SHIPWRECKS AROUND THE COASTAL AREA OF BARRY
Extracted from the Cardiff Times, South Wales Star, Cadoxton Journal, Barry Dock News, Barry Herald, Barry & District News.
Over the years, especially in the boom years when "Coal was King", the coastline around Barry saw a vast increase in coastal traffic and a great number of ships either being involved in collisions with other ships, running aground, or being wrecked in the area. A great number of these incidents were reported in the press, and some are still remembered by people who were alive at the time, or were told of them by their parents or grandparents. This is not a comprehensive list but a number that I have found whilst looking through various newspapers published at the time.
In 1866 the Bonanza ran ashore on Friars Point and became a total wreck. Out of a crew of twelve, only three survived by managing to scramble ashore. The remaining nine are buried in Sully Parish Churchyard.
Three years later in May 1869 the smack John & Mary of Beaumaris was driven ashore at Cold Knap point by gale force winds whilst trying to enter Barry Harbour to seek shelter. She was loaded with potatoes and bound for Bridgewater. It was reported that she was left high and dry on the rocks and there was no loss of life.
In September of the same year, the iron built, barque-rigged steamer Golden Fleece, built in 1854 at Blackwall in London, left Penarth loaded with 2,000 tons of coal for Alexandria. She had a crew of 43, and was commanded by Captain John Fisher of Liverpool. She sprung a leak and made for the shore at Barry, but before she grounded, broke in half and sank in 10 fathoms of water. A pilot boat owned by Messrs. Evans and Davies, upon seeing the ship in difficulty made for her, and transferred 42 of the crew from the boats that had been lowered. During the transfer the assistant cook fell overboard and was lost.
On New Years Eve in 1880, the Ernest of Stettin, loaded with green-heart timber, struck the rocks at Breaksea Point and was completely wrecked. Out of the crew of ten, only one survived, by being picked up by a wave and being dropped on the pebble ridge, from where he crawled to the lighted Ocean Hotel. The bodies of the captain and the rest of the crew were buried in Penmark Churchyard.
In the same storm, the barque Ida of Stettin with a crew of eight was driven ashore on rocks at Boverton and wrecked. Five members of the crew and the captain managed to scramble up the cliffs and made for a light in a cottage. The following morning they joined their fellow countrymen at the Ocean Hotel. The bodies of the two crew members that were lost were later washed ashore at Limpert Bay and buried in Gileston churchyard.
In March 1881 the SS Roxburgh of the Caledonian Steamship Company, whilst anchored in the Barry Roads after being loaded with coal at Barry, caught fire. The Barry Docks fire-float went to her assistance and with her help the fire was put out. The Roxburgh was forced to return to Barry for unloading and repairs.
In October 1890 the Iron barque Unicorn was run down by the steamer Red Jacket whilst anchored in the Barry Roads. She was taken in tow by a tug and beached on the mud near the Breakwater. After temporary repairs to a large rip in the port bow were carried out, she was taken into the Basin and her cargo discharged to allow permanent repairs to the vessel to be carried out .
The same month a fierce gale struck the Bristol Channel and a number of ships sustained considerable damage, were struck by vessels being blown up the channel, or were driven ashore. Amongst these was the SS Henry Brand, anchored off Sully waiting for the gale to abate before proceeding to Southampton with her cargo of coal loaded at Cardiff. She was struck by the SS Lord Derby and holed twice in the bows. Captain Sealey immediately slipped anchor and made for the Penarth mud where she sank with 10' of water in her fore hold. The Lord Derby, which was carrying a load of iron ore, filled rapidly but proceeded at full speed to the shore, where she was beached. The tide, which had two hours to run, covered the vessel, but at low water she lay high and dry on the beach. The Lord Derby, together with the Henry Bland, had temporary repairs carried out on their hulls and both were later towed to Cardiff for repairs.
In the same month SS Glen Gelder of Aberdeen making for Barry to repair damage sustained in a storm, was struck by SS Aklert, a Norwegian vessel, which did not stop. She was taken in tow by the tug Speedwell which had taken the crew of 19 aboard, but she went down in about 6 fathoms of water off Sully. She was later raised and salvaged, and taken to Mount Stuart Docks in Cardiff for repair. All the crew were saved.
Also in October the steamer Cadoxton, owned by Mr Matthew Cope
of Cardiff, which had anchored in the Barry Roads because of gale
force winds, dragged her anchors and collided with the steamer Emilie
of London. Both ships were towed to Barry for repairs to be carried out.
Other ships in the roads that sustained storm damage were the Willemina Cornelia of Holland, and the Arcturus, which had her windlass torn out by the strain placed on her cables, and damage to her catheads and stanchions which necessitated her having to dock for repairs to be carried out. The Duke of Cornwall of Falmouth lost her anchors and 20 fathoms of chain.
In December 1890 the French vessel Point de Jour of 75 tons register, carrying 127 tons of potatoes from Bayonne to Cardiff was struck by the SS Strathlyon of Glasgow. The Strathlyon was in ballast from Liverpool to Barry, to pick up a cargo of coal for the China station. In the words of the Point de Jour crew, the ship "was ran over" and sank off Breaksea Point. The crew of five took to the lifeboat and were later saved.
