CALIPH M197 / M234


From McKay and Springer (1999): Milford Haven - Waterway and Town

Official No:  121610   Port Number and Year:    7th in Milford, 1906 (M197)

                                                                               22nd in Liverpool, 1934 (LL ? )

                                                                                  5th in Milford 1937 (M234)

Description: Steel side / beam trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Ketch rigged: foresail, mainsail and mizzen.

Crew:  9 men (1906); 12 men (1914); 10 men (1919); 11 men (1940).

Registered in Milford: 27 Aug 1906.

Built: 1906 by Smiths Dock Co., North Shields.  (Yard no. 804)

Tonnage: 226.32 grt  62.85 net. Amended by Board of Trade survey (1 Jan 1914): 86.61 net

Length / breadth / depth (feet):120.5 / 21.6 / 11.7

Engine: T 3-cyl. 55 hp. 10 kts.  Engine by Richardson, Westgarth, Middlesborough.



27 Aug 1906:  Morgan Watkin Howell, 19 St. Ann's Rd., Hakin.

Joseph White Johnstone, Hazelbeach, Llanstadwell, Neyland.

Managing owner: David Pettit, 47 Priory Rd., Milford.


27 Jul 1908: Joseph White Johnstone, Docks, Milford. (21/64)

Managing owner: David Pettit, Docks, Milford. (43/64)


22 Jan 1912: David Pettit, Docks, Milford (64/64)

Managing owner.


25 Oct 1934: The Boston Deep Sea Fishing & Ice Factory, Fleetwood.

Manager: Basil A. Parkes, 'Wellvale', Warbreck Hill Rd., Blackpool.


As LL ?

21 Nov 1934: Harley & Miller, 39 Great Charlotte St., Liverpool.

Manager: Richard H. Jones. (Same address.)


As M234

12 Jul 1937: E. E. Carter, Docks, Milford (64/64) 

Managing owner.


Landed at Milford:  9 Sep 1906 - 10 Aug 1914; 13 Feb - 21 Dec 1919

7 Jan 1920 - 22 Aug 1934; (1934-37: fishing out of Fleetwood and Liverpool); 22 Mar 1937 - 22 Oct 1941.


John Henry Dove, Cert. 2287; age 39, born Hull, residing North Rd., Milford. Signed on 25 Aug 1906, 9 Jan, 6 Jul 1907.

Alfred J. Kersey 7748, 25, Stockton, Priory Rd., Milford; 13 Nov 1907; 8Jan 1908

Thomas Wm. Leggett 7028, 34, Gorleston, 57, Waterloo Rd., Hakin; 6 Apr, 4 Jul 1908; 8 Jan, 10 Jul 1909; 22 Jan, 16 Jul 1910; 9 Jan, 11 Jul 1911; 13 Jan 1912

F. Riby 4709, 31, Scarborough, - ; 17 Dec 1910

Jack Blake 2145, 43, Brixham, - ; 22 May 1912

William Holder 0964, 52, Aberdeen, Greville Rd., Milford; 27 Jun, 9 Jul 1912; 14 Jan 1913

T. V. Taylor 8824, 26, Aberdeen, - ; 5 Mar 1913

G. T. Cobley 2021, 45, Hull, - ; 22 May 1913

Walter Wales, 1928 - 30 (see newspaper reports below)

Jack Henry Ryan, 1933 (see log book extract below)


Caliph is a title used for Islamic rulers, considered as political-religious leaders. [Wikipedia]

Aug 1914: Requisitioned and converted to minesweeper; fitted with listening headphones. (Admy. no. 133). 1 x 6 pdr. AA.  1 x 3.5" bomb thrower.

1917: Based at Portland. In company with MARISTO, claimed an unconfirmed kill after attacking a U-boat.

1919: Returned to owners.

25 Jan 1928: Stranded at Helvick Head, nr. Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, sustaining damage to rudder and after peak.
27 Jan 1928: Refloated by Cork tug MORSECOCK (325grt/1877) [ See transcription from The Irish Times below. ]

Dec 1939: Requisitioned to be converted to minesweeper, but returned to owners in Jan 1940.

21 Jun 1940: Picked up nine survivors of the British tanker SARANAC, torpedoed by U-51. [ See details from below. ]

2 Nov 1941: Attacked and sunk 12 miles S of Old Head of Kinsale by German aircraft. The Milford trawler SLEBECH, skippered by Harry Thompson of Hakin, steamed up and rescued the crew, for which service he was awarded the M.B.E. [ See transcription of article from the West Wales Guardian of Friday 19th June 1942 below.]


Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 17 Nov 1941

 Accidents and Incidents

From the Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph of Wednesday 12th September 1906:


    On Monday another addition was made to the fishing fleet by the arrival of a fine new trawler "Caliph", built at the well-known ship building yard of Smith Dock Trust, Ltd., Shields, to the order of Messrs. Pettit and Company.  The vessel measures 130 feet overall, with 21 foot beam and a large bunker capacity.  The skipper is Mr. John Henry Dove, and the maiden voyage realised the sum of £320.



Log book entries:



Milford lockpits.

Collision. Steam trawler 'Teesmouth' run into our stern.

    Alfred J. Kersey.



180 miles WNW of [Scilly] Island.  6.30 pm.

George Lednor; age 19; decky; born Ash, England; residing Milford.

Left leg cut off, hove round the sheave.

(Landed him in Queenstown, Ireland, for hospital treatment, his gear consisting of: one shirt, one pair of drawers, one pair of mittens, one suit - one trousers, one jacket - one vest, one cap (skull), one pair of boots, one pocket knife, one sou'wester, one sea boot.  All contained in one bag.  These were handed in to the Superintendent, His Majesty's Customs, Milford Haven.)

    Alfred J. Kersey (Skipper)

    J. Galey (Mate)

[See below]



50.32 Lat 10.56 Long.

J. Galey, mate, age 40, born Lowestoft, residing Milford.

Broken leg, board falling down on him.

[ See local newspaper report below. ]



Lying at anchor in Dale Roads during a heavy gale, unknown schooner which was anchored inside of us started to drag his anchor.  We also started to drag ours, and the only way to prevent colliding was to slip our anchor, which we did, and proceeded to Milford Docks.

    F. Riby (Skipper)



We left Milford Dock about 10 am to proceed to the fishing grounds.  All went well until we got about 18 miles off St. Ann's Head, when the steam drifter 'Vera' of North Shields, who was steaming the same course on our port bow, suddenly ported his helm and veered away to the NNW.  We ported ported our helm and went full astern, but collided with her on her starboard quarter.  If we had starboard our helm we should have cut her in two, or our stem would have hit her broadside.

    Thomas Leggett (Skipper)



W by S of St. Ann's Head, 260 miles.

Boat carried away - shipped a heavy sea which carried away our boat.

    Thomas Leggett (Skipper)

    T.V. Taylor (Mate 8824)


From the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of Wednesday 27th November 1907:


    News was received at Milford that on Wednesday morning a terrible accident befell one of the crew of the steam trawler 'Caliph', a lad named George Lednor.  The vessel arrived in Cork, flying signals for medical assistance.  She was boarded by one of the officers attached to the 'Emerald', when it was discovered that at midnight the steel hawser attached to the fishing trawl snapped and a seaman was caught in the coils, which severed one of his legs above the knee.  The skipper made for the nearest port, Queenstown, Ireland, 150 miles distant, with all possible speed.  The sailor who is aged 18, [was] removed to Queenstown Hospital.  When the trawler arrived, a blood covered seaboot, in which was encased the leg of the unfortunate man, was lying on the deck of the trawler.  A telegram came to hand on Thursday to the effect that the injured man had succumbed to his injuries.  He had only been at Milford about four months.



From the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of Wednesday 8th January 1908:


    On Tuesday morning the steam trawler "Caliph" (Captain Kersey), belonging to D. Pettit and Company, arrived in dock with the mate, Mr. John Gayley, severely injured, having fractured his leg.  On Monday morning a heavy sea caused a strain on the warp which gave way, and catching the mate around the leg, broke it just above the ankle.

    The accident occurred some 250 miles off St. Ann's Head.  The captain at once made for port and reached home as stated.  The unfortunate man was at once taken ashore, placed in the ambulance and conveyed to the Haverfordwest Infirmary.  It is a singular coincidence that on April 3rd, Gayley sustained a fracture of the same leg about two inches above the recent break.



