John Stevenson Collection

Official No:   136889   Port Number and Year: 8th in Fleetwood, 1914 (FD8)

                                                                                1st in Milford, 1948

Description: Steel side trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Ketch rigged: mizzen

Crew: 12 men (1948);  11 men (1955 - see crew photograph below).

Registered in Milford: 7 Feb 1948

Built: by Smith's Docks Co., Middlesborough, in 1914.  (Yard no. 566)

Feb 1948: At P. K. Harris & Sons Ltd, Appledore, rebuilt and fitted out for fishing under Special Survey of Lloyd’s Register and classed 100A1 Stm Trawler at Appledore.

[Thanks to the Bosun's Watch website.]

Tonnage: 284.94 gross  110.42 net

Length / breadth / depth (feet):  128.8 / 23.5 / 12.8

Engine: T 3-Cyl. 85 nhp. 10¼  kts. Engine by builders; boiler: Hawthorne, Leslie & Co., Newcastle.




15 Jun 1914: Fred Kelsall & Co. Ltd., Dock St., Fleetwood.

Manager: Thomas F. Kelsall, 'The Grange', Poulton-le-Fylde.


1920: Selby Trawlers Ltd., 216 Dock St., Fleetwood.

Manager: Harry Blackburn, 27 Chaucer Rd., Fleetwood.

                Kelsall & Blackburn Ltd., Fleetwood. (Same address.)


1935:  Thomas Cardwell & Robert H. Bagshaw, 200 Dock St., Fleetwood.

Managing owner: T. Cardwell.

12 Sep 1935: As WESTLYN FD8.


1939:  Robert H. Bagshaw, 200 Dock St., Fleetwood. 

Managing owner.


2 May 1947: Milford Fisheries Ltd., The Docks, Milford.

Manager: Owen Willie Limbrick.



7 Feb 1948: A. J. Tilbrook Trawlers Ltd., The Docks, Milford.

Manager: Arthur Ernest Rees, 'Elm House',  Rosemarket, Neyland.


12 Mar 1952: Milford Fisheries Ltd., The Docks, Milford.

Manager: Owen Willie Limbrick, The Rath, Milford.


Landed at Milford:  10 Feb 1948 - 6 May 1959

Skippers: James McClelland (c.1951-53); Jack Scoble; Albert Seeling


Selby is a town (not a city) in North Yorkshire.

West Lyn river flows through Lynmouth, joining the East Lyn.

23 Nov 1914: Requisitioned for war service and converted to a minesweeper (Admy.No.193). 1x12 pdr.

1917: Converted for escort duties. Based at Granton.

26 Apr 1918: Transferred to Kirkwall

13 Feb 1919: Returned to owner at Fleetwood.

21 Nov 1939: WESTLYN recovered two bodies from WILLIAM HUMPHRIES (LO533) shelled and sunk by U.boat (U-33), 75 miles NW of Rathlin Island.
17 Feb 1940: Requisitioned for war service as a boom defence vessel (P.No.Z.154).
23 Nov 1943: Compulsorily acquired by the M.O.W.T.
1944: Based at Plymouth (W. Tamlyn Ltd, Plymouth, agents).

1946: Laid up at Plymouth. Estimated cost of re-conditioning £7,500.

16 Apr 1947: Advertised for sale by tender. Not to be resold within two years.

24 Apr 1947: Tenders closed.

Feb 1948: Fleetwood registry closed.

Jul 1959: Sold to Jacques Bakker en Zonen, Bruges, for breaking up.

20 Jul 1959: Delivered Bruges.

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 23 Jul 1959.  Vessel sold to Belgium firm for breaking up.

[The same Register records on an earlier page that the registry was closed on 19 Dec 1949, as "Vessel no longer used for fishing."  However, SEA HUNTER M237 landed on 19 Dec 1949 and 5 Jan 1950.  A second record (p. 54) of the same Register confirms that Milford ownership was continuous.]

[ Thanks to The Bosun's Watch and the Fleetwood Maritime Heritage Trust. ]

As boom defence vessel. collection


Accidents and Incidents

From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 10th August 1951:


    Skipper John McClelland, D.S.M., 9, Wellington Road, Hakin, received a pair of binoculars from the Chairman of Milford Haven Urban District Council, Mr I. W. J. Phillips. The presentation took place last Thursday at the Town Hall, and was sponsored by the Ministry of Transport in recognition of Skipper McClellan's outstanding seamanship when rescuing the crew of the Milford steam trawler "Yezo" on October 4th,1950.

    In making the presentation, Mr Phillips said, "When courage and seamanship are allied, as they are in the person of Skipper McClelland, we can say that the greatness of this country that has been built around those who go down to the sea in ships is still in safe keeping."



