Some Dundee Ships

By the Late Jerry Wright


ARTHURSTONE: A Dundee Clipper

Launched by Gourlay Brothers in 1876 for D Bruce & Co (The Dundee Clipper Line), an iron built barque. Completed her maiden voyage Dundee - San Francisco in 193 days and returned to Queenstown in 112 days.
In 1888 at Valpariso, Chile, came to the rescue of three sunken ships and five crew received high French awards for saving Etoile du Sud sailors.
In 1892  The Master refused to pay the crew after a period of hard grafting so, in revenge, they killed the Captain's canary. Shore leave was stopped but five men defied the order and returned drunk. The Mate was stabbed in the resulting melee and the Captain seriously injured with an iron bar. After leaving San Francisco she collided with a large iceberg off the Falkland Islands but survived.
Her Dundee registry was closed in 1896 when she was sold to Genoese owners and renamed Speme. She was torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in the Mediterranean Sea on August 8th 1916.


The largest ship to date built by the Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, for Frederick Leyland & Co Ltd of Liverpool. She became notorious by being accused of failing to render assistance to the sinking Titanic in 1912. Apparently within sight of the wreck, she remained stopped until daylight when she went to the assistance of ships already saving survivors. Captain Lord of the Californian was tried and accused by Lord Mersey - a scapegoat had to be found to appease public outcry. It has been proved since, with some certainty, that the Californian was eighteen or so miles from the Titanic, stopped in ice-floes. Other vessels, In particular the Norwegian Samson had been engaged nearby in illicit sealing, were not reported at the Inquiry and have been identified as the one seen from Titanic. Captain Lord of the Californian for many years suffered under the cloud of being a captain who had failed to go to the assistance of a vessel in distress, even though this was never convincingly proved: the Leyland Line asked him to resign. During WW1 he had command of a Nitrate Products Steam Ship Co's ship. He later continued to try to get the Board of Trade to re-open his case, but this was repeatedly refused. In a book published in the early 1960s marine author, Peter Padfield, made an excellent case that the Californian was really 17 to 19 miles away. The book still failed to get the case re-opened. Captain Lord died in 1962 at the age of 84. The CALIFORNIAN survived till November 9th 1915 when she was torpedoed off Cape Matapan by German submarine U-35 whilst on passage from Salonica to Marseilles in ballast.

SS Californian
Captain Stanley Lord
Captain Stanley Lord


BRUSSELS: One of the most sumptuously fitted steamers afloat.

Launched 2nd March 1902 by Gourlay Bros, Dundee, for Great Eastern Railway Co., to operate from Parkeston Quay, Folkeston, to Antwerp. She continued to sail after the outbreak of war. After Captain Charles Fryatt attempted to ram an attacking U-Boat in 1915 he escaped three further U-Boat attacks. The ship was eventually captured by German torpedo-boat destroyers on 23rd June 1916 and taken into Zeebrugge. Two hours after Captain Fryatt faced a summary trial on July 27th for his "war like" acts and was condemned as a franc-tireur he was executed by firing squad and buried just outside Bruges. The outcry in Britain was enormous and in July 1919 Captain Fryatt's body was brought back to London for a Memorial Service in St Paul's Cathedral. The first steam Pilot Cutter, delivered in 1920, was named after Captain Fryatt.

The Germans kept the vessel, renamed the BRUGGE, as a seaplane depot ship until 1918 when they evacuated Zeebrugge and sank her as block ship. The vessel was raised on August 4th 1919 and returned to the Tyne, overhauled at Leith in 1920, she operated as a cattle carrier named LADY BRUSSELS in Irish Sea for various owners until broken up at Port Glasgow 1929.

Charles Fryatt
SS Brussels


TROELUS (D): Short-lived like her earlier namesake

Built 1917 by Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, for the Blue Funnel Line (Alfred Holt & Co) Liverpool.
She was torpedoed and sunk on 17th May 1917 on her maiden voyage from Glasgow to the Far East 140 miles WNW of Malin Head.
TROILUS (I) her identical sister vessel, built on the Tyne 1913, had been sunk 19th October 1914 off Minikay Island by German light cruiser Emden.

SS AGUELA: The Tragedy of Convoy OG-71

Built in 1917 by the Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, for Yeoward Line of Liverpool, a small company whose ships were all built at the Caledon and traded from Liverpool to Portugal, Morocco and the Canary Islands.

SS Aguela
In Convoy OG71 (Outward to Gibraltar) from Liverpool to Gibraltar on 19th August 1941 she was attacked SW of Ireland. Two torpedoes from U-201 struck the vessel, causing her to break in half and sink almost immediately. None of the 21 Wrens on board, the first women's service personnel to be sent abroad, all highly trained telegraphists and cipher officers, survived. A total of 157 lives were lost and only ten survived.
A Wren Officer may have had a presentiment of what was about to come. The Master, Captain Arthur Frith, stepped out of his cabin straight into the sea only to be haunted for the rest of his life by her words only two hours before the sinking; "But this is goodbye for me, and I wish you all the luck in the world, but you don't need my good wishes - you'll survive".

Nicholas Monsarrat, the author, was a Naval Lieutenant in the corvette HMS Campanula and described Convoy OG71 as his worst nightmare.


