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CAPT'N PETER ASHCROFT, EXPLOITS OF
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AIME'S STORY & PICTORIALS
MEMOIRS OF A RADIO OFFICER
RELATED SITES

JOHN ALEXANDER PATRICK LINDSAY

The picture below is in memory of John A.P. Lindsay who was my best pal in the fifties (Hillhead High School, Glasgow).  He is seen here in the radio office of a 'city boat'.  John served his apprenticeship with Davie Rowans, Engineering and Boiler makers in Glasgow while I was at Radio College.  He spent 10  years at sea with Ellerman Lines and then worked in South Africa with the Durban Power Corp.  He retired due to ill health and eventually succumbed to lung disease two years ago.
This picture was supplied by his widow Rhea when visiting Montreal from Mossel Bay, S.A. recently.
Possibly, ex Ellerman's engineers might recognise their old shipmate.
 
R.I.P. my friend.

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"CITY OF PORT ELIZABETH" - Courtesy of Don Chapman & Peter Persicaner

 
Completed in 1953, the "CITY OF PORT ELIZABETH" was a 13,363 grt motor ship which had accommodation for about 100 passengers.  One of four sister ships completed for the Ellerman & Bucknall Line's U.K. - South Africa service, she served on the route until March 1971, when the regular Ellerman passenger service to South Africa was discontinued.  The "CITY OF PORT ELIZABETH",  "CITY OF YORK" and the "CITY OF EXETER" were then sold to Greek owners and converted out of all recognition into car carriers.  The "CITY OF DURBAN"  was sold to the same owners for the same purpose but was subsequently resold for demolition at Taiwan in 1974.

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CITY OF BRISBANE Courtesy of Boyd Meiklejohn

The CITY OF BRISBANE was built in 1951 and was characterised by her proud funnel.  She was of 10,596 gross tons,  568 feet long and had a width of 71 feet.  She was a steam turbine ship with a service speed of 17 knots.

Below,  the CITY OF ST.ALBANS is seen in the St. Lawrence Seaway June 1973.  William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton built her for Ellerman City Lines in 1960.  She had a tonnage of 4,976 and was driven by a 5,600 bhp Sulzer oil engine provinding a service speed of 14.5 knots.

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Courtesy SM AUG/75

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"CITY OF ST. ALBANS" Courtesy Ray Simes

John Reeves Ellerman was born in 1862 in Hull and entered the shipping industry almost by accident.  He was an accountant by profession and was to become one of the foremost financiers of his time and a substantial shipowner.  He first entered into shipping in 1892 when,  jointly with Christopher Furness and others,  he purchased Frederick Leyland & Co.
Ellerman obviously desired to create a shipping group of great size.  In 1900 he purchased the West Indies & Pacific Co., with 20 ships.  In 1901 he purchased Papayanni & Co.  with services to the Aegean.  Again in 1901 the London,  Liverpool and Ocean Co. purchased 50% of the City Line and 50% of the Hall Line.
The first ship with a 'City' name was the City of Glasgow which entered service in 1848.

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Courtesy J.W. Godsell - SM APRIL/97

The CITY OF PRETORIA  (1947/8,450 GRT)  being manoeuvred in the river by two motor tugs of the Liverpool Screw Towing fleet on the approach to Birknehead Docks on Jul 24th. 1965.

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Courtesy Laurence Dunn Collection - SM DEC/87

It is said that Ellerman was so impressed with the appearance of the tugs of the Alexandra Towing Company that he asked the company for permission to use their colours on his vessels.  This was agreed to but the thin black line below the white band on the tug funnels was not incorporated on the Ellerman funnel,  hence the similarity between the fleets.
 
Ellermans entered the First World War on a sad note.  It is thought that the CITY OF WINCHESTER was the first casualty of that conflict,  one that was to bring sadness to Ellerman,  who was the subject of some vilification due to his German ancestry.  It was claimed in a derogatory press article in 1917 that he,  being of German descent,  owned one eighth of the British fleet,  or 300 vessels.  It is certainly true that his company lost over 50 ships and the Wilson Line,  taken over in 1916,  lost a further 49 ships.

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Courtesy Malcolm Reid - SM MAY/87

Ellerman Line's motor vessel CITY OF CAPETOWN  (ex CITY OF MELBOURNE/1959/9,914 grt)  seen above in the River Scheldt in May 1977. 

