Official No: 109821 Port Number and Year: 68th in Grimsby, 1898 (GY863)
2nd in Milford, 1924.
- in Boulogne, 1930 (B ? )
Description: Steel side / beam trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Well deck. Ketch rigged: foresail, mainsail and mizzen.
Crew: 14 men (1899)
Registered at Milford: 25 Jan 1924
Built: 1898, by Earle's Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Hull. (Yard no. 432)
Tonnage: 219 grt 90 net. Amended (1910): 234.6 grt 109.19 net.
Length / breadth / depth (feet): 114.0 / 21.0 / 11.7
Lengthened (1910): 122.75 / 21.0 / 11.75
Engine: T 3-Cyl. 55 nhp.; engine and boiler by builder.
8 Sep 1898: Grimsby Steam Fishing Co., Fish Dock Rd., Great Grimsby
Manager: George E. J. Moody
1912: Re-registered. (Hull lengthened.)
Aug 1915: Aberdeen owner.
Nov 1916: John L. Green, Fish Docks, Grimsby.
16 Jan 1919: Grimsby Group Owners.
Sep 1919: The New Clee Steam Fishing Co., 132 Park St., Grimsby
Manager: Alfred Bannister, Fish Dock Rd., Grimsby.
25 Jan 1924: Peter Llewellyn Hancock, 5 Picton Rd., Hakin, Milford.
6 Feb 1924: Peter Llewellyn Hancock )
Richard Llewellyn Hancock ) 5 Picton Rd., Hakin, Milford.
Frederick Lovell Hancock )
Manager: P. L. Hancock
As B ?
30 Aug 1930: Jean Wattez, 25 Rue Damremont, Boulogne-sur-Mer.
[Same name and owner in 1945.]
Landed at Milford: (As GY863) 9 Jul 1923 - 24 Jan 1924
(As M8) 5 Feb 1924 - 4 Aug 1930
Skippers: G. Thomas (1924); John W. Beck (6604) 1925; Williams (of Plymouth) (1929).
Notes: 1914 - 18: Fisheries Trawler, OCEANIC IV GY863
Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 30 Aug 1930. Vessel sold to French owners.
Accidents and Incidents
Note of Protest from Skipper J. W. Beck, dated September 1925:
We sailed from the port of Milford to our fishing grounds on the Bristol Channel, on the 5th September 1925. We arrived back in our home port of Milford in the evening of the 8th September, around 2.30.
On the 8th September, the weather being fine with a light Westerly breeze and smooth waters, when about 45 miles West half South from St Ann's Head the valve cover of the low pressure engine blew out, causing the vessel to be disabled without any power.
After many unsuccessful efforts by the Chief Engineer to restore power we had to admitted defeat. I then obtained the services of the Milford steam trawler "Thornton" to tow us back to Milford, which we reached the same day ( evening ).
Skipper John William Beck.
From The Irish Times of Saturday 28th December 1929:
CRIPPLES OF THE STORM
TWO VESSELS LIMP INTO WATERFORD
WORST EXPERIENCE FOR MANY YEARS
SIXTY HOURS' ORDEAL
BATTERED BY BIG SEAS
Not less perilous was the condition of the steam trawler Oceanic. She left for her fishing grounds on Christmas Eve, and the duration of her battle with the gale was practically sixty hours. When off Minehead she encountered the full force of an eighty mile an hour gale. Put about four square to the gale, the Oceanic could do no more than hold her own, not being able to make the slightest headway for hours and hours.
Mountainous seas meantime battered her. So strong were the forces against her that her bows were partially stove in.
Notwithstanding her gallant fight, she was yet to meet with further disaster. Her rudder was badly broken and twisted; she shipped heavy seas, and all hands were ordered to the pumps.
Despite the most strenuous endeavours of her crew of nine, the water continued to rise and her sluggish gait suggested yet another misfortune. It then became apparent that water was entering from below, and it was found that the bottom plate had been displaced. By ceaseless work at the pumps the crew managed to keep the vessel afloat, until her skipper, seeking what shelter he could close to the coast, brought his vessel into calmer in Dunmore Harbour.
The crew were then in a very exhausted state, and on arrival at Waterford yesterday showed signs of their ordeal.
The mate, Preston, of Galston [sic], told our correspondent how he had at one period almost given up hope, which was but faintly renewed with the appearance of daylight. The gale was, he said, was the worst he had known in his forty-seven years' experience.
From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 4th January 1980:
TRAWLER CREW'S CHRISTMAS BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL
[By Ethel Clark]
NONE OF MILFORD HAVEN'S TRAWLERS have spent Christmas at sea for years now. But fifty years ago this month a local trawler left for the fishing grounds on Christmas Eve on what quickly became a nightmare trip! Her crew spent sixty hours in a desperate battle for survival in a terrifying storm which nearly sank their ship and took their lives. For that crew, Christmas Day 1929 meant a cold, unremitting struggle to save their ship and themselves from disaster. And it was another ten days after that cheerless, perilous Christmas at sea before the nine trawlermen got home after their ship had lain broken and beached in Ireland.
