The Edwin Fox

From ‘Shaw Savill Line, One hundred years of trading’, Sydney D Waters. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1961. (Abridged)

[One of] the many remarkable ships owned by Shaw Savill & Co. was the Edwin Fox, whose hulk, now 105 years old, has been lying for many years at Picton, port of Marlborough [New Zealand]. She was built of the best Burma teak-wood in 1853 in Sulkeali, a province of Bengal. She was laid down to the order of the Hon. East India Company, but while still on the stocks was sold to Sir George Edmund Hodgkinson of Cornhill, London.

Edwin Fox 1-2

Originally a full-rigged ship, later a barque, Edwin Fox carried troops to the Crimean War, convicts to Australia, and passengers to India.

The ship continued to trade to India and the Far East until 1873 when she was chartered by Shaw Savill & Co. …. After clearing the Channel she was damaged in a gale in the Bay of Biscay. The crew broached some cases of spirits and became so drunk that the passengers had to man the pumps as the ship was leaking badly. She was towed into Brest and there repaired.

The Edwin Fox was purchased by Shaw Savill & Co. in 1875 and during the next decade she made a yearly voyage out to New Zealand, firmly establishing her reputation as a ‘slowcoach’. …. in 1880 she arrived at Lyttelton with twenty saloon, twelve second-class and seventy-seven steerage passengers, all of whom were full of complaints about their accommodation. In the following year she was 139 days on passage from London to Bluff.

Some years later the rapidly growing frozen meat trade gave new employment to the ship.

Edwin Fox 2-2

In 1885 The Edwin Fox was fitted with refrigerating machinery and, stripped of her rigging but with lower masts still standing, was used as a freezing hulk in various New Zealand ports.

Finally she was towed to Picton under engagement to freeze for the Wairau Freezing Company. In 1899…. she was converted into a coal hulk and loading stage and moored at the foot of the hill on which the freezing works stand. There she lies, a relic of a past era and a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.

Edwin Fox 4-3

The Edwin Fox in Shakespeare Bay, Marlborough Sounds, in 1983.

This story has a happy ending. Twenty-five years after Mr. Waters published his book and three years after these photographs were taken, the hulk of the Edwin Fox was saved from total disintegration. It is now housed in its own covered dry dock on Picton waterfront, only a few minutes walk from the Cook Strait ferry terminal, and is still a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.
Read full details of the ship’s fascinating career on this page from the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

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The Liner that sank a battleship

Cigarette card image of the White Star ship Arabic.“The twin-screw steamer “Arabic,” 16,786 tons, is engaged in the White Star Line service from Mediterranean ports to Boston and New York, and is the largest liner regularly plying in this trade. This ship is noted for her graceful lines. She is 590 feet in length, and has a breadth of 69 feet. The “Arabic” public rooms are features of architectural splendour and luxurious furnishings. She has a verandah cafe and a photographic darkroom, which latter is of special service to camera lovers cruising the Mediterranean.”

This caption from a cigarette card printed in the 1920s doesn’t mention that Arabic began life as the Nordd. Lloyd’s s.s. Berlin. Best not remind the White Star company passengers that their luxury ‘British’ liner once had a short, but very successful, career as a German minelayer in the First World War.

Arabic 37479v

ggbain 37479 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.37479
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Built in 1909, the Berlin worked the Genoa to New York service until the outbreak of war when she was fitted out as a minelayer for the German navy. On the night of October 23rd-24th, 1914, she laid a large field off the Ulster coast and headed home around the north of Scotland where she was damaged in a storm. The ship took refuge at Trondheim in neutral Norway and, unable to complete repairs and leave in the required 24 hours, was interned for the rest of the war.

Meanwhile, on the morning of 27th October, the almost new dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Audacious was preparing for gunnery practice off the Irish coast, along with 2nd Battle Squadron, Royal Navy, when she side-swiped one of Berlin’s mines.

