Recently I was helping my father clear his home and came across some old family documents and photographs which he had inherited from his own parents. Amongst these treasures was a large foolscap sized accounting book which contained some handwritten accounts dated between 1824 and 1829 plus oddly had some unrelated large old black and white photographs of early steamships glued in the back. The sort of steam powered vessels built with sail masts in case the power system failed.
No notes were written for the photographs of these substantial ships which were located around a docks environment, probably in Southampton. Many were obviously taken during the Second Boer War era, around 1899 as evidenced by the painted numbers on the sides of the ships which aided me in their identification and dating.
This time coincided with the fact that my paternal Great, Great, Grandfather, Henry Poynter, worked at Southampton Docks as a Police Constable. I have seen evidence of documentation that put him there at least between 1895 and 1903 so he would have had access to photograph these mighty vessels from advantageous vantage points. So credit for these pictures should probably go to Henry Poynter.
This photograph of Henry in his Police uniform was probably taken around 1900, deduced from documents I have seen. He would have been in his forties at the time.
Earlier in his life when he was in his late teens he had served in the Coldstream Guards. I have even seen his old army book showing his enlistment in March 1875.
However, as I have no certain proof that it was Henry who took the pictures I should also consider it may have been another member of the family, maybe Henry’s son Harry Poynter, my paternal Great Grandfather, who would have been in his twenties around the beginning of the twentieth century and may have had dockside access granted from his father.
This next image shows Harry, stood over his family. It shows my paternal Great Grandmother, Florence Gertrude, nee. Shearman, known as Gerty, with their children, Dorothy and William, William being my paternal Grandfather. The children’s age dates the photo to around 1911. Harry and Florence later had another son, Charles but Florence sadly died during that childbirth at the age of just 29.
Other possibilities include that another unknown member of the family took the photographs or maybe they were just aquired and collated for a small private home collection and were originally taken by others. Please contact me if you have further information on any of the original shipping photos shown below.
Most of the ship photographs as they were printed measured around 12″ [300mm] and like the family ones above have been rephotographed into my iPhone X for digital storage and use here and have not been enhanced or retouched to maintain as much originality as possible.
I have gathered as much data as I could on each vessel from existing online sources to tell their individual stories and have listed them below in alphabetical order.
First up is [Her Majesty’s Transport Ship] HMT Idaho, a British transport cargo steam powered ship built in 1899 by William Gray & Co, West Hartlepool.
Originally called the [Steamship] SS Idaho it was 99m long, weighed 3,023 tons and could reach nine knots.
The photograph is likely dated around 5 June 1901 when HMT Idaho, temporarily designated number 38, embarked from Southampton to South Africa with 640 members of the 3rd East Surrey Regiment onboard.
At that time many former merchant class passenger and goods vessels were being commandeered by the British Admiralty for use as troop ships taking soldiers, their equipment and supplies to assist in the Second Boer War and then returning wounded men back to Britain.
The Second Boer War, commonly called The Boer War, the Anglo-Boer War or the South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent African states in modern day South Africa. It lasted between 11th October 1899 and 31st May 1902 with a resulting British victory. The first Boer War had previously been fought between 1880 and 1881.
Idaho itself survived the Second Boer War but was lost during its next war involvement, World War One, in August 1918. Idaho was torpedo by the German u-boat U-107, 120 miles north west of Cape Villano, Spain losing 11 persons.
HMT Kildonan Castle
The main ship in this photograph, the one on the left not docked, is HMT Kildonan Castle, a ship built by Scottish shipbuilders Fairfield Shipping and Engineering company Limited of Govan in 1899 being launched on 22nd August of that year.
It was a steel hulled steamer and weighed in at 9,652 tons, was just over 515 feet long and propelled by twin four cylinder engines producing 1,663 Nhp and had two screws. Well, probably many dozens of actual screws but also two screw propellers.
Kildonan Castle was commissioned for Castle Mail Packets Company and registered in London but soon transferred to Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company in 1900.
