SS Dover Hill

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Career (UK)
Name: SS Clan Macvicar
Owner: Clan Line
Port of registry: Glasgow
Builder: Northumberland Shipbuilding Co, Newcastle-upon-Tyne[1]
Launched: 17 December 1917[2]
Completed: March 1918[1]
In service: 1918
Out of service: 1936
Identification: Code Letters JSTP[1]
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United Kingdom Official Number 141878[3]
Fate: Sold
Career (UK)
Name: SS Dover Hill
Owner: Ministry of War Transport (1943–44)
Operator: Counties Ship Management, London (1936–43),[1] J & J Denholm, Sunderland (1943–44)
Port of registry: Glasgow
Acquired: 1936
Out of service: 1944
Identification: Code Letters GQMN[1]
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United Kingdom Official Number 141878[1]
Fate: Scuttled as a Corn Cob block ship
General characteristics
Class and type: First World War standard design
Type: cargo ship
Tonnage: 5,818 GRT;
tonnage under deck 5,600;
3,621 NRT[1]
Length: 400.1 ft (122.0 m)[1]
Beam: 53.0 ft (16.2 m)[1]
Draught: 32.8 ft (10.0 m)[1]
Installed power: 569 NHP[1]
Propulsion: triple expansion steam engine[1]
Speed: 10 knots[2]
Armament: Anti-aircraft Bofors 40 mm guns & Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (in World War II)[4]

SS Dover Hill was a shelter deck cargo steamship built Northumberland Shipbuilding Co in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to a First World War standard design,[2] launched on 17 December 1917 and completed in March 1918.[1] She had nine corrugated furnaces with a combined grate area of 193 square feet (18 m2) that heated three 180 lbf/in2 single-ended boilers with a combined heating surface of 8,478 square feet (788 m2).[1] The boilers fed a 569 NHP triple expansion steam engine built by North Eastern Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. of Newcastle.[1] She was equipped with direction finding equipment and radio.[1]

The ship was launched as Maenwen but after completion in March 1918 she entered service with Clan Line who named her Clan Macvicar.[1] She spent most of her career under this name, but is noted for her Second World War service as Dover Hill.

In 1936 the Dover Hill Steamship Co. bought Clan Macvicar, renamed her Dover Hill and placed her under the management of Counties Ship Management Ltd.[1] Dover Hill SS Co was a one-ship company established under CSM control to own the ship.

In the Second World War Dover Hill served with distinction on Arctic convoy duty. In the Normandy landings she was scuttled as a Corn Cob block ship for a Gooseberry Harbour.

Spanish Civil War[edit]

In 1938 during the Spanish Civil War General Franco's nationalist insurgents issued a statement alleging that more than 200 British-registered merchant ships had been used to supply the Spanish Republic with matériel banned by the international non-intervention agreement.[5] One of the ships accused was Dover Hill, which the statement claimed had carried a cargo of 200 lorries and 400 tons of matériel from a USSR Black Sea port to Alicante, passing through the Bosphorus on 20 April.[5]

The insurgents' statement contained inaccuracies about many of the British ships to which it referred, to the extent that some of the companies and ships that it accused did not even exist.[5] In reality every ship serving a Republican port had to carry a Non-Intervention Officer representing the Non-Intervention Committee, and the Royal Navy detained any ship suspected of carrying matériel and inspected her cargo, in many cases by having it all unloaded for inspection at Gibraltar or Malta.[6] It is highly unlikely that Dover Hill supplied Spain with any goods banned by the Non-Intervention Agreement.

Convoy JW 53[edit]

In January 1943 Dover Hill loaded a cargo of fighter aircraft, guns and munitions, plus a deck cargo of Matilda II tanks, lorries in cases and drums of lubricating oil protected by sandbags.[4] On 23 January she sailed from her anchorage off Gourock in the Firth of Clyde and on 25 January she anchored in Loch Ewe.[4] On 15 February she sailed for the USSR as one of 28[7] merchant ships in Arctic convoy JW 53.[4] The flagship was the cruiser HMS Belfast and the convoy's other escorts included the cruisers HMS Cumberland and HMS Sheffield, escort carrier HMS Dasher and 15 destroyers.[7]

The storm that hit Convoy JW 53, pictured from the bridge of the cruiser HMS Sheffield

As the convoy sailed northwards it encountered heavy winds.[4] Six merchant ships were damaged and diverted to Iceland[4] along with HMS Sheffield and the armed trawler HMT Lord Middleton.[7] A Royal Navy flotilla led by the cruiser HMS Scylla relieved the original escorts off Iceland.[7] However, during the storm HMS Dasher had suffered engine trouble and returned to the Firth of Clyde, leaving JW 53 without air cover.[7]

