My favourite command…

by Captain John Campbell, who earlier served in the Bank Line.



My first Command is my favourite.

One sunny day in July 1971 I joined the Texaco Saigon as Master for the first time .It was 17 years since I started as an Apprentice. This was my first command and perhaps my favourite one.

Built in Mobile , Alabama, her sea going service began as the SS  Chicaca in 1943 when she joined her 500 sisters in helping fight World War II . She was a veteran and travelled many miles carrying millions of tons of petroleum crossing the oceans of the world . She became a British Ship in 1952 managed by Caltex Overseas Tankships until Texaco took over. She was scrapped in 1981.

As I joined her in Bahrain, she looked a handsome vessel She was on her maiden “jumboized.” voyage .She had been lengthened  and widened by having had her entire bow and cargo section replaced and the foreword accommodation placed over the engine room . It was a great idea as Texaco got a longer bigger tanker carrying more cargo at half the cost of a new ship. . The Turbo Electric Engines were in great condition, but her boilers were showing their age.

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Escorting Crew to the Doctors

I enjoyed the recent post about taking, and losing, Calcutta crew members to the Doctors as I think all apprentices have had the same, somewhat embarrassing experience.  I well remember leading four men in Indian file up the main street in Sydney, they in crumpled second-hand suits, no shirt but long john vests and woolly hats getting a lot of amused stares and feeling quite discomforted.

I once took a sick crew member to the clinic in Madang, Papua New Guinea and the Australian nurse in reception said “but who is going to pay for this?  I replied that our shipping company. or their insurance,  would in the end but first the bill should be sent to our well-known agents Burns Philp who seemingly would, or should, have informed them in advance of our visit. 

Viv Ridges, one of my ex colleagues on the ferries who also served his time in the Bank Line,  took two men to the Doctor in Colombo and was present during the consultation.  One man Had a bad foot and the other a stomach complaint.  The Ceylonese Doctor said that he would like to see them again the next day and that he had given them instructions, one to keep the bandages on and the other to bring a sample of ‘stool’ for testing.  On the morrow, Vic escorted the two men back, one of them carrying a suspicious looking parcel wrapped up in newspaper and string, which he kept well clear of.   At the surgery the Doctor exploded saying “bloody fool, bloody fool”.   Apparently, there had been a bit of a ‘misunderstanding’ because the man with the bad foot had brought the ‘stool’. 

Bob Blowers  

On the same subject…….. On the old ERNEBANK in Liverpool in May 1953 I was told to take some of the Indian crew to the doctor’s and bring them back. One of the men, an engine room greaser, whose name Taranak Ali had bad diabetes. His name is forever in my memory because the doctor did some tests and exclaimed in surprise that he didn’t know how I had got him there in his condition! Taranak Ali was a painfully thin, cheerful little man. The Doctor kept him for admission to hospital and told me there was no way he could return to the ship and that he would probably die etc etc.. I felt a bit sad and duly reported back.

The sequel to the story is that several months later I was at Sandheads to proceed up to Calcutta on another vessel, the Maplebank, and we passed very close to an anchored Bank Line ship when I recognised Taranak Ali waving to me from the stern!

Church parade in Lagos

The 1937 ESKBANK a stalwart of the postwar fleet

An account by Captain John Campbell

An extract…….

Tabnabs with the Queen

When serving my Apprenticeship on the mv “Eskbank” we, by chance, were berthed in Lagos Nigeria at the same time as HM the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were making their first official visit to Nigeria. My Discharge Book informs me that it was January 1956

We were discharging part cargo of Gunny sacks in bales and a consignment of footwear from Bata. Calcutta, our berth was close to the main road and not far from the Cathedral thus we had a near grandstand view of the ceremonies etc,

Nigeria was still a British Colony and this visit had great significance as Independence was to come within the next couple of years. There was also some civil unrest.

Eskbank was my favourite ship of all I had sailed in. She was kept like a yacht with wooden sheathed decks and shining paint work she was a fine vessel. The accommodation. without AC was comfortable, but her navigational equipment was sparse. No gyro compass and a radar or Decca and steam powered deck machinery. She did 12 knots and was no ocean greyhound The Master then was Capt. Eadie, a New Zealander, who had the misfortune to have been interned, for the duration of the war, by the Nazis when his ship the mv “Speybank” was captured. He served most of his Apprenticeship as a POW. He always looked after his Apprentices, making sure we kept our correspondence courses updated and we got time off to do them.

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        Giving your first jab, by Captain John Campbell

One of the duties of the 2nd Mate, if you served as a Second Mate on a Bank Line ship of your many duties was is to look after the Medicine chest. A large locker in the Officers accommodation full of pills and potions prescribed by the Merchant Shipping Act. It also held drawers of instruments for operating on and in a seafarer. Details on how to look after this kit and the health of crew members were listed in The Ship Captain,s Medical guide. A book which was invaluable to a first trip 2nd Mate. The Master was ultimately responsible but usually delegated any first aid one of his officers. This was a job which few liked as it was conducted in our sleeping time and thus it was a demanding and irksome chore with accompanying form filling. 

My first trip as 2nd Mate was in 1957 and then Penicillin was the wonder drug and it and Sulfa Drugs (M@B) were the great lifesavers. Having an Indian crew meant that whilst at sea there was a steady stream of patients standing at the time of “sick parade” at 1000hrs daily whilst at sea. These sailors presented with maladies ranging from constipation to sore throats. We carried large gallon bottles of Black Draught and Cough Linctus and these were much in demand. The sailors would drink cough linctus by the gallon as they found that it contained morphine and that had to be rationed or we would soon run out. Other than these two drugs aspirin and calamine lotion for sun burn there was not a great demand for the other drugs although I have had to stich a sliced hand apply polices and splint legs. I had to look after a crazed Radio Officer, a schizophrenic sailor and a very depressive Third Mate in my time as Mate and Master. Thank goodness for Radio and getting speedily in touch with a shore side Medic was invaluable. There are times when you are grateful for the supply of Morphine on the Captains safe when an ill seaman has you clasped around the legs screaming in agony from kidney stones, 

I was a first trip 2nd Mate on the lovely new cargo ship the m.v.” Teakbank” where the Master was a huge man from The Isle of Wight. He resembled Pres Trump in statue and temperament and expressed openly his dislike for 2nd Mates in general and all us officers disliked him and slightly feared him.  

Since I started my career, I dreaded First Aid lectures and indeed all medical matters. I was quite faint at the sight of blood and in those days when we sat for our certificates of Competency, we had to have a valid Cert of Proficiency in first Aid which consisted of seven two-hour lectures and a twenty-minutes oral exam. A complete farce. Nowadays things are completely changed, and it is now completely updated and even includes spells in Hospital A&I and even knowledge of childbirth.  One thing they never taught us was how to give an injection. This was a grave omission from the syllabus as giving an injection was a terrifying proposition to a novice 2nd mate. 

The procedure then was to get out a stainless-steel pan and place it atop of a meth Spirit lamp and boil the syringe and needles. when these had been boiled you had to assemble the syringe and insert the needle into a vial of liquid draw it up and then insert the needle into a vial of Penicillin V. Shake the vial and liquid vigorously and draw the mixture into the syringe bring sure to not draw in any air. There were dreadful stories at the time of murders being done by injecting air into arms and we were all terrified of doing this. Never insert needles into veins 

 Our voyage was taking us from Hamburg to New Orleans and we were halfway across the Atlantic when I had to do a job which I dreaded doing and it was to give a jab of penicillin and to, of all people, the Captain. The “old man” was a great model maker and had a large selection of carving blades and had used one to cut into an ingrowing toenail with the inevitable result that he now had a septic and inflamed toe. 

I saw him om the bridge one morning as I had to come there to wind the chronometer as part of my daily duties. I thought it strange as he seemed overly friendly to me as he started chatting across the chart table. Then he said “Any good at giving a penicillin Injection Second Mate? I nearly fainted and my heart thumped, I had hoped that my first jab would have been to a lowly seaman but here I was faced with this ogre.  

I mumbled OK sir and he proceeded to show me his infected toe. I went down to my cabin and grabbed my Medical Guide and re read the chapter on giving an injection, I got the kit out and proceeded to boil up the gear. The ship was in ballast and was rolling in the Ocean swell. The apparatus was in danger of sliding along the counter of the medicine locker as assembled the paraphernalia, kidney dish, cotton wool and iodine. The needles were thick not like those nowadays and could and were used many times. I did a dummy run and got the whole lot assembled using a complete vial of penicillin which I deemed was worth it. 

Anyway ,with trembling hands and saying a prayer, I climbed the stairs to the captain’s stateroom and was soon in front of this huge man with my syringe and kidney dish and towel, we went to his bedroom and he lay face down on   his bunk hauling down a vast pair of blue shorts to expose a huge area of flesh. The Guide gives a graphic illustrated display of where to insert the needle involving the drawing of an imaginary cross on the hip muscle, the upper and outer quadrant being the point to aim for. With the vast pale white hips on display I drew the penicillin into the syringe and stabbed completely forgetting to ensure that I had not expelled any air first. I did this all in a flash and I was so relieved when he said that was almost painless well done second Mate.  I said another prayer and ushed down to clear up. 

Since that day I have given and raced many jabs but like all those mariners who have had to look after a medicine chest one will always remember the time you gave your first jab 

The Waimarie river steamer – New Zealand

Captain Donald McGhee – ex Bankline

I was apprenticed to Donaldsons, then as a cadet with Bank Line. Unfortunately my career at sea was by no means a successful one, nor did I gain any recognition of any note, apart from that of a negative variety. All water under the bridge now, having “restarted or resurrected” in a minor way a maritime way of life. I retired in 2013 and moved to the river city of Whanganui, in the North island of NZ. I approached the master of the river steamer “Waimarie” for a volunteer deckhand place, which ultimately led to my ending up, 8 years later as the Senior Master! Command at last!

The 1937 ESKBANK in which the author served as 3/0 before going to tankers.

Prawn Curry

When doing my first trip as a young Chief Officer on the Caltex Dublin a very old and rusty T2 tanker I learned a lot. The Captain was Wally McCullough a jovial chap from Belfast whom I had sailed with before, he too was doing his very first trip as Master, so we were each learning as we went along.

