(Source: P.M. Heaton, Sea Breezes, 1977)

We would like to thank Sea Breezes for permission to reproduce these articles

The post-war developments in the Lamport and Holt Line, as a member of the Vestey Group of companies, are recorded in this instalment of the company's history.

The Lamport and Holt Fleet

an history by P. M. Heaton

Part VI


June 1944, saw the Lamport and Holt Line coming under the control of the Vestey Group, and a new management was formed, only Mr. Lowe, of the former directors remaining with the company. He became the first general manager under Vestey ownership, a position he held until his retirement in1952, although he continued as director until his death in 1975.

The following headline appeared in a newspaper at the time:

25 shillings in Cash for Lamport's

"A surprising turn in the Lamport and Holt situation is an entirely new bid for the shares from a different quarter.

"Today the directors of Lamport and Holt announce that they have received an offer from the Blue Star Line on behalf of Frederick Leyland and Co. Ltd., of 25s. per 6s.8d. unit for the stock of the company, payable n cash.

"The offer is subject to acceptance by stockholders holding a minimum of 75 per cent the stock of the company.

"Full details and forms of acceptance will be circulated to stockholders as soon as printing can be completed. The directors of Lamport and Holt will recommend stockholders to accept.

"Blue Star Meat Interests: Today's announcement follows a day of sharp fluctuations in Lamport and Holt Line units. On the United Molasses statement that that company would not renew or improve on its previous bid of cash and shares amounting nominally, to 23s. 6d., the price of Lamport's opened 1s.3d.downat 18s.6d. and fell to 17s. 6d. But there was not much selling, and the price rallied during the day on a turnover of about 25,000 shares reaching 19s. 3d. when the "house" closed at 3 o'clock. In later dealings the price was reported to be more than 20s.

"The Blue Star Line, which manages Frederick Leyland and Co. Ltd., is associated with the Vestey meat interests and Union Cold Storage Co. Ltd. Lamport and Holt Line was formed from the assets of the old Lamport and Holt Ltd. in 1934, when the present directors took charge, since when the company has prospered and the 6s. 8d. units have risen from about 3s. at that time, until now holders are offered 25s."

At the conclusion of the war Lamport and Holt owned nine ships, as follows: the Balfe (1919), Sheridan (1918), Lalande (1920), Leighton (1921) and the five surviving "D" class ships, including the two replacement vessels built towards the end of the war to replace earlier losses, Delane, Delius, Debrett, Devis (2) and Defoe (2).

In addition there were four troopships being managed by the company, together with a number of cargo ships yet to be returned to the U.S.A. or Ministry of War Transport.

The first acquisitions after the war were two steamers of 7,000 gross tons from the Ministry of War Transport, the Empire Bardolph and Empire Geraint which became the Memling and Millais respectively, both useful ships having a limited amount of refrigerated space. During 1945 three of the "D" class, the Debrett, Devis and Defoe were returned to the Belfast yard of their builders, Harland and Wolff Ltd. for part of their cargo space to be converted for the carriage of refrigerated cargo.

The following year two more ships were added to the fleet. One was the large Empire Haig, whose management had just been transferred to Lamport and Holt from Ellerman’s; she was bought and renamed Dryden, most useful ship of almost 10,000 gross tons. The second vessel acquired was the Celtic Star the first transfer from the parent company, instances of which were commonplace from then onwards.

Celtic Star

The Celtic Star had been built as the Empire Galahad in 1942 and after four years under the management of Blue Star, she was bought outright by them in 1946, renamed, and within months, was transferred to Lamport and Holt, becoming their Murillo (2).

The same year saw the disposal of the Leighton after 25 years in the fleet. She was sold to Smith and Houston of Port Glasgow on August 28, for breaking up, but in the event she was scuttled in the North Atlantic with a gas bomb cargo in 1947.

A significant event in 1946 occurred when the Vestey Group gained control of the Booth Steamship Co. Ltd., also of Liverpool. Both Booth and Lamport and Holt retained their own offices, staff – both seagoing and Shore-side – and their own ships.

In 1947 the sale took place of the Sheridan, of 1918, to the Alexandria Navigation Company, for whom she became Star of Cairo, and in 1950 became the Ocean Endeavour under the Pakistan flag. She survived until broken up in 1963, but the name was not to be left out of the fleet for many months as a second Sheridan was soon acquired, having been built in the United States in 1945 as the Hickory Glen and after two years lease-lend to Britain, was bought by Lamport and Holt.

