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Thread: Family records

  1. #1
    Senior Member squiggs's Avatar
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    Jul 2008

    Default Family records

    I have been researching my family history and have found out the following !.
    My dear old Dad enlisted in the Merchant Navy during WW2 he served on The Empire Mc Callum (amongst others) a "reconverted baby flat top" and I have clippings of the rescue attempt by 14 (including my Dad) men, to save the crew of the Langleecrag as she lay stranded and windbattered on the reefs of Newfoundland, they set off in a lifeboat which drifted for 10 miles and was out of control due to the heavy breakers, they did not get to the other crew (who where later rescued by a Norweigian whaler "Olaf Olsen".
    The news paper tells of the heroism of the lifeboat men, it was 21foot long and was attempting to sail in the most treacherous waters along the Newfoundland coast in order to recue fellow seaman .
    I also have newspaper pictures of the men as they returned to land including my Dad .
    I have also been given the service records of my Grandfather which go back to 1910 ish !, I never realised he had seen so much of the world !,
    here is a list of the ships that I can make out
    HMS Isis,HMS Bellerphon,Senator,Craftsman,Sculptor,SS Zent,Dictator,SS Gladiator,Student,Ulysses,Tactitian,ExplorerJerome , Bernard,.There are others but I can not make out the names.
    He seems to have been discharges in about 1928
    I hope these may bring back memories for some of you.

  2. #2
    Captain Kong captain kong's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
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    Hi Squigs.
    I found this article about your Dad`s ship
    It was on``
    Very interesting and sad story. These `ex aircraft carriers` were used after the war to carry grain from Canada to the UK. Cunard had one or two of them.
    The Senator, Craftsman, Sculpter, Distator, Gladiator, Student Tactitian, Explorer were owned by Thos. and Jas. Harrison Line of Liverpool sometimes known as the Charente Shipping Co. The ZENT was a Fyffes Banana Ship., The Bernard, I think could have been one of Maggie Booths on the Amazon run.

    SS Langleecrag -1947

    Great Sacred Island
    November 15, 1947

    At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, November 15, 1947, Mr. T. Divine of the Marine Divisions Department,
    Public Utilities received a telegram reporting that the 4,909 ton British freighter S. S. Langleecrag was
    ashore and broken in two at Boat Harbour, Cape Norman. The telegram also reported that an American
    Coastguard cutter was on its way to the area, and assistance was needed from the land . Later that day it
    was confirmed that two American Coastguard cutters, Duane and Dexter were on their way to the stranded
    ship, but would not arrive until the following morning. One man was reported lost from the stranded ship.
    On receipt of the message concerning the wreck, Mr. T. Devine telegraphed Sergeant Christian of the
    Newfoundland Ranger Force at St. Anthony and notified all the post offices in the area of Cape Norman
    asking for help. The same message was also broadcast on radio. The Newfoundland Railway Maritime
    Department also made contact with the M. V. Clarenville which was on a voyage from Corner Brook to Battle
    Harbour to go to the assistance of the stranded freighter.
    The weather was very stormy on the northern Newfoundland coast and it was several days before Ranger
    Christian could leave St. Anthony. The whaling ship Olaf Olsen was at St. Anthony and she prepared to leave
    for the scene of the wreck as soon as the weather permitted. In the meantime, contact with the wreck was
    maintained through the wireless operator on the Langleecrag. It was soon discovered that the location of the
    wreck was not Boat Harbour. The wireless operator later gave a good account of what had happened:

    I woke up about 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning (November 15). We had struck something but the shock was
    not very bad. So, I thought it was only a big wave and went back to sleep. A few minutes later several
    bumps shook me and knowing something was wrong I jumped out of bed and started to dress. The lights
    were out and someone shouted to send out an S.O.S. message. I hurried to the bridge and asked the
    Captain what had happened. He thought we had struck an iceberg. This was found later to be incorrect. I
    went to the wireless room and switched on the emergency set since the main power was off, but no power
    went out to the aerial. I was rather shocked at that and hurried to the bridge to inform the Captain who told
    me that the ship had broken in half and the aerial was broken too. The second mate Ivan Caley and a
    sailor helped me to fix up the stumps of the aerial left on our half of the ship, and we got connected up and
    sent out an S.O.S. Belle Isle radio answered and that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Because
    of the darkness we did not have any idea where we were or what had already happened. Belle Isle took a
    radio bearing on us . Then Mr. Caley worked this bearing out on a chart.. I radioed back we thought our
    position was Boat Harbour on the northern tip of the northern Newfoundland mainland. This later proved
    wrong and we did not know until later we were really on an island.