January 1891 the Cleveland, built in 1872 of 769 ton gross, ran aground in fog and burst her foreplates. A tug arrived and towed her off, but after being towed towards Cardiff for about a mile she again hit rocks and her keel was shattered. All members of the crew were saved. Later she was salvaged and finally finished up her voyage in Cardiff.
In May 1893 the steamer Ataka, commanded by Captain F Bement was steaming very carefully at a slow rate up channel, owing to a dense fog which the captain described "As thick as a hedge". She was struck by an unknown sailing vessel, which smashed 10 or 12 feet of plate along her port side, and a large hole running down to her waterline was occasioned by a spar from the other vessel. The sea was dead calm with no wind at the time, otherwise the damage received would have resulted in the vessel sinking. She put into Barry Docks for repair.
In October 1894 the Eiffel Tower, owned by the Dunedin Steamship Company of Leith, and skippered by Captain Campbell, whilst on the way to Barry ran aground in thick fog on Cold Knap Point. She was refloated on the high tide the same day and towed to Barry Docks for repair.
1895 saw the great storm hit the coast around Barry. John the William was moored in Porthkerry Bay loading pebbles from the Beach when the storm struck, she was driven onto the beach, finally being lifted over the ridge of pebbles and deposited among the trees at the foot of the hill leading to Porthkerry House, she was a total loss, later cut up for her timber.
The Vanduara of Swansea whilst being towed by the steam tug The Great Emperor of Liverpool hit the breakwater at the entrance to Barry Docks, was pulled off and anchored in Barry Roads, later to be driven ashore by strong winds and beached in Whitmore Bay. Her cargo of coke jettisoned to lighten her to enable her to be re-floated was used by local residents to make paths and footways on the Island.
1896 was a bad year for shipping in the Bristol Channel. In August the German barque Guarany on her way from Newport to South America and loaded with coal, was blown ashore on Sully Island by gale force winds and was declared a total loss. The wreckage was later towed off and taken to the Cardiff mud flats.
October 8th saw the ketch Sir William Molesworth driven ashore by gale force winds and beached in the Old Harbour near the railway embankment.
October 24th the same year the schooner Harlequin of Cork was run down off Barry and sunk by the steamer Ouse of Cardiff. The master of the Harlequin, Captain Parker, and his crew of three were rescued by the Ouse and landed at the Pier Head.
The SS Activity of Cardiff hit the pier head whilst attempting to leave the Basin for sea, severely damaging her bows and holing her portside. She was towed back into the docks, her cargo of coal unloaded and taken to the dry dock for repairs.
On 14th February 1897 the French steamer Bearn of Marseilles, loaded with iron ore from South America, was run into by the steamer Bourbon on her way from Penarth to Liverpool. The Bearn suffered a severely damaged stern and forepeak. The captain immediately ordered her engines "Full Steam Ahead" and she made it to Barry Docks entrance before grounding. To allow shipping to enter and leave harbour, tugs Bantam Cock and Salisbury managed to move her eastwards from where she was blocking the entrance. At low water temporary repairs were made to her hull, to enable her to be towed by the Docks tug Windsor to the Graving Dock for more permanent repairs to be carried out.
The same day the SS Vivienne and SS Harbury of London collided in the Barry Roads, both ships put in at Cardiff for repairs.
On Friday 14th June 1897 the SS Coniscliffe, fully laden with coal from Barry, collided with the sailing vessel County Kinloss which had left Barry the day previous loaded with coal for Colombo. Owing to bad weather she was at anchor in the Barry Roads when the Coniscliffe collided with her. Both ships returned to Barry for repairs.
On the following Monday the smack Frederick William of Bristol, en route from Avonmouth to Swansea with a cargo of maize, drifted onto rocks near the East Wolves buoy, becoming a total wreck and sinking within four minutes. The crew were unable to save any of their possessions, took to the ship's boat, and rowed to Barry, arriving there the following afternoon.
On 23rd September the SS Harpaulus en route from London to Penarth was struck by an unknown barque in heavy weather. The Harpaulus sustained heavy damage to her bows and her starboard plates were stove in. She had to put into Barry for repairs.
On Friday 1st October the SS Carlton was proceeding up channel when she ran into the SS Puritan of 4,000 ton reg. which was lying at anchor. Both ships were severely damaged. The Carlton put into Barry for repairs and the Puritan, which was on her maiden voyage, proceeded to Cardiff.
In 1898 the American barque Cora was loaded with coal from
Barry and anchored in the Barry Roads, but dragged her anchors and
was driven ashore by gale force winds near Treharne's Point (Friars
Point) sustaining substantial damage. A number of the crew were taken
off. She was later towed back into Barry Docks for repair. In April
of the same year the owners of the tugboat Thistle which
undertook the tow took the owners of the Cora to court
claiming £550 as salvage fee. They were awarded £200.
In January 1898 the pilot cutter The Stranger was struck by the SS Harbury just outside the Barry harbour entrance, and sank within two minutes. The captain (John Salt of Penarth) and crew of two took to their small boat, which became entangled with the wreckage of the cutter and sank throwing its occupants into the water. Only one member of the crew survived, the captain and the other crew member (Mr Brooks) were drowned.