Of 3, 827 gross tons, she was employed on the New York to South America service, which was at this time being principally maintained with chartered tonnage.

The ‘Liberty’ ship John J. McGraw (ex-Sanmarlz) was bought in this year, becoming the third ship of the fleet to carry the name Lassell. In an effort to reinforce the New York service, two fast ‘Victory’ ships were bare-boat-chartered from the Panama Shipping Company, becoming the Villar (ex El Reno Victory) and Vianna (ex-Atlantic City Victory) both built in 1945.

Lassell (3)

El Reno Victory

They were very welcome on the route, and were granted "Packet Boat" status at Buenos Aires. However, after two years they were sold by Panama Shipping; becoming the Bennekom of the Dutch K.N.S.M. Company and the Flandres of Cie Royal Belge Argentina S.A., respectively.

Between 1947 and 1949 three ships were transferred from the Booth fleet, as surplus to requirements on the Amazon service, in place of new and more suitable tonnage. In 1947 the Bernard was the first to be transferred, having been built as the Empire Voice in 1940 and acquired by Booth in 1946. She was renamed Byron by Lamport and Holt.


The following year the Booth Line's Benedict built in 1930 was transferred, becoming the Bronte; and in 1949 the Boniface, of 1928, arrived, to be renamed Browning. Both the latter were of just under 5,000 gross tons.


An interesting addition in 1950 was a motorship of 6,334 gross tons, which had been built at the German yard of Bremer Vulken, Vegesack in 1935, as the Dusseldorf for the Norddeutseuer Lloyd. On Christmas Day, 1939, she was captured off the Chilean Coast by H.M.S. Despatch.

Placed under the Ministry of War Transport, as the Poland early the following year, she was renamed almost immediately Empire Confidence. In 1946 she was bare-boat chartered to the Alexandria Navigation Company and given the name Sta of El Nil. Lamport and Holt renamed her Spenser and placed her on the service between New York and the River Plate, via Brazil.


The same year saw the disposal of the Balfe, after 31 years service in the fleet. She was sold to Ali A. Hoborby, who placed her management in the hands of J. Norris and Company of Liverpool, becoming the Star of Aden. She was resold twice in 1955 becoming the Sydney Breeze and then Golden Beta, registered at Hong Kong. She was eventually delivered to the breakers at Osaka on February 1, 1959, after a useful career of 40 years. The Bronte after only two years in the fleet was sold and became the Muzaffer under the Turkish flag.

On December 29, 1950, the Lalande (2) of 1920, after 39 years service with Lamport and Holt, was sold, becoming the Cristina Maria G under the Italian flag, two years later passing to Panama as the Cristina Maria, and finally arriving at Hamburg on August 8, 1959, for breaking up.

Also disposed of was the Browning in 1951, after two years' service, going to Panamanian flag owners as the Sannicola, and resold later the same year becoming the Mizuho Maru under the Japanese flag. She sailed as such until February 28, 1961, when she arrived at Mukaishima to be broken up.

Transferred from the Booth Line during 1950 was the modern steamer Dunstan, dating from 1948, when she was completed by Wm. Pickersgill and Sons, Ltd., Sunderland, of 2,993 gross tons. She became the Sallust (2) and was for service mainly on the New York service to South America.

Another arrival from Blue Star was the "Liberty" ship Pacific Star, built in 1944, as the Samnid. On lease-lend to Britain for two years, her management was allocated to Blue Star, and she was bought outright by them m 1946. In the Lamport fleet she became the Lalande, third steamer in the fleet to be so named, the previous holder of the name having been disposed of a matter of months previously.

She too, after a short period was sold to Soc. Anon. Importazione Carbon e Nav., of Italy, and renamed Ninfea. In 1959 she passed to the Chinese flag, as the Nan Hai 147, and as such is still listed in Lloyd's Register.

Following the incorporation of both Lamport and Holt Line and the Booth Steamship Co. Ltd in the Vestey Group, at the end of the war, a heavy rebuilding programme was commenced in respect of both the Blue Star Line and Booth, and for the next few years as these vessels were completed, all surplus tonnage was either sold out of the group or transferred to Lamport and Holt, as something of a stop gap for them.

