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Posts tagged with 'merchant navy'

Maritime Tales – Johnston’s Beef

28 March 2011 by stepheng

Ship model image

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I used to watch a lot of cowboy films and was amused when a cowpoke would offer refreshments out on the range.

“We got coffee and beans,” was always said with the relish more associated with the announcement of a huge feast.

I suppose it was all they could carry in their saddle bags but what about beef – dried, corned or salted? They were literally up to their withers in it. Read more…

Chinese Artists

14 March 2011 by stepheng

Chinese painting of sailing ship.

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I like the way Chinese artists have depicted the West over the centuries, particularly on ceramics and canvas.

Their work shows a fine delicacy which is charming as well as inspirational. Chinese marine art perhaps lacks the sense of movement captured by European artists but I am drawn in by the incredible technical detail.

A number of Chinese artists worked in Far East ports specialising in ship portraits for Western captains.

Several fine examples from the period 1850 to 1910 are on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Art & the Sea gallery. Read more…

Convoy HX 219

8 March 2011 by stepheng

Small model ships

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

I would not like to be a pirate – apart from being illegal, the chances of meeting a violent end are too great– but I do like the swashbuckling aspects.

The sight of the Jolly Roger (the pirate skull and crossbones) being raised is pretty exciting – it is a part of pirate lore which has been adapted by submariners. 

A British commander first flew the notorious flag in modern times nearly 100 years ago. Read more…

Down Argentina way

8 November 2010 by stepheng

ship model in a display case

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo.

Several of my seafaring ancestors headed for South America – some got there, others did not for a variety of reasons so this story has added poignancy for me.

It underlines the dangers of carrying too much cargo despite Samuel Plimsoll bringing about reforms which outlawed overloaded ships.

It was ironic that the ship in this story sank because she was carrying too much cargo, which was badly stowed.

This was more than 50 years after the Plimsoll Line was introduced, ensuring a clearly visible line on a ship’s hull indicating how much she was carrying. Read more…

War imports

25 October 2010 by stepheng

archive photo of men unloading cargo from a ship

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I have many memories of Liverpool’s docklands when they were labour-intensive before the widespread use of containers.

Once I was flung off my motorcycle when the wheels got caught in the dock railway lines. The windscreen and front mudguard were shattered.

As I wheeled my machine past the police officer he joked: “You crunched!” (This was a catch phrase from a crisps advert of the time, 1968.)

Some 25 years earlier the Port of Liverpool fought a daily battle of survival bringing in vital supplies. Read more…

Comedy duo discovered in archives

21 October 2010 by Sam

handwritten list of names including R Cannon and W Ball

The Maritime Archive and Library staff are often asked about DEMS gunners.  They were men who operated the guns on Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships during the First and Second World Wars.  Sometimes they were army personnel,  but sometimes they were merchant seafarers who had undertaken gunnery training. 

DEMS gunners are not specifically listed on crew lists, because they are listed under their main job title.  However, because they were paid an allowance for their gunnery responsibilities they can be spotted in the wages books. Read more…

The Indefatigables

12 October 2010 by stepheng

statue of a boy in naval uniform

An Indefatigable cadet – image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I was a very picky eater until I was 17 but all mysteriously changed when we moved house and my appetite gradually improved.

Now there are just three things I won’t eat – tripe, brawn or butterbeans.

These boys’ appetites were helped by working hard in the sea air – great remedies for feeling out of sorts. Even this grub – disgusting as it may now seem – was probably wolfed down with relish.

Both were former warships – one powered by sail and the other by steam – before becoming the training ship Indefatigable, a familiar sight on the Mersey for more than 75 years. Read more…

World Maritime Day

23 September 2010 by Sam

2010 Year of the Seafarer logo

Here’s a message from Ian Murphy, curator of maritime history and deputy head of Merseyside Maritime Museum, about why today is a significant day for seafarers.

“Today is World Maritime Day. Every year the United Nation’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) hold this day to focus on the importance of maritime safety, security and the environment. This year is also the IMO’s Year of the Seafarer when the organisation pays tribute to the vital role they play in today’s global economy. Read more…

30th anniversary of the loss of MV Derbyshire

9 September 2010 by Sam

photo of a huge container ship at sea

MV Derbyshire. Copyright HMSO, reproduced with kind permission

The sinking of the container ship MV Derbyshire was a terrible tragedy and a mystery that took many years to resolve. Ellie Moffat, curator of maritime collections, explains;


“Today marks the 30th anniversary of the sinking of MV Derbyshire, the largest British registered merchant ship ever to be lost at sea. On 9 September 1980 she was nearing the end of her voyage from Canada to Japan when she was caught up in typhoon Orchid in the South China Seas and sank. All hands (42 crew members and two of their wives) were lost. Read more…

Bulk buying

16 August 2010 by stepheng

detail of a ship model

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

It seems to me that things are always getting bigger and bigger – sprawling supermarkets, huge cars, massive motorways and, of course, enormous ships.

Every time I look over the Mersey the cargo vessels seem to grow, dwarfing smaller craft such as the ferries. It came as rather a surprise to learn just how long this trend has been developing.

The first bulk carrier ship was the British coast carrier John Bowes in 1852 – she had a steam engine, metal hull and seawater for ballast. Read more…

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