Cook Welton & Gemmell Beverley
Off Number
Length Ft
Tons Gross
Yard Number
Breadth Ft
Tons Net
01 July 1950
Sept 1950
Engine Builder
C D Holmes
Registered VAN DYCK O298 Owners 1950 - 1964 N V Motorvisserij Ostend Belgium
Renamed St ROMANUS H223 Owners 06 Mar 1964 - Thomas Hamling & Co Ltd Hull - after an overhaul started fishing in March
. . Owners .
Fate : 11th Jan 1968 Lost on passage to the Norwegian Fishing grounds


Address / Vessel
Birth Pl
Occupation / Relationship
Date/ Scource
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FULLER ERIC 19 ST ROMANUS H223 Sparehand 05 May 1966 Lost Overboard
. . . 1365 Hedon Rd Hull . . .
DAVIES CLIVE 31 ST.ROMANUS H223 . Third Hand 05 May 1966 Lost overboard attempting to rescue another crewman
. . . 3 Fountain Rd . . . .
After leaving Hull for the fishing ground the St Romanus was only four miles off shore near Spurn Point when Eric Fuller said he was going home to see his girlfriend and jumped overboard. The ST Romanus had stopped for engine repair and although the weather and visibility were good a strong ebb tide was flowing at the time. At the subsequent enquiry Skipper Grayburn said men often said they did not want to sail and were going home over the side but it was just talk, Fuller probably thought he could swim ashore The Mate Jeoffrey Clarkson said Fuller was looking forward to returning home and his forthcomming marriage, after he dived over the side fellow crewman Clive Davies followed to attempt a rescue, an immediate message was then passed to the Grimsby trawler Ross Daring which was close by and one of her crewmen George Cooper also went over the side to attempt to rescue Fuller and Davies, of which as he approached one of the men sank and was lost, George then swam back to his own vessel. Skipper Grayburn searched the area for an hour and half to no avail. The acting marine superintendant commended the men who attempted rescue including Davies who had lost his life going to the aid of a shipmate.
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ASHTON CYRIL 39 St ROMANUS H223 . Bosun 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 52 Jameson Rd Bridlington . . . .
COURT ALAN 17 ST ROMANUS H223 . Cooks Assistant 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 5 Rishworth Hall Close Halifax . . . .
DOCKERTY ROBERT 16 St ROMANUS H223 . Deckie Learner 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 8 Lizzie Grove Harrow St,Hull . . . .
HUTCHINSON JOHN 19. ST ROMANUS H223 Whitby Spare Hand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 17 Larwood Grove - Whitby . . . .
JACKSON RONALD 20 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 614 Hessle Road . . . .
MEARNS RAYMOND 34 ST ROMANUS H223 . Mate 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 62 Witty St Hull . . . .
NICHOLAS ALAN 36 St ROMANUS H223 . Third Hand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 22 Reed St Hull . . . .
PYE HERBERT 52 St ROMANUS H223 . Fireman / Trimmer 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 22 Millport Drive Tilbury Rd Hull . . . .
REDFERN DAVID 20 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 66 Jackson St Hull . . . .
ROBERTS JOHN 19 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 32 Dover St Hull . . . .
RUTTER GEORGE 44 St ROMANUS H223 . Second Engineer 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing lost with all hands
. . . 59 East Grove Gipsyville . . . .
SNADDON WALTER 40 St ROMANUS H223 . Fireman / Trimmer 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 48 Harrow St Hull . . . .
STOTT DAVID 20 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 18 Lincourt Orchard Park Est Hull . . . .
SUFFLING KENNETH 18 St ROMANUS H223 . Deckie Learner 11 Jan 1968 Vessel missing with all hands
. . . 12 Marvel St Hull . . . .
WALTON TERENCE 19 ST ROMANUS H223 . Deckhand 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands - TERRY
. . . 7 Bramwell Tce Grey St Hull . . . .
WILLIAMS JOHN 20 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 52 Tadman St . . . .
WILLIAMS MELVYN 21 St ROMANUS H223 . Sparehand 11 Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 52 Tadman St . . . .
WHEELDON JAMES 26 ST ROMANUS H223 . Skipper 11 Jan 1968 Jimmy - lost with all hands
. . . 50 Ulverston Rd Hessle .   . .
WILSON BRIAN 29 ST ROMANUS H223 . Cook 11Jan 1968 Lost with all hands vessel missing
. . . 11 Ash Grove Brighton St . . . .
. . . . . . . .
GRAYBURN PETER . ST ROMANUS H223 . Skipper May 1966 Witness at the Board of Trade enquiry into the loss of the St Romanus - after been a previous skipper of the St Romanus for 18 months . He had found no problem with the vessel or with stability, the weather he said was not unusual or anything the ship had not met before. Peter Had only left the vessel a few trips earlier to go into hospital for an operation.
ELLIS ROB . ST ROMANUS H223 . Skipper May 1967 .
01 Jul 1967
There had been malicious damage to the steering gear of the St Romanus by a crew member. This resulted in a court case which Skipper Platten had to attend as a witness. Skipper Wheeldon replaced skipper Platten on the fateful trip, whilst he attended court. Skipper Platten was a witnes at the court of enquiry int the loss of the St Romanus.
CLARKSON JEFFREY 30 ST ROMANUS H223 . Mate May 1967 Beecroft St Hull - Mate when Eric Fuller dived overboard
NEADLEY T . ST ROMANUS H223 . Deckhand . After having a premonition of going down with the ship Mr Neadley had signed off for the fateful trip. A decision that saved his life but one he could not explain and he never returned to the sea.
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George was born in fraserburgh north east scotland 42 miles from aberdeen. George was a former lorry driver before becomming a trimmer on trawlers. working his way up George had become 2nd Engineer by the time of the fateful trip.