Kildonan Castle operated as a troop ship carrying forces to South Africa for the Second Boer War where it carried the most men to any war by any boat or ship at the time.
The ship served as HM Transport number 44, shown here in Southampton docks probably on or just before 4th November 1899, so would have still been a Castle Mail Packets Company ship.
It was on this date it first set sail with close to three thousand men including a Welsh Regiment of 29 officers with 827 men and their regimental goat, the Northumberland Fusiliers with 29 officers and 981 men, a detail of 5 Black Watch officers plus 41 men of the 3rd Stationary Hospital, 21 officers and 143 men of the 2nd General Hospital, 4 officers and 141 men of the pontoon troop, Royal Engineers and the 1st Battalion section of the Royal Engineers. No other goats were mentioned.
Kildonan Castle was departing for Cape Town to arrive on 22nd November 1899 then onto Port Elizabeth on the 26th and finally to Durban on 27th November 1899.
After that it returned back to Southampton to do it all again at least another two times, averaging 2,700 officers and men per journey. By then the goat sailing average was probably about 0.33.
During this time Kildonan Castle had J C Robinson as her captain and earned in total fifteen Transport Medal Clasps.
Later on in 1915, during World War One, it served as a Hospital Ship, then in March 1916 was commissioned by The Admiralty for troop service, being released back to previous owners in January 1919.
The KC sailed on until 1931 when it was broken up in Stavanger, Norway in May of that year.
I cannot identify the other ships in the photograph. Or if they had any goats on board. Can you?
RMS Majestic was a 9,965 ton Teutonic class ocean liner built by Harland and Woolf based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and launched on 29th June 1889.
The ship measured 582 feet, which would be called just under 178m today with a beam of nearly 58 foot [or 17.6m] with twin triple expansion engines able to carry 1,490 passengers with 300 in first class, 190 in second class and the other 1,000 in third class.
Majestic was built for the White Star line, delivered in March 1890 and in late July, early August 1891 temporarily gained the Blue Riband, an award for the fastest ever transatlantic crossing with an average speed of 20.1 knots over five days, eighteen hours and eight minutes.
In 1895, RMS Majestic was assigned Captain Edward Smith, the captain who went on to sink as Captain with the ill fated Titanic but when this photograph was taken there were no icebergs to hit in Southampton Docks.
When the Second Boer War started in 1899 Captain Smith and RMS Majestic were twice called on to transport some troops to South Africa, being designated troop ship number 68. Once in December 1899 from Liverpool, then another on 9th February 1900 from Southampton when I suspect this photograph was taken due to its three mast configuration.
Interestingly, Titanic’s surviving second in command, Charles Lightroller was also on board Majestic during these trips serving at the time as a deck officer and may possibly be in this shot.
RMS Majestic underwent a refit during 1902 and 1903 including fitting new boilers, taller funnels and removing one of her three masts. After that the ship returned to its Liverpool to New York runs.
Majestic had survived a bunker fire in 1905, then in 1907 transferred to run the now main White Star transatlantic routes from Southampton to New York only retiring when RMS Titanic started her runs, or rather a single attempted run, in April 1912. All of which required Majestic to be reinstated under Commander J B Kelk, with the first post Titanic crossing taking seven days and one and a half hours, averaging 18.4 knots.
Later it assisted in a rescue of the wrecked French Schooner Garonne on 17th October 1913, then on 14th January 1914 embarked on its final Atlantic crossing having carried 276,887 passengers across the pond.
Majestic was scrapped on 5th May 1914 after 24 years of service.
The Mexican was a 378 foot long, 47 feet wide iron, screw, three cylinder steamer built in 1883 by James Laing & Co of Sunderland. It weighed 4,668 tons, could produce 649 NHp and had a cruising speed of 12 knots. These are the stats for the ship, not for the city of Sunderland.
When entering service as a mail ship for Union Company Line it was the largest of such ships operating between Britain and South Africa.