On 11th January 1899 a great storm struck the Bristol Channel with
vessels running for shelter all along the coast. It was the start of
one of the greatest feats of lifesaving by lifeboat men that has ever
been recorded and it ended in Barry. The Forest Hall, a three
masted vessel of 1900 tons, on her way from Bristol to Liverpool with
a skeleton crew on board, lost her rudder in the storm and was blown
back along the channel towards Porlock. The lifeboat at Lynmouth was
called out, but owing to the force of the storm was unable to launch
from there. The decision to launch at the more sheltered harbour at
Porlock was taken, and the lifeboat Louisa was taken 15 miles
across country to Porlock, towed by horses and helped by the
residents of Lynmouth. It took over 10 hours of exhausting work to
cover the distance and to launch it there.
In February 1909 the Forest Hall was wrecked near Auckland, New Zealand.
March 1899 saw a collision off Barry Island between the steamship Aberdare, loaded with coal for St. Nazaire, and the steamer Niobe of Glasgow, bound for Bristol. The collision caused considerable damage to the Aberdare, which sunk in a few minutes with the loss of its second engineer, Mr Greatrix of Penarth.
The Norwegian steamer Edith en-route from Cardiff with a cargo of coal for Barcelona, was struck in the side by the Italian steamer Beta and began to sink. The impact was so severe that most of the Edith's crew managed to scramble on board the Beta, which was impaled in the side of the Edith. Within five minutes the Edith began to sink. At the time of the collision, fourteen of the crew of seventeen were rescued and three were missing, but a few hours later, two of the crew and the ship's dog were pulled from the water in an exhausted condition by the SS Jersey. The ship's cook was lost.
In September of the same year the barque Pinmore, after dragging her anchors in the Barry Roads and in danger of being driven ashore by gale force winds, was towed to safety by the tugs Bantam Cock of Cardiff and Flying Eagle of the Clyde. The tugs were awarded £1,100 for salvage services rendered.
On January 20th 1900 the pilot cutter Lily, under the charge of Mr Bennett was driven ashore by gale force winds on Barry Island and declared a total wreck.
In November the same year, the ketch Young Emma loaded with railway iron, sprang a leak and was towed into Barry by Mr Frank Trott's pilot cutter Marguerite, where she sank. The crew of four were saved.
On April 25th 1902 the steam tug Fasnet, owned by Christie & Co., of Cardiff ran aground on rocks off Rhoose in dense fog. The crew of four plus the captain took to their boat and rowed back to Barry. A tug belonging to the Salvage Association and carrying a group of workmen later arrived at the scene, and proceeded to block the large rents in the side of the vessel, enabling it to be towed back to Barry for repairs.
The same year on October 25th, the Penzance owned by Messrs. Tillet and Company of Cardiff, and loaded with 847 tons of coal, collided with the French barque Laennec in the Barry Roads. The barque was being towed by the Cardiff Tug White Rose. The Penzance sank in few minutes, with 17 of the crew being saved.
A short time later the steamer Roath loaded with coal left Barry bound for Boston, USA, collided with the wreckage and was badly holed. She immediately returned to Barry for repairs and although having 2,814 tons of coal on board, was not unloaded but taken into dry dock and repaired, and resumed her voyage within 3 days.
In February 1903 the SS Arthur, on her way down channel from Newport to Dublin, collided with the SS Watchful in the Barry Roads. The Arthur sank within a few minutes, and out of a crew of thirteen, the chief officer was drowned and twelve were rescued. On the collision eight of the crew of the Arthur jumped onto the deck of the Watchful, and two pilot cutters that were standing by saved four. The 2nd engineer who was picked up by one of the cutters and taken to Barry Docks died of exposure.
Later in the month the smack Swift, owned by Mr. Binding, whilst attending the wreck of the Arthur, fouled it, sprung a leak and sunk.
Later in April of the same year, the SS Crauley on her maiden voyage from Cardiff Dry Dock to load her first cargo of coal from Barry Docks, collided in the channel between Barry and Sully Island with the SS Hadley bound from London to Penarth. The tug Falcon stood by in case it was needed as both vessels limped into Barry Docks for repairs.
In 1907 the SS Orianda on route from Cardiff to Italy was in a collision off Nash Point with the Heliopolis, and quickly began to sink. The SS Ebba of Stockholm, and Barry pilot John Sparkes between them managed to rescue five members of its crew, but 14 were lost. The five survivors were later brought into Barry Docks.
the 29th August 1908 the Verajean of Dumbarton left Cardiff
loaded with coal bricks for Chile, and was towed to Lundy Island by
tugs. Because of gale force winds the tugs dropped their tow and ran
for shelter at Lundy, leaving the ship to make its own way in the
gale that had sprung up.
The Verajean fared better than the Amazon, which was caught in the same storm. She was driven back up the channel, finally coming to rest on the sands at Margam, where out of a crew of 28 only eight survived. The ship was a total wreck, and thousands of people came to Margam to view the scene. Because of the increased business done by the local public house which was near the wreck, it was renamed The Amazon. The public house, unlike its namesake, still survives.
1909 saw another ship hit Castle Rock in Porthkerry Bay and sink. This was the Nouvellis Prince, laden with 49 tons of coal, and on this occasion three seamen lost their lives. For some years after this event the frame of the ship could be seen at low tide, partially buried in the sand opposite the Bull Nose rocks.
On Friday 9th February 1912, the steamer Atlanta left Cardiff for Port Talbot light and was hit by gale force winds near Rhoose Point. The master, Captain Wollacott, and crew of five took to the boats. Unfortunately, two of the crew were washed overboard by the heavy seas and were lost. The captain and the remaining members of the crew landed at Rhoose and were looked after by Mr Alexander.