From The Cardiff Times of Saturday  23rd May 1908:


    The steam trawler Euphrates, owned by Messrs Neale and West, arrived at Cardiff on Wednesday with her port bow considerably damaged from the rails to below the water line. She steamed 300 miles in this condition and was only kept afloat by the water-tight bulkheads. While on the fishing grounds west of Lundy on Monday, a collision occurred between the Euphrates (Captain Bush) and the Milford trawler Caliph, owned by Mr W. J. Pettit. Captain Bush at once launched the lifeboat to inspect the Euphrates, and having ascertained the extent and nature of the damage sustained, he decided to steamed to Cardiff.



From The Irish Times of Tuesday 31st January 1928:



    The Milford Haven trawler Caliph was .... assisted to put into harbour on Saturday last with damaged rudder and leaking in the after compartments.  This vessel ran ashore at Helvick Head, near Dungarvan, last week, and was refloated on Friday last.

    With the assistance of the tug Morsecock she has been docked at Passage for repairs.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 20th April 1928:



    And Took Wrong Berth


    Walter Wales, skipper of the the s.t. "Caliph", was the defendant in a charge brought by the Dock Master (Captain William R. Mars) of failing to obey his orders, contrary to the bye-law, at the Milford Sessions on Wednesday.

    Defendant appeared and pleaded not guilty.

    Mr. G. T. Kelway, solicitor, Milford, appeared for the prosecution and stated that this case was of a similar nature to numerous other cases which had been before the court.  The offence took place on the 3rd of April, on the afternoon of which date a number of vessels were preparing to enter the docks.  On that particular afternoon, proceeded Mr. Kelway, there was a strong breeze blowing and about 16 vessels were clustered together outside the dock entrance.  owing to the breeze it was difficult to keep in a proper line. Under these circumstances, said Mr. Kelway, it was the custom for ships to enter on the orders of the Dock Master and it was absolutely essential that the word of the Dock Master should be law.  In this case, the "Caliph", under the command of the defendant, was ordered to remain behind and another vessel ordered to come ahead.  The defendant, however, proceeded ahead passing the other vessels and coming in through the dock.  The Dock Master, when he saw the Caliph coming ahead, ordered her astern but later countermanded this order fearing that much damage to the other vessels would be done if she then went astern.  On the "Caliph" entering the Docks, the Master ordered her to go to the bottom berth but instead of that she secured second berth.  Defandant blankly refused to leave this berth.  According to his instructions concluded Mr. Kelway, on the date of the charge the price of fish went down as time proceeded so that the bottom vessels got the least price for their catch.  The proceedings were being taken under bye-law 10.


    Captain Mars, the Dock master, gave evidence that he was on duty  on the afternoon of the 3rd of April 1928, when about 16 ships were bunched together outside the entrance to the Docks.  He saw the "Caliph" coming ahead and gave orders for her to go astern and for the "Scott" to come forward. ................

    Defendant: I obeyed all your orders from the Dock Head bar taking the last berth.  I never touched anything.

    Captain Mars:  That is right as far as it goes.

    The Clerk (Mr. H. J. E. Price) to defendant:  He told you to keep back but you came on.   

    Defendant:  No, sir.  The only order I disobeyed was not going to the end of the market.

    Captain Mars:  That is what you are summoned for.

    James Llewellin Phillips, assistant Dock Master, said he saw all that happened and could confirm everything that Captain Mars had said.  The Dock master told the "Caliph" three times to keep back but still he came ahead.  The "Caliph" was also ordered  to berth at the end of the market but this was not done.


    Defendant giving evidence said he was told to come ahead by the Mate and he might have made a mistake.  He obeyed all orders except for the one to berth at the end of the market.  His owner did not think it right that the "Caliph" should come into the Dock second and berth at the end of the Market thus losing money.

    The Mate of the "Caliph" gave evidence and said that the first order he heard was "Caliph Go Astern" ― he heard no orders before that.  The vessels were all in a bunch and there was no system of coming in at all, he concluded.

    The Bench found the case proved and defendant was fined £3.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 19th October 1928:


    The steam trawler "Caliph" (Messrs. David Pettit, Limited) returned to port on Saturday with her propeller damaged, a wire rope, probably brought up by the trawl, having become entangled in it.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 21st February 1930:





    Prosecutions of interest to all skippers trawling out of Milford Haven were heard before the Milford Petty Sessional Bench on Wednesday last.  The defendants were three skippers who were summoned for failing to navigate their vessels in a proper and efficient manner when entering the dock.  They were Walter Wales, of the s.t. Caliph; Harry Thorpes, of the the s.t. Receina [ sic ]; and Edward Day, of the s.t. John Cattling.  In the first two cases the offences were alleged to have taken place on February 1st, and the latter case on February 10th.

