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Blue Star Liner ss Brodland

Blue Star Liner s.s. ‘Brodland’

On the 20th January 1913, whilst being towed from Port Talbot Docks in heavy seas and a fierce gale by the tug ‘Emily Charlotte’, the towrope parted due to a sudden squall and the s.s. ‘Brodland’ was driven ashore near the North Pier at Aberavon. She was carrying 2,500 tons of Welsh coal bound for Puntas Arenas in southern Chile.

       All 42 crewmen were brought safely ashore by the local Life Saving Apparatus team under the command of Capt. Humphrey Jones, as conditions were such that it was impossible to launch the lifeboat. The rescue of the crew took three hours, and hundreds of workmen raced to the beach to give assistance. Included in the crew was one local man, F L James of Tydraw Street, Port Talbot, who was the ship’s carpenter, and the last man to be brought ashore was the master of the vessel, Capt. Vernon A Scott.

       Registered as a Refrigerated Cargo Liner, the ‘Brodland’ was built by Craig, Taylor & Co. of Stockton on Tees, and completed in July 1891. Launched originally as the ‘Highland Mary’ for the Highland Mary Steamship Co. Ltd., she was later transferred to the Nelson Line (Liverpool) Ltd in 1900. Finally, in 1912, she was bought by the Brodland Steamship Co. Ltd. (managers – Blue Star Line) and renamed the ‘Brodland’. After the grounding she was broken up and sold for scrap, and her anchor can still be seen on display outside the Lifeboat Station on Aberavon Beach.

       The vessel’s dimensions were:- 310’ length, 41.2’ beam, 17.8’ draft, 2,989 tons GRT and 1,949 tons NRT.

Tugboat Emily Charlotte.

Grounding of the s.s. ‘Christina’

Entering Port Talbot Docks on the evening of the 31st of January 1903 in a strong westerly gale, the Waterford steamer ‘Christina’ ran aground on Aberavon sands. Fortunately, the ship grounded on an even keel on firm sand which dried out at low water, so the crew were in no immediate danger and were able to walk ashore as the tide fell. The next day the Harbour Master at Port Talbot telegraphed the Mumbles coastguard station to inform them of the incident, and the lifeboat 'James Stevens No. 12' was launched around mid-afternoon to stand by as the vessel was refloated on the evening tide.

        Arriving at Port Talbot and finding the s.s. ‘Christina’ still high and dry on the sands, the lifeboat crew decided to put into the river at Aberavon to shelter from the gale-force winds. However, as they crossed the bar, disaster struck and the lifeboat capsized in heavy seas. Being a self-righting craft she soon regained an even keel, but was then hit by another huge wave and capsized once again. Ten of the crew were thrown into the water, and the four men left aboard managed to scramble from the lifeboat onto the large blocks at the base of the breakwater. Sadly, six of the fourteen  crew members lost their lives in this tragic incident, including the coxswain of the lifeboat, Thomas Rogers.

s.s. ‘Ethelwalda’

 Whilst entering Port Talbot Docks on the 30th October 1911 with a cargo of pit-props, the s.s. ‘Ethelwalda’ sank after coming into contact with the North Breakwater.

          The ‘Ethelwalda’ was built by John Readhead & Sons of South Shields in 1890, and was owned by the Whitby-based J H Harrowing Steamship Company. The vessel’s registered tonnage details were as follows:-

 3,725 dwt.       2,431 grt.     1,566 nrt.

The s.s. ‘Trafalgar’

The s.s. ‘Trafalgar’ aground off the North Pier at Aberavon Beach in the early 1900’s, shortly after the ‘Amazon’ disaster. All the crew were rescued and the vessel was later refloated.

    Built in 1904 by William Hamilton & Co. of Glasgow, the ‘Trafalgar’ was owned by the Glasgow Shipowners Company
(Glen & Co.). She was later destroyed by fire off Bombay in 1910, inward from Calcutta with a cargo of coal.

 The ‘Trafalgar’ had a length of 380.6’, a 41.1’ beam, and a GRT of 4,478 tons.

The Amazon

On the morning of September 1st 1908 the four-masted barque ‘Amazon’, bound for Iquique in Chile with 2,000 tons of Welsh coal, was towed from Port Talbot Docks to Mumbles Head where the order was given to drop anchor due to a rising south-westerly wind. The intensity of the gale increased overnight and, by the following morning, it was so severe that the ship’s anchors started to drag and she was soon being buffeted helplessly across the bay.

Finally driven ashore onto the Margam Sands by the raging storm, the ‘Amazon’ was quickly broken up by the pounding waves and, despite the heroic efforts of the Port Talbot L.S.A. rescue team, only eight men out of a crew of 28 made it ashore alive. The ship’s master, Captain Arthur Garrick of Penarth, was one of the twenty men who lost their lives in this tragic incident. Fourteen of the bodies were never recovered.

