Monthly Archives: July 2019

Another view of the 1955 built Foylebank, one of 6 from Harlands…

18 years in the fleet, and then Foylebank gave another 10 years service under the Greek flag under a new name of ‘ Patroclos’. These 6 ships built for the Bank Line were a great success before containers arrived, and they formed the backbone of the Pacific Copra loading programme back to Europe, and in particular, Bromboro dock, Birkenhead. Valuable coconut oil from pre crushed copra carried in tanks was part of the cargo and helped achieve a full load both in space and deadweight. The Copra was crushed and used in a variety of products by Messrs Lever Bros. The distinctive, and not unpleasant smell was overwhelming when climbing out of the taxi alongside when joining one of these vessels discharging. Often, the warm oil, (achieved from steam heating coils) would be flowing out in a throbbing pipe to tankers, and any spillage would quickly solidify into white streaks down the ships side. It could be a miserable wet day, raining, snowing, or blowing, but, hard to explain, there was always a feeling of euphoria as the sensation in that dock immediately and strongly conjured up images of the tropical Pacific islands!……….


A 1955 advertisement by Harland & Wolff in a Bank Line supplement of the Journal of Commerce. It shows a selection of the ships built by H & W. for the company. They are Comliebank, Laganbank, Araybank and Fleetbank, Beaverbank, and Cedarbank. The large ship is the M.V.Foylebank completed in 1955.

These were all fine ships that served the company well, but in 1964, the last ship built for the Bank Line was launched – the M.V. Weybank. She completed a 17 ship order. All subsequent orders went to Wm Doxford or other East Coast yards.

Aymeric, a steamer built in 1905. One of 3 vessels ordered from Russell & Co. Port Glasgow.

Torpedoed in May 1918, only 6 months before the end of the war. She was loaded with coal, heading for Port Said, and in the Mediterranean when caught by U63 (see below). Number of survivors not known.U63 survived the war to surrender and be broken up at Blyth, Northumberland.

AYMERIC SS was a British Cargo steamer built in 1905 by Russell & Co Port Glasgow, Yard No 544 and Engines by Rankin & Blackmore. She was owned by Andrew Weir & Co., Glasgow. She was torpedoed by German submarine U-63 about 145 miles Sw by W of Cape Matapan, when on route from the Clyde for Port Said with a cargo of coal. Read more at wrecksite:


Details of the author………

This new book details many aspects of Andrew Weir’s company – The Bank Line and of Andrew Weir himself, and his family. It contains amusing anecdotes of personalities, and of the trials and tribulations of operating a world wide fleet of vessels, often to remote parts of the world. There is also an interesting summary of the world-wide network of businesses, Agents, and contacts that Andrew Weir created.

The author, Alistair Macnab, is well known to Bank Line personnel, having served ashore as a superintendent in the Gulf Ports, managing the very hectic schedule of a relentless stream of ships arriving, usually in ballast. The efficient loading, in a variety of ports, and getting them full and down, before their departure often for the Panama canal and onwards to Australasia, was a key part of this work.

There are many interesting black and white illustrations.

Comments or enquiries are welcome!



WILLOWBANK SV was originally the full rigged ship Ambrose, with double top sails. Originally ordered by J Smirthwaite of Sunderland and launched by Master Ambrose Schilizzi (son of the owner) in 1885: When bought by Andrew Weir it started the nomenclature for his fleet (to be) having “Bank” as a theme for the ships. On the 22nd December 1895 at 4:30 am in thick weather with a Sw gale running, SV WILLOWBANK was in collision with the Red Star liner SS Berlin (5,526/95) and sank in 5 minutes, 12 miles west of Portland. Ss Berlin was on a cruise en-route from Antwerp to New York, while SV WILLOWBANK, loaded with nitrate was making for Hamburg via Falmouth from Caleta Buena. One life was lost. Chipchase Nick 19/09/2009 Built of iron by Wigham Richardson and Co of Newcastle. Owned by Andrew Weir and Co. ( Bank Line ). Lost in collision with SS Berlin approx 50 28 N  02 45 W on voyage Peru to Hamburg with a cargo of Nitrate of Soda. Some sources say that Berlin also sank but that does not appear to be the case.


Hollybank – 1964 built

A cargo ship. Hollybank (2)], 4 (Vietnam), 5 148.5 metres long overall, 137.5 metres perpendicular to perpendicular, speed of 15 knots, signal letters GMHV. The vessel was designed to carry vegetable oil, hence two Lloyd’s Register gross tonnages. Built for ‘Bank Line Limited’, of London, Andrew Weir & Co. Ltd. the managers. On her 2nd voyage, from Hull to Australia & New Zealand, the vessel made it only as far as Amsterdam or Rotterdam & when it left port there it broke down & limped back to Hull for repair. Visited Auckland, New Zealand, on Oct. 23, 1975. The vessel was sold, in 1979, to ‘Atticksky Cia. Maritime S.A.’, of Panama, (of Greek ownership), & renamed Nikitas F. The vessel was detained for 8 days in Vietnam in 1979 because stowaway refugees seeking to escape were found in the ship’s engine room. The Chief Engineer was forced to confess to people smuggling and the ships’ Greek owners were also fined. At Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The ship’s master at the time was Samothrakitis Komniwos. In 1987, the vessel was sold to ‘Newport Marine Ltd.’ of Valetta, Malta, & renamed Nonas. On Mar. 2, 1990, the vessel arrived at the Alang, Gujarat, India, ship breaking facilities of ‘R. I. Kalathia & Co

M.V. Eastbank

This 1947 built ship with classic lines has a special place in the heart of old timers, being often their first ship and an introduction to the famous or infamous ‘ Copra Run’. The author was 2/0 on her for a great 8 month trip in 1958. None of us probably learnt of her interesting and remarkable career after the Bank Line days. See the extracts below…. It all adds up to a 30 year career for our old ship…. ( See the article on this site called ” Southbank and her sisters”, for a description of the round the world ” Eastbank” trip of 1958.)

Gowanbank under construction at Belfast in 1968 – The last Harland built vessel for the company after a long history…

M.V. `Gowanbank` 10,365 grt, completed by H&W on 30th January 1968 for Andrew Weir Ltd. She was sold foreign in 1979 and broken up in 1985 after a career of only 17 years. She was the last vessel H&W built for the `Bank Line` and she was the last bridge `amidships` vessel built in the UK.

The story of the Empire Attendant……

The Empire Attendant was a ship managed by Andrew Weir on behalf of the M O W T (Ministry of War Transport). She had been a B I ship as shown above, but was converted to cargo carrying in 1940 after being bombed. B.I. gave D names when they were the first British company to fit Diesel engines to a passenger ship, and the ship started life as the Domala. (see lower picture) After conversion in 1940 she looked like the top picture.

She was bombed and set on fire in the English Channel, when 108, mostly Indian seamen were lost. Protests were made by India to Germany. After conversion to a cargo ship she was under Andrew Weir management, and sailed with military stores to Durban, but was torpedoed on 15th July 1942 by U582.

She was rebuilt as steam merchant Empire Attendant for Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). Notes on event: At 03.30 hours on 15 July 1942 the Empire Attendant (Master Thomas Grundy), dispersed from convoy OS-33, ( she became a straggler, 20 miles behind the convoy and with engine trouble) was torpedoed and sunk by U-582 south of the Canary Islands. The master, 49 crew members and nine gunners were lost.

Wener Schulte who sank the Empire Attendant was lost with all his crew of U582, just 3 months later. See map above.

Olivebank – A stunning picture of the Master and Officers…

This striking portrait of the Captain and officers on the upper deck of the British registered ship Olivebank, is a study in purpose and pride. The image is a strongbox of  technical details, portraiture and narrative. These are young men steering a new born vessel, 325 feet long and just launched from the famous Glasgow shipyards on September 21, 1892. In their posture and gaze each of them, in their own way suggest a determined competence, particularly Captain Petrie in his embroidered cap, flower boutonniere and heavy gold watch chain.  The other’s wear the formal vested suits and silk ties of merchant seamen, literate adventurers who had brought their ship around the world to the booming country around the inland waters of Puget Sound.

