NOURSE LINE


(Source W.A. Laxon & F.W. Perry.)

By F.J. Waddington. Research: Terry Robins.


Part Two

Nourse Line finally recognised the emergence of steam in May of 1904 when it took delivery of its first steamship, Indus, built by the Scottish yard of Charles Connell. The fact that Nourse Line's primary source of income was the British Government's Crown Agents was not lost on her directors when they chose their funnel colours and design, buff with a black top and red Neptune crown beneath.

INDUS.


WSPL.

Built: 1904 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd., Glasgow.
Tonnage: 3,393 grt, 2,110 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion, 425 NHP by D. Rowan of Glasgow.
Launched on the 28th of April 1904, completed May 1904, Yard No 285.

When in ballast, bound from Calcutta to Bombay for use as an Indian Expeditionary Force transport she was captured by the German Cruiser Emden on the 10th of September 1914. Having taken onboard all her compliment Emden sank her by scuttling and gunfire in position 11 00' N., 83 45'E. Her crew were later transferred to the German collier Markomania.

Nourse Line gradually began to phase out her outdated sailing ships and by 1908 all had either been sold or laid up, the last four, Main, Arno, Ems and Forth were finally sold in 1910. By the outbreak of the First World War Nourse had purchased a further five ships and operated them from Calcutta to the West Indies on a regular monthly service. The ships were heavily mortgaged and to operate them to capacity the company often acted not only as shipowners but also as freight agents purchasing and selling commodities in their own right. The ships were Ganges, third to carry the name, Mutlah, Sutlej, Chenab and Dewa, all save Chenab being built by Charles Connell to Indus's specifications.

GANGES.


Alex Duncan.

Built: 1906 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd., of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 3,475 grt, 2,151 nt, 5,200 dwt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion, 426 NHP, 11.5 knots by D. Rowan & Co. of Glasgow.
Launched on the 9th of March 1906, completed in the May 1906, Yard No 303.

Between the 7th and 31st of August 1914 she was requisitioned for use as a Royal Navy collier and in the September of the same year through until the following January became an Indian Expeditionary Force transport. For periods of 1916/17 she was requisitioned to transport various bulk cargoes including coal, sugar and wheat. From the 6th of January 1918 through to the 19th of April 1919 she came under the Liner Requisition Scheme. Sold out of the fleet in 1928 to F. B. Saunders of London who sold her on the following year to Sea Products of London. She became Seapro in 1930 and served for a further four years before being sold for breaking to T. W. Ward in 1934.

DEWA.


Ambrose Greenway Collection.

Built: 1913 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd., of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 3,802 grt, 2,340 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion, 425 NHP, 11.5 knots by D. Rowan & Co. of Glasgow.
Launched 6th of March 1913, completed April 1913, Yard No 351.

Used as an Indian Expeditionary Force transport in the final four months of 1914. Taken up for use as a collier on the 13th of August 1916 and sunk with a loss of three lives when in ballast on passage Toulon to Port Said by U-43 47 miles east south east of Malta.

Coinciding with the outbreak of war was the termination of the Indentured Labour System to be replaced by that of voluntary recruitment, however any knock on effect to Nourse Lines modus operandi was delayed by the hostilities about to take place worldwide. Although having only a relatively small fleet Nourse Line were to lose two of its ships during the war, Indus and Dewa, both were replaced almost immediately by Megna, purchased off the stocks in 1916 and Betwa, initially designed as a Coolie carrier but later altered to that of a cargo ship and delivered in 1917.

In an attempt to dilute its war risks and maintain its ships numbers Nourse Line along with the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand and the Hain Steamship Company were all purchased by Lord Inchcape's P&O in 1917. Nourse Lines Board of Directors had recommended its shareholders to accept the P&O offer of 21 cash per share plus a further 21 in P&O deferred stock. Those three company's acquisition added a further 107 ships to P&O's fleet and also added their established trading areas and routes laying the foundation for revival and expansion of P&O when the war ended. Nourse Lines operation was left in the very capable hands of its Managing Director, Mr C. A. Hampton and outwardly in appearance it remained as before. Nourse Line continued to expand and added a further two ships to its fleet, both ex German cargo steamers, purchased from the British Government reparation acquisitions, they were renamed Tapti and Hughli.

HUGHLI.