We were on a voyage which was not everyone’s favourite Rastanura to Vizagapatam with crude and fuel oil, A run which we detested because of the heat and the ports involved. Our stores were poor as fresh veg etc was scarce and of poor quality. Thank goodness the T2s had iced freshwater fountains which were a boon in accommodation without A/C. We 

We were coming down the West Coast of India when the Dublin developed Engine problems and we had to go into the port of Cochin for repairs.

Going into Cochin (Kochi)passing close to the breakwaters of the huge port we could see the flotillas of prawn fishermen casting their nets and hauling up lots of shrimp and prawns. Now Wally liked his food and seeing this display and knowing that Cochin was famous for its prawn curries. He was very happy. 

As soon as the Agent boarded, and we were tied up Wally ordered the Chandler to supply us with a huge quantity of prawns to add variety to our diet.

We were only a short time in port and with our boiler repaired we sailed. Next day everyone was looking forward to dinner where prawn curry was the main dish on the Menu. Everyone but myself as I was very wary of anything I ate in India as several years before I had been hospitalised in Calcutta with dysentery.

At about midnight as we sailed down the coast southward, I was called by the 2nd Mate to come to the bridge as the Captain was ill and that he himself was not too good. I found Wally in dreadful pain, sick as a dog and sweating. Classic symptoms of food poisoning. That was the start of a hard day’s night as one by one the whole ships company of deck and Eng. officers except me and the chief Engineer were ill. Some including the second engineer’s wife were very distressed indeed.

I got the trusty Ship Captains Medical Guide out and started going from cabin to cabin with a large bottle of Diarrhoea mixture and sulphaguanidine tablets. Thank goodness we had an Indian sailor in the crew who kept a bridge watch as I rushed from cabin to cabin. The Chief did a valiant twelve hours in the Engine room. I managed to grab a few hours sleep on the chart room settee, but I was shattered too with lack of sleep. Thankfully none of the Indian crew ate any prawns.

Twenty-four hours later things got gradually back to normal. All the remaining prawns had been thrown overboard and we were back to mutton curry again.

It was a salutary lesson to us all to beware what you eat in tropical climes.

Kindly submitted by Captain John Campbell


Southbank painting by


The fat is in the fire and you have had your chips

Rejoining my ship, the MV Southbank after being hospitalized, in Calcutta, with dysentery. The Company Doctor Gangully deemed me fit for light duties.  This did not impress our Chief Officer who put me on a twelve-hour cargo watch every night. We were loading Gunnies Huge bales of jute Gunny sacks destined for the grain trade in Argentina). 

The cargo was being loaded from barges as the ship was tied up to buoys in the River Hooghly as it flows through the center of Calcutta. My duties were to assist the 2bd Officer in supervising the loading particularly looking after portable floodlights which were prone to damage from all sorts of causes and involved climbing in or out of holds dodging swinging bales of gunnies. It was a dangerous and demanding job in the humid heat. The work went on relentlessly without a break

It was the practice, to sustain the 2nd Mate and myself together with the 5th Engineer that we had our breakfast left out by the Chief Cook. The ingredients rashers of bacon and bread were left in a fridge and the chips were all cut and steeping in a bucket ready for the Officers breakfast. The galley had an oil burning stove which had a powerful fan, a noisy contraption that would do your hearing damage. No wonder that ship cooks were usually bad tempered and cantankerous working with that noise and enduring the heat of the tropics. I was glad that my work was not in the Catering Dept. When I turned up at the galley for my initiation into how to get this fearsome contraption worked etc., the Chief Cook a swarthy Goanese spent the briefest time showing me the ropes before locking up and giving me the keys. He did say, with a menacing leer, that the galley had better be kept spotless or he would not be responsible for the consequences.

The 2nd Mate was a Dutchman Van Dan who had been in the War and stayed on in the UK. A short-tempered nervous fellow who made me run around checking on the Indian dockers, and a multitude of tasks. I was exhausted by 0200 hours when I got instructions to cook our meal. It took me a wee while to get the galley range fired up. The only control I could find was full on and I got the chip pan ready, I did not realize that the top of the range was glowing red.  The lard for cooking the chips was solidified in a large aluminum pan.  I got the fat steaming hot and then grabbed a handful of chips and tossed them in. Seconds later the inevitable happened and the pot of lard bubbled over and the fat went on fire. There was nothing I could do but shut of the fuel and fan and grab the two-gallon foam fire extinguisher and hope for the best. Once you start these extinguishers it keeps splashing out a huge amount of foam.

Realizing that I could not stop the discharge and as it was causing havoc to the galley I rushed with the apparatus and held it over the side letting the foam fall into the Hooghly. I then had to report the sad news to the Dutchman who allowed me to go and clean up the galley and we got no meal, I managed to get everything tidied up, as best I could before the Cook turned to at 0600 in the morning and I thought that with a bit of luck the bully of the Chief Mate might never know about it. The following nights I gradually learned to cook and to control that dreadful stive. Bacon and eggs and chips remain my favorite meal.  

Now at that time Bank Line used their time in Calcutta to have the Southbank’s hull painted from stem to stern by a shoreside contractor by the name of Babel Lal. A day before we completed loading the painting completed the Chief Mate and the contractor did a trip in a sampan around the ship to check up on the paint job.  The Chief Mate always got a large buckshee from the contractor so that hee would get a good reference for future work, they were astounded and enraged when they saw that the starboard side abeam of the galley was streaked with the yellow foam. I was soon sent for as word about the Galley Fire had reached the Mr. Orford who summonsed me to his office. He gave me a severe telling off and said that there being no time to repair the damage he would have no option but to re paint the area at sea and that yours truly would have to do 

 We left Calcutta and as soon as we dropped the Pilot at Sand heads the dreaded Chief Mate had me dangling over the ship’s side in a bosuns char with a bucket of Suji-mutti and soda to rectify the damage. In this I failed and was hoisted aboard, and I refused to go down again for another go. Anyway, the serang arrived with some man helpers and soon painted over the blemish.  Looking back on this incident this was the only time I have ever seen a seaman put over to work whist steaming along and without a safety belt.

Serving your time teaches you all sorts of things and chiefly how to manage people and that your sins will find you out. 

When I retired, I was offered a Contraors job insoecting Training Establishments for the North Sea Offshore Oil Industry. I travelled the length of the UK ensuring that Firefighting and lifesaving skills were taught to Roustabouts and Rough Necks.  I saw many Galley fires and demonstrations on how to tackle them but not with a foam extinguisher but by using a fire blanket. A utensil sadly not found in ships galleys when I was serving my time

Thanks to Captain John Campbell for the account

An Apprentice’s story



The day I lost seven Lascars in a flea market

When joined my first ship making my first trip as a young 17-year-old apprentice it was a completely new experience for me. My first ship was the MV “Southbank “discharging a full cargo of copra in the Royal Albert Dock in the huge port of London. The ship was a new cargo ship of the famous Bank Line crewed by Lascar seamen from Calcutta British Officers engaged in round the world voyages.

London then in May1953 was an exciting place to be as the city was preparing for the Coronation and its was full of visitors, armed forces in uniforms, and streets were being decorated with flags etc. Going up by bus from the docks to Piccadilly was a novel experience for me who, being brought up in the Highlands of Scotland where even the sight of traffic lights was a novel experience. I had to learn fast and make the best of it

When you start a career at sea you have all sorts of new experiences which can be bewildering at the time and learning to cope with them is not easy. I had been on board for less than a week when I was summoned to the Captain’s office and given a new task it was to take a group of five Lascar seamen to see the Doctor at the Seamen’s hospital at Greenwich. I had to go in uniform, and I was given a couple of pounds to cover bus fares.

It was the practice of Ships with Indian crews, who did not get overtime, to give the crew time off in lieu. This was eagerly looked forward to by the crew who went ashore to buy all sorts of second-hand materials such as Singer sewing machines and clothes. Charity shops were not in being then but flea markets such as Petticoat lane was a favourite as there were many Indian merchants there

Indian seamen then spoke extremely poor English and the Officers limited Hindustani. Getting to know what ailed them was no easy task “Something paining Sahib” was a common complaint but they could not be denied their visit to “the quack” as Doctors were called in ship’s speak in those days. Indian sailors looked forward to these trips to the Doc visits as they usually got a free trip up town, they came back with a moderate supply of pills and potions which they would then use but keep them until they returned home to sell or keep for use at home in Calcutta. Plus, after the visit to the Dr they could go to the Post Office and post letters home and then go to the nearest markets to hopefully buy second-hand gear.

I was extremely apprehensive as I led my gang or troop of seven Lascars down the gangway to go to the Dreadnought. I was dreading the job of not losing some of them as they persisted in walking Indian file and were hard to keep together. How I managed l will never know but what happiness it was for me to get eventually by bus to the magnificent Dreadnought hospital in Greenwich.  The Doctor who attended them was well used to this sort of thing and had a smattering of Hindi and after an hour or so he had examined then all we started back to the ship the lascars laden with bottles of medicine, mostly stomach mixtures, cough linctus. Embrocation etc.

Getting my crew together after exiting Dreadnought I started the journey back to my ship. The wily Lascars had other plans and wanted to visit the Post Office and flea markets. They had each been given a sub by the Captain when the ship arrived, and they were intent on spending it.  I was naïve and gave into their whines and we found a marker in the vicinity. My heart was in my mouth as I soon lost every Indian and despite searching frantically could not find them. I could do nothing except go back to the Royal Albert Dock without them.

Back onboard I was soon at the Captains door sheepishly telling him that I had lost seven of his crew. Expecting a severe dressing down at least I was astonished to hear him say. “Don’t worry laddie they will find their way back they are experts at this game” sure enough back they came and were next seen struggling up the Accommodation ladder with at least two sewing machines, bits of furniture and brick and brac. I soon learned that Indian crews when joining a ship with not much more than a pair of jeans and a T shirt would, after two years trip, accumulate a vast amount of gear from the various ports of call. The managed to store this gear all over the ship and they took home such things as old paint tins. Skeins of rope, old canvass, and unused rations of tea and sugar etc. Anything which could be used by their families at home was kept. They arrived on board thin and malnourished and left well fed and in much better condition. Accidents were few fortunately as they were good sailors even if not very strong. I would sail with them anywhere .any time.