A Tramp for all the Oceans

Introducing a new book:-

A Tramp for all Oceans  

by Geoffrey Walker

Published : 2019

A nostalgic chronicle of ships and the sea told by the Author from his experiences sailing around Asia and Oceania during the golden years of shipping throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The narrative encapsulates this fascinating bygone period of charm, mystery, and wonder. From many decades based in Asia, the Author tells his sailors anecdotes of the adventurous years he spent tramping the sea routes of Africa, India, the Far East, and Oceania, under the Red Duster, from Apprentice to Captain. Calling at large and small Ports alike, some little more than clearings in the jungle, up barely navigable rivers or not even marked on an Admiralty Chart. 

The book captivates the last of an era when ships all possessed their own “heart and character, when crewed by what may be described as “different breed” of seafarer, and which now only lives on in maritime nostalgia.

Available from  or Amazon Books

The book is not intended to be a technical narrative in any way whatsoever, but rather, it is written in a very personalized way to appeal to a wider readership and those who may have a nautical interest, whilst not necessarily having a maritime background.

Please note, Geoffrey served in the Bank Line, notably on the Levernbank, which was later wrecked on the South American coast. ( see Levernbank account on this site).

Shipping Today and Yesterday Article. 2016

The Sailing Ships of Andrew Weir
Shipping & Trading Co. Ltd.

by John Richardson


S1605-28- Beechbank-10

Russell & Co of Port Glasgow launched the Beechbank on 3rd February 1892 with yard number 289. She was a four masted barque measuring 2,288 grt with the dimensions of 277.5 x 42 x 24.2 feet. After tramping around the world when mainly carrying coal from either South Wales or Newcastle, NSW, the Beechbank was sold in 1913 to E. Monson of Tvedestrand, Norway. Early in 1916 during WW1 when she was on passage from Iquiqui towards Copenhagen with nitrates, she was firstly intercepted by a British armed merchant cruiser when sailing north of Scotland, and ordered into Kirkwall, Shetlands for examination. On the same day she was hit by a terrific storm and lost many of her sails, spars and became badly damaged. Then another British armed merchant cruiser HMS Ebro came to her assistance and escorted her into Kirkwall. Once seaworthy she went to London for a major refit. During her repairs later in the year of 1916, she changed hands to O. Stray of Kristiansand who renamed her Stoveren. He kept her until 1922 when she went to Norsk Rutefart of Norway. The four masted barque was scrapped in 1924.

However, during her career in Andrew Weir’s fleet, on 5th January 1907 an apprentice named Victor Harbord joined the Beechbank at Port Talbot. He was making his first trip to sea. His first ship’s destination was to the Peruvian port of Iquiqui, (pronounced aye kee kee) with a cargo of coal. Victor came from a family of sailors of which his father Captain Richard Harbord OBE, and his three elder brothers, were all seasoned seamen who’d been brought up in sail. Young Victor had wanted to pursue a life in steamships, but his father told him that if he wanted to get any money from him for his indentures, then he had to start off in sail. Therefore, it was due to the wishes of Victor’s father that the young man signed his four year indentures with the Andrew Weir Shipping & Trading Co. Apprentice Harbord remembers only too well the day he joined his first ship in Port Talbot. It was on a cold and icy day of January 1907. Mr Webb the mate welcomed him on board at the top of the gangway, took him to the saloon and introduced him to Captain John R. Bremner, then put him to work breaking the ice off a load of dunnage on the quayside, and then stow the planks on board. Also in his memory was his first rounding of Cape Horn, and what he’d heard about that notorious stretch of water turned out to be true, indeed the Beechbank took a 15 day pasting in sailing around The Horn, and Victor recorded some notes on the ordeal.

22nd March 1907 – Ran into very bad weather, ship labouring with heavy seas coming aboard.

26th March 1907 – Latitude 60°25′ South Longitude 72°48′ West. Still beating around Cape Horn.

31st March 1907 – Still beating to windward.

2nd April 1907 – Shocking weather. The ship is labouring heavily. Mate’s and apprentice’s rooms flooded out. The ship is taking a lot of heavy water on board. Two men are lashed to the wheel.

6th April 1907 – Rounded Cape Horn, Very cold weather, heavy seas and snow squalls.

Victor and his six other apprentice shipmates had lots to learn. As well as climbing the rigging, they had to set and furl canvas as well as stitching it, and ensure that every rope was always in its proper place. There was also boxing the compass, learning how to steer with quarter points, and many other sailorising jobs. Then of course there was the holystoning the wooden decks, a task which was otherwise known as ‘bible practice’.

On arrival at Iquiqui the apprentices had to supervise the coal discharge, and then ensure that the hold was thoroughly cleaned before loading at Pisagua. After loading a cargo of salt petre the Beechbank’s next destination was Cape Town. From there the ship went to Adelaide in ballast where on arrival she anchored awaiting orders. On Sunday 24th December 1908 the ship berthed at Port Augusta, and then on Christmas day the ship was ‘dressed’ and thrown open to the public. Captain Bremner invited Reverend Wilkinson and his friends on board and they returned the compliment by taking the seven apprentices on a picnic. Beechbank left Port Augusta on 15th March 1909 and made a 109 day passage to Belfast. Victor went home on leave and rejoined at Cardiff where his ship was loading coke for Albany, New York.

At the end of the nineteenth century the victuals on ships would never come up to today’s standards. On the Beechbank there was a daily ration of eight ‘Liverpool Pantiles’. These rock hard biscuits were normally ages old, full of weevils and had to be thoroughly soaked before being eaten. Salt fish and salt pork as well as South African dried stringy meat named biltong were other additions to our cheap meal allowances. Another one was ‘Harriet Lane’ a tinned meat product that’s regarded as being a bit of a luxury. Apparently, the name for this tinned meat got its name from a London meat canning factory in the mid nineteenth century. It so happened, that one of the women workers in the factory named Harriet Lane, who regularly prepared the stewed meat for canning, suddenly disappeared! Because she’d recently had an altercation with her employer, he was accused of chopping the woman up and putting her into the huge stew pot to hide the evidence. Despite police intervention nothing was ever proved, but the name of ‘Harriet Lane’ stuck. Furthermore, that woman’s name was given to all the stewed meat products that came from that meat canning factory. Moreover, because the Londoners would no longer eat the products of that factory it was sold off cheaply. Therefore, it came as no surprise when ship owners revelled in the cheap food and bought all that was left and used it for crew meals. As a result of it all, and even many years after the meat canning factory had gone out of business, tinned meat was forever after called ‘Harriet Lane’ on ships of sail. A cup of tea on a ship never had any milk or sugar in it, and was similar to the porridge that was called ‘goolash’. A week after a ship had sailed any fresh meat quickly disappeared from the menu, spuds and onions lasted longer but like the drinking water they were kept locked up. To prevent scurvy lime juice was part of the rations, as was a daily issue of four quarts of water, half of which had to be handed over to the galley.

Victor’s recollections of his four years apprenticeship on the Beechbank are a vivid memory as are the two weeks spent in the ‘roaring forties’ battling against the strong winds and high seas. On one occasion he was sent aloft in the dark to secure a loose sail. The seas were so heavy and the ship being thrown about so much, that after he had made the sail fast he was unable to get down again and spent several hours clinging to the rigging. Such was the life that Victor led for the whole of his apprenticeship. When he finally left the Beechbank after serving his four years apprenticeship he received a massive pay-off of £28. Victor Harbord never returned to sail but continued his life at sea in steamships and worked his way up to the rank of Master Mariner. He later became a Humber Pilot and later in the Thames and Clyde, eventually completing 28 years as a pilot. During WW2 he was selected by the Admiralty to be an examining officer.


