Official No:  143829     Port Number and Year:  596th  in London, 1919 (LO241)

                                                                                                        4th in Milford, 1938

Description: Castle Class steel side trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Ketch rigged: foresail, mainsail,  mizzen.

Crew: 10 men (1920).

Registered at Milford: 23 May 1938

Built: Cook, Welton & Gemmell, Beverely, in 1918.  (Yard no. 379)

Tonnage: 290.26 grt  119.39 net

Length / breadth / depth (feet): 125.5 / 23.5 / 12.7

Engine: T 3-Cyl. 60.7 nhp.  480 IHP. 10½ kts.  Amos & Smith Ltd., Hull.



As LO241

13 Dec 1919: The Admiralty, London.

Manager: The Secretary, Admiralty, Whitehall, London SW1.


1920: The Skomer Steam Ship Co. Ltd., Milner Chambers, Cardiff.

Manager: Lewis Bull & Co., Bute Docks, Cardiff.


16 Nov 1923: Brand & Curzon, The Docks, Milford.

Managers: Edward Brand & Charles Curzon.


As M272

23 May 1938: Milford Fisheries, Docks, Milford

Manager: Owen Willie Limbrick, Pill Lane, Milford


31 Jul 1939: J. Marr & Son, Dock St., Fleetwood.

Manager: Geoffrey Edwards Marr, 'Rockwood', Holmfield Ave., Cleveleys.


Landed at Milford: (HMT JOSEPH BUTTON)  12 Nov 1919. 

(LO241) 11 Jan 1920 - 6 Jan 1938; 19 Apr - 15 May 1938.

(M275) 29 May 1938 - 18 Apr 1939. (Transferred to Fleetwood.)

Skippers: A.J. Beckett (1927-29); J. Ryan (1938).


Joseph Button, born Chelmsford, age 23; pressed, ranked as landsman, HMS VICTORY, Trafalgar.

24 Apr 1918: Completed for Admiralty ( 3584);  1x12 pdr., hydrophones.

1920: Sold to mercantile.

11 Dec 1929: Collided with schooner MATILDA. [See below.]

2 Jan 1938: Rescued crew of the VICTOR M97. [See below.]

20 May 1938: London register closed.

28 Dec 1938: Towed to Milford by ROBERT BOWEN M269. [See below.]

29 Aug 1939: Requisitioned by Admiralty and converted to minesweeper.

22 Oct 1940: Mined and sunk  in the North Sea, 5.75 nautical miles bearing 275 off Aldeburgh; serving with 56th minesweeper group based at Harwich. (Skipper Alexander Cowie, RNR)

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 27 Dec 1941.

Accidents and Incidents:

From The Times of Thursday, Dec 13th, 1928, pg.9:


    The schooner Matilda, of Wexford, with a crew of four, was putting into Milford Harbour wind-bound on Tuesday evening when she came into collision with the trawler Joseph Button, of Milford Haven, and sank immediately.  Able Seaman Sinoppi was saved.  The trawler searched until daylight yesterday, but the missing men were not found.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 18th January 1929:


body washed ashore

Three Men Drowned



a Pembrokeshire tragedy

    A sequel to a collision between a Milford Haven steam trawler and an Irish schooner, off the Pembrokeshire coast in December last, when three men were drowned, has been the discovery of the body of a man, washed up on the beach at Dale.

    The tragedy took place on the 11th December, when the s.t. "Joseph Button", owned by Messrs. Brand and Curzon, was outward bound for the fishing grounds.  She collided with the schooner "Matilda", which was making for Milford Haven on account of the heavy seas running at the time.  The collision occurred near the harbour mouth shortly after six o'clock at night in pitch black darkness, the "Matilda" foundering almost immediately.  Out of a crew of four, only one survived.


    The hearing was adjourned until Friday, 25th January, at 2.30 p.m.


