S.T. Doris FD141 & S.T. Clara Bella FD138

Material courtesy of Bob Wilson

Mystery of the Lost Trawler – The Clara Bella FD138, 1914

The CLARA BELLA belonged to the New Dock Steam Fishing Company LTD and was three years old when she left Fleetwood on the 26th of January 1914 for her ill-fated trip. This was the first time this vessel had gone to Iceland and crew members included Robert Gawne, Thomas Newby, Wliiliam Braham, James Patterson, Patrick Gregan jnr, James Maker or Maher, Oliver Cranwell or Crosswell, J. Blackwood, William Stone, Archibald Mclean, Richard Tomlinson, (son of the New Docks Managing Director), Martin Burnett and Harry kluver. James Patterson (spare hand) was my grandfather. He was 25 yrs of age.

The last sightings of the CLARA BELLA were by the Grimsby trawlers (INA WILLIAM, the SWEEPER, and the CHALCEDONY). The INA WILLIAM put in for shelter in an Onunderfjord off the west coast of Iceland on February the 10th 1914. There were many trawlers sheltering there due to the extreme weather conditions at the time and most of the vessels were encased in ice. The Skipper, Henry Steel, recalls seeing a Fleetwood vessel anchored near the entrance of the Fjord. He remembered it because at the time, he had thought it was a bit of a novelty to see a Fleetwood trawler at the Icelandic fishing grounds. Skipper Steel went on to say that two hours later there were slight breaks in the snow storms and that is when he noticed that the Fleetwood trawler had disappeared. He concluded that they had possibly ‘Slipped out to try for fish’.

He told the Board of Trade enquiry, ‘The weather thickened again almost immediately and continued with heavy easterly gales and continuous snow storms for the next ten days’. James Westerby, Skipper of the Grimsby trawler SWEEPER, said he saw the Fleetwood trawler in early February off Csar Bay, five or six miles South-West of Rykgaves on the South-West coast of Iceland. Why the CLARA BELLA had left was not known, but no trace of her had been found since, nor had any wreckage been found. The presumption was that either she had gone down in the blizzard or she might have struck a rock or floating ice.

Board of Trade Enquiry

The Secretary of the New Dock Steam Fishing Company – Joseph Allen Taylor, said he was satisfied that the vessel sighted by the Grimsby trawler SWEEPER must have been the CLARA BELLA. The conclusion he came to was that the skipper of the CLARA BELLA tried to resume his fishing during an interval in the rough weather and had probably struck a rock or some floating ice during the blizzard which had continued for sometime after he left.

In another write up of the Fleetwood Chronicle dated March 24th 1914, the President of Hull Fishing Vessel Owners Association states, ‘that the trawler CHALCEDONY saw a Fleetwood trawler in Fara Bay on Sunday, March 1st. Later the skipper of the steam trawler, SWEEPER, which arrived in Grimsby on the 9th of March, reported having seen a Fleetwood trawler. And his description of the vessel he saw corresponds with that of the CLARA BELLA seen on Saturday the 28th of February. If the CLARA BELLA was sighted on March 1st she would have been at sea for thirty four days at that point.

The CLARA BELLA came to Fleetwood brand new. She was built in 1911 so was only three years old when she went missing. She was built at Middlesborough at the cost of £7881 and was insured for £7000. Her gross tonnage was about 299, and her speed ten knots. The CLARA BELLA was of standard design. The only difference from other trawlers being that she had an extra fish room aft and an extra bulk head forward. Her bunkers would take from 165 to 170 tons of coal and her ice capacity was about 35 tons. Her capacity for fish would be about 100 tons maximum. Dead weight calculated on freeboard would be about 279 tons.

The Crew

Bosun – Herbert or Robert Henry Gawne – twenty years of age, resided in Addison Road, Fleetwood. He left a wife and one child ages four months old.
Mate – Thomas Newby – thirty four years of age, resided at 53 Carr Road, Fleetwood. He left a wife and one child aged seven years.
Deck Hand – William Braham – nineteen years old, single. He lived in Milton Street, Fleetwood.
Spare Hand – James Patterson- twenty five years, resided 55 Mount Street, Fleetwood. He left a wife and two children aged two years and one ten months.
Spare Hand – Patrick Gregan jnr – twenty years of age – single. Resided at Preston Street, Fleetwood.
Fireman – James Maher (or Maker) – age and address unknown.
Second Engineer – Oliver Cranwell (or Crosswell) single, a native of Melbourne Australia, lodging in Adelaide Street, Fleetwood.
Spare Hand – J. Blackwood – age and address unknown.
Fireman – William Stone – twenty nine years, single, resided at 5 Garfield Street, (off Victoria Street) Fleetwood.
Cook – Archibald Mclean – sixty six years, widower, and has a daughter in the Post Office at Birkenhead. He is a native of Glasgow and resided at the Imperial Cafe Fleetwood.
Deckhand – Richard Tomlinson – seventeen, single, the son of Captain Ernest Tomlinson, the Managing Director of the New Dock Trawling Company – resided Poulton Road, Fleetwood.
Chief Engineer – Martin Burnett, age and address unknown, from Kintore Aberdeen.
Skipper – Harry Kluver – married man. This was his first sailing out of Fleetwood.

A Double Tragedy-The Doris FD141

The trawler, DORIS, was lost with all hands in January 1914 off the Western Hebrides. The crew members were:

Skipper – William Wright.
Mate – John Talbot
Bosun – Matthew Wood
Chief Engineer – John Stephenson
Second Engineer – William Croft
Trimmer – Levi Leake
Trimmer – Arthur Stephenson
Deckhand – Robert William Chiffins
Deckhand – William Jones
Cook – George/William Nicholson

There was only one body found and that was of the cook, William or George Nicholson.

My Grandfather, James Patterson, was the Spare Hand on the CLARA BELLA. The Fleetwood Chronicle article of the time stated ‘a rather strange coincidence in connection with James Patterson, is that he is stated to have signed articles to have sailed with the ill-fated DORIS, but at the last minute, he changed his mind and went in the CLARA BELLA. The trawler DORIS floundered off the coast of Skye around January 22nd 1914 with all crew lost. My grandfather’s fate was sealed.
On 25th of March 1913, after the loss of the BELOVAR and NEW CROWN a disaster fund was set up to help the bereaved families – it paid out about £200 in twelve months. . After the loss of the CLARA BELLA and the DORIS an appeal was launched by the fund ‘Urgent Help Needed’.
After researching the loss of the CLARA BELLA I can only conclude that there were a lot of contradictions in the various articles published in the Fleetwood Chronicle 1914.