S.T. Red Falcon LO4
Official Number: 164954
Yard Number: 612
Gross Tonnage: 449
Net Tonnage: 171
Length: 161.3 ft
Breadth 27.2 ft
Depth: 14.2 ft
Engine: 114NHP T.3-cyl by Charles D. Holmes & Co Ltd, Hull
Speed: 11.9 knots
Built: Cook Welton & Gemmell, Beverley
8.7.1936: Launched by Cook, Welton & Gemmell Ltd, Beverley (Yd.No.612) for F. & T. Ross Ltd, Hull as DAVY.
17.8.1936: Registered at Hull (H332).
22.8.1936: Sailed Hull on first trip to Bear Island grounds (Sk. Albert Wilson).
9.9.1936: At Hull landed 2,920 kits grossed £1,065.
29.09.1938: On a Bear Island trip (Sk. Albert Wilson). In a westerly gale, responded to distress message from St. SEBASTIAN (H470) stranded 700 yds SW 1/2 W of Cape Kjellstrom, Bear Island.
30.9.1938: With CAPE DUNER (H174) (Sk. James Myers) and Kingston CAIRNGORM (H175) proceeded to sheltered eastern side of the Island. At about 1.30 pm. with great difficulty landed Sk. Albert Wilson and three men and along with Sk. James Myers plus five men, on eastern side of Island about 21/2 miles from the Radio Station. After picking up rocket apparatus at Radio Station and guide, walked across Island (10 miles) but at 5.30 pm. on arrival found the wreck pounded by heavy seas, broken in two and no sign of life. After seventeen hours on the Island returned to ship.
2.10.1938: In moderated weather Sk. Wilson boarded the St. SEBASTIAN and found two bodies. *
12.8.1939: Sold to The Admiralty (£27,118) and fitted out to an anti-submarine trawler (P.No.FY.147).
15.11.1939: Hull registry closed.
20.10.1945: A Control Committee was formed to manage Hull and Grimsby trawlers which had been bought by the Admiralty pre war and were being offered for sale back to their original owners. The owners who bought back these vessels and wanted to take part in the scheme agreed to register the trawlers under the Hull Ice Co. Ltd and profits were shared. Management of the trawlers was given to the companies which had bought them.
1945: Sold to Hull Ice Co Ltd, Hull (Percy Ross, manager).
28.2.1946: After restoration and survey at London, registered at Hull (H213).
16.11.1946: Sold to F. & T. Ross Ltd, Hull (Percy Ross , manager) for £1.
1951: At anchor off St. Andrew’s Dock struck by motor trawler St. LEANDER (H19), badly damaged but managed to manoeuvre to the West pier. St. LEANDER drifted up to Barton Ness, taken in tow but grounded on Hessle Flats. Could not be salved Total losss.
17.11.1951: Sold to Hudson Brothers Trawlers Ltd, Hull.
26.11.1951: Registered at Hull as CAPE BARFLEUR (H213).
7.9.1954: Sold to Iago Steam Trawler Co Ltd, Fleetwood (William J. Meazey, manager).
9.1954: Hull registry closed.
13.9.1954: Registered at London as RED FALCON (LO4).
25.11.1959: At 0600 sailed Fleetwood for Icelandic grounds (Sk. Alex Harvey), nineteen crew.
10.12.1959: On Icelandic grounds reported to owners that she had 500 boxes.
11.12.1959: At 1530 left the Kidney Bank for home.
13.12.1959: Spoke to RED SABRE (LO71) (Sk.Tom McKernan), 50 miles ahead, and informed him that due to adverse weather speed was 4 to 5 knots.
14.12.1959: At 0700 skipper of RED SABRE called and stated that he was now abeam of Rathlin Island and had a very rough passage between Skerryvore and the island in WSW storm conditions gusting 90mph and very confused sea. The ship was then abreast Skerryvore Light. Between 0710 and 0715 spoke to RED KNIGHT (LO445) (Sk. Leon Mecklenburgh) 150 miles astern and agreed to make for lee of Irish coast. Presumed later set course for Inishtrahull. At 1830, RED KNIGHT called on the radiotelephone but received no reply. RED SABRE, by now past the Mull of Galloway called several times but received no reply.
15.12.1959: On arrival on midday tide of RED KNIGHT concern was expressed.
16.12.1959: At 1220 Formby Coastguard informed Northern Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Pitreavie that vessel was 24 hrs overdue. Search by Shackleton aircraft over area.
18.12.1959: Search called off. Presumed foundered, between Stanton Bank and Skerryvore and probably to the SW of Skerryvore Light, Inner Hebrides, overwhelmed due to stress of weather; all nineteen crew lost*. Wreckage later washed up on Mull and Tiree.
26/27.7.1960: BOT Formal Investigation (S.455) at Fleetwood.
25.11.1960: The Court found it impossible upon the available evidence to specify any precise cause of the loss save to say that it was due to a marine catastrophe occurring in extreme conditions of wind and sea.
(Lost* – Sk. Alexander Hardy, George Gloss, James Gorst, James A. Carter, William Irving, Joseph Mair, William Cooper, Radio Operator, George McLoughlin, John Coultas, Joseph Blackburn, Jack McDaid, James Read, Edward Archer, George Harlin, Joseph R. Riches, James Morley, William Deery, John Preston and John E. Smith.)
(* – Skippers Albert Wilson & James Myers received Silver Plates from the Board of Trade for their gallant efforts to save life in respect of the stranding of the St. Sebastian .)
Notes: Although the weather was very bad, interestingly neither RED SABRE (Sk. Tom McKernan) approx 50 miles ahead or RED KNIGHT (Sk John Mecklinburgh) about 100 miles astern considered it necessary to reduce speed, yet Sk. Alex Hardy stated to Tom McKernan that he had reduced to 4-5 knots.