During May 1885 Mexican temporarily served as a troop carrier taking troops to Hong Kong where it remained as a garrison ship for three months to see out the Russian Scare, a conflict between the Russian and British Empires due to territorial advances into Afghanistan by Russia, which threatened to spill over into India.
According to the London Times around the beginning of October 1899 the ship was to leave Southampton and would convey various named Lieutenants, Royal Horse Guards, officers and men from the Army Ordnance Corps along with a couple of surgeons bound for Cape Town in South Africa to arrive in November of that year. A later report added the names of many other lieutenants, officers, captains and a Viscount from various Royal Horse Guard, Lancers and Fusiliers regiments.
I might also note that Robert Baden-Powell, the man who would become known for starting the Scout Movement was also on board as a war correspondent.
This conglomeration of important soldiers and a big Boy Scout made sense when, less than a month later, the Second Boer War commenced in South Africa.
The Mexican was later used in December of that year for ferrying a consignment of chocolate from Her Majesty Queen Victoria sent free of charge to troops in South Africa. I can only assume this was not the only cargo on board. If it was that would have been an enormous floating pile of calories.
This photograph was probably taken whilst Mexican was being used as a mail ship after war service as there are no signs of deck bound troops or Scout leaders. Furthermore when first commissioned for the Union Company Line it would have been painted black. The white livery suggests Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company ownership which took over in early 1900.
However on 4th April 1900 the Mexican set sail once more back to Southampton from South Africa with mail, 106 passengers and 120 crew but when just 80 miles north of Cape Town in early morning calm seas, amongst some heavy, patchy fog which had rolled in Mexican commenced sounding the fog horn whistle and dropped to half speed. Captain B Copp and his crew carefully watched out for other vessels and at 2am heard another ship’s whistle, then a light so stopped their engines slowing the ship to around three knots.
Suddenly a much larger troop ship, the Winkfield, sized at 4,009 tons and transporting 15 officers, 310 men and 241 horses from London came into view and despite immediate corrections of speed and trajectory by both vessels the two ships collided.
The crew on board the Winkfield had not seen the Mexican until too late and had not heard any fog whistles.
Due to the size and the angles of collision the Winkfield holed the Mexican badly mid ships so Captain Copp decided to abandon his vessel onto the more stable Winkfield. The crew firstly aided the passengers, then returned to salvage as many mail bags as possible and managed to get 194 of the 429 bags to safety, including some diamonds that were being transported back to Blighty, before the Captain was forced to completely abandon the ship.
There was then some effort made to tow the stricken Mexican but this failed so by noon the next day it had sunk.
A story in the Mafeking Mail printed on 4th May 1900 reported the incident and added that an officer had claimed the crew of the Mexican, who were largely from Southampton, had been looting the passengers belongings then some had acted subordinately on board the Winkfield.
In subsequent hearings this was dismissed as unfounded as the largely long serving crew had acted with great speed and professionalism without panic to assist the rescue of all passengers and whatever belongings they could. All with no loss of life.
The hearings also cleared both captains of any wrong doing.
USMSS New York
When the 527 foot long, 10,500 gross tons, steel hulled British steam ship City of New York was built by James & George Thompson of Glasgow for the Inman Line, part of the International Navigation Company, at a cost of $1,850,000 it was designed to be the largest and fastest passenger liner on the Atlantic. It entered service in August 1888.
As the first twin, triple expansion, 9,000 horsepower engined, twin screw, express liner she managed to get the eastbound Blue Riband and held it between August 1892 and May 1893 achieving a speed of 20.11 knots.
The twin screw design was to mitigate in the event of single engine shaft failure and the necessity to keep onboard an excessive amount of rigging for emergencies.
The ship was designed to accommodate 540 first class, 200 second class and 1,000 steerage passengers with quarters fitted with running hot and cold water, electric lighting and electric ventilation. Yes, right from the start this ship had its fans.
