John Stevenson Collection

Official No:    165644    Port Number and Year: 3rd in Milford, 1947

Description:  Steel side trawler; single screw motor vessel. 

Crew: 14  men

Registered at Milford: 4 Jul 1947

Built: by Cochrane & Sons, Selby, in 1947.  (Yard no. 1319)

Tonnage: 313.61 gross 116.44 net 

Length / breadth / depth (feet):  143.1 / 24.6 / 11.9

Engine: Diesel, vertical internal combustion,  geared transmission. 4 stroke cycle, single acting,   8-Cyl. . 122 nhp.  12.5 kts.  Ruston & Hornsby, Lincoln



4 Jul 1947: Milford Steam Trawlers, Docks, Milford

Manager: James Carpenter Ward.


Landed at Milford: 18 Jul 1947 - 26 Mar 1950

Skippers: Albert Saunders (1947-48); Alex Smith

Notes:  Lost with all hands, some time after 1 Apr 1950. [See story and report below.]

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 24 May 1950. 

Accidents and Incidents

From the West Wales Guardian, probably of  Friday 8th February 1946:


    The Guardian was informed yesterday (Thursday) that a £54,000 super-trawler is being built at Selby for the Milford Steam Trawling Company, a subsidiary of the Docks Company.

    This good news follows closely upon the arrival on Tuesday for the same firm of the "Post Boy", a 140 feet long super-trawler powered by diesel engines.  The "post Boy", which is to be re-named the "Milford Marquis", was a £28,500 pre-war contract, and was taken off the stocks by the Admiralty for patrol and convoy work.  She was requisitioned in November 1941, and since then has spent most of her sailing time in the Mediterranean.

    Her £54,000 sister ship, which with Board of Trade permission will be christened the "Milford Viscount", will be handed over to the Company at Milford by the end of August.  Her length between perpendiculars will be 142 feet, compared to the 125 feet of the castle Class trawlers, the largest fishing out of Milford at the moment.  Her beam is 24 feet, and like the new "Marquis" her holds have a capacity of 1,600 to 1,700 kits (more than 120 tons) of fish, compared with the 1,000 kits maximum on Castle boats.

    The "Viscount" is being built by Cochrane of Selby, and is being engined by Ruston and Hornsby, of Lincoln.  The engines will develop over 750 b.h.p, and like the "Post Boy", she will do 13 knots, with a sea-going range of approximately six weeks.

    Mr. J.C. Ward, Manager of the Docks Company and Managing Director of the Milford Trawling Company, informed our reporter that the "Marquis" and in her turn the "Viscount", will fish the normal grounds off south-west Ireland, but the range would enable them both to fish Bear Island, Newfoundland, the Canaries or Iceland, should the necessity arise..  He revealed that when the re-conversion of the "Marquis" is completed  in a couple of months' time, she will be taken to sea by Skipper Albert Saunders.  In August, upon her commissioning, Skipper Saunders will transfer to the bridge of the "Viscount", and his place will be taken by Skipper Benny Riches.

    "If we find these diesel trawlers are successful we will in due course replace all the trawlers in our fleet with this new type," added Mr. Ward, who agreed that this considerable outlay was an earnest of the Docks Company's confidence in the future of the fishing industry.  "At the time, we have three boats fishing - 'Milford Prince', 'Princess' and 'Duchess'.  The 'King' has been handed back by the Admiralty and is undergoing re-conversion at Milford, while the 'Queen' is under-going similar treatment at Cardiff to fit her for a return to fishing."

    News has been received that the "Milford Countess", still on Admiralty service, is on her way back from foreign waters, and should soon join her sister ships in Milford. 

    The "Post Boy", as she will be called for some time at Milford, is now lying alongside the Hakin Stage, and her sleek lines have excited much interest.  Lighting throughout is all electric, and the crew's quarters are spacious and comfortable.



From the West Wales Guardian of  Friday 12th April 1946 :


    The new super-trawler, 'Milford Viscount', was launched last week at Messrs. Cochran's Yard at Selby, Yorkshire. She will be completed in August and will then be taken over by the Milford Steam Trawling Company.

    Her sister ship, the diesel-engined 'Post Boy' (to be re-named 'Milford Marquis') is now in dry dock at Milford Haven undergoing the final stages of re-conversion and should be ready for fishing in a few weeks.

    Directors of the Milford Steam Trawling Company were present at the launch, which was performed by Mrs. Whittington, wife of the Vice-Chairman (Major Whittington), in the absence of Sir Felix Pole, Chairman of Milford Docks Company.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 7th February 1947:


    There is better news this week regarding the position of the Milford Viscount, the Docks Company super trawler, which was expected to be commissioned this month.  The engines have now completed their tests at Messrs. Ruston Hornsby's works at Lincoln, but until a thaw sets in the special vehicles required to take them to Hull, where the ship is lying, will not be able to use the roads.

    Delivery of the ship at Milford is now expected for Easter.



From the West Wales Guardian of  Friday 15th August 1947:


    As you read this, Skipper Albert Saunders is steering the Milford Viscount southwards across the Bay of Biscay, bound for the Moroccan grounds, a round voyage of 3,000 miles, with a total of of ten days "steaming",

    Not since 1925 has a Milford trawler fished in this latitude, and all who have the success of the great local industry at heart will wish the skipper and his crew the best of luck, and at the same time, commend  the owners for their initiative in the provision of new ships and new ideas.

