Official No:  146085     Port Number and Year:      -     in Lowestoft, 1919 (LT599)

                                                                                                       8th in Milford, 1921 (M240)

Description: Admiralty wooden drifter; liner; steam screw, coal burning. Ketch mizzen.

Crew: 9 men (1919); 8 men (1921).

Registered at Milford: 16 Sep 1921.

Built: 1 Oct 1919, by J. Chambers, Lowestoft. (Yd.No.506 ) (Delivered to the Admiralty No. 4155)

Tonnage: 99.07 grt  34.19 net

Length / breadth / depth (feet): 86.3 / 19.9 / 10.3

Engine: T 3-Cyl. 31 rhp. 9.5 kts.  Engine and boiler by builders (from 9 and 12 year old materials.)



As LT599

23 Dec 1919: Registered by The Admiralty at Lowestoft.  [ No O.N.  See July 1921 note below. ]


18 Apr 1920: Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, 4-7 Whitehall Place, London.


As M240

16 Sep 1921: John Sturley, Post Office, Dale.

Managing owner.


17 Mar 1924: Charles Edgar Howard Sturley   ) 16/64

Caroline Jane Goodridge                                   ) 16/64     All of Dale,

Eleanor Olivia Sturley                                       ) 16/64   Pembrokeshire.

Managing owner: John Sturley.                         ) 16/64      


Landed at Milford: (LT599) 8 Feb 1920 - 9 Sep 1921; (M240) 29 Sep 1921 - 30 Jan 1935.

Skippers: Peter Sturley; Charles Ernest Sturley; William John Davies


Fleck is a spot or small patch of colour and light; Admiralty drifters were named as natural phenomena or meteorological names.

4 Apr 1919: Advertised for sale.

1 Oct 1919: Completed as a fishing vessel ex fishing gear.

16 Jun 1921: Lowestoft registry closed. (Note: "Required by The Admiralty", later "Closed at request of The Admiralty".)

Jul 1921: Registered by The Admiralty at London (Part I) as FLECK  O.N.146085.

[ Thanks to Gil Mayes for the transition from Admiralty to Milford.]

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed:

11 Feb 1935. Vessel foundered 1st February 1935 on Arklow Bank, Ireland; total loss. (See log book entry below.)

Accidents and Incidents:

Statement by Skipper George Ernest Sturley, of Prioryville:

I have held a Skipper's ticket since 29th August 1911.   We left Milford on Friday 23rd February 1923, bound for the fishing grounds between the Smalls and the Tuscar, eight hands all told.  We had coaled, iced and provisioned for a trip of about ten days.

    All went well until 9am, February 26th, then the weather became bad and we had to stop fishing.  It blew hard for 3 hours from the South West, heavy seas.  Shortly after, a gale of hurricane force from the South West struck us.  We had not then completed our hauling of our lines in and it was 9.30am before we could finish.  As soon as we had hauled we steamed for about an hour in a Northerly direction.  We thought to make the Blackwater Lightship. 

    By this time it came on thick and we could not pick up the land. Then we dodged until 1.15 the next morning Feb.27th.  Wind went South West still blowing strong with heavy seas, but it was clearing a little.  We could see the Tuscar Light bearing West by South about 7 miles away.  We shipped a big sea at this time which damaged our steering gear, the head of the rudder being twisted completely jammed the rudder hard to Starboard. Wheelhouse windows were all smashed and our deck washed away, ventilators on casing broken, and our small boat smashed, water went down below, skylight forard damaged, ventilator on forecastle bent, mizzen sail blown away.  We could not steer the ship so we drifted. We put an oil bag out to windward.  At dawn on the 27th, we bent on another mizzen to try and steady us, this was also torn. 

    We sighted the Blackwater Lightship at 5.30 on the Tuesday morning bearing North West.  We had put up two red lights and at daylight two black balls were hoisted. We also hoisted the club flag and red ensign to show our condition to all passing vessels.  We did not see any other vessels until 12.20 pm on Tuesday, when we sighted the Milford liner S.T. 'Mint'.  She was bearing about East North East of us, and the distance about five or six miles. She was dodging with her head into the wind.  We were not at all sure that the 'Mint' had seen us so we blew our ship's whistle to try and attract their attention to our plight. Then we saw he was heading towards us.

