SS Colchester

The SS “Colchester” (Official Number 31332) was built in 1899 by Earle’s Shipbuilding Company Hull, for the Great Easstern Railway for use on the Harwich-Antwerp passenger and cargo service.

The Colchester left Tilbury for Rotterdam on the afternoon of Thursday, September 21st 1916 and was captured by German Naval Forces and taken to Zeebrugge.

The crew were held as civilian prisoners of war.

Account from Great Eastern Railway Magazine


Great Eastern Railway Magazine November 1916

S. S. ” Colchester” Captured.
The G.E.R. steamer “Colchester ” left Tilbury for Rotterdam on the afternoon of Thursday, September 21st. On the Saturday morning we knew she had been captured and taken to Zeebrugge. It must be conceded that the capture by legitimate methods of warfare of this vessel and of the S.S. “Brussels ” is a proper triumph for the enemy and a proof that they make the most of their possession of a strip of western coast. One notes that when the enemy, without warning, made attempts upon these vessels from underwater craft he did not succeed, but when he adopted means about which we cannot complain he secured two good ships with their cargoes. Perhaps this will cause meditation amongst the apostles of frightfulness and make them wonder whether a little more of the Drake and Frobisher spirit and a little less of Tirpitz strafing might not have caused a lot more inconvenience to Albion.
Captain F. Bennett, the master of the “Colchester,”  had only recently been promoted and had no connection with submarine encounters, so that it cannot be conceived that the Germans will find an excuse for serving him as Captain Fryatt was served. The German press takes note of the G.E.R. service, and the appointment of new captains on the Tilbury-Rotterdam service was described as ” a wise precaution.” The German press has obviously an inspired sense of honour. At present Captain Bennett, with his crew, are at Ruhleben. Those who knew him will feel sure that the odds were very much against him when the capture took place : he is a fine British seaman.

Wireless Operator Rodell was unlucky indeed. He had just finished his training for the service and this was his first voyage as independent operator.

The ” Colchester ” has served the Company well. She was built in 1899 for the Harwich-Antwerp passenger and cargo service by Earle’s Shipbuilding Company, Hull, and, as already  stated, was queen of the fleet when Captain Fryatt entered the service. She was designed to do 14.5 knots per hour with high and low pressure engines, developing 2,350 I.H.P. and working steam pressure of 90 Ibs. per sq. in. Eleven years later greater speed was required and new four crank triple compound engines were installed having a working steam pressure of  180 lbs. per sq. in. and developing 2,440 I.H.P. Gradually, however, she was ousted by larger and speedier craft and before the war she had become a stand-by boat, being especially associated with large parties of emigrants who for economy’s sake went in her to Antwerp in order to take cheap passages to the States by the German liners subsidised by the German and the Belgian Governments. The “Colchester” survived as a passenger boat until the end of last year but carried cargo only during the war, making one trip with flour and clothing to Ghent to relieve the Belgian population. In the exigencies of war, instead of passing out of the service, she was endowed again with new boilers, deprived of one stack, fitted with bronze propellers, a flying bridge and crow’s nest for better observation of enemy vessels and mines. She became a very nice cargo boat of nearly 14 knots speed, carrying goodly quantities of food out of Holland until she passed from us in the night quietly captured with a large loading of parcels for prisoners of war, which may yet have been delivered to their addresses, although no doubt the loss of some thousands of substantial sacks is lamented by the G.P.O.


List of Crew Interned from MT9/1094 at National Archives.

SURNAME FIRST NAME OCCUPATION ADDRESS TOWN DATE      OF BIRTH
T BENNETT FRANK MASTER 42 HAWTHORN      TERRACE DOVERCOURT 1880
T CROSBY FREDERICK GEORGE FIRST OFFICER HILLSIDE FRANKS ROAD DOVERCOURT 1887
T CHILVER WILLIAM JOHN 2ND OFFICER 58 OAKLAND ROAD DOVERCOURT 1885
T MCCOWATT WILLIAM CHIEF ENGINEER 34 HAWTHORN TERRACE DOVERCOURT 1874
T COLEMAN ERNEST SECOND ENGINEER 20 WHERSTEAD ROAD IPSWICH 17/7/1888
J RODELL HERBERT VICTOR WIRELESS OPERATOR 4 BELGRAVE ROAD CAMBRIDGE 28/1/1891
J CALVER WILLIAM JAMES BOATSWAIN 6 ALBERMARLE STREET HARWICH 11/2/1877
J ATKINS CHARLES ARTHUR COOK 32 ADELAIDE STREET PARKESTON 27/11/1882
J BANKS HARRY ROBERT ABLE SEAMAN 2 WEST STREET HARWICH 24/4/1878
J MCCLELLAND FRANCIS ABLE SEAMAN GLEN COTTAGE GARLAND ROAD PARKESTON 1856
J YOUNGS RICHARD GEORGE ABLE SEAMAN SIRDAR TERRACE PARKESTON 20/1/1897
O GOOD DENNIS WILLIAM ABLE SEAMAN ALPHA COTTAGE BATHSIDE HARWICH 10/3/1887
J FLATT WILLIAM ABLE SEAMAN 12 HAMILTON STREET PARKESTON 1896
J WATKINS WILLIAM WALTER ABLE SEAMAN 28 NEW STREET GRAVESEND 3/2/1896
J SMY WILLIAM ORDINARY SEAMAN 5 GOLDEN LION LANE HARWICH 1899
T RICHMOND ALBERT EDWARD DECK BOY STOUR VILLA BATHSIDE HARWICH 1899
J GRAYSTONE OLIVER HENRY DONKEYMAN 5 TALBOT ROAD BATHSIDE HARWICH 9/1/1865
J CHECK ROBERT BENJAMIN DONKEYMAN 2 NORMANS COTTAGES BATHSIDE HARWICH 22/11/1891
O MEACHER ARTHUR JAMES FIREMAN 23 KINGS HEAD STREET HARWICH 20/11/1888
J HINES WILLIAM FIREMAN 17 HORDLE STREET DOVERCOURT 1880
J PARKER WILLIAM FIREMAN 2 RAILWAY COTTAGES GEORGE STREET HARWICH 22/2/1881
J CARTER FREDERICK W FIREMAN 7 COKE STREET HARWICH 13/10/1887
J WOOLLEY GEORGE VICTOR FIREMAN 4 ALBERT STREET HARWICH 5/12/1890
J MARCHANT WILLIAM FIREMAN 13 CASTLEGATE STREET HARWICH 1877
J ABBOTT W FIREMAN 21 NORMANS YARD GEORGE STREET HARWICH 1882
J HAMMOND ARTHUR RICHARD FIREMAN GLEN COTTAGE ALBERMARLE STREET HARWICH 1/11/1899
O KINGSFORD HARRY JOHN ATHERTON PANTRY BOY 13A HORDLE STREET HARWICH 1897
J CARR JOHN ALFRED PANTRY BOY NEWHAVEN YARD HARWICH 22/03/1900
FERNANDO WM SHIPS COOK

 

 

Records in The National Archives

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