A new crew of Thirty Lascars arriving to sign on would only require one lorry to carry their gear whereas the home going crowd would  need at least three. It was always a fascinating experience to see a crew change at Bombay or Calcutta.

Over the years the Indian seamen got better treatment, became better educated and better nourished when at home. They are better paid and the change crew far from India and flying home means that bringing back goods etc is impossible.

The Dreadnought still exists to this day and has treated many thousands of Merchant Seamen and had a great reputation for its quality of treatment however II will never forget my visit there and the day I lost the Lascars.

Written by Captain John Campbell – grateful thanks….

As a rider, I would add that after the SOUTHBANK (co-incidentally, the same ship) crew were rescued from Washington Island when she stranded in 1964, all of their accumulated gear was thrown overboard from the WINNEBAGO (the rescue vessel). Orders from the naval Captain. I can only assume they managed to grab any valuables before this was done.

As a rider, I would add that after the SOUTHBANK (co-incidentally, the same ship) crew were rescued from Washington Island when she stranded in 1964, all of their accumulated gear was thrown overboard from the WINNEBAGO (the rescue vessel). Orders from the naval Captain. I can only assume they managed to grab any valuables before this was done.

As a rider, I would add that after the SOUTHBANK crew (co-incidentally, the same ship) were rescued from Washington Island when she stranded in 1964, all of their accumulated gear was thrown overboard from the WINNEBAGO (the rescue vessel). Orders from the naval Captain who stated he only wanted to rescue the people. I can only assume they managed to grab any valuables before this was done.


A beautiful painting by John Stewart

‘Auf einem Seemannsgrab, da blühen keine Rosen’

(‘On a sailor’s grave no roses bloom’.)

Built in the Kingston Yard of Russell & Co, Port Glasgow, Scotland as Yard No.246 and completed on 26th December 1890, the four-masted steel barque Thistlebank sailed with the Bank Line, owned by Andrew Weir. Of 2431 grt displacement and a length of 284 feet she is typical of the last sailing ships to be produced in the late-19th and early 20th century. As an example of her prowess, between the 11th May and the 7th August 1897 she sailed from Lizard to Calcutta in 88 days, racing the four-masted barque Drumrock (which had sailed from Liverpool 6 days later on May 17th and reached Calcutta on August 10th after 85 days out).

Her main trade was on the Pacific grain route where she joined two other ships, the Gowanbank and Ashbank. Having proven her worth during 14 years sailing she was purchased in 1914 by the Norwegian shipping company A/S Olivebank (E. Monsen & Co.), Tvedestrand and then served through the opening months of WWI.

On the 30th June 1915 the Thistlebank, en route from Bahia Blanca, Argentina to Queenstown (CobH), Ireland for orders with a full cargo of grain was just 25 nautical miles (46 km) south west of the Fastnet Rock (51°09′N 9°50′W) when she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-24. Her crew took to the lifeboats and managed to row to the safety of Cork harbour. All survived.

On 26 October, 1914 U-24 was the first U-Boat to attack an unarmed merchant ship without warning, the SS Admiral Ganteaume which was torpedoed but was able to be towed to port.

In seven patrols, U-24 sank a total of 34 ships totalling 106,103 GRT, damaged three more for 14,318 tons, and took one prize of 1,925 tons.

Her second kill (six months before sinking the Thistlebank) was the most significant. The victim was the battleship HMS Formidable, torpedoed 30 nautical miles (56 km; 35 mi) south of Lyme Regis, at 50°13′N 03°04′W. She was hit in the number one boiler room on the port side. In gale-force winds, rain and hail, with swells running to nine metres high, as Formidable leaned twenty degrees to starboard the crew struggled to get their boats away. Some hit the water upside down, some were smashed as they fell, others were swamped. U24’s second torpedo struck the ship’s port side.

The battleship capsized, rolling over men in the water as she sank. Out of a crew of approximately 711 men, five hundred and forty seven died, including the Captain.

On the 22nd November 1918 U-24 surrendered and was later broken up at Swansea in 1922.

Many thanks to jungle cat. ( See

(A published article)

A Bank Line ship appointment in the 1950’s offered a rare chance to sail the world, visiting almost every corner,  and spending time in a a host of ports, including many out of the way places.    At the time, there was a different perception.  Unless you were lucky, or well connected and sent to a new building vessel, the chances were that the first sighting of a Bank Line ship would evoke mixed feelings.     The hull might be rusty or have rust streaks, the gangway look a bit rickety, and there may well have been a rich pungent smell from the discharging cargo, usually copra and coconut oil, but let it be known that what awaited you was pure unadulterated magic!

Again, the perception has changed with the passing of the years.   This was an  iconic British shipping company, unlike any other.  Similar to many, but head and shoulders above the pack.   The owner, Andrew Weir, later Lord Inverforth, had steadily built his empire, and he was still attending the office in his 90th year.    The ships were maintained in workmanlike style, not lavish by any means, but certainly not neglected in any way. 

The voyages were for two years maximum, and so it often proved.    Some vessels which were suited to load oil in deep tanks, were particularly handy for the Pacific islands, slowly trawling around the beguiling island groups, and they could be back home in around six months.   They were called ‘Copra ships ‘, in the company, and a berth was highly prized for obvious reasons.       A fleet of around 50  Bank Line ships circled the globe constantly and although tramping played a part, the majority of the cargoes and routings were the result of long established trades served not by the same vessels, but by a procession of newly arriving vessels on their way around the world. The various fixed contracts were augmented by spot chartering,  and it was this lottery of destinations that  Introduced the random trips and made life on board so fascinating.   The network of Agents and offices had been steadily built up from early beginnings with a similar sized sailing fleet which included the famous ‘Olivebank’.        These worldwide connections were somewhat unique, and much more substantial than we realised on board, naturally only concerned with the next port.    

Once up on deck, especially in the middle of discharging and with necessary repairs going on it looked chaotic.    These ships had Indian crews in the main, and the man guarding the gangway, called a Seacunny, would likely assist with all your bags and trunks.    Many of the apprentices and officers  travelled with an exorbitant amount of baggage, laughably regarded as essential for two years on board.   The old ships had wooden hatch boards, and steel beams, and at sea the hatches were covered with two or more heavy tarpaulins.    In port, these items helped litter the decks turning it into an obstacle course, and the clutter was made worse by hoses, pipes and cables if repairs were underway.    And of course, discharging continued with grabs flying in and out of the holds. 

Even on the older pre war vessels, the Master and Chief Engineer would have quite roomy accommodation, but for the rest of us, the two years would be spent in a small white painted cabin, sometimes with tongue and groove panelled bulkheads.   The bunks were narrow, and blue quilts with the Bank Line motive would be tightly stretched over them. A writing bureau and a narrow settee would complete the furnishings, and depending on the age of the vessel there may have been a wash basin, but definitely no running water.      A brass port provided light and air, but sometimes a metal scoop was all that was available to relieve the humidity in the tropics.  Oscillating fans were highly prized in the mid 50’s!  The pre war buildings often had a weird wooden contraption for washing, with a tip up basin, allowing any water to slosh down to a tank in the bottom for manual emptying. 

On the 1930,s built Irisbank, in which the author spent 2 years, the bathroom, shared by the  officers and apprentices was a functional part of our life, and we quickly adapted to the primitive conditions.   No fresh water was available, unless hand carried in from the pumps on or below decks, but salt water was laid on.   A bath, normal looking, had a steam pipe attached, the idea being that water, either salt or fresh, laboriously carried in, would be rapidly heated.     The copper steam pipe was swivelled, and the business end was swung around and poked under the water before the valve was opened.   It made a very loud raucous noise not unlike an animal being strangled. Adjacent to the sink was a handy electric copper tank which heated fresh water for hand washing etc.     It came in useful in very bad weather, at times when the galley gave up the struggle, when bizarrely, the author boiled eggs hung in the toe of a sock trapped under the lid!

Food in the Bank Line was usually satisfactory without any frills.      The saloon table would be attractively laid out, with often the menu stuck in the prongs of a fork!     Curry and rice featured strongly, and appeared occasionally on the breakfast menu.      The curry concoctions were a work of art, the author’s favourite being one with a sea of shimmering oil with halves of hard boiled eggs floating freely.   The colour of the surface changed into different hues as it moved.   The  apprentices were always hungry, but in extremis it was possible to cadge a chapatti from the Indian cooks or Bhandaries,  who catered for the deck and engine room crew.   On the older Bank Line ships, a distinctive feature was steel accommodation blocks either abeam of the foremast or mainmast and on either side.   These housed the crew galley, and also toilet blocks.    Arriving in a port anywhere in the world, day or night, it was often possible to pick out the outline of one of the old Bank Line stalwarts – true work horses of the oceans they were.        Apart from the distinctive blocks on deck, the derricks were usually lattice type, a box with criss cross strengthening on all four sides, and the steam winches would all be  clattering away as the cargo was furiously loaded or discharged, a string of barges alongside.   Decks were sheathed in pine, and scrubbed up or holystoned after a long port stay, they turned near white and glistened in the wet.   Open rails instead of today’s bulwarks complete the picture. 

Life on board usually settled into a steady routine, quite sedate at sea, but enlivened dramatically in port.  Some of the more exotic locations promised an interesting if not riotous time, and part of the attraction of this type of seafaring was exactly that.    Buenos Aires and all of the ports around the South American coast, East and West, could be relied upon for an interesting time, inevitably involving the local brew, the girls, and local cuisine, notably the steaks.  And in no particular order.   Before Juan  Peron was ousted in Argentina  the atmosphere was somehow heightened, and in Buenos Aires there was a notorious area in the docks called ‘The Arches’. which were railway arches utilised for bars, restaurants and worse.  It was a rough area, and attracted us all like a magnet. 

The usual Bank Line voyages in the 50’s started with a  light ship voyage out to the U.S. Gulf, but sometimes Trinidad for bitumen.   These cargoes all went down to Australia or New Zealand.