Audacious

© Imperial War Museum (Q 75212)

The explosion blew a hole in her port side near the engine room and she began to take on water. The initial suspect was a torpedo from a U-boat so the squadron scattered until the real culprit was confirmed. Then a rescue flotilla, including the White Star liner Olympic, descended on the stricken ship despite the threat of more mines. For the rest of the day, while all but essential personel abandoned ship, there were attempts to tow Audacious to shore, but all lines snapped as the heavy battleship wallowed in the swell.

audacious sinking

© IWM (Q 75584)

Eventually, in the darkness with no one left on board, Audacious turned over and, 45 minutes later, an explosion in the magazine sent her to the bottom. You can read a more detailed account on this Royal Navy site and a short, vivid, eye-witness description by Lieutenant Thomas Galbraith is worth your time. He writes about the “horrible feeling” when the engines stopped – “one felt she was dying”. Which underlines an odd quirk of human nature.

Anyone who has ‘been to sea’ for more than a ferry trip will come to regard “their” ship as a living entity and they’ll experience an emotional response to it, sometimes bad but most times good if luck holds. Size doesn’t matter. It can be a fishing trawler or a bulk carrier. Aircraft, trains, and cars “crash” and are written off. Ships “die”, and it’s a difficult thing to watch.

But I digress.

After the war, Berlin was one of many German ships confiscated by the Western Allies to replace lost tonnage. Refitted and renamed Arabic, she took her first White Star sailing from Southampton in 1921 and was scrapped ten years later.

H.M.S. Audacious lies upside down on the seafloor at a depth of 200 feet and is considered an accessible wreck for experienced divers. She was the only British dreadnought sunk in World War One.
By a passenger liner.
Remotely.

H.M.S. Victory

Although the Victory was ordered for the Royal Navy in 1759 and is still in commission as a flagship, she is for ever remembered for just one battle on one day; Trafalgar, 21st October 1805, and her association with one man; Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Victory

Still afloat at Portsmouth in the early 1900s.

V_Nelson…. “in his new flagship, the Victory, [Nelson] had one of the stateliest three-deckers ever built, a vessel in every way worthy to receive him [in 1803]. She had been laid down when he was still in his cradle, had been launched at Chatham in 1765, and had worn the flags of Keppel, Kempenfelt, Howe, Hood, St Vincent and other, lesser, admirals. She had just undergone a large repair which was practically a rebuilding, and was capable of a surprising turn of speed. Had Nelson been offered his choice, he could not have proposed a finer or a lovelier ship.

Such a ship was “tall” indeed, for her main-mast, with its top-mast and top-gallant, rose 175 feet above her deck. She mounted 104 guns, and with all her size and capacity there was not a corner wasted, from the depths of her hold with its ordered stores and well-stowed ammunition to the skid-beams on the spar-deck where the boats were ready for hoisting out by tackle at the word of command.”
‘A Portrait of Lord Nelson’, Oliver Warner. The Reprint Society, 1958. [Edited]

V_KGVThe Victory remained in service after Nelson’s death and the French/Spanish defeat at Trafalgar until paid off in 1812, and was afterwards moored at Portsmouth as either a receiving ship or flagship into the early part of the 20th century. Then, in 1922……

….. “it was discovered that Nelson’s famous flagship, the Victory, was sinking at her moorings in Portsmouth Harbour, and that the timbers of the hull were in perilous condition. She was accordingly moved permanently into dry dock, and thorough measures taken to restore her. A careful study of naval records has enabled the Victory’s appearance at the time of the battle of Trafalgar, and the Admiral’s quarters, to be reproduced.

On July 26th, 1924, before holding the Naval Review at Spithead, the King and the Prince of Wales went over the famous old man-of-war, and inspected the work of reconstruction.”
‘The Reign of H.M. King George V’, 1935. W.D. & H.O. Wills.

H.M.S. Victory

The restored H.M.S. Victory in 1928, the year it was opened to the public.

Victory gun deck

The lower gun deck. The crew slept and ate here too.

“Impressive as the Victory still is, in her meticulously preserved condition at Portsmouth, she is now but a shell of the sea fortress which dominated the Mediterranean. Her immense spread of sail, which gave her speed, has gone forever; her eight hundred and fifty men, who gave her power, are no more than memories.”
Ibid: Warner.

This impressive “shell” has managed to draw visitors by the million since 1928 and, with the help of some expensive, high tech care and attention should continue to do so for many more years.

It could be argued that Trafalgar was as important to Britain in the 19th century as the Battle of Britain was in the 20th, and for the same reason; they both foiled an invasion by a foreign power. Trafalgar Day will be commemorated this Sunday.