    He came up with us at about 1 pm. He lay close to us until 2.30pm.   He was waiting for the weather to abate a little, then he steamed round us, came in close and threw us a line with a hawser fastened at the end.  We took the hawser inboard and made fast ready for him to tow us back to port.  Shortly afterwards he commenced to tow us.  This would be about 25 miles East of Blackwater Lightship.   We parted the hawser twice in the hours towing, so we passed him our hawser.  It was a spare one we carried. 

    We once again started to be towed by the 'Mint' until 10.45 pm, when we again parted, but we managed to reconnect and carry on.  During the remainder of the tow the weather started to moderate, seas and wind both dropping, but owing to the jammed rudder the trawler ranged very badly during the tow.  At 10.pm on the Wednesday morning we started our engines - going very easy - as we had by then got into a lot smoother waters.

    About two hours after we had commenced towing we spotted a small coaster steamboat going down channel about 3 or 4 miles from us coming from the North East. When we arrived at Dublin (Ireland) we went to the Custom House to make a deposition, but they refused to take one, and stated that we had better report when we got back to our home port in Milford Haven.  We went under repair in the docks at Dublin, and when they were completed we sailed for Milford, arriving Friday night.




Report by the Nautical Assessor to the High Court, dated 11th November 1931, on the collision between FLECK and COTSMUIR:




This is a case of damage to the "Fleck" said to have been sustained when that vessel was proceeding to sea from Milford docks, through the negligent navigation of the S.T."Cotsmuir", and which caused the former vessel to strike the Dock Pontoon with her stem.

    It appears from the statement of the Skipper of the "Fleck" that he was proceeding to sea immediately following the steam trawler "S.D.J." and was steering about South East,  acting under the orders of the Harbour Master, when the "Cotsmuir", which was also proceeding to sea, approached from a North Easterly direction, and came on so fast that she overshot the entrance of the lock pits, and compelled the "Fleck" to go astern to avoid collision, and thus caused her to swing to starboard and damage the Pontoon.

    On behalf of the "Cotsmuir",  her Skipper in his statement says that he had arrived at the Bull Nose of the lock pits, had passed his head wire ashore and had stopped his engines, awaiting orders from the Dock Company's Attendant to check round, when the" Fleck", coming from the North end of the dock at considerable speed, in crossing ahead of him, collided with the Caisson, as he failed to come astern in time to avoid collision.


The statement of the Skipper of the "Fleck" is as follows:

    "On leaving the inner corner of the Hakin Quay Wall for sea, to-day's p.m. tide, at about five o'clock, I blew my signal for coming ahead and followed astern of the steam drifter "S.D.J.", who was proceeding out of dock ahead of me. When alongside the buoy in the middle of the dock, l again signalled ahead, l noticed the steam trawler "Cotsmuir" under way from the East corner of the docks, and making for the lock-pits. I again gave him another signal, indicating that I was coming ahead when I was about a ship's length from the entrance of the lock.  I was ordered to come ahead as instructed, having previously signalled to the "Cotsmuir".  The "Cotsmuir" took no notice of my signals and continued under way.  Seeing that the "Cotsmuir" still kept coming in spite of my signals and realising that he would without doubt hit us amidships on the port side unless some steps were immediately taken, I decided to signal astern, and proceeded to go astern in order to avoid a collision.  As a result, on going astern my vessel's bow swung to starboard, and we struck the Dock Pontoon a heavy blow with our stem.  We damaged our stem and also probably damaged the Pontoon.  l hailed the Skipper of the "Cotsmuir", and informed him of what had happened, but he took no notice of me.  At the time there were women and children in the wheelhouse along with the Skipper, and I am of the opinion that his attention had been diverted, so that he did not notice us until it was too late.  As I had followed immediately behind the steam drifter "S.D.J.", and had been given the right of way by the Dock Master, and had given ample signals accordingly, I contend that the "Cotsmuir" was the cause of the mishap and is entirely responsible for the damage done".