S1605-28- Cedarbank 300 x 20

This four-masted steel barque of 2,825 grt was launched in June 1892. She was built by Mackie & Thompson of Glasgow to the order of Andrew Weir & Co. Her other dimensions were 326 x 43 x 24.5 feet. Her sister ship was the Olivebank, and those two large vessels were the pride of the fleet. Both of those ships had steel wheel houses on the poop deck to protect the helmsman if the ship got pooped. They also had a donkey engine for hauling in the anchor as well as for a fire hose line. But none of Andrew Weir’s ships ever had the modern style Liverpool House amidships, a point from where the ship could be steered with chain and rod gear, and also where the crew could be accommodated. The Cedarbank’s first master was Captain Andrew D. Moody, his crew had all signed on at Glasgow, but his ship almost came to a premature end when she was on her maiden voyage after her coal caught fire. After leaving Sydney while still on her maiden voyage, the ship was towed 60 miles up the coast to Newcastle where she loaded 4,800 ton cargo of coal for San Francisco. But when she was halfway across the Pacific Ocean, the deck plates were found to be unnaturally hot, and that spelled ‘fire’.

Coal itself comes in different forms with the best steam coal in the world ‘arguably’ coming from South Wales in the UK. But it appears that in 1892, a seam of inferior slate coal was mined at Newcastle, NSW and designated for export. Slate coal has always been well known for its instability as it splutters and spits out gas as it burns. Indeed, those of us who have sat before a coal fire will know only too well, and especially when burning cheap slate coal, that a fire guard has to be placed before an open fire in case the coal spits out dangerous sparks.

Cedarbank left Newcastle, NSW on 5th March 1893 bound for San Francisco with its 4,800 tons of coal. All went well for the first five days, but during 12th-15th March the ship was hit by a Pacific Ocean hurricane. Damage to her spars, rigging and loss of sails obliged Captain Moody to turn around and head for Sydney. The fully laden ship arrived there on 21st March, where after five weeks of repairs she once again sailed for San Francisco on 28th April.

A coal fire in the hold of a ship, which is better known as internal combustion, can often take many weeks to materialise and reveal itself. Indeed, when the Cedarbank left Sydney her coal may have already been alight. But after having been at sea for 53 days when the ship was in a position just north of Midway Island, those dreaded wisps of smoke were seen to be seeping out from beneath number two hatch tarpaulins, while at the same time the decks were becoming increasingly hot! If the Beechbank had been built of wood she’d have long since burned, and wouldn’t have even got half way. So much for steel and iron versus the out dated wooden collier ships!

On realising the cargo was on fire Captain Moody had a tough decision to make. Should he head for the nearest landfall, where any kind of assistance would be next to zero, or should he continue his passage in the hope of making San Francisco? After a consultation with the mate he decided to push on for ‘Frisco. At first light on the following morning, number two hatch was stripped and the crowd began discharging as much of the smouldering coal as they could, while at the same time every stitch of canvas was set. The sailors in the smoke and gas filled hold worked intermittently, but after ditching a few hundred tons, they then realised that the fire was slowly gaining and the hatch was battened down again. Two boats were fully provisioned and towed astern for a few days. But the weather came up and they had to be brought back onboard again. It was a torrid five weeks from when the fire was discovered, to when the Cedarbank finally arrived at San Francisco on 26th July after an 89 day passage. During that time water had been pumped onto the heated coal and the pumps were swung day and night to take the water from the bilges. Clouds of steam and smoke had emitted from the hold and many hatch boards were blown off. Taking a tow from the unsuspecting tugs the ship was first beached, and then the hold was flooded by the fire fighting tugs, after two to three days when the fire had been extinguished the water was pumped out and the ship towed away to discharge her cargo. Needless to say most of the cargo was saved, but the inside the hold was a mass of twisted beams with the hold ceiling badly burned.

After being repaired for the second time in five months, the Cedarbank took a cargo of grain back to the UK. From there she went out to Australia again and continued tramping with coal and grain until Mr Weir began disposing of his sailing ship fleet. Cedarbank was sold in January 1914 to E. Monson of Tvedestrand, Norway, with Captain Abrahamsen taking command. Two years later in 1916 with WW1 at its peak she was sold to Rederiselskabet A/S Cedarbank of Farsund, Norway. But that company didn’t keep her long, because while she was homeward bound on her first voyage for her new owners, she left Savannah with a cargo of oil cakes via Halifax Nova Scotia on 9th May 1917, on passage towards Aarhus, Denmark. The year of 1917 was the worst of all the war years for ships being sunk by submarines, the war at sea had reached its peak and ships of sail were easy prey for submarines. In the North Sea on 14th June 1917 the submarine U-100 had the Cedarbank in her sights. The unarmed sailing ship had no radio and was therefore no danger at all to the U boat. But to Commander Dagenhart von Loe it was no excuse. His orders from his superiors were to sink enemy ships without warning, not even giving their crews a chance to take to the boats. The philosophy of the German High Command was that rescued men and survivors could man other ships. He therefore torpedoed the helpless ship leaving 26 sailors to their deaths. The only trace that was ever found of the one time pride of Andrew Weir’s fleet was a few days later on 17th June 1917, when one of the Cedarbank’s empty lifeboats was found drifting off Flo Sunnmore, Norway.


S1605-29- Olivebank 1

The Olivebank was launched on 21st September 1892, three months after her sister ship Cedarbank. Her first master was Captain J. N. Petrie, but any information on the ship for the next seven years is presently obscure. This may be due to the fact that during those years when steam ships were rapidly taking the business from sail, it was quite normal to see vast numbers of sailing ships being laid up for long periods of time all around the world. However, it was in 1899 that the Olivebank left the UK for Chile with coal, and then went onto Australia in ballast. In the following year she made a fast passage from Melbourne to Falmouth in 87 days. The next news on the ship is in February 1909 when she arrived at Santa Rosalia, California with coal from South Wales.

Under the command of Captain Carse she later sailed in ballast to Newcastle, NSW and loaded 4,800 tons of coal. Her destination was back to Santa Rosalia, but after she’d arrived there, and while she was lying at anchor in the shallows, it was then discovered that her cargo of coal was on fire. The fire fighting tugs came alongside and after the best part of two days put the fire out, but there had been so much water pumped into her hold that the Olivebank ended up sitting on the bottom with little or no freeboard showing. After being refloated and her coal discharged she went for repairs.

Captain Petrie was relieved by Captain David George. But after those repairs had been completed four months later, she was thrown against the Santa Rosalia sea wall in a hurricane on 29th June 1911. In that accident one sailor was killed and the rudder was badly damaged, and that necessitated a further delay for repairs. Despite being insured and with commanding a good freight rate on its 4,800 ton cargo, it was a voyage in which the unfortunate ship made a loss for her owner.

The ornate figurehead of the Olivebank.
The ornate figurehead of the Olivebank.

On completion of the voyage the Olivebank was sold in August 1913 to E. Monson. The next news of the ship came when she went to Rederi/As Heinschien of the same port. Two years later she went to The Kristiansand Shipping Co. They renamed her Caledonia and also kept her for two years before selling her to J. Lorentzen of the same port. In 1924 the ship was once again sold after a two year period of ownership. This time she went to Gustav Erikson of Mariehamn, Finland. Captain Erikson had always been a firm believer that a ship’s name should never be changed, so the first thing he did was to give Olivebank her original name back. With no cargoes offering, the Olivebank sailed on spec from her new Mariehamn port of registration to Cardiff looking for a coal cargo. But because there was nothing available anywhere in South Wales, she once again sailed on spec, this time in 93 days to Port Lincoln in ballast under Captain Troberg.

After receiving orders to load at Port Victoria, Olivebank loaded wheat and then had a slow 147 day passage back to Falmouth for orders. So slow had the passage been, that Captain Troberg wasn’t a bit surprised to learn on his arrival that he’d been posted ‘posted missing’ by Lloyds. On discharging no outward cargoes were available, so once again Olivebank went out to Port Lincoln ‘light ship’ looking for a cargo, and once again she took 93 days to get there. With nothing available her new master Captain Granith received orders that a cargo of guano was awaiting him in the Seychelles. On 24th April 1926 he sailed his ship from Melbourne for Mahe, arriving there on 27th June. The cargo was loaded and he sailed for Dunedin on 16th August 1926 arriving there on 13th November.