In the Gulf there were a range of loading ports starting with Brownsville close to the Mexican border, and all along the coast to the Mississippi Delta which served both New Orleans and Baton Rouge much further up.   Loading took place in a mix of these fascinating ports, with their distinctive smell of oil, gas, and chemicals.  Lub oil went into the deep tanks, and a base cargo of rock sulphur or sometimes potash went into the lower holds. This was quickly levelled and boarded over for a cargo of farm machinery, largely tractors, but often other large mysterious objects, all secured with rolls of shiny new wire.    It wasn’t unusual for them to break free in heavy weather, however. The tweendecks  then received a wide mix of general cargo, almost always including pallets of carbon black, and stacks of Hickory handles.   More machinery would be lashed on to the hatch tops.    Containers were yet to come, but the level of interest and variety of cargo was hard to beat back then in the 50’s. 

Watches  on the bridge followed a strict routine, and this was long before  Satellite and Global  positioning spoiled the fun of position finding.    The actual wheelhouse on the old timers was quite often small but somehow homily, if that is possible.  Before automatic steering, a quartermaster stood silently behind the wheel, and he was watching a magnetic compass in the binnacle, steering a course marked up on a chalk board by the officer of the watch.  There would be a manual voice pipe to the Master’s cabin, a brass telegraph, and a small side table with a dim or coloured bulb.   During this period, the first radar sets were being fitted and space was found for the display unit on a low table.     Early models were unreliable and became the bane of Sparkie’s lives as they were hauled out regularly to fix breakdowns.      Many Masters ordered their use very reluctantly, or reserved the time they were switched on to pilotage areas, or passing the many islands in the Pacific and elsewhere.    The doors either side of the wheelhouse led out to a short bridge wing with ‘cabs’ for weather protection at the ship’s side. These heavy doors slid open and shut and were held in place with wooden wedges.  The bridge front had drop down wooden dodgers  in the traditional manner, but one or two shorter Masters were known to use a box to see forward. 

Above the wheelhouse, the so called ‘ monkey island’ was accessed by short vertical ladders, and on a raised platform would be the standard compass with an azimuth ring on top, and protected by a binnacle hood.      In those far off days, this compass was a crucial part of the navigation, and was in constant use for bearings, both of heavenly bodies, and for coastal bearings as the ship progressed.    This exposed area was also a haven of peace and quiet, and could be a magical place at night with a huge canopy of stars and planets, especially in mid Pacific in clear weather when the sight was often  breathtaking.   

Bank Line ships carried a huge range of charts as standard, running into thousands.   These were stowed below the chartroom table behind the wheelhouse, and corrections were a nightmare.   Because of the range of charts, it was standard practice to pull out and correct only those charts needed for the immediate voyage ahead.  Correction of existing Admiralty charts,  and supplementary charts could be obtained in major ports like Sydney or London, but more often than not, the second mate, whose responsibility it was, would have to somehow prepare the courses, and ensure the charts were up to date.  The ship regularly received the well known ‘ Notices to Mariners’ for this purpose.  On the bulkhead would be an impressive array of Admiralty sailing directions in a rack or two.   Inside these volumes was a cornucopia of fascinating information, some of it handed down and still printed from Captain Cook’s time.   Many a boring watch was saved by delving into these books which seemed to be a mixture of old and new, probably stemming from the fact that there is a long British maritime history garnered worldwide, and alterations and additions seemed to be added ad hoc.   In the chartroom would be a settee, often with boxed sextants  resting on it, and the standard chart table with a shaded lamp.    

The Irisbank, as with other vessels of her generation, sported a ‘modern’ echo sounder.   It was positioned on the chartroom bulkhead adjacent to a mercurial barometer.    It worked on a pulse from a plate in the keel when switched on, and readings were recorded on a roll of special paper by a rotating stylus.   The dampness of the paper was crucial and worked best with a new roll fresh from a sealed pack.  The liquid gave off a pungent smell.  If the paper dried, which all too frequently happened, the markings faded to nothing, making it difficult to read. Despite the shortcomings it was a huge bonus in 1950’s navigation. 

This gadget had replaced a manual system in use not many years before, called the Kelvin deep sea sounding machine.  The author only used the wire manual machine a few times, and the drill was to swing out a boom maintained for this purpose, and then lower a thin wire to the bottom to record the depth.  This was done by means of a dial fixed on the frame.  The lead at the end had tallow applied  in a recess to determine the bottom composition,  in the time honoured fashion.  It was cumbersome and tricky and could only be used when near stopped in the water.       Plus, the wire had to be oiled as it was retrieved!

In the fleet in the 1950’s were a number of Liberty Ships, and these were a quite different experience to sail on. The ports and the random voyages stayed the same, but the accommodation layout and facilities, much improved on regular old time Bank Boats, meant that the company chose to  crew them with Europeans.   One such was the S.S. Maplebank, ex Samwash, and she was a lovely lady.   A bit bedraggled, and maybe a bit over worked, but a lady none the less.   To start with, the American build gave the liberty ships superior fittings, wider bunks with proper bunk boards instead of slats, running hot and cold water in each cabin, and a heating system to die for.      This particular ship had been present at the war landings in Sicily some 10 years earlier .     Serving as a senior apprentice, the author looks back with fond memories at the near two year voyage which circled the globe, plus a bit. 

The familiar design of the ‘Sam boats’ as they were known included gun bays on the fore side of the bridge structure, and although the guns were long gone, they served as handy lookout positions.   In Cook Strait, New Zealand, and heading into a fierce gale, they vibrated alarmingly as the wind was trapped beneath the protruding bays.    Another feature and hall mark of the solid looking Liberty’s was the topgallant mast on the mainmast.    This gave a very distinctive profile, and was used for signals. 

On the bridge, most of the fittings were somehow clunkier than usual, and down below a big simple  3 cylinder steam engine drove her along at the best part of 11 knots.    The engine was a classic and the analogy to a Big Tonka toy was hard to deny. 

In the Bank Line Liberty ships, the white crew arrangements posed a constant problem.    Drink was the cause, because in other respects they were very capable seamen who could rise to any challenge thrown up by the voyage.   The Maplebank crew, who were from Liverpool, took to sewing their own work clothes from  bolts of duck canvas.    Jacket, trousers, and cap were all produced. Their humour was second to none, but it wore a bit thin when they were laid up drunk,  and the apprentices, and sometimes the deck officers were forced to prepare the ship for sea, covering hatches, lowering derricks, and then steering for enough time to let them sober up.   On this particular voyage which was typical, the majority deserted in Australia and New Zealand, finding jobs ashore as taxi drivers or on building sites.  Some chose bar work which was a natural role given their love of drink. 

During our stay on the Australian coast, we drew the short straw on destinations and were nominated for the phosphate run.   This meant  sailing up and down monotonously from Ocean Island and Nauru with phosphate rock.  It went to Australia and New Zealand as land fertiliser, and unlucky was the ship that got ear marked for this interminable run.     It took us through the notorious Tasman sea in all weathers.  (See the photo of typical heavy weather in this area.).     So routine was this run that our crew members decided to lighten the mood by stowing away girls, and a male partner in one case, in their accommodation.   This worked successfully for a trip, but then the discharge port on a subsequent voyage was switched to New Zealand, and all hell broke loose when the ‘ passengers’ were discovered.     

Eventually we moved on in our round the world trek, and after a riotous stay in Buenos Aires we loaded iron ore in Brazil for Bremen,  and a ferry trip home.    Only one member of the original deck crew was still with us.   It had been a memorable voyage, and to coin a phrase, full of tears and laughter!

A full account of the author’s time in the Bank Line and later career is contained in the ebook entitled “Any Budding Sailors? “ and in a title, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951 – 1955” Also in print on Amazon.

The Finnish flagged OLIVEBANK

( pictured the year before she was lost to a German mine)

The OLIVEBANK was built in 1892 and left the Bank Line fleet in 1913, changing hands several times before joining the famous Gustav Erikson fleet. He reinstated her original name back to OLIVEBANK and 15 years later, after a great career she struck a mine in the N Sea and sank when in ballast. The Master and most of the crew died, and a few were saved after clinging to wreckage all night.

Pictures from ” Sea Breezes” dated 1938

Pictures courtesy of ” Sea Breezes” 1938

Pictures courtesy of ” Sea Breezes” 1938

New SIBONGA pictures

New SIBONGA pictures

For readers that don’t know the story or the drama of the SIBONGA rescue, please search on this site under SIBONGA. Briefly, the FIRBANK under time charter to the Danish EAC company was renamed Sibonga. Under the command of Captain Healey Martin, she was involved in the rescue of 1003 Vietnamese boat people in 2 boats in the China sea. This was in 1979. What makes the story so interesting today is the active interest and participation of those rescued on the various sites like ‘facebook’ many of whom were children at the time, and many of whom are now highly successful in their various careers. The whole story is a heartwarming one.

The people………….

Captain Martin with the boat Skipper….

The above photos courtesy of Mike Price who was the radio officer on board at the time. The full range of pictures can be seen on Facebook on the SIBONGA page.

The Doggerbank (Speybank) as a German minelayer

continued ….

An earlier article described how the SPEYBANK under Captain Morrow was captured by the notorious German raider ATLANTIS. After conversion in Bordeaux she laid mines around the Cape of Good Hope, and then was despatched to Japan to load vital war supplies for the Axis forces before being sunk in error in the Atlantic by U-43. What followed was a tragedy of epic proportions…….

When the DOGGERBANK was 1000 miles west west of the Canary Islands, disaster struck and she was hit by 3 torpedoes from U-43 on her own side in the war.  The U-boat commander called Schwandtke mistook her for a ‘ Dunedin Star ‘  type of vessel.  U-43 had observed five life boats being launched by the ship and attempted to make contact with the survivors, but failed to get close enough because of the darkness.[2] Unaware of the ship’s sinking as it had been unable to send a distress call, the German admiralty took days to realise the ship had been lost.   Only 15 men out of the huge total on-board made it onto a life-raft but there was no food or water.  There had been 108 crew and 257 others, mainly Allied prisoners being transferred to Germany.