    When dawn came, they could see that the ship was hard and fast on the rocks, and for the moment was
    comparatively safe, although she was being pounded by the high waves. As the wireless operator on the
    Langleecrag was operating on emergency power and the signal was weak, the wireless station on Belle Isle
    took over the actual distress signalling and repeated his signal for the next eight hours. At around 6:00 a.m.
    the American Coastguard cutter Duane wired she was coming to the assistance of the wrecked ship, but first
    had to stop and refuel. The steam ship Fort Vercheres, which was seventy-two miles , away answered the
    S.O.S. but was advised by Captain Orford not to attempt a rescue just yet, because the weather was too
    rough it might jeopardize the rescuing craft. As the Duane was some miles to the southward of where the
    Langleecrag had gone ashore, Captain Orford decided to try and get the crew and some provisions ashore.
    The wireless operator described the tragic events that followed:
    The aft end of the broken ship was on the rocks so the crew there went down the ladder to the rocks and
    made fast steel wires and ropes from the fore end of the ship to the rocks on the shore. The first man down,
    F. Anderson was drowned by the huge waves which broke over the ladder. .A breeches
    buoy was made by attaching a plank to ropes suspended like a chair from the steel wires. By means of this
    all the crew on the fore end of the ship got safely ashore, except again for the first man W. V. Cooling, who
    attempted the treacherous pass by hand over hand and was swept off by a wave. We still thought we were
    on the mainland so I wirelessed Belle Isle to wire to the land for search parties to look for us. Two British
    ships they were coming to our rescue, but by this time it was daylight and
    the captain saw how impossible the weather conditions made any attempt of immediate aid so he advised
    them not to try.
    Some of us (officers) stayed on board for nine hours while the crew abandon4ed the ship. The chief steward
    made soup by putting coal in a bucket and making a fire that way. Good soup it was to, corned beef and
    canned vegetables.
    The officers later joined the crew who had made it ashore and set up camp in lee of a big boulder, about a
    half mile from the scene of the wreck. That first night they were very miserable as it was cold and wet and they
    had only a small piece of sail to cover them. They had to take turns getting close to the fire to get warm.
    Back at St. Anthony, Ranger Christian and his rescue party on the whaling ship Olaf Olsen were waiting for a
    break in the weather to get underway. Mr. J. H. Patey , the post master at St. Anthony was on board the ship
    to operate her wireless. It was not until Wednesday, four days after the first distress message, that the Olsen
    was able to get underway to go to the assistance of the wrecked crew of the Landleecrag .
    On Sunday morning the wireless operator went back aboard the wreck by breeches buoy. This was now more
    difficult and dangerous, as the ship had shifted her position and the ropes were now almost perpendicular. He
    contacted Ranger Christian and was informed that the land search parties had already begun. Belle Isle took
    another radio bearing on the wreck and, after charting it on their maps, changed the wreck site to the
    mainland in Sacred bay, about ten miles from Quirpon; search parties were on their way overland.
    On Monday morning the fog which had blanketed he area lifted, and the shipwrecked persons could see the
    flashes from the Cape Bauld lighthouse. On seeing this Mr. Caley, sent up flares in hopes of guiding the
    search parties to their location. The wireless operator went aboard the wreck again and contacted Belle isle.
    This time Belle Isle properly identified their location as Sacred Island, and told them the whaling ship Olaf
    Olsen was standing by to take the off as soon as the weather cleared. The shipwrecked men after four days
    in their makeshift shelter, were in a pretty sorry state, and the operator?s last message read: ? Must have help
    within 48-hours.? However, the news that a ship was coming cheered up the men, and gave them the courage
    to carry on.
    On Tuesday evening the weather cleared up, and the shipwrecked crew could see the houses and boats in