From then on the Olivebank joined in on the grain races with a large number of other sailing vessels. Those grain races had in fact begun in 1921 and ended in 1939. It was an annual event and the winners in order of year from 1921 being, Marlborough Hill, Milverton, Beatrice, Grief, Beatrice, L’Avenir, Herzogin Cecilie, Herzogin Cecilie, Archibald Russell, Pommern, Herzogin Cecilie, Parma, Parma, Parma, Passat, Priwall, Herzogin Cecilie, Pommern, Passat, Passat, Moshulu, Viking, Passat.

The Olivebank took part in 13 of those grain races, and although she had the capabilities to win she never won any of them. However, Gustav Erikson’s ships won 18 of the 23 races which ended at the outbreak of WW2.

During those Grain Races the Olivebank was under the command of the following:

1929-1931 Captain K. F. Lindgren, from 1931-1933 Captain J. M. Mattson, from 1933-1937 Captain A. L. Lindvall, and from 1937- 1939 Captain C. Granith

S1605-30- Olivebank 2a

After having discharged her Australian wheat at Barry Docks, it was on 29th August 1939, which was six days before the declaration of WW2 that Olivebank sailed from Barry to her home port of Mariehamn. However, on her arrival at the South Wales coaling port, a number of apprentices paid off and took a ferry back to Finland. They had done their time and wanted to sit for their tickets. As a result the short handed Olivebank left for Mariehamn with a crew of 21. With Finland being a neutral country a large Finnish flag was painted on each of her ship’s sides as well as the hatch tarpaulins. Just to be on the safe side her boats were kept swung out. When the ship was off Dover a British destroyer approached with the information that the Royal Navy had not sown any minefields on Olivebank’s proposed route, but strongly suspected that the Germans had. Captain Granith therefore posted two look-outs day and night, one the foc’sle head and the other up aloft. Ten days after leaving Barry and when the ship was in the North Sea, Olivebank ran into a minefield near Bovbjerg off the Danish coast. But because the water was comparatively calm and shallow, the anchored mines which should have been about ten feet below the water were visible and floating on top. On the lookout’s three bell ring, and his verbal report of “Mine Right Ahead”, Captain Granith ordered the wheel hard over. The Olivebank missed that mine but as she swung around she hit another that was submerged in deeper water. The result of the explosion was catastrophic. Masts, yards and other spars came crashing down, the ship’s empty hold filled rapidly and the ship quickly developed a port list. So quickly did everything happen that those onboard could do nothing except jump over the side and swim for their lives. Nobody on board was wearing a life jacket and those in the water could only grasp at anything that was buoyant and hold on to it. The 47 year old Olivebank quickly sank.

Fortunately for some of the crew, the ship had sunk in shallow water with a heavy list to port, with the fore upper t’gallant yard sticking up out of the water and pointing skywards. Seven of the crew managed to reach it and lash themselves onto it. But they had to wait there all night and most of the next day in the cold waters of the North Sea before rescue arrived. Eventually a trawler named Talona, whose skipper was Captain Soren Hansen approached the sunken wreck. He took the seven survivors off and landed them at Esbjerg. Fourteen men had perished in the sinking with Captain Carl Granith being one of them.


S1605-31- Trafalgar

In 1893 the company brought in the four masted iron ship Trafalgar which had been built in 1877. Her builder was Charles Connell of Glasgow, yard number 106, while the first owners were the Australian brothers W. & A. Brown of Sydney. Captain Brown was the ship’s first commander. The Glasgow registered Trafalgar was 1,765 grt with dimensions of 271.5 × 39.3 × 23.4 feet. While she was under Brown Brother’s ownership, the Trafalgar was involved in a collision with George Smith’s City Line barque City of Corinth in March 1888, the incident occurred off the Isle of Wight and the latter ship foundered. On buying the Trafalgar Andrew Weir immediately had her converted to a barque. After loading coal at Cardiff, Trafalgar made a 31 day passage to Rio de Janeiro. On discharge she sailed to New York in ballast and loaded case oil for the Dutch East Indies. But later in the year whilst she was still on her first trip for Andrew Weir, and after discharging the case oil at Batavia, disaster struck! The incident was later reported in the Melbourne Times:

The four masted barque Trafalgar left Batavia in the Dutch East Indies on 29th October 1893 with ‘Java Fever’ on board. The captain died before the ship had sailed and the first mate succeeded to the command signing on another man to take his own place, with one of the sailors acting as second mate. On their way across the Indian Ocean the new master, Captain Richard Roberts, and his new first mate both succumbed to the Java Fever plague and died. The navigation of the ship then fell upon the shoulders of the acting third mate William Shotton, an 18 year old lad who was still serving his apprenticeship. The second mate who had been promoted from the crew proved to be worse than useless and William Shotton sent him back to the foc’sle. Imagine the task the boy had to face. There was only one other man left on board who could take a trick at the wheel, a sail maker named Kennedy. The rest of the crew for the most part had either died or been stricken with the deadly disease. Yet William Shotton brought the barque safely into Melbourne, riding out a gale and faring up dauntlessly. The Trafalgar arrived at Port Phillip a week before Christmas. The Victorian Government presented Mr Shotton with a gold watch and chain in recognition of his gallantry. Later on he was the recipient of a Lloyds Silver Medal.

Eleven years later on 11th November 1904, the Trafalgar was wrecked 20 miles South of Tamandare, Brazil. She was on passage with a cargo of wheat from Sydney towards Falmouth for orders.


S1605-31- Falklandbank

Built in 1894 by Mackie & Thompson for Andrew Weir, yard number 78, the three masted fully rigged ship Falklandbank registered 1,913 gross tons. Her other dimensions were 265 x 39 x 24 feet. Of the scraps of information found on this ship, one is she collided with the Belgian steamer Switzerland, Captain Doxrud, at Antwerp on 5th July 1905. As a result eight plates on the steamers hull were stove in and left a 30 inch hole below the waterline on the starboard side. Most fortunately the Switzerland’s cargo had been discharged. A claim for £4,000 was made against the Falklandbank and the tug Flying Serpent, the towing line which parted was the cause of the accident. She met her end in the winter of 1907-1908.

Transcript from the Liverpool Mercury, 9th May 1908

Grave anxiety is being manifested in Liverpool for the safety of the steel ship Falklandbank, which is overdue on her voyage from Liverpool and Port Talbot towards Caleta Beuno. She arrived in Liverpool on 2nd October 1907 from Caleta Beuno to load for the West Coast of South America (WCSA) through the agents William Lowden & Co., 17 Water Street. The crew signed on at the Central Shipping Office in Canning Place with a large number of her men coming from Liverpool. Prior to leaving the Mersey she was in Glover’s Graving Dock and should have been in good sailing condition.

She left Liverpool on 24th October 1907 and arrived at the Welsh loading port two days later where she remained until 9th November when she sailed for Valparaiso. She was in contact two days after leaving port in 49° North and 8° West, and then again in 31° South 46° West by the Italian ship Checco which arrived in Montevideo on 27th December.

The American ship Kenilworth had been caught in a heavy gale, otherwise known as a Pampero on 30th December off the River Plate. She was thrown onto her beam ends which resulted in her subsequent loss. It is feared that the Falklandbank was possibly overtaken by the same gale, as she would have been in the same position at the time. Captain J. A. Robbins her master has been 35 years in active service and for the past ten years had been in the employ of Andrew Weir & Co. of Glasgow. At about the same time that the Pampero hit the River Plate region, a terrific storm was raging off Cape Horn which resulted in the loss of six ships. It is a possibility that the Faklandbank was there at the time. The Falklandbank has to date been 180 days out of port. The Liverpool ship Barcore left Barry nine days after the Falklandbank and arrived at Caleta Colosa on 20th March 1908 after a passage of 123 days.

The continued absence of the Falklandbank is causing great anxiety in shipping circles and it is feared she has been lost with her crew of 30 men. Although several of the Liverpool crew deserted at Port Talbot, it is known that many of those who sailed in her come from the Mersey port.

The Sailing Ships Of Andrew Weir Shipping And Trading Co. Ltd.

