British Merit

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Introduction

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.

British Merit
British Merit - Location and date not known. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Tanker
Registered owners, managers and operators British Tanker Co. Ltd.
Builders Harland and Wolff Ltd.
Yard Govan
Country UK
Yard number 1117g
Registry London
Official number 168295
Signal letters N/K
Call sign BCLS
Classification society N/K
Gross tonnage 8,093
Net tonnage N/K
Deadweight N/K
Length 463.2 ft
Overall Length 79.4 ft
Breadth 61.2 ft
Depth 33.1 ft
Draught N/K
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.
Works Glasgow
Country UK
Boilers 2 double boilers operating at 150 psi
Power 490 NHP
Propulsion Single screw
Speed N/K
Cargo capacity N/K
Crew N/k

Additional Construction Information

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

Career Highlights

Date Event
16 April 1942Launched
9 July 1942Completed
25 July 1942Damaged by torpedo on maiden voyage and put out of service until August 1943
1954Company renamed British Petroleum
17 March 1961Broken up at Briton Ferry

Service in WW2

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.

Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
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).
William Noel Dawson
This is a portrait of William Noel Dawson taken in 1946. [2]
Manifest of Aliens
This is a list of non-US crew members required for the passage to New York. It lists 40 crew members and includes position in the crew, age, nationality, height, weight and distinguishing marks. This would be applicable to the voyage from Malta departing on November 18 1944 which joined convoy GUS 59. [2]
Crew Changes
This is a statement by the Master of British Merit that lists crew changes between the ship docking in New Jersey in December 1944 and her planned departure in January 1945. The document is stamped as having been received by the Records Unit on 23 January 1945. There appear to have been just two changes in the crew. [2]

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.

Roll of Honour

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.
Poppies

Service post WW2

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.

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of Stan Mayes
  2. By courtesy of Paul McDougall