Remembering MV Derbyshire

Items relating to doomed ship on display for very first time

A uniform which belonged to one of the crew lost on the tragic MV Derbyshire will go on display for the very first time at Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The Derbyshire was the biggest British merchant ship ever lost at sea.

She sunk in the South China Sea during a typhoon on 9 September 1980. Forty four people were lost including 17 from Liverpool.

The uniform on display belonged to 3rd engineer officer Leo Coltman and has been a precious reminder to his family for the last 32 years. Other objects include a model of the Derbyshire and a letter written by Able Seaman 1 Ronnie Musa sent from the last port of call before the bulk carrier sailed onwards to disaster.

A lifebuoy used in a TV documentary about the ship is also on show along with items relating to the families 20-year campaign to uncover the truth.

The display opens two days before the 32nd anniversary of the sinking and a time when the DFA is fundraising for a permanent memorial to those lost at Liverpool’s Pier Head.

Merseyside Maritime Museum has worked closely with the DFA in creating the display.

Ellie Moffat, Curator of Maritime Collections, said:

“The MV Derbyshire story is one of tragedy and loss. This was a vast ship but she was overcome in minutes during typhoon Orchid. The Derbyshire story is also about a 20-year campaign by families of those that died to uncover the truth about why the ship sank.
The DFA was set up by relatives shortly after the sinking. The DFA’s persistence was instrumental in searching for the wreck and re-opening the investigation into the tragedy which cleared the crew of any blame.

Paul Lambert, Chairman of DFA, said:

“We are pleased that the story of the MV Derbyshire is being covered in the Museum. It’s a very special moment for the families and ensures that the crew who were lost will never be forgotten.”

The investigation into the sinking of The Derbyshire concluded that ventilators on deck were damaged by huge waves and when water poured in the bow dropped lower. The hatches on deck gave way under pressure leading to a domino effect and the holds were flooded.

Ultimately it took 20 years for the families to learn how their loved ones perished.

The DFA has played a crucial role in influencing changes to safety at sea – especially for bulk carriers.

As well as the new display, the Merseyside Maritime Museum has a detailed section about the MV Derbyshire on its website:

Notes for editors

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract more than three million visitors every year. Our venues are Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, UK Border Agency National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. 

Merseyside Maritime Museum is situated in the Albert Dock. Uncover objects from the great liners Titanic and Lusitania, find out about life at sea and learn about the port of Liverpool.    

Please contact: Dickie Felton in the press office for more information on this release.