John Stevenson Collection

Official No:  144570            Port and Year: London, 1920 (LO372)

Description: Castle Class steel side trawler, steam screw, coal burning. Ketch rigged.

Crew:  10 men (1920)

Built: 1918, by J. P. Rennoldson & Sons, South Shields.  (Yard no. 308)

Tonnage: 276 grt 109 net.

Length / breadth / depth (feet):  125.3 / 23.4 / 12.6

Engine: T.3-Cyl; 61 rhp; by builders.



As LO372.

19 Jun 1920: Edward Brand & John Henry Dove, Docks, Milford.

Managing owners.


c.1923: John Henry Dove, Charles St., Milford.

Managing owner.


1935: Mrs. Gertrude E. Dove, 147 Charles St., Milford.

Managing owner.


23 Apr 1937: Peter Hancock & Sons, Docks, Milford

Manager: R. Llewellyn Hancock, 'Beachways', Picton Rd., Hakin, Milford.


19 Nov 1937: Pembroke Hake Fishing Co., Docks, Milford.

Manager: Reginald Llewellyn Hancock, 'Beachways', Picton Rd., Hakin, Milford.

                  E. V. Pennington, Milford. (1938?)


15 Sep 1939: Boston Deep Sea Fishing & Ice Co., Fleetwood.

Manager: Basil A. Parkes, Cleveleys.


Landed at Milford: 25 May 1920 - 18 Nov 1921; 2 Jan 1922 - 6 Sep 1939

Skippers: John Henry Dove (1923); Henry Charles Gue; James McDonald (1929); Ivor Phillips (1936)


Thomas Hankins is not listed by this name in the National Archives, but most likely:

Thomas Handlin, age 28, born Limerick; OS, HMS DREADNOUGHT, at Trafalgar.

19 Jun 1918: Completed for the Admiralty ( as a minesweeper.  1 x 12pdr.

1920: Sold to mercantile.

20 Nov 1939: Sunk by gunfire from U-33, 14 miles NW of Tory Island, Co. Donegal. [See below.]

[Information supplied by the Fleetwood Maritime Heritage Trust and the Bosun's Watch website.]

Accidents and Incidents

Skipper's Statement of 26th September 1925:


    On September the 24th, 1925 at about 3.15p.m., whilst fishing about 50 miles West by South half South from St. Ann's Head and working round a buoy, we collided with the steam trawler "James Lay", doing damage to our stem and plates.

    I left the wheel-house to snatch an hour at 1.45p.m., and gave orders to the Mate to tow half an hour North  East from the buoy and come round and tow back to the buoy.  Whilst coming round as stated, with our port gear in use, the "James Lay" was coming round with his starboard gear in use on our starboard side.

    On seeing that the vessels were closing together, the Mate pulled his wheel hard to starboard and eased the trawler's engines down but he could not clear the "James Lay" in sufficient time to avoid a collision.

    The Mate reported to me that the watch on the "James Lay " did not attempt to move his wheel until it was too late.  I was not aware that the ships were in danger of collision.  The Mate did not call me until we had almost collided.  I immediately stopped the Ships engines.



 From an unknown local newspaper of c. 4th April 1929:


    Sad news was received on Tuesday by Mr J. H. Dove, the Owner of the steam trawler "Thomas Hankins", from the skipper of the vessel, Mr J. McDonald.  The message stated that the mate Mr John Crocker had suddenly passed away at sea.  The trawler at the moment is in Berehaven, Ireland.

    Mr John Crocker had held a master's ticket for many a long year.  He was one of the old Brixham School but had been fishing out of the port of Milford since he was a very young man.  His age is around 56years old and he first sailed with the old Milford fishing firm of Sellick, Morley And Price, later with H. E. Rees and Co.



From an unknown local newspaper of c. 14th April 1932:


    A tragic affair cast quite a gloom over Milford docks and the town generally.  At about 8 a.m. on Tuesday, a simple slip lead to the death by drowning of a young man named Bertie Barratt.  He was married and lived in Hakin, St Ann's Road.  He was bosun on the steam trawler " Thomas Hankins" (owned by Mr J. H. Dove ) which had landed her catch of fish, and having been kept back from the previous day, was preparing to leave dock to go to sea on the morning's tide.

