British Merit was built in 1942 and immediately went into service to assist the war effort. She served extensively during WW2 undertaking many independent voyages and taking part in a number of convoys. She was hit by a torpedo on her maiden voyage but survived the war and remained in service with the same company (which was later renamed British Petroleum) until 1961 when she was broken up giving her an overall service life of 19 years.
|Registered owners, managers and operators||British Tanker Co. Ltd.|
|Builders||Harland and Wolff Ltd.|
|Overall Length||79.4 ft|
|Engines||4-stroke cycle single acting 6 cylinder oil engine (4S.C.SA) with cylinder bore 29½½ and stroke 59 3/16".|
|Engine builders||Harland & Wolff Ltd.|
|Boilers||2 double boilers operating at 150 psi|
The Lloyds Register entry for British Merit for 1945-46 has the following additional information about her:
- She had one deck with a 2nd deck clear of cargo tanks
- Cruiser stern
- Machinery aft
- Longitudinal framing at bottom of deck
- She was fitted with radio direction-finding, echo sounding equipment and a gyro compass
|16 April 1942||Launched|
|9 July 1942||Completed|
|25 July 1942||Damaged by torpedo on maiden voyage and put out of service until August 1943|
|1954||Company renamed British Petroleum|
|17 March 1961||Broken up at Briton Ferry|
British Merit took part in many convoys and a very large number of independent voyages during WW2 according to information shown in the table below which is provided courtesy of Convoyweb - see External. Ref. #4.
|Clyde, Jul 18, 1942||ON.113 (Liverpool - Halifax)|
|In tow||St Johns NF, Aug 2, 1942|
|St Johns NF, Aug 24, 1942||JH.12 (St Johns NF - Halifax)||Halifax, Aug 29, 1942|
|Halifax, Sep 3, 1942||In tow||New York, Sep 9, 1942|
|New York, Aug 7, 1943||HX.251 (NYC - Liverpool)||Belfast Lough, Aug 22, 1943|
|Belfast Lough, Aug 22, 1943||BB.317 (Belfast Lough - M Haven)||Avonmouth, Aug 24, 1943|
|Avonmouth, Sep 3, 1943||Independent||Milford Haven, Sep 4, 1943|
|Milford Haven, Sep 9, 1943||ON.201 (Liverpool - NYC)||New York, Sep 24, 1943|
|New York, Oct 2, 1943||Independent||Hampton Roads, Oct 3, 1943|
|Hampton Roads, Oct 5, 1943||UGS.20 (Hampton Rds - Port Said)||Gibraltar, Oct 21, 1943|
|Gibraltar, Oct 31, 1943||KMS.30 (Gibraltar - Port Said)||Augusta, Nov 7, 1943|
|Augusta, Nov 8, 1943||AH.8 (Augusta - Bari)||Bari, Nov 10, 1943|
|Brindisi, Nov 28, 1943||HA.10 (Brindisi - Augusta)||Augusta, Nov 30, 1943|
|Augusta, Dec 4, 1943||KMS.33 (Gibraltar - Port Said)||Port Said, Dec 9, 1943|
|Suez, Dec 14, 1943||Independent||Aden, Dec 20, 1943|
|Aden, Dec 20, 1943||Independent||Abadan, Dec 28, 1943|
|Abadan, Jan 5, 1944||Independent|
|Bandar Abbas, Jan 14, 1944||PA.66 (Bandar Abbas - Aden)||Aden, Jan 21, 1944|
|Aden, Jan 22, 1944||Independent||Suez, Jan 29, 1944|
|Port Said, Jan 30, 1944||MKS.39 (Port Said - Gibraltar)||Bizerta, Feb 7, 1944|
|Tunis, Mar 14, 1944||GUS.33 (Port Said - Hampton Rds)||New York, Apr 3, 1944|
|New York, Apr 18, 1944||HX.288 (NYC - Liverpool)||Loch Ewe, May 4, 1944|
|WN.578A (Loch Ewe - Methil)||Methil, May 7, 1944|
|Methil, May 7, 1944||FS.1445 (Methil - Southend)||Hull, May 8, 1944|
|Hull, May 12, 1944||FN.1355 (Southend - Methil)||Tyne, May 13, 1944|
|Tyne, May 14, 1944||FN.1356 (Southend - Methil)||Methil, May 15, 1944|
|Methil, May 16, 1944||EN.384 (Methil - Loch Ewe)||Clyde, May 18, 1944|
|Clyde, May 21, 1944||Independent||Loch Ewe, May 22, 1944|
|WN.586 (Loch Ewe - Methil)||Methil, May 24, 1944|
