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ALFRED HOLT & CO
THE BLUE FUNNEL LINE

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AUTOLYCUS (2) was built in 1922 by Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd at Hebburn-upon-Tyne with a tonnage of 7736grt, a length of 459ft 2in, a beam of 56ft 4in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Eumaeus she was built for the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. On 6th April 1942, whilst on a voyage from Calcutta to the UK via Sandheads and Durban, she was shelled and sunk by Japanese warships some 50 miles east of Puri in the Bay of Bengal. Sixteen lives were lost and the survivors landed on the coast of Orissa on 8th April 1942. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

ADRASTUS/EURYADES (2) was built in 1923 by Scott's Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 7905grt, a length of 459ft 6in, a beam of 58ft 1in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Eumeaus she was built for the Ocean Steam Ship Co. and at one stage during her career, when she operated as a pilgrim ship to jeddah, she had her boat deck lifeboats paired one above the other. In June 1927 her master hanged himself in his cabin as she approached Penang. Surviving the war she was renamed Euryades in July 1951to release her name for a new building. At the beginning of 1954 she was briefly deployed on the US Pacific coast ports - Philippines - East Indies route before being laid up at Holy Loch in February of that year. On 10th August 1954 she arrived at Faslane where she was broken up by Metal Industries. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

PHEMIUS (2) was built in 1921 by Scotts Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 7669grt, a length of 459ft 1in, a beam of 56ft 2in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Eumaeus she was built for the Ocean Steam Ship Co. In November 1932 whilst in the Caribbean she encountered a severe hurricane and for six days she took a severe pounding eventually losing her funnel. However, this was the least of her Master's problems but being a solidly built Holt vessel enabled Captain Evans to bring her into the relative safety of Kingston, Jamaica. For this action Evans was given a civic reception by the Mayor of Liverpool on the ship's return as well as several awards for courage. Unfortunately, Lawrence Holt, nephew of the founder, saw things differently and reprimanded Capt Evans for taking his ship into the path of the storm. Captain Evans also had to forfeit the £200 insurance deposit which the company required all masters to lodge as a reminder that the ships were uninsured. When Capt Evans retired in 1944 Lawrence Holt had a change of heart and returned the £200 to him. A temporary funnel was fitted and the Phemius sailed to Hong Kong where her tall funnel was reinstated. During 1942 she operated between Port Said and Malta under the command of Capt. J. L. W. Johnstone. On 19th December 1943 during a voyage from Liverpool and Glasgow to Beira via Takoradi and Lagos she was torpedoed and sunk by U-515 (KapitanLeutnant Werner Henke - Knights Cross with Oakleaves ) off the coast of west Africa (05 01N 06 47E). Twenty three lives were lost and the radio officer was taken prisoner. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

TROILUS (3) was built in 1921 by Scotts Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 7669grt, a length of 459ft 1in, a beam of 56ft 2in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Phemius she was built for the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. On 5th June 1942 a convoy of six ships, code name Operation Harpoon, sailed from the Clyde with vital supplies for Malta. At the same time Operation Vigorous, a convoy made up of 11 ships sailed from Alexandria. The convoy of six ships which included Troilus passed Gibraltar during the night of 11th-12th June and from then on the escort was made up of one battleship, two aircraft carriers, two cruiser and eight destroyers. As the convoy got closer to Malta another cruiser, nine destroyers, four fleet minesweepers and six minesweeping launches joined the escorting ships. Apart from the Troilus the other ships in the convoy were the Burdwan and Orari from Britain, the Tanimbar from Holland and the Chant and Kentucky from the USA carrying in total 43,000 tons of cargo and oil. Air attacks increased in frequency and the Tanimbar was sunk on 14th June followed by the Chant during the following day. The Kentucky, after being hit, was taken in tow and the Burdwan was disabled. Rather than slow down both the Kentucky and the Burdwan were sunk. Of the remaining ships the Orari struck a mine and managed to limp into port while the Troilus arrived as the only unscathed ship. Of the eleven ships that sailed from Alexandria only six arrived safely in Malta after Admiral Vian's group was recalled to base. However, two years later she became the company's last war casualty when, on 31st August 1944 during a voyage from Colombo to Liverpool she was torpedoed and sunk by U-859 (KapitanLeutnant Johann Jebsen) 250 miles east of Socotra in the Indian Ocean (14 10N 61 04E) .As the boats were being lowered further torpedoes were fired causing more casualties, a total of twenty four in all. After five days afloat ninety five survivors were recovered from the lifeboats by HMS Taff and HMA Nadder who then took them to Aden. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