Before SS City of New York could be completed the British Government had revoked its licence to be a mail carrier. Therefore the Inman Line lobbied the US Congress to allow American registry and it was on a snowy 22nd February 1883 that the vessel was formally merged into the American Line, personally by US President Benjamin Harrison as one of his final acts of presidency where he raised the American flag and renamed the ship USMSS New York, from then on to use Southampton as their UK port.
In April 1898 when the Spanish-American War started the vessel was chartered as an auxiliary cruiser and renamed USS Harvard. The ship served in the Caribbean Sea including rescuing over 600 survivors from high seas riddled with explosives from stricken ships.
There was also an incidence on board when some onboard prisoners were tragically shot due to a misunderstanding over language which became known as the Harvard Incident.
The ship was decommissioned as the USS Harvard on 2nd September 1898 back to SS New York, then in 1901 underwent a rebuild to be fitted with three engines but also reduced to twin funnels in readiness for more transatlantic runs.
With this information I can therefore date this photograph to between 1898 and 1901.
In 1902 New York received yet another engine update, now sporting quadruple expansion engines.
A couple of years later, on 20th March 1904, the ship had a collision in thick fog near Hurst Castle in the Solent with HM Assaye, a single funnelled troop ship used to transport soldiers to the Second Boer War and then as hospital transport back again. New York’s bowsprit was carried away and Assaye had her starboard bow severely damaged. Note that I’ll write about HM Assaye again later as its story has a personal family connection.
Getting back to the New York, another notable moment came on 10th April 1912 when the ship broke free from its berth in Southampton when the Titanic, yes that enormous ship again, passed by creating a suction effect powerful enough to rip off the three inch steel ropes previously securing the New York to the dock. The Captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, had to act to avert a collision ably assisted by a local tugboat Vulcan, whose help he could have done with four days later in an icy North Atlantic sea.
The next year USMSS New York was again reconfigured, this time to a second and third class only ship and returned to sailings out of Liverpool. I do not know who made the assumption that Liverpool did not need first class accommodations.
When the First World War commenced in 1914 the USA weren’t involved so the ship temporarily became a commercially successful, neutrally flagged, liner but when the US decided to join the war in 1918 the vessel was again commandeered as a troop carrier and this time named USS Plattsburg then became damaged by a mine placed in the Mersey river, Liverpool. Again, I cannot ascertain that it was not deliberately placed there by a snubbed first class local.
After World War One duties were over the ship was reconditioned including removal of a mast and again renamed USMSS New York continuing with the American Line until 1920, finally being scrapped in Genoa in early 1923 after first passing through four other owners.
HMT Roslin Castle
The Roslin Castle was a 380 foot long, iron, single screw, British, passenger mail ship steamer of 2,742 tons which would cruise at twelve knots, built in 1883 by Barclay, Curle and Company, Glasgow and launched on 24th April of that year.
The ship was built for D Currie and Company of London and in 1888 was lengthened and her engines tripled to provide 800 Hp allowing the ship to reach 15 knots despite the weight increase to 4,280 tons.
Also that year Roslin Castle transported the English national cricket team, known as Major R G Wharton’s team, to play the inaugural First Class international cricket match with South Africa.
In 1896 the ship was transferred to Castle Mail Packets Company and was involved in taking troops to South Africa on 4th April 1896 as part of the Jameson Raid which was intended to start an uprising but failed in its mission but did became a contributory cause of the Second Boer War three years later, although by then the vessel was under Union-Castle Mail SS Company Limited.
HMT Roslin Castle was involved in many trips to South Africa taking troops to that war as troop ship numbered HMT 26, as seen in this photograph. In fact on one occasion she took a young Winston Churchill, future British Second World War Prime Minister, there as a War Correspondent and I like to optimistically think it was this photo that captured that departure.
On another occasion in December 1899 the ship Armenian hit the Roslin Castle damaging some of her rail and davits.
She was also used to transport Boer prisoners of war from South Africa to India, for example 507 men on 11th April 1901.
