Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak




Athel Line Ships



1 ship of this name



GSN  20007819

ON  166312

Call Sign: GPQQ

8,410 grt; 5062 nrt; 12504 dwt.

470ft x 64ft x  38ft 9ins

One 8-cyl, Hawthorn Leslie diesel engine.

Single screw, 12 knots. At the time, the largest single screw ship afloat.

The hull was built 1939 Götaverken, Göteborg. (Yard Nr 558); AB Nordstjernan; as SILENUS for Axel Johnson & Co., Stockholm ( They had their oil refinery in Nynäshamn ). SILENUS was sold after a demand by the British Government, and moved to Scotland in 1940.

1941 The ship was completed by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee - still as SILENUS. ( Yard Nr 382 ).

1941 Sold to Tankers Ltd (Athel Line), Liverpool. Renamed ATHELVICTOR.

1942  5th December : The Lagos Incident. Athelvictor had been escorted by HMT KELT into Lagos.

Whilst the Athelvictor was moored in Lagos harbour some cargo [65 tons] escaped into the harbour which resulted in a large explosion, in the ensuing spread of flames, three vessels were engulfed and destroyed.

HM Trawler BENGALI (880t; built 1937)

HM Trawler CANNA (545t; built 7th April 1941)

HM Trawler SPANIARD (880t; built 1937)


Now reading the file ADM 1/21671 CIVIL POWER AND LEGAL MATTERS (19) DAMAGE AND LOSS SUSTAINED AT SEA (31) Subseries within TS 32 – I am continuing with further research on this incident. Athelvictor itself was not deemed to have been the cause of the incident, and sailed blameless, but the company was held liable and compensation and payments were made accordingly.


I will be including the loss of life on the Trawlers, and details of the Trawlers sinking of HMTs BENGALI, CANNA and SPANIARD and damage to HMT KELT. Despite claims made on the folder references, Athelvictor did not explode and did not sink, she sailed unharmed after the 23rd December 1942. I am very grateful to Tony Straw for his kind assistance in providing crew lists and Log entries for the time concerned, and those will be added to these pages shortly.


Gordon Bates writes

I joined the MV Athelvictor in Swansea on 30th January, 1942.

The voyage was to last some eighteen months.

The Captain was Guy Whittup.

It was her second voyage since being launched.

When  laden we carried  12,000 tons of spirit, generally of high octane value.

We arrived at the oil terminal of Apapa,

which is across the river at Lagos. It was intended that we should discharge

the remainder of petroleum which we had earlier loaded in the Persian port

of Abadan. The following day, a Saturday, I was to accompany the Captain to

Lagos across the river where I was to have an ear checked following an

infection. We were awaiting the arrival of the boat , and I was looking

down river to the Naval Base some three quarters of a mile,

when I saw the river  was on fire.

At the time there were three anti submarine vessels [ex trawlers] undergoing refit.

They would be carrying ammunition and depth charges.

Suddenly there was a massive explosion and air blast

as one or more of the trawlers exploded.

The river was moving down stream at about 4 knots,

and it would appear that an amount of petroleum had

entered the river at the terminal and had been carried

downstream to the Naval Base.

We completed unloading, and the next day lay at anchor in the river whilst

over the next three weeks an enquiry into the incident was carried out.


1952 sold to S. Chiarella Soc. di Nav SpA., Genoa renamed CALIFORNIA.

          Now shown as 8108grt
1961  1st October : Takeover by Armatoriale Mediterranea Idrocarburi, Palermo.

1962  Sold to Italian shipbreakers.

1962  9th February : Scrapped at La Spezia.




Raymond Forward