Ambrose Greenway Collection.

Built: 1914 by A.G. Neptun of Rostock, Germany.
Tonnage: 5,232 grt, 3,164 nt, 7,112 dwt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion, 409 NHP by builder, 11 knots.
Launched on the 13th of April 1913, completed July 1913, Yard No 330.

She was originally called Valencia and belonged to the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt AG of Hamburg and was surrendered to the British Government on the 21st of May 1919 and until acquired by Nourse Line was managed by Commonwealth & Dominion. Renamed Hughli on her purchase she continued on her Calcutta-West Indies trade until suffering a fire on the 17th of February 1923 and it was a further four days before it was extinguished in Bermuda where the ship had been forced to make landfall. Sold to Bank Line in 1927 for 27,000 becoming Tinhow. Requisitioned on the 13th of May 1940 for the Liner Division. She formed part of convoy DN 37 which had been bound for Calcutta via Durban and Beira when it had been forced to disperse, when off Lourenco Marques. On the 11th of May 1943, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-181. Of her 78 crew, five gunners and 124 passengers, 25 crew and 50 passengers were lost.

By the early twenties the importance of the carriage of Coolies diminished to be replaced by that of cargoes such as rice and gunnies, gunny is a fabric made from strong course jute fibre more commonly known as sacking, however the company still maintained a return voyage facility for those, by now indentured labour, to return home on leave. The company's Managing Director, Mr C. A. Hampton died in the November of 1922 and was succeeded by Mr C. Hampton. As with all shipping companies the twenties proved to be something of a retrenching period and it wasn't until 1928 that Nourse Line commenced to replace its somewhat aging fleet. Three ships were completed between 1928/30, Saugor, Jumna and yet another Ganges.

SAUGOR

The site would like to express its thanks for the following information sent in by Mr. A. McGregor and Mr. Graham Parsons. Mr. A. McGregor's uncle, Archibald McGregor, a Marine Regiment Bombardier, was attached to Saugor, and lost, when the vessel sank. The Great-uncle of Mr. Graham Parsons, Bombadier Cecil Olivant, was also a gunner onboard at the time of Saugor's sinking.


The Saugor Prewar

Saugor, was commissioned by the James Nourse Line in 1928 and was built in Greenock by Harland and Wolff, Yard No 801GK. She displaced 6,303 tons and her dimensions were 424 ft x 56 ft x 28.8 ft. She could do 12 knots and was powered by a triple expansion steam engine developing 569 N.H.P. Saugor was commissioned for the Liner Division on the 25th of April 1940.

Convoy OS-4

The Saugor was under the command of Captain J.A.A Steele and was bound for Calcutta via the Cape. She had a crew of 58 and was a DEMS, Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship.

The function and duties of the military gunners were to operate the Defence Equipment - in Saugor's case this was a 4.7" breech loading naval gun served by a seven-man crew (Gun Layer, Breech Worker, Rammer, Trainer, Loader, Cartridge Supplier, Sight Setter). Two of the gun crew were Marine Regiment Bombardiers with the remainder Naval ratings. The Saugor would also have carried Hotchkiss machine guns for aerial defence.

This was obviously a very exposed duty as attacking aircraft knew that their greatest danger came from the anti-aircraft gun on board, so the DEMS gunners would have been amongst the first targeted aboard any merchant ship.

The SS Saugor left Oban on 24th August and joined convoy OS4 outward bound from London via Freetown, Cape Town to Calcutta. She had originally been scheduled to depart with an earlier convoy but had been delayed for some unknown reason. She carried a general military cargo, spares and 28 aircraft (Hurricanes) and a ships company of 82.

OS-4 was escorted by the 1700 tonnes HMCS Lulworth, a former US Coastguard sloop (USCG Chelan acquired by the Royal Navy from the US under the Lend-Lease arrangements and commanded by Commander Clive Gwinner, DSO, DSC, RN.


HMCS AS LULWORTH


USN CUTTER CHELAN

Other escorts were HMS Ariguani and the Free French Sloop Chevreuil. Ariguani was a Catapult Armed ship or Fighter Catapult ship. Each of these merchantmen was equipped with one Fleet Air Arm or RAF fighter and a temporary catapult. When threatened by enemy planes, the fighter took off. When it was done it ditched, and the merchant ship's convoy theoretically picked up the pilot. The pilot was the only Fleet Air Arm or RAF crewmember on board, and had little to do unless the plane was needed. If an emergency arose, the aircraft would be catapulted off to do combat, then the pilot had to ditch and be fished out of the water.