    The cases were brought forward by Capt. W. R. Marrs, the Milford Dock Master, and Mr. G. T. Kelway (Messrs. Price and Kelway, solicitors) appeared for the prosecution.

    The allegations against the three defendants were that they cut into the line of vessels out of their turn when entrance signals were hoisted from the pier head.  It was pointed out that these prosecutions were the first taken under a new system of regulations drawn up by the Milford Docks Company.

    Walter Wales was the only skipper present in Court and he pleaded not guilty.

    Mr. G. T. Kelway said those three prosecutions were taken under an entirely new system of control in respect of steam trawling vessels entering Milford Docks at tide times.  In the past there had been a great deal of trouble with the skippers owing to collisions, etc., when they were attempting to take up a wrong position.  The result was that a great deal of time had been given in formulating a new system whereby these constant troubles could be avoided.  Several fishing parties had taken part in a conference and a definite scheme was agreed upon, in respect of which notices were issued, and a copy of the new scheme was sent to every skipper sailing out of the port of Milford Haven.  This new system came into operation on December 2nd, of last year, and the skippers of the various vessels were given ample time to comprehend the directions.  Mr. Kelway then proceeded to explain the new system, stating that a new red and white anchoring buoy, which was lighted at night, was placed somewhere near the entrance to the docks and instructions were given to the first vessel coming into harbour, and wishing to enter the dock was to take up a position in immediate proximity to the anchoring buoy.  The next vessel was to anchor east south-east from the ship and the next a little nearer to the pier.  The form of the line was from the buoy to the pier at Newton Noyes.  When the signal was given from the shore the vessel at the anchor buoy was to enter the dock first, followed by the other vessels in the same line.  If a vessel was not in this line she was not entitled to come into the dock until all the ships in the line were in dock.  Mr. Kelway declared that if these directions were carried out it was the opinion of the dock authorities that the trouble which had taken place in the past would be entirely eliminated. They also maintained that this scheme was a good one.  Referring to the s.t. Caliph, Mr. Kelway said it was out of the line of vessels but ultimately took up a position in the dock to which it was not entitled.  Capt. Marrs said the skipper admitted he had a copy of the directions.

    Defendant said there were two lines that day.  An alternate line was permitted.

    Mr. Kelway:  On two or three previous occasions Wales has kept to the directions.

    In answer to the Chairman, Captain Marrs said defendant came in sixth instead of eighth.

    Wales said he came up and anchored about half-an-hour before the Sidmouth.

    The Chairman (Mr. D. G. Jones): I suppose he should have taken up his correct position in the line?

    In the box Wales said he brought his ship to anchor at 2.30 a.m. on the Saturday morning in question, and he made up a second line being first ship to do this.

    Mr. Kelway (to the magistrates): The second line in every case brings up on the rear of the first line.

    Mr. L. J. Meyler (a magistrate) wanted to know what happened if a boat went on to the first line when a second line had been formed.

    Capt. Marrs:  There was no need for a second line that morning.  I have seen twenty-six boats in the first line before now.

    Mr. Kelway:  If there is no more room in the first line then a second line can be formed.  The question doesn't arise in this case.  There were only seven ships there.

    With reference to the "Receina", the skipper, who was at sea, had written that a mistake had been made.  Another boat had been taken as his.  Another trawler coming up from westward had cut him out.  The summons was the first intimation at all that he had had of the case.

    Capt. Marrs said that he was on duty on the 10th, when Day was the offender.  When the signal was hoisted, the John Cattling, Day's boat, cut into the middle of the line ahead of four ships.  There was no question of the formation of a second line here.

    Day, who was also at sea, stated in a letter that his boat was the third to arrive.  He caused no confusion whatever.  He submitted he committed no offence against the bye-laws.   In conclusion, the letter said that only a technical breach had been committed.

    Mr. Kelway said he had two further witnesses who would give the magistrates corroborative evidence, but the Justices retired without hearing them.

    On their return the Chairman announced that these bye-laws had been drawn up for the safety of the vessels themselves and they must be observed.  As they were the first cases to be brought under the new bye-laws they would be dismissed on payment of costs.


