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The Fleet

RED JACKET was a clipper with a composite hull built in 1845 and one of the original White Star Line ships.

ELLEN was a clipper with a composite hull built in 1845 and one of the original White Star Line ships.

BLUE JACKET was a clipper with a composite hull built in 1845 and one of the original White Star Line ships and later renamed White Star.

ROYAL STANDARD was built in 1863 by Palmer Bros. at Jarrow-on-Tyne with a tonnage of 2033grt, a length of 255ft, a beam of 40ft and a service speed of about 8 knots. She was launched in August 1863 for H. T. Wilson & Chambers and operated by them under the White Star flag. Her maiden voyage, which commenced on 23rd November, was from Liverpool to Melbourne via the Cape of Good Hope and during which her master, Capt. J. E. Allen, died. On 4th April 1864 she hit an iceberg with a glancing blow when 14 days out from Melbourne and was subsequently repaired at Rio Janeiro. During 1866 she made one voyage from Liverpool to New York which commenced on 23rd May and on 27th September she sailed on her last steam voyage to Melbourne. Unfortunately, her steam engine was under powered and she was regularly overtaken by the clipper ships. In 1867 she was sold to a Liverpool syndicate and converted to sail. On 10th October 1869 she was wrecked near Cape Sao Thomas in Brazil.

SIRIUS was built in 1865 by C. W. Earle & Co. at Hull with a tonnage of 620grt, a length of 203ft 6in, a beam of 26ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was launched in February 1865 for Henry T. Wilson & Co's White Star Line service to the Mediterranean out of Liverpool under charter to regular shippers. Following the collapse of Henry T. Wilson & Co. she was sold in January 1866 to a syndicate of virtually the same shareholders and renamed Columbia. In December 1868 she was acquired by the Anchor Line for their Scandinavian feeder service out of Granton, Leith, renamed Scandinavia and commenced her first sailing in March 1869. Passengers arriving at Leith would then travel by train to Glasgow to join Anchor Line sailings from that port. In 1878 more passenger space was added when she was lengthened at the stern to 258ft. During 1873 when the feeder service ended at the end of the summer season she was transferred back to the Mediterranean service. On 31st August 1888 she was sold to Christopher Furness who changed her name back to Columbia. Two years later she was acquired by J. Meek of West Hartlepool who renamed her Sirius and in 1893 by Oliver & Co. of San Francisco who retained her name. In 1894 she was operating a cargo and passenger service from Honolulu to San Francisco as the Kahului for new owner, C. Nelson of Honolulu. She was, in 1897, transferred to San Francisco by her owner who, at the same time, changed her name to Cleveland. When gold was discovered in the Yukon during 1898 she became a 'Gold Rush' ship with room for 1200 persons. To call them berths would be inappropriate as on one voyage she carried nearly twice that number. On 24th October 1900 she was wrecked on Cape Rodney in Alaska.

OCEANIC (1) was built in 1871 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3707grt, a length of 420ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. She was launched on 27th August 1870 for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. at a cost of £120,000. Often referred to as the "Mother of Modern Liners" she was the first White Star liner acquired by Thomas Ismay and the first ship to have promenade decks and bathtubs with running water for the passengers. The first class dining room which doubled as a lounge was amidships and equipped with separate chairs for each passenger and had larger than normal port holes to give more light. There were two bridal suites each equipped with double beds and the fares to New York were, Saloon £16.16s.0d (Return £28. 7s.0d), Steerage £6.6s.0d. On 26th February 1871 she arrived at Liverpool looking 'more like an Imperial yacht' than a passenger ship to inaugurate White Star's Atlantic service. Although the finest ship on the New York run at the time she failed to attract much custom and when she departed on her maiden voyage under the command of Capt. Digby Murray, who was later knighted, on 2nd March she carried only 64 passengers as compared with Cunard's Calabria which carried 300 on a parallel sailing. Unfortunately, when she was off Holyhead her bearings overheated and she had to return to Liverpool where she remained until 16th March when her voyage was resumed. When she arrived in New York she was visited by some 50,000 people. In service she was very wet forward and on the slow side so when she returned to Belfast in January 1872 for her first annual overhaul the opportunity was taken to add a 72ft whale backed forecastle and breakwater which became a standard feature on subsequent buildings until the Teutonic in 1889. To provide more steam pressure two additional boilers were installed and her masts were shortened to reduce rolling. When the Britannic joined the fleet in 1875 she commenced her last sailing from Liverpool to New York on 11th March before being chartered to Occidental & Oriental Steam ship Co. to operate a service from San Francisco to Hong Kong and Yokohama. With White Star officers and Chinese crew she sailed from Liverpool on 14th April 1875 bound for San Francisco via Suez, Hong Kong and Yokohama, and arrived on 29th June after making a record passage. In December 1876 she completed a voyage from Yokohama to San Francisco in a record time of 14 days 15 hours at an average speed of 13 knots. With a trans-USA rail crossing of 7 days and an Atlantic passage of 9 days, the journey time from Yokohama to London was reduced to 32 days as opposed to 60 days via Singapore. In late 1879 she was refitted at Liverpool resuming service on 16th March 1880 when she sailed for the Suez Canal and Hong Kong. On 2nd August 1882 she collided with the coastal liner City of Chester, when off the Golden Gate, San Francisco, which sank with the loss of 16 lives. In November 1889 she made a record crossing from Yokohama to San Francisco in 13 days 14 hrs 5 mins. On 17th May 1895 she arrived at Harland & Wolff's yard for re-engining but following a survey the plan was abandoned and she was sold for scrap, realising £8,000. She left Belfast on 10th February 1896 under the tow of L. Smit & Co's tug Oceaan II bound for the river Thames where she was broken up.