In Roslin Castle’s later years the ship obtained a reputation for breaking down. Nothing to do with the dented rail or davits, I guess.
In 1905 it was renamed Regina by new owners M Jensen of Hamburg and in May 1907 was broken up in Genoa after suffering major heavy weather damage.
Her Majesty’s Hospital Ship, HMHS Spartan started life as a Union Steamship Co, Southampton, passenger cargo iron screw steamer on 12th July 1881.
Like the City of New York [later USMSS New York] above the ship was built by James & George Thompson in Clydebank.
Weighing in at 3,487 ton the vessel was 363.6 feet long and had 600 Nhp.
In October 1899 Spartan was requisitioned as a hospital ship and converted into a Hospital Ship at Southampton with accommodation for 144 sick and given the transport number 11.
From the smart clean finish of the ship as pictured it is likely this photograph was taken around November 1899 just after its conversion.
I haven’t discovered much more about the ship but it clearly survived all its Boer War exploits as its end came in April 1902 when it was broken up in Italy.
But it is a lovely photograph.
SS St. Louis
Launched on 12th November 1894 by William Cramp & Sons Building & Engine Company of Philadelphia for the American Line SS St. Louis was a twin screw, transatlantic passenger line of 11,659 tons.
The maiden voyage took it from New York to Southampton in June 1895 but only a few months later, after the transatlantic crossings by this vessel and similar sister ship St. Paul were too slow they underwent modifications, returning to service considerably faster.
In April 1898 St. Louis was chartered at Southampton as an armed cruiser for use in the Spanish-American war. For clarity, on the American side. The ship was renamed USS St. Louis by the United States Navy and fitted with four five inch guns. Which doesn’t sound very big at all until you realise that’s the shell diameter, not the gun length. The ship also had eight six pounders fitted.
Manned by 350 men with 27 officers under captain Caspar Goodrich St. Louis set off for the Caribbean to deploy heavy drag lines in order to destroy undersea communications links between the West Indies and South America, between Guantanamo Bay and Haiti and also cables serving Cuba.
Plus it was also involved in several naval battles and bombardments including capturing merchant ships and transporting prisoners of war, finally returning to the States for decommissioning back in the shipyard in Philadelphia in August after a busy five months service.
Renamed back to SS St. Louis the ship returned to commercial transatlantic service after having her guns and six pounders replaced by buns and quarter pounders [probably], resuming trips on the regular Southampton to New York route pausing only during 1903 to be fitted with new boilers and taller funnels and during 1913 to be converted to carry second and third class passengers.
From 1914 during the first half of the First World War the St. Louis changed to serving a Liverpool to New York route but in 1917, as renamed vessel SP-1644 or the more snappily titled USS Louisville, had another three guns fitted, this time six inch ones. Cue same old joke.
During service on one memorable occasion the vessel dodged out of the way of an incoming torpedo successfully hitting the submarine that had fired it. And that wasn’t the only encounter with a u-boat. The final war efforts were spent as a troop transporter up to the end of the war in 1919.
Following that in January 1920 and renamed back to St. Louis the ship caught fire causing it to be scuttled in Hoboken during a planned refit back to commercial service in New York.
This effectively meant the ship never sailed again and was eventually taken to Genoa in Italy for scrapping in 1925.
I have no idea of the exact date of this photograph. It must have been somewhen between 1899 and 1914 as the ship does not appear to be fitted with guns. Unless they really were only five or six inches big. A clue could lie in the funnel size increase made in 1903 but I have not seen any dateable photographs or card depictions of the ship with alternate funnel heights. My guess due to the inclusion with the other photographs in the collection would be that it was taken around 1900, before the larger funnel refit.
This rather broken ship started life as a Belfast built ship of 12,531 gross tons by Harland & Wolff able to carry 400 third class passengers plus refrigerated cargo for the White Star Line for journeys between Liverpool and Sydney via Cape Town and it’s story is peppered with interest.