However, during 1952, the long- awaited new ships for the Lamport and Holt Line began to arrive. During this year two new steamers and a motorship were delivered to their order. The Romney, a turbine steamer of 8,237 gross tons, built by Cammell Laird and Co. Ltd., Birkenhead, became the company's flagship, and there was the similar Raeburn from Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast, both for service between the United Kingdom and Brazil and the River Plate.



The motorship was the smaller Siddons of4,459 gross tons, delivered by Wm. Pickersgill and Sons, Ltd., of Sunderland, for service on the trade between New York and Brazil and the River Plate.


In addition a small motorship was bareboat-chartered from the Panama Shipping Company. This was the recently completed Vamos, of 1,090 gross tons, for the trade from New York, but she was rarely to go further South than North Brazil. A further ‘Liberty’ ship was also transferred from the Blue Star Line , having been completed in 1944 as Samannan and managed until 1946 by Blue Star. Bought outright, she was renamed Oregon Star the following year. In the Lamport fleet she became the Laplace.

During the year two ‘M’ class ships were disposed of, the Millais (2) being transferred to Blue Star, becoming their Oregan Star, something of a swap with the vessel of the same name previously described. But it should be mentioned, that the Ship transferred from Lamport's to Blue Star, had part refrigerated space, whereas that transferred the other way had none.

The Murillo (2) was sold out of the group, going to the Italian flag as the Bogliasco. In 1963 she was renamed Ocean Peace, trading under the Panamanian flag, finally arriving at Kaohsuing on September 13, 1967, to be broken up. Also transferred was the Dryden (3), which became the Fremantle Star, and in 1958 the Catalina Star. Five years later she was to return to the Lamport and Holt Line.

A further "R' class ship, the Raphael, was delivered in 1953, designed for the U.K. - South American trade. A motorship of 7,971 gross tons, delivered by Bartram and Sons, Ltd., Sunderland, she was the fastest ship launched at that yard, up to that date, achieving 17˝ knots on her trials.

Transferred from Blue Star during this year was the Columbia Star dating from 1939, which became the fourth Dryden. Sold to Panamanian- flag operators was the "Liberty", ship Laplace (3) after one year in the fleet; she became the San Panteleimon, trading as such until April 20, 1967, when she arrived at Yokosuka for breaking up. Transferred to Blue Star was the Memring (3) which became the Vancouver Star, for service on the Blue Star Line trade from Liverpool and Glasgow to the North Pacific coast ports of the U.S.A., a trade in which a number of Lamport and Holt ships were to be involved, having been bareboat or time-chartered, or sold to Blue Star for the purpose.

This interest greatly increased with the acquisition of the Donaldson Line’s share of the trade, and Lamport and Holt were the agents for all these ships operating from Liverpool.

During the preceding few years, three ships with the initial "B" were disposed of (described above) and there being only one left, the Byron, she was renamed Lalande (4) to bring her into line with other units of the fleet.

The following figures give some idea of the size of the fleet over the years up until 1953:

 Year                  No. of Ships        Total Gross Tons
 1875  31  48,236
 1888  50  93,331
 1890  59  109,493
 1894  49  100,731
 1914  36  198,992
 1924  50  322,857
 1936  21  144,062
 1939  21  141,003
 1945  9  65,396
 1953  16  105,970
As can be seen the fleet had made a good recovery by 1953, and was approaching the strength at which it had entered the war in 1939. Another interesting point revealed is that the number of ships owned in 1953, as compared with the 1890s had dropped to less than a third, while the tonnage overall, in 60 years had been maintained with the increased size of individual ships.

The year 1953 is a good one to study the breakdown of the fleet into trades and groups of ships. There were still five "D" class ships, three of which had refrigerated space, and the Dryden which was also so equipped; two "L" class and three modern "R" class ships, all dry cargo ships.


Of these most were engaged on the United Kingdom to Brazil and River Plate trades, although occasionally over the previous few years, a "D class ship was to be seen in New Zealand, having been time-chartered by the outward conference lines to New Zealand, and loading homewards on the Blue Star's berth. On rare occasions an "R" class ship was to be seen loading at a West Coast of U.S.A. port for Liverpool. Of the five remaining, four bore "S" names, although all were entirely different, trading on the New York service to Brazil and River Plate.

In addition there was the bareboat- chartered Vamos employed between New York and North Brazilian ports. This vessel's management was to change on a number of occasions during her career, between Lamport and Booth, but she remained on this trade throughout.

