Maritime Tales – twice lucky

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ship model

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Many ships survive attacks in wartime and stay afloat and I like this story because the ship concerned was obviously built to last.

Some ships have a certain look about them – this is one reason vessels hold a great deal of interest to lots of people.

Eight men died in the torpedo attack by a German U-boat submarine but the ship stayed afloat - and went on to survive a second attack later in the First World War.

The 11,635-ton Haverford was a solidly-built passenger cargo liner constructed in 1901 by John Brown & Co of Glasgow for the International Navigation Co (INC), Liverpool.

She is believed to have been named after Haverford, a town in Pennsylvania where INC director Clement Griscom lived.

Both Haverford and her sister Merion, perhaps unusually for the time, carried just one class of passenger, equal to First Class on other ships.

Haverford’s maiden voyage was from Southampton to New York and she later served on a variety of routes such as Liverpool – Philadelphia and Liverpool-Halifax-Portland.

She served as a troop transport and was torpedoed, possibly by the UB-38, on 26 June 1917.

Haverford managed to limp to safety under her own steam and was beached, repaired and brought back into service after six months. The following year she again survived a U-boat attack.

Pictured is a 6 ft long, 1:48 builder’s model of the Haverford on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum which clearly reflects her sturdy construction. She is shown in the colours of the White Star Line, her owners from 1921.

Superb detail includes her name on the bridge, intricately-modelled lifeboats, fine deck fittings and a retractable ladder down one side used for boarding the vessel.

Haverford kept her original name after being acquired by White Star, which was very unusual. Most White Star ships had names ending with ic – such as Titanic, Majestic and Britannic.

Haverford developed structural problems in 1924 and made her last voyage, between Liverpool and Philadelphia, that year. She was scrapped in 1925.

Her sister did not have such a charmed life. Merion was torpedoed and sunk by the UB-8 on 31 May 1915 near the entrance to the Dardanelles in the Aegean Sea.

She was serving as a battle cruiser, equipped with real and dummy guns as part of naval strategy to fool the enemy. Some crew members were blown into the water and swam shore clinging to the remains of the false guns. Happily no-one died in the attack.

INC was formed in 1871 and went on to own 26 ships totalling 181,000 tons and at one stage carried more passengers than either Cunard or White Star.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo (ends 19 Nov).