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Posts tagged with 'merchant navy'

The GBLA reunion at Merseyside Maritime Museum

19 July 2017 by Ben

Attendees at the recent GBLA Suez Canal 50th anniversary reunion event at Merseyside Maritime Museum

Here is a post from Cath Senker, co-organiser of a special reunion event held recently at the Merseyside Maritime Museum:

“In June 1967, at the outbreak of the Six-Day War, 14 merchant ships were passing through the Suez Canal. As hostilities erupted, they were ordered to halt in the Great Bitter Lake. Although the war was brief, after it finished, the Egyptian government refused the ships permission to leave. Those ships remained stranded in the Suez Canal until June 1975.

Four of them were British-flagged, including three from Liverpool shipping lines: MS Melampus and MS Agapenor from Blue Funnel Line, and MS Scottish Star from Blue Star Line. Over the period, 3,000 seafarers served on the trapped ships in the middle of a war zone, maintaining the vessels and protecting their valuable cargos. Although they came from both sides of the Iron Curtain, they formed a close community.  Read more…

Caught by the Wolf: remembering the SS Matheran

26 January 2017 by Ben

men on the deck of a ship

Prisoners on the deck of SMS Wolf. © IWM (Q 53085)

In today’s Times newspaper, there is a small but poignant notice:

“BOY ABDUL, Indian Merchant Service. Sole casualty, SS Matheran, Brocklebank Line, Liverpool, Captain Maurice Addy. Sunk by a mine off Cape Town, SA, 26 January 1917. Remembered today on the Seamen’s Memorial in Mumbai and by his Captain’s family.”

100 years ago today, the Liverpool ship SS Matheran was sunk by a mine laid by one of Germany’s most notorious ships – the SMS Wolf.  Read more…

Centenary of the sinking of White Star Line’s Laurentic

25 January 2017 by Ellie

Laurentic at Belfast

MCR/82/167 Copyright unknown, believed to be expired

As we continue to mark the centenary of the First World War, I wanted to highlight a Liverpool ship that was lost on 25 January 1917.

Laurentic (originally named Alberta) was built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff in 1908 for the Dominion Line. During construction, Alberta and her sister ship Albany were purchased by White Star Line and were renamed Laurentic and Megantic.  Laurentic departed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Canada in 1909, and over the next few years carried thousands of passengers across the Atlantic. Read more…

The City of Benares legacy 75 years on

20 October 2015 by Jen

John Baker holding a page from a newspaper

City of Benares survivor John Baker holding a copy of his local paper in which he was interviewed. Picture taken on his recent visit to the maritime Museum.

One of the great things about working on projects around events within living memory is that often they prompt people to come forward and talk about their own experiences or family story. At a 75 year remove, with most of the children not from the local area, I wasn’t sure how much impact our City of Benares feature would have in this respect but I was pleasantly surprised. Some people got in touch to say they’d known or knew people who had been on board, a representative of the Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade (SVLB) made contact to say they were marking the 75th anniversary with a service and small display, and one of the child survivors even turned up at the Maritime Museum for a chat.  Read more…

‘Back from the dead!’ The amazing survival story of Lifeboat 12

25 September 2015 by Jen

HMS ANTHONY rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

HMS Anthony rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

The sinking of the City of Benares is a story with few bright spots.  Horrific loss of life, particularly amongst children, makes for grim research. There are stories from the tragedy that show the full strength of human endurance, two teenage girls clinging on to an upturned lifeboat for 18 hours through the night in freezing waters and managing to survive, a 7 year old boy who survived the night on a raft amongst sleet and hail and choppy seas. One story of endurance however was only realised 8 days after the sinking, when a further 45 survivors were discovered.  Newspaper headlines described them as, ‘back from the dead’.  Read more…

75 years since sinking of ‘Children’s Ship’ City of Benares

14 September 2015 by Jen

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children's escort in the lifeboat with child from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children’s escort, in the lifeboat with children from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the loss of the City of Benares, torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic during the Second World War.  What makes her loss stand out amongst the many lost merchant ships however is the 90 children she was carrying.  They were travelling under the government’s CORB (Children’s Overseas Reception Board) scheme to evacuate children away from a Britain facing the Blitz, and the ever growing possibility of invasion, to the safer shores of the Dominions, particularly Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  Read more…

HMT Lancastria remembered 75 years on

8 June 2015 by Jen

HMT Lancastria in World War Two.  © IWM (N 375)

HMT Lancastria in World War Two. © IWM (N 375)

Of the many losses suffered by the Royal and Merchant Navies in the Second World War there is one which stands out for the sheer scale of the loss of life involved. The sinking of the HMT Lancastria is one of Britain’s worst Maritime disasters; she sank in less than twenty minutes, following a bombing attack, with the staggering loss of several thousand lives.
Read more…

Recognition for those who served on WWII Arctic Convoys

18 May 2015 by Jen

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father's Artic Star

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father’s Arctic Star.  Image courtesy of Brenda Shackleton.

Last December I blogged about Brenda Shackleton’s fight for greater recognition of the remarkable story of the Merchant Navy Rescue ships and their vital contribution to the Second World War. Men of the Merchant Navy, including Brenda’s father Bill Hartley, crewed these small coastal vessels following the Allied convoys from 1940 onwards, with the sole purpose of rescuing survivors should any of the ships be torpedoed. It was a dangerous and difficult task but their actions succeeded in saving the lives of 4194 men throughout the Second World War.

The ships on all the convoys suffered high risks and terrible losses but there was one particular convoy route described by Churchill himself as:

“The worst journey in the world.”

Read more…

Red Ensign flying for Merchant Navy Day

3 September 2014 by Jen

Red Ensign flag flying above the Pilotage building.

The Red Ensign flying above the Pilotage building.

Anyone visiting us down at the Liverpool waterfront this week might have noticed a distinctive red flag flying above the old Liverpool Pilotage building next door to the Museum of Liverpool. Bright red, with the Union flag in the top left corner, it’s known as a Red Ensign. Yesterday myself and a couple of colleagues had the slightly hair-raising task (it looks a lot higher up once you get up there!) of climbing up to the roof and raising the flag in time to mark Merchant Navy Day on  3 September. Read more…

Flying the flag for Seafarers Awareness Week

23 June 2014 by Ben

logo with text: An island nation, Seafarers Awareness Week 21-29 June 2014

Are you reading this blog on a computer, smartphone or tablet? Chances are it was brought to this country in a metal box on the back of a ship, along with your TV, clothes and most of your other possessions. Read more…



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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.