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Lloyds List and a ship lost without trace - a request.


Kildonan
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I am trying to do some research into a ship which apparently disappeared without trace during 1916.

 

The ship is the Sebastion,  a Spanish flagged steamship of 2934 tons which went missing on a voyage from St. Nazaire to Cardiff, via Brest in November 1916.

 

The only reference that I can find to this ship is in the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Volume 1. 

 

The reference given for the text is Lloyds List 01.01 and 31.03 1917.

 

Copies of Lloyds List for this year are not available on line. The only places (that I can find) that they are available is the National Maritime Museum, The Guildhall Library, Merseyside Maritime Museum and the National Library of Scotland.

 

My request: I am a long way from all of these archives, if anyone is near any of them, or visiting, I would very much appreciate it if they could find the time to take a look at the two entries and let me know exactly what is printed. 

 

This is a bit of a long shot but nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

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I think there is a good chance that the Shipwrecks Index has garbled the name of the vessel.  According to Lloyd's Missing Vessels Register, the ship in question was the British-flagged SERBISTAN, O.N.108155, built 1896 by S. P. Austin of Sunderland, 2,934 gross tons, owned by F. C. Strick & Co. of Swansea.  The ship was on passage from St. Nazaire for Cardiff on 14.11.1916 when she was chased by a German submarine and took refuge in Brest Roads.  She sailed from there two days later and went missing.  Lloyd's say she was on time charter to the Hudsons Bay Company, but this firm was operating ships on behalf of the French Government, so they were probably the real charterer.

 

I doubt that Lloyd's List will add much to the above, but if you want to check, the Guildhall Library is probably your best bet as the staff there do carry out small research assignments for callers.

 

Malcolm

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If it is the Serbistan, ex Harpenden, then the following may be of interest:

 

Arthur Cecil Johnson -  https://solihulllife.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/17th-nov-1916/

Herbert Knowles Frankland - http://www.hhtandn.org/hartlepool-ships-and-shipping/shipbuilding/3030/sp-austin-sunderland/ship/2058/harpenden

Edit:  Herbert Knowles Frankland - http://www.hhtandn.org/crew/memorial/364/frankland,-herbert-knowles

 

Serbistan (ex Harpenden) - http://sunderlandships.com/view.php?ref=100616

 

JP

Edited by helpjpl
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I have this on a local lad  who perished aboard the Serbistan

 

JOSEPH BOLLANDS

Donkeyman JOSEPH BOLLANDS Mercantile Marine

S.S. Serbistan (Swansea)

Joseph was lost at sea in 1916 aged 60

The S S Serbistan left Brest for Cardiff on the 16th November 1916 and went missing at sea

Whilst the fate of the vessel is unknown it is believed that the vessel floundered during a terrific snowstorm a tin canister containing various papers relating to the Serbistan  and a bible marked inside Captain John Griffiths 29 Snowden Street Portmadoc in Wales were picked on the 24th Nov 1916 six miles from the Eddystone lighthouse

His home address is listed as 27 Croft Street Middlesbrough (source deaths at sea)

Whilst his name can be found on Middlesbrough war memorial, his name is not included on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission register as his death at sea could not be attributed to enemy action

He was the father of Andrew Bollands listed above

Born West Rounton Northallerton 1856

LOST AT SEA

 

Ray

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Kildonan,

 

I have access to Lloyd's Register of Shipping for most years through 1921/1922. It's very clear from that as well as the World Ship Society Starke-Schelle lists that the ship in question is the Serbistan, details as above.

 

Note that weather was very bad on November 18, 1916 and several other ships disappeared at the same time (Reindeer, Mansuri, Pelayo).

 

Best wishes,

Michael

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Malcolm, thank you for such a comprehensive reply. Your post, together with all the others above have FAR exceeded my expectations, a big thank you to you all!

 

Just in case you haven't figured out what this is all about, it is all explained in my two other posts.

 

Now that Michael has put the "local" name of the wreck to bed (Joshua Nicholson), it seems like there is a much more likely candidate.

 

The Serbistan having sailed from France, on behalf of the French government is an obvious likely ship. Thanks to Dave (Wight spirit) I have been put in touch with the French equivalent of this site, where I might be able to glean some more info. regarding the cargo. SIBI has it listed as ballast, but I doubt that any ship sailing full of ammunition was going to advertise it in 1916!