From the Pembrokeshire Telegraph of Wednesday 30th January 1929:


    Further investigations into the sinking of the schooner "Matilda" in Milford Haven in the evening of December 11th,  when three of the four members of the crew lost their lives, was made at the adjourned inquest in the Sessions House, Milford Haven, on Friday afternoon on Peter Sinnett, aged 27, a mate on the schooner whose body was washed up at Dale on January 11th.  The Coroner (H. Price) sat with a jury of eight, the foreman of which was Capt. R. M. Limbrick.  Mr G. T. Kelway appeared for Messrs Brand & Curzon, the owners, and also the Skipper of the s.t. "Joseph Button", which was involved in the collision, and Mr Lawrence, solicitor, London, appeared for the owners or part owners of the "Matilda".

    Addressing the jury the Coroner recalled that at the opening of the inquest they had the only evidence available at that time, that of Mr Patrick Sinnett, River Chapel, Count Town Harbour, Co Wicklow, an AB on the "Matilda", who was the only survivor, and a brother of the deceased.

    Albert James Beckett, 18, Dewsland St., the Skipper of the "Joseph Button", registered in London and owned by Brand & Curzon, was then called to give evidence. He said that on December 11th the trawler left Milford Docks at 5.30p.m. with the intention of going to the fishing grounds. They took a SSE course down the harbour.  Near the No 4 buoy he saw a vessel which, by the lights she was showing he knew  was loading or unloading explosives.  He gave the vessel a wide berth and that brought him to the south side of the channel.  A tender was anchored close to the other vessel.

    The Coroner:  You are accounting for your position after you passed her.  Did you get right out of the fairway?

    Witness:  Yes. 

    He said he proceeded at a slow speed, about 3 knots, down the Channel.  There was a little or no tide, it being the top of the high water.

    The Coroner: Did anything happen?  Witness replied that on the way down the channel just before  he reached No 3 buoy he noticed lights on the port bow by which he knew that two vessels were at anchor.  He also noticed another vessel on the starboard bow which he knew to be the s.t. 'Thomas Booth'.  This trawler had a navigation mast headlight, two or three searchlights on the bridge, and several big lights.  His trawler was showing navigation lights.

    The Coroner: Did you see the lights of a sailing ship at all?

    No sir.

    Did you pass the "Thomas Booth"?

    No, I could see she was about to drop her anchor, and thinking she was crossing the Channel across my bows, I decided to drop anchor myself. Previous to that, added the Skipper, I found her lights were interfering with navigation owing to the haze and I put my own lights out to give me a clear view.

    The Coroner:  What is the next thing that happened?  Did you anchor?  No sir.

    He went on to say that he heard a cry and he thought someone had fallen overboard. He went on to say that he then noticed the schooner - about 15 to 20 yards ahead of him.

    What distance were you off when you saw her first?

    Almost on top of her.

    How can you account for the fact that you did not see her?

    Well, either she had no lights or if she had lights they were obscured by the rays of the searchlight on the trawler.

    The Coroner (referring to the evidence of Patrick Sinnett):  The witness said she was burning lights.  She had no masthead light.  Supposing she was a sailing vessel, she was not obliged to carry mast head lights?

    Witness replied that the schooner had too much way on her.

    Coroner: That would not affect the collision?

    I might have cleared her easily, but she had too much way.

    In reply to a further question, Mr Beckett said that had the schooner been a sailing vessel she would have been stationary.  Had she been a stationary vessel he would have passed close to her bows.

    Coroner: You knew you had to give way to her if she was a sailing ship?

    Yes, or a steamship to avoid a collision.

    Coroner: You take the responsibility for not having seen her, if there was any responsibility?


    You struck her before your ship could stop ?

    We were just about stopping.  There is no marks on our vessel.

    Coroner: She went down so you must have struck her?

    Age was against her, she was 60 years old.

    Coroner: You struck her amidships?

    She went down at the bows.  We took 15 minutes to locate the vessel.

    Witness explained that the mast of the schooner was about 10 feet above the water and the survivor was found clinging to the mast.

    Coroner: Looking back do you now think there was anything you could have done to have avoided the collision?

    Nothing at all.

    Coroner: If this man Sinnett is telling the truth, the schooner was burning proper sidelights.  How can you account for not seeing them?

    If she was burning the sidelights she was obscured by the rays of the search lights of the "Thomas Booth".