NameBuiltBuildersIn ServiceTonsFate
Willowbank1861Wigham, Richardson1885-18958821895 – sunk in collision off Portland
Anne Main1867Alexander Stephen1886-18964991896 – wrecked at Goto Island
Thornliebank (1)1886Russell & Co.1886-18911,4051891 – fire at Perth
Francis Thorpe1868Richardson, Duck & Co.1888-18901,2571890 – wrecked at Salinas Cruz
Abeona1867Alexander Stephen1888-19001,0041900 – wrecked at Cape Recife
Pomona1867Steele & Co.1889-19021,2531902 – abandoned off The Azores
Hawthornbank1889Russell & Co.1889-19101,3691917 – torpedoed off Scotland
Hazelbank1889Connell & Co.1889-18901,6601890 – wrecked on Goodwin Sands
Elmbank1890Russell & Co.1890-18942,2881894 – wrecked on Isle of Arran
Sardhana1885Russell & Co.1890-19111,1461911 – wrecked off Uruguay
Comliebank1890Russell & Co.1890-19132,2831913 – abandoned off Bermuda
Dunbritton1875McMillan & Son1891-19061,5361906 – sank in the North Sea
River Falloch1884Russell & Co.1891-19091,6371922 – broken up
Trongate1878Dobie & Co.1891-19179871925 – broken up
Thistlebank1891Russell & Co.1891-19142,4301914 – torpedoed off Ireland
Gowanbank1891Russell & Co.1891-18962,2881896 – abandoned off Cape Horn
Ashbank1891Russell & Co.1891-18922,2921892 – disappeared
Beechbank1892Russell & Co.1892-19132,2881924 – broken up
Fernbank1892McMillan & Son1892-19021,4291902 – wrecked off Mozambique
Oakbank1892McMillan & Son1892-19001,4291900 – wrecked on Serrano Island
Cedarbank1892Mackie & Thompson1892-19132,8251917 – disppeared
Olivebank1892Mackie & Thompson1892-19132,8241939 – mined off Jutland
Trafalgar1877Connell & Co.1893-19041,7681904 – wrecked near Recife
Mennock1876London & Glasgow Eng.1893-19168221923 – wrecked at Punta Lirqen
Levernbank1893Russell & Co.1893-19092,4001909 – abandoned off Scilly Isles
Laurelbank1893Russell & Co.1893-18982,3971898 – disappeared
Forthbank1877Dobie & Co.1894-19091,4221911 – wrecked at Chinchas, Peru
Castlebank1894Russell & Co.1894-18961,6561896 – disappeared
Heathbank1894Russell & Co.1894-19001,6611900 – disappeared
Falklandbank1894Mackie & Thompson1894-19071,9131907 – disappeared
Loch Eck1874Connell & Co.1894-18951,7011906 – dismasted and hulked
Springbank1894Russell & Co.1894-19132,3981920 – wrecked off Stavanger
Isle OF Arran1892Russell & Co.1895-19151,9181915 – sunk by U-boat off Kinsale
Collessie1891Russell & Co.1895-19011,4651901 – wrecked off Chile
Clydebank1877Birrell, Stenhouse & Co.1895-19018931913 – damged and hulked
David Morgan1891Wm. Hamilton & Co.1896-18981,5661898 – disappeared
Perseverance1896McMillan & Son1896-19001,9001900 – disappeared
Thornliebank (2)1896Russell & Co.1896-19132,1051913 – wrecked off Scilly Isles
Allegiance1876Potter & Co.1897-19001,2361900 – abandoned on fire
Loch Ranza1875Connell & Co.1897-19011,1291925 – broken up
Gifford1892Scott & Co.1898-19032,2451903 – wrecked near San Francisco
Gantock Rock1879McMillan & Son1900-19091,6111924 – broken up
Glenbreck1890Duncan & Co.1900-19011,9001901 – disappeared
Ellisland1884Duncan & Co.1908-19102,4261910 – disappeared
Philadelphia1892C. Tecklenborg1912-19151,8051917 – torpedoed off Ireland

The company also bought the sailing ships Poseidon (built 1881) in 1908, and Marion Frazer (built 1892) in 1911 and converted them into storage hulks

Olivebank at Port Chalmers N.Z. Taken after 1900 judging by the steamers…

  • 1892 Named: OLIVEBANK for Andrew Weir and Co. (Bank Line), Glasgow. Flag: United Kingdom
  • Maiden voyage under command of Capt. J.N. Petrie.
  • 1900 Passage from Melbourne to Falmouth in 87 days.
  • 1909 Passage from Santa Rosalia, California to Newcastle N.S.W. in 60 days.
  • 25.02.1911, when under command of Capt. David George her cargo of coal caught fire in the harbour of Santa Rosalia, she grounded due to the amount of water pumped in to extinguish the fire. Refloated and repaired.
  • 29.06.1911 Thrown against a breakwater by a hurricane at Santa Rosalia and sustained minor damage to her stern and rudder. One man of her crew was killed in the accident.
  • During 1913 Passage from Callao to Newcastle N.S.W. in 56 days and back to Antofagasta in 52 days
  • 08.1913 Sold to A/S Olivebank (E Monsen and Co. managers) at Tvedestrand, Norway. Flag: Norway
  • 09.1916 Sold to Tvedestrands Rederi A/S (J.A. Henschien, manager), Tvedestrand for NKr. 935.000.
  • 1918 Sold to Christianssands Shipping Co. Ltd., Kristiansand, Norway.
  • 09.1920 Sold to Skibs A/S Otra (Lars Jørgensen manager), Kristiansand.
  • 08.1922 Sold for 85.000 Kroner to A/S Caledonia (John J Lorentzen, Kristiania (Oslo), Norway, renamed CALEDONIA.
  • 1923 Sailed from Campbellton to Adelaide in 122 days.
  • 1924 Sailed from Melbourne to Queenstown in 113 days. (Basil Lubbock gives the year 1925 for this voyage.)
  • 10.1924 Sold to Captain Gustav Erikson at Mariehamn, renamed again OLIVEBANK, made her first voyage for Erikson under command of Captain K Tørberg. Flag: Finland
  • 1924 Sailed from Cardiff, U.K to Port Lincoln in 93 days, made that voyage in ballast.
  • 24.04.1926 Sailed in ballast from Melbourne for the Seychelles to load guano for New Zealand. Failing to round Cape Leeuwin, the captain turned round and sailed through the Torres Straits, arriving at Mahe on 27 June after a passage of 64 days. At that time it was said that she was the largest sailing vessel ever went through the Torrens Straits.
  • 16.08.1926 Sailed again from Mahe and after a passage of 89 days she arrived at Dunedin, New Zealand on 13 Nov. Thereafter mostly used in the grain trade from Australia to Europe till World War II. After she had discharged her cargo of wheat from Australia at Barry Docks, Captain Carl Granith received orders to proceed to Mariehamn her homeport.
  • 29.08.1939 sailed from Barry in ballast, with a total of 21 crew, some crewmembers had left the ship at Barry to be in time for the start of the Navigation School in Finland.
  • 08.09.1939 About 105 miles west by south from Bovbjerg, hit by a hidden mine and sunk. 7 men were save on board the Danish trawler TALONA from Esbjerg under command of Capt. Soren Hansen, the vessel steamed to Esbjerg
  • 11.09.1939 Landed the men at that port. The consulate of Finland informed the authorities in Finland; thereafter their voyage home was arranged.

N.B. The men clung to the spars and rigging which fortunately were above sea level

Sailing ship Willowbank – the first ship owned by Andrew Weir starting out as a ship owner…

Willowbank SV (+1895)WILLOWBANK SV was originally the full rigged ship Ambrose, with double top sails. Originally ordered by J Smirthwaite of Sunderland and launched by Master Ambrose Schilizzi (son of the owner) in 1885: When bought by Andrew Weir it started the nomenclature for his fleet (to be) having “Bank” as a theme for the ships. On the 22nd December 1895 at 4:30 am in thick weather with a Sw gale running, SV WILLOWBANK was in collision with the Red Star liner SS Berlin (5,526/95) and sank in 5 minutes, 12 miles west of Portland. Ss Berlin was on a cruise en-route from Antwerp to New York, while SV WILLOWBANK, loaded with nitrate was making for Hamburg via Falmouth from Caleta Buena. One life was lost.

