THE 'STORMONT' AND 'EMPIRE BRENT' COLLISION

OF 20th NOVEMBER 1946.

 

At 07.00 on 20th November 1946, two ships were in collision in the Mersey. It was a dark, misty morning when the steamer STORMONT, (1,031 tons), was in collision with the passenger vessel EMPIRE BRENT, (13,595 tons), just off Egremont. The STORMONT was on her regular run from Belfast with 210 cattle and some horses which were to be landed at Birkenhead (Woodside) landing  stage. There was also 550 tons of general cargo on board for discharge at Waterloo Dock. The EMPIRE BRENT was carrying 900 Canadian war brides and families and was outward bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 

The STORMONT was under the command of Captain Percival Peacock and was making her way up the Mersey on a flood tide. She was keeping close to the Liverpool side of the river in order to make a wide sweep across the Mersey to stem the tide and berth at Woodside Stage. As the STORMONT crossed the bows of the EMPIRE BRENT a collision became inevitable and she was rammed on her port side.

 

The STORMONT capsized on the Pluckington Bank, off the Albert Dock at Liverpool,

following her collision with the EMPIRE BRENT

 

The EMPIRE BRENT sustained damage to her bows from below the water line to about fifteen feet above it, and her stem was torn and pushed inwards about four to five feet. She was able to berth at the Alfred Basin at Birkenhead under her own power and was subsequently dry-docked on 22nd November. A survey was carried out and a report from the Ministry of Transport stated that repairs would be carried out which would enable her to continue her voyage, it was hoped, in early December.

 

The EMPIRE BRENT in her original form as the LETITIA of Anchor-Donaldson

 

The tug ASSISTANT, owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, was tied up at Woodside Stage at the time of the collision, and a group of the crew were on deck waiting for their relief after a 24-hour watch. The mate spotted the STRMONT as she limped up river in a sinking condition, badly damaged on her port side and making water rapidly. The ASSISTANT quickly let go her mooring ropes and headed for the STORMONT and offered a tow rope which was declined. The ASSISTANT's captain, Jack Jones, had hoped to tow her on to the grid at Queens Dock river wall, but as assistance had been refused, the ASSISTANT returned to Woodside Stage. The STORMONT eventually beached on the Pluckington Bank near the Albert Dock wall. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board's salvage vessels WATCHFUL and SALVOR were in attendance but on the falling tide the STORMONT turned over and lay on her port side, lying SE by NW, with 80 feet on her stern unsupported.

 

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board's tug ASSISTANT

offered assistance to the STORMONT which was declined.

 

At low water it could be seen that the STORMONT was damaged on her port side from the shelter deck to below the water line, and all holds and machinery spaces had been flooded. All of the crew were rescued, but the live cargo was not so fortunate. Out of the seven horses on board, bound for the Cheshire Hunt, just one was rescued by the efforts of wreck master Charles Brock. Efforts were made to save the 210 cattle and a small motor boat attempted to tow some of them to safety. Several managed to swim ashore but only a few survived. Many dead animals floated up and down the Mersey on the tides for days before being picked up or washed ashore, but most died or were slaughtered on board the STORMONT and their carcasses taken away for processing into fertiliser. The salvage vessel WATCHFUL retrieved a large motor van owned by Curran Brothers of Belfast, which had been carried as deck cargo.

 

On 21st November 1946 the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MD&HB) took possession of the STORMONT under its statutory powers. The Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association was acting as agent for the MD&HB in respect of receiving and disposing of any cargo removed from the wreck. The STORMONT was surveyed on the afternoon of 21st November and the Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association advised the MD&HB and the ship's owners, the Belfast, Mersey and Manchester Steamship Co. Ltd. that the estimated cost of salvage would be in the region of £40,000. The chances of a successful operation were put at about 20%, and a salvage attempt was not considered to be justified.

 

The following day, 22nd November, gale force winds battered the STORMONT and all operations were suspended. There were still 100 dead cattle on board. Although the weather conditions moderated during 23rd November, high winds and spring tides were still hampering the efforts of a team of Liverpool dockers to salvage more than 30,000 tins of evaporated milk. This would have been an important cargo in 1946, so soon after the end of the war when many foods were still rationed.

 

Salvaging the cargo was completed by early December and then work to remove the remains of the ship herself began. The STORMONT was cut into two pieces and on the afternoon of 12th December the forepart was placed alongside the Albert Dock river wall. The two boilers were next removed and also placed alongside the river wall on 23rd / 24th December.

 

By 28th February 1947, more than three months after the collision, the aft part of the wreck had still not been removed, but on this date efforts had to temporarily abandoned because a lifting wire fixed under the STORMONT had carried away. Work continued as and when the weather permitted until 21st March when the last piece of the STORMONT was placed alongside the Albert Dock river wall. Four months of effort had finally ended. //////

 

STORMONT (ex SALTEES)   Official Number: 111176  Call Sign: M D C M

Built for the Clyde Shipping Company, sold in September 1929

Gross Tonnage: 1,031;  Nett: 421.   Port of Registry: Belfast

Length: 250.0ft   Breadth: 31.1ft.  Built by Caledon at Dundee in 1899

Owned by The Belfast, Mersey and Manchester Steamship Co. Ltd.

 

The SALTEES was built for the Clyde Shipping Company

and was sold and renamed STORMONT in 1929.

 

 

EMPIRE BRENT (ex LETITIA)  Official Number: 148847  Call Sign:  GLBX

Gross Tonnage: 13,595;  Nett: 8,243.  Length: 525.7ft  Breadth: 66.4ft

Built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Govan, in 1925

Owners: The Ministry of Transport  (Anchor-Donaldson as LETITIA)

 

The EMPIRE BRENT (ex LETITIA)