The following day, Saturday 10th February, the SS Vassilefa Georgiou and the SS Kildonan were in collision in the Barry Roads. The Vassiefa Georgiou docked in Barry Dock for repairs and the Kildonan in Cardiff Docks. Both ships suffered considerable damage.
In August 1912 the Cambo hit the eastern Breakwater at the entrance to the docks and ran aground. She was badly damaged, and towed off by tugs. Later that day she caught fire and sank. She was later refloated and towed into Barry Docks for repair.
December the same year saw the Amesia run aground near the Atlantic Trading Estate, the crew staying on board until tide went out and then walking ashore. Barry lifeboat stood by in case of emergency.
On August 12th the Pelagos, carrying 1417 tons of coal, struck
the rocks at Cold Knap Point and sank. For years after, coal was
washed up on the beaches around the area.
In January 1913 the German steamer Hebdomen, lying at anchor in the Barry Roads because of dense fog, was struck by the SS Greenjacket on the port side and badly holed. The Greenjacket was fully laden with coal from Newport. When the Greenjacket went astern a large rent could be seen in the port side of the Hebdomen, running from below the waterline to the deck of the vessel. The captain and crew stayed with the vessel until about an hour before she finally sank.
On Wednesday 12th March of the same year, the SS India, on the way from Genoa to Cardiff light, became caught in gale force winds and blown onto rocks off Barry. She was later towed off by two tugs from Cardiff and taken into Barry Docks for repair.
February 1914 saw the pilot cutter Mollie caught by a heavy squall and sunk. She was owned by Mr Bennett of Ivor Street, Barry Island, and was being towed up channel by SS Indutiomare. Crewmen William Protheroe and Alfred Davies were rescued by the steamer's crew and landed at Barry.
The following month, in gale force winds, the lifeboat John Wesley was called out twice to ships in distress in the Barry Roads, one having every inch of her canvas blown away as she was driven up the channel. Later the same day two four-masted Norwegian barques, Far and Gartha were driven up channel. The Gartha ended up on the beach at Lavernock, and the Far landed on the Sully Ledge. The latter was towed off by Cardiff tugs.
A relative remembers an icebreaker named the Nova Scotia coming ashore on Sully Beach, and this she thought was a sister ship to Captain Scott's Terra Nova. She doesn't remember the date but thinks that it was about 1916. Sully Beach was covered with coal and she and her brother made several trips to fetch coal, bringing it back to Cadoxton, a journey of about 2 to 3 miles. On one trip to the wreck she found the figurehead and took it home. She cleaned the coal dust and smoke damage off, and carefully stored it in the shed. My grandfather, short of firewood, later cut it up and used it to light the fire. He told my aunt that "it was a lovely bit of pine and burnt well".
On January 4th 1918, the Newport pilot cutter No.14 was struck near the dock entrance by the Norwegian owned steamer Hassel. The steamer hit with such force as to cause the cutter to sink straight away. Barry boatmen, who saw what had happened and raced out to their rescue, rescued the crew of six. One man was injured in the collision, the others, although suffering from immersion in the water, were discharged from hospital and sent home.
October 4th the same year saw the SS Hedley turn turtle and sink whilst being loaded with coal in Barry Docks. The coal trimmers aboard took alarm at the pronounced list of the vessel and quickly rushed up onto deck, where they joined the crew and climbed up the tip shute and gained the shore. The vessel was later raised and repaired with the aid of docks railway engines and tugs.
January 1920 saw the Kingston run ashore at the Bendricks in gale force winds. She was refloated and taken into Barry Docks for repair.
The same month saw the ketch Alice of Milford Haven, on the way from Sharpness to Briton Ferry, lose her rudder, and when both her anchors failed to hold her in storm force winds, she was driven ashore on rocks at Breaksea Point. The master, William Stubbs managed to scramble ashore when the ketch struck, but his 14-year-old son, John, and father-in-law George Richards, were both drowned.
On the 22nd January the Swedish vessel Sigvard was in collision with an unknown ship and sank off Cold Knap. To warn other shipping in the area about the wreck, a wreck-marking vessel with a crew of two was stationed over it. The next day the Spanish owned steamer Abando on her way up channel, struck the wreck-marking vessel causing the crew to abandon her. This they did by jumping on the Spanish ship, later transferring to one of the Cardiff pilot cutters. Later, on Saturday 24th January, they returned to find their ship still anchored and afloat.
On the same night the Swedish ship Gulli struck an unknown sailing vessel in the Barry Roads and sustained considerable damage to her bowsprit. She was forced to return to port for repairs.
In May 1920 the Merkur, owned by the Finnish Government, was in collision with the Castroalen and sank. Four months later, after efforts to raise her were on the point of succeeding, the Zelo, loaded with iron ore from Bilbao, ran into the forward part of the wreck and a large part of her bottom was torn out and she sank alongside her. All efforts to raise the Merkur were halted, and today the Merkur Buoy marks both vessels.
In March 1921, when her cargo of timber shifted causing a heavy list, and she began to ship water, the vessel Jane ran aground at nearly the same spot at the Bendricks as the Kingston. The crew took to the lifeboats and landed at Barry. Unlike the Kingston, the Jane became a total wreck.