There was much speculation at the time of her loss that in view of the relatively small catch and diminished bunkers her stability in those atrocious weather conditions was compromised. This was brought up at the Inquiry.
In a book written some years ago by a captain RN who was a lieutenant at the time on the DAVY (RED FALCON) it was stated that she was an awful sea boat in strong winds and rough seas, and that the helmsman was constantly correcting her head to wind, as she kept “falling off”.
The loss will remain a mystery, but it was stated by a witness that the removal of her two boats and replacement with a single boat under a boom on the centre line had improved her trim and made her easier to handle. So initially there must have been comment about her handling. Tom McKernan who had skippered the RED FALCON for an eighteen month period previously was happy with her behaviour in storm conditions. So the conclusions of the Court were well founded.
There was also the statement from the light house keeper of Skerryvore light, that he saw the steaming lights of the RED FALCON abreast of the light, and then they were gone…a few minutes later, the light house was hit by two mountainous waves in quick succession,that washed over the lantern house, and he thought that these might have “knocked her down”
Note: On the 14th of December 1959, RED FALCON, under the command of skipper Alexander Hardy, was passing through the dangerous area of the South Minch of the west coast of Scotland, where seven tides in meet in a welter of raging waters. She was battling the 90 miles an hour winds of a WSW storm that generated 40 foot waves, as she returned from a trip to Iceland.
Some 50 miles ahead of her was her sister ship RED SABRE under Tom McKernan while the RED KNIGHT under John Mecklenburgh was some 150 miles astern. Tom Mckernan was the last person to have contact with the FALCON in a radio message. Alex Hardy called RED SABRE as the Falcon passed abeam of Skerryvore.
McKernan advised that he was heading for the lee of the Irish coast as he shaped his course from Skerryvore to Inistrahull and Alex Hardy agreed that it was the best thing to do. stating that he would do the same. That was the last time the ship or her crew was heard of. The skippers of RED SABRE and RED KNIGHT later formed the opinion that the FALCON had been overwhelmed by a huge wave.
RED FALCON never berthed in Fleetwood’s Wyre Dock on the 15th as she was expected to. On the 16th of that month the villagers of Scarinish on Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, discovered wreckage including floorboards from the lifeboats, a rocket container box and lifejackets stamped with the missing vessel’s name were washed up on the beach, RED FALCON was gone and nineteen men had lost their lives.
Ironically, Alex Hardy had not been in the best of health and was considering retiring. That trip, which he undertook as a favour to the vessel’s owners, would have been his last.
But there are further twists to this tale. Benjamin (Benny) Thomas was a long serving Chief Engineer with Iago and was signed on RED FALCON. One day a fireman was lowering an ash bucket into the engine room and it became detached from the rope and struck Benjamin on the head. This meant a trip to the hospital when they docked. The following trip he was thrown from his bunk and injured his arm. “The vessel,” he reckoned, “…..was trying to tell me something.” As a result he signed off and sailed with RED SABRE instead. The next time that RED FALCON sailed she was lost with all hands.
David Somers was due to sign on RED FALCON but, before he could do so, James Gloss signed on in his stead, thereby saving his life.
Robert Sillis was due to sail as radio operator on RED FALCON but William Cooper, due to sail on RED ROSE, asked him to swap vessels with him.
The officers and crew of the protection vessel HMS ARMADA sent a cheque for £150.00 to the Mayor of Fleetwood for the relief fund, no small amount for naval personal in those days.
Click to enlarge images
By the Radio Operator of the British Trawler
7th November, 1959
Reproduced thanks to Norman Evans
ODE TO THE DUNKIRK
Cheerio, Dunkirk, you’ve finished your cruise.
You’ll soon be at home so you’ve nothing to lose,
You go home with the knowledge that you’ve done your job’
Regardless of tedium, the weather, the scrob,
You’ve fixed up our Radar, and mended our Winches,
Been our Referee when we’ve been in the clinches’
Your Doctor has proved that he knows every trick,
As he’s jumped in the Dingy to tend to our sick,
Regardless of weather not once did he lag,
As he floated about with his little black bag,
And talking of weather my pencil runs faster,
When I think of your worthy weather forecaster,
He’s been on his toes with his general impressions,
Of fast moving fronts and deepening depressions,
Your Pilot’s the bloke who’s had all the fun,
With Charts and Dividers he’s plotted each run,
His job has been easy, gone along fine,
Because none of his flock has gone over the line,
But ‘Maria Julia’s’ oft lost a kill,
Because of his knowledge, his patience, his skill,
All of your technicians who make work an art,
The rest of your crew who have all taken part
Can go back to Rosyth, have lots of fun,
Rejoice in the knowledge of good work well done,
But here, ere you leave, let a small word be said,
Of your Liaison Skipper, patient old Fred,
No matter how much his temper was taxed,
He maintained his smile and never relaxed,
Not once from his duty has he ever drifted,
No matter how often the Haven was shifted,
His round-ups have been a joy to attend,
He’s treated each ship as a personal friend,
Your Captain, of course, is well in our mind,
The Andrew could do with more of his kind,
Doing a job that in some ways is a joy,
Regardless of things that crop up to annoy,
Conducting transfers with the greatest precision,
Or saying his piece like some great Politician,
When Icelandic Gunboats some stunt tried to pull,
And came on the air to dish out the ‘Bull’,
We salute you all now as you go on your way,
And wish you the best when you reach the U.K.,
You’ve done the job well, not once did you shirk,
So, cheerio now, God be with you, Dunkirk.
16/01/2009: Page published. 10 updates since then.