It was on Boxing Morning 1929 that the 80ft. Milford trawler OCEANIC finally limped into the shelter of the little harbour at Dunmore East, Co, Waterford, Eire, her crew of nine utterly exhausted after toiling for 24 hours unceasingly at the pumps in the battle to save their leaking, broken-ruddered ship.
Only two of that crew survive today — Mr. Billy Norman of Hakinville, who was Third hand, and Mr. Fred Etherington of Vivian Drive, Hakin, who was a Deckhand. Both of them were young and newly-married (they both had Golden Weddings during the past year) when they sailed as shipmates on that fateful voyage on the old Peter Hancock trawler.
It was Mr. Etherington who kindly loaned me a cutting from the "Irish Times" of December 28th 1929 which reports the drama of the Oceanic's Christmas ordeal at sea.
100 mph Gale
In command of Plymouth-born Skipper Williams, the nine-man crew actually sailed from Milford Haven for the fishing grounds on Christmas Eve itself! When fishing off Mine Head, the trawler encountered the full force of the gale which was raging with a velocity of 80-100 miles per hour with mountainous seas running.
All that her Skipper could do was to keep her four-square to the storm for hour upon hour, during which time the trawler could do no more than hold her own. She was practically at a standstill, unable to make the slightest headway in the teeth of the fierce Christmas gale. Battered by heavy seas, her bows were partially stove in, she was weakened amidships and her rudder was badly broken and twisted.
As the Oceanic continued to ship heavy seas all hands were ordered to the pumps — operated by hand! Despite the most strenuous efforts of her crew the water in the trawler continued to rise and from the sluggish way she lay in the water it was apparent that yet another misfortune had hit the ship! Water was found to be entering her through a displaced bottom plate — the Oceanic was not only badly battered but had also sprung a leak!
For twenty-four hours her crew of nine worked ceaselessly at the pumps, managing to keep the vessel afloat until her Skipper, seeking what shelter he could, ran along close to the Irish coast and finally rode into Dunmore on a high sea which struck the trawler astern,
"The crew were then in a very exhausted state and on arrival showed the signs of their ordeal," laconically records the "Irish Times" of next day.
Given up hope
The Oceanic's Mate, Mr. Preston of Gorleston, told reporters that during the worst part of the gale on Christmas Eve he had almost given up hope of surviving. "It was only with the arrival of daylight on Christmas morning that we felt some relief, and our hopes of pulling through were faintly revived," he said.
But it was to be another night of battling for survival at sea and another dawn of hope before the disabled, leaking and damaged Milford trawler and her gallant crew of nine were finally swept by the sea into the safety of Dunmore at the mouth of the Waterford River. The Mate told the "Irish Times" reporter that this was his worst experience in 47 years at sea.
"Burned a bed"
"It was bad all right but in those days we just went out there and took whatever the weather brought," recalled Mr. Billy Norman this week. "The Oceanic had no wireless and no electricity in those days," he recalled. "We burned a bed out on deck when we got off the coast of Ireland to try and get a lifeboat to come out to us because the ship had gone so low in the water. But no-one came.
"When we finally got into Dunmore the ship was beached and wires were put over her galluses to keep her from falling right over on her side. She was listing so badly that a Marine Surveyor ordered us all ashore until the danger was over. The pilot refused to take us over the Bar to go up the river to Waterford because the ship was so water-logged. So she lay on the beach in Dunmore until her broken plates could be welded."
Mr. Norman recalled that he and Mr. Etherington went up to Waterford to the Seamen's Mission and were given dry clothing, apples and oranges for the crew. "The Irish people made us welcome and helped us all they could," he said. "But the first our families in Milford knew what had happened to us was when my father read in a newspaper that the Oceanic was beached in Ireland! It was a a couple of weeks before we got the ship home again."
Sense of humour
Even in the midst of their desperate battle for survival the Milford trawlermen kept a sense of humour. "Freddie Etherington had hung his seaboot socks out to dry and I remember putting a glass trawl float and odds and ends in one of them with a note saying, 'Dear Father Christmas, please bring me a boat with an engine in it!" recalled Mr. Norman.
For the crew, the Oceanic's Christmas ordeal at sea had surely meant no Christmas dinner? "Well, in those days, the trawlers never carried special food at Christmas anyway," explained Mr. Norman. "I'd been at sea for seven Christmases in a row when this happened and we only had the usual kind of trawler food."
Had it been unusual to put to sea on Christmas Eve? "Not a bit of it," replied Mr. Norman. "For years after that we'd go to sea just before Christmas. I can remember sailing from Milford at half past seven on a Christmas Eve on the trawler Ebenard [EPINARD?]. And just in case our crew didn't turn up, there was a full second crew there waiting! But WE went. That's the way it was in the years between the wars."
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