|Owner:||China Mutual Steam Navigation Company Ltd.|
|Port of registry:||Liverpool England|
|Builder:||Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company Ltd., Newcastle upon Tyne, England|
|Yard number:||No: 921|
|Launched:||19 August 1921|
|Fate:||Became stranded becoming a total wreck on Haisbro Sands 25 January 1941 off Norfolk, England|
|Tonnage:||7,557 gross register tons (GRT)|
|Length:||455 ft (139 m)|
|Beam:||56 ft (17 m)|
|Draught:||32 ft (9.8 m)|
|Installed power:||Two Geared Steam Turbines|
|Crew:||Captain Peard and 100 crewmen/passengers|
The Meriones was a steam merchant ship which was built in 1922 at the Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. She was 7,557 gross register tons (GRT) and 455 feet (139 m) long.
The SS Meriones was part of a convoy of ships heading for the port of Hull to complete her manifesto of cargo before setting sail for Australia. She had already been part loaded with 1933 tons of general cargo which included cement, sodium nitrate, manganese, tinplate and a large quantity of cable and machinery. There was also two racehorses owned by the Duke of Gloucester who had recently been appointed the 11th Governor of Australia. The crew of the SS Meriones numbered 101 for this voyage, many of them being Chinese. In the early hours of 22 January 1941 the ship became stranded on top of a previously wrecked cargo ship, the SS Monte Nevoso on Haisbro Sands.
On 24 January a request was made to the Coxswain of the Cromer Lifeboat, Henry Blogg to go to Great Yarmouth to meet with the Chief Salvage officer to discuses the possibility of savaging the marooned SS Meriones of Haisbro Sands. Henry Blogg knew Haisbro Sands better than anyone living and he knew every moment lost went against getting the Meriones off the sands. With this in mind Blogg accompanied the Salvage Officer out to the ship on the salvage tug Richard Lee Barber to assess the situation. The two men were also joined by the marine superintendent, Captain Glazier, of the China Mutual Steam Navigation Company, who were the owners of the SS Meriones. There was a moderate east-north-east wind blowing with a moderate sea. The sky was overcast and misty and it was very cold. The Richard Lee Barber had salvage pumps aboard as it was reported that the ship's number six hold was full of water.
As the Richard Lee Barber was approaching Haisbro sands the Meriones came under attack from passing German aircraft. The attacks were eventually driven away by firepower of close-by ships. This had been the latest of several attacks made on the ship by aircraft. At 2:15pm one attack resulted in the injury of one of the steamer's gunners. At 4:00pm another attack saw bombs dropped which had fallen very close to the Meriones. In total the German aircraft dropped 23 bombs in three attacks made on the ship.
At 3:16pm, with the safety of the crew now of deep concern the message for help was sent to the Cromer lifeboat. The Lifeboat H F Bailey was launched at 3:34pm with the second coxswain Lewis Harrison in command. The lifeboat reached the Meriones at around 6:30 pm and went alongside the Richard Lee Barber and her coxswain Henry Blogg rejoined his boat. Blogg then took the marine superintendent aboard the Meriones. The H F Bailey then stood-by.
Over the next half an hour the wind increased in severity and there were rough broken seas on the sands where the SS Meriones now lay. After some time the Meriones called the H F Bailey and requested that the crew should abandon ship. By now the crew's quarters were awash and the two horse boxes had broken loose. It was now becoming dark and the lifeboat carefully manoeuvred until it was under the lee of the steamer. After several attempts to make fast to the Meriones, the lifeboat was secured to the ship with large ropes. The work of the rescue then began. Half the crew were taken off and placed aboard the naval tug Saint Mullion which was at anchor near-by. The H F Bailey then returned to take off the remaining crewmen. The lifeboat had got a further forty of the crew off the ship when the nine inch and six inch ropes which had been used to secure the lifeboat to the Meriones broke away. The H F Bailey took the rescued men to the tug Richard Lee Barber which had now anchored inside the sands. The lifeboat once again made fast alongside the Meriones. There were now only eight men of the 101 crew left aboard, all officers of the ship. Before leaving the men had one last job to attend to. The Duke of Gloucester’s race horses which were aboard had to be shot. This was done and the remaining officers boarded the lifeboat. It was now 1:00 am and the H F Bailey was ready to leave the wreck of the Meriones. On board, apart from the crew there were the eight officers, the ship’s doctor, and on stretchers, the injured crewman from the aircraft attack of the previous day. Coxswain Henry Blogg set a course for the deeper waters of Cockle Gat south of Haisbro Sands. The weather was bad with heavy rain mixed with sleet. In the darkness the coxswain was not certain of his position. Heavy seas were running both on shore and on the surrounding sandbanks and Blogg took the decision to anchor until daylight. H F Bailey waited for five and a half hours until daybreak when Blogg was able to fix his position as two miles north of Winterton Steeple. The lifeboat arrived in Great Yarmouth at 10:15 am on 26 January and landed the last 10 rescued men. During the next day the Meriones was bombed by German aircraft and set on fire. Totally gutted she was beyond salvage by 27 January 1941. The H F Bailey was back home in her shed at 4:15pm on 30 January.
Position of the wreck of the Meriones today
Cromer Lifeboat Crew
|The Rescue of the SS Meriones|
|H. F. Bailey|
|Henry G Blogg||Coxswain|
|Lewis Harrison||Second Coxswain|
|W T Davis||Bowman|
|H W Davis||Mechanic|
|W Davis||Assistant Mechanic|
|Henry “shrimp” Davies||Signaller|
|Edward W ("Boy Primo") Allen||Signaller|
|J J Davis Jnr||crew|
|R C Davis||crew|
|J R Davis||crew|
|L B Harrison||crew|
|J J Davis Snr||Stand-by Coxswain|
- SC1408 Harwich and Rotterdam to Cromer & Terschelling Admiralty Small Craft Chart Coastal planning chart of the Harwich and Rotterdam to Cromer and Terschelling Scale: 1:300,000
- The Ship-Wrecks off North East Norfolk by Ayer Tikus: Published by Ayer Tikus Publications; ASIN B0032Z2NU0
- The Rescues of Henry Blogg and the crews of the Cromer Lifeboat:By Mick Bensley: Published by Bengunn:ISBN 1-85770-229-8
- "Henry Blogg, the Greatest of the Lifeboatmen", Jolly, C., Pub: Poppyland Publishing, new edition 2002, ISBN 0-946148-59-7
- The Cromer Lifeboats, by Bob Malster & Peter Stibbons,:Poppyland Publishing, ISBN 0-946148-21-X