    While the Viscount cuts through warm seas, her sister ship the Milford Marquis (Skipper Benny Riches) travels in the opposite direction, northwards.  She is returning to Barra Head (Hebrides) in search of the elusive herring, and if these fish have gone, she will move further north, probably to Rockall.

    "Mascot" on the Viscount's  Moroccan voyage is Jeremy, schoolboy son of Mr. J. C. Ward, the docks manager and managing director of the Milford Trawling Company, who chose the trip as an excellent way to spend part of his holidays.




Courtesy of Terry and Alan Saunders


From the West Wales Guardian of  Friday 9th July 1948:


    The Milford Viscount, crack local trawler, will sail tomorrow, captained by Skipper Albert Saunders, in search of herrings in northern waters. 

    The herring season is just commencing but there are no signs yet of the pre-war shoals found off the Smalls, and the industry is at a low ebb in the port.  The main reason for this, we understand, is the shortage of herring fishing equipment, particularly of nets.  If net makers went over to herring nets, the shortage of trawl nets, already serious, would become acute, so local vessels find it impossible to bring in anything but an occasional haul of herrings.

    The Viscount is one of the few ships with the proper equipment, and if she strikes herrings the catch will keep local smokehouses busy.



From The Scotsman of Thursday 22nd December 1949, p.8:


    The Milford Haven trawlers Milford Viscount and Milford King reached Oban after battling against wild seas for 24 hours.  Both trawlers were disabled at the fishing grounds beyond the Outer Hebrides, their propellers being fouled by the trawl nets.



From the West Wales Guardian of  Friday 30th December 1949:


    Another Milford trawler, the Milford Viscount, suffered at the hands of the gale, one of the worst of the winter.  The Viscount was trawling off Oban just before Christmas when in the teeth of an 80 m.p.h. gale a trawl caught in the propeller and ripped off two of the blades.  As soon as the damage was discovered an SOS was sent out to the trawlers in the vicinity, and was answered by the Milford King, which, racing to the rescue, shifted her coal and developed a list.  Fortunately the Viscount, escorted by the King, was able to get home under her own power.


Back Row L-R: Lofty Spriggs, Ch. Eng Jack Jones,  ?,   Jacky Bear, Ginger Tennant,

Middle row: Billy Price (in life belt), Harding, Tommy Gevellian, Teddy Youd,  ?  Allen Spriggs & Blowers (from Swansea)
John Stevenson Collection



The Times, Wednesday, Apr 19, 1950; pg. 8; Issue 51669; col F
     News in Brief


A British trawler Milford Viscount, number 196, has been overdue since Sunday it was learned today. She has a crew of 13, mostly from Milford and her Skipper is Alex Smith of Milford Haven. The vessel left Castletown, Berehaven, on March 30 for the Porcupine fishing grounds, about 130 miles off the west Cork coast and was expected at Milford on Sunday. Aircraft from a British base made a search yesterday and ships have been asked to keep a look out.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 21st April 1950:




    Anxiety is mounting concerning the safety of the Milford Haven trawler "Milford Viscount" which is now four days overdue.  The "Viscount" was expected in Milford on Monday but up to noon today there had been no definite news concerning her.

    Mr. J. C. Ward, Managing Director of Milford Steam Trawling Company, owners of the missing vessel, said as we went to Press: "There is no further news at all but the search is still going on.  It is not too good."

    For the past three days little groups of people have stood along the dock wall at Milford Haven watching the harbour with anxious eyes.  They are the relatives and friends of the "Viscount's" crew and as trawlermen come ashore from their ships they are questioned eagerly.  But so far the answer has always been the same - "No, we have seen nothing of the 'Viscount'."

    On Thursday twenty-two Milford trawlers made a wide sweep of the area where the "Viscount" had been fishing.

Lifebuoy found.

    On Thursday evening local people were dismayed to learn that a lifebuoy marked "Milford Viscount" had been washed upon [ sic ] at Ballybunion on the south shore of the Shannon estuary.  Mr. Ward informs us, however, that this does not necessarily mean that anything serious has befallen the "Viscount" and he recalls that the  "Viscount" and "Milford King" lost eight lifebelts [ sic ]  in heavy seas some months ago.  "It is possible," said Mr. Ward "that heavy seas have damaged the 'Viscount's' propellers and she is adrift."

    Mrs. Rose Williams, Prospect Place, Haverfordwest, wife of the second engineer, Mr. R. M. Williams, told our reporter on Thursday that her husband was often later than expected coming from sea.  "But for the search that is going on I would not be over-worried," she said.  "In fact, I was not expecting him until Wednesday or even today.  He told me he might be late on this trip.  But we can't help worrying now."


    When the trawler failed to return on Monday the owners sought the co-operation of the R.A.F. and aircraft from Northern Ireland bases have been searching the Western Ireland fishing grounds where "Viscount"  was last seen.

    Four Halifaxes have searched far west of the Irish fishing grounds in case the "Viscount" is drifting, while a Lancaster has scanned the normal route home to Milford.

    Aircraft from Pembroke Dock have also been keeping a look out in the approaches to Milford Haven.