S S Empire Miniver (Andrew Weir’s Management)

EMPIRE MINIVER SS was a British Cargo Steamer of 5,724 tons; 410×54.2 ft; Built in 1918 as the West Cobalt, for the US Shipping Board, Portland, Oregon, Usa. In 1918-19 she was transferred to the US Navy – Naval Overseas Transportation Service. In 1933 she was purchased by Lykes Bros – Ripley SS Co, Galveston, Texas. In 1940 she was renamed EMPIRE MINIVER and requisioned by Mowt and managed by A.Weir & Co.

On the 18th October 1940 when on route from Baltimore – Sydney (5 Oct) – Newport, Monmouthshire carrying a cargo of 4,500 tons of pig iron and 6,200 tons of steel in Convoy SC-7 when she was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-99 about 100 miles W by S of Barra Head. Three crew members were lost. The master and 34 crew members were picked up by HMS Bluebell (k 80) (LtCdr Robert E. Sherwood) and landed at Greenock on 20 October.

Carronbank, the third ship in the 17 ship order from Harlands in 1957. Easy ships to work, and comfortable. (See the account on this site of the voyage in her sister ship Crestbank)

Change of ownership to Tafimar Navigation Co. Ltd. and name to Aris Carrier1974, change of ownership to Eurabia International Ltd. and name to Eurabia Ocean 1976, change of ownership to Central Trading & Shipping Co. Ltd. and name to Neptun 1979, change of ownership to Pro-Verde Shipping SA and name to Maystar 1980. Taken to Bombay for breaking at Indian Metal Traders 6 September 1982.

The lead ship of an 18 ship order in 1924. Motor vessel Inverbank. Built in Govan, Scotland. She came through WW2 unscathed and served 34 years – a true Bank Line “work horse”, complete with deck houses and the trademark lattice derricks. Primitive conditions on board, but loved by all who circled the globe on her….

This ship was twin screw, with all that that meant. Proceeding on one engine from time to time!

TypeCargo Ship
Original Owners and ManagersBank Line Ltd.
Country First RegisteredUK
ShipbuilderHarland & Wolff
Country where builtUK
Yard Number643g
Official Number147899
Call SignGKML
Classification SocietyLloyd’s Register
Gross Tonnage5,149
Deadweight (DWT)N/K
Net Tonnage3,113
Length420.4 Ft.
Overall LengthN/K
Breadth or Beam53.9 Ft.
Depth26.5 Ft.
Engine TypeDiesel Engines
Engine Details4S.C.SA 12 cylinder oil engines with bore 24 13/16″ and stroke 37 13/16″
Engine BuilderHarland & Wolff
Engine Builder WorksGlasgow
Engine Builder CountryUK
Boiler DetailsN/A
Propulsion TypeTwin Screw
Power717 MN
Maximum Speed12kts or more on a good day.

Additional Construction Information

  • 1 steel deck and steel shelter deck

Career Highlights

24 March 1924Launched
29 May 1924Completed

Crew and Capacity Information

Cargo CapacityN/K

Status and Service History Information

StatusBroken Up
Service History InformationKeel laid down as Boveric in 1924, change of name to Inverbank by time of launching, change of ownership to Frassinetti & C Soc Italiana di Nav pA and name to La Liguria 1958. Taken to La Spezia for breaking by CN Tomaso di Savoia 23 September 1959.


One of the 21 ship order from Doxford’s in Sunderland built during the period 1957 to 1964. The mast and funnel were incorported into the bridge structure on this vessel, similar to the new ‘ Taybank’ series commenced by the same builder in 1963. Judging from online comments from ex Bank Line staff who sailed with this configuration, it was not a success.

15 YEARS WITH BANK LINE and sold to greeks and named nikitas f
TypeCargo Ship
Original Owners and ManagersBank Line Ltd.
Country First RegisteredUK
ShipbuilderW. Doxford & Sons
ShipyardPallion, Sunderland
Country where builtUk
Yard Number862
Official Number304174
Call SignN/K
Classification SocietyN/K
Gross Tonnage8,403
Deadweight (DWT)12190
Net TonnageN/K
Length137.5 Metres
Overall Length148.5 Metres
Breadth or Beam19 Metres
Engine TypeDiesel Engine
Engine DetailsN/K
Engine BuilderN/K
Engine Builder WorksN/K
Engine Builder CountryN/K
Boiler DetailsN/K
Propulsion TypeSingle Screw
Maximum Speed15

Career Highlights

14 January 1964Launched
April 1964Completed

Crew and Capacity Information

Cargo CapacityN/K

Status and Service History Information

StatusBroken Up
Service History InformationChange of ownership to Atticksky Cia Maritima SA and name to Nikitas F. 1979, change of ownership to Newport Marine Ltd. and name to Nonos 1987. Taken to Alang for breaking by R.I. Kalathia & Co. 2 March 1990.

War built Hollybank 1942. In the fleet 1944 to 1953

Completed as Empire Southey
Original Owners and ManagersBank Line Ltd.
Country First RegisteredUK
ShipbuilderShort Bros.
ShipyardPallion, Sunderland
Country where builtUK
Yard Number471
Official Number169023
Call SignBDXY
Classification SocietyLloyds Register
Gross Tonnage7,041
Deadweight (DWT)10385
Net Tonnage4,954
Length431 Ft.
Overall Length446.5 Ft.
Breadth or Beam56.3 Ft.
Depth35.2 Ft.
Engine TypeTriple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine DetailsCylinders of bore 24.5″, 39″ and 70″ and stroke 48″
Engine BuilderN.E. Marine Engineering Co (1988) Ltd.
Engine Builder WorksSunderland
Engine Builder CountryUK
Boiler Details3 single-ended boilers operating at 220 psi
Propulsion TypeSingle Screw
Power510 MN
Maximum Speed11

S.S. Glenardle – a first hand account of life onboard in 1936

This was an interesting ship purchased by Andrew Weir when she was 11 years old. Built in Greenock in 1921 for the Norwegians with a steam triple expansion engine, and only owned for 6 years by Bank Line between 1932 and 1938. ( Can see why?) Sold to the Turks, she served for 25 years under the Turkish flag giving a total lifespan of 42 years.

Oakbank,Weirbank,Lindenbank and Taybank montage..

Three vessels from the 21 ship order to Wm Doxford in 1957. Plus the Taybank. It took 7 years to buld all 21 vessels.
Histories: Lindenbank stranded at Fanning Island when 14 years old. Yewbank was trapped for 8 years in the Shatt El Arab when she was the Capetan Costas.Weirbank was sold after 17 years. The Taybank was the lead ship of a new slightly bigger series of a further 11 vessels.

The 1955 built Foylebank

The Harland built Foylebank, the fifth ship delivered from the Beaverbank class. They were a great success, ideally suited to the Pacific Copra trade back to Europe, and the main hope to get home for the officers on board! Never guaranteed, but a six month voyage USA,Australasia,Pacifc home was always on the cards. Still built with wood deck sheathing. The simple layout was ideal in a world before the bogeyman of containerisation arrived. The Foylebank had an 18 year career with Weir’s and another 10 years under the Cypriot flag before being scrapped at Alang in 1983. Happy memories…..

Teesbank – one of 4 ships built by W Doxford in 1937. Sunk by U128 in mid Atlantic December 1942. U128 was herself sunk 5 months later.

