Coming into Fleetwood, in the livery of Mrs. E.A. Pettit

Courtesy of David Slinger


Official No:  143858    Port Number and Year:      -  in London, 1920 (LO294)

                                                                                  7th in Milford, 1922

Description: Castle Class (non-standard) steel side trawler; steam screw, coal burning. Ketch rigged: foresail, mainsail,  mizzen.

Crew:  10 men

Registered in Milford: 10 Oct 1922

Built: 1917 by Smith's Docks Co., Middlesborough.  (Yard no. 667)

Tonnage: 275.7 grt  107.47 net.

Length / breadth / depth (feet):  125.5  / 23.4 / 12.85

Engine: T 3-Cyl. 60.7 nhp.10 kts.  Engine by builders,  and boiler by Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co., Hebburn on Tyne.



As LO294.

3 Feb 1920: The Admiralty, London.

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


As M253

10 Oct 1922: Henry William Salter, Priory Rd., Milford. (Skipper)

Thomas Salter, Wellington Rd., Hakin (Skipper)

Managing owner: Henry James Shooter, 4 Ferndale Rd., St. Thomas, Exeter (Turf accountant)


22 Oct 1923: Thomas Salter, Wellington Rd., Hakin.

Managing owner: Henry James Shooter, 4 Ferndale Rd., St. Thomas, Exeter


23 Dec 1926: Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Heck Pettit, 'Westcliffe', Wellington Rd., Hakin.

Manager: David Pettit. [Died 1932, age 66.]


1933: Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Heck Owens, 'Westcliffe', Wellington Rd., Hakin.

Managing owner.


12 Oct 1939: J. Marr & Son, 228 Dock St., Fleetwood

Manager: Geoffrey Edward Marr, 'Rookwood', Holmefield Ave., Cleveleys.


Landed at Milford:

As HMT JAMES JOHNSON: 19 Aug 1919.

As LO294: 29 Nov 1920 (laid up).24 Aug, 1 Nov 1922 - 24 Sep 1939

Skippers: Robert W. C. Kettle (1936)


James Johnson - five Trafalgar seamen of that name.

Thomas Deas - none of that name recorded as any seamen at Trafalgar.

1 Feb 1917: Launched and completed as JAMES JOHNSON for Admiralty (No. 3506), as a minesweeper. 1 x 12 pdr.

8 Apr 1918: At midnight 2 miles S. by W. from Daunt Lightship in collision with armed trawler LORD HARDINGE (Ad.No.2993) (GY1013) which foundered. All crew picked up.

[ Information from the "Bosun's Watch" website and Fleetwood Maritime Heritage Trust. ]

Dec 1919: As THOMAS DEAS.

1921: Sold to mercantile.

28 Jul 1933: At Limerick with damage. (See "Times" report below.)

11 Nov 1936: In collision with steam tanker SAN DARIO in Milford Haven. (See "The Times" report and statements below.)

16 Feb 1941: Sunk by mine explosion 4 miles off Spurn Point, with the loss of all 13 men.

Cert. Cancelled & Milford Registry Closed: 20 Mar 1941. Vessel sunk by enemy action 16th Feb. 1941.  Certificate lost with vessel.

Accidents and Incidents

From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 30th January 1931:


    Going to sea on the afternoon tide on Tuesday, the steam trawler "Thomas Deas" (David Pettit, Limited) got into the sandy slush of Gellyswick Bay.  It was dark, and misty smothering rain was falling, making the lights deceptive.  She went ashore very quietly, and little damage was done.  The skipper got her off safely, without assistance.



The Times, Saturday, Jul 29, 1933; pg. 8; Issue 46509; col E





THOMAS DEAS. Limerick, July 28. Steam trawler Thomas Deas, of Milford, arrived with broken steam pipe: also reports grounding in river and fears some damage.



The Times, Friday, Nov 13, 1936; pg. 29; Issue 47531; col G 




THOMAS DEAS. Milford Haven, Nov 12.  While proceeding to sea last evening the steam trawler Thomas Deas, of Milford, collided with the tanker San Dario, of London, which was lying at anchor, weather bound, in this harbour.  The Thomas Deas has stem and bow-plates badly damaged; San Dario in holed in No. 5 tank on port side above water with plating and frames badly damaged below water, but being in ballast is in no immediate danger, leaking being easily controlled. 



Transcription of statements relating to the collision, made on 20th November 1936:


Examination on oath.

Robert William Copeland Kettle, 1, Vaynor Road, Milford.


