Trinity House pilot vessel sunk by the propellers of a Cunard liner.
The pilot vessel W. Woollven started life as the Admiralty wood drifter Scend, Admiralty No. 3995, ONO 145311. Scend was built in 1918 by Colby Brothers Ltd. at Oulton Broad near Lowestoft and delivered in March 1919. The drifter was 87.6ft long with a beam of 20.0ft and a depth of hold of 10.0ft, 97 GRT, ketch rigged with an elliptical stern. Her 42 hp triple expansion steam engine was made in Glasgow by James Howden & Co Ltd. in 1918 with cylinder diameters of 9.5in, 15.5in and 26in with an 18in stroke. Scend had one return tube marine boiler made by Edwin Danks & Co. Ltd, Oldbury and a single propeller.
Scend was held by the Admiralty until she was sold to David Ducker, a fisherman of Wherrytown in Penzance who registered her there as Girl Hazel (PZ179) on 8 October 1920. Two years later she was purchased by Trinity House to be converted to a pilot vessel for Plymouth.
In November 1922, Trinity House pilots Henry Webb and John Silas Williams changed the name from Girl Hazel to W. Woollven, naming her after the highly-regarded Receiver of Wreck for the city. An article from 1916 quotes Mr Woollven as saying that they had great trouble since the war had started with the removal of coastguards and because they were short handed and ‘a lot of wreckage had been secreted or removed’. W. Woollven was one of the people who took depositions from the survivors of the Titanic disaster when they were put ashore at Plymouth and he retired in 1924 after 40 years service, 14 of them in Plymouth.
The pilot boat W. Woollven was well known in Plymouth Sound and could usually be found stationed off Rame Head ready to bring the big ships into the harbour. On the morning of 31st August 1925 she was again off Rame Head, out there early to meet the arriving Cunard liner Antonia from Montreal for London, dropping off passengers at Plymouth on her way. Antonia was two hours late because of fog in the Channel but when she appeared at 9am the fog had cleared and the sea was calm. When the Antonia stopped to pick up a pilot the Woollven was on the port side, so she quickly manoeuvred under the liner’s overhanging stern to the starboard side where she could drop off the pilot.
Unfortunately, in her hurry to change sides the 27m long pilot boat was drawn under the 158m long, 14,000ton liner's overhanging stern and fell foul of her huge propellers. It was all over in moments; the spinning propellers cut through the port side of the pilot boat like matchwood, her hull briefly hung on the propellers then she was gone. Most of the people on board the stricken pilot vessel jumped into their small boat but one or two dived into the water to get clear of the propellers. One of the pilots, W.H.G Brooks, was in his bunk at the time and he jumped into the water wearing just a singlet, he was hauled into the ship’s boat none the worse for his brief swim. Engineer C. Greaney was in the engine room when the propellers cut through the hull, ‘I thought it was time to get out when I saw the water’ he later remarked to a passenger. The survivors were taken on board the liner and were returned to Millbay, they were pilot Mr Brooks, engineer Mr Greaney, Albert Collins, W.M. Williams, pilot W.A.Scott, W.H. Symons and G. Hollond.
Please get in touch if you have any information about this vessel by sending us a message below.
The location of this vessel has not been positively identified. At the time of loss the Coastguard at Millbrook estimated the sinking position to be 3.25nm 186°M from Rame Head, which is close to the wreck of the patrol ship Medoc . The trawler Francis Patrick is also close by 2.9 nm from Rame bearing 186°T.
The UKHO position for this wreck is to the west at 50°15.952N 004°16.267W.
Off Rame Head
Last updated 08 May 2021
Position GPS: 50°15.952 N, 004°16.267 W
Colby Brothers Ltd., Lowestoft
Scend, Girl Hazel
Admiralty No. 3995, ONO 145311
26.7m / 87.6ft
6m / 20.0ft
3m / 10.0ft
42 hp triple expansion steam engine by James Howden & Co Ltd., single screw
Your email address will not be published.