|Methil, May 31, 1944||EN.390 (Methil - Loch Ewe)||Clyde, Jun 2, 1944|
|Clyde, Jun 7, 1944||WN.593 (Loch Ewe - Methil)||Methil, Jun 11, 1944|
|Methil, Jun 11, 1944||FS.1480 (Methil - Southend)||Southend, Jun 13, 1944|
|Southend, Jun 18, 1944||FN.1392 (Southend - Methil)||Methil, Jun 20, 1944|
|Methil, Jun 20, 1944||EN.399 (Methil - Loch Ewe)||Clyde, Jun 23, 1944|
|Clyde, Jun 30, 1944||Independent||Loch Ewe, Jul 1, 1944|
|WN.602 (Loch Ewe - Methil)||Methil, Jul 3, 1944|
|Methil, Jul 3, 1944||FS.1502 (Methil - Southend)||Southend, Jul 5, 1944|
|Southend, Jul 10, 1944||FN.1414 (Southend - Methil)||Methil, Jul 12, 1944|
|Methil, Jul 14, 1944||EN.408 (Methil - Loch Ewe)||Clyde, Jul 16, 1944|
|Clyde, Aug 2, 1944||ON.247 (Liverpool - NYC)||Delaware Capes, Aug 16, 1944|
|Independent||Hampton Roads, Aug 19, 1944|
|Philadelphia, Aug 19, 1944||Independent|
|Hampton Roads, Aug 23, 1944||UGS.52 (Hampton Rds - Port Said)||Algiers, Sep 9, 1944|
|Algiers, Sep 14, 1944||KMS.62 (Gibraltar - Port Said)||Augusta, Sep 18, 1944|
|Augusta, Sep 19, 1944||VN.66 (Augusta - Naples)||Naples, Sep 20, 1944|
|Naples, Sep 26, 1944||VN.67 (Augusta - Naples)||Piombino, Sep 27, 1944|
|not reported||Leghorn, Sep 28, 1944|
|not reported||Piombino, Sep 28, 1944|
|Leghorn, Oct 8, 1944||Escorted||Naples, Oct 10, 1944|
|Naples, Oct 15, 1944||Independent||Algiers, Oct 17, 1944|
|Algiers, Oct 20, 1944||UGS.56 (Hampton Rds - Port Said)||Port Said, Oct 28, 1944|
|Port Said, Nov 1, 1944||Independent||Haifa, Nov 2, 1944|
|Haifa, Nov 4, 1944||Independent||Port Said, Nov 5, 1944|
|Port Said, Nov 5, 1944||MKS.67 (Port Said - Gibraltar)||Malta, Nov 11, 1944|
|Malta, Nov 18, 1944||not reported||Oran, Nov 21, 1944|
|Oran, Nov 24, 1944||GUS.59 (Oran - Hampton Rds)||New York, Dec 10, 1944|
|New York, Jan 8, 1945||HX.331 (NYC - Liverpool)||Clyde, Jan 22, 1945|
|Clyde, Feb 3, 1945||JW.64 (Clyde - Kola Inlet)||Kola Inlet, Feb 15, 1945|
|Kola Inlet, Mar 23, 1945||RA.65 (Kola Inlet - Loch Ewe)||Clyde, Apr 1, 1945|
|Clyde, Apr 7, 1945||ON.295 (Liverpool - NYC)||New York, Apr 26, 1945|
|New York, Apr 29, 1945||HX.353 (NYC - Liverpool)||Avonmouth, May 16, 1945|
|Liverpool, May 27, 1945||ON.305 (Southend - Father Point)|
|Montreal, Jun 14, 1945||Independent||London, Jun 27, 1945|
|Independent||Corpus Christi, Aug 2, 1945|
|Corpus Christi, Aug 4, 1945||Independent||London, Aug 23, 1945|
|London, Aug 26, 1945||Independent||New York, Sep 7, 1945|
|New York, Sep 8, 1945||Independent|
|Houston, Sep 17, 1945||Independent||Rotterdam, Oct 5, 1945|
|Rotterdam, Oct 9, 1945||Independent||Falmouth, Oct 10, 1945|
|Falmouth, Nov 4, 1945||Independent||Port Said, Nov 15, 1945|
|Suez, Nov 15, 1945||Independent||Abadan, Nov 27, 1945|
|Abadan, Nov 30, 1945||Independent||Suez, Dec 11, 1945|
|Suez, Dec 15, 1945||Independent||Aden, Dec 19, 1945|
|Aden, Dec 19, 1945||Independent||Abadan, Dec 26, 1945|
|Abadan, Dec 28, 1945||Independent|
Torpedo Damage in 1942
According to Uboat.net - External Reference #3:
At 03.52 hours on 25 Jul, 1942, U-552 fired a spread of two torpedoes at the British Merit in station #94 of convoy ON-113 and hit with one torpedo. The tanker was on its maiden voyage and had torpedo nets streamed which stopped one of the torpedoes, but the other struck her port quarter just behind the nets. One man was killed by the explosion and another seriously injured. 32 men abandoned ship in two lifeboats and were picked up by HMCS Brandon, while the master and 21 crew members remained aboard.