  A book, titled, “ Survivor” tells Kurt’s story in great detail.  The desperate boat voyage without food was a long drawn out agony. Fifteen men plus a dog started the journey, Schneidewind controlling the route and in command. He steered by the stars and headed for the S. American coast to take advantage of the prevailing winds and the slow move towards a warmer climate.  Water fortunately came with sudden rain showers, but inevitably their health suffered and then they were overturned in a storm.  Only seven men remained to climb back on board the dinghy, the dog and the remainder of the men swimming off, or drowning.   Fritz Kürt, who was the Bosun on the DOGGERBANK, carved notches in the gunwale to mark the passage of the days. In desperation, he even chewed the wood removed when making the notches.   Finally, Schneidewind began to lose hope and explained to his fellow sufferers that the situation was hopeless.  He produced a gun from an  oiled pouch he had been carrying.  The remaining men tried to dissuade him, but when they saw he was determined to end his own life some asked to be shot first.  This was then carried out, followed by Schneidewind who so arranged himself on the gunwale during his suicide that he would topple back into the water when shot.   Finally, two men remained, Fritz and an old sailor called Boywitt.   Despite warnings Boywitt drank seawater and eventually died leaving Fritz Kürt alone. Kürt was eventually picked up by the Spanish motor tanker Campoamor on 29 March and taken to Aruba. He had been 26 days adrift.

The German submarine U-43 was sunk on 30 July 1943 without survivors.

Fritz Kürt was exchanged in a prisoner-of-war swap in 1944. He reported back to the German Admiralty to attend an enquiry. It was only then that he received confirmation that had been a German U-boat that torpedoed the DOGGERBANK, something which visually angered him.   The survivors had surmised that it was a U-boat from their own side when discussing the sinking, but could not be sure.   The German high command chose to remove the relevant pages from the log of U-43, and Kurt hid for the remainder of the war after hearing he was about to be arrested.

1945 Sisters


(Both photos showing the nice ‘sheer’ they were given.)

Both photos showing the nice ‘sheer’ they were given.

Photos showing the nice ‘sheer’ they were given..

Both vessels gave good service for 17 years. They were closed shelterdeckers, built by Doxford and given a 3 cylinder diesel engine. The MEADOWBANK became the Taiwan registered HSING YUNG, and the MORAYBANK went to HK owners Mullion & Co Ltd as ARDROWAN.

Ashore on Washington Island MID PACIFIC

Life on the island as told by one of the survivors from the SOUTHBANK wreck

Remains of the SOUTHBANK 2 years later

This is a a first hand account as told by the 2nd Electrician, Bill Kennedy. He later attended the enquiry which was held in Edinburgh.

I don’t know if you know much about Washington Island, you never mentioned if you had been ashore there. As I mentioned before we spent 13 days there. Did you know that the island
has a man made canal system hand dug by the women in the early days, and a natural fresh water lake in the middle of the island.The workers are on a 2 year contract. I think
they were recruited from Tarrawa. If you got ashore you may have noticed outside some of the houses a perch with frigate birds perched on them with a ribbon laced through their wings.
I will explain later the reason for the birds. As you can imagine we got to know some of the girls of our own age and they would make headdresses for us in the morning out of flowers.
I got to know a girl named Naomi, who would make me a special one. When we were leaving to head out to the Winnebago she ran down to the beach and presented me with her lap lap,
but I have to back up a bit and get things in a bit of order. They found Billy MacIntosh a day or two later and bought  him ashore and we proceeded to bury him. For the next few days, we 
went swimming and walking around the village. The villagers (the men) when not loading copra would go out fishing for sail fish. They would tie coloured feathers around the hook and 
throw it over the side If they hooked one they would tie the line to the bowsprit of the canoe, sit back and let the fish tire itself out. To see it you would have thought the canoe had an 
outboard motor on the ass end of the canoe it was pulled that quickly along. When the fish tired itself out they would it in whack it over the head with a club lay it on the outrigger 
and paddle back to shore.
The second week they took us to the other side of the island for a look see, and gave us a demonstration on how to catch gannets. Now back to the frigate birds. There was a huge rock 
about 4 foot high, and dotted here and there were perches where they sat the frigate birds. One of the islanders would stand on the rock and wave his lap lap back and forth over his
head to attract the gannets. Meanwhile another islander would hide behind the rock with a pole and a fist size rock tied to the end of a line. Just like if you were going fishing. 
the gannets being curious would swoop down to see what was going on. As they flew over the man on the rock, the man who was behind the rock would whip out the line and would 
ensnare the bird grab it and crack its head on the rock killing it instantly. They caught about 30 of them and we bought them back to our side of the island and that night we had a bit 
of a Luau. we had rice,gannet and corned beef on a palm leaf. As you would have noticed round the islands , to the natives corned beef is a rare delicacy, all in all we had a great day and night.
except that gannet is definitely an acquired taste. Our time on the Washington island was a great experience, but it was always overshadowed by the tragic death of the second mate
Billy MacIntosh.

This is a list of the crew as I can remember them :
Carl Jacobs                  Captain  and his wife 
Black Angus                Chief Officer ( I cannot recall his real name)
Billy MacIntosh            Second Officer
Brian Cox                    Third Officer
I cannot remember the names of the radio Officer
or the 3 deck apprentices

Engine Room:
Jim Harkiss                 Chief Engineer  and his wife
Jim Castle                   Second Engineer
John Lun                     Third Engineer
Colin Carmichael          Fourth Engineer
Neville Robinson           Fifth Engineer
Harpic                         Sixth Engineer ( cannot remember his name)
Mike McNair                Chief Electrician
Myself Bill Kennedy      Second Electrician

There was also 1 passenger but I cannot recall his name at all

Hope I am not boring you to much with all of this



Loss of the LINDENBANK

Here are the rather nice lines of the M.V. LINDENBANK. Completed by Doxford’s in 1961, and wrecked at Fanning Island in 1975.

The following account is reproduced from the company magazine.

The official report (see below) blamed the Master and 3rd Officer.

3 The Lindenbank was manned at the time by a crew of 59 hands all told. At the time of the casualty she was laden with a general cargo including island produce and vegetable oils of a weight of 8,700 tons consigned to the United Kingdom and Continent. The vessel sailed from Christmas Island on 14 August 1975 bound for Fanning Island in the Line Islands, and she arrived off English Harbour in Fanning Island at about 0800 local time (Zone-10) on 15 August. Here she was to load copra and cargo operations began about 0930. Inside English Harbour it was too shallow for Lindenbank to anchor: outside it was too deep. Following the practice of similar sized vessels the Lindenbank drifted off the island to load cargo from surf boats, frequently adjusting her position to give maximum lee to the surf boats. At the end of the day’s loading she was allowed to drift seaward in a north-westerly direction. 

On 15 and 16 August the Lindenbank in daylight loaded cargo in the manner described above. During the night of 15 August the vessel drifted slowly in a north-westerly direction. On the morning of 16 August after midnight of 15 August the vessel drifted in a south-south-easterly direction. It should be well-known to professional seamen that a prevailing current is often deflected in a totally different direction and/or rate by obstructions such as islands or shoals. At about 0400 on 16 August the Master ordered the Chief Officer to bring the vessel back to a position about 3 miles off English Harbour. At about 0630 cargo loading was resumed. 

On 16 August after loading for the day was finished the Lindenbank was again allowed to drift to seaward and again she was carried out to the north-west. At 2000 Mr Braund, an uncertificated Acting Third Mate, (aged 20 years at the time of the casualty) came on watch on the vessel’s bridge. The wind at the time was entered in her Chief Officer’s Log Book as SE, force 3, clear sky, good visibility. There was a fair amount of moonlight. The watch was kept by Mr Braund and two seamen/helmsmen, available for look out and other necessary duties. At this time Lindenbank had drifted about 6 miles to seaward in a north-westerly direction. The Master, Captain McKay, and his wife (carried as supernumerary) came up into the wheelhouse. About this time Mr Braund was instructing the Cadet in Morse Code signalling practice. When, about 2152, the Master found Lindenbank had drifted out further than the previous night and was now distant about 8 miles from English Harbour, he ordered engines full ahead and steamed in until 2251 when engines were reduced to slow ahead and stopped at 2255 1/2. 

Both Mr Braund and the Master testified that the vessel had lost all way on a position marked at the chart at 2307, based on two Radar distances. We are not too happy about the accuracy of the 2307 position, based as it was on two Radar distances, one of which was somewhat indefinable. We are not sure that Lindenbank well-laden as she was, would have lost all head way at this time. 

About 2315 the Master was satisfied from Radar Range Rings, that the vessel was drifting north-westerly; the Range Scale in use was 3 miles, 1/2 mile between each Range Ring. The 2315 position was not marked on the chart. We do not think the time interval between 2307 and 2315 was long enough for the Master accurately to assess the direction of the vessel’s drift. We think he was lulled into a sense of security (which proved false) in assuming the current would be north-westerly and continue north-westerly. On the previous night she had drifted north-westerly until 2400: thereafter she had drifted south-south-easterly. The Master left for his cabin about 2315, where he divested himself of his shorts, read a book and went to sleep. The Master had left no verbal or written instructions to Mr Braund to check the vessel’s position at least every 1/4 hour and to call him immediately if the vessel was closing land. When the Master left the bridge Mr Braund went into the chart room because the wheelhouse was unlit. There he set about the task of correcting a List of Lights. Such task usually falls to the Second Mate but the practice seems to have developed for the Third Mate to do it. We accept Mr Braund’s evidence that this is where he was. The seaman/helmsman was left on the port wing of the bridge as look out with instructions to call Mr Braund if need be. At 2345 the look out, with Mr Braund’s permission, left the bridge to call the Second Mate. About 2350 Mr Braund checked the weather, but did not check the position of the vessel. At 2355 the look out, again with permission, went to call the Second Mate, as requested. When the look out returned, Mr Braund went to the water closet. Whilst there he heard the Second Mate go past on his way to the wheelhouse. The Second Mate arrived in the wheelhouse just before 2400 and observed that Fanning Island was very close. When Mr Braund, very shortly afterwards, arrived he was greeted by the following understandable comment from the Second Mate: ‘What the bloody hell are we doing here?’ The Second Mate found the echo of the land on the Radar Screen so close to the centre that no accurate reading could be made. When he switched to the half mile Range, land showed right ahead at a distance of about 1/8 mile. Immediately afterwards the echo sounder, on both transducers, indicated zero readings. We assume the vessel was now aground. The Master, called by the Second Mate, came up into the wheelhouse immediately. Despite prompt engine manoeuvres (about 2 minutes were required to get them working) the vessel proved to be fast aground on coral. She appears to have gone aground about 2400. Despite jettison of cargo and other measures, and subsequent salvage operations (including efforts by USA Navy tugs and a sister ship the Elmbank) the vessel remained fast. Both the Captain and Mr Braund joined in all the efforts to salvage the casualty. She was, however, on 15 September 1975, abandoned, and later declared a constructive total loss. Although the vessel was lost successful measures were taken to avoid oil pollution. 