    It is known that "Viscount's" radio has been out of action for some time.  The "Viscount" has sufficient food until Monday and iron rations for a week after that.

    "Milford Viscount" is a 116-ton trawler, skippered by Mr. Alex Smith of "Arbroath", Picton Road, Hakin, one of the port's best known skippers.  There is a crew of 12, all local men except two.


    Skipper, A. Smith. "Arbroath", Picton Road, Milford Haven.

    Mate. A. Edwards. 12, Imogen Place, Milford Haven.

    Bosun. A. John. 6, Imogen Place, Milford Haven.

    Third Hand.  A. James. 82, Precelly Place, Milford Haven.

    Deckands:  H. D. Beamish, 51, Glebelands; R. Paul, 2, St. David's Road, Milford Haven.; T. Riorden, Windsor Green Birmingham; R. J. Pugh, Mill House, Hazelbeach.

    Cook. W. Parsons, "Inaview", George Street, New Quay, Cardigan.

    Chief Engineer. J. R. Jones. 6, Warwick Road, Milford Haven.

    Second Engineer. R. M. Williams.  12, Prospect Place, Haverfordwest.

    Greasers: V. F. Bouch, 8, Trafalgar Road, Milford Haven.; J. Karlsen, 8, Warwick Road, Milford Haven.




The Times, Thursday, Apr 27, 1950; pg. 4; Issue 51676; col D
     House Of Commons


MR. BARNES, Minister of Transport (East Ham, South, Lab.), replying to MR. DONNELLY (Pembroke, Lab.), who asked for a statement on the loss of the trawler Milford Viscount with all hands, earlier this month, said a search had been conducted by sea and air over a wide area without success.  The trawler had not yet been posted as missing at Lloyd's, but if it was not found he would arrange for a preliminary enquiry to be held.

    Answering supplementary questions, MR. BARNES repudiated a suggestion by MR. DONNELLY that the Navy had been backward in participating in the search, and also maintained that until an investigation took place it was not right to assume that there was any deficiency in regard to wireless installation or anything else.


 The Times, Friday, Apr 28, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51677; col C
     Search Resumed For Missing Trawler

Hourly Radio Silence By Ships


    The air and sea search for the trawler Milford Viscount, reported overdue on April 16th and now presumed lost, was continued yesterday after reports had been received from two vessels that they had picked up faint radio signals.

    Aircraft from Coastal Command and the destroyer Wizard (Commander J. D. Hayes) joined in the new search which is being concentrated on the area between 70 and 300 miles due west of Kerry, south-west Eire - far from the area searched originally about 200 miles north of Scotland.  The Air Ministry said in Edinburgh that as a result of signals received yesterday afternoon on 141 metres it was believed the trawler was situated 52deg. north and 11deg. to 15deg. west.

    Late yesterday the General Post Office announced: "The trawler Milford Viscount is missing.  She is 11 days overdue and presumed lost.  Thirteen men aboard. Weak signals heard last night by a trawler at Milford Haven and a trawler in North Sea on 140 metres thought to be from Milford Viscount.  General Post Office have arranged for Land's End, Portpatrick and Wick radio stations to advise all ships to cease transmitting first 15 minutes each hour during the night and listen for signals from Milford Viscount."


The Times, Friday, Apr 28, 1950; pg. 6; Issue 51677; col D
     News in Brief


Lloyds message from Lands End radio this morning states 'Following from British trawler Milford Duke at 12.37 am GMT begins, Four or five trawlers heard aircraft located Milford Viscount and rescue ship proceeding to her, position 52.40N 16W.

¬ Earlier details of the search are on page 3.


The Times, Saturday, Apr 29, 1950; pg. 6; Issue 51678; col E
     Destroyer's Search For Trawler

Aircraft Grounded

    The search for the trawler Milford Viscount, which is missing in the Atlantic with 13 men on board, was hampered yesterday by bad weather and poor visibility.  No aircraft took part in the search.

    An Air Ministry spokesman said last night that three aircraft, probably Lancasters, would leave Leuchars, Scotland, this morning to search an area slightly to the north of the original area and including the fishing bank from which the trawler was first reported missing 13 days ago.

    The destroyer Wizard from Plymouth, which encountered a number of trawlers about 240 miles west of Ireland yesterday, was later ordered to the Aran Isles, Galway Bay.  Today she will search to the south as far as Fastnet Rock, an islet off the south-west coast of County Cork.  A second destroyer, Wakeful, was ordered to shelter in Scapa Flow because of a gale over the area of her sweep north of Scotland.

    Efforts to trace the unidentified aircraft which was earlier reported to have signalled the Milford Viscount's position failed.  A representative of the owners, the Milford Steam Trawling Company, said yesterday: "We are still confident that the Viscount will be found."

    The naval authorities were pleased with the support which ahs been given by radio amateurs all over the country, but an Admiralty spokesman said: "Some of the reports which have come in are conflicting and it is very difficult to confirm them."


The Times, Monday, May 01, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51679; col C
     News in Brief


    A naval spokesman said yesterday that it was unlikely that any further search for the missing trawler Milford Viscount will be made by warships of R.A.F. Coastal Command aircraft unless a more definite reference to her possible position is obtained.