On May 5th 1922, the 5 masted auxilary schooner Geraldine Wolvine, in heavy seas and gale force winds, broke adrift from her anchorage and drifted a considerable distance towards the shore before being taken in tow by a tug, and towed to a more sheltered anchorage.
In July the same year the French steamer Clio, making up channel towards Cardiff, fouled a marker buoy in the Barry Roads and shed all the blades of her propeller. She was taken in tow by three tugs and brought into Barry for repairs.
1923 was a bad year for Tugboats. In January the Bristol Channel tug Contest of Cardiff was struck by the Spanish steamer Jati Mendi in heavy seas and gale force winds, and was beached on mud at the Breakwater to avoid sinking. The Jati Mendi limped into Barry Docks for repairs.
In February the tug Conquest, owned by the Bristol Channel Towage Company, was on her way to assist the 2,500 ton net steamer Age of Melbourne, Australia, en route from Sunderland to Barry. The Conquest was struck amidships by the Age and was forced to beach inside the inner breakwater to avoid sinking.
July the same year saw the Cardiff tug Assistance being run down by the Liverpool steamer Lagarto and sunk. Three of the tug's crew were drowned, and the Lagarto later docked in Barry Docks for repairs.
In January 1924 the crew of the French ketch Adolph, on their way to Cardiff from Etel with a load of pitprops on board, was driven onto the rocks at Breaksea Point by gale force winds, and sank. The crew took to the rigging and waited for the tide to turn, before scrambling on board the ship's boat. The boat had lost its oars and for 12 hours was tossed about the waves until the Devonia, on her way to Ilfracombe, picked up the crew and landed them.
On 11th February the SS Mallock ran ashore in dense fog at Breaksea Point and sustained extensive bottom damage. The steamer rapidly filled up with water forcing the crew of 13 to take to the boats. Men from the Barry Graving Dock were put on board to carry out temporary repairs to enable her to be taken into Barry Graving Dock for examination and further repairs to be carried out.
On May 14th the ketch Pleadis of Bideford, on her way down
channel, was in collision with the naval survey vessel Flinders.
The ketch was dismasted in the collision, but with the aid of a tug
was brought into Barry for repairs.
The 30th May 1924 saw the Claree, a sloop registered in Bridgewater loaded with 150 tons of coal, strike the jetty on leaving Newport Docks. Thinking that she had not suffered any damage, she proceeded down channel to the Barry Roads where she began to take on water. She quickly made for Barry. After entering the harbour and tying up, her holds started to fill and she settled in the mud. She was later pumped out and taken into the docks for repair.
On 5th September 1924, in a dense fog, the Finish auxiliary screw schooner SS Hongisto went ashore on rocks near Lavernock, and at low tide turned over. The captain and crew fired flares to attract attention to their plight, but it wasn't until seven hours after the incident occurred that any assistance was given to them.
On the 25th October the Belgian steamer Van Dyck, on her way from Newport, where she had discharged her cargo of iron, to Barry for refuelling, was in struck by the SS Castlemoore and suffered considerable damage to her bows. She limped into Barry and moored in the basin. Repairs to her bows were later carried out in the dry dock.
In December 1924, the Pilton, a ship owned by WJ Tatem of Cardiff, ran ashore in gale force winds on Sully Beach, and stayed aground for three months. She provided a steady source of income for Sully caterers from visitors, and coal for residents, as she was being lightened in preparation for refloating. Finally after building launching ramps of concrete and placing hundreds of wooden wedges under her, and with the help of her engines, she was winched off to the cheers of the hundreds of spectators watching, and towed to Barry Docks for repairs.
On Friday 20th March 1925, the SS Paris City, owned by the St Just Steamship Company, struck a submerged object in the Barry Roads, which holed her. She proceeded with the assistance of a tug to Barry Docks for repairs.
Island took on a new lease of life when, in August 1926, the Valsesia,
loaded with American coal in an effort to break the miners strike,
drifted on to the rocks at Friars Point in a thick fog after
attempting to anchor off Barry. When the tide went out she broke her
back and split into two, and at each subsequent tide the two parts
drifted further apart.
In November 1926 the Woodstock of Barnstable, with 65 tons of coal bound from Lydney to Barnstable, was blown down channel and grounded at East Aberthaw.
The same storm saw the pilot cutter Queen Mother blown ashore and grounded on a ledge between the Bendricks and Sully.
On 13th January 1927, the Newcastle steamer Swiftsure, on route to Port Talbot light, was blown up channel. She managed to anchor in the Barry Roads, but was struck by an unknown vessel and began taking on water. The Captain made for the Cardiff West mud flats and beached her. When the wind abated she was towed off and taken into the Dry Docks for examination and repair.
On 16th June the same year, the Greek steamer Marietta ran ashore on the breakwater outside the dock entrance. She was towed off and taken into the Barry Commercial Dry Docks, where she underwent repairs to her bottom plates.
In August the pilot cutter Violet, on station at the Monkstone Light to enable engineers to carry out repairs, was struck by the French steamer Mandolin, and was thought to be in danger of sinking. The paddle steamer Glen Usk on her way back to Cardiff, saw the cutters distress signal, and stopped to rescue the crew. The cutter, although badly damaged, stayed afloat and asked for a tug to be sent out to tow her into Barry for repairs. The Glen Usk continued on her way to Cardiff, where she passed the information on.