The Bank Line were in no way criticised by the Department of Trade and Industry — rather were praised and thanked. If only their Standing-Orders had been followed this disaster could well have been avoided. The vessel was fully seaworthy in every way, in class, properly manned and maintained. We were much assisted by Captain Rodgers, the Owners’ Chief Marine Superintendent, in the clear evidence he gave about the Bank Line. 

We censure the Master for not checking accurately the Radar position, when Lindenbank was only 1 1/2 miles off English Harbour. The Radar position was made by an uncertificated Acting Third Mate. The Master left no written or even verbal instructions to check the vessel’s position at least every 1/4 hour and to call him if the vessel was closing land. We appreciate his honesty and forthright acceptance of blame and have had such in mind. We have ordered him to contribute towards the cost of this Formal Investigation the sum of £500. We censure Mr Braund for his lamentable failure to keep his navigational watch properly. He went into the lighted chart room after the Master had left the wheelhouse and engaged in the unsuitable task of checking the List of Lights. At no time, after the Master left, did he check the vessel’s position by radar or by visual observation. We again appreciate his frank admission of blame and have had such in mind. We have ordered him to pay towards the cost of this Formal Investigation the sum of £250. 

New or old, a proper look out must be kept AT ALL TIMES (see M Notice No 756). This disaster clearly shows the vital need for Night Orders to be made by all Masters for the guidance of navigational watch keepers. This is especially important where the navigational watch keeper is uncertificated. In an age of science, when navigational aids increase, human skills must not be overlaid. The sea will catch the unwary who are not ready for the unexpected or unpredicted. 

Questions and Answers 

The Court’s answers to the questions submitted by the Department of Trade and Industry are as follows: 

Q 1 Did the Lindenbank strand? 

A Yes. 

Q 2 If the answer to Question 1 is ‘Yes’: 

(i) (a) Was the Lindenbank seaworthy at the time of the casualty? 

(b) Was she then properly manned? 

(ii) (a) In what position did the vessel strand? 

(b) When did she strand? 

(c) Why did she strand? 

(d) Did she become a total or constructive total loss? 

(iii) Was such stranding the cause of the loss of the vessel? 

A (i) (a) Yes. 

(b) Yes. 

(ii) (a) Bearing 312° from English Harbour distance about 1.6 miles. 

(b) About 2400 on 16 August 1975. 

(c) See Annex. 

(d) Constructive total loss. 

(iii) Yes. 

Q 3 If the answer to Question 1 is ‘Yes’: 

(i) Was the stranding and/or loss of the Lindenbank caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or default of her Master, Captain Alistair Vass McKay? 

(ii) Was the stranding and/or loss of the Lindenbank caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or default of the Third Officer, Stephen Clifford Braund? 

A (i) Yes. 

(ii) Yes. 

Q 4 Are there any lessons to be learned from this casualty which may prevent similar casualties occurring in the future? 

A See Annex. 


Peter Bucknill 



R L Friendship 

C W Leadbetter 


Produced in England for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office by 

Product Support (Graphics) Limited, Derby. 

Dd.586982 K5 8/77 


This tragic loss occurred in 1957. Not directly related to Bank Line but many Bank Line ships were in port with her in the 1950’s and some officers paid a ship visit, including the author.

This is an account of the beautiful sailing ship ‘ Pamir ‘ and her sad  end in a hurricane in the North Atlantic in 1957.    She made history by being the last commercial windjammer to sail around Cape Horn in 1949.         The  young Queen Elizabeth in England had been onboard  back in 1947 when ‘ Pamir ‘ visited Shadwell Basin in London, and the author was aboard the Pamir  on a sunny day in Buenos Aires, Argentina,  when she was loading for the fateful voyage.


 A poignant moment today can be captured by visiting the St Jacob’s church in Lubeck, Germany, where the section of the damaged lifeboat recovered from the Atlantic is displayed.   A small shrine also has photos of the boys and crew, and information is displayed of the tragedy, together with pictures of the 6 lucky survivors.   It is a powerful reminder of the tragedy that overtook the Pamir in 1957 and the torment borne particularly by sailing ship seafarers and their families ashore throughout the sailing ship era.

Details of the ship are:  Built at the Blohm & Voss shipyards in Hamburg, and launched on 29 July 1905. She had a steel hull & tonnage of 3,020 GRT (2,777 net). Overall length was 114.5 m (375 ft), a beam of about 14 m (46 ft) and a draught of 7.25 m (23.5 ft). Three masts stood 51.2 m (168 ft) above the deck and the main yard was 28 m (92 ft) wide. She carried 3,800 m² (40,900 ft²) of sails and was a fast sailer, reaching 15 knots on occasions.   Her regular cruise speed was around 8-9 knots.

Pamir‘ was built the fifth of ten near-sister ships. She was commissioned on 18 October 1905 and used by the Laeisz company in the South American nitrate trade. By 1914 she had made eight voyages to Chile, sailing around the Horn, and taking between 64 and about 70 days for a one-way trip from Hamburg to Valparaíso or Iquique, the foremost Chilean nitrate ports at the time. During World War I she stayed in Santa Cruz de la Palma port in La Palma Island, Canary Islands between October 1914 until March 1920. Due to post war conditions she did not return to Hamburg until 17 March 1920. when she then became a  war reparation and was awarded to Italy which fought on the Allies side in WW1.  On 15 July 1920, she left Hamburg via Rotterdam to Naples towed by tugs. The Italian government however was unable to find an adequate deep-water sailing ship crew, so she was then laid up near Castellamare in the Gulf of Naples.

In 1924 the F. Laeisz Company bought her back for £7,000 and put her into service in the nitrate trade again. Laeisz sold her in 1931 to the Finnish shipping company of Gustaf Erikson, who sailed her in the Australian wheat trade.

Heavy weather

When World War II started, Pamir was seized as a prize of war by the New Zealand government on 3 August 1941 while in port at Wellington. Ten commercial voyages were then made under the New Zealand flag: five to San Francisco, three to Vancouver, one to Sydney and her last voyage was across the Tasman Sea from Sydney to Wellington carrying 2700 tons of cement and 400 tons of nail wire.  

She escaped the second world war without any damage despite a close call in 1943 when a Japanese submarine was spotted nearby.  Evidently as a fast-moving barque under a strong and fair wind, she did not interest the submarine’s commander.   After the war she made one voyage from Wellington via Cape Horn to London, then sailed from Antwerp to Auckland and Wellington in 1948.  A plaque in Wellington harbour commemorates her time under the New Zealand flag.

Pamir was then returned to the Erikson Line on 12 November 1948 at Wellington and sailed to Port Victoria in the Spencer Gulf to load Australian grain. On her 128-day journey to Falmouth she was the last windjammer carrying a commercial load around Cape Horn, on 11 July 1949, and as mentioned, entered the history books for this feat alone. 

Gustaf Erikson had died in 1947. His son Edgar eventually found he could no longer operate Pamir (or sister ship  Passat) at a profit, primarily due to changing regulations and union contracts governing employment aboard ships; the traditional 2-watch system on sailing ships was replaced by the 3-watch system in use on motor-ships, requiring more crew and rendering operations uneconomic.   A German shipowners foundation then took over the 98-metre high sailing ship and the younger and somewhat larger Passat in 1956 as freight-carrying training ships for trainee sailors.  It was a proud moment.

On 1st July 1957, when the barque left Hamburg harbour to embark on her sixth voyage heading for La Plata, this was no longer just a sailing ship voyage. The company had installed a 1000 HP motor, which back then was state-of-the-art.  In order to complete the journey faster than planned, Captain Johannes Diebitsch left the motor running during the 346-hour voyage to Buenos Aires. The journey lasted a total of 25 days. The trip to Argentina had run smoothly and between 26th July and 10th August, the ship was loaded with her Barley cargo.  

On August 10th,  the Pamir left Buenos Aires for her homeward bound voyage with a full cargo of 3708 tons of barley, mostly in bulk, with a few layers of sacks to top off.  However, barley is a load that moves around in the ships hold like water if it is not transported in sacks. It can not be held back even by separating boards or bulkheads once the ship is caught in heavy seas or capsizes. Captain Diebitsch may have underestimated  this danger. 

She was to become  a victim of hurricane Carrie of that year, and the events unfolded as follows:

On the 2nd September, the crew of a passenger aircraft watched the formation of a long air vortex to the South West of the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast. They broadcast their observations by radio. At this point in time, the  Pamir was around 500 nautical miles to the North-West.

  On 6th September, the air vortex over the Atlantic had developed into a hurricane, which was dubbed Hurricane Carrie by the Hurricane Centre in Washington, and it was the 21st September, when the Pamir radio operators received the first warning. Just an hour later, the ship was hit by the first hurricane gust and the sea grew to a height of ten to twelve metres.  The sails were shortened quickly – the last ones being cut free due to the urgency of the situation. 

Around 11.00 o’clock local time however, the ship suddenly started to increase her list to port. XXX Messages (Urgency message, any traffic over radio has to stop) were sent and shortly afterwards an SOS was radioed: “Here German fourmastbark Pamir at position 35.57 n, 40.20 w, all sails lost, lopside 35 degrees, still gaining water, ships in vicinity please communicate, master”. And then at 14.54 GMT “SOS, SOS, SOS from DKEF rush rush to us, German fourmast broken Pamir danger of sinking, Master”.     

Eighty-six crew members were on board in total, including 22 ships boys, 29 novices and an apprentice carpenter, so basically first-time employees.  

