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Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage' Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage'
Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource)
Documenting the entire history of Kenfig & surrounding areas from Prehistory to the Present Day

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Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource)

Educational Resource documenting entire history of Kenfig & surrounding areas from Prehistory to the Present Day


Margam to Nash Point


20th Century Shipwrecks

The Samtampa / Edward Prince of Wales Lifeboat Tragedy

Date: 23 April 1947

In Memory of all who perished on that fateful day

To the Memory of the Captain And the thirty eight Crew Members Of the Freighter S.S. SAMTAMPA Who perished on these rocks In the Great Storm of April 23rd 1947, And of the Cox'n and Crew of Seven of the Mumbles Lifeboat, "EDWARD PRINCE OF WALES" Who lost their lives in their valiant rescue attempt. This Plaque marks the final Resting place of The Mumbles Lifeboat.


There are a number of memorials dedicated to this maritime disaster. These are located at Porthcawl, Sker Rocks, The Prince of Wales Inn at Kenfig and Mumbles in Swansea.

View Memorials to this Maritime Tragedy

The Samtampa / Edward Prince of Wales Lifeboat Tragedy


The Samtampa

Cargo Steamship
Port of Registry:
Official Number:
Previous Name:
7,219 tons gross
1943, Portland, USA
423 feet
57 feet
Date of Sinking:
23 April 1947

Edward Prince of Wales

RNLI Motor Watson Lifeboat
Official Number:
RNLI 678
16 tons
1924, Cowes
45 feet
12 feet
Date of Sinking:
23 April 1947 - On Service
Sker Rocks, Glamorgan
SS Samtampa at Sker Point, cuortesy: Barbara Genery, Friends of Kenfig
SS Samtampa by the late Evan David, courtesy: Gaynor Ball, Friends of Kenfig

The Samtampa - Sker Rocks
Frontpage local newspaper coverage of Tragedy
The Samtampa - Sker Rocks

The Samtampa

On the 23 April 1947 one of the worst maritime disasters in living memory along the South Wales coastline happened. The Samtampa cargo ship with all 39 crew along with all 8 Lifeboatmen of Edward Prince of Wales Lifeboat from Mumbles perished on the rocks at Sker in attrocious weather conditions. The Samtampa was broken into 3 parts - the Mumbles Lifeboat found smashed and upside down on the rocks.

The Tragedy

The Samtampa, a former Liberty Ship, was on a voyage from Middlesborugh to Newport, in ballast. A strong westerly gale was in progress when she entered the Bristol Channel where the ship developed an engine fault. It was decided by her Captain, H. Neale Sherwell to drop anchor in Swansea Bay to carry out repairs to the engine. The weather was deteriating by the minute and at 4.38pm the starboard anchor chain parted and 12 minutes later the port cable snapped. The Samtampa was taken eastwards in the hurricane force winds and within 20 minutes she was on the rocky ledges near Sker Point.

The Mumbles Lifeboat

EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES was launched just after 6pm to go to the rescue. William Gammon, who had been Lifeboat Coxswain for 7 years, was at the helm of the lifeboat as they headed across Swansea bay to Sker.

At the same time the Porthcawl Coastguards and rocket team were attempting to get a line to the wreck from the shore. The wind speed was said to have been in excess of 100 miles per hour and in less than five minutes of the Samtampa hitting the rocks she started to break up.

Around two hours later she was a total wreck, the 10m waves having broken her into large pieces. The rocket apparatus became ineffective due to the extreme high winds and a line out to the stricken vessel failed. It is said that some of the rockets were driven back so far by the ferrocious wind that they landed in fields behind the rocket operators themselves.

All crew of the Samtampa were drowned - the full disaster was realised by the morning of 24 April. The Mumbles Lifeboat had failed to return, and instead was found smashed upside down on Sker Rocks. When the town of Mumbles, Swansea learned of the news, the whole town was in mourning.