The Second World War again brought severe disruption to the Group's services.  Losses were heavy,  95 ships being sunk,  the most tragic being the loss of the CITY OF BENARES,  seen below.  This handsome two-funnelled liner was lost in September of 1940,  taking with her 258 persons,  including 90 children being evacuated to safety in Canada.

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Courtesy Derek E. Johnson - SM JUNE/87

On Friday September 13th 1940 the 11,081 grt CITY OF BENARES, flagship and pride and joy of the Ellerman Line,  set sail from Liverpool for Canada carrying more CORB  (Children's Overseas Reception Board)  evacuees.
Passengers embarked at Prince's Stage and numbered 197,  including children and escorts.  Crew members numbered 209.  Because of a chronic shortage of RN flotilla craft it was decreed by the authorities that ocean convoys could not be provided with anti-submarine escorts more than 300 miles west of Ireland.
 
By Tuesday evening,  September 17th.  the convoy of nineteen ships had passed through the established danger zone,  or so it was believed.
In a force 10 gale Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt of U-boat 48 was already making his final calculations as the merchantman sat silhoutted in his viewfinder.  At 2205 precisely the 500 pound torpedo sped through the heaving seas to explode in Number 5 hold on the ship's port side,  demolishing much of the interior including the bathrooms immediately beneath the children's cabins.
 
As a result of the SOS transmitted at the time of the attack HMS Hurricane  (Lt. Commander Hugh Crofton Simms RN)  arrived on the scene.  She picked up a total of 105 survivors many of whom were suffering severely from exhaustion.  Crew members of the destroyer were forced to climb down into the lifeboats and pass a line around each survivor as they did not have sufficient energy to scramble up the nets provided.
Of the 90 children who had ventured overseas on that trip under the official evacuation scheme only 7 survived.

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Courtesy SM MAY/87

The few children survivors of the CITY OF BENARES.

(This extract was taken from an article,  published in SHIPS MONTHLY in June of 1987 and was provided by Derek E. Johnson.  A full story of the events and others involving evacuees may be read in Derek's book "Exodus of Children" published by Pennyfarthing Publications,  75A Old Road,  Clacton,  Essex,  UK CO15 1HW)

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Courtesy R.J. Patey - SM FEB/89

Ellerman's CITY OF ELY is pictured above discharging cargo at Calcutta in January of 1950.  She was one of the many typical Liberty ships built in 1943 of 7,200 grt.  The Ellerman Group traded worldwide.

One typical voyage following the signing of Articles on the 4th December 1948 was to India under the command of Captain F. Sumpton with Mr E. Bonar as Chief Engineer and a crew of cockneys,  Liverpudlians,  Scotsmen,  Welshmen and one Devonian.
 
After bunkering in Port Said she moved in convoy through the Suez Canal,  passing the north bound ships in the Bitter Lakes and dropping the pilot at Suez.  She then made her way through the Red Sea heading for Columbo,  Ceylon  (now Sri Lanka) where she discharged part of her cargo into lighters and then left for Calcutta.  At the Ganges Delta a pilot was picked up to negotiate the ship up the river Hooghli to Calcutta,  120 miles inland.  She finally berthed at Kiddipore Docks where the remainder of her outward cargo was discharged to make room for her new cargo of raw cotton,  jute,  bran,  tea.  She then received her new orders to proceed to America to discharge.
 
Once in the USA she was loaded with an assortment of finished goods,  machinery,  a large consignment of sanitary ware and railway bogey wheels which were stowed in Number 3 hold 'tweendeck.  Whilst loading the crew were told that the ship had now been chartered to Australia.  Leaving New York in May 1949 she was so full of cargo that she was right down to her Plimsoll LIne.  Forty two days after leaving New York she arrived at Sydney.  Travelling around the coast the ship gradually filled up at Melbourne,  Adelaide,  Sydney and Brisbane with a cargo consisting mainly of wool,  sugar,  hides and fruit  before setting out across the Pacific to Panama,  stopping once for bunkers at Curacao.  Docking once more at New York she discharged her entire cargo.
 
Another charter to return to India followed but she proceeded to Montreal first to pick up a cargo of finished goods,  machinery and some motor cars.  By now it was mid-December and bitterly cold when the ship slipped down the river,  being one of the last vessels to leave the river before it froze over for the winter season.
 
Continuing aacross the Atlantic,  through the Mediterranean and Suez she eventually discharged once more in Colombo and Calcutta.   Her final charter was for the UK to where she proceeded fully laden.  Crew members will recall the constant noise of paint chipping and red leading during the homeward voyages.
 