HECUBA (2) was built in 1901 by Bremer Vulcan at Vegesack, Germany with a tonnage of 7540grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 54ft 4in and a service speed of 10 knots. She was built for Norddeutscher Lloyd of Bremen and spent the whole of World War One interned at Trondheim. She came to Britain as a war prize on 6th May 1919 and was placed under Holt management. She was purchased by the Ocean Steam Ship Co. in 1922 for the Australasian services and renamed Hecuba. However, before she could enter service, the British Government, fearing a potential crisis in the Near East, requisitioned her as a transport and she sailed on 24th August 1923 from Constantinople with cavalry bound for Egypt. When she returned to Blue Funnel she was in a poor condition and was subsequently sold to Italian shipbreakers in August 1924 and renamed Ada for her final voyage to the scrap yard. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

SARPEDON (4) was built in 1923 by Cammell Laird & Co. at Birkenhead with a tonnage of 11321grt, a length of 499ft, a beam of 62ft 4in and a service speed of 15.5 knots. One of four sisters she was built to accommodate 155 First Class passengers after a request from the British Government to provide additional passenger accommodation on cargo vessels on the Far East service . Holts never expected it to pay and nothing relating to the cargo operations of these vessels was forsaken as the idea had been considered long before WW 1 and dismissed by the company. It was basically done to further the goodwill of the rubber and other planters and merchants who were the big shippers in the Far East. In 1927 she carried supplies and ammunition to Hong Kong during the second Sino-Japanese war. She survived WW2 and returned to commercial service on 5th January 1946 when she made the first post war sailing to Australia from Liverpool to Brisbane with 48 passengers. On 5th June 1953 she arrived at Newport in Monmouthshire where she was broken up by John Cashmore and Co. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

PATROCLUS (3) was built in 1923 by Scotts Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 11314grt, a length of 498ft 10in, a beam of 62ft 4in and a service speed of 15.5 knots. Sister of the Sarpedon she was built for the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. On 3rd November, 1940 she was torpedoed by U-99 (KorvettenKapitan Otto Kretschmer -Knights Cross with Oakleaves and Swords) off Bloody Foreland, Ireland (54 43N 14 41W) whilst picking up survivors of the British Ship Casanare, with the loss of 76 of her crew. She was serving as an Armed Merchant Cruiser with the Royal Navy at the time. The U-boat had, moments earlier, attacked and sunk the Laurentic which was also serving as an AMC. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

HECTOR (4) was built in 1924 by Scotts Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 11198grt, a length of 498ft 10in, a beam of 62ft 2in and a service speed of 15.5 knots. Sister of the Sarpedon she commenced her maiden voyage from Liverpool to the Far East on 24th September 1924. In 1940 she was converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser but on 5th April 1942, while she was being de-commissioned at Colombo, she was bombed and set on fire by Japanese aircraft and subsequently sank. As she was of no further use to the Admiralty they kindly returned her to Ocean Steam Ship Co. on 20th April 1942. She was refloated and beached in 1946 but was condemned and sold for demolition where she lay. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

ANTENOR (3) was built in 1925 by Palmers Ship Building & Iron Co. at Jarrow with a tonnage of 11174grt, a length of 487ft 8in, a beam of 62ft 2in and a service speed of 15.5 knots. Sister of the Sarpedon she was launched on 30th September 1924 for deployment with the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co and commenced her maiden voyage on 15th January 1925 from Liverpool to the Far East. In September 1937 she was used to carry five giant pandas from Hong Kong to London. During the voyage the four adults ate their wooden cages and had to be relocated in the potato lockers on the poop deck. On arrival in London the pandas were in excellent condition but the potato lockers had been wrecked. In September 1939 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser. She was further converted into a troopship in 1942 and was involved in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. She returned to commercial service with Ocean Steam Ship Co. in February 1946 and continued to serve until 1953 when she was sold to Hughes Bolckow for demolition, arriving at the breakers yard on 19th July. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

TANTALUS (2) was built in 1923 by Caledon Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 7777grt, a length of 458ft 4in, a beam of 58ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was built for the Ocean Steam Ship Co. and in 1936 was transferred to Glen Line and renamed Radnorshire. Three years later she reverted to Ocean Steam Ship Co. and her original name. In early December 1941 she was in Hong Kong for a refit when the Japanese invaded. She was taken in tow and, through hazardous waters, was taken to Manila where she arrived during a Japanese bombardment. In an attempt to avoid the daily bombing she was then moved to Bataan and was abandoned by her crew on Boxing Day 1941 just prior to Japanese aircraft setting her on fire. She subsequently capsized and sank. When the Japanese forces entered Manila on 3rd January 1942 the crew were captured and two of them were executed for attempting to escape. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