    Three destroyers and a Coastal Command aircraft were standing by yesterday, awaiting any further reports.


The Times, Monday, May 08, 1950; pg. 4; Issue 51685; col F
     Lifejackets From Missing Trawler

Tardy Reports Of Find


    The importance of immediate notification to the Receiver of Wrecks of anything that may give a clue to an overdue vessel is emphasised by reports during the weekend from the west coast of Eire that three lifejackets bearing the name and number of the missing trawler, Milford Viscount, had been found.

    The vessel was first reported overdue at Milford Haven on April 16th.  On that day, it is now known, a lifejacket was found at Ballybunion, near the mouth of the River Shannon.  A week later, two more were found on the beach at Tralee Bay.

    Had these finds been made known earlier, the search by trawlers and aircraft which was made later could have been concentrated over a narrower area, and seamen, with their knowledge of currents could have made a close estimate of the probable position of the Milford Viscount at the time of the disaster.


The Times, Tuesday, May 09, 1950; pg. 4; Issue 51686; col C
     The Missing Trawler


                                                                                                                                                                                                 Reykjavik, May 8

    The search for the missing British trawler Milford Viscount, missing since early in April from fishing grounds off the west of Ireland, was continued today in response to new reports that signals had been heard. Two aircraft made long flights northward to the area indicated but without result. A British trawler in Icelandic waters reported having heard the missing trawler faintly this morning, and thereafter all  Icelandic stations listened intently, but nothing further was heard. To-night the Rev. R. Jack, vicar of Grimsey Island, reported that he heard the trawler at 16.35, but nothing was clear except the word "stuck".


    Mr. J. C. Ward Managing Director of  the Milford Steam Trawling Company, owners of the missing trawler Milford Viscount, yesterday discounted any suggestion that delay in the announcement of the finding of two further lifejackets bearing the names of the Milford Viscount would have any effect upon the search for the trawler.


The Times, Thursday, Nov 23, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51856; col C
     Loss Of Fishing Vessel

Captain's Death Presumed

    Mr Justice Collingwood, in the Probate Court yesterday, made an order presuming the death, on or since 2 April, of Mr Alexander Smith of Milford Haven, skipper of the motor fishing vessel the Milford Viscount, which disappeared in April with 13 men on board. 

    Mr John Syms, making the application, said the Milford Viscount had set out from Milford Docks on March 29 for a voyage which should have lasted 14 to 16 days. The skipper of another vessel spoke to Mr Smith by radio on April 2 but nothing further was heard.  Extensive searches had been made with the assistance of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the B.B.C., but on May 11 the searches were finally abandoned.

    Mr. Syms said that it might not be necessary for applications to be made in respect of the 12 other men lost on the voyage.  With Mr. Smith's death being presumed, a common form grant might be made for the others.



The Times, Tuesday, Nov 28, 1950; pg. 2; Issue 51860; col C
Oil Fuel In Lost Trawler

Inquiry Evidence Of Earlier Voyage

When the Ministry of Transport inquiry opened at Milford Haven yesterday into the disappearance of the trawler Milford Viscount with 13 hands last April Mr S. E. Pitts, Treasury Solicitor, recalled an incident last November.

    The incident, he said, occurred when the Milford Viscount was on a fishing trip with a full tank of 98 tons of diesel oil.  She met severe weather and had to leave off fishing, and there was no doubt that she had a bad time.

    She was severely hit by a tremendous sea, with results which were perhaps alarming.  "Some of the men who were on that ship will be before you, and one will tell you that she was heeled over on her side to a degree that water reached the port lights on the engine-room casing."  The result was that the crew went to the skipper and frankly asked him to take the ship home.  He agreed and brought the ship back to Milford Haven.

    Mr. James Carpenter Ward, managing director of the Milford Haven Steam Trawling Company, Limited, during his evidence was questioned by the chairman, Mr. J. V. Naisby, K.C., about the November incident, and said: "The skipper told me that the crew threw their hands in, and said they were not going to carry on, and wanted him to take the vessel back and take oil out."

    Mr. Ward said that at first he thought the skipper had lost his nerve.  "Then I realised that it was not his fault - that he had had an ultimatum - and we became friends again." The crew had apparently said that in their opinion, if the Viscount's gear fouled a wreck, she might be lost.

    He did not take any technical advice following the crew's ultimatum.  "I was told be the master what had happened, and he asked me to take 50 tons of oil out, which I did."

    Skipper Smith, he continued, later said that the Viscount would be perfectly all right with only 50 or 60 tons in the bunkers.  She was carrying 401 tons of fuel on the trip when she was lost.

    Harold Gordon Spriggs, of Milford Haven, a member of the crew of the Milford Viscount last November, said that if the Viscount had had only half the amount of oil she was carrying, she need not have stopped fishing so early and could have carried on like any other ship.

    John Alexander Kerr, of Milford Haven, said he was with the Viscount in November, and that she acted "very queerly".  "She was lying idle," he said, "and as the sea hit her she heeled over to such an extent that even I got the wind up.  I thought she was never coming back again.  I thought she was gone."  He considered the trouble in November was due to too much bunkers.

    The enquiry was adjourned until today.