ATLANTIC was built in 1871 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3707grt, a length of 420ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. Sister of the Oceanic she was launched on 1st December 1870 and, although a voyage to South America was advertised as sailing in the following January, she didn't commence her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York until 8th June 1871. On 20th March 1873 she sailed from Liverpool on her 19th voyage and under the command of Capt. J. H. Williams. She was carrying a total of 789 passengers comprising 28 Saloon Class, 577 3rd Class, including 78 children, and 178 Steerage who joined the ship at Queenstown as well as 142 crew members. Fierce gale force headwinds were encountered and on 31st March, after 11 days, only 127 tons of coal remained. Sandy Hook, her landfall at New York, was 460 miles away but Halifax in Nova Scotia was only 170 miles distant and, as a precaution because of the weather and the fuel shortage, course was set for the nearer port. Few sun sights had been possible and as a consequence the ship was some miles off course. At 0300hrs on 1st April, in clear but cloudy weather with a high sea running and whilst searching for the Sambro Light which should have been visible from 20 miles, she ran aground at 9 knots on Marr's Rock, Meaghers Island near Halifax. The ship lay with a list to starboard and the heavy seas soon tore away her lifeboats and burst open the hull. The Third Officer, Brady, and quartermasters Speakman and Owen swam to the rock with a rope and by dawn five lines had been rigged via the rock to the shore. One passenger saw a sea of heads in the water which he almost mistook for floating cargo as the mass was so dense. As each wave burst over the mass there was a cry of terror and gradually the whole lot were carried out to sea and lost from view. Gradually the passengers were dragged to the shore but many, cold and exhausted, were carried away. As the situation deteriorated the master told the passengers to climb into the rigging until they could be pulled ashore, but in the biting wind many more fell into the sea and were lost while others died where they hung. When dawn broke the islanders came to help with the rescue but out of a total complement of 931 persons 585 drowned including all but one of the children. The survivors were taken to Halifax in the steamships Delta and Lady Head. The company denied that the ship ran out of coal even though the Court of Enquiry at Halifax found that this was a contributing factor on the basis that had there been sufficient the ship would have been nowhere near Halifax. A subsequent enquiry in England confirmed this finding but, on appeal, the Board of Trade Commissioner ruled otherwise as Captain Williams had survived and confirmed that there was coal on board and that his diversion was 'in case of further gales' not 'shortage'. Captain Williams was found to be negligent approaching a coast that was unfamiliar to him and banned for two years. As the ship was self insured the Asiatic and Tropic had to be sold to replace the lost capital.