 

First of all I will look at all the links above.

 

Thanks again

 

Graham 

 

 

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Graham

 

The World Ship Society's history of F. C. Strick & Co. shows the SERBISTAN's cargo on her voyage from St. Nazaire for Cardiff as war munitions.  I have no way of confirming this from other books or records in my library, but WSS books are usually well researched and reliable, so there is certainly a possibility that she might be your mystery ship.  I will let you know if I manage to dig anything more up.

 

Malcolm

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1 hour ago, Kildonan said:

but I doubt that any ship sailing full of ammunition was going to advertise it in 1916!

 

Am i missing something Why would a steamship be sailing from St Nazaire /Brest for Cardiff with ammunition ?

or is this just a assumption

 

Ray

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59 minutes ago, Malcolm12hl said:

Graham

 

The World Ship Society's history of F. C. Strick & Co. shows the SERBISTAN's cargo on her voyage from St. Nazaire for Cardiff as war munitions.  I have no way of confirming this from other books or records in my library, but WSS books are usually well researched and reliable, so there is certainly a possibility that she might be your mystery ship.  I will let you know if I manage to dig anything more up.

 

Malcolm

Malcolm, you are a star! Very many thanks for this.

 

The excellent links, above, from JP virtually confirms that the Serbistan was lost on the Runnelstone.

 

The power of the internet, together with the members of this forum who "know their stuff" has answered a question that has puzzled me for 20+ years. I knew that an engine the size of the one on the wreck came from a ship larger than 1500 tons. The Joshua Nicholson just did not fit the bill on many fronts.

 

Thanks again all.

 

Graham 

 

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31 minutes ago, RaySearching said:

 

Am i missing something Why would a steamship be sailing from St Nazaire /Brest for Cardiff with ammunition ?

or is this just a assumption

 

Ray

Ray,

 

In a reply to one of my earlier posts Ralph Curell said:

 

Thanks, I see the threads.  I'd defer to an expert, but it seems to me the shell case markings show a date of 1916.  The 'Roumanie' is interesting.  Might this be an arms shipment intended for Romania?  The Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romania_during_World_War_I#Romanian_recovery lists many items supplied by the Allies, including Hotchkiss machine-guns and 75mm guns.

 

My understanding is that Allied supplies to Romania were delivered through Russia, so maybe we're looking at French munitions bound for Romania via a Russian port in 1916 or 1917.  

 

Presumably they were for onward shipment to Russia and then Romania. 

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1 minute ago, Kildonan said:

Presumably they were for onward shipment to Russia and then Romania. 

 

Thanks for the reply

Understood 

 

Ray

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Kildonan,

 

Is the condition of the wreck engine such that the cylinder diameters could be measured or estimated? Lloyd's Register states the Serbistan's engine had three cylinders of 23-5/16", 38" and 62" diameter.  This is looking like a good candidate for your mystery ship but as Ray points out, the stop at Cardiff seems curious. Did she perhaps intend to take on coal there, either as fuel or cargo?

 

Regards,

   Ralph

Edited by Ralph Currell
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Ralph,

 

After 102 years on the seabed, in a very exposed and turbulent area, the engine has detached itself from the wreck, as well as the drive shaft. It now lies up against a reef at a 45 degree angle, covered in weed and sea growth. This, together with the fact that the cylinder head is still in place makes it very difficult to get anything near an accurate measurement. 

 

Unfortunately, it does not have a Blair engine fitted as most of the parts on these engine, brass valves etc. have the serial number of the engine stamped into them. I have used this to positively identify four other wrecks over the last few years.

 

Does Lloyds Register state how many boilers were fitted? as I am 90% certain that this wreck only has one, though it is always possible that, being round, another could be some distance away, as occasionally happens.

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Kildonan

 

LR will not help with the number of boilers but the Serbistan's 1915 crew agreement shows only 6 firemen and trimmers amongst her crew of 35 odd.  I'm sure that is only enough men to maintain steam in one boiler, only two men in a three watch system, even in a two watch system it would be only three men on at a time.  So almost certainly one boiler, she is not a large ship.