    Foreman: Do you say that you did not see the side lights or green light?

    Skipper: I did not see any lights.

    Mr King: You frankly accept the responsibility for the navigation of your ship?

    Beckett: Yes, Mr King.

    I notice you say that the mate was at the wheel. 

    Yes, Sir.

    In the circumstances was not the mate's position on the fo'castle head?   No, Sir.

    Is your ship fitted with a steam spring gear? No Sir.

    Hand gear only? Yes Sir.

    The angle at which you were approaching the other vessel was such that she was only presenting her beam to you?  Yes Sir.

    Coroner: Is it a question of proximity? I suppose you have questioned the rest of the crew?  Who was on deck beside you and the mate?

    There were three other men on deck.

    You had no look out except yourself?  Yes, which I considered sufficient.

    The Coroner informed the jury that the mate of the "Joseph Button" was in hospital and consequently would not be able to give evidence.  Addressing the jury, the Coroner said that the Skipper, having accepted full responsibility, and being the only one on deck, they must agree to close the evidence that afternoon.

    Foreman: As far as I am concerned you can't have a more competent man on the lookout.  The mate being at the wheel would not be able to see half as much as the Skipper who was looking out of the wheelhouse window.

    The Coroner said that in order to allay any rumours or gossip he would ask the Skipper whether he and all his crew were sober.  You know what people will say.  Were you all sober?

    Yes, every man aboard ship.

    Later, the Skipper remarked, "I thought you referred to me, as it is said that the Skipper is the only man drunk aboard ship."

    Richard John, a ship's husband, employed by Messrs Brand & Curzon, said he saw the "Joseph Button" leave the docks in the evening of December 11th. He saw the Skipper and the crew and they were absolutely competent to manage the ship.

    Verdict of Accidentally Drowned.

    In summing up, the Coroner said they would recall the evidence of Sinnett (the survivor of the "Matilda"), who said the proper lights were burning on his ship. On the other hand they had the evidence of the Skipper of the trawler who told them that the first thing he saw of this schooner was when he was ten yards away. It seems a very plausible reason for him not seeing any light that the glare of the other trawler blinded him.  It was for the jury to say whether anybody was to blame for negligence. They were not trying any civil action for liability. That matter rested between the different owners of these ships.

    The jury was absent about a quarter of an hour considering their verdict.  On their return to court, the foreman said, "We agree on a verdict of accidental collision, but there is not sufficient evidence for us to decide who is to blame."

    Coroner: That is all we want.  A verdict of accidentally drowned after a collision in Milford Harbour between his ship "Matilda" and the steam trawler "Joseph Button"


[ MATILDA:  o.n. 58737. wood aux. screw schooner. Built, J. Banks, Selby, 1870; 100 grt.

Owners: R.J. Tomkins & R. Massey, Wexford. Skipper W. P. Popham, from 1921.]



From The Times Tuesday, Jan 04, 1938; pg. 22:



VICTOR.— Valentia Wireless Station, Jan.3.—  Following received from the British steam trawler Joseph Button at 7.15 a.m. G.M.T.: Trawler Victor sank, crew safe, proceeding Valentia on board Joseph Button.


From a transcription of an article in the local press, first week of January 1938:

News came to hand on Monday morning that the steam trawler “Victor” (owned by W. H. East) had foundered on the fishing grounds off the Irish coast.  The skipper, Jack Ryan, and the crew fortunately are safe, having been picked up by another Milford trawler, “Joseph Button”, skipper Robert Limbrick, and taken into Valencia, south-west Ireland. 

There is no information yet as to how the disaster happened.  The “Victor” had sailed from Milford for some years and was a vessel of the “Crabber” Class (mixed fishing).  Only last Wednesday she landed a good catch which realised £300, and left on Thursday for the fishing grounds.


[ See VICTOR M97 ]


From The Times Thursday, Dec 29, 1938; pg. 17:


    JOSEPH BUTTON.―  Milford Haven, December 28th.― Steam trawler Joseph Button, of Milford Haven, with broken rudder towed in from fishing ground by steam trawler Robert Bowen.


           [ See ROBERT BOWEN M269 ]



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