PACIFIC/BALTIC (1) was built in 1871 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3707grt, a length of 420ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. Sister of the Oceanic she was launched on 8th March 1871as the Pacific but was later renamed when the press recalled the loss in the Atlantic of Collin's paddle steamer Pacific some fifteen years earlier and harped on the potential superstition of passengers. She commenced her maiden as the Baltic from Liverpool to New York via Queenstown on 14th September. In January 1873 she gained the 'Blue Riband' when she crossed the Atlantic in 7 days 20 hrs 9 mins at an average speed of 15.09 knots. On 18th November 1875, during her return voyage to Liverpool, she picked up the crew of the sailing ship Oriental which had become waterlogged in mid-Atlantic. When, in 1883, Inman Line returned the City of Rome to her builder because she was performing below contract speed the Baltic was chartered to the company for fourteen round voyages which commenced on 3rd April. On 10th March 1885 she was again chartered to Inman Line to replace the City of Paris which had been sold to stave off financial collapse. During the second voyage Inman's went into voluntary liquidation but the liquidators continued the charter for a further ten voyages. In June 1888 she was laid up at Birkenhead and sold for £32,000 to the Holland America Line who renamed her Veendam. She commenced her first voyage for Holland America on 3rd November when she sailed from Rotterdam bound for New York with a call at Cherbourg. In 1890 she was equipped with a triple expansion engine which increased her tonnage to 4036grt. On 6th February 1898 she struck a submerged derelict in the North Atlantic and foundered the next day without loss of life.

REPUBLIC (1) was built in 1871 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3707grt, a length of 420ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. Sister of the Oceanic she was launched on 4th July 1871, hence her name, and was the last of the initial quartet built for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. She commenced her maiden voyage to New York on 1st February 1872 and encountered an extremely rough crossing which caused a great deal of superficial damage. A lot of water was shipped through the ventilators and waves smashed the engine room skylight extinguishing the boilers. As a result of the damage incurred the company changed its policy regarding the stowage of lifeboats. During the voyage the lifeboats which were securely lashed down were smashed to pieces whereas those which were lightly tethered and free to move about survived. On 5th October 1872 she made the first sailing from Liverpool - Bordeaux - Vigo - Lisbon - Rio de Janeiro - Montevideo - Buenos Aires - Valparaiso and thereafter continued to operate around the Chilian and Peruvian coasts. She was deliberately chosen to be the finest ship ever seen on the route and as a challenge to the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. Meeting the challenge PSNC dispatched the Tacora on her maiden voyage the previous day but, unfortunately, she was wrecked near Montevideo on 28th October. However, despite good payloads, the route was not financially successful for White Star. When the Britannic and the Germanic were completed in 1875 she was relegated to the reserve ship. During 1885 she scraped Cunard's Aurania, which was on a three month charter to Inman Line, in the river Mersey with only minor damage to both vessels. When she was overhauled in 1888 second class accommodation was added at the expense of third class berths. On 16th January 1889 she commenced her final White Star sailing before being sold for £35,000 to the Holland America Line who renamed her Maasdam. Prior to commencing to operate the Rotterdam - Boulogne - New York service on 15th March 1890 she was equipped with triple expansion engines. On 1902 she was sold to 'La Veloce' Nav. Italiana of Genoa who initially renamed her Vittoria and later Citta di Napoli for operation on the Genoa - Naples - Palermo - Gibralta - New York service carrying emigrants. When Messina in Sicily was destroyed by an earthquake on 28th December 1908 'La Veloce' placed her, together with the Nord America and the Savoia, at the disposal of the Italian Government for use as an accommodation ship. She was returned to her owner in 1909 and on her arrival in Genoa was sold foe scrap and broken up there.

ASIATIC was built in 1871 by Thos. Royden & Sons at Liverpool with a tonnage of 2122grt, a length of 326ft 5in, a beam of 35ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. Launched on 1st December 1870 she was built 'on spec' and purchased by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company in 1871 while she was being fitted out. In March of that year she was placed on the unsuccessful Calcutta trade and in 1872 on the equally unsuccessful South America route although her first voyage was on charter to Lamport & Holt. On 25th February 1873 she commenced her first voyage to South America for White Star but it was not profitable. When the Atlantic was lost in 1873 she was sold to the African Steam Ship Co., later to become Elder, Dempster Lines, and renamed Ambriz. Their largest ship at the time she commenced her first sailing to West Africa on 12th September. In December 1883 she was refitted and reboilered and in the following year was placed on the Liverpool to New Orleans cotton run. She was sold to Cie Francaise Charbonnage et de la Batelage a Madagasgar of Majunga in 1896 and was deployed as a mobile coal depot ship which steamed to Europe, usually Cardiff, when stock needed replenishing. In February 1903 she was wrecked on the coast of Madagasgar.

TROPIC was built in 1871 by Thos. Royden & Sons at Liverpool with a tonnage of 2122grt, a length of 326ft 5in, a beam of 35ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Asiatic she was purchased during fitting out for deployment on the Liverpool - Suez Canal - Calcutta service in competition with Thomas Royden's Indra Line. On 5th November 1872 she was transferred to the South American service to Valparaiso but only until 4th June 1873 when she commenced her final sailing before being sold to J. Serra y Font of Bilbao who renamed her Frederico. She was acquired by Cia de Nav. 'La Flecha' of Bilbao in 1886 who retained her name. After a further eight years service she was broken up at Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire during September 1894.