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 28th December 1951:


    Not for many years have the after Christmas sailings been interrupted at Milford as they were on Thursday and today.  Nearly a score of boats left the dock at 3 a.m. on Thursday to lie out in the stream ready for the crews to come aboard at 9 a.m.  Came 9 a.m. and none of the crews could be ferried out to the waiting trawlers sheltering from Chapel Bay up to Burton Reaches from the ravages of one of the worst December gales in memory, with agust of 92 miles an hour recorded at St. Ann's Head at 11 a.m. on Thursday.  Trawlers were dragging their anchor the length and breadth of the harbour, and several had to keep steaming from the time they left the dock at 3 a.m. until all steamed back in on Thursday's afternoon tide. With spray blotting out the masts of a number of boats, it was impossible for a tender to reach them, and the skeleton crews who had taken the trawlers out and been in action all day described conditions as devilish when they stepped ashore again late in the afternoon.  Last night there were approximately trawlers in dock, ready to leave for the fishing grounds.

    Meanwhile, only six of the port's fleet are still at sea: the Sea Hunter expected this weekend, the Nolton and Steynton (pair), George Hastings and Thomas Booth, due about the 20th, and the Dagon on January 5th.

    Ashore, apart from minor incidents in the way of loosened tiles and broken panes, there was comparatively little damage.  Winds were well below the maximum on record, 113 miles per hour at St. Ann's Head on January 18th, 1945



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 4th January 1952:


    The Milford steam trawler "Sea Hunter" (Tilbrook & Co), limped into her home port on Monday afternoon to add another epic story in the constant battle against great odds fought by the men of the fishing fleet.

    For ninety hours, from the time she was hit by a giant wave on the morning of Boxing Day, the vessel and her gallant skipper and crew had ploughed through mountainous seas in the teeth of a gale which reached 90 miles per hour.

    The" Sea Hunter" came home with compasses out of order, wireless not working, the small boat washed away and the roof of the wheelhouse smashed. For three hundred miles her skipper, James McClelland, and 23 year-old mate, Glenville Phillips, steered a blind course in terrible weather, while the rest of the crew of 12 worked heroically to keep the bilges clear and the engines going. The "Sea Hunter" fought against overwhelming odds, and won.

    Not until Monday morning when they saw the lights of the Smalls could the men on board know with any certainty they would reach home. Skipper McClelland, who a few months ago was publicly honoured  for his seamanship in saving the crew of the steam trawler "Yezo", said, "The gale which sprang up on Christmas night was the worse I can remember in forty years at sea.  We took a heavy sea aboard at 1.30 a.m. on Boxing Day morning, when we were 100 miles south of the Bull.  She heeled over.  The mate, Mr Glenville Phillips, was on watch on the bridge, and he rang the warning bell."

    Mate Phillips said, "We carried on as best we could, then the coal fell to one side of the ship and put the ship on a cant. She had a list of 70 degrees to starboard, every hand except the skipper and myself, went down to the bunkers to shift the coal to bring the ship back on an even keel. We dodged the gale for 24 hours by keeping her towards the wind. The next morning at 11 o'clock we struck another fierce sea.  It carried off the roof of the bridge where I was standing."

    "The wheel was damaged and we were left to the mercy of the sea and wind," continued the Mate." We could not forge ahead.  At 12 o'clock she took another sea and shifted her coal again. The sea washed the top of the bridge clear of the wheel so that we could go ahead and clear her decks. We went windward until 6.30 on Friday morning.  The engine room was leaking and the bilges were full of coal and water. At mid-day we stopped the ship and cleared the bilges before running afore the wind at 4 p.m.  The weather was moderating slowly, and we took the chance to run her afore the swell, but our speed was slow. We were hoping the wind would go west or north-west. We went 50 miles before we picked up another vessel, and sent flares up.  She circled around and steamed off.  By this time we had got the compass, the overhead one from the top of the bridge. The other vessel was going east-north-east.  We kept her in sight for 10 miles.  She kept steaming east and then picked up another ship. We chased her for 11 hours, trying to draw her attention to get our position but it just ran away from us and took no notice at all. We went north by our compass and ran 17 miles and picked up the lights from the Smalls Lighthouse, 30 miles away. We had steamed east for 150 miles before we picked up the second vessel.  The sun came out on the Sunday, and we were lucky to get a position with the sextant, just off the Labadie Bank."

    The Mate paid tribute to the work of Chief Engineer Dunn,  who kept the pumps going in extremely difficulty conditions.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 11th January 1952:


    The fleet of trawlers owned by Messrs. Tilbrook Trawlers Limited and A. J. Tilbrook have suspended operations, and we understand their management has now been taken over by Messrs. Peter Hancock and Sons, Limited. 

    The vessels concerned are the steam trawlers Sea Hunter and Dagon, and the two diesel engined trawlers Sea Lord and Sea Monarch.  Upon enquiry the Managing Director, Mr. R. L. Hancock, stated that he could give no further information.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 18th January 1952:




    After two years as "runners-up", Skipper Albert Saunders and the "Milford Duke" are once again in top place in the Milford fishing "league".  In 1951 Skipper Saunders caught a greater value of fish than any other individual trawler captain in the port.

