I WAS RECENTLY FILING the 2011 copies of Sea Breezes and at the same time re-reading many of the articles. On page 23 of the July 2011 issue there is an article regarding the ss Shieldhall.
In it, there is a remark by Robin Knox- Johnston which states “Shieldhall is a classic example of the steamers that made Britain the major trading nation that we are”.
Sir Robin is a seaman for whom I have the greatest respect – I could have never done the various things that he has done in his life time. However, in my time at sea, from the end of the 1940’s to the early 1960’s, sailing in one of the major British cargo liner companies, I was never in one which was a converted sludge carrier. They were all built in the range of 1936 to 1951 (including some war time built ‘standards’) and were all steam driven.
It is a pity that Britain never preserved one of the ‘Liberties’ or ‘Empires’ when the big companies were clearing them out of their fleets. They would have really been classic examples of British merchant shipping, remembering that these classes of vessels sailed in most of the major British companies, eg Cunard, Ellermans, Blue Funnel etc.
The Americans seem to be successful at preserving both merchant and naval vessels and I wondered if they didn’t still have any ‘Liberties’ or ‘Victory’s’ hidden away which they might be willing to let go. Sawyer & Mitchells book, The Liberty Ships, gives a very interesting chapter on the saving and restoration of the Jeremiah O’Brien. Then, in a more recent Sea Breezes, there is an article of the Lane Victory.
It just shows that if you are really keen on preserving some of your nautical heritage, then it is possible. Trouble is that these days, with the tightness of money, it wouldn’t be too easy to purchase and restore a representative cargo vessel, but one is just sorry that such a thing did not take place in the 1960’s or 70’s.
BRIAN W HOLLMAN
76 Augusta Drive, Augusta Place
Sunningdale, 7441, South Africa