( Note - the ‘Amazon’ was built in 1886 by Barclay Curle & Co. Ltd. of Glasgow –
she was 286 feet in length, with a displacement of 2,062 tons

The above photo of the remains of the Amazon was taken in 2011 by Gareth James.
In the background is the Steel Company.
We thank him for allowing us to put it on our site

Above are photos of the ship's bell and compass in a purpose made wooden cabinet.
The Amazon's bell and compass were given to Francis George Knott who was
Secretary to the Port Talbot Pilotage Authority and are now
in the ownership of his daughter in Tasmania.
Many thanks for contributing to our site.


s.s. ‘Saxilby’

On 15th November 1933 the s.s. ‘Saxilby’, bound for Port Talbot with a cargo of iron ore from Wabana, Canada, foundered in a North Atlantic gale some 400 miles west of the coast of Ireland. A distress signal was picked up in position 51’ 50N 19’ 15W and several ships went to her assistance, but sadly no trace of the ship or any of her crew was ever found.

    However, legend has it that a member of the Saxilby’s crew, Port Talbot born Joe O’Kane, wrote a goodbye note to his brother, sister and fiancee telling them that the ship was sinking, and that he had sealed the letter in a watertight container and thrown it overboard. Amazingly, almost three years later, the container is said to have been washed up on the beach at Aberavon, less than a mile from Joe’s family home.

    The ‘Saxilby’ (3,630 grt) was built in 1914 by Ropner & Son, Stockton, for R. Ropner & Co. Registered in 1916 with Sir R. Ropner & Co. Ltd., and registered in 1919 with Ropner Shipping Co. Ltd. for R. Ropner & Co

(The above information is taken from Billy McGee’s book "Ropner's Navy", and is included on our website
with Mr. McGee’s kind permission)


 Further confirmation of this strange and unusual tale can be seen in the following extract from the ‘Milwaukee Journal’ dated April 1947:-

“In November 1933 the West Hartlepool steamer s.s. Saxilby, bound from Newfoundland to Port Talbot with a cargo of iron ore, disappeared in a gale 400 miles west of Ireland. Nothing was heard for two and a half years. Then on April the 26th 1936, because it sounded different from all the other tins he had kicked that morning, a beach idler opened a cocoa tin brought to his feet by the waves. It contained a hastily scribed note:-

ss Saxilby sinking somewhere off the Irish coast. Love to my sisters, brothers and Dinah. Joe O’Kane

Strangely these last words from a doomed sailor were delivered to his home town, Aberavon – almost to the doorstep of the persons to whom they were addressed”

The Canadian frigate ‘Chebogue’

      The frigate ‘Chebogue’ of the Royal Canadian Navy was part of a westbound Atlantic convoy escort when, on the 4th October 1944, she broke off to attack an enemy submarine (U-1227) and was, in turn, hit by one of the U-Boat’s torpedoes. After taking off all casualties and leaving 42 men aboard, she was towed to Mumbles by the tug ‘Earner’, arriving there on the 11th Oct 1944

      Later that same day, whilst she was anchored off Mumbles Head, a severe south-westerly gale blew up, accompanied by squalls of hail and heavy breaking seas. At around 5.00 p.m. the ‘Chebogue’ started to drag her anchors and was eventually blown across the bay to Port Talbot, where her stern went aground on a sandbar. The Mumbles Lifeboat was called out, and arrived at the scene at around 7.45 p.m.

      In total darkness and in foul weather conditions, the lifeboat had to run alongside the stricken vessel twelve times to rescue the crew, as the frigate’s bows were ranging heavily in the stormy seas. In the few seconds that the lifeboat was able to stay alongside, the men jumped onto her a few at a time and, amazingly, all but three landed safely. One fell and broke a leg, one fell between the two vessels and was pulled aboard by the coxswain, and another landed on top of the coxswain, bruising him badly against the wheel.


      The frigate ‘Chebogue’ had been launched in August 1943 and commissioned in February 1944, but was never repaired after the above incident and was decommissioned in September 1945. The submarine U-1227 escaped its encounter with the ‘Chebogue’, and also survived three further attacks that same year. She was finally damaged by British night-time carpet bombing in April 1945, taken out of service, and scuttled the following month.


The damaged frigate Chebogue in Port Talbot Dock

 Able Seaman Joseph Gaal

Leading Stoker Paul Meyn

Two crewmen off the 'Chebogue', Leading Stoker Paul Meyn and Able Seaman Joseph Gaal, are buried in the War Graves section of  Morriston Cemetery. Photographs of their headstones are shown above.

Type IXC/40 U-boat
Note – the U-1227 was a Type IXC/40 submarine commanded by Oberleutnant Friedrich Altmeier. Built by Deutsche Werft AG of Hamburg (o/n 390) and commissioned in December 1943, she had an overall length of 252 feet, a surface speed of 19 knots (7.3 knots submerged), and carried 22 torpedoes and 44 mines. The ‘Cheboque’ was her only success in sixteen months of active service. She had a range of 13,850 miles cruising on the surface at 10 knots, 128 miles submerged at 2 knots and 63 miles submerged at 4 knots.

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