    Second in the league on last year's results is Skipper W. Burgoyne, who has moved up a place, closely followed by Skipper Steve Pembroke, who was sixth in the list of 1949 catches.  "Crack" Skipper for 1948 and 1949, Skipper Tom Donovan, D.S.C., is a close fifth in results while consistent Skipper James Jobson again occupies fourth position.

    Here are the leading positions, the ships being classed according to size.



    Capt. Kettle has done it again!  In 1949 Skipper Bob Kettle was runner-up in the Castle boats; in 1950 he topped the list and his catches in 1951 gave him a winning lead over steady Skipper George Knight, who took the Lephreto into second place for the second year running.  Two captains who have moved up in the "table" are Skippers Gue and Lawrence.

1.  Richard Crofts (Bob Kettle),  Mr. W. Wilcox.

2.  Lephreto (Geo. Knight), Messrs. Jenkerson.

3.  Thomas Leeds (Harry Gue), Mr. H. Westonborg.

4.  Alexander Scott (J. Lawrence); 5, Their Merit (Jeff Tucker); 6, Settsu (Norman Brown); 7, T. Booth (late Skipper R. W. Limbrick); 8. W. Bunce (W. R. Robertson); 9, Milford King (Albert Beckett) [sic]; 10, Sea Hunter (J. McLelland).



From a local newspaper, probably the West Wales Guardian, December 1953:


    We are pleased to see the steam trawler "Sea Hunter" return safely into harbour after a very adventurous trip, during which we all had fears for her safety. On the eighth day at sea the trawler sprang a leak off the Mid Minch at eleven thirty p.m., on Saturday night in a gale of wind.  The pumps were unable to hold the water down and an SOS was broadcast.

    The Stornoway lifeboat put out and the Fleetwood trawler "Wyre Colonel" raced to help.H.M.S. "Welfare",and H.M.S."Rona", a fishery cruiser, which were lying in Stornoway, were proceeding to sea when the lifeboat reached the "Sea Hunter".  The trawler was beached at Stornoway, and after the Fire Brigade had pumped her out, repairs were effected to enable her to sail to her home port.

    Even after these were effected she again found herself in trouble, and [it was] a week later before she was able to proceed very cautiously  to Milford Haven. The leak had developed in the engine room, and the pumps, clogged with coal dust, could not hold the water back.  If the vessel had been further away the position would have been serious, as when they reached port the water was level with the engine and the stokehold middle fire.  Another hour would have meant the abandonment of ship.  The crew were nearly all local men.


L to R, back row: Deckhand George Snelling, 3rd Hand Fred Hansford, Cook Fred Baker, Fireman H. Martin, and Deckhand Timothy Twomey

Front row: Ch.Eng. Chris Butler, 2nd Eng. Dennis Fitzsimmons, Mate Billy Hawkins, Skipper Jack Scoble, Bosun Jimmy Davies, Fireman Lemuel Jones

Taken for the West Wales Guardian of Friday 1st April 1955

John Stevenson Collection



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 8th February 1957:



Firemen Have to Use Breathing Apparatus

    Another worry for the Milford Fisheries Company, fortunately a minor compared with the stark tragedy of the "Robert Limbrick", was that on Tuesday morning the "Sea Hunter" went on fire in the stream as it was preparing to go to sea.

    The fire was caused by the over-heating of the main cabin stove.  As soon as it was discovered skipper Billy Hawkins decided to weigh anchor and make a dash for the dock-pits.  As the trawler steamed in with smoke pouring from her, the Milford Fire Brigade was summoned. 

    "Sea Hunter" tied up on the Hakin pierhead while a fire engine on the pier wall pumped water into her.  The skipper and crew helped the brigade but the smoke was so bad that the firemen had to use their breathing apparatus.

    When the fire had been subdued and the smoke cleared it was found that the bulkhead between the mate's berth and the engine room was severely damaged and that cabin lockers, floorboards, etc, had been destroyed.  Generally, however the damage was not as serious as first feared.

    The firemen were able to leave before mid-day.  It is hoped that the "Sea Hunter" will be able to go to sea in a day or so.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 13th September 1957:


    Arthur John Roberts, a fifty year old cook on the Milford trawler "Sea Hunter", was lost overboard between Skokholm Island and the Haven as the ship steamed into Milford on Wednesday morning.

    Mr Roberts, a Cardiff man, was seen by the bosun of the trawler about seven-thirty a.m. as she passed the Islands off the Pembrokeshire Coast.  He was then on deck at the after end of the ship and was using a bucket for cleaning down.  When the ship reached Dale Roads soon after nine p.m., it was found that the cook was not on board, and the bucket had also disappeared. 

    The "Sea Hunter" was returning from a normal fourteen day fishing voyage.  Her skipper, Mr Albert Seeling, described the sea as moderate with some bad runs where the currents from the islands meet.



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