The Times, Wednesday, Nov 29, 1950; pg. 2; Issue 51861; col C
     Theory Of Skippers On Trawler's Loss

Possibly Overwhelmed By High Seas    

    Three trawler skippers who gave evidence when the Ministry of Transport inquiry was resumed at Milford Haven yesterday into the disappearance of the trawler Milford Viscount agreed that the vessel might have been overwhelmed by heavy seas.

    The Milford Viscount vanished in April with 13 men aboard when on a fishing trip.

    Norman Owen Brown, of Milford Haven, skipper of the trawler Damito, said that on April 1st he saw the Viscount six to eight miles away. Skipper Smith, her master, told him on the radio that he was "laid to" to see what the weather was going to do.  "We heard nothing more.  That night the weather grew very bad."

    Asked his theory on the fate of the Viscount, Brown said: "I think his trawl may have got fast and he may have been overwhelmed by the sea. It could have been very quick - perhaps too quick for a wireless message to be sent out."

    John James Fortune, of Swansea, skipper of the trawler Powis Castle, said that on April 2 he twice heard messages from the Viscount. "The only reason I can suggest for her loss is that an unlucky sea must have hit her," he said.  It was possible for a heavy wave to break a window in the wheelhouse and put the wireless out of action.

    Albert Stephen Saunders, skipper of the Milford Duke, which docked yesterday, agreed. He is a former master of the Milford Viscount.

    "I had every confidence in her," he said. "I have been in her and weathered 100 m.p.h. gales."  He agreed that the Viscount might have been overwhelmed by terrific seas.

     The enquiry was adjourned until today.


The Times, Thursday, Nov 30, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51862; col D
Messages "A Cruel Hoax"

Skipper's Allegation

    Wireless messages purporting to have come from the Milford Viscount 11 days after the trawler was overdue were alleged by Skipper Albert Saunders, master of the Milford Duke, to be a cruel hoax when the Ministry of Transport inquiry into the loss of the trawler with a crew of 13 was resumed at Milford Haven yesterday.

    Skipper Saunders said that he was fishing off the west coast of Ireland while the Viscount was there, and had radio talks with her.  On April 1 the weather was breaking up badly, and at 7.30 p.m. Skipper Smith, master of the Viscount, told him his position and that he had finished fishing and was lying for the weather.  There was a full gale that night with confused seas, and he did not hear from the Viscount again.

    Asked by Mr. S. E. Pitts, representing the Ministry of Transport, whether he was anxious, he said that Skipper Smith seemed always to get in a tangle with his wireless, and would be off the air for three or four days.  He did not take any notice of it.  He considered that the Viscount disappeared at the peak of the gale on the night of April 1, or early the following morning.

    In reply to a question by Mr. J. B. Hewson, for the owners, about the intensity of the search carried out for the Viscount, Skipper Saunders said that if the Viscount had been disabled and drifting it would not have been possible for anyone to have passed her.  She was bound to have been located with the R.A.F. and all the Milford boats, as well as others from Swansea and Fleetwood, searching for her.

    Thomas Arthur Davies, inspector of Post Office Wireless Telegraphs, said that no official distress signal from the Viscount was received at any of the 11 fully equipped Post Office wireless stations around the coasts of Britain or at the two stations in Ireland.  It seemed incredible to him that an experienced skipper like Skipper Smith should not have sent out a distress call on the distress band of 181 metres had he been able to do so.  He could find no trace in the last 42 years of a distress message not being received by a Post Office station when, from the ship's position, it should have been received.

    Before the hearing  was adjourned until today, Mr. J. V. NAISBY, K.C., the chairman, said that there was a considerable amount of evidence, by no means negligible, that messages were heard from the Viscount on or after April 25.  If signals were heard on April 27 it disposed of the suggestion that the ship ceased to exist on April 1 or 2.



The Times, Friday, Dec 01, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51863; col C
     Trawler Life-Saving Gear

Question Of Inspection

    Evidence was concluded at Milford Haven yesterday in the Ministry of Transport enquiry into the loss in April of the trawler Milford Viscount with a crew of 13.

    Mr. J. V. NAISBY, K.C., the chairman, is to give his report to the court today.

    Mr. William Williamson, assistant inspector of Post Office wireless telegraphs, said that some of the messages picked up by radio amateurs and other ships during April and forwarded to the authorities were in Morse, but the Milford Viscount did not carry a Morse key.  Others reported SOS messages, whereas the correct distress signal would have been the word "Mayday", repeated on the 181 metre waveband.

    At the conclusion of the evidence Mr. R. D. Saunders, appearing for representatives of a member of the trawler's crew who was lost, said that apparently the owners of trawlers were under no obligation to have certificates of the condition of life-saving apparatus, or to have it independently surveyed.  A ship could be detained if she was found not to be satisfactorily equipped, but no official survey was required and he submitted that there should be.  There was only one record of boat-drill having been carried out in the trawler during the whole of her life.

    Mr. J. B. Hewson, for the owners, agreed that there was room for a tightening up regarding the examination of the life-saving apparatus, but said that this was in good condition when the ship was built, and there was no evidence that the sound or light signals had deteriorated.  The Milford Viscount had been originally fitted out in excess of requirements, and had had two lifeboats and eight lifebuoys.