The statement of Herbert Henry Nightingale, Ship's Husband to Messrs Peter Hancock & Sons, Managers of the "Fleck", is as follows:

    "I am Ship's Husband in the employ of Peter Hancock & Sons, the Managers of the "Fleck". The "Fleck" cast off from her position alongside the wall adjoining our works and followed the "S. D. J." in the direction of the lock pits.  I walked down the wall in the direction of the lock pits keeping the "Fleck" under my observation.  It is the usual practice for a Ship's Husband to go as far as the lock pits when one of his vessels is proceeding to sea. The "Cotsmuir" was making for the Bull Nose and the "Fleck" for the lock pits.  The Docks Company employee on duty on the Bull Nose, who had just previously given to the "S.D.J." the right of way into the lock pits, shouted out, "Follow on, Fleck."  The "Fleck" continued coming ahead in accordance with the foregoing order until she spotted the "Cotsmuir".  The "Fleck" rang astern, the engines responded at once to the signal and she commenced to move astern. As she did so her head skewed to starboard and struck the Caisson on the West side of the lock pits.  At this time the stem of the "Cotsmuir" was about six feet away from the "Fleck".  The "Fleck" continued moving astern, the "Cotsmuir" continued moving ahead through the water,  and before going astern her fore part had actually crossed the track which had been followed by the "Fleck" in first moving ahead and in later moving astern.  In other words, the "Cotsmuir", before going astern had got practically across the mouth of the lock pits, that is to say that she held the position just held by the "Fleck". The "Fleck" gave the customary moving ahead signal (one long blast) on three occasions namely (1) as she was leaving position; (2) immediately after the order "Follow on, Fleck" was received; and (3) when she was about halfway between the wall and lock pits.  Had the "Fleck" continued to move ahead instead of going astern, the stem of the "Cotsmuir"  would have hit her about amidships.  The "Cotsmuir's" engines were rung astern as her stem came about level with the Easternmost face of the Bull Nose, but the headway she had gained (she had been moving steadily ahead all the while) carried her practically right across the mouth of the lock pits.  I heard no orders given to the "Cotsmuir" from the Bull Nose.  In approaching the lock pits, the "Fleck" had kept a little towards the Hakin side for the purpose of avoiding the "Cotsmuir" and not I suppose imagining that the "Cotsmuir"  would have come ahead as far as she did, had the "Fleck" carried on her course she would have been able to pass through the lock pits without any trouble.  In moving astern,  the tendency of the "Fleck", as with many other fishing vessels, is for the head to slew to starboard. I could see women and children on the bridge of the "Cotsmuir"."

The statement of the Skipper of the "Cotsmuir"  is as follows:

"We  were proceeding out of Milford Docks on the 22nd,August, 1930, p.m. tide, and had arrived at the Bull Nose of the lock pits, and had passed our head wire ashore, which had been made fast by the Dock Company's Attendant.  Our engines were stopped, awaiting orders from the Dock Attendant to check round into the lock pits.  Whilst in this position, the "Fleck" was steaming from the North end of the dock towards the lock pits at a considerable speed.  In crossing our head he collided with the Caisson as he failed to come astern in time to avoid a collision.  We then proceeded out of dock by order of the Dock Attendant. There was no collision between us and the "Fleck".


Mate J. Smith and Third Hand H. Aldridge, S/T. "Cotsmuir" have also submitted statements as under:

    Mate J. Smith states:  "On the 22nd August, we were proceeding out of Milford Docks.  On arrival at the Bull Nose we passed our head wire ashore, which was made fast by the Dock Company's man.  We had stopped our engines and laid there waiting for orders to check round into the lock pits.  Whilst awaiting these orders, the "Fleck"  was steaming down from the North end of the dock towards the lock pits, at a good speed, and in cr0ssing our bows, he failed to go astern in time, and collided with the Caisson. We then had our orders to proceed out of docks, by the Dock Company Man.  We did not at any time touch the "Fleck"."

