Victoria City (2)

Loss of the m.v. Victoria City 14th December 1955

Reprinted from the RSL Newsletter April 1976.

Mention of the above casualty in our previous issue prompted Mr Lionel Wainwright of the Technical Department, Head Office, to write an interesting account of his experience.

He writes:
The vessel left Hamburg and began the journey down the River Elbe, but patches of fog made progress rather slow and it was prudent to come to anchor a couple of times.
The usual small worries occurred at the beginning of the passage. One particularly annoying trouble being a heavy leak from the coil of the amidships Thermotank heater which caused water to drip from the inlets in the accommodation.

We finally got away during the evening of the 13th December and after settling the job down I came up from the engine room and sat in my day room.
I spoke to the 2nd engineer, Mr Brookbank, as he was going down below at 4 a.m., and then I lay on my settee for a short catnap. The steward brought in Chota Hazri at 6.30 a.m. and as soon as I had washed and cleaned my teeth I began to plan the day's work as I drank the tea. I heard the engine slow down and a few moments later there was an almighty crash on the port side of the ship which rolled us to starboard. As Chief Engineer it is often to move quickly at times; my shoes were on my feet, my torch and special piece of rag in my hand and I was out of the door and across to the engine room in one movement. A quick slide down the first ladder hand rails showed me that the job had stopped and three more quick slides took me down to the bottom platform where I met the second engineer. A question and answer revealed that there was nothing amiss in the engine room and turning around I raced up the ladder again to the deck and then up to the bridge.
It was still dark and Captain Dixon was training the Aldis lamp beam along the portside, which showed the bow of a Liberty ship jammed firmly into our hull just up by the foremast.

The name "Valentino" on the bow could be clearly seen, but the word after that was obscured by the tangle of jagged plates covering the area.
"Try to get the ballast out of the Deep tanks as quick as you can" said the captain and once more I shot down to the bottom platform, where the 2nd and I grabbed wheel spanners and began to open valves to the ballast pump. As we did this there was another grinding and tearing noise and the forward end of the engine room began to slope down rapidly whilst the engine seemed to lean right over to port. The Junior Engineer and the greaser shot up the ladder together as I yelled at the 2nd Engineer to get out. He and I ran alongside the base of the engine where it met the floor plates and sprang over to the base of the ladder. We clawed our way up and out into the alleyway; having done some of these hurried escapes during the war I decided that a try for a coat would worth risking and pushed my way into my room. I managed to get through to the bedroom where everything had piled over against the port bulkhead. My chrome leather coat was within reach and as I grabbed this and got back into the dayroom another lurch to port made the angle of the floor rise steeply upwards. By standing on the angle of the deck to the floor I was able to reach to the door frame and pull up into the alleyway and then it was a case of running along and out on to the deck, from where it was up the ladder to the boat deck.

The ship was right over now and the sea level was nearly to the edge of the boat deck. One boat was on its way down, but an Engineer and a Seaman were sitting on the covers of the forward boat in the water with no attempt to lift these off. The Chief Officer, Mr D. L. G. Jones, managed to swim to the boat and quickly sawed away the lashings to uncover the interior. We began to pass the ship's Company down into our boat and also into the after boat which was now down and in the water.
All hands were mustered and as soon as we had all reported we pushed off from the ship.

The other ship that was involved in the collision had gone astern after the impact and was now lying some distance away; we gathered afterwards it was the "Valentino Bibolini". Our chief interest was a polish ship the m.v. Orlowo which was now coming over to pick up survivors.

The last sight of the m.v. Victoria City was the propeller and rudder sticking up above the water. The m.v. Orlowo steered towards our two craft and quickly embarked us; she pushed away our boats and then steered towards Emden. During the short passage we were able to to talk a little to the Polish seamen, though it was soon realised that all directions came from the Radio Operator who was the Political Director on board.
The Polish Captain's name was Ossonowski Ferzy whose English was almost perfect as he had been stationed in London during the war.

Eventually we tied up at Emden and had to wait for a while until procedures were gone through. During the late afternoon we were guided to various hotels in the town.
The next morning arrangements were made for us to be fitted out with clothing to get home and then placed on the train for the Hook of Holland. The Indians were being guided by a Seacunny who had everyone convinced that unless clothes were passed out quickly they would all be thoroughly "gipped" out of their survivors' gear. When we joined the train there was a man from the tailors with baskets of coats, shoes, etc., with which he fitted out the crew until we arrived at the first inter-change station. Eventually we all arrived at the Hook of Holland and made our way to the Ferry where we had our first English meal since being cast away. I remember my particular steak which had been vulcanised to a good long-wearing piece of material quite proof against damage from knives or other cutting tools.

Parkeston Quay showed up next morning, and on to the Liverpool Street Station, where we were met by Mr. S. G. Kemp (now deceased) of Cardiff Office, with a couple of officers from the Shipping Federation. A coach was arranged to take the Indian crew to their representative.
We had lunch together at the Great Eastern Hotel and then home, with my total sea-going possessions being carried in a small brown paper parcel.

Victoria City. Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]
Memories from RSL staff. Page No. [1] [2] [3]