After such a long stretch the 'channels' must have very evident aboard the CITY OF ELY at a time when 1 to 2 year articles were the norm for such a vessel.
 
She docked at Tilbury at 7 a.m. on April 1st. 1950 after a voyage of 16 months.  By 2 p.m. that day the crew had paid off and gone their separate ways,  in most cases never to meet again.
Such was the voyage of a typical general cargo 'tramp' in the years following the war.
Below she is seen taking bunkers at Curacao on October 12th 1949.

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Courtesy R.J. Patey - SM FEB/89

(The above voyage report is taken from "Passages to India",  an article appearing in SHIPS MONTHLY of February 1989 with much appreciation to the magazine and R.J. Patey.)

Following the war,  peace brought change and reconstruction.  By the early 1950s the combined fleet stood at 130 ships.  In 1958 the Mossgiel Co's two ship fleet and their Glasgow-Mediterranean services were purchased.  It was,  however, more of a period of retrenchment.  The USA-India services were withdrawn,  whilst the Wilson's American service ended.  The Wilson Line's services to India had ceased in 1949.  Containerisation was just around the corner.  The announcement that OCL was being founded by a number of large British companies encouraged a number of others to consider forming their own corsortia.  The eventual members of ACT were Blue Star Line,  Port Line,  Ben Line and Harrison Line,  in addition to Ellerman Line.
The new consortium's first aim was to establish a Europe-Australia service,  at first in competition with OCL but later,  because of the enormous investment required,  in collaboration.  The first sailing on the new service was in March 1969.  In the meantime,  the Atlas Line (Australia) Ltd was formed by Ellerman, Blue Star and Port Line to serve on the Australia- Far East routes,  but the new concern only lasted a couple of years.

Below,  the elegant lines of the CITY OF MELBOURNE portray the ship at the mouth of the Clyde.  She was completed in 1959 at the yard of Alex. Stephen.  She was later renamed CITY OF CAPETOWN.

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Courtesy Laurence Dunn Collection - SM DEC/87

The year 1973 saw the inauguration of the joint Ben/Ellerman Far East Container Service in which Ellerman took a 20% stake in the three large container carriers,  each of about 58,000 grt.  All of these changes had a fundamental effect on the operations of the various companies and in 1973 the Group was reorganised.

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Courtesy Laurence Dunn Collection - SM DEC/87

Typical of Ellerman's earlier ships was the CITY OF EXETER above.  She was a 9,654 grt vessel built in 1914.

In 1973 a shipping division, Ellerman City Lines,  was formed to operate Ellerman Bucknall,  Ellerman Papayanni,  City Line,  Hall Line,  Westcott Laurence and the Wilson Line's Mediterranean routes.
Not only have the long routes been effected by containerisation but so too were the short ones.  Many of the Wilson Line's North Sea routes succumbed to the march of the ro-ro ferry and, indeed, in 1966 they had built the ferry SPERO to operate the Hull-Gothenburg route.

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Courtesy SM JAN/91

An evocative view above of the Thames at Gallions Reach shows the CITY OF PARIS  (1922-1956).   Such scenes would have been common in the inter-war years.

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Courtesy A. Duncan - SM MA7/87

Ellerman Line's passenger/cargo liner CITY OF CANTERBURY  1923  8,439 grt) was photographed outward bound from Capetown with the pilot ladder lowered over the side.

In 1987 control of the Ellerman Group passed to Cunard.  The new combined Group had considerable container shipping interests,  including stakes in Atlantic Container Line,  Ben Line Containers and Ellerman Harrison Container Line.
 
As a final tribute to this formidable Group of shipping companies which  so exemplified the British Merchant Marine,  the CITY OF LICHFIELD  (1961/4,795 grt) is seen below.  She was one of eight similar vessels completed between 1957 and 1963.

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Courtesy Laurence Dunn Collection - SM MAY/87

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Courtesy Ambrose Greenway - SM March/98

Above,  ship enthusiasts observe the departure of the Ellerman hall Line vessel CITY OF POONA (II)  (1946/9,962 grt) from London's King George V dock in September of 1963.

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"CITY OF NEWCASTLE" Courtesy Ray Simes

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"CITY OF COLUMBO" Courtesy Ray Simes

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"CITY OF CHESTER" Courtesy Ray Simes

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