Several ships altered course towards the Pamir. However at 1.03 p.m. local time she capsized, and then sank 30 minutes later, in position 35°57′ N and 40°20′ W, 600 miles south south-west from the Azores Islands. The search, co-ordinated from the US Coast Guards cutter Absecon, lasted 9 days, and 50 ships and the planes from 13 countries participated. 

Out of the 86 men in the complement, including 52 cadets, only 6 survived (4 seamen and 2 cadets). Five men (K.-O. Dummer, K. Fredrichs, H.-G. Wirth, V. Anders, K.-H. Kraaz) were rescued by the Geiger on the 24 September.  Another seaman (G. Hasselbach) was rescued by the Absecon on September the 25th.   He had been miraculously discovered on the afternoon of 24th September by a cutter of the American coastguard.  He was the only survivor from 22 men who managed to get away in a lifeboat. His comrades died of debilitation, were washed overboard or were drowned after 3 days in rough seas.

Due to the heavy list of the Pamir, during the storm, the remaining lifeboats were unable to be launched. The ship capsized and for a few minutes then floated bottom up. It is likely that many crew-members were caught under the ship as it capsized.     It was a national tragedy, involving dozens of families, and the loss of eighty fine young men, who will still be mourned today. 

On the evening of 29th September 1957, five young men flew in an American plane and returned to Hamburg. They were five out of the six survivors , with Gunther Hasselbach to follow later.

The sinking of the Pamir  marked the end of the freight-carrying sail training ships. The maritime world will long remember the tragedy and the loss of these 80 men like many before them in a ship overwhelmed by the force of nature.  It was ironic that the insurance payout of 2.2m Deutschmarks for the loss ensured a profit on this last fateful voyage.  Her  sister ship, Passat, was also decommissioned after the tragedy, and today can be seen in Lubeck as a Museum ship.


The OAKBANK was built in 1926, one of 18 vessels in the same order. She was in ballast when sunk by U-507 in the Atlantic.

 Captain Stewart and an Apprentice were taken on board the U-boat.   They drowned 12 days later when the U-boat herself was lost with all hands.  The ship had been in ballast and en route from Durban, S.Africa to Demarara to load for the UK when caught by the U-507 off of Fortaleza, Brazil.  24 crew and 3 gunners were lost when she went down.  The Brazilian ship, COMMANDANTE RIPPER picked up 32 persons from boats, and 2 crew  on a raft reached the coast by themselves landing in Para, Brazil.   An Argentinian tanker found a person in the water and proceeded to Recife to land the survivor.  The total souls on board had been 63 out of which a total of 35 survived the ordeal.    The U Boat was sunk by depth charges dropped from a U.S. Catalina aircraft near Fortalez.



The SPEYBANK of 1925 was destined to play a strange role in WW2. Captured in the Indian Ocean by the German raider ATLANTIS she was used in a highly successful role as a mine layer and blockade runner, before coming to a dramatic end with a tragic twist for the Commander.   The story is best told by Bernhard Rogge, the Captain of the ATLANTIS, in an abbreviated account given later:


“ I headed for  the route taken by tankers going to and from the Persian Gulf and on the 31st January in the evening the lookout sighted a masthead, and a dim shadow appeared on the horizon exactly at the time we had calculated.  Range 23,400 yds called the gunnery  officer, and then 14,000 yards. We were coming up at 14 kts.     The moon had risen and the visibility was good. I altered towards the target and increased speed and she turned away so obviously we had been sighted.   Our first Salvo screamed over to her, and after the third salvo she appeared to stop  and I sounded the ‘ Cease Fire’ on the siren.”  She was a merchant ship  of medium size and typically British built – her gun was not manned.  I signalled – Stop. Do not use your wireless. Remain on board and await my boat.  What ship?     Back came the reply, S-P-E-Y-B-A-N-K.    

Lloyds register showed it was a Bank Line ship of 5044 tons, registered in Glasgow, and built 1926. The search party went out and returned with seventeen white prisoners.  The captured ship was undamaged and more importantly she had sent no signals.”

On first sighting the raider, Captain Morrow said that on the SPEYBANK had assumed she was a passenger ship on almost the same course, and he made a slight alteration to allow her to pass safely.   Even when the ‘ passenger ship’ suddenly appeared out of the darkness on his port quarter the idea of being a raider had never occurred to him, and he steered away to avoid a  collision.  He was on the point of signalling for her to ‘pay more attention’ and had finally stopped to avoid a collision, when gunfire started.  He promptly abandoned any thought of resistance to avoid loss of life.  Captain Morrow was taken aboard the ATLANTIS and spent 4 years interned as a P.O.W. in Germany.

The SPEYBANK had left Cochin in India on the 25th January for New York, and she was fully stored up.  Cargo included manganese ore, monazite,Ilmenite, and teak.

Captain Rogge continues, “ I realised at once that she was a valuable catch.   Also, being fully stored, the ship was well suited for a prize, and her cargo was of incalculable benefit to our war economy. She was also suited to be an auxiliary under the German flag, so I ordered an Officer with another ten men to take the ship to a rendezvous point.  This capture brought our total to 104,000 tons of shipping.    She sailed off after midnight heading for Bordeaux in France under command of a young officer named Schneidewind, taken from the blockade runner TANNENFELS. who knew the waters of Asia well, and who proved to be a capable officer.    He navigated the SPEYBANK through the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic and finally arrived safely in Bordeaux on May 10th.     Later, we resumed our search on the ATLANTIS along the India trade route.”  

Upon arrival in Bordeaux, Schneidewind suggested that the German Navy convert the SPEYBANK to an auxiliary minelayer.  The idea of laying mines near distant ports must have intrigued the higher naval officers because they decided to accept the idea.  The fact that SPEYBANK belonged to a class of 18 Bank Line vessels came in handy because she could be disguised and changed without suspicion.

There was then a conversion of the captured ship to a new specification which included facilities to carry 280 mines, and modifications to serve as a U-boat supply ship, i.e. with torpedoes and stores.  The code name during the work was “Schiff 53” and the name chosen for service was DOGGERBANK.  She was put under the management of D.D.G. Hansa, the German Line.  Included in the makeover were guns, a 102 mm and 2 x 20 mm cannon.  50 torpedoes were also carried as spares for the U boat fleet, and the speed was set at 11 kts – this provided by the original 6 cylinder, 2300HP. engine.  

The Kriegsmarine staff apparantely appreciated Schneidewind’s enthusiasm, because he was given command of the newly created DOGGERBANK. Under her Captain, the ship was quickly prepared for her new task, and on Dec 17th 1941, she loaded the mines at La Pallice and by mid January she was ready to sail.   Escorted by the U-432 she left France for the South Atlantic.   The crew were set to making her look like an ordinary freighter including fake rust patches!  They chose the name of one of the sister vessels still at sea, the LEVERNBANK, to convince any enquiring vessel or patrol.   The passage to the South Atlantc was uneventful, and she arrived to carry out the mine laying which was given the code name ‘Operation COPENHAGEN’.     She was ordered to lay a minefield near Capetown as shipping lanes converged here, particularly ships from Australia and New Zealand.  Troop convoys also stopped off on the way to the Middle East.     On March 12th, 75 mines were prepared that had been disguised as deck cargo, and the night of March 12th was to be the start of the minelaying operation.  Things started to go wrong when in the late afternoon an aircraft approached and hailed the ship asking for name and destination.  Schneidewind ordered to signal, “ LEVERNBANK, en route New York via Recife to Capetown”.  He also waved a few times from the bridge with his hat, and the aircraft apparently satisfied, flew off.   Then a small ship was sighted and easily evaded, before some 60 mines were laid on the early morning of the 13th. Schneidewind then decided to withdraw using the normal shipping lanes to avoid suspicion. He headed for Cape Agulhus and an operation named “ Kairo”.   Around 1945 that evening, a warship appeared flashing signals and showing a red light.  Schneidewind thought it was a cruiser but in fact it was the HMS DURBAN heading for Simonstown and repairs.  The signals were a standard call for identification but the Germans were unable to reply not knowing the code.   She came closer and asked “ What ship?” To which the reply came, “ LEVERNBANK” from New York to Durban, good night.  His bold answer worked, and the warship sailed on.  However, the scare made Schneidewind decide to cut his losses, sow the 15 mines that were on deck, and disappear.  They steamed south, and on the morning of the 14th March, a large passenger ship came into view.    However, it was in fact the merchant cruiser, HMS CHESHIRE.   Now, Schneidewind made a mistake and tried to race away from the ship before turning and heading straight back. As they approached a signal was seen asking, “ What ship?”   He answered with the previously successful ruse, “ INVERBANK” from Monte Video to Melbourne, and hoisted flags with that call sign.  The CHESHIRE repeated “ Where from and where to”, and the answer was repeated, which produced the signal, “ I wish you a happy voyage”.  They had done it again!   He replied, “ Many thanks, same to you” and steamed off, heading south away from the busy areas.

Shortly afterwards a big increase in radio traffic indicated that the mines were doing their deadly work in a spectacular fashion.

Several ships reported hits, and lives were lost, and valuable cargoes sent to the bottom.   In the meantime, Schneidewind received orders to proceed out into the South Atlantic and await orders.   However, the ship was soon sent to lay yet another minefield, this time a further 80 mines south of Cape Argulhus. This was done on the night of April 16th and 17th.   This produced rich dividends when troop convoy WS-18 ran into it and the destroyer HMS HECLA suffered an explosion amidships putting her steering gear out of action.  Many of the crew died.    She was towed to Simonstown by HMS GAMBIA and was repaired within 18 weeks.  More ships were hit, including the vessel Dutch vesel SOUDAN with stores and TNT.