January 1930 was a bad month for gales in the Channel. On the 12th, the Yugoslavian vessel Fredrike Glavic was caught by gale force winds whist trying to anchor in the Barry Roads. As the gale increased in intensity, she was blown up channel towards Sully Island. The Barry lifeboat was called out with a full crew, and stood by whilst the Cardiff tug Torfrida managed to put a line on her. The following day she and two other tugs towed her to Barry for repairs.
In the same storm SS Trevider, which left Barry on the 11th January, returned to port with a severe list to have her cargo, which had shifted in the gale, trimmed.
The SS Backworth also entered Barry Docks under tow as she had damaged both her rudder and propellor in the same storm.
In May 1931, the Italian ship SS Corsina and the French steamer Clodoald were in collision in the Barry Roads. Both ships sustained damage to their bows. The Clodoald was docked in Barry, and the Corsina was taken to the Mountstuart docks in Cardiff for repairs.
In October the same year the French steamship St. Andresse ran aground on rocks off the breakwater, near Bendrick Rock. She was later towed off by the Liverpool Tug Torfrida. The tug owners, at a court hearing, were awarded £325 for their services.
In February 1932 the same situation arose with the Greek steamer SS Afikia, bound from Liverpool to Barry light. She anchored off the dock entrance and was blown by strong winds between the Eastern Breakwater and Bendricks Rock. She was also taken in tow by the tug Torfrida, and towed through a heavy snowstorm over two miles out of danger. At the court hearing the tug owners were awarded £700 for their services.
In November 1932 the sand sucker Redvers Buller of Swansea
turned turtle and sank with the loss of four of her crew. Three crew
members managed to scramble onto an upturned lifeboat and cling to
its keel. They were rescued by a Bristol tug after being washed up
and down the channel for six hours.
In January 1933 the Norwegian steamer SS Varhaugh, 650 tons outward bound from Barry with a cargo of coal, was hurriedly beached on the mud outside the docks entrance after being struck whilst in the basin by the propeller of the SS Pentuskas and holed below the waterline. As the tide receded and her hull was exposed it could be seen that only a comparatively small hole had been made in her hull. Dock workers plugged the hole and she was towed back into dry dock for repairs to be carried out.
On the 23rd of the same month the Spanish steamer Serentes, bound for Cardiff from Dunkirk, went aground in dense fog between Nash Point and Breaksea. She settled on the beach, and at the next tide was floated off and proceeded up channel to the Barry Roads.
On July 18th 1933 great excitement was caused when the paddle steamer Glen Avon with over 90 passengers and crew on board ran aground in dense fog between Rhoose Point and Porthkerry. Lifeboats from Mumbles, Weston-super-Mare, and Barry stood by but were not needed. After two hours the Glen Avon got clear of the rocks under her own steam and headed for Barry Docks, but by this time darkness had fallen and together with the fog she was unable to see to enter the harbour. She anchored outside until daybreak when the fog lifted. Only slight damage had been sustained.
On September 12th the Oceanide of Treguier, France, was towed into Barry and beached on the mud at the harbour entrance to stop her from sinking. She had been struck by the Newcastle steamer the SS Nairn in a sea mist off Barry. The Nairn later docked at Barry, having sustained slight damage in the collision.
Dense fog on 21st December was responsible for the grounding of the Swansea steamer Bolbec near Breaksea Point. The bottom where she grounded was solid and the Bolbec only suffered slight damage. She was re-floated at the next tide. A Barry tug stood by in case her services were required but she came off under her own steam.
At the start of 1934 a dense fog settled over Barry and the Vale and lasted for two days. In the channel, the sounds of fog horns, hooters, gongs and bells could be heard all over the area as ships, unable to proceed, dropped anchor. Two steamers, the Kilrea, bound light from Rouen, France, to Cardiff, and proceeding up channel, was in collision with the Cardiff vessel the Harmonic, loaded with a cargo of coal from Barry to Rio de Janeiro. The Kilrea was in danger of sinking until all hands manning the pumps managed to stem the flow of water and allow her to creep up channel to Cardiff. The Harmonic with a badly damaged stern was docked at Barry Docks.
Later in the year a number of vessels ran aground on rocks near the eastern breakwater. The first was the Royal Crown, followed closely by a Newport pilot cutter ,and then in March, by the French steamer Gabriel Guist Hau. Prompt action was taken by the Barry tugs, but they were unable to release her from her position high on the rocks and were afraid that she was in danger of breaking her back. Just before daybreak the following morning, at high water she was towed off and taken into the docks for inspection and repair.
The same month saw the Greek steamer Tsiropinas, after being in collision with another Greek vessel, the Doris, send out a SOS message. On the arrival of the lifeboat and tugs, it could be seen that the crew had already swung out their lifeboat as the ship was going down by the stern. The captain decided to make for Barry Docks, and refused the offer of the tugs assistance. The dock-master would not permit the sinking vessel to enter the docks, so she was beached on the sands at Whitmore Bay, to allow temporary repairs to be carried out before she was allowed to enter the docks.
A 60mph gale swept the channel on 2nd August 1934, driving the Devonshire ketch Bonita, en route from Braunton to Lydney, to load coal for Watchet across the channel from Ilfracombe. The captain, Mr Chichester, and his crewman, Mr Binding, attempted to stop the drift by dropping an anchor, but the ketch finally ended up on the pebble beach at Fontygary.