I had intended to write more about the ship, the battle, and the Admiral but Mike at A Bit About Britain did it first – and better – with his post on 24th August. I recommend you read it. In fact, if you’re planning to visit Britain, or just want to explore the place without leaving your chair, this blog is essential reading. (And he didn’t pay me to write that).

Boulogne-sur-Mer

My last post, about Folkestone on the south coast of England, included a vintage postcard image of the cross-channel steamer Invicta leaving for Boulogne in France, so I’ll follow that today with a few postcards of the ship’s destination.

Boulogne quay

The harbour as you see it here, before the First World War, was completely destroyed by British bombers in the Second, when Boulogne was occupied by German troops.

Boulogne fish quay

Buying fresh fish straight off the boat. The ferries are now gone from Boulogne (and Folkestone) but the rebuilt harbour is still the premier fishing port in France.

Boulogne beach

There isn’t enough room to plant a deck chair on this beach thanks to the bathing machines (ladies changing rooms on wheels) for hire.

B_aurevoir

The caption for this card says the locally owned paddle steamer Au Revoir is arriving even though, at first glance, it looks like it’s leaving. Look closely at the wake and you can see she’s going backwards. It seems that steamers entered Boulogne harbour stern first and reversed to their berths.

B_au revoir 2

The Au Revoir began life in 1896 as the Calais, a night ferry on the Dover to Calais route, before being sold to Boulogne interests in 1911. She was used as an excursion steamer and tender to trans-Atlantic liners for the next three years. Taken over by the French navy in 1914 she served as an auxiliary patrol vessel until torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of three crew, two years later.

Launching 534.

Cigarette card image of the Cunard ship RMS Mauretania.In 1905 the Cunard Steam-Ship Company embarked on a three-ship weekly mail service by ordering Lusitania and Mauretania; a quarter century afterwards work began on the first instalment of a two-ship service.

A 4½-day crossing [of the Atlantic] had to be the target, but such an increase in speed entailed a ship nearly 60 per cent larger than [Bremen] the German record-breaker. The cost of such a vessel would be enormous, but it would be possible to ‘turn her round’ in a week so that she and a sister could do the work previously performed by three. The Cunard Company therefore decided to build one 4½-day ship to replace Mauretania, follow her up with a second, and then retire Berengaria and Aquitania. The keel of the first was laid on December 27th, 1930. No name was allocated and she was referred to by her works number, ‘534’.

Building of ‘534’ began at an unfortunate moment, for the early 1930’s brought one of the worst depressions shipping has ever known. The Cunard Company was compelled to conserve its financial resources and suspended construction on December 10th, 1931. After an interval the British Government offered to lend £3 million on very favourable terms to complete ‘534’ and a maximum of £5 million to build a consort, on condition that the Cunard should amalgamate with the White Star Line. There was no practical alternative to acceptance.

Queen Mary launchWork was resumed in April 1934 and the ship was launched on September 26th of that year. Many names, including Victoria, had been suggested, but the hull slid into the water as the Queen Mary.
‘Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean’, C.R. Vernon Gibbs. Staples Press, 1952. [Abridged].

“I am happy to name this ship ‘Queen Mary‘.” Having bestowed her own name on the great vessel, formerly known as “534,” Her Majesty the Queen launched the world’s largest liner on the Clyde on September 26th, 1934. A quarter of a million people in Messrs. John Brown & Co.’s shipyard watched the huge shape gather momentum, cleanly take the water, and send a white wave foaming over the opposite shore. The King (who is seen with the Queen acknowledging the cheers as Their Majesties approached the launching platform) described the liner – the first built for the combined Cunard-White Star Fleet – as “the stateliest ship now in being.”
Caption on a cigarette card (above) issued by W.D. & H.O. Wills, 1935.

Queen Mary 30s-3

A company postcard from the 1930s.

Queen Mary 50s-2

A Cunard postcard after her service as a troop ship in WWII. White Star was dropped from the company name in 1947.

 

The Italian fleet surrenders.

After the downfall and arrest of Benito Mussolini in July 1943, the Italian government surrendered to the Western Allies on September 3rd, although the armistice was kept secret until the 8th. The Italian Navy was instructed to surrender it’s fleet the following day. These extracts come from reports in ‘The Sphere’ on September 25th and October 2nd.