The tug HMS Frisky was sent out to salvage the disabled British Merit, which was guarded by HMCS Brandon and HMS Polyanthus. The latter then escorted the tug convoy to St. Johns, arriving on 2 August. After temporary repairs the tanker was towed to New York in September 1942 but did not return to service until almost a year later in August 1943.
In 1939 Lloyd’s of London set up a committee to find a means of honouring those seafarers who performed acts of exceptional courage at sea, and this resulted in the announcement in December 1940 of the new award of “Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea”. The first awards were announced in March 1941, and the last in October 1948 — all awards were for acts during the Second World War. In all 541 Lloyd’s War Medals for Bravery at Sea were awarded.
A Lloyds War Medal for Bravery at Sea was awarded to Chief Engineer C. Craggs which I believe was in recognition of his bravery in pulling a seriously injured man to safety from the flooded engine room when British Merit was torpedoed. (However I have not located complete confirmation of this).
William Noel Dawson - Ship’s Master 1944-5
The following information was provided by Mr Paul McDougall - grandson of William Dawson:
My great-grandfather was the Master of the ship for a brief period. He joined the crew in Port Said, Nov 5 1944 and arrived in NYC Dec 10, 1944. I don't have records of him being aboard after that, and I know there was another Master who joined the ship in Greenock on April 3, 1945. But it's likely that he served through to April.
Mr Dawson would therefore have been on convoys MKS 67, GUS 59 and possible later convoys listed in the table above. According to Arnold Hague in External Ref. #37, the GUS convoy series sailed from Casablanca to the Hampton Road anchorage in New York - though some ships detached and went direct to New York City arriving about a day before the arrival at Hampton Roads. Escort for these convoys in the North Atlantic was a US Navy responsibility whilst the Royal Navy provided escorts from the Mediterranean beyond Gibraltar to the rendezvous point at Casablanca. Mediterranean escort duties ceased in late 1944 with the destruction of the last U-boat in the area and the restriction of German aircraft to airfields in northern Italy. Losses to GUS convoys were relatively low - in fact Hague lists only four - James Russell Lowell (GUS.18), Alpherat (GUS.25), George Cleeve (GUS.31) and Henry Miller (GUS.63).
A list of the ships that took part in Convoy GUS.59 can be found in the Arnold Hague Database accessible via the excellent Convoyweb site - External Ref. #4. The convoy consisted of 97 merchant ships and no escorts.
The table below provides details of the merchant seaman whose life was lost when British Merit was torpedoed and is from the Commonwealth War Grave Commission's "Debt of Honour" database.
|Surname||Forenames||D.O.D.||Rank||Cemetery/Memorial||Grave Ref.||Additional Information|
|Miller||Joseph||24/07/1942||Greaser and Fireman||New York City Brooklyn (The Evergreens) Cemetery||Seamen's Ground.||Age 21. Son of George Klastaitis and Magdalene Miller, of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland.|
At the end of the war, British Merit was taken to Falmouth for removal of her torpedo protection nets before returning to normal duties. This voyage is described by Stan Mayes on the Benjidog website Recollections section HERE.
British Merit continued in service with the British Tanker Co. Ltd. after the end of the war and then served British Petroleum when the company was renamed in 1954.
In 1954 British Merit towed the tanker British Builder from Albany Western Australia to Aden. British Builder had a broken crankshaft but nevertheless was loaded with crude oil and towed from Aden to the UK by British Baron - arriving on 28 November 1954. This is said to be one of the longest tows for a tanker ever undertaken.
British Merit was taken to Briton Ferry to be broken up in 1961.
- By courtesy of Stan Mayes
- By courtesy of Paul McDougall