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A World War 2 Trilogy

By FRED NATH (Novelist and Neurosurgeon)

OMENEUS (2) was built in 1926 by Workman Clark & Co. at Belfast with a tonnage of 7857grt, a length of 477ft 6in, a beam of 58ft 5in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. Sister of the Orestes she was built for the China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. At the time the carriage of beef from Australia was problematic inasmuch that beef, when frozen, is inferior to beef which is chilled but beef could not remain chilled for the duration of a voyage from Australia. Blue Star Line deployed their fastest ships to carry chilled beef and Holt's response was to gas-chill the beef. The Idomeneus was equipped with a insulated chamber in which beef was chilled with a mixture of carbon dioxide and air. The new technology was a success and was applied to other Holt ships on the Australia run. On 21st November 1942 when she was under command of Capt. W. F. Dark and in convoy ON145 and 190 miles from the Cape Race she had to take evasive action to avoid the ship ahead of her, the British Promise, which had been torpedoed by U-518. In the same action the British Renown in the adjacent column and the Empire Sailor in the outermost column were also torpedoed. The British Promise and the British Renown which were in ballast managed to reach Halifax despite extensive damage but the Empire Sailor sank with the loss of 22 sailors who died after inhaling phosgene gas which had formed part of her cargo. It was the only incident in WW2 which involved the escape of gas. On 7th May 1943 while in Convoy SL 128 an alert lookout, Able Seaman B. Jones, spotted a torpedo running towards the ship and prompt action by the Third Officer, Mr Forsgate, probably saved her from being hit. On 6th April 1962 she arrived at Genoa where she was scrapped.

Bishwa served on this ship: 27.7.43 - 5.1.44


DIOMED (4) was built in 1921 by Workman Clark & Co. at Belfast with a tonnage of 10453grt, a length of 490ft 10in, a beam of 62ft 4in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Calchas she was launched on 14th January 1922 and completed for the China Mutual Steam Ship Co's Liverpool - Far East service on 16th May. She saw war service when she took part in the assault on Sicily in July 1943. On 2nd September 1952 she arrived at Dalmuir where she was demolished by W. H. Arnott Young after 30 years service. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection).

Served: 13.2.45 - 20.11.45


MENELAUS (3) was built in 1923 by Caledon Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 10278grt, a length of 490ft 10in, a beam of 62ft 4in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Calchas she was launched for the Ocean Steam Ship Co. on 1st May 1923 and completed for the Liverpool - Far East service on 11th October. In 1940 she collided with Ellerman's City of London. On Christmas Day 1940 she had a close encounter with the German warship Admiral Hipper in the Mediterranean but was rescued by convoy escorts. In 1942, on 1st May and during a voyage from Durban to Baltimore, she was attacked at dawn by the German commerce raider Michel commanded by Capt. Helmut von Ruckteschell when she was 700 miles south west of St. Helena. Although von Ruckteschell used one of his motor torpedo boats the Menelaus laid a smoke screen and escaped. She was fortunate as von Ruckteschell was ruthless and sank his victims leaving survivors to fend for themselves. After the war he admitted that the Menelaus was the only ship to escape him and he was the only the second German seagoing naval officer to be tried for war crimes. He died in prison while serving a ten year sentence. On 25th June 1952 the Menelaus arrived at Dalmuir where she was broken up by W. H. Arnott Young & Co. (Photo: John Clarkson Collection).

Served: 12.12.40 -25.6.42


GLENFINLAS (2) was built in 1917 by Hawthorn, Leslie & Co at Newcastle with a tonnage of 7601grt, a length of 455ft 3in, a beam of 56ft 3in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was completed for the China Mutual S.N. Co. as the Elpenor and in 1918 was used as a repatriation troopship between Liverpool and Dublin. In 1922 she was in collision with Nippon Yusen Kaisha's ship Inaba Maru at Kobe. She was transferred to Glen Line in April 1935 as the Glenfinlas to replace the Glenearn (4). On 16th April 1941 she was damaged by bombs and machine gun fire in the North Sea off Harwich during which 9 crew were killed. During the North African 'Torch' landings at Bougie Harbour on 12th November 1942 she was damaged by bombs and allowed to sink in shallow water where she remained until July 1943 when she was raised and managed to take her remaining cargo of aviation spirit to Oran. Unfortunately, a vapour explosion killed two US soldiers. Leaving for the UK she was in collision and suffered bow damage which was repaired at Sunderland the following October. In April 1947 she was renamed Elpenor under the Blue Funnel banner but in August 1950 was transferred back to Glen Line as the Glenfinlas. She was broken up in 1952 and the Blyth yard of Hughes, Bolckow.

Served: 3.4.46 - 24.8.46


GLENAFFRIC (1) was built in 1920 by Caledon S.B. Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 7806grt, a length of 459ft 2in, a beam of 56ft 3in and a service speed of 11 knots. She was completed as the Machaon (2) for the Blue Funnel Line and was transferred to Glen Line in 1935. On 4th October 1942 she was narrowly missed by a torpedo 240 miles south of Karachi. In September 1947 she was transferred back to Blue Funnel as the Machaon but returned to Glen in January 1950 as Glenaffric. She was sold in 1951 to BISCO for £55,000 for breaking up at the Briton Ferry yard of Thos. W Ward.

Served: 23.244 - 30-9-44


GLENARTNEY (4) was built in 1940 by the Caledon Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 9795grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 66ft 4in and a service speed of 18 knots. She was delivered in 1940 with a shortened funnel and masts with a pole mast fitted well to the port side of the bridge to confuse U-Boat commanders who lined up mast and funnel for a bearing. Although painted grey she operated commercially until 1941 when she was used as a fast supply ship.. On December 1942 she took part in Operation Portcullis when, as part of a four ship convoy, she was escorted through to Malta with vital stores. In 1944 she formed part of the Pacific Fleet and, at one time, undertook experiments in the high speed transfer of stores at sea. She was released back to Glen Line in mid 1946 and refitted for commercial service and the Far East run. In 1967 she was sold for scrap and sailed from Kobe en route to the breakers yard at Onomichi on 16th March. Served: 27.3.43 - 29.6.44


ThePRIAM (4)/PHEMIUS (4) was built in 1941 by Caledon Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Dundee with a tonnage of 9975grt, a length of 512ft 10in, a beam of 66ft 4in and a service speed of 18 knots. Designed primarily for Glen Line she was one of three vessels laid down in 1939 for the Ocean Steam Ship Co. However, before completion she was requisitioned by the Admiralty but returned to Holt's in 1941 when it was found to be too costly to convert her into an escort carrier. She was completed as the Priam in 1941. In 1948 she was transferred to Glen Line and renamed Glenorchy. After twenty two years in Glen Line livery she returned to Blue Funnel in 1970 and was renamed Phemius. In May of the following year she was broken up at Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

Served: 18.7.42 - 30.9.44