1. That he being the holder of a certificate of competency No. 17353 was Skipper of the Steam Trawler "Thomas Deas" of the Port of Milford Haven, of the gross tonnage of 275 tons, her official No. being143858,that the ship was built of steel at Southbank-on-Tees in the year 1917, that whether she was classed is unknown to deponent, that her engines were of 60 horse power and that she was rigged as a ketch.

2. That the ship was owned by Messrs. Pettit, of the Docks, Milford in the County of Pembroke and was not under charter.

3. That the ship had on board no cargo.

4. That the ship carried a crew of 11 hands including deponent and no passengers.

5. That the ship sailed from Milford on her intended voyage to Deep Sea Fishing in the North Atlantic on the 11th day of November 1936, leaving Milford Dock at 4p.m., that the draught of water of the said ship at the time of sailing was about 8 feet forward and 14 feet aft.

6. That at the time of sailing as above the said ship was well found.

7. That the said ship was proceeding on the intended voyage as above stated and had anchored off Milford Dock waiting for a fireman. I had brought my ship alongside the Mackerel Stage, picked up this fireman and left again at 6.45p.m. After dusk I saw the lights of several vessels anchored in Chapel Bay but I did not get anywhere near those lights on the night in question.

8. That on Wednesday the 11th day of November 1936 at 7.15pm., the weather being moderate, the atmosphere being clear, the wind blowing at force strong from the South, the tide being two hours ebb with very little sea, the said ship having just left the Mackerel Stage was steaming down the Haven at a speed of about six knots.  I was in the Wheelhouse, the Wheelhouse windows were down and the Mate was steering.  My ship was showing masthead, port and starboard, and stern lights and nine spotlights, we used when working on deck. The crew were stowing ready for sea.  At about 7.15p.m., I suddenly saw some thing dark loom up ahead a little on my port bow.  I could clearly see riding lights of the vessels in Chapel Bay and they were a good way away but there were no lights on the dark shape that loomed up ahead.  I did, however, see a glow as if my masthead light was reflected in the Wheelhouse window of a vessel, or as though a light was shining low down in the Wheelhouse of another vessel which was above me and I presumed I was very close to within fifty feet or so of another vessel.  I put my ship full astern, shouted to my men to look out and hailed the anchored vessel asking where her lights were.  Somebody replied but I could not catch what was said.  My vessel hit the anchored ship and immediately after I saw a light suddenly shine out as though it came from over the top of the Wheelhouse. I am quite certain this light was not showing at the time of the collision.  I gave my ship's name and stood by and learned that I had hit the S.S. "San Dario".  l dropped anchor to see what damage had been done and about H hour later came alongside the S. S. "San Dario" to see how she had fared. The S.S. "San Dario" was then showing proper lights.

9. That in deponent's opinion the cause of the casualty was fact that no lights were showing on S.S. "San Dario".

Skipper  R. W. C.  Kettle. (Deponent)


Examination on Oath.

William John Jones, of 57, Shakespeare Avenue, Milford. Certificate No. 17668.  Mate of the "Thomas Deas".


I saw the lights of vessels anchored in Chapel Bay, but we did not get near those lights that night.  I was at the wheel and the Skipper took his vessel alongside the Mackerel Market to pick up the fireman. That on Wednesday the 11th day of November 1936 at 7.15p.m. the weather being fairly good, atmosphere being clear, the wind blowing at force squally from the South, the tide being two hours ebb with a slight sea, we left the Mackerel Stage at about 6.45p.m. and steamed down the Haven.  I was at the wheel, the Skipper was in the Wheelhouse and all the windows were down.  We had masthead, port and starboard and stern lights showing but I cannot say whether or not our deck lights were lighted.  l could clearly see the lights of the vessels anchored in Chapel Bay.  They were some distance away from us when suddenly the Skipper said, "What is this here, put your wheel hard-a-starboard", and he rang for full astern.  I put the wheel hard over and could just make out the shadow of something dark extending high up above us though our masthead light was falling on something solid,  a ship I presumed.  I am quite certain that this ship was showing no lights whatsoever when I saw her.  We could not help hitting her,  we stood by her.  After we had hit her we sheered off 12 to 14 feet and while doing so I saw what appeared to be an electric torch on the bridge of the "San Dario" and another similar light apparently amidships.  At the same time I saw a light suddenly put up as though it went up a stay on the fore part of the Ship. If lights had been shown the collision could have been avoided.


William John Jones,

(Mate) .


Examination on Oath.

Edwin Albert Scriven, 35, Precelly Place, Milford.


