FORT RONA M56
Official No: 143776 Port Number and Year: 233rd in London, 1919 (LO203)
- in Grimsby, 1920 (GY1078)
4th in Aberdeen, 1932 (A195)
1st in Milford, 1940
Description: Strath Class steel side trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Pareja (pair) fishing. Ketch rigged: mizzen.
Crew: 9 men (1920); 10 men (1932).
Registered at Milford: 22 Feb 1940
Built: Scott & Sons, Bowling, in 1918. (Yard no. 270)
Tonnage: 203.23 grt 88.8 net
Length / breadth / depth (feet): 115.6 / 22.2 / 12.2
Engine: T 3-Cyl. 56.7 nhp.10 kts. Engine: Plenty & Son, Newbury; boiler: Clyde Shipbuilding Co., Port Glasgow.
As JOHN GRAY LO203
20 Dec 1919: John T. Jackson, 'Elmleigh', Ilkely, Yorks.
Manager: William Barton, Esk Tce., Whitby.
19 Feb 1920: Canute Steam Fishing, 359 Hainton Ave., Grimsby.
Manager: William Smith. (Same address.)
1924: John Lewis Ltd., Albert Quay, Aberdeen
Manager: Andrew Lewis. (1931: Sir Andrew Lewis) (Same address.)
10 May 1932: As A195.
8 Nov 1932: As FORT RONA A195
1939: Henry James Horwood, 6 Waterloo Rd., Hakin.
22 Feb 1940: As M56
24 May 1940: Fort Rona Trawling Co. Ltd., The Docks, Milford.
Managing owner: H. J. Horwood.
1941: United Trawlers, The Docks, Milford.
Landed at Milford:
As HMT JOHN GRAY: 7 Nov 1919.
2 Feb 1940 - 28 Apr 1941
John Gray, age 21, born in Salisbury, Wiltshire; A.B., HMS NEPTUNE, at Trafalgar.
11 Apr 1918: Launched for the Admiralty (No. 3763) as JOHN GRAY, and fitted with listening hydrophones.
9 May 1932: Grimsby registry closed.
12 Apr 1934: James Sutherland, age 39, of Findochty, lost overboard in a storm on FORT RONA. [The Times, Friday 13 Apr 1934.]
19 Feb 1940: Aberdeen registry closed.
17 Apr 1941: Together with GOZO, attacked off the Irish coast by aircraft dropping gas, bombs and torpedoes, with no damage or injuries. [See official report below.]
13 May 1941: Bombed and sunk by German aircraft 15 miles WSW of Bardsey Island.
Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 15 May 1941.
Accidents and Incidents
1 knots when we saw the planes, one large and one smaller, approaching from the South'ard about 40ft above the surface of the water, at a distance of 3 to 5 miles. I shouted to the Skipper of the FORT RONO, who was on our port quarter "Look out, here the Jerries come" and at the same time instructed all hands to take cover with the exception of the Bo'sun and myself. I knew that the usual tactics were to rake the decks with machine-gun fire and that is why I gave the order to take cover. I had the wheel and immediately commenced to zig-zag, telling the Bo'sun to take the gun. However, as the smaller plane was painted green from the rudder to amidships I naturally assumed that it was Irish and I told the Bo'sun to withhold his fire. The smaller plane, which was similar to the HE.111 K., circled our ship, made a wide sweep and then flew around the FORT RONO. The larger plane, which had four engines, and which I believe to be a Fokke-Wulf Condor, then started to circle our ship. It was painted black and had one cross underneath it's [sic] starboard wing. After having circled the vessels about three times the planes went away to the South'ard and we hoped that they had disappeared for good. However, we still kept watch which was rather fortunate for, when I looked out of the port window a few seconds later, the planes were sighted approaching from astern, head to wind: they circled to seaward of us and when 50 yards distant on our starboard beam both commenced to pump out a thick dirty yellow vapour. From the Fokke-Wulf it was pumped from underneath the fuselage and from the fighter plane it came from the ventril. It bellowed [sic] out in great clouds and was so thick it was impossible see through it. Whilst carrying out their operation the planes had decreased their speed considerably; they continued to pump out the vapour for 5 to 7 minutes and it must have been very heavy as it immediately fell to within a foot of the surface of the water where it eventually covered an area of about half a mile at a thickness of about 6 ft. As soon as I saw the gas floating down I shouted to everyone to hold their breath and I began to steer away from it. The Fighter plane, having released it's [sic] gas, then zoomed upwards with a terrific roar and it's [sic] exhaust was quite normal. The bomber simultaneously released a salvo of 5 bombs which fell flat until they almost reached the water and then went head first into the water 20 yards away on our starboard side. Three failed to explode. They were about 4ft. long and of quite large diameter. At the same time as releasing the salvo, a torpedo of about 6ft. was dropped; it fell flat into the water on our starboard side about 40 ft. from the ship's side. It then passed right underneath the ship exploding on the port quarter, and sent up a column of dirty yellow water to a height of about 60 ft. The bomber then dropped a salvo of five bombs on the starboard side of the FORT RONO and disappeared to the S.W.
From ADM 199 [?] /257, in the National Archives, supplied by Roger Griffiths, via Gil Mayes:
REPORT OF AN INTERVIEW WITH CAPTAIN E. G. PAUL.
MASTER OF THE S.T. "GOZO"
SHIPPING CASUALTIES SECTION
23rd April 1941
We were bound from Milford Haven for fishing and when attacked had 50 kits on board. We were armed with a Lewis gun, and all confidential books are still on board. The number of the crew, including myself, was 10. There were no casualties. The vessel was wiped [i.e., de-gaussed to neutralise magntic mines].
We left Milford Haven at 2115 G.M.T. on the 9th April in company with FORT RONO [sic]. We proceeded without incident until 1900 on the 17th April; I was speaking to the Skipper of the FORT RONO saying that it was inadvisable to go to Ballycraig as a trawler had been bombed there the previous morning, when I saw two planes approaching us from astern. We were fishing with Bull Rock N.W. by N. and Fastnets S.E. by E., the sea was smooth, wind N.E force 2. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and visibility was excellent. We were steering a N.E 'ly course making a speed of 1
The gas smelled like bad oranges and was most obnoxious. Although we had all held our breath we must have got a whiff of the gas which affected our eyes making them hot and inflamed. Our mouths immediately became dry and parched and our lips burned as if from excessive smoking. We felt the desire to start drinking immediately and had a terrific thirst for 24 hours after.
After the planes disappeared we heaved the gear back, let go the brakes and proceeded at a speed of 7 knots. The FORT RONO steamed into Berehaven and as it was getting dark we steered for home. Before reaching land, however, a fighter appeared and circled our ship. He disappeared for a few seconds and then returned again circling our ship but at a greater distance. He then went away and we sailed into Bally [----]
We returned into Milford Haven at 11[14?] on Saturday the 19th April.
From R. &. B. Larn (2000): Shipwreck Index of the British Isles - West Coast and Wales:
FORT RONA 13/05/1941
St. George's Channel, Bardsey Island, 15M WSW 52.40N 05.12W
This fishing trawler was attacked by German aircraft, bombed and sunk without loss of life.
Back to Trawlers 1940-1988