    Mr Barrett was stepping from the "Thomas Hankins" to another ship when he slipped and fell into the dock.  The alarm was raised but apparently the unfortunate man, for some reason, failed to rise to the surface.

    Possibly he may have struck against the ship in falling and got underneath the vessels, of which there were a number near by the quay alongside the ice factory.         

    The Docks Company tug was soon on the scene and the men aboard commenced dragging operations and succeeded within a few minutes in raising the man from under the stern of the tug itself.   Docks Policemen Mortimer and John, with assistance, tried artificial respiration for over half an hour, without success, and when Dr Williams arrived on the scene he could only pronounce the man dead.

    Deceased was only 24 years old, and leaves a young wife and child.  He was the son of Skipper Alfred Barrett, Marble Hall  Terrace,  and has two brothers, also fishermen.  He belongs to an old family of fishermen, his late grandfather being one of the pioneer Skippers of the port.



From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 15th April 1932:





     Pulled Under by Sea Boots?

    Stark tragedy was enacted before the eyes of workers on Milford fish market on Tuesday morning when a 26-year-old bosun fell into the dock, and, before assistance could be given, sank like a stone.  Ten minutes after he disappeared his body was recovered by grappling irons, but life could only be pronounced extinct.

    The victim was Bertie Barrett, aged 26, of 32, St. Ann's Road, Hakin, bosun of the s.t. Thomas Hankins, and a married man with one child.



    A witness of the tragedy, Charles Walter Nutman, of the Bethel, a fisherman, said he was on the Docks on Tuesday morning looking for a ship. He was standing near where the boats were landing fish.  The Cyelse was next to the wall, and the Thomas Hankins was outside of her.  He knew the deceased by sight, and saw him on the "quarter" of his boat trying to get on to the bows of the Ely, which was at the stern of the Hankins.  "The next thing I saw him slip," added the witness, "and go into the water between the bows of the Ely.


    [P.C. John said] that he was about 40 yards away when the deceased fell into the water.  There were chains around the dock for anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall in.  The chains were down the side of the wall.

    He was no sooner overboard - he seemed to fight a bit on top of the water and then sank.  It was a matter of only 30 seconds from the time I saw him to the time he sank.


    The Coroner said it was quite clear it was a pure accident.  The deceased probably slipped while wearing those heavy sea boots, fell into the water and drowned.



 From an unknown local newspaper of c. 29th October 1936:


    The second tragedy was reported on Saturday morning, with the arrival of the Steam Trawler "Thomas Hankins" (Owner, Mr John Henry Dove) with her flag flying at half mast.

    The victim was a deckhand, Charles "Lakie" Phillips, and he leaves a widowed mother. Mr Phillips lived at Hakin Point, he was twenty three years old, and the son of the late well known boatman Mr Joseph Phillips.

    The accident happened on Friday afternoon, whilst the trawler, which had only been out two days, was fishing off the West Coast of Ireland.  The weather was bad at the time and Mr Phillips was engaged in unshackling the bridle when he was apparently washed overboard.


Skipper's gallant attempt at rescue.

The Skipper, Mr Ivor Phillips, who was a nephew of the unfortunate man, gallantly jumped over board and swam to the unfortunate man, but it was too late and he failed to get to him before he finally disappeared.

    Lakie was well known and popular in the Hakin district.

    A sad feature of the affair is that two of his brothers and a brother in law were previously drowned in following their calling as fishermen.


From The Irish Times of 18th January 1937, p.5:




    The Royal Humane Society announces the making of the Vellum award to William Phillips, aged 23, trawler skipper, of 2 Picton road, Milford haven, who on 23rd October, 1936, attempted to save Charles Phillips, deck hand (deceased), when he was knocked overboard in a squall off St. George's Channel, County Cork.  The skipper was over half an hour in the water trying to reach Phillips, but was unsuccesful.