MEDON (1) was built in 1923 by Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co. Ltd. at Jarrow with a tonnage of 5915grt, a length of 406ft 6in, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. The company's first motorship she was owned by Ocean Steam Ship Co. On 10th August 1942 she was on an independent voyage from Mauritius to New York via Table bay and Trinidad in ballast when she was attacked by the Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani (Capitano di Fregata Giovanni Bruno) in the south Atlantic between Freetown and Trinidad (9 26N 38 26W). She was attacked both by gunfire and torpedo sustaining substantial damage. During the hours of darkness the crew abandoned ship in four lifeboats and stood of until the next day when some crew members reboarded her to collect some supplies before the submarine open fire with more shells and eventually sank her with another torpedo. The No.4 lifeboat was rescued 7 days later by the Norwegian motor ship Tamerlane, the No.1 boat was rescued after 8 days by the Panamanian steam ship Rosemount, the No.2 boat was rescued after 35 days by the Portuguese steam ship Luso and the No.3 boat was rescued after 36 days by the British steamship Reedpool. The Reedpool, with 34 crew and 16 survivors of the Medon, was torpedoed and sunk by U-515 on 20th September 1942 150 miles of Georgetown in British Guayana. All 50 survivors crowded into one remaining lifeboat and were rescued by the British schooner Millie M. Masher the next day. Following the sinking of the Medon no lives were lost even though some crew members were in a life boat for five weeks. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

DOLIUS was built in 1924 by Scott's Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. at Greenock with a tonnage of 5994grt, a length of 406ft 6in, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was unique inasmuch that she was the first vessel to be fitted with part steam and part diesel engines. The downstroke was powered by diesel and the upward stroke by steam. Although speed was not increased there was a considerable saving in fuel costs, so much so that the Eurybates was fitted with a larger installation. On 24th April 1941 she was damaged when straffed and bombed by German aircraft in the approaches to the Firth of Forth. She was less fortunate on 5th August 1943 when, during a voyage from Avonmouth and Milford Haven to New York in convoy ONS5, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-638 east of Belle Isle in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The survivors were rescued by HMS Sunflower and U-638 was later sunk by the escorting vessels. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

EURYMEDON (2) was built in 1924 by Caledon Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 6223grt, a length of 431ft 9in, a beam of 54ft 8in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was the first of a three ships built for Ocean Steam Ship Co. On 25th September 1940, during a voyage from Liverpool to Java via Cape Town in Convoy OB 217, she was hit by two torpedoes fired by U-29 (KapitanLeutnant Otto Schuhart - Knights Cross) whilst in the North Atlantic (53 34N 26 23W). The first torpedo hit the engine room on the port side and the second blew a hole in the starboard side of the engine room wrecking a lifeboat which was being lowered killing the passengers and crew in it During the following morning Captain J. F. Webster and some crew members reboarded the Eurymedon and discovered that the water in the engine room was at sea level and that the ship was settling on an even keel. But nothing could be done and a lifeboat from Donaldson's Sularia which had been sunk by U-43 took them off. On 27th September , two days after being hit, she finally sank. Twenty eight lives were lost and other survivors in the other lifeboats were picked up by HMCS Ottawa. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

POLYDORUS (1) was built in 1924 by Scotts Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 6256grt, a length of 429ft 11in, a beam of 54ft 10in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Eurymedon she was operated by N.S.N.'Oceaan' flying the Dutch flag and was the company's first new ship although it had been operating for 34 years. During a voyage from Liverpool to Freetown, initially in convoy ON 145, she, on 25th November 1942, began a running battle with U-176 (KorvettenKapitan Reiner Dierksen). The German submarine mounted six unsuccessful torpedo attacks before inflicting severe damage with her guns. The Polydorus was finally sunk off the coast of Africa (9 01N 25 38W) on 27th November 1942 when two torpedoes sent her to the bottom. Eighty survivors took to the boats and were rescued two days later by the Spanish steamship Eolo. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

MELAMPUS (1) was built in 1924 by Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co. Ltd at Newcastle with a tonnage of 6321grt, a length of 449ft 6in, a beam of 54ft 10in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was built for N. S. M. 'Oceaan' and registered in Rotterdam flying the Dutch ensign. In 1940 registry was transferred to Willemstad and she came under Allied control. After uneventful wartime duties she was transferred to the Ocean Steam Ship Co. and British registry in 1950. In 1955 she was laid up in Holy Loch and on 1st October 1957 she arrived at Inverkeithing where she was broken up by Thos.W. Ward. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