    Third Hand H. Aldridge states: "When proceeding out of the docks on the 22nd August, p.m. tide, on arrival at the Bull Nose of the lock pits, with our engines stopped and our head wire made fast by the Dock Company's Servant, awaiting to take our check around the Bull Nose into the lock pits, the "Fleck" steaming down from top end of dock at a good speed, in crossing our head, collided with the Caisson.  I heard the Dock Company's Servant shouting to him to go astern, but he had too much way on him to avoid the collision."


The Dock Master's Report is as below:

    "Fleck" was coming down from stage in centre of dock when "Cotsmuir" was seen coming across from Milford side towards the Bull Nose. He was told to go astern, when seeing that he did not reduce speed, the order was repeated.  Where he brought himself up was nearly half way across the lock. "Fleck" meantime had ported and gone astern but where he stopped collided with the Caisson sheeting inside of the mitre post, about the 29th feet mark, and between the mitre post and belting putting a small dent.


    From the above statements, it will be seen that the "Fleck" was proceeding to sea from the North West corner of the dock, following immediately behind the drifter "S.D.J.", and acting under the orders of the Harbour Master.  That the "Cotsmuir" was also proceeding to sea and approaching the lock pits from a North Easterly direction, and had put his wire ashore on the Bull Nose.  In the positions indicated by the "Fleck", it would have been the duty of the "Cotsmuir" to get out of the way of the "Fleck".   (See Article 19 of the Regulations for preventing Collisions at Sea).  In the position as indicated by the "Cotsmuir", it would have been her duty to have given the "Fleck" right of entry to the lock pits and afforded her a clear passage.  It is evident from the report of the Dock Master that the "Cotsmuir" did not do this, as he states "He was told to go astern, when seeing that he did not reduce speed, the order was repeated.  Where he brought himself up was nearly half way across the lock.  This, no doubt, was the cause of the "Fleck" having to go astern.

    From the above, it is quite clear that the "Cotsmuir" obstructed the "Fleck" when the latter had the right of leaving, both by the Regulations for preventing Collisions at Sea, and also by acting under the orders of the Harbour Master.

    It is also clear that had the "Fleck" not gone astern a collision would have occurred between the "Fleck" and "Cotsmuir".  The Master of the "Fleck" did quite right in going astern and thus causing a lesser damage than would probably have been caused had the two vessels collided. I am of the opinion that this damage to the "Fleck" was caused by the neglect of the Master of the "Cotsmuir" to keep out of the way; that the "Cotsmuir" continued to force ahead after he had orders from the Harbour Master to go astern, and that he was nearly half way across the lock pits before he brought himself up, and not lying stopped at the Bull Nose of the lock pits.

    The "Fleck" appears to have been navigating in a proper and seamanlike manner, and her Master is in no way to blame for the action he took in avoiding collision.


    The consequential damages in this case are solely attributable to the action of the "Cotsmuir" in obstructing the "Fleck", and the "Cotsmuir" is alone to blame.


Sgd. Richard Sharp. Master Mariner.

Nautical Assessor to the High Court.

Fee. 3. 6. 0.


The Times Tuesday, Feb 05, 1935; pg. 24; Issue 46980



FLECK - Dublin, Feb 4.- Trawler Fleck, of Milford Haven, has gone aground at Arklow Bank; crew landed. Later.- Trawler Fleck has apparently broken up and disappeared.  Crew have returned home port.


Log book entry:

Left for the fishing grounds off the coast of Ireland on 31st January 1935.  Around about eight o'clock p.m. on the 1st of February we had been driven on the Arklow Bank off the east coast of Ireland, in position about number two buoy, as a result of which despite efforts to move the said vessel off the bank by means of her engines, in the course of which very heavy seas were breaking over the "Fleck", and she was rapidly filling with water, the said skipper, Mr William John Davies, together with the other members of the ship's crew were compelled to abandon the said vessel.

    William John Davies (Skipper)


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

FLECK          01/02/1935

Co. Wicklow, Arklow Bank, N end, near No 2 buoy    52.51N 05.56W


Stranded/total wreck or loss



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