From the German side, this exercise had been highly successful with more ships running into the mines, but although there were still mines on board it was decided to send the “ DOGGERBANK” to Japan on a new mission.  En route she met the German raider MICHEL and a supply tanker in the S Atlantic.  The MICHEL offloaded 128 prisoners on June 21st and she was supplied with stores, the two ships staying together for a week, before course was set for Jakarta and then onwards to Japan, arriving in Yokohama on August 19th.  Here she was turned into a blockade runner and loaded with 7000 tons of rubber plus oils and other scarce products, and set off on a home run to Germany.    By this time the Atlantic war had started to turn in favour of the allies, but wolf packs were still a great danger and had intensified their activities.    When the DOGGERBANK was 1000 miles west west of the Canary Islands, disaster struck and she was hit by 3 torpedoes from U-43 on her own side in the war.  The U-boat commander called Schwandtke mistook her for a ‘ Dunedin Star ‘  type of vessel.  Only 15 men out of the huge total on-board made it onto a life-raft but there was no food or water.   The conditions worsened, and it capsized.   Six men reboarded and the situation slowly deteriorated to the desperate point where the suffering was intense.  4 of the men then begged to be shot to put them out of their misery.    Schneidewind carried this out, finally turning the gun on himself.  The sole survivor, named Fritz Kürt, told the full story after his rescue by a Spanish tanker called CAMPOAMOR which landed him at Aruba.    A huge total of 364 persons had been lost with the sinking of DOGGERBANK, mostly Allied prisoners.  In Germany there was considerable angst about this event and it was ordered that the relevant pages from U-43’s log should be removed.


A fascinating first hand account of life around the Ports of Japan on the LEVERNBANK in the 1960’s, and later on many other vessels.

Here is a taster………

The full illustrated article can be downloaded by clicking the ‘download’ button below.

Many thanks to Geoff Walker. Please check out his site at


The Master and Officers in 1949

A happy photograph taken in 1949. It was Captain Morrow’s last voyage before retiring.

Standing left to right: Sparks/2nd Mate/3rd Mate/Chief Officer/2 Apprentices/Captain Morrow. Seated Mrs Short (a passenger) Chief Eng/Mrs Morrow.

The Group photo kindly submitted by Captain Morrow’s grandson.

I joined this ship 2 years later as a first trip Apprentice.


A look back in time

The LARCHBANK was one of an 18 ship order and she was completed in 1925. She was destined to suffer a terrible fate, torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-27 in WW2 near the Maldive islands, and with the tragic loss of all the 48 persons board.

An earlier voyage

The engineers on the LARCHBANK in happier times – circa 1927-9 voyage. (Note the box camera of the times.)

The young Apprentices – all future Captains

left to right: Mitchell, Smith, and Wright.

Captain Andrew Morrow on the left

Photos of the above personnel kindly submitted to ‘banklineonline’ by Lester Morrow, who is the grandson of the Master above. He would welcome any extra information about the vessel, the Master, or the era. Please leave a message below. Many thanks .

A John Farringdon tribute.

John on the left. Harmony St. wharf. New Orleans. 1961

A shipmate from the past has sadly died recently. John Farringdon, who rose to Master in both Bankline and later on cross channel ferries, was a shipmate when he was 2/0 on the Southbank in 1961. Among the memories there was a day and night ashore at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It was 1961 and we teamed up with 2 girls down from UCLA. R.I.P. John.

An interesting article by Captain Bob Blowers

Having spent three years at the London Nautical School and after taking the General Certificate of Education in six subjects, including Navigation and Seamanship, the next step was to go to sea.  It was first necessary to pass a full medical examination and eyesight test.   To avoid oil tankers and experience worldwide trading, I signed indentures in 1955 at the age of 16 with Andrew Weir’s Bank Line and joined, as the junior of three apprentices,  a brand-new ship M.V. Foylebankat Harland & Wolf’s shipyard in Belfast for a five-month trip to U.S. Gulf ports, Australia, South Sea Islands and home.   When we were in Houston, Texas, we were berthed next to an old Bank Line Liberty ship (generally referred to as Sam boats) the Ivybank, loading a similar assortment of cargo for Australia We exchanged visits and their junior apprentice went back along the quay crying after seeing our new and much nicer accommodation and facilities.   I wrote to my parents that “the ship (Ivybank) was the worst I had ever seen.  It was absolutely filthy and the quarters were just shocking.  I hope I never see her again in my lifetime.” 

(Click on the download button for the full article)


This is an interesting first hand account of life as an Apprentice in the 1950’s. Told by Captain Blowers who served his time with Bank Line. The intro only is shown here. (For the full story please click on the orange download button at the end)

A Mystery Voyage with the Bank Line:


Having spent three years at the London Nautical School and after taking the General Certificate of Education in six subjects, including Navigation and Seamanship, the next step was to go to sea.  It was first necessary to pass a full medical examination and eyesight test.   To avoid oil tankers and experience worldwide trading, I signed indentures in 1955 at the age of 16 with Andrew Weir’s Bank Line and joined, as the junior of three apprentices,  a brand-new ship M.V. Foylebankat Harland & Wolf’s shipyard in Belfast for a five-month trip to U.S. Gulf ports, Australia, South Sea Islands and home.   When we were in Houston, Texas, we were berthed next to an old Bank Line Liberty ship (generally referred to as Sam boats) the Ivybank, loading a similar assortment of cargo for Australia We exchanged visits and their junior apprentice went back along the quay crying after seeing our new and much nicer accommodation and facilities.   I wrote to my parents that “the ship (Ivybank) was the worst I had ever seen.  It was absolutely filthy and the quarters were just shocking.  I hope I never see her again in my lifetime.” 

  So, you can imagine my thoughts, when after three weeks leave over the New Year period 1955/56, I received orders to take the train to Hull and join the S.S. Ivybank,that had followed us back from Australia with a bulk cargo of ore of some kind. On the train I met two of the other apprentices joining, the 18-year-old senior apprentice, Terry,  was an old London Nautical School boy, as also was the first trip junior apprentice, Tony, an  old form-mate who had stayed on at school for an extra 6 months.  The second apprentice, John from Dover, joined later and was a year senior to me.  The overnight (non-sleeper) train arrived in Hull at about 5am and we had to kick our heels in the cold until 7am when the nearby seamen’s club opened so that we could get a hot drink and some breakfast  As soon as they opened for the day we made the required visit to the company’s agent in the fabulously named “Land of Green Ginger” where we were given the location of our ship and found her high out of the water with a perilously steep gangway to lug up all our gear.  The joining date was 18th January 1956.


BALTIC COMET was built at Rendsburg, Germany in 1954. Sister of the BALTIC CLIPPER. Ran to the Mediterranean for 12 years in conjunction with SLOMAN, Hamburg. Sold to Pakistani owners in 1966 when she became the PASNI. In 1977 changed hands again , becoming the SEAMOON 1 under Bangladesh owners, and ended her days at Chittagong in 1982.

FOYLEBANK – A birthday at sea..

The ex Russian (Finnish built) FOYLEBANK had capacity for 576 teu’s, and was purchased by the Bank Line in 1995 and fitted out with some passenger cabins. She was then placed on the S. Pacific services.

The birthday card above was drawn by the second Mate, Gareth Armstrong, to mark the birthday of Robbie MacKenzie, the Master’s wife, who has kindly agreed to share it with readers.


The TEAKBANK at Colombo early 1960’s

A closed shelter deck design built in 1958 Sold out of the fleet in 1975 when she became the NEWTON. Photo courtesy of Charlie Stitt and his site. See


The Teakbank was my home for a series of voyages World Wide that over a period over Two years of my life during which time I served as 2nd and 1st Mate on this fine vessel.

Posted by Mike Lindsell


Bank Line navigators will remember the infamous stretch of coast just round the corner from Cape Town heading North, with a grim warning on the Admiralty charts about shifting sands..

Here is an interesting original article complete with photos written by an ex Bank Line man. To read the whole article please click on the orange download button. Happy reading!

See https://oceanjoss for more material…..



The interesting history of the BALTRAFFIC, built in Sunderland at the end of WW1. She was the WAR COPPICE ordered by the government and unwanted as the war ended, so sold to the French government who named her NORD. A year later they sold her to a Lorient based company who fitted her out as a reefer vessel and named her ( imaginatively?) REFRIGERANT. Much later in April 1933 she was sold to UBC and named BALTRAFFIC. During WW2 she went down to New Zealand for the duration of the war and returned to Europe in 1946 resuming her trade on the Baltic run. In 1952 at the age of 34 she was sold to a Pakistani company who named her SAFINA-E-TARIQ and who traded her for 4 more years. Broken up in Karachi in 1956 after 38 years afloat.


The 1938 POZARICA, received an aerial torpedo while on convoy duties in January 1943.

An interesting article follows. Please click on the red download button

Note:(UBC 50% owned by Andrew Weir & Co. and MACANDREWS a 100% subsidiary of UBC.)

See for more from the author

Booth Line – A Liverpool Legend

The Booth Line passanger vessel HILLARY pictured in the Mersey in the 1950’s

An interesting article about the Booth Line by an ex Bank Line man. Liverpool and the Mersey were both to play a big part in any Bank Line career, and it was home to many famous companies such as the Booth Line.

Click on the download button to read the whole article. More at

WESTBANK feature

at sea 1957
A treat for the ‘old timers’ looking in, maybe. The WESTBANK was one of three vessels built after WW2 at the start of the big fleet replenishment that took place. She came into service in 1948 with her sisters, SOUTHBANK and EASTBANK and was a highly successful and hardworking ship spending a lot of time on the ‘Copra’ run bringing back coconut and coconut oil from the Pacific Islands. Popular with staff due to the high probability of a ‘short’ trip of 6 months or less. After 4 years of service she had a narrow escape, grounding on an island in the Indian Ocean and only being freed after a struggle and with some damage. She survived to serve a total of 19 years before being sold on. ( See the story elsewhere on this site).

The 1926 built SPRINGBANK converted for war use. See the models below…

Models by “Junglecat”

(The length overall of the 1:1250 model is 4.16 inches or 10.57 cm)H.M.S. SPRINGBANK

   (The length overall of the 1:1250 model is 4.16 inches or 10.57 cm)

    Class: Auxiliary Antiaircraft Vessel (Sea-Going)

    Displacement: 5,150 tons

    Dimensions: 420.25 (pp) 434 (oa) x 54 x 25.75

    Machinery: 2-shaft Diesel motors, B.H.P. 2,500 = 12 knots

    Armament: 8-4 in. A.A. (4×2), 8-2 pdr. A.A. (2×4);1 aircraft


    Builder: Harland & Wolff (Belfast)

    Launched: 13 Apr 1926


    Notes: Lost 27 Sep 1941



See ‘SPRINGBANK’ entries elsewhere on this site…

For more interesting maritime material see