In October the coaster Actuosity, en-route from Cardiff to Kings Lynn light, developed engine trouble and ran aground on Llantwit Beach, and in spite of a number of attempts to refloat her on the flood tides, remained stranded for nearly seven weeks.
In September 1935, thousands of sightseers arrived in Sully to see Submarine L52, which had been washed up on the beach after breaking her tow from the tug Pressman in the channel on the 15th. She was in the process of being towed to Llanelli for scrapping. She had been adrift in the channel for two days prior to arriving on Sully beach. The press arrived to take photographs of the submarine, causing tremendous excitement in the area. Not many people had seen a submarine, and were anxious not to miss the opportunity to see this one. Cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians made their way from Penarth, Barry and Cardiff the following weekend, and local shops and cafes were quick to turn this occasion to their advantage. The traffic through the village was the heaviest on record, and left residents wondering how long the sub would remain. It wasn't until 10 days later, on the 26th, that she was pulled off the beach and her journey resumed.
On the 17th of the same month at Barry Island, another incident took place. The Goeland Paimpol, a two-masted barque sailing from Roscoff, France with 45 tons of onions to be sold by "Johnny Onion Men", was blown along the coast from Swansea by strong winds, and driven ashore on Friars Point. The lifeboat Prince David was launched, and took nearly 30 minutes to make the short journey around to Friars Point. At times the lifeboat almost disappeared under the waves, re-emerging seconds later. She came alongside Goeland, and took off the crew of six, for which feat the crew of the Prince David were awarded medals from the RNLI. These were presented to them in May 1936 by HRH the Duke of Kent. The Goeland, which was a total wreck, proved to be nearly as big an attraction to holidaymakers as the Valsesia. The final chapter in the Goeland story took place in August the following year, when after salvage men had finished stripping the wreck of usable timber, crowds gathered on the point to watch her being set on fire, to enable them to recover any metal left.
On the 5th January 1936 the steamer Pearlmoor was off the Pembrokeshire coast, near the Smalls Lighthouse, when a gale struck. As she was sailing light, the Pearlmoor was blown within 30 yards of the rocks. The Captain and first officer were commended for their seamanship in managing to steer between the lighthouse and rocks. The crew stood by their lifeboat stations for over 2 hours, whilst water was taken on board, to give her added depth. The Pearlmoor finally reached Barry Docks three days late and was taken into the Graving Dock for repairs. She had previously encountered gales in the Channel in 1932, whilst crossing to Weston, and had been severely damaged then.
Considerable damage was done to the Lady Windsor lock gates by the SS Arctees when entering the docks. The pilot rang down for astern, but his command was ignored, and she struck the gates, bursting the guarding chain and the air cylinders. Extensive damage was also done to the ships bows, and she was put into dry dock for repairs.
On the 24th February the Breaksea Lightship was severely damaged when the German vessel Otto H struck her. The Breaksea had to leave her station and be towed to Swansea Docks for repair.
In July the same year, the Pilton was in collision with the Greek ship Kyriakoula that had just left Barry with a cargo of coal for Brazil. The Kyriakoula, which received damage above the waterline, returned to No. 2 Dock for repairs, and the Pilton sailed to the Mountstuart Dry Docks in Cardiff, where it took 14 days to carry out her repairs.
This was the second time that the Pilton had been involved in an incident in the channel.
November saw the return of the Spanish steamer Ariaga Mendi, after leaving Barry with a cargo of coal for Pernambuco. On her way out she encountered storm force winds which smashed two of her lifeboats, washed everything on deck overboard, and broke the doors to the crews accommodation, which, until planks were nailed over the opening, was filling up with water. On her entry into the Basin, it took two gangs of workmen to clear her decks of wreckage caused by the storm.
The 21st January 1938 saw the new Barry lifeboat battling through heavy seas to the rescue of the Greek steamer Georges J Goulandris, which was in danger of drifting onto the lee shore at Breaksea Point with a disabled propellor. The lifeboat managed, after great difficulty, to get a line aboard, and towed her to the safety of the Barry Roads, where on Sunday night she was taken by tug and docked at Barry.
On 10th June 1938 the Bristol tugboat Iselgarth turned turtle and sank in the entrance to the docks. She was later salvaged, and taken to the basin for inspection and repair.
The only collision that was reported in 1939 was that between the SS Mervyn
and an unknown freighter in the Barry Roads. The Mervyn was a
regular visitor to Barry Docks, and was known to the coal tippers
there as "The Rattle Basket", because of the noise
generated by the sound of the cargo when being loaded. She was struck
amidships, causing considerable damage, developed a heavy list, and
started to sink. The crew scrambled into the lifeboats and cast off
before she finally went down. Four members of the crew, including the
wireless operator, were lost.
On 9th January 1940, the Norwegian freighter Hertha was hit by a French vessel as she was proceeding up channel, and badly holed. She was towed stern first by tugs and beached at Watch Tower Bay, where, when the tide went out, she settled on an even keel. This allowed workmen from Barry Docks to carry out temporary repairs so she could be taken into dry dock.