SS Suevic was launched in December 1900 and the maiden voyage was in March 1901. However the ship was soon pressed into service as troop transport during the Second Boer War, returning after that to her commercial role.
On one notable trip a young Charles Lightroller, the future Titanic second in command and most senior serving survivor was assigned to Suevic as punishment whereupon he met his 18 year old wife on board. Which was handy as he was then able to marry her in Sydney when they arrived.
Things sailed along nicely for Suevic until February 1907 when it all went a bit un-ship shaped. Leaving Melbourne the vessel headed for Cape Town then proceeded to Tenerife then set sail for Plymouth in England, intending to continue on to London and finally Liverpool, which seems a bit of an odd routing choice. I’m just reporting the story as I read it.
However just outside Plymouth on 17 March 1907 in thick fog, rain and strong winds Suevic’s crew miscalculated the distance to the Lizard Lighthouse by an incredible sixteen miles and ran full speed into the shore hitting a series of part submerged rocks known as Maenheere Reef at Stag Rock, which must have come as a bit of a shock to the 524 people on board.
I assume the £400,000 worth of frozen sheep carcasses also carried on board the vessel at the time were almost certainly not the least bit concerned.
Despite major damage the Suevic didn’t sink and Captain Thomas Johnson Jones, was able to attempt several tries at reversing off the rocks. All unsuccessfully.
Thankfully all passengers and crew were saved by the gallant efforts of the RNLI in their largest ever rescue in its history saving 141 crew members, 382 passengers, which included 70 babies and a presumably embarrassed Captain. All using just four open wooden lifeboats together manned by twenty four local volunteers.
Then just as the sixteen hour ordeal had ended another ship, the SS Jubba, also ran aground within sight along the same coastline and the lifeboat crews, aided by some of the Suevic crew this time, carried out another rescue. For their efforts two members of the Suevic crew were awarded RNLI silver gallantry medals, alongside four of the lifeboat volunteers for their work during the rescues.
Captain Jones himself was awarded as well. Awarded liability for the accident and had his Competency Certificate withdrawn, coinciding neatly with his immediate retirement.
Although the bow of the Suevic was crumpled beyond salvage the rest of the ship including the boilers and engines was intact. So the aforementioned cargo of indifferent sheep bits was removed and several attempts were made to pull the vessel off the rocks at higher tides. All attempts were unsuccessful and at each try the ship was taken back by the force of nature further into the rocky reef.
With forecasts of worsening weather most thought abandonment to nature was the only option but the Liverpool & Glasgow Salvage Association, acting on behalf of the White Star Line, came up with a brave plan. To dynamite the front section away, using divers, or rather explosives set by divers because divers aren’t naturally explosive enough themselves, with the idea being it would leave a movable 120m long middle and rear end bit which could be rebuilt anew, that being a cheaper option than having to create a whole new ship.
The ambitious and dangerous plan was successful and on 2nd April 1907 the Suevic, or rather 400 feet of it, drifted free assisted by a remaining watertight bulkhead. It worked so well the ship, or what was left of it, could reverse under its own steam guided only by tugs all the way to Southampton’s Test Quay on 4th April 1907.
After that SS Suevic was transferred to the Harland and Wolff owned Trafalgar dry dock in Southampton where the vessel awaited a new 65m nose to be built in Belfast at which point it became known as the longest ever ship being a third in Northern Ireland and two thirds on the South Coast of England.
It was in Southampton some time in 1907 that these photographs were taken because the new bow arrived on 26th October of that year.
The Harland and Wolff team were joined by shipbuilders from J. I. Thornycroft and the largest cut and shut ship ever was completed by mid January 1908.
Up until the First World War in 1914 Suevic continued commercial service to Australia. The ship continued its runs whilst in readiness for Royal Navy service but wasn’t called upon until a commission to take British Troops to Greece. Not on holiday but to the Dardanelles Campaign, under the title Hired Military Australian Transport or HMAT A29 Suevic.
