18th January 1908 –
Suevic returns to service

SUEVIC-1901_01On 18th January 1908, White Star’s Suevic returned to commercial service after rebuilding following grounding on 17th March 1907. She had been built at Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and was launched on 8th December 1900. A twin-propeller steamship, she was designed for the Australian service, with refrigerated capacity for 100,000 carcasses of mutton, plus 20,000 bales of wool. She was requisitioned in 1900 for use as a troopship during the Boer War.

Suevic and rocksOnce released, she settled into her regular commercial service. On 2nd February 1907 she sailed from Melbourne for Liverpool, with planned stops at Cape Town, Tenerife and Plymouth, before arriving at London. Leaving Tenerife on 13th March, by 17th March she was approaching The Lizard, sailing in thick fog, but was off-course, and ran onto Maenheere Rocks. Suevic‘s own boats and two lifeboats rescued the passengers. A specialist salvage team was sent out, and passengers’ luggage was saved, and most of the wool and grain aboard was removed.

Suevic separatedSuevic was hard aground, and eventually the decision was taken to use a series of 30 small charges of dynamite to separate the damaged bows from the rest of the vessel. The operation was successful, and the stern section was towed to Southampton.

Suevic bow launchIn the meantime, a new bow section was built from the original plans, at Belfast, and then towed stern-first to Southampton. On 4th November 1907 the two sections were joined up successfully. The rebuilt ship left Southampton on 8th January 1908. Her later service included transporting Australian and New Zealand troops during the Great War. In 1928 she was sold to Norway and converted into a whale factory ship, Skytteren. On 1st April 1942, while attempting to escape the Nazis, she was scuttled.

17th January 1923 – Olympic’s captain rushed to hospital

olympic with tugsOn 17th January 1923 Olympic arrived at New York with Assistant Commander E.R. White in command. Olympic had sailed from Southampton on 10th January, under Captain Hambelton, on his final voyage before retiring after 36 years with White Star. He collapsed on the bridge the following day, having suffered two gastric hæmorrhages, and made the rest of the crossing under the care of the ship’s doctor. Arriving at New York, Captain Hambelton was immediately taken by ambulance to a private hospital in Manhattan. Captain H.F. David, his successor as captain of Olympic, had been on board as an observer during the westbound crossing, and took command on the eastbound crossing. After treatment at the hospital, Captain Hambelton returned to the UK on 10th February, as a passenger aboardc. He retired immediately on his return. He died in a nursing home in Golders Green, London, on 27th April 1929.

Photo from my collection

Extracted from “White Star Line: The Company and the Ships” – see http://wp.me/P82xkB-8L for more details

16th January 1903 –
Ionic’s maiden voyage

Ionic at anchorIonic (II) was built by Harland and Wolff (yard number 346) in December 1902 for the joint White Star/Shaw, Savill & Albion service to New Zealand. She began her maiden voyage on 16th January 1903, from London to Wellington. She arrived at Wellington on 5th March, and left on 16th April for the return trip. In August 1914 Shaw, Savill & Albion ships changed their inbound port of call from Plymouth to Southampton, with Ionic being first to do so.

With the declaration of the Great War both Australia and New Zealand volunteered to send troops. Among the first liners to be requisitioned were Medic, Afric and Ionic. A torpedo was fired at her in the Mediterranean on 31st December 1915 but it missed her by a matter of feet. Ionic returned to commercial service on 31st January 1919, after being operated under the Liner Requisition Scheme.

IONICDuring a refit in 1929, the accommodation was converted to Cabin Class and Third Class only. In 1932 White Star’s Australian service passed to Shaw, Savill & Albion, together with Ionic and Ceramic, plus Mamilius (ex-Zealandic). Although the corporate entities had merged, operations continued unchanged but White Star had no further interest. Subsequently she was rebuilt with Tourist Class accommodation only for 280 passengers. On 9th September 1936 Ionic left Avonmouth for New Zealand on her last sailing. Having sailed over 2 million miles, she was sold for scrapping on 6th January 1937 for £31,500. She left Liverpool for Osaka, arriving on 16th June, and soon after was dismantled.

16th January 1942 –
Llangibby Castle torpedoed

llangibbycastleLlangibby Castle was built in 1929 for Union Castle by Harland & Wolff at Govan. A motorship, she was 485 feet long and 11,951grt, and was principally used on the “Round Africa” service. She was requisitioned in July 1940, and converted into a troopship, initially transporting troops to South Africa. She was damaged in an air raid on Liverpool in December 1940 but was quickly repaired.

Llangibby_Castle_FL5793She was in Convoy WS-15, which sailed on 12th January 1942 from Liverpool and the Clyde for Durban, via Freetown. On 16th January Llangibby Castle was torpedoed by U-402, just north of the Azores. The torpedo blew off part of the stern, including her after gun, and her rudder and killed 26 men, but she remained afloat. In spite of repeated air attacks, and using her propellers to steer, she managed to reach Horta, Portugal, on 19th January.

1Llangibby4After emergency repairs, she sailed for Gibraltar, arriving on 8th February, having fought off several U-boat attacks, where she landed her troops. Finally on 6th April, after some repairs but still without a rudder, she sailed for the UK, arriving on 13th April, escorted by three destroyers. Llangibby Castle had sailed some 3,400 miles without a rudder, an amazing feat which earned her captain a CBE.

In November 1942 she took part in Operation Torch, landing troops in North Africa. Then in 1943 she took part in the Sicily landings, transporting Canadian commandos. She was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry in March 1944, carrying 18 landing craft and could also carry 1,590 troops. In 1944 she took part in the Normandy landings, making several trips with mainly Canadian troops to Juno Beach. It was later estimated that she had landed over 1,000 soldiers in 70 crossings. Later she was used as  troopship in the Far East.

Following the war Llangibby Castle was thoroughly refitted and in 1946 returned it commercial service. In June 1954 she was sold to shipbreakers in Newport, Monmouthshire.


Olympic to be scrapped as White Star purge continues

Cunard-White Star formally announced on 25th January 1935 that Olympic was to be withdrawn from regular trans-Atlantic service and would be used for cruises, at the end of the spring schedule. In spite of the major refit conducted at Harland & Wolff’s yard at Southampton, more cracks had been discovered in 1934, but were poorly repaired. In February 1935 further welding was needed.

olympic & maure laid upOn 31st March 1935 Cunard-White Star stated: “Olympic will drop out of the trans-Atlantic trade for the summer season”, and a series of cruises were proposed. Olympic departed from New York for Southampton on 5th April 1935 on her last passenger-carrying voyage. Arriving at Southampton on 12th April, she was towed to Berth 108 in the Western Docks, where she was laid up, ahead of Mauretania.

On 13th April Cunard-White Star cancelled plans for Olympic’s cruising schedule, and announced that the lay-up would be extended for three months. At a board meeting in late April, it was formally announced that the company “had no further employment in sight” for her. Cunard-White Star announced on 20th August that Olympic would be opened the following week for inspection by prospective purchasers.

olympic heading for breakers copyShe was bought on 10th September 1935 by Sir John Jarvis for £97,500, who then sold her on to Thomas Ward’s, to be scrapped at Jarrow, which had been badly affected by unemployment. Under Captain P.R. Vaughn, Olympic left Southampton on 11th October, and arrived at Palmer’s Yard, Jarrow, on 13th October. Cut down to the waterline, Olympic was towed to Inverkeithing for final demolition on 19th September 1937.