 

Tony

Serbistan.jpg

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For a better description of the ship, you might want to obtain a copy of a document from the National Archives which is titled, 'Transcript of Register for Transmission to Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen.'  It's here: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C10336683   Occasionally some details were not entered on the form but the vast majority are and you should find some useful information.  For a ship of the size of the Serbistan at nearly 3000 tons gross my guess would be that she would have 2 main boilers plus donkey boiler. However, as MerchantOldSalt says, the number of firemen on board would have been insufficient to maintain steam in 2 boilers and she may well have had just one.  This brings us back to the National Archives document which should answer the question one way or the other.

 

Dave W

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41 minutes ago, Kildonan said:

Many thanks Tony.

 

Is the photograph of the Serbistan, or when she was the Harpenden?

 

Graham

Serbistan, she has the funnel colours of the Anglo-Algerian Steamship Co. which became FC Strick & Co Ltd in 1913, with the same funnel colours and houseflag

Edited by MerchantOldSalt
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Western Daily Press 02 December 1916 and Western Times 04 December 1916:

Steamer Lloyd's agent at Plymouth telegraphs that 21 Books from the British steamer Serbistan, a tin canister containing various papers relating partly to the Serbistan, and Bible marked inside "Capt. John Griffiths, 29 Snowden-street, Portmadoc. North Wales" were picked up November 24 - https://search.findmypast.co.uk/search/british-newspapers?date=1916-12-01&date_offsetdate=1916-12-31&lastname=serbistan

 

Captain John Griffiths, Yr Herald Cymraeg 12 December 1916- Porthmadog:

5ae9a18676d04_CaptainJohnGriffiths-Serbistan.jpg.ae0f323c5ee0b499df1b6f02b494b309.jpg

 

Another of the crew was Ashton Theodore Wilson, Steward. Widow Freda.

 

Newcastle Journal 09 May 1916:

British steamer Serbistan, from Bassein, passed Gravesend last night for Bellamy's Wharf; plates indented port bow, having collided yesterday morning ...  

 

JP

 

 

Edited by helpjpl
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9 hours ago, wightspirit said:

For a better description of the ship, you might want to obtain a copy of a document from the National Archives which is titled, 'Transcript of Register for Transmission to Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen.'  It's here: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C10336683   

 

Dave W

 

Thanks Dave,

 

There is an absolute font of knowledge on the GWF.

 

I will request a copy. I have looked at the link and one of the first questions I have to answer is:  Please tell us as much as you can about what you want copied. Where possible, please include page numbers, dates, and names. 

 

Not having requested anything before, is it the ships plans for the Serbistan? or should I be asking for something else?

 

Graham

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MerchantOldSalt and JP thanks for the additional information. I am surprised that so much was printed about the loss in the newspapers during wartime.

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If you order the reference BT110/410/27 (you might have to omit the figures 27 but must include the ship's official number 108155) all pages can be copied for the ship.  There is likely to be a page for each change of ownership and also pages detailing mortgages taken out. It will not include plans. These may be of little interest so you may want only the Transcript.  The number of pages you'll want is not likely to be more than 2 or 3.

 

The builders records do survive but they do not include plans or photographs for Serbistan.

 

If you'll excuse the pun, it depends how deeply you want to research the ship. For example, if you want to know the names and occupations of those on board (except for the anonymous Tynesider) this will help to determine precisely how many firemen and greasers were employed on the ship, which might shed light on whether the manpower was enough to service 2 boilers rather than one.  The National Archives holds a copy of the crew agreement for the ship for 1916 but you'll only know if it covers the final voyage by seeing it.  It's here:  BT99/3206. The crew agreement, like the Transcript referred to above, is stored in a box file along with many other ships, files according to the official number. If the NA agreement doesn't cover the final voyage, try here https://www.mun.ca/mha/holdings/viewcombinedcrews.php?Official_No=108155.  They may be one and the same - there's only one way to find out.  There are also two more lines of enquiry. One is to examine the Auxiliary Patrol Weekly reports for Plymouth (which covers the Lands End area) here: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4111909  This may very well include information of interest, as will this: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4112922

 

These documents are best viewed in person as they may or may not hold information of use. They contain quite a lot of information.

 

Dave W

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OK, here's a bit more - I've had a look at Lloyd's List for 7 November 1896 and found a report of the launch, which, among other details, says she was fitted with 2 steel boilers.  I found no other report, not even in local newspapers, which is unusual.

 

Dave W 

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The fitting of two boilers is confirmed by the vessel's entry in Lloyd's Register, which includes the entry 2 SB (SB in this case meaning Single-Ended Boilers).

 

Malcolm

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