In the storm Dover Hill‍ '​s drums of oil were lost overboard, the lorries were damaged and then they too were lost overboard.[4] Her crew managed to save the Matilda II tanks.[4] The poor weather scattered the ships but the weather moderated[4] and by 20 February its Royal Navy escorts reformed the remaining 22 merchant ships into the convoy.[7]

By now the convoy was sailing through pancake ice, which along with the naval escort[7] ensured there were no U-boat attacks.[4] However, on 24 February a Luftwaffe patrol aircraft shadowed the convoy and the next day Junkers Ju 88 aircraft bombed the convoy.[4] Dover Hill was damaged and one of her gunners was wounded.[4] The convoy reached the Kola Inlet on the northern coast of Russia on 27 February.[4] 15 cargo ships from the convoy docked in Murmansk while seven others continued south to Archangel.[4] Despite air attacks and adverse weather, JW 53 had lost no merchant ships en route.[7]

Air raids in Russia[edit]

Dover Hill unloaded at Murmansk.[4] The Luftwaffe bombed the port, sinking the cargo ship Ocean Freedom at her moorings.[4] After discharging her cargo Dover Hill moved to an anchorage in the Kola inlet.[4] Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters armed with bomb racks repeatedly made low-level attacks on the ships at anchor, during which Dover Hill was damaged and some of her gunners wounded.[4] However she shot down one Bf 109 and damaged another, which was then shot down by a ship astern of her at the anchorage.[4]

On 4 April Dover Hill was at Misukovo Anchorage north of Murmansk when two Ju-88 bombers attacked her.[4] Five 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs exploded in the sea around the ship. A sixth hit her and went through her main and tween decks but failed to explode.[4] The minesweeper HMS Jason anchored astern of Dover Hill, ready to rescue any survivors if the bomb exploded.[4] The bomb buried itself in coal in the ship's bunkers and a team of 19 volunteers dug out the coal to find it.[4] The Luftwaffe made further air raids, and bombs exploding in the sea around the ship repeatedly caused coal to fall back into the hole that the volunteers were digging.[4] The bomb was 22 feet (6.7 m) deep in the coal and it took the volunteers two days and nights to reach it.[4] A Soviet bomb disposal specialist then defused it by unscrewing the primer and detonator and the volunteers disposed of the bomb over the side of the ship.[4]

On 17 May Dover Hill and three other ships left the Kola Inlet and went via the White Sea to Economia on the Northern Dvina River.[4] On 18 July Dover Hill moved again to Molotovsk.[4] On 26 November she and eight other ships sailed for London, where they arrived on 14 December.[4]

On 12 October 1943, two months before Dover Hill reached London, the London Gazette had published the names of all 19 volunteers who dug out the bomb.[8] 14 were awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct and the other five were made Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[4] Her Master, W.G. Perrin was one of the recipients of the OBE, and was also awarded Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea.[9]

Further service[edit]

Dover Hill was repaired and taken over by the Ministry of War Transport, who placed her under the management of J & J Denholm Ltd of Sunderland.[2] On 9 June 1944[4] Dover Hill was scuttled off Ouistreham on the Normandy coast as a Corn Cob block ship to protect the Gooseberry 5 Harbour for Sword Beach.[2][10]

Replacement ship[edit]

In 1946 CSM bought the SS Empire Nairobi, a standard Empire ship that had been built by Short Brothers in Sunderland in February 1945, and renamed her Dover Hill.[10] In 1951 CSM sold her to Italian owners who registered her under the Panamanian flag of convenience as Basil. In 1954 the British Steamship Co Ltd bought her and registered her in Great Britain as the Ravenshoe. She was managed by John Cory & Sons Ltd, Newport Monmouthshire. In 1960 she was sold again and registered in Panama as Plate Shipper. She was managed by PB Pandelis Ltd based in London. In 1961 she was sold again to owners in Turkey who renamed her Umran. In 1966 she changed hands in Turkey again and was renamed Tan 2. She was scrapped in Istanbul, Turkey in 1968.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1937. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Les Epaves des Mulberry, Gooseberry 5 – Sword Beach". Epaves et Naufrages de Ponant. SAMM Section Plongée. 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1931. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Craig, David B (23 August 2005). "The Story of the SS Dover Hill in Russia, 1943". WW2 People's War. BBC. Retrieved 2 July 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Heaton 2006, p. 95
  6. ^ Heaton, 2006
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Roskill, S.W. (1956). "Chapter XVI, Home Waters and the Arctic, 1st January – 31st May, 1943". The War at Sea 1939–45, Volume II: The Period of Balance. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  8. ^ "Commendations". London Gazette. 12 October 1943. p. 4488. 
  9. ^ de Neumann, Bernard (19 January 2006). "Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea (Part Two)". WW2 People's War. BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Fenton, Roy. "Counties Ship Management 1934–2007". LOF–News. p. 1. Retrieved 30 June 2010. 

Sources and further reading[edit]