I am the Boatswain of the above vessel.  We were steaming down the Haven having picked up a fireman from the Mackerel Stage.  We had proper navigation lights showing but our deck lights were not on.  I was look out on the fore deck and saw the lights of several vessels which were anchored down towards the mouth of the Haven but we never got close to them.  Some short while after leaving the stage I was surprised to see a dark shadow nearly dead ahead and very close.  I am quite certain that no lights of any description were showing on this shadow.  I assumed that we were close to a ship and I shouted to the Skipper to go astern.  I hailed the anchored ship and repeated from the Skipper, "Where are your lights?" and the reply came back, "They have just gone out."  We could not avoid hitting her.  Almost immediately after the collision I saw a light go up the foremast on the forestay as though somebody on board had hoisted a light from the fore side of the bridge.  We stood by and dropped astern.  As we did so I saw that there was a proper light on the aft mast of the "San Dario" but I am quite certain that this light was not showing on the aft mast when we hit her.

Edwin Albert Scriven. (Bosun)


Examination on Oath.

Albert Thomas Wiseman, 18, Greville Road, Milford.


As we were steaming down the Haven the trawler was showing masthead, port and starboard and stern lights, and there was one small light under her bridge. I was keeping a lookout on the starboard bow and could see the lights of several vessels anchored down the Haven near Chapel Bay.  When we were due North of a spot half way between Popton Point and Angle Lifeboat Station Slip, I suddenly saw a dark shape loom up very close to and almost dead ahead of us.  At the time I could clearly see the lights of a vessel of 150 feet or more anchored rather closer in towards Angle Point but I am quite certain that no lights were showing on the dark shape mentioned which I presumed was a ship at anchor.  Somebody on board her shouted, "Where are you going?" and almost immediately I could feel the vibration of my ship going astern. Both I and the Skipper called out, "Where are your lights?" and somebody on board the anchored ship replied, "They have just gone out". Almost immediately I saw somebody on board coming up from the lower bridge with a light in his hand.  We collided with her.  After we hit I again saw this man and though I cannot say for certain, it appeared to me that he then hung this light on a stanchion or cleat on the fore side of the wheelhouse.  The light was very poor as though it had been smoking or very badly trimmed and it was so placed that it was obscured for about four to six points of the compass.  I learned we had hit the S.S. "San Dario".  We lay off a little to investigate and as we dropped astern I saw another rather poor light. This second light was not on the stern mast but rather as though it were on the stern rail and it was obscured for any vessel approaching otherwise than from four to five points abaft of her beam. She had no lights on her after mast.  While we were lying off I saw the light which I think had been put on a stanchion or cleat on the fore side of the wheelhouse jump as though it had been lifted up or suddenly hoisted another couple of feet.


Examination on Oath.

Glenfield James Griffiths, Cliff Cottage, Charles Street, Milford.


I am the Spare Hand on the "Thomas Deas".  I was on look out on the fore deck and saw lights down in Chapel Bay. The Bosun told me to go below and get some tea.  I saw no lights anywhere our vessel and got down the ladder from the fo'castle head to the deck.  Almost immediately and before I had gone below I felt the engines going astern and then I felt her hit something.  I turned round and could see the dark shape of a ship ahead of us.  Our Skipper shouted out asking those on board where there lights were, but I could not catch the reply.  I am quite certain that she was showing no lights but as I looked up I saw a light suddenly appear as though somebody had lifted a light from the wheelhouse to a higher position outside.  We drew off a couple of ship's lengths but I could see no lights other than the one I have just referred to.  I could not see no lights on either the fore or the aft mast.  If she had had her lights burning a collision would have been


Glenfield James Griffiths.                            (Spare Hand)


All these statements were Sworn at Milford this 20th day of November. 1936, before A.S.Waldron. Officer of Customs & Excise.