Here is an account of the ordeal in the lifeboats borne by the Officers and crew

Motor merchant
5,136 tons
1937 – William Doxford & Sons Ltd, Sunderland 
Andrew Weir & Co, London 
5 Dec 1942:      
Sunk by U-128 (Ulrich Heyse)
P3° 33’N, 29° 35’W – Grid ER 9814
62 (1 dead and 61 survivors).
Port Said – Port Elizabeth (18 Nov) – Georgetown, Demerara 
Completed in June 1937 
At 05.46 hours on 5 Dec 1942 the unescorted Teesbank (Master William George Lorains) was hit on the port side in the #5 hold by two G7a torpedoes from U-128 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 13 knots in fine weather about 160 miles north of St. Paul Rocks. The explosions threw a large column of water up, blew the hatches off #5 hold and the derricks over the side and only slightly damaged the deck, but the aerial was carried away and the rigging fouled the emergency aerial so no distress signals could be sent. The engines were shut down immediately as they began to race due to damage to the propeller shaft and water was entering the engine room. While the ship began to settle by the stern with a heavy list to starboard, the most of the 52 crew members and nine gunners (the ship was armed with one 4.7in, one 12pdr, two 20mm and four machine guns) began to abandon ship in the four lifeboats. The U-boat fired a coup de grâce from a stern torpedo tube at 06.00 hours, but missed due to a gyroscope malfunction, so a second was fired ten minutes later that hit on the port side between #4 deep tank and the engine room. The master, chief and second officer, chief engineer and radio officer were still aboard when the G7a torpedo struck and the port aft boat still alongside was swamped by the explosion and violently thrown forward into the other port lifeboat which was extensively damaged. The former was also hit by a large piece of debris that injured two of the Lascars, one of them mortally. Those remaining aboard quickly left in the starboard aft boat in which the emergency wireless set had been lowered. All four boats pulled clear from the sinking ship, the port aft boat around to the starboard side to join the others, while the boat in charge of the second officer pulled ahead and was some distance away when the U-boat approached the group of three boats. The Germans asked questions about the name of the ship, port of departure, destination and cargo to which the chief engineer answered with wrong information, but they learned the correct details when asking the second officer afterwards. The master was taken prisoner by U-128, transferred to U-461 (Stiebler) on 10 December and taken to the POW Camp Milag Nord after being landed at St. Nazaire on 3 Jan 1943. Before the U-boat left, they gave the survivors the distance and course to the coast of Brazil. The Teesbank eventually sank vertically by the stern about 30 minutes after being hit by the coup de grâce.The port forward boat in charge of the chief officer proved to be too badly damaged, so all gear and provisions and nearly all Europeans were transferred to the port aft boat in charge of the third officer that then was occupied by 19 men. The chief officer took over the starboard forward boat in which the master was with 20 men in it. The starboard aft boat held 21 men and was in charge of the second officer. While preparing for sailing they discovered that the emergency wireless set had been damaged or got wet during lowering and was useless. At noon, all boats set sail but soon the port aft boat fell behind as it was a motor boat and the weight of the engine slowed down its progress. Some extra rations were transferred to it by the other boats which then went ahead. These two boats managed to keep together all the time, carrying on for nine and a half days until being picked up by West Maximus in position 01°57S/37°38W on 14 December, after covering a distance of 598 miles. To attract her attention a red smoke float was burned, but a gunner had already spotted their red sails from a distance of about 10 miles. The 41 survivors were landed at Rio de Janeiro on 22 December. At 22.30 hours on 15 December, the 19 survivors in the remaining boat were picked up by East Wales, but she was herself torpedoed and sunk by U-159 (Witte) less than 24 hours later. Nevertheless all men from Teesbank survived, were picked up by the Swedish motor merchant Gullmaren after six days and landed at Natal, Brazil on 23 December. 

Inverlee – the tragic story…

At 03.00 hours on 19 Oct 1941 the Inverlee (Master Thomas Edward Alexander) was hit on the starboard side amidships in #16 tank abaft the bridge by a torpedo from U-204 while steaming on a zigzag course at 6 knots about 30 miles 240° from Cape Spartel, Morocco. The tanker was under escort by the British armed trawlers HMS Lady Hogarth (4.89) (Lt S.G. Barnes, RNR) and HMS Stella Carina (FY 352) (Lt J.V. Lobb, RANVR) since 15 October. The explosion blew oil all over the vessel, set the bridge on fire and damaged the steering gear, so she went out of control and took immediately a list to port. As the flames were increasing, the crew of 38 men and five gunners (the ship was armed with one 4.7” and four machine guns) stopped the engines and began to abandon ship in the four lifeboats, but the one on port aft was badly damaged upon launch and became waterlogged. The starboard aft boat was launched successfully on the weather side in choppy seas and broke many oars by pushing it away from the ship’s side. At 03.13 hours, a second torpedo struck on the starboard side a little forward from the first, probably in #15 tank and ignited the fuel, causing a huge explosion with a terrific flash that was seen by the nearby U-83 (Kraus) and HMS Haarlem (FY 306) (Lt L.B. Merrick, RNR) about 28 miles away. The explosion was so powerful that it blew out the fires and broke the back of the ship, which sagged in the middle with the tops of the mainmast and foremast nearly meeting, the bridge being submerged and the stern about 30 feet out of the water. The fire later broke out again when fuel leaked out of the tanker. Unfortunately the torpedo had hit directly underneath the starboard forward lifeboat that was being lowered and lifted it from the falls, sending the occupants hurling in all directions and killing the men lowering the boat, including the master, the chief officer and the radio operator. The third mate and the helmsman later managed to reboard this boat and rescued several people swimming in the water. The starboard aft boat was washed back on deck and badly damaged when it hit the superstructure, throwing all occupants into the sea except one boy who managed to jump back on deck, walked to the stern and remained there alone until daylight, when he was taken off by an officer from one of the armed trawlers who boarded the tanker after rowing to her in a jolly boat. Two other men were later taken off this badly damaged lifeboat by a trawler just before it sank. About 03.30 hours, the last men abandoned ship in the waterlogged port boat and were picked up three hours later by HMS Lady Hogarth while HMS Stella Carina screened the rescue operation. HMS Duncan (D 99) (LtCdr A.N. Rowell, RN) arrived in the meantime and searched for the U-boat, doing so she found four survivors from the tanker and picked them up. Another survivor was picked up by HMS Haarlem. At daylight, the Inverlee was reboarded when the fire subsided, but she was found so badly damaged that towing operations were impossible and a Catalina flying boat later reported that the wreck was seen to sink at about noon on 19 October. The master 19 crew members and one gunner were lost. The survivors, five of them injured, were landed at Gibraltar the next day and eventually returned to England aboard the CAM ship Empire Darwin in convoy HG-76. However, one of the survivors was lost on passage to the UK when Annavore was torpedoed and sunk in the same convoy.Following this sinking, the corvettes of the 37th Escort Group were sent from Gibraltar to carry out an anti-submarine sweep off Cape Spartel and sank U-204 west of Tangier the following evening. 

Birchbank – twin screw / straight stem Bombed in 1943

NameOfficial numberFlagIMOBIRCHBANK 147917 GBR  Year builtDate launchedDate completed1924 02/06/1924 04/09/1924 Vessel typeVessel description Cargo   Steel Motor Vessel  BuilderYardYard noHarland & Wolff Ltd., Govan 656  

TonnageLengthBreadthDepthDraft5151 grt / 3161 nrt / 420.4 ft 53.9 ft 26.5 ft  Engine builderHarland & Wolff Ltd., GovanEngine detailM 2 x 6cyl 4SCSA (630x960mm), 717nhp, 2 screws 

First ownerFirst port of registerRegistration dateBank Line Ltd. – A. Weir & Co., Glasgow Glasgow  Other names Subsequent owner and registration history Laid down as FORERIC. Vessel history Remarks End yearFate / Status1943 Bombed 11/11/1943 Disposal DetailBombed and sunk by German aircraft in 36.10N – 00.06W off Mostaganem, Algeria on passage Liverpool to Alexandria and Port Said with military stores. 


« « BackNameOfficial numberFlagIMOHAWTHORNBANK 96091 GBR  Year builtDate launchedDate completed1889 14/09/1889  Vessel typeVessel description Cargo   Steel Sailing Vessel 3 Masted Barque BuilderYardYard noRussell & Co, Port GlasgowBay Yard 212  

TonnageLengthBreadthDepthDraft1369 grt / 1288 nrt / 231.3 ft 36.1 ft 21.6 ft  Engine builder, Engine detail 

First ownerFirst port of registerRegistration dateAndrew Weir, Glasgow Glasgow 28/09/1889 Other names Subsequent owner and registration history c1908 The Bank line ltd – mng Andrew Weir, Glasgow
1910 A/S Hawthornbank – mng J A Henschien & Co, Lillesand, Norway
1915 Alexander Prebensen, Risør, Norway
1915 Motorselskab Marienborg – mng V Henckel, Kalundborg DNK – reg Kalundborg?
 Vessel history Remarks End yearFate / Status1917 Torpedoed 25/04/1917 Disposal DetailSunk by German submarine U-58 (Kurt Wippern), 35 miles NxE from North Rona (Buenos Aires for Svendborg with maize). 9 crew were lost.  