On December 6th the steamer South Coaster, of 260 tons, in ballast from Penzance to Cardiff, was caught by gale force winds, and although dropping both her anchors was driven ashore on Breaksea Point. The Barry lifeboat Rachel and Mary was called out, but instead of its full crew of eight, only five were aboard. A tug was requested to give assistance, but was unable to make way because of the very heavy seas that it encountered. The Barry lifeboat managed to pull alongside the steamer, and with great difficulty, rescue the crew of ten, with only the Chief Engineer receiving slight injuries when he jumped from the stricken vessel. The crew of the lifeboat received awards for their gallantry.
During the war, three ships came ashore at Barry. In June 1941, the Maywood, whilst on compass trials in the Barry Roads, struck a mine and was beached at the entrance to Whitmore Bay, from where she was towed back into Barry Docks for repairs. She left after being repaired, and sailed to Loch Ewe to act as a collier, refuelling ships for the Russian convoys.
Jamaica Planter (The Orange Boat) struck a mine in the Channel and was beached in Watchtower Bay near the Breakwater. She was later towed out of the Bay and taken into Barry Docks. Whilst there she was bombed, and, after repairs had been completed and she was on her way to Swansea, she was in collision with the American Tanker Wellesley and sank in the Barry Roads. No loss of life was reported.
The last ship to arrive in Whitmore Bay during the war was the Tafleburg, a Whale Factory ship. She struck a mine in the Channel on January 28th 1941, and was beached to the west of Cold Knap Point. On 28th March she was floated off and towed around to Whitmore Bay, where she was beached. She landed on a sand bar, and on 10th April, as she settled, broke into two sections. The two halves were a magnet for youngsters on the Island. CH Bailey's workmen, who were welding and cutting up to their waists in water, patched her up on the beach. Finally a watertight bulkhead was fitted, and on 25th July the first half was towed to Cardiff, the second half following on 12th August. After repairs were carried out and the two halves rejoined, she was renamed Empire Heritage, and was used on the outward run across the Atlantic to carry British crews to America, where they crewed newly-built liberty ships, and brought them back to Britain. The homeward run was as a cargo-carrying freighter. It was on her ninth such trip that she was sunk north of Iceland with the loss of 90 men.
During the war years censorship stopped a number of reports of sinking in the Barry Roads from being published, but in 1943, the SS Mackenzie, a refrigerated meat carrier, and the Devonia, a small coastal grain carrier, were both sunk just off Barry.
In 1946 Mr Binding's salvage vessel Gael, trying to recover anchor chain and an anchor lost by the Dutch merchant ship SS Singkad off Barry, fouled unsuspected wreckage, foundered and sank within 15 minutes. The crew of four took to the lifeboat and were later picked up by the SS Devonbrook. Three of the crew were the sons of the late owner, who lived on Barry Island.
In 1947 the Canadian cargo ship Royal Park, of 7,131 tons, was steaming light down channel when she was caught by strong easterly gale force winds, and driven into the Penarth Pier. Although she dropped her anchor and had the assistance of three tugs, the force of the wind continued to drive her into the pier, where she ended up lying the full length of it.
In February 1954, a thick fog covering the Channel resulted in a collision off Flat Holm between the Danish tanker Aase Mearsks, and a grain carrying vessel, the Ivor Isobel. Both put into Barry Docks. The Ivor Isobel, which was carrying grain, had to be unloaded at Ranks Mills before repairs could take place.
On the same day, the coaster motor vessel Nautilus, registered at Delfzul, and en-route down channel to Swansea, went aground in fog on Sully beach near Sully Hospital. She was refloated the same day.
On Thursday, 30th December 1954 at practically the same position that the Pilton went ashore in 1924, the Luso, a Portuguese cargo vessel on her way from Newport to Newfoundland, was driven ashore in a gale. There were no casualties, and the following day at low tide it was possible for her crew members to walk on the beach around the ship. Like the Pilton, this wreck proved to be a great attraction over the Christmas holidays for children and their parents. With the help of the spring tide and the efforts of three tugs she was floated off in January the following year.
On April 2nd 1959, a small tanker, the Widdale Hall, went aground in a dense fog at the entrance to Cwm Marcross. All the crew managed to scramble ashore. In 1962 another tanker, the BP Driver, caught in a sudden squall, was driven onto the beach in near enough the same position as the Widdal Hall. All the crew of nine were rescued.
The last ship to be wrecked in Whitmore Bay was the Newport Pilotage Authority boat Belle Usk, which in December 1957 ran aground in dense fog on Nells Point, whilst trying to enter the Harbour. She broke her back and was a total loss. All her crew managed to scramble ashore. Later the same day the crew returned to the vessel and salvaged much of its equipment before fire broke out later that evening.
On the same day and at approximately the same time the Carita of Bristol ran aground on the causeway between Sully Island and Swanbridge, suffering only minor damage. She was refloated on the next high tide.
In the early 1950's the Royal Navy, under instructions from the Admiralty, were busy in the channel clearing wrecks left by the Second World War. Three vessels were engaged to carry out this task, they were HMS Tronda, Lindisfarne and Caldy.
In 1948 there were 24 notified wrecks in the Bristol Channel. By 1950, 14 had been cleared by either demolition charges being placed on board, or if sunk on a muddy bottom, by placing explosive charges around them, and covering them by exploding the charges and depositing a thick layer of mud over them. One ship, a tanker of over 10,000 tons that was sunk off Nash Point, required the use of 129 tons of explosives by HMS Tronda to break-up the wreck.