Edward Bolger of 112, Portsmouth Road, Southampton, being duly sworn deposes as follows: namely, that he being the holder of a certificate of competency No.0014035 was Master of the Steam Ship "San Dario" of the port of London, of the gross tonnage of 1136 tons, her official number being 142290, built of steel at Sunderland in 1916, and classed by Lloyds as A1, engines were of 560 Ihp, and registered as a schooner.   Owners were the Eagle Oil Shipping Co., of 16, Finsbury Circus, London. And is under charter to Shell Mex and B.P. She carried a crew of 17 hands including deponent, and no passengers. The vessel had no cargo on board. The ship sailed from Cork on her intended voyage to Swansea on the 5th day of November 1936 at 4.0 p.m.,that the draught of water of this vessel at the time of sailing was 8 feet 6 inches forward and 12 feet aft.  The ship was well found in every respect.  We were proceeding on the intended voyage as above stated and owing to the weather conditions was sheltering in Milford Haven.  That on Wednesday the 11th November, 1936 at 7.5p.m., the weather being bad the wind blowing at force 8-9 from the South, and the tide being two hours ebb with a bad sea from the South the ship  was riding at anchor in Milford Haven.   No. 1 Conical Buoy bore 265 two cableI was below, my vessel was showing proper riding lights which were in position according to B.O.T. regulations and were burning brightly and strict anchor watch was being kept. In reply to a shout from the deckhand on watch, I came on deck just as a steam trawler bumped the port side of my ship about amidships. The trawler backed away and asked if we were all right and gave her name. She was the "'Thomas Deas".  I investigated and found that my ship was holed in No 5 tank above the water on the port side and that several plates and frames were indented and buckled, and a few rivets and seams were leaking.  My vessel was in no immediate danger. The trawler anchored and then proceeded to dock at Milford.  There was no casualties. It would have been impossible for anything further to have been done on board to avoid the casualty.

Edward Bolger. (Master).


Alexander Winchester, of 16, Karslake Road, Liverpool. 15.


I am an Able Seaman on the "San Dario".   When I went on watch the ship was showing the proper riding lights, in the correct places, all burning brightly, and was doing so at the time of the collision.  At very shortly before 7.00 p.m. when my ship's head was pointing approximately South East and I could clearly see the lights on shore at Milford, I saw the three navigating lights of a ship coming down the Haven.  At first I thought from her navigation lights that she would pass under our stern for she was showing more red than green.  When she was rather less than 100 yards away I realised that she would not miss us and I shouted to the ship.  At the second hail somebody on board her replied saying, "I am going full speed astern", and did so but I saw that owing to the speed of the vessel he could not help hitting us.  I shouted for the crew to come on deck and the Master of my ship took charge.  I saw the trawler hit us amidships (port side).

Alexander Winchester.  (Able Seaman).


[SAN DARIO  Ex. TEAKO. Off.No. 142290.

Steel -Twin Screw- 1137 tons gross- 584 net.

Built 1918. Short Brothers, Ltd. Sunderland.

Length 210.0-Beam 34.8- Depth 16.6.

P70-F57. T.6Cy.9 ,15 &26-18 (S) 180 Lb.85Nhp.2SB.4Pf.Gs61.Hs1628.Fb16.6. Ailsa Ship Building Company Limited, Troon.

Owners: Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. Ltd.]



Edited transcription of a statement on the towing of the THOMAS LEEDS, made on 5th April 1937:


Robert William Copeland Kettle.

    I live in Vaynor Road, No 1, and am the Skipper of the "Deas".   I have been her Skipper for five years.  I have held a Skipper's ticket for nine years in all of which time I have been fishing out of Milford. I have been at sea since 1915 and have been fishing regularly out of Milford since 1919.  I was in the Mine Sweepers during the War.

    We left Milford on Tuesday 23rd March bound for the fishing grounds off the West coast of Ireland.  On Wednesday the 31st I was on the wireless telephoning with the "Thomas Leeds" discussing fishing operations. On the Wednesday night at nine o'clock we were talking and he told me that he was in trouble with his engines, and that he was laid to with his condenser door blown off.  Then he added that he was seeing if he could effect repairs and he would give me a shout at midnight.  At midnight he called me up and he told me that they were still laid to but would give me a shout at six o'clock in the morning.  They were still at midnight trying to do the necessary repairs. I called him at six o'clock in the morning and he told me that he had got under way himself at four a.m.

    At nine a.m. on the Thursday 1st April, he called me up and asked me what time we were hauling as he would want someone to tow him to Milford. I told him that if he wanted anybody I would haul straight away.  He said he would like me to haul straight away which I did. He had then steamed twenty two miles to the eastward and was then lying in 94 fathoms.  He added that he was then laid to.  He told me that he had started off at four miles an hour at four a.m. but he decreased down to about two [and a ] half to one [and a] half miles.  I imagine that the decrease occurred as the result of the easterly wind which was increasing.  I hauled at nine a.m. and we steamed to the "Leeds" position as it had been given to us by the "Leeds" earlier.  He gave his position at nine a.m. as being 51.10 North in 94 fathoms.  I steamed about 17 miles to the eastward and then about 10 miles north before meeting with him.  We picked him up at the position, as the crow flies, west of the Fastnet, forty miles, but actually we had to steam 68 miles to reach the Fastnet.  