The Times, Saturday, Dec 02, 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51864; col B
     Trawler Inquiry Findings

Loss "Probably Due To Sea Conditions"

    Exceptional sea conditions probably led to the loss of the trawler Milford Viscount, it was stated yesterday in the unanimous findings of the Ministry of Transport court of enquiry at Milford Haven.

    Presenting the findings, Mr. J. V. NAISBY, K.C., the chairman, said that the vessel's life-saving apparatus - rather more than was required by the regulations - was in good order on the date of her departure.

    Mr. Naisby recalled the evidence of waves 32ft. high and wind speeds of 37 knots, which "most probably reached the Milford Viscount on the night of April 1-2.

    "In our opinion, the Milford Viscount was most probably lost because of exceptional conditions on the night of April 2-3."

    The Viscount  was in charge of a competent master and crew, and was seaworthy when she left Milford Haven on her last voyage.  She was properly manned and equipped to meet the normal perils of a fishing voyage at that time of the year.



    Mr. Naisby said that the court unanimously presented these findings, although it was true that  boat drill had not been carried out and the rockets were due for renewal and replacement.

    Referring to the search for the trawler, he said reports of messages, said to have come from the Viscount, continued to come in up to May 9.  The court was satisfied that all these messages were carefully considered and investigated, but that there was no reliable record of any message from the ship after April 2.

    "The court," added Mr Naisby, "considers that consideration should be given to the whole question of life-saving apparatus on fishing vessels, with special reference to the regular inspection thereof."




Official report on the loss from




(No. S.417)


m.t. “Milford Viscount” O.N. 165644


In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at the Town Hall, Milford Haven, on the 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th days of November, 1950, before J. V. Naisby, Esq., KC., assisted by J. Darkins, Esq., G. H. Nicholson, Esq., M.I.M.E., and H. A. Lyndsay, Esq., B.Sc., M.I.N.A., into the circumstances attend­ing the loss of the motor trawler “Milford Viscount” with the loss of 13 (thirteen) members of her crew.


The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the said loss was most probably due to an exceptional combination of weather and sea conditions.                        

Dated this 1st day of December, 1950.

                                J. V. Naisby. judge.

We concur in the above Report,

                            J. Darkins

                            G. H. Nicholson      Assessors

                            H. A. Lyndsay



At this Inquiry Mr. S. E. Pitts appeared for the Minister of Transport, Mr. J. B. Hewson, instructed by Messrs. Price & Kelway appeared for the owners and the designated manager of the motor trawler “Milford Viscount “, and Mr. R. D. Saunders, as agent for Mr. W. H. Thompson appeared for the personal representatives of the late Mr. Vernon Frederick Bouch, a member of the crew.

The “Milford Viscount” was a steel single screw motor trawler built in 1947 and owned by the Milford Steam Trawling Co., Ltd. Her gross tonnage was 313.61 and her length between perpendiculars 140 feet. She had four watertight and one oiltight traverse steel bulkheads and was propelled by a Ruston Hornsby internal combustion engine develop­ing 750 brake horse power. Her official number was 165644.

The vessel was equipped with the necessary life­-saving appliances which were rather more than are normally fitted on a vessel of her type and class. They were in good order on the date of her departure and  in accordance with the regulations. She had a radio telephone transmitter/receiver, one direction finder, and two Echo sounding instruments all of which had been serviced and checked on the day of departure. The compasses were also in order.

She sailed from Milford Haven about noon on the 29th March, 1950, bound for the fishing grounds to the west of the Republic of Ireland, manned by a crew of 13 hands all told.

After calling at Castletown. Berehaven, for stores on the 30th March, she proceeded to the proposed fishing grounds.

On the 1st April, when the trawler “Damito” was fishing in a position about latitude 52° 3O'N. and longitude 12° 20' W., the “Milford Viscount” was seen by the master of the “Damito” some six or eight miles to the W.N.W. fishing and towing in a N.N.W. direction. This is the last record of the “Milford Viscount” having been seen.

On the 2nd April the “Milford Viscount” was in communication on the radio telephone with the “Damito” and with the trawler “Milford Duke” about 7.30 p.m. This is the last reliable information of the “Milford Viscount” having been heard.

The radio conversations between the “Milford Viscount” on the one hand and. the  “Damito” and the “Milford Duke” on the other were substantially to the same effect, which was that the “Milford Viscount” after fishing in a westerly direction had been compelled to cease fishing by the weather and was “laid,” that is, with engines stopped, waiting for the weather to moderate. It is now known that about this time a weather ship about 250 miles further west was experiencing weather conditions of excep­tional severity with waves up to 32 feet in height and wind speeds of 37 knots. This disturbance was moving easterly and might well have reached the position of the “Milford Viscount” on the night of the 2nd April, when she was most probably in an area in which, due to rapid shoaling, very confused sea conditions are liable to occur. These conditions are normally accentuated by a quick change of wind. On the night of the 2nd April the wind did shift rapidly from the W.S.W. to N.W., and the weather conditions became very severe.

In our opinion the “Milford Viscount” was most probably lost owing to the exceptional combination of wind and sea conditions on the night of the 2nd/3rd April, 1950.