Suevic survived the war and was refitted in 1920 to carry 266 second class passengers, returning to familiar Australian commutes completing its 50th trip in 1924 and going on until 1928 when the ship was sold to Yngvar Hvistendahl’s Finnhval A/S of Tønsberg, Norway for 35 grand, renamed Skytteren and converted to an Atlantic whaling ship, complete with a new stern ramp.
The whaling continued until the Second World War commenced. In April 1940, along with several other ships Skytteren was interned in Gothenburg, Sweden. Norway wanted their ship back but met with legal resistance due to a squabble between the exiled Norwegian Government and the German collaborationist Norwegian Government. As a result in April 1942 ten ships, including Skytteren made a dash for it out of port towards the safety of some British warships.
Sweden protested against this manoeuvre so the ships headed instead for international waters but met awaiting, tipped off, German ships. Only two made it to the safety of the British ships, two were sunk by the Germans, the rest including the ex-Suevic were voluntarily scuttled by their crew. One crew man from Suevic was lost and the other 110 became prisoners of war.
The fascinating Suevic story didn’t quite fully end in the waters off Sweden in the early forties. Lying in 70m depth of water the wreckage still housed a large amount of oil in the tanks and in 2005 was seen to be leaking and the still decaying hull is now threatening an environmental incident.
The collection also contains three other photographs of ships which I have failed to identify.
There were many ships operating from Southampton at the time and these photos do not contain enough individually identifiable data for me to positively name or date them.
This one for instance could be a Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company vessel. They were common at the time and were usually painted white. However not all light coloured ships were from the Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company.
If you know how to identify the ship please message me and I’ll happily add this ship properly to the list above.
Some clues may be the twin funnels [fairly common], the height of the funnels [less so] and the three masts [also fairly commonplace].
The next photograph was bigger so should it’s resolution should make identifying distinct attributes of this ship easier.
The same might be said about the backward sloping funnels although the fact there are only two and the ship has a fairly standard set of three masts doesn’t assist.
The photo is in black and white so I cannot be certain of the hull colour but assuming it was black it could be a Union Company Line vessel. But even using that fact doesn’t allow me to name the vessel.
If only the angle of the composition was more acute then a nameplate may have been visible on the rear which would have made this task so much easier.
Again, if you know the identity of this ship please let me know so it can be properly posted in its rightful place above.
Finally, another twin funnel ship also with a dark hull and twin funnels but this time smaller in size so only sporting twin masts, discounting the rearward post supporting an apparent vessel lamp.
Again, if black hulled is it serving the Union Company Line? Are those funnels red perhaps? If only colour photography was common at the time.
Now some might, at this time, be thinking of web based photo matching services. If you think this might work with these photographs please feel free to try. However this may be hampered by the resolution available, the newness of such matchmaking technology and the fact that these photos are in all likelihood originals having never been seen in the public domain before now.
However, if you do get a breakthrough please let me know via the comments.
Finally I would like to take this chance to honour two other members of my family who’s stories are tightly linked to shipping at the turn of the twentieth century and The Second Boer War.
My paternal Great Grandmother, Florence, mentioned earlier, was born Florence Shearman and she had just two siblings, her older brothers Harry and William.
Both Harry and William probably sailed together as they both went to South Africa with the Durham Light Infantry to play their part in the Second Boer War which had kicked off in November 1899.
In all likelyhood they were part of the intended relief of Ladysmith in the Natal area where 13,000 British Forces had repelled a 21,000 strong Boer attack and had endured a consequent siege there.
They travelled to Cape Town in the single funnelled 7,396 gross ton HM Troopship SS Assaye, yes the one mentioned earlier which collided with USSMS New York in thick fog later in 1904.
As I didn’t have a photograph of the actual Assaye I decided to draw a picture of it, from memory. That is, the memory of a photograph of SS Assaye which I recently discovered on the internet.
The vessel had started life in 1899 being constructed by Caird & Company, Scotland for the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company being launched in October 1899 intended to be a commercial transport service.
