my employment with Alexandra Towing Company Limited in May 1976. I had been
fascinated with tugs since I was a young child.
I had many
memorable adventures on my trips around the land and overseas but there was
one which happened close to home that was to stick, not only in my mind, but
in the annals of Mersey Shipping History.
morning of Friday 27th March 1987, I reported aboard the tug ‘Romsey’,
of which I was a crew member. The weather that morning was looking rather
bleak with a good stiff Westerly breeze blowing, causing quite a bit of
spray to be blown around the dock.
lunch time, the wind had increased considerably and we were told by the
office to precede to West Alexandra dock and standby the ‘RFA Argus’, which
was undergoing a refit at this berth. She was pulling away from the berth on
her moorings and because the accommodation block was acting like a large
sail, this in turn was causing her to move. We lay alongside as a
precautionary measure after both masters agreed this course of action, with
us ready to move at short notice.
afternoon, Mersey Radio began issuing storm warnings with winds increasing W
– NW 9 – 10 poss. 11. We were certainly in for a bad night should these
One of the
fleet, ‘Wallasey’, got underway. We knew she was due to sail for Scotland in
the near future but did not expect her to go out into the weather that was
The wind increased rather
quickly and soon Mersey Radio was issuing storm warnings and the wind speed
indicator at times was showing winds in excess of 50 knots. Vessels were
reporting in and heading for shelter off the Anglesey coast.
left Gladstone lock and began her outward journey. Regular updates to the
office were made as to the weather they were experiencing on the journey
down the channel.
Hrs, the company channel hissed and the words “Town, Wallasey, Mayday” were
heard. Then there was just a carrier wave running over the radio channel. At
this time I was in the wheelhouse of the ‘Romsey’ and alerted Liverpool
Coastguard, who in turn put out a Mayday Relay asking for all shipping in
the vicinity to report any sightings. Despite repeated calls from the office
nothing was heard from the ‘Wallasey’. A ship in the general area gave the
weather conditions as the wind being at W – NW 9 – 10 with sea conditions of
very heavy sea and confused swell.
After about ten minutes, a
further Mayday Relay was broadcast by Liverpool Coastguard requesting
vessels in the immediate area to report any sightings of the ‘Wallasey’. The
B & I ferry ‘Connacht’ replied stating that
they were heading for shelter at Anglesey, however they had lost a target on their radar.
Hrs, the P & O ferry ‘Buffalo’, informed Liverpool Coastguard that the tug
was well out of the main channel and appeared aground. They also stated that
the crew were mustered on the boat deck, the life raft was in the water and
the crew were trying to send up flares, however due to the strength of the
wind, these were being blown sideways and not gaining height. Another
passing vessel which was in bound, a Chinese bulk carrier could not render
continued to monitor the situation and informed the ‘Buffalo’ that a
helicopter from 22 Sqdrn, RAF Valley was
Two of the companies other
tugs which had been moving from Birkenhead to
Liverpool, at the time the assistance call came out had made their way down
the channel. The ‘Collingwood’ and ‘Bramley Moore’ quickly established comms
with the ‘Wallasey’, albeit on the private channel.
to 17.00 Hrs, the helicopter arrived on scene and the winch man was placed
on board ‘Wallasey’. After a short period of time ‘Wallasey’ was in
communication with Liverpool Coastguard, who at 17.25 hrs ordered the
evacuation of the ‘Wallasey’. Within ten minutes the operation was complete
and the crew were landed safely although rather wet at Liverpool MRSC
Liverpool Coastguard cancelled the Mayday Relay and announced ‘Seelonce
before you thought it was safe to go back in the water, there’s more:
to monitor the ‘Wallasey’ and make a possible connection to tow her back to
the docks, the company dispatched the ‘Indomitable’ to monitor the
night was dark and the winds subsided slightly from what they had been. It
was during the early hours when over the radio the crew of the ‘Indomitable’
Mersey Radio that the ‘Wallasey’ was underway, having refloated herself on
the rising tide. The shut down system for the main engine had failed in the
grounding and she still had power. ‘Wallasey’ began her own journey up the
river outside the main channel. A
land mark which had stood on the Mersey for nearly half a century was
demolished by the marauding tug, the mast of the ‘PEGU’. *
The tug eventually came to
rest at the rear of Altcar
Ranges, Hightown where she stayed for a number of days before
being refloated and towed to Clarence Dock for repairs.
O.N.144260, 8,084 gross tons, length 466ft x beam 59.2ft, one funnel,
two masts, single screw, speed 13 knots, accommodation for 150-1st class
by Wm. Denny & Bros., Dumbarton, launched on 14th Dec.1920 for Burma
S.S. Co & British & Burmese S.N. Co. Ltd (P. Henderson & Co.), Glasgow.
a joiners strike, sent to Le Havre for completion and was not delivered
until 24th Dec.1921.
Used on the Glasgow /
/ Birkenhead - Burma service and in 1927 was used as a pilgrimage ship
on the Rangoon - Jeddah route.
1935 she was refitted and the passenger capacity reduced to 124.
company was renamed
British & Burmese
S.N. Co. Ltd the same year.
On 24th Dec.1939 while
inbound to the Mersey on voyage Glasgow -
- Rangoon with general cargo, and with buoy lights extinguished as a
wartime measure, she grounded near Beta Buoy. Refloated on 26th, but
struck the revetment and broke in two. Salvage was abandoned.
Pennington, DAP’s Member 015.