    Ship Cove, about three miles away from the island. The sea was still to rough for any boats to effect the
    On Wednesday morning, November the 19, the Olaf Olsen left St.Anthony around 7:00a.m. In addition to her
    regular crew she carried Ranger Christian, who was officially directing the rescue mission, Harvey Stride of
    the Department of Post and Telegraph and Dr. Gordon Thomas of the Grenfell Mission. The weather was still
    stormy and Ranger Christian said ?conditions were impossible.? They sighted the Sacred Islands about 10:30
    a.m. after a very stormy passage, and could see the wreckage of the S.S. Langleecrag.
    Two other craft were already standing off shore from Sacred Island. One was a big American Liberty ship
    and the other was the small aircraft carrier Empire McCallum. Both ships had answered the S.O.S. from the
    The Olaf Olsen arrived just in time to witness another drama of the sea. The Empire McCallum launched a
    life boat manned by 14 sailors. They were soon in danger of being swamped, and could not land anywhere
    near the wreck. The boat was carried further down the coast but manage to land safely near Cape Onion. The
    fourteen sailors made their way to a near by settlement, and were later flown to Gander and on to Montreal to
    rejoin their ship.
    Captain Arne Borgen of the Olaf Olsen also launched a life boat, but that too was swept away and the whaler
    spent an hour in vain pursuit before returning to the scene of the wreck. The wireless operator described their
    Wednesday morning we saw near our wreck a big U.S. Liberty ship and the aircraft carrier Empire
    McCallum . The carrier sent a life boat out towards the rocky shore. It looked as though another tragedy
    would happen there, but they got ashore safely. Then we saw Captain Arne Borgen?s whaler coming
    towards the only spot on the island where a boat might land, a twenty foot stretch of a comparatively safe
    water. That brought a big shout out of the boys because they knew that a small boat with strong engine
    power with much gear as the whaling vessels have, are the best kind of ship to aid us. The aircraft carrier
    was just to heavy and could not be manoeuvred in that heavy sea. The Olaf Olsen shot a harpoon with a
    line to shore and we fixed it into the rocks. Then they sent a life boat along the line to us.
    The first lifeboat was actually a dory lashed fore and aft, and two men from the whaler?s crew hauled it ashore.
    The rescuers planned to use the dory as a shuttle back and forth, bringing off a few survivors each time, but
    the dory was swamped. The same arrangement was then tried using one of the whaler?s lifeboat. Halfway
    through the attempt might have to be abandoned until the weather improved. However, thanks to the skill of
    Captain Borgen and his crew the rescue was completed.
    As soon as they were safely on board the whaler, the shivering men were given hot drinks and warm clothing
    and Dr. Thomas attended to their medical needs. They had a stormy passage back to St. Anthony and did not
    arrive there until 7:00 p.m. It had taken twelve hours to complete the rescue.
    On their arrival at St. Anthony the shipwrecked were quartered in aa number of private homes and institutions
    in the town. Ranger Christian?s wife, who was stormed bound on board the Northern Ranger , was flown from
    Wesleyville to St. Anthony to help with the care of the men. The storm finally blew its self out and the S.S.
    Northern Ranger arrived to take the men to St. John?s. They arrived safely in St. John?s and were returned to
    England on the Furness Withy Liner, Nova Scotia . The bodies of the two seamen who drowned were not

    Shipwrecks of Newfoundland and Labrador
    Volume IV
    Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy-1997
    Creative Book Publishing
    St. Johns. NF
    Last edited by captain kong; 09-06-2009 at 10:18 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member squiggs's Avatar
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    Jul 2008


    Thanks for the info Captain Kong !....the newspaper clippings I have didnt have a date on and I didnt realise it was in November !!, I cant imagine anything worse, I remember my Dad telling me that the Atlantic is a terrible place to be in a storm.

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