ADRIATIC (1) was built in 1872 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3888grt, a length of 452ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. The first of a pair, the usual habit of White Star when ordering ships, she was launched on 17th October 1871and during fitting out by Aveling, Porter & Co. of Lincoln was equipped with gas lamps in place of candles and oil lamps. The gas was manufactured on board from coal but it proved to be a failure in heavy seas due to gas leaks and pipe fractures so the company quickly reverted to the use of oil lamps. She commenced her maiden voyage to New York on 11th April 1872 and in the following May took the record from Cunard's Scotia, which it had held since 1866, with an average speed of 14.52 knots. In October 1874 she collided with Cunard's Parthia when they both left New York at the same time and on parallel courses. The venturi effect pulled the ships together so that they brushed against each other causing slight damage to the Adriatic's port side. If the lifeboats had been slung out, as was the custom, the consequences would have been far worse. In March 1875, whilst proceeding in fog, she ran down and sank the US schooner Columbus off New York and during a night in the following December hit and sank the sailing schooner Harvest Queen in St. George's Channel. The ship was not identified at the time but the Harvest Queen was the only vessel unaccounted for. On 19th July 1878, when off Tuskar Rock, South Wales, she cut into W. Glenn of Ardrossan's brigantine G. A. Pike causing the loss of five crew members. The Adriatic was blamed for travelling at an excessive speed. She made her final sailing in November 1897 before being laid up in reserve at Birkenhead. On 12th February 1899 she arrived at the yard of Thos. W. Ward at Preston where she was broken up.
(Photo: John Clarkson)

ARCTIC/CELTIC (1) was built in 1872 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3867grt, a length of 452ft 4in, a beam of 40ft 10in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. Sister of the Adriatic she was laid down as the Arctic but renamed on the stocks because a ship of the same name owned by Collins had, in 1854, been lost with the loss of 322 persons. The decision to rename was taken at the same time the Pacific was changed to Baltic following media pressure. Initially gas lit she was launched on 8th June 1872 and commenced her maiden voyage to New York on 24th October. In January 1874 she lost two blades of her propeller, in days when they were bolted on, and was towed into Queenstown by the Gaelic. Nine years later, in January 1883, she was towed into Liverpool by the Britannic when her propeller shaft snapped when only 24 hours out of New York and after continuing her voyage under sail. On 19th May 1887, when bound for New York and in thick fog, she hit the Britannic at right angles 300 miles off Sandy Hook. The Britannic was holed and the bow plates of the Celtic were stove in. The Court of Enquiry censured both vessels for excessive speed in fog and recommended the Maury's separate 'in and out' passage lanes be extended right across the Atlantic. Second class accommodation was added during the repairs. In October 1892 she was taken out of service and puts up for sale at Birkenhead. On 6th April 1893 she was sold to the Thingvalla Line (Damdsibs Selskabet Thingvalla) and renamed Amerika flying the Danish flag. She commenced her first sailing Copenhagen - Christiana - Christiansand - New York on 27th May 1893 but the service was not a success as she was too big for that market. Consequently, she only made eight voyages during the peak summer seasons. She was the last ship acquired by Thingvalla Line as they were taken over by Det Forende D/S, the forerunner of D. F. D. S., but the Amerika was broken up at Brest before the takeover

GAELIC (1) was built in 1873 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 2685grt, a length of 370ft, a beam of 36ft 4in and a service speed of 12 knots. The first of two cargo ships laid down for J. Bibby she was acquired on the stocks for the South American service and launched on the 4th October 1874. A typical 'narrow boat' she commenced her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Valparaiso with calls at South American ports on 29th January 1873 but on the following 10th July was transferred to the New York route. In January 1874 she towed the Celtic into into Queenstown after she had shed two propeller blades. On 3rd June of the same year she was transferred to the London - New York service for the summer season and then, on 24th December, to the Liverpool - New York route. From 29th May 1875 she was chartered to the Occidental & Oriental Steamship Co. for a five year term and deployed on their San Francisco - Japan - Hong Kong service. During 1883 she was sold for £30,000 for Cia de Nav. 'La Flecha' of Bilboa who renamed her Hugo. On 24th September 1896 she stranded on Terschelling Islands in the Netherlands and was declared a constructive total loss. Later refloated she was sold by auction and towed to Amsterdam where she was broken up.