By the early morning of September 11, the best part of the warships of the Italian Navy had entered Valetta Harbour [Malta] to surrender, in response to Admiral Cunningham’s appeal to seek shelter in British waters. One force came from Spezia: another from Taranto. In all, by the 11th, there were four battleships, seven cruisers, and ten destroyers safe in harbour: other vessels followed later.

Italian fleet

The British Navy meets the Italian fleet. Artist’s impression by Montague Dawson.

It was after dawn that the British Navy came up with the Italian battlefleet from Taranto. It was steaming in line ahead with the battleship Andrea Doria in front and the battleship Giulio [Cesare] behind it: other ships were following. All were flying the Italian flag and a black flag to denote they were surrendering in accordance with Admiral Cunningham‘s instructions. They looked spick and span and were a really fine sight, with the crews of each ship standing to attention along the decks. [Oct 2]

[Later that day], a motor-launch pulled up alongside the landing-stage in Malta Harbour and, as a guard of honour formed by British sailors sprang smartly to attention, the Italian Admiral de Zara [sic] (Acting Commander-in-Chief) and other senior officers of the Italian Navy stepped ashore, to be greeted by Commodore Royar Dick, Chief of Staff to Admiral Cunningham, and Captain Rodderick Edwards, Chief of Staff, Malta.

Italian surrenderAfter shaking hands with the Commodore, the Italian Admiral was then invited to inspect the guard of honour: [here] he is seen passing through the two lines of British bluejackets with his hand raised in salute. Admiral de Zara then entered a motor-car with Commodore Dick and was driven to Admiral Cunningham’s office at Malta Naval Headquarters. The Italian Navy had surrendered exactly in accordance with the terms of the Armistice, and it was therefore decided that the Italian Admiral should be received ashore with the same ceremonial as if he were a foriegn Admiral paying an official visit in peacetime. [25 Sept]

In reality, of course, the logistics and loyalties involved in such a momentous event meant it didn’t unfold as neatly as this. An article published in the Times of Malta in 2014 gives a fascinating and more detailed account, and you can watch a contemporary British Pathé newsreel (3 m. 30 sec.) on Youtube.

Old Whaling Days

Friday Flashback to 1983.

In my post about Wellington’s friendly whale (9th July), I mentioned that New Zealand’s last shore whaling station closed as recently as 1964. This is how it looked nineteen years later.

Whaling station 1 web

It sits in Fisherman’s Bay, Arapawa* Island, Marlborough Sounds, on the edge of Tory Channel. East Head and the exit to Cook Strait are in the background. If you travel from Picton to Wellington on the ferry today you’ll see what’s left of it from the port side.

The station was established in the 1920s by Joe Perano, a local fisherman who decided to go after something bigger, and the business continued with his sons in charge after Joe’s death in 1951.

Whaling station 2-2

It was a calm summer’s day when I visited but the corrugated iron cladding creaked and banged with every puff of wind that wafted in from the Strait. It has been removed in the years since then, leaving only the skeleton of the processing factory. The Department of Conservation took responsibility for the site in 2010.

Whaling station 4-2

A rusting harpoon head that should have been in a museum was just lying on the floor among the rubble. The Peranos are credited with introducing the explosive harpoon to New Zealand, followed by an electric version. I don’t know which this was – it had a hollow core – but it looked brutal.

The island has a long association with shore whaling. An easy walk back down a dusty track from here brings you to the neighbouring bay, Te Awaiti, where John Guard and Joseph (George) Toms established the first shore station in the country in 1827.

Te Awaiti 2-2

Guard moved to Port Underwood about three years later, leaving Toms – “a noted disciplinarian” – to rule over the unruly in the small settlement. He was known by several names during his life, a fact that has spawned numerous confusing and confused web pages.

Toms family grave 1-3

The fenced grave site at Te Awaiti for George Toms, son Joseph and his wife Harriet.

You can rent self-catering accommodation on the island, where the Perano family once had a farm, but be aware the only way in or out is by boat (or helicopter if your budget stretches that far) and there are no shops. Bring you own food supplies.

* Arapawa Island has been known officially by the more phonetically correct spelling of Arapaoa since 2014. Most of the web sites I’ve seen haven’t caught up with that yet.