Introduction to the History Menu Resources

The resources fall into two categories - 'Remembering' and 'Ships'. You can jump directly to any of them by clicking the title.

Remembering

Recollections

These are the recollections of seamen - in most cases giving accounts of their experiences in their own words - the lives and deaths of ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.  I started in 2008 with the recollections of an old friend Stan Mayes whose seagoing career began on Thames sailing barges. Sadly he has now crossed the bar but his memory lives on.

Many such stories have been lost because they were never written down, or were thrown out by people not understanding their interest and significance. I am often contacted by people tracing their family history and who regret not asking their relatives about their experiences - especially what part they played in WW2. If you have a story about your relative that would be of interest, please contact me and I will be pleased to add them.

Tower Hill

Tower Hill has been an important place throughout Britain's recorded history. In Roman times it lay within the walls of Londinium, William the Conqueror built the Tower of London nearby, and it is known to have been used as a place of punishment and execution from at least the 14th Century.

By 1797 Tower Hill had become a dumping ground, but an Act of Parliament was passed to transform the area and lay out Trinity Square Gardens - initially open just to residents and 'subscribers'.

Trinity Square Gardens is nowadays best known to members of the Merchant Navy. At the end of WW1 it was chosen as the location for a war memorial to Merchant Seamen "With no grave but the sea". A further memorial was added after WW2, and yet another after the Falklands Islands Campaign. There is also a memorial to those who were executed there.

Ships

The Allen Collection

Mr. W. Allen and his son Frank collected about six thousand photos of ships over a period of 60 years. The collection was saved from obscurity or destruction by a group of dedicated volunteers who wanted to make it available to everyone with an interest in Merchant Navy history. This was the first part of the Benjidog website and went live in 2007.

The Allens catalogued most of the photographs under shipping companies and recorded basic details of the ships on the backs. They did their best in the days before the Internet but we have found many errors and gaps in their data. Over time the site is being enhanced with more accurate information and I am cleaning up the images. These enhancements started in 2016 and it will be many years before they are completed.

Athenia

The passenger liner Athenia was torpedoed on 3 September 1939 - the very day that France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. No warning was given and the submarine took no action to help the surviving passengers. There was an international outrage as this kind of attack breached International agreements about submarine warfare. The Nazi regime denied responsibility and blamed Churchill - not that anyone believed them; the full truth emerged during the Nuremberg Trials of major war criminals that took place in 1945-6.

In 1939, the public's only sources of information were newspapers and the radio so, in telling the story, I have used contemporary press cuttings and witness statements to provide a picture of what ordinary people would have known at the time. I also have included detailed information about preparations for the International War Crimes Tribunal and the evidence of the fate of Athenia from the trial transcripts.

Battleships and Cruisers

This section includes histories of many British and Commonwealth battleships and battle cruisers including facts and figures about the ships and their armament, photos and information about service histories.

Most of the research for this website was done by Steve Woodward. 

British India Steam Navigation Company Limited

This is a new home for various resources about British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd. that were originally published on the MerchantNavyOfficers.com website which ceased operation in August 2014 following the sad loss of its creator Fred Waddington. I have re-published as much of the content as possible here with the agreement of Fred Waddington's widow Bobbie to ensure that it is not lost.

Court Line

 This is a celebration of Court Line ships and is dedicated to those who sailed in them - particularly during the dark days of World War 2. I hope that reading the history of these ships will encourage you to share my deep respect for the sacrifices made the seamen of the Merchant Navy during times of war who have never been given the official recognition they deserve. Without the supplies brought by convoys and independent voyages, Britain would not have survived. During WW2, these men ran the gauntlet of lurking U-boat wolf-packs and many ships and seamen were lost.

I am particularly grateful to my late friend Stan Mayes who inspired me to undertake this work and for the information and photographs he provided about his trips on Dallington Court; many others have contributed information.

Geoff Topp Postcard Collection

Geoff was a pilot on the River Mersey who collected postcards from his local area over many years. They were originally published on the merchantnavyofficers.com website and have been part of the Benjidog Historical Research Resources website family since 2015.

The collection is mainly based on the Mersey, its docks and the ships that sailed from them, but also includes lifeboats, lighthouses and ports in Wales.

P&O 'M' Class Liners

This section is about P&O's ten 'M Class' Passenger ships Moldavia, Mongolia, Marmora, Macedonia, Mooltan, Morea, Malwa, Mantua, Maloja and Medina that were built before WW1 - principally to service the mail route between London and Australia.

My interest in merchant shipping stems from my grandfather who was a steward on Morea and sent postcards back home to my grandmother who kept them in a box. I loved looking at the postcards as a child and still have them safely in a folder. I started gathering information about the 'M Class' vessels nearly 20 years ago and have only just got around to putting my research online.

John Milligen & Co Ltd

I came across John Milligen's company whilst researching a member of his family and could find nothing about his shipping ventures on the internet apart from a few glancing references. I also discovered to my surprise that one of the ship models I was given in 2018 was of one of the Milligen colliers.

So this is an attempt to bridge the gap. I may not have found all the Milligen ships and I am sure there is much more to be learned about the history of the company but at least it's a start.

Ship Histories

This section contains the histories of various ships that are either referred to elsewhere on this website, or that were found to be of interest for other reasons. I have included facts and figures about the ships, photos, and information about service histories to the extent that I have been able to discover them.

Stephanotis

This is the first comprehensive history of the beautiful 1903 steam yacht Stephanotis and her owners. In her latter years she was a training ship based at the King Edward VII Nautical College in Stepney (King Ted's) under her later name Wendorian.

There is information here about the vessel herself, but most of my effort has been spent in discovering her various owners and researching their lives. I was particularly interested in why her owners had purchased her, what use they made of her, and where they got the money to purchase such an expensive toy.

It has taken several years to track them all down and in the course of my research I have explored the lives of grocers and brewers, sugar refiners and cotton manufacturers, a revolting foreign Duke who spent most of his life killing animals, a P.G. Wodehouse 'drone' whose saving grace was to serve his country in WW1, an organiser of Commonwealth Games, a surgeon who lost his life in WW2 and a collector of cars whose sister was a rodeo performer. It has been quite astonishing!

 

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