The Boularibank, built in Finland 1983 for the Russian Far East Fleet. Quite a specification with a ro/ro ramp, 17 kts, and 576 teu container capacity. Served on the Pacific Island round the world service, and fitted with four double and four single berth passenger cabins.

The history of these ships – Built for the Russians – purchased by Bank Line 1995. Named Foylebank, Speybank, Arunbank, and Teignbank (above). After 2003 Swire shipping took over, chartering in the ships. In 2006, the Bank Line name was taken out, and in 2007 the ships served on Westbound round-the-world service. A mjor refit took place on all 4 ships, and they were renamed. The new names were:

Foylebank became Gazellebank
Teignbank became Boularibank (above)
Speybank became Mahinabank
Arunbank became Tikeibank

The last sailing was the Mahinabank in 2009.

Footnote: Opinions vary, but it is safe to say that many mariners found the profile unattractive. However, they were much loved by those who served on them as evidenced by some personal memories relayed elsewhere on this site!

(search for Tikeibank AND Gazellebank – 2 individual accounts)

Alynbank – twin screw 6 cylinder engines. Her war exploits…

Built 1925, taken over by the Government and turned into an anti aircraft ship in 1939 at the start of WW2. Served on Russian convoy escort duties, then followed by support for the North Africa and Salerno landings by the Allies. In 1944 became the eastern breakwater off Arromanches on D Day.

1925 Larchbank

One of the 18 ship order from Harland and Wolff Ltd, placed in 1924. This was one of the biggest single orders of the time. Only 3 made it into old age, and one of these the Forresbank was wrecked after 33 years service.

9 of the 18 ships were lost in WW2. The Larchbank (above) was torpedoed in 1943 near the Maldive Islands by a Japanese submarine. All 37 crew plus 9 others were killed or drowned.

Olivebank (chartered in for the SafBank service). Seen here as Rickmers Nanjing.

The various short term charters and services in the 80’s and 90’s illustrate the struggle that took place in the Bank Line to survive and to establish lasting trades in a rapidly changing, turbulant, and highly competitive shipping world. The advent of the so called ‘ container revolution’ was nothing less than a maritime trading Tsunami to shipping lines, both Liner and Tramp. Looking back from the luxury of 30 years on, it is clear that the Bank Line, along with many other companies were in their worldwide death throes, thrashing around, changing tonnage and ship types, routes ,and services in a monumental effort to find stability. It all failed. However, we are left with amazing memories and a glorious 100 year plus history to celebrate. This company, along with other famous defunct names, remains an important part of British Maritime History.

Built in Norway at Tonsberg as the M.V. Nara in 1977 with a container capacity of 536 teu’s.

Completed 1977 
Subsequent History: 

Disposal Data: 
BU Alang 20.3.99 

S.S.Empire Miniver. torpedoed by U99 (again)

EMPIRE MINIVER SS was a British Cargo Steamer of 5,724 tons; 410×54.2 ft; Built in 1918 as the West Cobalt, for the US Shipping Board, Portland, Oregon, Usa. In 1918-19 she was transferred to the US Navy – Naval Overseas Transportation Service. In 1933 she was purchased by Lykes Bros – Ripley SS Co, Galveston, Texas. In 1940 she was renamed EMPIRE MINIVER and requisioned by Mowt and managed by A.Weir & Co.

On the 18th October 1940 when on route from Baltimore – Sydney (5 Oct) – Newport, Monmouthshire carrying a cargo of 4,500 tons of pig iron and 6,200 tons of steel in Convoy SC-7 when she was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-99 (Otto Kretshner)about 100 miles W by S of Barra Head. Three crew members were lost. The master and 34 crew members were picked up by HMS Bluebell (k 80) (LtCdr Robert E. Sherwood) and landed at Greenock on 20 October.

Sailing vessel Gowanbank abandoned off Cape Horn

Built in 1891 and survived for 5 years before being lost off CapeHorn with a cargo of coal. (Click on the link below for the findings of the Court of Enquiry). They found that the Master abandoned the ship prematurely – see the evidence and decide for yourself?

Any Budding Sailors? – a book detailing a life and career in shipping. Extract below……

The route from Durban to Calcutta and back took in many ports up and down the East African coast, and anchoring played a major part in our progress.   Anchoring was  also regularly resorted to on the Indian and Bangladeshi ports in the Sunderbans, Chittagong being the most important, where we often loaded very heavy bundles of tough, shiny, straw coloured Jute, and bales of Gunny bags for East African ports.  Work went on through the night, and one of our duties as apprentices was to ensure that the gangs in the holds filled all the space right up between the beams – not an easy task.   This was accomplished by many hands all working in unison to repetitive chants, not unlike European sea shanties of old, with a leader calling out and a chorus responding.  It was impressive and usually carried out with good humour and diligence.    By this means, prodigious weights could be lifted up and rammed home. Lighting was provided by portable clusters as they were known, and these had a circle of bulbs for maximum effect.  Keeping the bulbs  replaced and re- positioning the clusters around the hold was another job for the apprentice on duty, and in a tropical downpour it could be dangerous and unpredictable as they became soaked and shorted out.      Our Chinese carpenter amused us by sticking his fingers in the sockets to test for power.   The Inchanga and her sister Isipingo were also designed with 4 small reefer spaces in number 4 hatch tweendeck, and these were in regular use for a variety of produce in bags.  I can recall freezing nights in these spaces tallying bags in and out, whilst outside it was the lovely balmy atmosphere of a  tropical night .     The temptation to step outside was countered by the knowledge that pilfering or irregularities could so easily occur in our absence.     It was a relief when the heavy thick doors of these lockers, as they were called, were finally slammed shut.

The longest spell at sea occurred between Colombo or Mombasa or vis versa, when a wooden swimming pool would be erected in the well adjacent to number 2 hatch, below the bridge.   It was a crude, unimpressive affair, but it served the purpose and was popular with passengers and officers alike.   Often, the water would slosh alarmingly from side to side as we rolled, and care was needed not to slosh someone straight over the side as the top of the pool side was slightly above the adjacent gunwale!      It was a million miles away from modern pools on passenger ships.  

The dining saloon had a table reserved for the apprentices and although we shared a the menu, there were occasions when certain items were off limits to us and reserved solely for passengers.   Getting out of working gear, and into whites in order to eat in the saloon was also a  bind, and we preferred to eat outside if it was possible. 

Arriving and leaving port my role was assisting the Mate on the Foc’sle, and I had personal charge of the wooden painted anchor buoy which served such a useful role in fast flowing muddy waters.  This was simply a float attached to an anchor fluke by thin wire, and coiled up and secured on the rail with sail twine ready for use. When the anchor flew out, the twine lashing broke, and the buoy would usually give us a tell tale location of the anchor on the bottom.  It was a rough and ready tool which often went wrong but it was useful in the main.     I learned a lot in that year about anchoring, and the  fascination for a youngster like me at that time was the variety of trash that came up on the flukes. Everything from other people’s anchors, i.e. those from nearby ships, to ropes and wires, and debris of all sorts.     When the windlass started straining  loudly, I knew we had caught a big one!  Washing tons of mud from the flukes with a hose was part of the fun.  It also happened that we often needed to unshackle the anchor to attach the chain to river buoys in some of the ports served. 

Empire Franklin – later the S.S. Hazelbank

A picture taken on the SS Hazelbank, probably in Calcutta. She was a coal burning Empire ship from WW2. Captain Newton (see his profile report elsewhere on this site) second from right at the back. Front row centre is Steve Cutlack, senior Apprentice, and on the left the second mate, Bob Brandt.

Cooling off under the deck line – SS Hazelbank