On December 24, 1953, an interesting event occurred when the motorship Rampart (863 gross tons) departed from Liverpool, on timecharter to Lamport and Holt. It marked the inauguration of a direct service between the United Kingdom and the Paraguayan port of Asuncion by Lamport and Holt. This voyage, lasting 77 days, was under the command of Capt. W. D. Pargeter, of Ary Shipping Ltd., the Rampart's owners.

Arriving at the Paraguayan capital on January 22, 1954, she was believed to be the first British ship ever to reach the port, no records being in existence of any other visit. After discharging general cargo mainly consumer goods ranging from cosmetics, shoe polish and spirits, together with machinery and spares for Paraguayan export industries, she loaded tinned meats homewards leaving Asuncion on January 30. So successful was this .venture that more tonnage was chartered and a regular service commenced, subject to the levels of the Rivers Parana and Paraguay, which are most difficult to navigate, no lights or buoys marking the channel. Eventually two ships were acquired for this trade.

A further vessel was acquired for the New York service in 1954, when the Sargent joined the fleet from Booth, having been on bareboat charter to them since 1946 from the Panama Shipping Company, having traded as the Jutahay. She was built in 1945 by Walter Butler Ship- builders, Inc., Duluth. Of 3,843 gross tons, she was launched as Frank J. Petrarca and completed as the Roband Hitch. It is interesting to note that Lamport and Holt registered her at Port of Spain, Trinidad, for the eight years that she remained in the fleet.

An interesting transaction took place in this year when the Vestey Group bought the refrigerated ship Mosdale (3,022 gross tons) from A/S Mosvold Shipping, Norway. She had traded for them since her completion by Burmeister and Wain, Copenhagan in 1939. At first she was placed under the ownership of Blue Star, as the Albion Star, but this was quickly changed and she became the Balzac for the Lamport and Holt Line.

She was to trade almost entirely with bananas from Santos to the United Kingdom, or on time-charter to Geest Industries, on their run from Dominica to Preston, and occasionally Barry. In 1955 an almost identical vessel built a year earlier at the same yard for Cie Generale d' Armement Maritime, France, as the Barfleur, joined the fleet, becoming the Boswell. Both were good-looking ships with their white hulls and blue boot topping.

Blue Star were rapidly expanding their fleet engaged on the trade from Liverpool and Glasgow to the North Pacific coast ports the United States, and during 1954 and 1955 all five "D" class ships were transferred to them, the Delius becoming the Portland Star; Delane - Seattle Star, Defoe - Geelong Star, and the following year Debrett - Washington Star and Devis - Oakland Star. In 1956 the Debrett and Devis reverted back to Lamport and Holt and their old names.

During 1955 the service from New York as far South as the River Plate was discontinued, and the remaining vessels transferred back to the United Kingdom or employed from New York to the West Indies, North Brazil and the Amazon. Close ties were established between them and the Booth Line ships so employed, and they began to run in conjunction.

At about this time an interest was taken in a service from Montreal to the West Indies and Georgetown. In the event the Siddons (3) and Spenser (3) were transferred to the U.K., where they were renamed Rubens and Roscoe respectively, falling in with the "R" class vessels on this route. These two ships mostly traded to Brazilian ports, their size being particularly useful at small coffee and timber ports.

Although small vessels continued to be chartered for the Asuncion service, two such ships were acquired by the company, the Verdi of 571 gross tons in 1955 from a Dutch operator, having been completed as the Hermes the previous year; and the Virgil in 1956; having been launched as the Manstead, she was completed for the Panama Shipping Company and bareboat-chartered by Lamport's. She was of only 404 gross tons.

In 1956 the Rossetu, a sister ship of the Rubens (ex-Siddons) was delivered from the Sunderland yard of Wm. Pickersgill and Sons. She too was to trade mostly to Brazilian ports from the U.K., being a particularly useful ship at shallow draft ports.

These ships were transferred from Blue Star in 1957 in addition to the Devis. Having spent four years as the Vancouver Star the Memling (3) returned and reverted to her former name. In addition two other war-built "Empire" ships were transferred. One, the Murillo (3), was built in 1944 by Lithgows, of Port Glasgow as the Empire Talisman for the M.O.W.T. and placed under Blue Star's management. She was bareboat-chartered by them between 1946 and 1949, purchased outright in 1949 and became the Tacoma Star.

(to be concluded)

Go to     Part Seven