The “Milford Viscount” was a well found vessel in charge of a competent master and crew. The evidence was all to the effect that she was well maintained. Her lifesaving equipment and boats were in good order and condition, although boat drills had not been regularly carried out, nor had her rockets, which were overdue for renewal, been replaced. The stability of the vessel was normal and adequate. The main engines and auxiliaries which had just been surveyed were in good order.

In November, 1949, the vessel had proceeded to the same fishing grounds, but before departure had almost completely filled her oil fuel tanks with about 100 tons. This was somewhat exceptional, as she usually carried about two-thirds of this quantity as being sufficient for her ordinary voyage. On this occasion the vessel while “laid” due to bad weather rolled rather heavily and to an extent which alarmed her crew. Thereupon a deputation went to the mate and asked to speak to the skipper to request him to return to port, as it was assumed by the crew that the roll in question was entirely due to the additional oil fuel. The skipper agreed, and the vessel returned to Milford Haven, where some oil was discharged, and thereafter the entire crew was prepared to proceed again to sea in the vessel, and in fact, at the time of her loss, nine of the thirteen on board in November were still serving on the vessel. It has since been determined that in this condition of loading the vessel had adequate stability.

The vessel was due to return to Milford Haven to land her catch in time to supply the market on the 17th April. When by this date she had not returned, other trawlers belonging to the same owners were ordered to search for the missing vessel in the area around her last known position, and on the 18th April a search of the area was instituted by the Royal Air Force and all shipping warned by radio. The Admiralty also assisted in the search. No trace of the vessel was found, and on the 25th April it was decided that no further good purpose would be served by continuing the broadcasts, and the search was called off. This decision was reluctantly announced in the evening newspapers and in the 6 o'clock news bulletin of the B.B.C. Immediately thereafter a number of messages purporting to be from the vessel began to come in from various sources, and the search was re-instituted, in which up to 25 trawlers were soon busily engaged. A large area was also searched by a United States Air Force stationed in the Arctic. All these efforts proved to be entirely unavailing and the vessel was finally given up for lost on the 5th May, 1950. Reports of messages said to come from the “Milford Viscount” continued to be received up to the 9th May.

The Court is satisfied that all messages received were adequately examined, and where possible suitable action initiated, and considers it desirable that the valuable assistance of the officials of the Telecommunications Section of the Post Office, including the B.B.C., and the work of the many unofficial wireless operators both afloat and ashore should be placed on record. In this connection the concerted efforts of the owners of the “Milford Viscount” and other vessels, the Air Force detach­ments of the United States and this country and all who assisted in any way, are highly appreciated.

The Court is further satisfied, after examination of all the messages brought before it, that there is no reliable record of any message from the ship after 19.30 hours on the 2nd April 1950.

The Court recommends that consideration should be given to the whole question of lifesaving appliances on fishing vessels with particular reference to the regular inspection thereof.



   The Court's answers to the questions submitted by the Ministry of Transport are as follows :­


Q. 1. By whom was the “Milford Viscount” owned .at the time of her loss, and for how long had she been so owned?

A.  Milford Steam Trawling Co. Limited, The Docks, Milford Haven, were the owners throughout the life of the vessel. The designated manager was Mr. James Carpenter Ward.

Q. 2. When and by whom was the “Milford Viscount” built?

A.     1947.  Cochrane & Sons, Limited, Selby.

Q. 3. Did the” Milford Viscount,” under the command of skipper Alexander Smith, leave Milford Haven with a crew of thirteen all told at noon on 29th March, 1950, bound for the fishing grounds to the west of Eire?

A. Yes.

Q. 4. Was the “Milford Viscount” seaworthy when she left Milford Haven on her last voyage, and was she properly manned and equipped to meet the normal perils of a fishing voyage at that time of the year?

A. Yes.

Q. 5. Did the” Milford Viscount” call at Castletown, Berehaven, for fresh stores?

A. Yes.

Q. 6. On the 1st April, 1950, at approximately 13.35 G.M.T. was skipper Saunders of the “Milford Duke,” whilst in latitude 52° 30' north by longitude 13° 20' west, in conversa­tion with the skipper of the” Milford Viscount” by radio telephone, and was the “Milford Duke” at that time approximately 120 miles E.N.E. of the” Milford Viscount” ?

A. Yes.

Q. 7. What were the weather, wind and sea con­ditions, at the time skipper Saunders was talking to the skipper of the “Milford Viscount”?

A.  The conditions were becoming bad, but the “Milford Viscount” was still able to fish. Q. 8.  Did the weather thereafter deteriorate?

A.  Yes.

    Q. 9. On the 1st April, 1950, whilst fishing in a position latitude 52° 30' north by longitude 12° 20' west, was the trawler “Damito” fishing in 200 fathoms, and did her skipper, Norman Brown, see the “Milford Viscount” approximately six to eight miles to the W.N.W. and towing in a N.N.W. direction?

   A. Yes.

Q. 10. On Sunday the 2nd April was the “Damito” fishing in approximately the same position, and was the “Milford Viscount” still in sight?

A.  The “Damito” was in approximately the same position, but the “Milford Viscount” was not seen.

         Q. 11. On the 2nd April, 1950, after dinner did skipper Brown of the “Damito” have a conversation on the radio telephone with skipper Smith of the “Milford Viscount”?

A. Yes.

Q. 12. What did skipper Smith tell skipper Brown of the “Damito” about the conditions obtaining where the “Milford Viscount” then was?

