Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak



MV Trevanion

The other ships sunk by ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE

The Merchant Navy Prisoners taken by ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE



Built 1937  Lithgows for Hain Steamship Co.

5,299 tons

432ft 3ins x 56ft 2ins x 24ft 8ins

449 nhp; oil engines.


The Trevanion, on a voyage from Port Pirie ( South Australia ) to Swansea, was sunk by the German raider GRAF SPEE on October 22nd  1939, about 600 miles W of Luderitz Bay. 19.40S : 04.02E.



The Hain steamer Trevanion (5,200 tons) is one of four British ships reported on Monday to be long overdue and believed lost. The Trevanion is now about eight weeks overdue. No news has been received of her.

Her master is Capt. J. Edwards, of St Ives.

Another St. Ives man on board was Mr. James Symons, a steward.

She was a London motorship, with a crew of thirty-three.


Report dated 21st December 1939 ….




Captain J. H. EDWARDS, The St. Ives Captain of the Hain Steamer TREVANION has given in an interview a graphic description; of his adventures since the sinking of his ship. Talking to a reporter in Montevideo, where he had been landed from the Graf Spee, following her epic battle with three British warships off the coast of South America, Capt. Edwards said:

“We were off the coast of South West Africa when we sighted a warship flying a large French Ensign. When the warship was two miles away, we were told to heave to, and the German Ensign was run up instead of the French. Our wireless operator transmitted our position, and the warship started to open fire.”


“The order had been given to us, not to use our wireless, but I had given our operator orders to transmit our position. The warship started firing, and inflicted some damage on us, and our operator had just finished his message when a fragment of shell hit the apparatus. I dumped the ship's papers into the sea as the German party arrived, armed with revolvers and fixed bayonets.”


“A party of twenty Germans then came aboard the Trevanion, and the whole of my crew was transferred to the Graf Spee. Six days later we were transferred from the Graf Spee to a Hambourg ship, which was disguised as a Norwegian vessel. On board this vessel I found members of the crew of the Newton Beech and the Ashlea, both of which had been sunk earlier by the Graf Spee. This boat, as well as taking over prisoners, was supplying the Graf Spee with provisions.”


“Sometime later with the other officers of the British steamers, I was taken on board the Graf Spee again.”


There was a twinkle in Captain Edwards’ eye when he told how when questioned by German officers on the Graf Spee, he replied with characteristic Cornish forth-rightness: “Find out !”


Capt. Edwards said during the encounter with the British ships and the Graf Spee he was a prisoner below decks, and, therefore, saw nothing of the action.Graf Spee had arrived and anchored off Montevideo just after midnight on the 14th December. An officer came in and announced  “Gentlemen, For you the War is over. We are now in Montevideo harbour. Today you will be free.”

That same afternoon we were indeed set free in Montevideo.”


MV Trevanion


Photograph Courtesy of Joe McMillan


Raymond Forward