Official No:  145120    Port and Year:  London, 1921 (LO530)        

Description: Castle Class steel side  trawler; coal fired. Ketch rigged.

Crew: 11 men (1921).

Built: by C. Rennoldson & Co., South Shields; in 1917.  (Yard no. 190)

Tonnage:  275 grt  116 net

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

Engine: T.3-Cyl; 87 rhp; by Northern Engineering & Dry Dock Co., North Shields..




1920: The Admiralty, London.

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


As LO530

22 Sep 1921: Henry Leetham & Sons Ltd., York.

Manager: Raymond D. H. Birt, Docks, Milford.


11 Dec 1923: Phoenix Trawling Co. Ltd., Clifford Chambers, York.

Manager: Raymond D. H. Birt, Docks, Milford.


31 Oct 1929: James Ritchie, 'Glenbrae', Hakin, Milford.

                      William T. Davies, 'Wernlwyd', Hakin, Milford.

Managing owners.


Landed at Milford: 23 Aug,  9 Oct 1921 - 11 Sep 1941.

Skippers: David Pestell (1935)


William Downes, the same name of four seamen at Trafalgar; two (OS and Pte. RM) aboard HMS VICTORY, and two (both landsmen) on BELLEROPHON and NAIAD.

10 Dec 1917: Completed for the Admiralty as WILLIAM DOWNES (Admy.no. 3723); 1 x 12pdr.

1920: For sale to mercantile.

3 Jun 1931: Trawler ELK collided with her. (See below.)

24 Oct 1935: Trawler ROLLO collided with her. (See below.)

3 Dec 1940: Bombed and damaged by German aircraft 5 miles WNW of the Skelligs. 

16 Sep 1941: Foundered off Rosslare.  [See below.]

Accidents and Incidents

THEIR MERIT V WILLIAM DOWNES: Arbitration decision, 5th November 1931


    This is a case of claim for damages and demurrage by the Owners of the  "William Downes", said to have been sustained by their vessel through colliding with the steam trawler "Elk".  This vessel had been struck in the stern and somewhat seriously damaged by the steam trawler "Their Merit", which was coming into berth astern of the "Elk" at Milford Fish Market.  The impact is said to have been of such force as to drive the "Elk" into the  "William Downes" and the latter into the" Peterborough", breaking all three vessels' mooring wires (although this assertion is contested), and also causing damage to the bulwarks of the  "William Downes".


    According to the statements submitted, the" Elk", "William Downes" and "Peterborough" were lying moored to the Fish Market wall with their heads in an approximately East direction and overlapping each other, and to a certain extent resting the one against the other, and with their mooring wires nearly abreast from their fore end to rings ashore, and while in this position the "Elk" was run into by the "Their Merit", causing damage to the   "William Downes" and breaking her mooring wire and that of the "Peterborough".


    For the "William Downes", it was stated by James Jones, Watchman to Peter Hancock & Sons, that he was standing on the deck of the "Elk" when she was struck by "Their Merit" on the stern, with the result that the "Elk" was driven forward and struck the "William Downes" with her stem on the port side abreast of the engine room and driving the "William Downes" forward so that she collided with the "Peterborough",  and all three vessels had their mooring wires parted.


    The statement of John Smirke states that he is Watchman to Messrs Ritchie and Davies, and that on Wednesday June 3rd 1931, he was standing on the Fish Market wall alongside the "William Downes" and "Peterborough", with the "Elk" immediately astern. "Their Merit", whilst attempting to get to her berth struck the "Elk" a violent blow on the stern, driving her up against the "William Downes" with the result that the "Elk" damaged the port side abreast of the engine room of the "William Downes" and drove her forward into the "Peterborough", breaking her breast wires.  All three vessels had their mooring wires broken.


    The Statement of William Kerr, Runner to the West Coast Co-operative Ship Repairing & Supply Company Ltd, is to the effect that he saw the collision between the "Their Merit" and "Elk".  That the "Peterborough", "William Downes", and "Elk" were moored to the quay when the "Their Merit", who was endeavouring to come alongside the "Elk", struck her a violent blow on the stern, driving her forrard with her stem against the "William Downes", with the result that all the mooring wires of the three vessels were broken by the impact.


    For the "Their Merit", the statement of the Ship's Husband, S. Phillips, states that the "Their Merit" struck the "Elk", that the two ships ahead rolled about a little, but the breast wire of the "William Downes" was across the stem of the "Elk", tight, and no wires parted but only surged; that it was impossible for the "Elk" to do any damage to the "William Downes" as she was tight up against her and the dock wall, and that the "Elk's" 'wire was only slightly stranded.


    The statement of C. Lewis, Watchman, says the "Their Merit" had not given himself enough time to go astern and that he damaged the stern of the "Elk". The ships rolled about a bit, but it was impossible for the "Elk" to do any damage to any other ships, because she was tight against the side of the   "William Downes".  When the "Their Merit" struck the "Elk" the breast wire of the "William Downes" was across the "Elk's" stern tight, which would naturally prevent her going ahead with with any force.


    The statement of William John, Market Foreman, says that the "Their Merit" collided with the "Elk's" stern on the starboard quarter forcing the "Elk's" port bow on to the Dock wall, and that the Watchman on the "Elk" was checking her from going ahead and doing any further damage; that no one reported any thing to the Ship's Husband or himself as to any damage being done, and the the" Elk" was driven towards the Wall and not towards the  "William Downes". In a further statement, made twenty days after, he states that the "William Downes"  was lying ahead of the "Elk"  with her mooring wire from the casing to the Dock wall, and with the "Elk's" stem tight up against it, and that the collision caused by "Their Merit" could not in any way have damaged the  "William Downes", as the "Elk" came towards the Dock wall harder than she could have gone over to the "William Downes", and that it was impossible for the "Elk" to damage the "William Downes" where they said, as he could not have got into that position owing to the "William Downes" wire being tight across the "Elk's" stem.