BELGIC (1) was built in 1873 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 2652grt, a length of 370ft, a beam of 36ft 4in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Gaelic she was launched on 14th January 1873 and commenced her maiden voyage to Valparaiso on 16th April. On 17th December she made White Star's last steam sailing on the South American route although the sailing ships continued to trade to that continent. On 30th May 1874 she commenced a voyage from Liverpool to New York before being transferred to the London - New York route for four trips. In the same year, on 20th July, she encountered the disabled Spanish steamer Tornas and towed her into New York. She was transferred back to the Liverpool - New York service in January 1875 but only until 29th May when she was chartered with her sister to the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Co. for deployment out of San Francisco. In 1883 she was sold for £30,000 to Cia de Nav. 'La Flecha' of Bilbao who changed her name to Goefredo. On 27th January 1884 she went aground outside Santiago de Cuba and was dispatched to Liverpool for repairs. However, on 26th February 1884 during a voyage to Havana she was wrecked on Burbo Bank at the mouth of the River Mersey.

TRAFFIC (1) was built in 1873 by Speakman & Co. at Runcorn with a tonnage of 155grt, a length of 101ft 10in, a beam of 23ft 7in and a service speed of 8 knots. She was launched on 22nd September 1872 as a baggage and stores tender at Liverpool. In 1896 she was sold to the Liverpool Lighterage Co. for port duties with the same name and in 1919 her engine was removed when she was converted into a dump barge. On 5th May 1941 she was sunk in Liverpool docks by German aircraft during the 'May Blitz'. She was later raised and returned to service until 1955 when she was broken up on Tranmere beach in the River Mersey.

HELLENIC/BRITANNIC (1) was built in 1874 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 5004grt, a length of 455ft, a beam of 45ft 2in and a service speed of 16 knots. Costing £200,000 she was designed by Sir E. J. Harland and was initially equipped with an adjustable propeller shaft which could be lowered in deeper water to increase the thrust. The arrangement was not a success and after nine voyages it was replaced with a conventional propeller shaft. Harland & Wolff's largest ship to date she was laid down as the Hellenic but renamed before her launch on 3rd February 1874. The first of a pair she was designed to compete with vessels such as Inman's City of Berlin and commenced her maiden voyage to New York on 25th June 1874. She broke both the eastbound and westbound records with passages of less than 7.5 days at an average speed of 15.7 knots. When she returned to service after her propeller shaft modifications on 9th June 1876 she ran like clockwork for the next decade averaging 8 days 9 hrs to New York and 8 days 2 hrs to Queenstown, the best distance in 24 hours being 468 miles. In 1881 she collided with and sank W. Hinde's sailing ship Julia off Belfast and in July of the same year stranded in fog at Kilmore, near Wexford, Ireland. She was refloated but due to an engine room leak was beached again prior to being patched up and towed to Liverpool by four tugs where she arrived on 13th July. In January 1883 she towed the Celtic into Liverpool and shortly afterwards a squeaking developed and a crack in her propeller shaft was discovered. The voyage upon which she just embarked was cancelled. On 19th May 1887 whilst travelling at 15 knots in fog she was hit at right angles by the Celtic although full speed had been ordered in an attempt to clear the approaching ship before she hit. She was holed at the waterline aft of the superstructure and she put back to New York accompanied by the Celtic. Three steerage class passengers were killed and a further two were injured. In 1889 she collided with J. Marshall's Czarowitz in Liverpool Bay. She made her fastest Atlantic crossing of 7 days 6hrs 55mins at an average sped of 16.1 knots in 1890 and the speed of both the Britannic and her sister, the Germanic, increased with age. On 16th August 1899 she commenced what was to be her final crossing as, in the following October, she was requisitioned as a troopship for duties during the Boer War. As HM Transport No.62 she was given a white hull and buff funnels and made ten voyages including two to Australia. On 12th November 1900 still with a white hull but with black topped funnels she sailed from Liverpool to Australia to represent Great Britain at a review in Sydney Harbour to mark the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. Among her passengers was the honour guard and during the voyage she grounded in the Suez Canal. In October 1902 she was sent to Belfast for a survey prior to being re-engined to triple expansion but the ensuing report was unsatisfactory and in July 1903 she was sold to German shipbreakers for £11,500. On 11th August 1903 she left under tow for Hamburg where she was broken up.

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