HMS ARIGUANI


Close up of plane catapult launching device.

The Sinking

The Saugor was torpedoed and sank by U-557 in the early hours of August 27, 1941 at position (per 3rd Engineer A S Bennett) off Ireland approx 53.36N by 16.40W, 240 miles west of Sloyne Head. It proved impossible to launch the lifeboats and of her compliment of eighty-two only sixteen were rescued from the water The weather on the night of the sinking was bad; sea state 46, wind SW by W at Force 9, the sinkings had started at about 0245hrs. The U-Boat pack also attacked and sank the Norwegian vessel the SS Segundo, S.S. Tremodo, S.S. Embassage falling to U-557 and the M.S Otaio to U-558. A rescue ship the Ellermans S.S.Perth collected survivors and was assisted in its endeavours by destroyers Vanoc and Walker that managed to find seventy-one survivors between them.


SS PERTH

The Aftermath of the Sinking

Most of the survivors were picked up by a rescue ship called the City of Perth and landed at Greenock

Captain J.A.A.Steele and fifteen of the crew survived.

Several other vessels were sunk that night including the SS Tremoda. Her Chief Engineer was rescued by the French Sloop Chevreuil who also picked up some Saugor hands from an upturned lifeboat.

Lieutenant Charles Allan KEEFER was posthumously awarded the St. Olav's Medal by the Norwegian Government for his part in rescuing survivors from the S.S. Segundo. The account reads:

HMCS Lulworth was sent to see what she could do after Segundo has been torpedoed a good many miles from our position, and was on fire when we arrived on the scene. It was a very stormy night with a gale blowing which hampered rescue work. We had to keep the bows of the HMS Lulworth at 90 degrees to the burning ship with her stern into the wind and Segundo was drifting to leeside. We had rescue nets over the side of Lulworth and did manage to get a number of Segundo's ship's company to save themselves by gripping the nets as we drifted through them. My ship's company were sitting in the water holding the nets in one hand whilst using the other to hold on to the survivors. We managed to scoop up 28 survivors but the woman (Mrs. Gundrun Torgersen) wasn't strong enough to help herself and it was much to rough to risk lowering a boat. Taking all this into account, Lieutenant Keefer could not stand the sight of her failing efforts to help herself and leapt over the side to help her to safety. He succeeded and landed her on to a net from which my sailors brought her up on board. She was the wife of the Second Mate of the Segundo. Lieutenant Keefer, very regrettably, exhausted by his gallant efforts was never sighted again.

As a result of this disaster and rescue, the Royal Norwegian Consul in Liverpool, England (signed Johan Vogt and dated 15 October 1941) sent a warm letter of appreciation to the Admiral of the Port of Liverpool which he forwarded to the Admiralty who in turn sent a letter to HMS Lulworth saying that the Norwegian letter was a very pleasing tribute which reflected great credit. It was doubtless as a result of all this that the award to Lieutenant Keefer was made."

U-557

Ottokar Arnold Paulshen commanded this U-Boat. His U-boat had a short but successful career sinking four ships from convoy OS-4 alone, one of which was the SS Saugor. U-557 was eventually sunk by accident on 16th December 1941 in the Mediterranean west of Crete by the Italian torpedo boat 'Orione' whilst returning to port. U-557 completed four patrols and sank seven Allied vessels.

JUMNA.


Alex Duncan.

Built: 1929 by Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 6,087 grt, 3,746 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion plus L.P. turbine, 612 NHP by builder.
Launched 24th of January 1929, completed April 1929. Yard No 522.

Requisitioned on the 9th of April 1940 for the Liner Division she was sunk on Christmas Day 1940 by the German Cruiser Admiral Hipper. She had sailed from Liverpool bound for Calcutta via Freetown, part of convoy OB 260 and after being given the order to scatter was caught by Hipper in 44 51' N, 27 45' W and sunk by gunfire. Of her sixty-four crew and forty-four passengers none survived.

ADMIRAL HIPPER.

Her own crew at Kiel Shipyard sank Admiral Hipper on the 3rd of May 1945.

