked the officers and engineers had to take their meals in the P.O.'s mess, and the table was only meant for six men. Imagine the sight of 18 men eating in there. It was a common sight to see the officer in command of the ship, sitting on the deck with his plate on his knees, while apprentices and junior engineers were sitting at the table.”
"We moored at the salvage berth and the salvage and National Fire Service personnel came on board to take over the job from us. It was a relief to us, because for the whole five-and-a-half days we were trying to control the fire, some of us had had no more than five hours sleep per day. We were much amused when the N.F.S. sealed up the stores where we had spent so many hours, because, they said there was a danger of fumes from the peanuts going bad.
"Our injured went to hospital, together with men suffering from shock. Two men died in hospital from their injuries, making a total loss of personnel of nine men including the three prior to the bombing attack.”
“Our three friends, the officers from the ship that had sunk, left for their homes, and sent us a telegram with best wishes, adding, 'never were so many peanuts eaten by so few'. It took over a week to get the fire aboard the ship under control, and it was 10 days before we finally docked at Glasgow."
As a result of this ordeal, and for their actions in bringing the Delius home, a number of the crew were decorated and commended. A list of such decorations appears elsewhere in these pages.
The last war loss suffered by the company, was the Devis on July 5,1943, when she was the commodore ship of a convoy taking part in the invasion of Sicily. She was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine in position 37.01 N 04.10 E. Although none of the crew were lost, she was carrying a large number of troops, and there was heavy casualties amongst them. Her valuable cargo of tanks and other equipment was a loss in the subsequent action to take Sicily.
On March 6, 1945, the Empire Geraint, managed by Lamport and Holt, on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport, and under the command of Capt A. R. Bibby, was torpedoed off Milford Haven, but was subsequently towed into port, repaired, eventually joining the fleet as the Millais, the same year.
After the fall of Poland, three Polish passenger liners were placed under the management of the company, by the Ministry of War Transport, and became troopships, running principally to the Far East and India. These were the Pulaski, of 1912, Kosciuszko, of 1915, and the 14,287-ton Batory, of 1936, which was a fast modern liner. All three kept their Polish crews throughout the war, but carried a Lamport and Holt master as liaison officer.
At the conclusion of hostilities the Batory was handed back to Poland, but the crews of the other two ships refused to be repatriated, and the vessels were placed under the British flag, and their crews signed British articles. They became the Empire Penryn and Empire Helford respectively, and remained under the company's management until they were eventually sold for demolition.
Similar arrangements were in being in respect of a number of other vessels of various nationalities. Two Belgian ships, which were taken over by the Ministry at the end of hostilities, as troopships, becoming the Empire Bure and Empire Test. were also managed for a similar period at the end of the war.
During the entire period of hostilities Lamport and Holt were the Liverpool agents, for the United States Maritime Commission, and handled all their ships using the port.
A number of other ships were managed during the war, including the Empire Ibex of 1918, Empire Franklyn of 1941, Empire Dynasty of 1944, Samana, Samariz, Sainarovsk and Samur, all of 1943, Empire Bardolph of 1943 and Empire Geraint of 1942, previously mentioned. Of these the Empire Geraint joined the fleet, together with the Empire Bardolph, renamed Memling, and the Samariz, after becoming the John J. McGraw, joined Lamports as the Lassell.
Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast, delivered two replacement ,"D" class ships for those lost; they were the Devis in 1944, and Defoe in 1945, both taking the names of the ships they replaced. The service between New York, Brazil and the River Plate, was, during the war years, maintained entirely by chartered neutral tonnage.
The Empire Ibex was lost as the result of a collision with an aircraft carrier on July I, 1943. Abandoned a day later, she sank on July 3, in position 53.36N. 36.16W., under the command of Capt Sweeney, who was in no way responsible for the loss.
A number of other actions took place involving Lamport and Holt ships which are worthy of note. The Sheridan had a number of narrow misses during the war; on one occasion in the North Sea a German plane dropped a bomb so close that it caused a leak in one of the double bottom tanks. The ship carried on, but was eventually dry docked for repairs at Montevideo.
On another occasion, while in a homeward bound convoy from Freetown, a submarine surfaced nearby at night, and fired a torpedo at the Sheridan. which took avoiding action; the torpedo missed her; but unfortunately claimed another ship in the convoy as victim. The Sheridan being somewhat slow, on more than one occasion fell back, being unable to keep up with a convoy, but survived the war in spite of this.
The following report was made to the naval authorities at Bone, in respect of the success of the Delane's A.A. barrage while lying at that port between December 12-17, 1942.
"Under continuous air attacks every night while the Delane was alongside the wharf at Bone, it can definitely be stated that the security of the ship was dependent on the immediate readiness for use of all the machine guns attached to the vessel, namely four Oerlikons, two Marlins and two Hotchkiss. The way they were manned by the naval and military personnel no doubt, together, with the barrage set up by the other vessels in port protected the number of British merchant ships from being damaged by enemy aircraft.”
"On Saturday night and Sunday morning of December 12-13, respectively, eight enemy planes were estimated to have been over the port, five of which were destroyed, three only being claimed by the R.A.F. night fighters, full, credit being given to the Delane for the destruction of the fourth, and part credit for the crashing of the remaining aircraft was also given to the same vessel.”