We Remember these gallant sailors

William Mensworth (35)

Ship's Fireman - served in the war on a munition ship torpedoed in a Russian convoy.

Arthur Callighan (30)

Donkeyman greaser, of North Ormesby was in the Merchant Navy from the beginning of the war.

Joseph Griffiths (24)

Assistant cook, was on his second trip since his return to the Merchant Navy. He married a South Bank girl only seven weeks previous. He had been a prisoner of war in Japan for 3 years.

John Strangeway (22)

Assistant Steward - had been at sea since he was 15.

Donald Hill (26)

Able seaman, during the war he served for six years in the Royal Navy and was in the first flotilla of minesweepers which swept the way for the invasion force on D-day.

H Lees (24)

Came from a seafaring family, his home was formerly at Birkenhead, he was married with two children.

George Webster (21)

Fireman - made his first sea trip to Normandy on D-day.

Francis Cannon (30)

Donkeyman greaser the son of a sailor. His father, was on a voyage, lost another son at sea during the war.

Joseph Croft (19)

Assistant steward went to sea almost straight from school, his mother thought he would give it up after the war but 'it was in his blood.'

Isaac Longster (35)

Able seaman - he lost two brothers at sea during the war.

John T Souter Jnr

Ordinary seaman.

Stanley Daritis (19)

Ordinary seaman.

C Jackson (32)

Ship's carpenter.

Patrick McKenna (47)

Went back to sea after an absence of 20 years because he could not get over his wife's death, it was his first voyage.

Joseph Gilraine (22)

Had just recovered from yellow jaundice and his widowed mother did not want him to make the trip.

James John Bell (29)

Boatswain - he lost two brothers also at sea in the war.
US-built Samtampa "Liberty Ship" before it sank at Porthcawl in April 1947 - Photo courtesy: WalesOnline

R Weatherill (29)

Donkeyman of 6 Sayers yard, Whitby, married with two children, served in Royal Navy during war as a petty officer.

Ralph Chester (17)

Deck boy, was on his third trip since joining the Merchant Navy. He was at home for his 17th birthday and his brother's wedding on Easter Monday.

Harry Garside (23)

He was on his first voyage in the Merchant navy less than a year after leaving the Royal Navy, he was married but no children.

L F Davidson (24)

Able seaman, a single man, he had been in the Merchant Navy since he was 15.

Charles Frederick Shinner (20)

Was on his fifth voyage, previously he had worked at Dorman Long's and taken a prominent part in local athletics.

J Thompson (32)

K K Richardson

Second engineer.

William John Davis (53)

Able seaman.

Arnold Nicholson (19)

Galley boy - had been at sea for nearly four years. He was a well known member of Redcar Literary Institute and this was his fourth trip.

Names of other men who were not signed on in Middlesborough

Capt H N Sherwell, D Lowe(First officer), G L Murray(Second officer), P MarshallL(Third officer), W E Thompson(Radio officer), W A Atkinson(Chief engineer), J Riley(Third engineer), B McDonald(Fourth engineer).

Other members of crew

P Allam(Chief steward), R N Lythel(Second steward), B Jones(Chief cook)


J Ellis, P Ferns, J Wilson

Source: UK-NORTHEAST-L Archives (Evening Gazette, Thursday 24th April 1947), Pauline Gregg (York UK), Researching: Brown, Searle, Olvanhill, Gregory, Huskinson (all Middlesbrough area)
Edward Prince of Wales
The 8 crew of Mumbles RNLI Lifeboat
Photo courtesy: WalesOnline

William Gammon


William Davies


William Noel

Second Coxswain

W R S Thomas


Ernest Griffin


W R Thomas


William Lewis Howell


R Smith





Copyright Rob Bowen, Local Community Group, 2017

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The Samtampa Tragedy

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Warspite & Samtampa Wrecks (1947) - British Pathe News

Wreck of the Samtampa (2009) - Grange Primary School, Mumbles


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