    The statement of R. Osborne, third hand on the "Their Merit", is to the effect that he saw the Watchman of the "Elk" let go her stern wire, which caused that vessel to swing off, and pushed her head into or towards the Dock  wall, but did not strike the "William Downes".


    From the evidence submitted there appears to be direct conflict as to the actual facts and, therefore the case resolves into what are the probable truths underlying each other's statement.


    By W. H. Kerr and James Jones, for the "William Downes" it is stated that the "Elk" with her stem struck the "William Downes", and by John Smirk and James Jones that the impact was abreast of the Engine-Room and by, all three that the "Elk", "William Downes" and "Peterborough" had their mooring wires parted (it is understood by this that it means their breast wires).


    For the "Their Merit", it is stated by William John that the "Elk" could not get into the position necessary to damage the "William Downes" as the mooring wire across the" Elk's" stem would prevent this, and also that the "Elk" came towards the Dock wall harder than towards the "William Downes"; by S. Phillips that the ships rolled about a little and that no wires were parted, and by C. Lewis that the ships rolled about a bit but that it was impossible for the "Elk" to damage any other ship because she was tight against the "William Downes" and the latter's wire was tight across the "Elk's" stem.


    It is to be regretted that Messrs Ritchie & Davies did not inform Messrs Jenkerson & Jones of the damage said to have been sustained until the morning of Friday June 5th, and that survey was not held until June 19th; also that chipping, scraping and painting were allowed to be continued after the alleged damage had been done. It is difficult to see how a vessel (Elk) when struck on the starboard quarter (see report of William Jones, Market Foreman) should be driven towards the Dock wall (to port) and not towards the "William Downes" to starboard, and also the Watchman on the "Elk" was checking the "Elk" from going ahead and doing further damage.  In   both cases the result must have been to cant the "Elk" to starboard, that is towards the "William Downes".  Moreover, if the Watchman found it necessary to check the "Elk" from going ahead and doing further damage, the wire said to have been across her stem (from the "William Downes") must have been broken.


    After reviewing all the statements and taking into consideration the probabilities, I am of opinion that when the "Elk" forged ahead she struck the "William Downes" a heavy blow with her stem, caused through her canting to starboard, as indicated in previous paragraph; that the breast wires of all three vessels were broken and that the damage sustained by the "William Downes"  was done at the time of the collision between the "Their Merit" and "Elk", and was the direct result of that collision.


Sgn.  Richard Sharp. Master Mariner

          Nautical Assessor to the High Court.

          Fee 3 . 3 . 0 .


WILLIAM DOWNES & ROLLO - Statement by Skipper David Pestell of the WILLIAM DOWNES, October 1935:


Statement by David Pestell of No 5, Gwili Road, Hakin, Milford.


    I have been Skipper of the "William Downes" for the last two years. I have held a Skipper's Certificate since 1925.


    We had been berthed at about the centre of the Trawl Market and we moved from there to leave the Docks about 3.35 p.m. on October 24th,1935. We were coaled, iced and provisioned for a voyage of 14 days.  We were ten hands all told. We let go our head wire and went astern on our stern wire bringing our bow off from the Market Wall in line with the Bull Nose.  We let go our stern wire, blowed our whistle, one blast, and came ahead slow on the engines, heading for the Bull Nose.  The steam trawler "Horatio" was coming up to us on our port bow, she was about one ship's length away when I blew my whistle three times (Blasts) and rang full astern taking the way off my ship, allowing the "Horatio" to cross my head.  We then stopped.  We remained stopped, and our position would then be about two to three ship's lengths from the Bull Nose.


    The "Rollo" then came down dock from the South Coaling Wall (near the West Coast Crane). She was steering for the Bull Nose and her head was in line practically amidships just aft side of our Bridge,  We were still stopped and the "Horatio" was also stopped. The "Horatio" was waiting for one of Jenkerson's steam trawlers to clear round the Bull Nos.  The "Horatio" was lying close to us on our starboard bow, but neither the "Horatio" or our vessel had a line ashore.  Just after we saw the "Rollo" coming towards us he then hit us pretty hard on our port side between the after gallows and the Wheelhouse.  He hit us with the bluff of his starboard bow.  The force of the blow caused us to hit the "Horatio" - our bow to her port quarter.


    When the "Rollo" struck us, the Dock Master (Captain Hurry) ordered the "Rollo" astern and told us to come ahead. I then blew my whistle one blast and went ahead slow to get to the Bull Nose and the Dock Master's men took our wire and we got into the Lock Pits after the "Horatio".


    When the "Rollo" went astern after being ordered to do so (her position then being with her head close to the Wall of the Bull Nose), his bow slewed round towards Curzons Corner.


Sgd. David Pestell. Skipper of the Steam Trawler "William Downes".



From British Merchant Vessels Lost or Damaged by Enemy Action during Second World War, p.70:




3 WILLIAM DOWNES    S.T.    275 grt    Position 5m W.N.W. of Skelligs    Cause of damage A.C. ["Aircraft"]     How damaged B. & G.  ["Bombed and gunned"]



From B.T. & R. Larn (2002): Shipwreck Index of Ireland


WILLIAM DOWNES                16/09/1941


Co. Wexford, Rosslare Harbour, 4M off.        52.15N 06.14W


Foundered following collision offshore.  She was taken into tow but later sank without loss of life.




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