CENTAUR (2) was built in 1924 by Scott's Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 3066grt, a length of 315ft 7in, a beam of 48ft 2in and a service speed of 14 knots. Built for Ocean Steam Ship Co's, Singapore to Australia service she was converted into a hospital ship for the Australian Government in 1940. . She was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-177 (Shosa [Lieutenant Commander] H.Nakagawa) of the east coast of Australia (27 17S 154 05E) on 14th May 1943 even though she was fully rigged and fully illuminated as a hospital ship. The Australian hospital ship sunk in 170 meters of water after being set on fire by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine near Cape Moreton, off the Queensland coast. The Centaur was on her way to New Guinea when the attack occurred. The ship sank in three minutes taking the lives of 268 people, including 18 doctors, 11 nurses, 193 other medical personnel and 30 members of her crew. Of the 12 nursing sisters on board, only one survived. The Centaur had been converted from a passenger/cargo liner into a hospital ship over a two month period at Williamstown at the mouth of Melbourne’s Yarra River. On completion her silhouette had changed very little but her appearance had as she had been completely repainted to identify her as a hospital ship. Her sombre all over passenger/cargo battleship grey had been replaced by vivid white, green, red black and dark yellow. The hull and upperworks were completely white. On the hull a green band 2 metres wide stretched from stem to stern interspersed in three places by red crosses two metres high by two metres wide. On each bow above the green band was a black square on which the ship’s hospital identification number, 47, was stencilled in white. A red cross six metres by six metres was painted on the monkey island deck above the wheelhouse, another one 7.3 metres by 7.3 metres was painted on the docking bridge aft with yet a further one hanging from the rear of the docking bridge facing aft. The now dark yellow funnel had a 1.2 metre red cross on each side and the life boats were painted white with a green band to identify them as being from a hospital ship. The Red Cross flag was flown from the foremast and the Blue Ensign at the stern. By night internal red neon lights illuminated the red crosses on the funnel and the one facing aft from the docking bridge. Floodlights illuminated the red crosses on the ship’s side and a row of green lights the green band round the hull. The only concession was that when the ship was at sea at night the forward floodlights on the starboard side were left off as the interfered with the vision of the watchkeepers. Regardless of this minor infringement the Centaur could not have been identified as anything but a non-combatant hospital ship. After the war, the captain of the I-177, Lt-Cdr Hajime Nakagawa, was arrested and tried as a war criminal. He spent four years in Sugamo prison for atrocities committed in the Indian Ocean such as shooting survivors of torpedoed ships. In 1990, the ship was declared a historic wreck. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

ASPHALION (1) was built in 1924 by Scott's Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 6274grt, a length of 431ft 8in, a beam of 54ft 8in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was the last coal burner built for Holt's and operated by the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. On 11th February 1944 she had a narrow escape when she was damaged by a torpedo fired by an unidentified submarine when off Vizagapatam in the Bay of Bengal and was subsequently towed to Calcutta for repairs. On 27th June 1959 she was sold to Dah Cheong Hong Ltd who broke her up in Hong Kong. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

ALCINOUS (2)/PHEMIUS (3) was built in 1925 by Scott's Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 6639grt, a length of 429ft 10in, a beam of 54ft 10in and a service speed of 14 knots. The first of three sister ships she was operated by N. S. M. 'Oceaan' and registered at Amsterdam. In 1950 ownership was transferred to the Ocean Steam Ship Co. who renamed her Phemius. After a further seven years service she arrived at Hong Kong on 26th July 1957 where she was broken up. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

STENTOR (3) was built in 1926 by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 6634grt, a length of 430ft 10in, a beam of 55ft 10in and a service speed of 14 knots. On 31st May 1933 she collided with and sank the Union-Castle steamship Guildford Castle both vessels being deemed to be equally to blame. She had a second collision when on 16th September 1939, as part of the first westbound Mediterranean convoy, she collided with and slightly damaged British India's Dilwara. Whilst in Jeddah she was attacked by British aircraft on 3rd April 1941, her master consequently demanding protection from a British destroyer against "friendly" fire. On 27th October 1942 during a voyage from Freetown to the UK as part of convoy SI 125 she was torpedoed by U-509 (Kapitan Leutnant Werner Witte) west of the Canary Islands (29 13N 20 53W). The Stentor was the lead ship in a convoy of 40 ships and the torpedo hit her on the starboard side. Her Master, Capt Williams, together with 21 crew members and 23 passengers were killed. The convoy Commodore, Gastin, later died when the ship sank within eight minutes. Survivors were picked up by HMS Woodruff. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

PHRONTIS (1) was built in 1925 by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 6635grt, a length of 429ft 6in, a beam of 54ft 10in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Alcinous she was built for N. S. M. 'Oceaan' with Dutch registry and flag. She was sold to M. Bakhashab of Saudi Arabia in 1958, renamed Ryad and on 25th August in the same year arrived in Hong Kong where she was broken up. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection)

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