The Earl of Inchcape, James Lyle Mackay, died in Monte Carlo on the 24th of May 1932, Empire Day, whilst convalescing aboard his yacht Rover. His shares in Nourse Line, the vast majority of those held, were passed over to British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, those remaining were transferred a short while later. The thirties proved to be nearly as difficult as the twenties but Nourse Line persevered and in 1936/37 took delivery of Jhelum and Johilla from the Scottish yard of Barclay Curle.

JHELUM.



Built: 1936 by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 4,038 grt, 2,403 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion plus LP Turbine, 325 NHP by builder.
Launched on the 18th of June 1936, completed 17th of August 1936, Yard No 657.

After four years of service she was requisitioned for the Liner Division on the 16th of May 1940. When on passage for Izmir, Table Bay and Oban on the 21st of March 1941 she was torpedoed and sunk by U-105 500 miles west of Cabo Blanco. Jhelum had been in convoy SL-68 that had been ordered to scatter prior to her sinking. Of her fifty-three crew and one gunner eight were lost, the remainder making landfall at Senegal on 3rd of April in three of the ships lifeboats. The Vichy French authorities interred the forty-six survivors.

JOHILLA.


Seen in BI livery.
John Clarkson.

Built: 1937 by Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd., Glasgow.
Tonnage: 4,042 grt, 2,396 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Triple expansion with LP Turbine, 325 NHP by builder.
Launched 17th of December 1936, completed 16th February 1937, Yard No 661.

Requisitioned a week after her sister ship Jhelum, on the 22nd of May 1940, she served throughout the war not being released until the 3rd of May 1946. Sold out of the fleet in 1960 to the Chip Nam Company of Hong Kong becoming Singapore Pearl with Ship Seng Company being designated as managers. Sold in 1962 to Cia. de Nav. Darian S.A. of Panama becoming Sentosa. Sold in 1964 to Hong Kong Shipping of Panama becoming Doreen and sold again for the final time to Holly Nav. Co S.A., also of Panama becoming Primal Venture before being scrapped in Hong Kong in 1968 by the Hong Kong Salvage & Towage Co Ltd.

Nourse Line decided to increase its fleet by a further three vessels in 1938 and took delivery of Bhima in 1938, the company's first motor ship, however the outbreak of war delayed the delivery of Indus and Sutlej until 1940 from the yard of Barclay Curle. Of its ships Nourse Line was to lose all but Johilla, Hughli and Megna. Jumna in 1940, Saugor and Jhelum in 1941, Ganges, Bhima and Indus in 1942 and Sutlej in 1944, four to submarines, one to Admiral Hipper, one to the German Raider Thor and the final being sunk by aircraft and warship attack. From 1945 to 1950 the company completed a further six ships, Tapti, Kallada, Marjata, Mutlah, Ganges and Betwa, all from the yard of Charles Connell & Co., Ltd.

TAPTI.


Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum.

Built: 1945 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 6,618 grt, 4,352 nt.
Engine: Single screw, 3 Cylinder Doxford 2S.C.S.A., 449 NHP by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Launched on the 8th of June 1945, completed October 1945, Yard No 448.

She served in the Liner Division for the first seven months of her career before returning to Nourse Line for commercial operations. Ran aground on the 17th of January 1951 on the Soy Rocks, Hebrides when on passage to the Tyne in ballast, four days later she rolled off the rocks and sank three days later on the 24th of January.

KALLADA.


P&O Archives.

Built: 1946 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 6,607 grt, 4,534 nt, 9,870 dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 3 Cylinder Doxford, 2S.C.S.A. 468 NHP by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Launched on the 8th of January 1946, completed March 1946, Yard No 449.

Sold to P&0 Steam Navigation Co., Ltd on the 13th of June 1957 and returned to James Nourse Ltd 24th of August same year. Sold in 1964 to the St. Merryn Shipping Co., Ltd of London becoming Merryn Elizabeth, managed by Red Anchor Line. Sold for breaking on the 1st of June 1972 to the Lee Seng Company of Hong Kong, work commenced on the 4th of September.

MARJATA.


Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum.

Built: 1946 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 6,652 grt, 4,557 nt.
Engine: Single screw, 3 Cylinder Doxford, 2S.C.S.A. 534 NHP by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Launched on the 27th of August 1946, completed October 1946, Yard No 452.