The fifth of that name, was built in 1939 by Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, as one of the Gleneara Class of fast motor vessels ordered for the Glen Line, part of the Alfred Holt Group, Liverpool, to operate a twice-monthly service on the Far East routes. On delivery she was taken over by the Admiralty and converted into a fast supply ship, flying the white ensign as HMS Glengyle.

SS Glengyle

Subsequently, from April 1940 a conversion was undertaken to make her an unarmoured Landing Ship Infantry (L) capable of carrying 700 troops. She retained a conveyor and two lifting derricks, one forward one aft to be used lift out MLC's (Motorised Landing Craft). Space was provided for 12 LCA's (Landing Craft Assault) and 1 SLC (Support Landing Craft), with 12 special heavy duty davits to carry the LCA's which could be used as lifeboats if the ship was in danger of sinking. The LSI(L) were heavily armed for that time with eight twin 2 pdr Pompoms, four 2 pdr guns and eight 20 mm Oerlikons. After contributing to the training of the first commandos at Inveraray she had a lively wartime career: participating in the evacuation of Greece, the Battle for Crete, the Malta convoys, commando raids on Bardia, Litani River and Dieppe, invasion landings at Oran, Sicily and Salerno. Then, after a major refit was off to the Far East to carry troops to the relief of Hong Kong and Singapore, RAAF personnel to join the occupation forces in Japan and, finally, to bring freed POWs home to the Clyde.

When the ship was returned to Glen Line on 17th July 1946 priority in the overcrowded and overstretched shipyards was being given to the refurbishment of food ships. Consequently, refurbishment was slow and it was not until 3rd March 1948 that MV Glengyle rejoined the fleet after being refitted for.commercial operations by Vickers, Armstrong at Newcastle. In October 1970 she was transferred to Blue Funnel and renamed DEUCALION but only until June of the following year when she was broken up at Kaohsiung.


Laid down 1st February 1940 as Blue Funnel's TELEMACHUS (3) by Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, for the Ocean SS Co Ltd (Alfred Holt & Co) Liverpool. In February 1941 was taken over by the Ministry of Transport and renamed Empire Activity for possible conversion into auxiliary aircraft carrier. In January 1942, still unfinished, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for conversion into an escort aircraft carrier and commissioned as HMS Activity on 15th September.

HMS Activity

With 15 aircraft she was initially used as a deck landing training ship and then, in 1943, as an escort for the North Atlantic and Russian convoys. In April 1944 whilst escorting a Russian convoy hi company with escort carriers HMS Avenger and HMS Tracker her aircraft sank three U-boats. During 1945 she was used to ferry aircraft to the Pacific Fleet and later to carry aircraft spares/stores from Ceylon to the British Fleet. In February 1945 she rescued survivors of the SS Peter Sylvester off Australia
In December 1945 she was relegated to the surplus list and purchased by the Glen Line (Alfred Holt & Co) Liverpool 'as seen' in May 1946 to be converted back to to a Glenearn Class cargo-liner by Palmers Hebburn Co Ltd, Tynesid,e. Again renamed she became BRECONSfflRE and began commercial operations in September 1947. On 20th April 1967 she sailed from Kobe, Japan, en-route to Mihara where she was broken up.


Built by Caledon SB & E Co, Dundee, hi 1942 for the Ministry of War Transport: given to Dover Navigation Co Ltd, London, as manager. Engined by North Eastern Marine,Newcastle-on-Tyne The vessel was specially adapted for work in North Russian Ports equipped with heavy lift gear capable of lifting trams, military vehicles, tanks etc from large ships to the quay.

Empire Bard

Four heavy stump masts required to carry heavy derricks fitted ( 2 x 80 tons & 4 x 5tons S.W.L) gave the vessel an ugly appearance after leaving Dundee loaded, she sailed from Oban in Convoy PQ 14 for Reykjavik & Murmansk on 28 March 1942. 30 hrs of fog and heavy pack ice forced a return to Iceland and she then sailed in Convoy PQ 15 to arrive in Murmansk on May 4th 1942. 'Crane Ships' were required to work between Murmansk and Archangel and after she had left Kola Inlet on 21st September 1943 she was called to stay there until she left Kola Inlet in Convoy RA57 (known locally as the "Empire Bard Convoy") on 2nd March 1944 for Loch Ewe. The convoy speed had to be reduced to 8 1A knots to accommodate her and even then she straggled and had to return to Murmansk at an average of only 6 knots. She finally left Kola Inlet on August 28th in Convoy RA59A and arrived in Loch Ewe on 5th September 1944.

In 1946 Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Co., Ltd., Dundee, re-entered the deep-sea tramp market and purchased Empire Bard in 1946 as one of three general-purpose vessels. Costing £74,500, she was renamed 'Angusborn' and had her heavy gear removed. She, with "Angusbrae" and "Angusmuir", enjoyed a successful career, almost continually employed carrying sugar from Jamaica, esparto grass from Libya, timber from Archangel and iron-ore from North Africa. The Company found all three reliable and they were well liked by their crews. She was converted to oil fuel on Tyneside in 1951 at a cost of nearly £20,000. The vessel was again renamed BRETTENHAM when she was sold to the Brebner Shipping Co., Ltd., London, in 1954 for £90,000. Her name was unchanged in 1955 when she was acquired by Rederi A/B Hildeguaard, Mariehamn, Finland for £130,000 and registered to the port of Marie.