Extract from the official log book of the CALIPH:


Jan. 3rd 1933. Tuesday.  Steamed out of Valentia to assist SS "Heilo" of Oslo. Arrived by "Heilo" 2.30 pm.  Stood by "Heilo" until 8 pm Wednesday


Jan. 4th 1933. Wednesday.  At Capt. of "Heilo" request, proceeded to Valentia to wire his owners for assistance.  I seen Mr. W. J. Leslie, Lloyd's Agent and he wired Queenstown for a tug.  He received a reply saying no tugs available.  Mr. Leslie gave me a letter to give to Capt. of "Heilo".  Weather too bad to go alongside.  Capt. of "Heilo" request me to open letter and read same to him.  The contents of the letter were advising him to let the s.t. "Caliph" take him in tow.


Jan. 5th. Thursday.  We connected up with "Heilo" at 9.30 am. Started towing him at 10 am.  Towed "Heilo" twenty miles then both hawsers parted at 3 pm owing to them not being shackled to his cable as promised.  We again connected up to "Heilo", and at "Heilo" request we tried to tow him back to Dingle Bay to the anchorage, but we again parted both hawsers.  Capt. of "Heilo" then asked me to stand by him again.


Jan 6th. Friday.  Still standing by ss "Heilo"


Jan 7th. Saturday. Still standing by ss "Heilo"


Jan 8th. Sunday.  Still standing by ss "Heilo".  10 am proceeded to Dingle with message from "Heilo".  Returned to him 11 am.  2.30 pm proceeded to Valentia at the "Heilo" request to look for tug.  Found tug outside Valentia and directed him to "Heilo".  Returned to "Heilo" 4.15 pm. Standing by.


Jan 9th. Monday.  Standing by the "Heilo" .  4.15 am Proceeded to Dingle to fetch "Heilo" officer.  Returned to "Heilo" 6.30 am.  9.15 am finished with "Heilo".  Proceeded to Milford Haven.


    sgn. Jack Henry Ryan.  Skipper. Jan 9th 1933

           John Frederick George Jones.  Second Hand


I hereby certify this to be a true extract from an Agreement and Official Log Book (S.9) deposited and on record in this office

    sgn. J. B. Harrold. Registrar General.


[ The case for compensation went to arbitration and on 23 May 1933 the owners of the CALIPH were awarded £600 together with costs, from the owners of the HEILO.]





At 15.51 hours on 25 Jun 1940, the Saranac (Master Vernon Horace Alcock) in convoy OA-172 was hit by one torpedo from U-51 about 270 miles west-southwest of Lands End and was immediately abandoned by the crew. At 17.37 hours, the U-boat surfaced and tried to sink the tanker by gunfire, but she sank 15 minutes after being hit by a coup de grāce at 19.15 hours. Four crew members were lost. The master and 30 crew members were picked up by HMS Hurricane (H 06) (LtCdr H.C. Simms, RN) and landed at Plymouth. Nine crew members were picked up by the British trawler Caliph and landed at Berehaven, Co. Cork.


From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 19th June 1942:


    Chief Engineer George Henry Springer, 1, Albion Street., has been awarded the B.E.M. (Civil Division), the news of which was contained in a congratulatory letter from the the Minister Of Agriculture and Fisheries.  Now a member of the crew of the s.t. "Cleopatra", Mr. Springer was the chief engineer with the "Caliph" when it was sunk by enemy planes, and he has received this award in recognition of bravery displayed on that occasion.

    When the news of his decoration was received on Wednesday he was in from sea, but would say very little about the matter.  A well-known Milford man, he has five brothers in the Navy and one in the Army.



Thomas Swingler,   Boatswain (Bosun), Fishing Fleet. Thomas was the Son of Thomas and Edith Swingler, of Hull, Yorkshire, and the Husband of Ida Isobel Swingler, of Hull. He served aboard SS Caliph, a Milford registered trawler. Thomas died, aged 53, on 4 November 1941, and is buried at Milford Haven Cemetery



From B.T. & R. Larn (2002): Shipwreck Index of Ireland


CALIPH            02/11/1941


Co. Cork, Old Head of Kinsale, 12M S        51.24N 08.30W


Voyage: Milford Haven - fishing grounds. ......... Crew: 11.  Crew lost: 1


When about 11 miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale, this trawler was attacked by German aircraft which caused her to leak, and after about 30 minutes steaming, during which time she covered four miles, she was abandoned, and sank 15 minutes later.  Her crew was saved, but one member died in hospital.




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