Charles Ross started working in the Wharfingers Department of the Clan Line in 1910 at the age of 14 years. He started as an office boy, but had a dream to become a ship’s engineer. He accomplished that dream and overall spent 51 years working for the Clan Line.
In this blog, I will take you on a journey of Charlie’s career through pictures of the most of the ships he worked on. Pictures have come from the book “Clan Line: Illustrated Fleet History” by John Clarkson, Roy Fenton and Archie Munro, published in 2007 by Ships in Focus Publications.
In 1918 he went to sea as a Fifth Engineer on the Clan Macquarrie. The Clan Macquarrie was built in 1913 and served in both World Wars and was sunk by torpedo and gunfire from the Italian Sub Leonardo da Vinci 600 miles from Freetown.
In December of 1920 Charlie passed his Second Class Steam Certificate and was appointed Third Engineer on the Clan Ross 2. This ship was built in 1914 and also served in both wars. In May 1918, she was hit by a torpedo and the hole was 55 feet by 27 feet. She survived that and was eventually sunk by the Japanese submarine I-6 in 1942.
His next ship, in 1922, was the Clan Alpine 3. She was built in 1918 and was bought by Clan Line for £280,000, which was the highest price paid by the Clan Line at that time. The Clan Alpine was another that was requisitioned by the British government for both wars. In 1943 she was badly damaged 190 miles west of Cape Finisterre by German U 107. She was then sunk by HMS Scarborough after picking up the survivors.
After two years, Charles moved to the newer Clan Mcfadyen 2, which was built in 1923. Another of the Clan Line World War 2 casualties, she was torpedoed and sunk by German U 508 when she was 200 miles northwest of Georgetown, British Guiana.
In 1926 Charlie started serving on the Clan Macwilliam. At that time he was promoted again to second engineer. He was aboard this ship when it caught fire Christmas Eve 1927 while loading copra and general cargo at Vavau, Friendly Islands. The ship was moved to Upper harbour, but sank and broke her back. Both the master and chief engineer were lost.
There is a gap in our knowledge of the ships that Charlie was on after that. We know that he obviously was no longer serving on the Clan Macwilliam, but we don’t have his next ship listed until 1932.
Then, in 1932, he worked aboard the Clan Murray 3. The Clan Murray 3 was built in 1918, served in both wars and was sold by the Clan line in 1952.
In 1933, Charles moved on to the luckiest ship in the Fleet, the Clan Macinnes 2. In 1941 at Liverpool under an air raid where many ships around were hit, she was hit by only one bomb that failed to explode. In 1942 she was missed by a torpedo that struct one of the escorts, and missed again in 1942 by two torpedoes fired by Japanese submarine. And she survived a Japanese air attach on Trincolmalee. She was sold by the Clan Line in 1947.
Next, in 1936, Charles was aboard the Hesperia 1, which was built in 1919 and sold by the Line in 1938.
In 1938 Charlie went to work on the Clan Macnair 1. Built in 1921, she was another ship requisitions by the British government and served in the second world war. She was sold in 1952 to the British Iron and Steel Corporation to be broken up at that time.
After that, Charlie moved to the Clan Stuart 3 in 1939. Built in 1916 she was another ship that was used in both wars for the British government. She sank following a collision in fog with British steamship Orlock Head 18 miles SE of Start Point, Devon.
In July 1943, Charles moved on to the Clan Maciver 2 and received his promotion to Chief Engineer. Read the interesting story of her rescue of pilgrims in the caption below the picture.
The next ship that Charlie was to serve on was the Clan Alpine 4. Clan Alpine was subject to tests on her hull (following accidents where all-welded ships built int he US broke in two). She was chosen because she was wholly riveted. Bending tests were carried out by flooding various combinations of holds and measuring the strain on the hull. Clan Alpine 4 passed those tests.
Charles’s wife Ellen was traveling with him on a voyage in November 1960 when, unfortunately, the Clan Alpine was driven from her moorings at Chittagong by a cyclone and deposited in paddy fields at Shnai Chori, 11 miles north northwest from the entrance to the Karanfuli River. Amazing that all officers and crew were safe; however, the Ross’s cabin was covered in thick mud from the paddy field. Charles, as the chief engineer, developed a system to use sea water for the boiler-feed in order to keep the ship running so that the 2,400 tons of general cargo could be safely unloaded.
The final ship that Charles worked aboard was the Clan Murdoch 2 from May to December 1961. Built in 1946 and acquired by the Clan Line in 1960, she was was called the Hesperia 2 prior to being renamed Clan Murdock by the Clan Line in 1960 when she was transferred to them. The ship was sold in by the Line in 1962.
All of the engines that Charlie worked on were three cylinder triple expansion steam reciprocating engines. Many of the ships received an upgrade to their engines to a Bauer-Wach low-pressure exhaust turbine in the 1930s, where the steam flows from the low-pressure cylinder through a switchover flap into the exhaust steam turbine and drives it. More information on the triple expansion steam engine can be found at Lars Josefsson’s site.
Charles was the youngest in the family that worked at the Clan line. A history that started with his father in July 1885. Combined, the family service record including Charlie, his father and brothers William and George was 136 years.