A. Skipper Smith said he was “laid” and had ceased fishing, and there was a strong breeze, and if the “Damito” were in the same position as the “Milford Viscount” she would not be able to fish.

Q. 13. At the time of the conversation referred to in Question 12, was the “Milford Viscount” able to fish, and was the “Damito” able to fish?

A.  The “Damito” was, but the “Milford Viscount" was not able to fish.

Q. 14. Did the weather still further deteriorate, and at what time on what day did the “Damito” have to cease fishing?

A. Yes, and about 11 p.m. on the 2nd April the “Damito” ceased fishing.

Q. 15. When did the weather moderate in the vicinity of the trawler “Damito”?

A.  Probably within 36 hours.

Q. 16. After skipper Saunders of the “Milford Duke” spoke to the skipper of the “Milford Viscount” on 1st April, 1950, did he try on a. number of occasions during the next few days to contact the “Milford Viscount” again by radio telephone, and was he at any time successful?

A.  Yes, but he was not successful.

Q. 17. Is there any authentic record of the “Milford Viscount” being heard to send out any message or signal after the conversations her skipper had with the skipper of the “Damito”?

A.  It would appear that skipper Saunders spoke to skipper Smith immediately after the conclusion of the conversation referred to in the question and received similar information to that given to skipper Brown. Thereafter there is no reliable information of any further contact with the “Milford Viscount”.

Q. 18. Was the trawler “Milford Viscount” known to have been seen at any time after the skipper of the “Damito” saw her fishing about seven or eight miles away from a position, latitude 52” 30' north by longitude 12° 20' west on the 1st April. 1950?

A.  No.

Q. 19. Was one of the “Milford Viscount's” life­buoys found near Black Rocks, Men's Strand, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, Eire, at approxi­mately 8.30 a.m. on the 16th of April, 1950, and were two of “Milford Viscount's” life­buoys found at Meenoghane Causeway, Co. Kerry, Eire, at approximately 5 p.m. on the 22nd April?

A.  Yes.

Q. 20. Apart from the lifebuoys referred to in Question 19, has any wreckage or equipment from the “Milford Viscount” been found and identified?        

A.  Not so far as is known.

         Q. 21. Was the “Milford Viscount” posted as a missing vessel at Lloyds, London, on the 24th May, 1950?

A, Yes.

Q. 22. Were the life saving appliances and light and sound signals equipment of the “Milford Viscount” satisfactory and in working order when she sailed on her last voyage?

A.  See Annex.

Q.23. Was the “Milford Viscount” fitted with a radio transmitter/receiver of the radio telephone type in good working order when she left Milford Haven on her last voyage?

A. Yes.

Q. 24. Was the late skipper of the “Milford Viscount” quite familiar with the radio transmitter/ receiver, and was the particular type installed at his request just before leaving Milford Haven?

A, Yes.

Q. 25. Was “Milford Viscount's” radio transmitter/ receiver working properly at the times when the skippers of “Milford Duke” and “Damito” reported having conversations with the skipper of the “Milford Viscount” round about the 1st and 2nd days of April 1950?

A.  Yes.

Q. 26. What were the normal ranges for daylight and darkness of the “Milford Viscount's” radio transmitter/receiver?

A. Daylight 150 miles; darkness up to 800/1,000 miles.

Q. 27. When was the trawler” Milford Viscount” due back at Milford Haven from her last fishing voyage?

A.  She was due to catch the market on the 17th April 1950.

Q. 28. What was the cause, or probable cause, of the loss of the motor trawler “Milford Viscount”?

A. The most probable cause of the loss was an exceptional combination of weather and sea conditions,


J. V, Naisby, Judge.


J. Darkins

G. H, Nicholson    Assessors.

H. A. Lyndsay


(Issued by the Ministry of Transport in London, in 1951).



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 17th April 1953:


    Wreckage, identified as equipment from the Milford trawler Milford Viscount, which disappeared without trace in a gale three years ago, has been picked up in the trawl of the Milford Duchess, a ship owned by the same company.  The Viscount was lost with all hands and her disappearance became one of the mysteries of the sea, for no evidence of her fate was ever found.  Although wireless listeners in various parts of the country asserted they had heard messages from her, planes and scores of ships took part in the fruitless search. 

    On Wednesday the Milford Duchess returned from a fishing trip, bringing with her some wreckage hauled up in her trawl.  A serial number has identified part of it as belonging to the ill-fated Viscount.  The Secretary of the Milford Steam Trawling Company, Lt. Col. D. C. Bruton, made this statement:

    "The Milford Duchess, Skipper James Jobson, picked up in her trawl on April 4th two small ventilators, an echo sounder, and unused net section.  The numerals on the echo sounder have identified it as the instrument which was in the Milford Viscount when she was lost three years ago.  The items were picked up in the area of latitude 52.30º North, and longitude 12.40º West, which is approximately the position in which the Milford Viscount was seen by the Milford trawler Damito on April 1st, 1950."

    By a tragic coincidence, this is the second time in recent years that wreckage hauled up in the trawl has pinpointed a disaster.  Before the war a portion of the wireless set of the Gordon Richards, which had also disappeared with all hands, was brought up in the net of a local trawler.



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