Centenary of SS Lough Fisher Sinking

Julian Atkins

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Hi Aaron,

Absolutely fascinating research, and very moving.

I can add very little to the comments you, Martin, and Rob have made.

You are probably already aware that armed merchant ships were also called 'D.A.M.S.' ie Defensively Armed Merchant Ships. George Carter's 'seamans pay book' adds afterwards 'D.A.M.S.'

Hopefully, you will be able to access further records embargoed till now.

I found the court papers extremely interesting, plus the 'Certificate of British Registry - particulars of ship'. I have never seen one of these certificates before, and certainly not the one for Titanic, or the Californian.

So far as the court papers are concerned, the Plaintiff's 'List of Documents' (modern name) or Affidavit of Documents being filed on 27th March would not have any significance regarding the sinking date, but clearly then nothing else happened until September when the case was withdrawn from the list. In effect the case stalled/suspended/'adjourned sine die' due to the ship's sinking, and there was no point either side doing anything more. The Plaintiff's name is not stated, but as the Treasury Solicitor represented the Defendant Lieutenant Illingworth then the case was defended on behalf of The Crown for the Royal Navy.

I agree with you some settlement was reached, but it was probably on the basis that the UK Government would reimburse the cost of the bow damage repairs and the costs of the legal proceedings as part of what ever assessment would be made as to the value of the ship when sunk. I don't know anything about Merchant Navy loss assessment claims, but claims for railways and railway workshops were assessed after hostilities ceased.

You may think it odd that the Treasury Solicitor defended the case at all rather than agree the claim before court proceedings were started. If it is any help, my own experience of dealing with the Treasury Solicitor in the 1990s was that the Treasury Solicitor's legal department defended ALL cases initially, regardless of the evidence! At least they did in all the cases I had with them on the other side.

Your Great Great Uncle must have been a very brave man. Thank you for posting this thread.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Rob Lawes

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Hi Aaron, delighted to be of help.

I'll study the picture but not sure if I can add anything there.

Meanwhile here's the information I was after relating to signal letters:

In 1817 the Board of Trade formed a committee to devise a better method of ship identification. This was to replace the earlier system devised by Captain Maryatt based on numerals which had proved to be too cumbersome. The result was a four letter code to be allocated to each ship and was to be flown as flags in a single hoist. Since initially most entries were sailing vessels, steamships were identified by the addition of an obolus (†). This practice was discontinued around 1913. The codes were listed in the Mercantile Navy List together with details of the vessel, including the registration number, making it easy to identify the vessel by reference to the list. It enabled officers at Signal Stations on shore and masters of ships at sea to signal and report passing ships. When a vessel was sold or subject to a name change, it retained the same signal letters. Only when a ship was disposed of or lost were the signal letters reallocated. The system was available to all mercantile ships and the list, revised and published annually, contained vessels from 1 net registered ton upwards. Prior to the 1927 Washington Radio Conference, signal letters were assigned on an ad hoc basis but they were subsequently reissued so that the first letter or the first and second letters of the visual signal group indicated the nationality of the ship. About this same time ships changed their flag/visual signal call sign and their wireless/radio call sign to one and the same.

I've managed to find a database and can absolutely confirm my above statement. LCKB were the registered signal letters for Lough Fisher. (Titanic's was HVMP by the way).

Interestingly, on the 1911 ship register her registered tonnage was 169 but on the 1916 register (correct as of Dec 1915) her tonnage is given as 172. Perhaps this can be accounted for in part by the deck gun, mounting, magazine and other associated equipment??
 
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Harland Duzen

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I'm going to take a guess, but from what you said that:
...My family also believe the Lough Fisher was loaded with pitwood to keep her afloat for as long as possible as she engaged the enemy. When she broke in two the heavier section went down immediately and her forward half (which contained pitwood) remained afloat and drifted forwards a considerable distance away from the stern while on fire. Two patrol boats witnessed the forward half ablaze for some time on the horizon and then it disappeared in the night...
I would believe this is the Bow as the two Masts / Derricks needed to load the Pitwood into the Forward Cargo Holds appear to be visible and match up with the photo you provided of the Lough Fisher in Post #1.


LFwreck 2.jpg


So it appears that the Lough Fisher's broke in two around her Engine Room / Boiler Area and after the Stern sank rapidly as described (like Titanic), her Bow still full of the buoyant Pitwood drifted before sinking bodily or aft and settled upright(?) on the seafloor.

(Hope you don't mind me annotating your Sonar Image, Also I not 100% certain of my hypothesis).

LF1a.png
 

Rob Lawes

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I agree with Martin that the image is of the bow section however, I believe the bow is at the bottom of the picture and the top shows the big low area that made up the midships.

If you look at the beam on photo, the gap between the flying bridge and the focsle area is quite small while the gap between the flying bridge and the aft deck house is far bigger.

I need to get onto my laptop and let rip on photo editor to show what I mean but I think it makes sense.
 
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A

Aaron_2016

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The replies I have received have been greatly welcomed by my family and are much appreciated. While studying the photograph of the wreck I immediately thought of the damage that had occurred to the Lusitania wreck. Is there a possibility that depth charges conducted by the British navy have damaged the wreck? I don't have the co-ordinates for the wreck but the lifeboat that was recovered the next day was found 49 miles away from the wreck of the Lusitania. Do you believe the ship is resting a safe distance away from the navy's target area for depth charges?



wrecksa.png



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Aaron_2016

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Yes, Aaron. The effective range of a depth charge can be measured in feet not miles.
Thank you very much for all the information you have provided my family. My aunt (now 83) will be delighted as she is thoroughly interested in the ship. The diver who explored the wreck told my sister that the deck gun had recently been removed by salvage hunters and its current location is unknown. Any ideas who would take it, and for what purpose?


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Rob Lawes

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Sadly I've no idea why it was taken other than someone looking to make a quick buck from selling it.

I firmly subscribe to Dr Ballard's theory of taking nothing from wrecks but pictures and memories. It saddens me greatly that anyone would plunder what sits on the sea floor as a grave to 13 brave men. There is literally nothing on the sea floor that can not be found in a museum somewhere without the need to recover it in a dive.

I'm not sure what type of gun she would have been fitted with but at a guess given the fact she carried 2 gunners I would imagine it would have been a 6 pounder of the type shown here:

QF 6-pounder Hotchkiss - Wikipedia

I'm honoured to have been of help. It's not often I feel I can contribute something useful to the site and those on it.
 

Harland Duzen

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I don't mean to bring up sad memories, but I thought this might be appropriate in case you didn't know...

I recently noticed that (as of June 1st 2018) a Wikipedia page has been created that lists all the ships and names mentioned on the Tower Hill Memorial in London (which has 11 of the Lough Fisher Crew including your Great Great Uncle plated there).

List of ships named on the Tower Hill Memorial - Wikipedia

Unfortunately it doesn't yet mentioned the Lough Fisher, but if you want to, you could create a new page that references it and the crew story.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Thank you. I went to the Tower Hill memorial in London back in 2008. I remember it took quite a while to find his name among the countless others who were lost during the war.


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