The Second Boer War put an end to that idea and the Assaye was commissioned as troop transport immediately, a service the vessel seemed destined to perform its whole life.
The ship was also used between 1903 and 1908 for various other troop transport duties and when not a troop ship the Assaye remained laid up in Southampton awaiting similar roles.
SS Assaye’s first commercial work came in 1908 between Bombay, now Mumbai and the Far East before being hired again by the Admiralty as a troop and hospital ship for First World War use in 1914. Then continued in similar roles until being eventually scrapped in Stavanger, Norway in 1928.
Back to my family’s connection to the Assaye and we pick up the story on 1st March 1900 where the ship left Southampton with 2,083 troops onboard including 150 men of the Durham Light Infantry, including the brothers, disembarking them at Cape Town, South Africa on the 21st of the month.
Some complications with illness, possibly started during the voyage on the Assaye, rendered both brothers sick. This was not that uncommon on these troop ships at that time.
Harry was so much affected that by 7th April he had already been transferred back onto a returning hospital ship the SS Nubia, which was heading back to Southampton.
The hospital ship, the SS Nubia, originally called SS Singapore was a £100,000, 430ft (131m) passenger cargo ship of 5,914 tons, launched in 1894 after being built at Caird & Company, Greenock, Scotland and completed in 1895 for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, later to become P&O.
Again, the picture is a representation of what the SS Nubia would have looked like around 1900 based on modern historical records lying around the servers of this world. Credit to the drawing should be given to me because that’s who drew it.
The ship could travel at 14.5 knots from its three-cylinder triple expansion steam engine of 662 Nhp. The maiden voyage took the ship towards Calcutta but it ran aground in Fukon Bay off Aden, Yemen.
Nubia was deployed between 1899 and 1903 transporting and treating patients during the Second Boer War.
The ship ended life wrecked in 1915 whilst heading from Bombay to Shaghai in the Bay of Bengal less than a kilometre north of Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
Harry’s time with the SS Nubia in April 1900 was lamentably short. Unfortunately he never made the journey back home and died on board so was subsequently buried at sea off the west coast of Africa just a day before the ship docked in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
Then tragically, less than a month later Harry’s younger brother William also died, this time in South Africa. He died from Entric fever, of which Typhoid is a form and was buried at Estcourt, a place described at the time as ‘a collection of about three hundred detached stone or corrugated iron houses, nearly all one-storied, arranged along two broad streets’. That was a contemporaneous report according to Winston Churchill who was based there as a war correspondent in 1899.
These men were the only two siblings of my Great Grandmother and so my paternal family the only ones now left with personal connections.
Of course as war wounded their names shall remain in records and have also been inscribed on the Durham Cathedral Boer War Memorial Cross. William unfortunately spelled as William Sherman and his brother Harry as a postscript, out of alphabetical order, near the base and so now quite worn. I presume because the records didn’t originally record him as a casualty of the war having being immediately transferred back towards home.
They do have a personal headstone though which was probably erected around 1900, as deduced from the reference to the Queen on the inscription, who would have been Victoria who died in 1901. Given the condition of the photograph it was probably taken soon after placement.
I do not know where it is situated but suspect it is in the Southampton area. The suppliers mark seems to show Mapen Winchester but I cannot determine further information about this or a similar name.
If you have seen this memorial stone and remember where you saw it please let me know so I can make a visit.
Information and data about the ships shown was collated from internet searches within angloboerwar.com, bandcstaffregister.com, clydeships.co.uk, greatships.net, norwayheritage.com, queensroyalsurrey.org.uk, roll-of-honour.com, uboat.net, en.wikipedia.org and wrecksite.eu
The photos used are all from the collection of Vince Poynter, from his family records
The original sketches and drawings were created by Vince Poynter on an iPad Air 4 using the Sketchbook App to illustrate this article and are © 2021
Suitable credit should be given if any of this media is used elsewhere