    We came up with the "Leeds" at I p.m. on Thursday the 1st of April.  He was laid to then.  We had our warps already on a dan line and he threw a shackle with twine. We steamed up under his lee and he threw his twine and shackle, we caught it and made fast to our dan line.  He then heaved on the twine until he got our dan line aboard, and he then heaved on that with his winch so getting our warps aboard of him.  We put two warps on board.  We caught his twine at first shot, I think it was George himself who threw it.  We had to go pretty close to him for to reach him with his twine. We had everything ready to start the tow by the time we got up to the "Leeds". After passing the "Leeds" we steamed slightly ahead paying out our warp and as soon as he was shackled up he gave me the signal with his hand to start. In view of the arrangements I had made there was not the customary risk of my warps entangling in my propeller.

    From the Thursday morning at four o'clock to nine in the morning the easterly wind was increasing being a head wind for him. It ran from force three to four. The gradually become worse until it reached a gale of wind at seven p.m. on Thursday. It reached force seven.  It blew like that until six or seven on the Friday morning (during the night it reached I should think force eight or nine) when the weather moderated a bit but we still had a strong Easterly head wind of about five strength.  It fined away from noon on Friday until the time we got her into Milford Haven. The last four hours of the towing were carried out in practically a calm.

    We reached the Haven at three thirty on Saturday the third of April in the afternoon, and reached opposite the Docks at about four to half past.

    During the gale we were towing a little more than one knot per hour.  I should think the maximum we did during the whole period was four to five knots per hour. I think we once touched six. I believe the Skipper of the "Leeds" had been in communication with his owners on the subject of a vessel to salve him.  He was not dependent on flares or anything of that sort to get assistance. When we came up with him at four a.m. there were two other trawlers in the vicinity, when we reached him at one p.m. on the Thursday there was no other vessel in sight.

    The "Leeds" was not in any position of danger when she broken down either from rocks or anything like that, if no assistance had been available for her she would have blown out to the westward. The same applies at the 150 and 94 fathom mark. (The "Leeds" hauled at seven to eight p.m. on the Wednesday night and the Skipper told me on the phone that night that his Chief Engineer had, on going down to the engine room just before they hauled, found that there was water up to the crank shafts in the engine room, they got that all clear). Had the wind veered at all from its easterly direction to the Southward and the "Leeds" had broken adrift from us it would have been in danger of being driven on to the rocks had we been unable to get connected up again with him.

    The warps did not break, they were both brand new warps. There was no chafing of the warps. The strain of the towing of a vessel is greater than towing a trawl. The sea during the gale  was very bad. There was a big head swell. We came well to the southward of the Fastnet, we kept her more than 50 fathoms all the way, that is to say in the 50 fathom depth. I calculated that we towed him altogether a distance of 220 miles.  George gives the distance as 230 miles. 

    We should not have been in today in the normal course of things, that is to say that we should have left the fishing grounds on Saturday afternoon. Our catch of fish realised 203, which was landed today. (Monday 5th April)

    The "Leeds" did only one haul when we picked her up. She was full of coal, ice and stores. We are going away tomorrow morning mid-day (Tuesday 6th, April) .That is when we would have gone had we come in at our appointed time.

    The "Thomas Leeds" is a Castle Type Trawler, she is in very good condition, she ought to be worth at least 4,000 in the open market. Her coal stock would be worth about 150, her ice 20 or so, 10 worth of food on board, and 5 worth of oil, waste etc.



From an unknown local newspaper dated c.5th October 1939:


    With the  sale last week of the steam trawlers "Thomas Deas" and "E&F" which, since the dispersal of the once big fleet of David Pettit Ltd., have been owned by Mrs. E. A. H. Pettit, a long chapter has been closed.

    These two vessels left the port on Saturday for Fleetwood, having been purchased by Messrs. J. Marr & Sons of that port and Hull.



The Times, Friday, Apr 04, 1941; pg. 2; Issue 48892; col G
                                                                                                                                           News in Brief

The Fleetwood Steam Trawlers' Mutual Insurance Association has sent 5 to the lifeboat crew at Port Askaig, Argyllshire, for helping to refloat the trawler Thomas Deas, of Milford Haven, which had gone ashore in a gale, with a crew of 14 men and 2000 worth of fish aboard.


[The incident referred to must have occurred before February 1941 (see below), and after October 1939, when, though still registered in Milford, the vessel began to fish out of Fleetwood.]



From British Merchant Vessels Lost or Damaged by Enemy Action during Second World War, HMSO, 1947:


16th THOMAS DEAS   Type: S.T.   Gross tons: 276    Position: 273 4m. from Spurn Point.  Cause of Loss: Mine.  How lost: -  Remarks: -



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