"On the night of December 13, when the port was again attacked by enemy aircraft, the ack-ack barrage of the ship was so tense that the only visible plane was immediately engaged while making a dive bombing attack on this particular vessel, and the 20 mm. bullets of the Oerlikon gun fitted on the portside the boat deck were seen to pierce the plane, she was unable to recover from the dive and her remnants were observed the following morning on the opposite side of the harbour, amongst civilian property. The position, of where the plane crashed was in a direct line from the Delane, where she was last observed by the gunners."
(signed) E. Evans - Armament Officer.
G. E. Roberts - Master.
The Samarovsk, under the command of Capt D. C. Roberts, while taking part in the Normandy landings, and subsequent supply, claimed a direct hit during this period, parts of the offending plane falling on the deck of the vessel.
During 1943, while crossing the North Atlantic, westbound from London (North about) to New York, the Balfe. encountered bad weather, and being in ballast, a jury staysail was rigged to help the ship steer; an unusual occurrence for a steamer of this period, and one that is worth recording here.
During the period of hostilities a large number of loyal men died whilst serving aboard the company's ships as a result of enemy action. Fifty of the company's officers and ratings were decorated or received official commendations in recognition of their efforts.
A list of these follows:
Barton, H. Chief Officer - M.B.E.
Beattie, J. Chief Engineer - Commended.
Bell, R. C. Ordinary' Seaman - B.E.M.
Bibby, A. R. Captain - O.B.E.
Brazill, L. Radio Officer - Commended.
Byrne, G. F. Captain – O.B.E.
Conlan, R. J. Boatswain - B.E.M.
Crapper, E. G. Second Engineer - Commended
Crowe, J. S. Second Officer - Commended
Davies, V. Chief Steward - B.E.M.
Denson, W. Captain - O.B.E.
Edwards, E. Boatswain - B.E.M.
Filshie, G. Chief Engineer - O.B.E.
Geddes, A. Fourth Engineer - Commended.
George, J. H. Captain - O.B.E.
Gill J. Boatswain – B.E.M.
Griffiths F. A. Chief Officer - Commended.
Hughes, A. Captain - Commended.
Jermyn, E.,L. Chief Officer ~ M.B.E.
Johnstone, J. Junior Engineer - Commended.
Jones, M. Chief Steward - B.E.M.
Large, F. W. Ordinary Seaman - Commended.
Little, J: A. Captain - O.B.E.
Loynds, D. Fifth Engineer - Commended.
MacKellar, A. Captain - Commended.
Major, T. Captain - Commended.
Marshall, G. Chief Officer - O.B.E.
McPherson, D. Third Officer - Commended.
Merrett, G. C. Cook - B.E.M.
Metcalf, B. Chief Officer - Commended.
Nye, K. B. K. Radio Officer - Commended.
Owen, I. Chief Officer ~ M.B.E.
Page, F. J. Able Seaman - B..E.M.
Penhale, J. E. Cadet - Commended.
Philpott, A. R. Carpenter -B.E.M.
Preston, B. Deck Boy - Mentioned in Despatches.
Purton, C. G. Captain - O.B.E.
Reid, J. Carpenter - B.E.M.
Roberts, D.C. Captain - O.B.E.
Roberts, G. E. Captain - O.B.E.
Roberts, M. C. Cadet - Commended.
Rogers, J. A. Lamp trimmer - B.E.M.
Rutherford, W. B. Chief Engineer - M.B.E.
Scott G. Captain - Commended.
Teunon F. G. S. Chief Engineer ~ Commended.
Toy, Chief Steward - Polish Government Award.
Underhill, H. W. Chief Officer - M.B.E.
Watson, A. Captain – O.B.E. and Polish Government Award.
Wood, R. G. Boatswain - B.E.M.
Williams, S. M. Second Officer - Commended.
The managing director of the Lamport and Holt Line during this period had designed a life-boat for use in the company's ships, which was later to be adopted by the Ministry of War Transport, and which provided more than the usual amount of shelter to the boat's occupants. The following is an extract from the "Evening Express" of January 27, 1944.
Life-boat For 55 Saved 84.
A "Lowe" ship's life-boat - of the type constructed to carry fifty-five persons and described by Ministry of War Transport shipping experts as the safest in the world - has brought eighty-four men to safety.
Mr. Francis H. Lowe, Managing Director of the Lamport and Holt Line, Liverpool, inventor of the life-boat, told the "Evening Express" today, that even with eighty-four men aboard the life- boat was by no means near 'a sinking condition'.
This life-boat, which will soon be part of the equipment of all British and Allied merchant ships, had to be launched against a head sea when a British ship was sunk.
The boat was launched much more easily than was expected in such a sea and then came the problem of taking off the crew, eighty-four in a boat built for fifty- five seemed to be asking even too much of the latest life-boat. But they got in and although cramped and uncomfortable, their extra weight did not adversely affect the sea worthiness of the life-boat.
Some hours later a British destroyer spotted the boat and took the men aboard.
Mr. Lowe spent three years in experimenting before the first boat was finally ready for Ministry of War Transport tests.
He personally bore all expenses - and today stated that he has given the life- boat's secrets to Britain and her Allies.
"I have not taken out any patent rights and do not intend doing so", he said. "When something is produced which will save life at sea I think it should be available to all men".