Sold to the Red Anchor Line in 1963 becoming Denny Rose. Departed Toledo with a cargo of iron ore on the 31st of August 1964 bound for Chiba and ran into a typhoon never to be seen again, last heard from on the 13th of September in position 25 15' N, 134 23' E.

The company Chairman and Managing Director, George Hampton resigned due to ill health on the 6th of June and died six weeks later, he was succeeded in both posts by his brother, Robert W. Hampton. The Nourse Line Board of Directors issued 64,000 shares at 10 per share on the 16th of June 1955 and all were issued to the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd., the following month the entire holding was sold to the P&O Steam Navigation Company. Six months later Robert Hampton retired thus bringing to an end over fifty years of family involvement with Nourse Line, Mr L.C. Williams replaced him.

As the fifties came to a close Nourse Lines trade with the West Indies went into decline and it found itself having to sell its three oldest ships, Johilla, Megna and Hughli. Nourse Line marked its centenary in 1961. Two other companies within the P&O group were also experiencing similar uncertainties, The Hain Steamship Company and Asiatic Steam Navigation Co., Ltd. within the next few years the relationship between the three companies formed the basis of Asiatic's management being handed over to James Nourse Ltd., in 1962 and the formation of a completely new company Hain-Nourse Management in 1964. In 1961 the P&O Tanker Group had handed over to James Nourse Ltd., the management of Foyle and although its registered owners were Charter Shipping Company of Bermuda she still sailed under James Nourse colours, another tanker followed in 1962 with yet another famous Nourse name, the Erne.

ERNE



Built: 1962 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 14,244 grt, 8,241 nt, 20,090 dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 2 x Turbines through double reduction gearing to single shaft, 8,800 SHP, 14.5 knots by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd.
Launched on the 11th of November 1961, delivered 9th of February 1962, Yard No 493.

Delivered for James Nourse Ltd., she transferred to Trident Tankers on the 10th of May 1963. Transferred to Hain-Nourse Ltd., on the 1st of October 1965 and back to Trident Tankers Ltd., on the 1st of April 1969. Fitted with four tanks at Sembawang Shipyard, Singapore in 1970 for the carriage of bitumen. Sold out of the Bulk Cargo Division in 1984 for breaking, work carried out by the Sing Cheng Yung Iron & Steel Co., Ltd at Kaohsiung, Tiawan, work commenced on the 14th of July 1984.

The final ship delivered to James Nourse Ltd., was its last cargo vessel, Jumna, which had been built to a standard group tramp ship design in 1962.

JUMNA.



Built: 1962 by Charles Connell & Co., Ltd of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 7,118 grt, 3,781 nt, 11,885 dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 5 Cylinder Sulzer 2S.C.S.A. by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd of Glasgow, 7,500 BHP, 16 knots.
Launched on the 28th of August 1962, completed November 1962, Yard No 495.

Jumna transferred to Hain-Nourse management on the 1st of October 1965 and on the same date six years later transferred to the General Cargo Division of P&O. Ownership transferred again on the 11th of May 1972 to P&O Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., and Jumna was renamed Strathnaver on the 20th of March 1975. Sold out of the group on the 24th of November 1977 to Proteas Maritime Inc., of Singapore becoming Singapore Progress. Renamed Delta in 1979 and flew the Liberian flag. Sold to Alpha Maritime Co., S.A. of Greece in 1980 becoming Family Delta. From 1982 to 1985 she was laid up at Piraeus before being finally sold for breaking at Port Alang. Work commenced on the 9th of July and completed on the 26th of October 1985.

In 1965 all Hain-Nourse management ships adopted a dark blue funnel with HN painted in white on their sides and on the 1st of October the legal ownership of what remained of the once famous Nourse fleet passed over to The Hain Steamship Company, this company was later renamed Hain-Nourse Ltd. In August of 1971 Hain-Nourse along with Trident Tankers lost their independent identities becoming part of P&O's Bulk Shipping Division and six weeks later Jumna their final cargo ship became part of the General Cargo Division. This division, which included the remaining Hain-Nourse tramps, comprised ships of once great names from Britain's maritime past including British India, Moss Hutchison, Frank Strick's and Federal Steam. And so it was, that yet another famous name, sadly and finally, disappeared from the rapidly shrinking British Registry.