From the West Wales Guardian of Friday 23rd April 1937:


    Mrs Annie Phillips, 13, Chapel Street, Hakin, applied on behalf of herself and other dependents for an order for the sum of 300 compensation paid into court by John H. Dove, in respect of the death of Charles Lake Phillips, who was washed overboard on the s.t. "Thomas Hankins".



From an unknown local newspaper of c. 14th September 1939:


    It came as a surprise at Milford that negotiations were proceeding for the sale of two more Milford trawlers.  At the present time, trawlers are being taken by the Government, but Messrs. Parker of Fleetwood, keen as ever for Milford trawlers, visited the port during the weekend, and we understand that the steam trawlers "Thomas Hankins" and "William Caldwell", belonging to the Pembrokeshire Hake Company, have changed hands.     They formerly belonged to the Brand and Curzon fleet, like so many of the other Castle trawlers.




On 20 Nov 1939, U-33 sank three trawlers with about five rounds from the deck gun each near Tory Island: At 10.30 hours the Thomas Hankins, 14 miles northwest of Tory; at 16.00 hours the Delphine, 18 miles north-northeast of Tory; and at 17.05 hours the Sea Sweeper, 25 miles west-northwest of Tory.

The crew of Thomas Hankins (Master M. Hankins) was rescued by another trawler after 10 hours in a lifeboat and landed in Northern Ireland. They reported that the ship had been shelled without warning, the second shell went through the bows and the fifth through the boiler, causing the trawler to sink after about 25 minutes.


From ADM 199 [?] /193, in the National Archives, supplied by Roger Griffiths, via Gil Mayes:







                                                                                                                                              23rd November 1939




            My vessel had a black hull and grey superstructure with a dark brown funnel which had a black top.  We were fishing about 14 miles N.W. of Tory Island.

            At 2.15 G.M.T. on Monday November 20th, I saw the conning tower of a U-boat appear on the horizon W.S. West of us.  At the time I was not certain which nationality this submarine belonged to, as it appeared to be a long way off.

            However, shortly after the U-boat surfaced about a mile off and came right towards us to six points on the starboard bow.  I thought this action was that of a U-boat and I ordered the chopping of the warps of our trawling gear, and put the ship to full speed ahead and made for the nearest point of land.  The U-boat immediately fired one shot across our bow.  I therefore stopped the ship and blew the whistle.  The U-boat gave us about 5 minutes to abandon ship, but while we were getting the boat out he put one shot clean through the fo'c'sle head.  About four shots in all were fired while we were getting the boats away from the ship, and as we got clear the U-boat put another two shots into the vessel and at the same time steamed towards her.

            By this time we were about 50 yards from the trawler and the U-boat put the next shot between us and the vessel.  the following one came a bit nearer to us.  I reckon that altogether he fired about 15-20 shots, and then he went very close to the ship and for a moment I thought he was going to board her but he did not do so, and shortly afterwards the trawler sank.

            Altogether it took from the time of the first shot across the bows about 15 minutes for the trawler to sink, and the U-boat appeared to be firing every couple of minutes.  He never at any time gave us the slightest chance to get a wireless signal away.  Eventually he came right across on the port helm and made off towards the [illegible.]

            We finally got within 2 miles of Tory Island and we were picked up by the S/T ESHER which landed us at Moville at 6 a.m. the following morning.

            Whilst we were on the ESHER the Skipper of that vessel stated that off Erinmore at about noon the same day that the trawler THOMAS HANKINS was sunk, he had seen several small boats sailing towards the shore.  This appeared to him and to me very suspicious as neither of us have ever heard or seen small boats fishing in this district as far out to sea, and the direction in which the U-boat was the same place as the small boats.  When we were attacked we were not flying any ensign and we were not armed.



            The U-boat had two guns, the small one aft of the conning tower, and the gun that was used on us was the large one on the fore side.  She looked as if she was brand new and was in a very good condition.  Her colour was a silvery grey and the conning tower was uniform with the rest of the vessel.  She appeared about 170-200 feet in length, and the conning tower was definitely very tall.  It seemed to me to be taller than our "T" Class of submarine which I myself have seen.

            The shells that were fired did not explode as they hit the vessel, and when she was firing I noticed that her decks were awash.  I did not happen to notice whether she had any net cutter.



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