After meeting a Gillett St Lass, Betty Smith whose father was a trawler engineer they married in 1952 celebrating their sixteenth wedding anniversary 3 days before sailing.

George lived at 59 East Grove Gipsyville with his wife Betty and daughters Doreen, Pauline, Jackie, and Denise - sons - James, Ian and Arthur

Betty was not happy about George leaving on that last fateful trip as Doreen the eldest daughter had been playing up at school, and like all trawlermen George didn`t like to leave with ill feelings, George said he had had a good trip last time and if he got a good one this time would give it up. Betty asked George a puzzled question about his sewing kit and false teeth which he had not packed, as he always had done previously, he replied he did not need them this trip.

Betty a devoted wife found it difficult to come to terms with her tremendous loss, she never remarried

Photo & Info Courtesy of Philip & Pauline Cawkwell ( nee Rutter )




The St Romanus was to Leave St Andrews Dock under a relief skipper Jimmy Wheeldon as the permanent skipper Danny Platten was attending a court case regarding malicious damage to the sterring by a crew member. Skipper Wheeldon was a young skipper of 26 , Having gained his skippers ticket in 1966 he became the skipper of the St Andronicus for Hamling Bros but when returning from a court case in Jan 1968 the St Andronicus had sailed and he was offered the St Romanus. His own father had sailed on the vessel and signed off immediately after as he had concerns about the vessels safety as did many other previous skippers and crewmen. May 1967 ( A Lloyds Survey was carried out the same month and the vessel passed A1 ) Skipper Ellis was asked to take the St Romanus on a trip after her catch record was down and report anything untoward. After there had been several complaints about her handling, trawlermen had passed the word, she was not a good vessel and Hamlings found it very difficult to crew her. Skipper Ellis found the vessel to have several faults and generally was in poor condition, from compartment flooding to winch and dynamo problems, the trip was dogged with incidents, like previous skippers he had found the vessel to be under powered which made heavy and slow work of shooting and hauling the trawl. Also the vessel did not handle well and was down at the head and not of the usual trim, this caused her to take seas over the bow when in normal trim she would cut through them, her lack of power made it difficult to power out of situations that her sister ship St Achilleus coped with ease. After submitting his long report of faults on the vessels return it is unsure what action was taken over the following 8 months but prior to her loss she had undergone a recent survey and had been inspected by the mutual insurance company and deemed sea worthy.

Another factor which would become far more prevalent in future events was that the St Romanus sailed without a Radio Operator, of which many operators refused to sail on these type of vessels due to the lack of accomodation and the fact that they berthed in the chart room, radio room making sleeping cramped and difficult. Although on this trip it was not established wether this was the case or an operator was just unavailable. Hamling Bros refuted all claims that the vessel was difficult to crew and this was not a specific problem to this ship and stated that at some time all vessels have this problem. It was not common practise or unlawfull for a vessel to sail without a radio operator, as long as the skipper held a radio telephone certificate ( Skipper Wheeldon held the appropriate certificate ), the only stipulation was by union agreement that an extra deckhand be employed to make up the full compliment of crew, of which in this case was done. Regardless of law and practicality the problems associated with a lack of a trained operator would only manifest itself in extreme cases of danger of which the skippers attention would have been totally on vessel handling and safety, making split second decisions which could rectify or compound dagerous situations. At these times a skipper is ill equipped and unable to leave his command and head off to the radio room, and as may be the case in this situation skipper Wheeldon could have been fighting for the lives of his crew and ship and could not undertake to man the radio at such a perilous moment. ( If a Mayday had been sent as reported later why did only one vessel over a thousand miles away pick it up ) Had a radio operator been aboard would the outcome have been different ?, most probably not, but awarness and assistance could possibly have been made and lives saved. By Wednesday 10th January approximately 120 miles into their journey to the fishing grounds Skipper Wheeldon made a link call to his wife Janet ( A link call is made by the ships radio to a shore station and then patched through the telephone network ) Skipper Wheeldon told his wife he had been trying for a couple of hours to get the radio to work, he said he would call again the following morning a call that never came, after their conversation was unexplainably cut off. At the enquiry Janet Wheeldon gave evidence that her husband had taken the command at short notice and during their conversation he had told her the ST Romanus was an awfull ship.

By the 20th Jan Janet tried to send a telegram on the occasion of their forthcomming wedding anniversary to her husband via wick radio, she was unaware that wick radio was holding messages for the St Romanus that had not been answered.

There had been no known contact with the vessel since the 10th Jan when skipper Wheeldon spoke to the owners and made the call to his wife, it was common practise between owners and vessels to receive a daily sked report ( Schedule ) stating their position when steaming to and from the fishing ground and when at the fishing ground size and nature of catch. It was not uncommon for some trawlers to maintain radio silence for several days at a time especially when on the fishing grounds, so as not to give away their position. After not receiving this report from the St Romanus on the 11th of January Hamlings sent a telegram on the 12th for the vessel to contact them with her position, this message was relayed to the vessel for the next 4 days without a answer, it would not be untill the 20th that the owners tried to contact the vessel again, 10 days after she left for the fishing ground, again there was no reply. It would take a further 4 days before the company took any action and on the 24th January they informed the Hull Mutual Insurance Society about their lack of contact with the St Romanus. The concern for the vessel was passed to the Inspector of fisheries and an PAN PAN message was sent by Flamborough coastguard requesting all coastguard stations, radio stations , shipping and aircraft to report any contact with the vessel. Coast stations as far afield as Murmansk in Russia transmitted the description of the ST ROMANUS - ( PAN PAN is an immediate urgent message, warning of problems or future expected situations of safety ).

There were to be events that would come to light in the subsequent enquiry that may have instigated an earlier alarm and search for the vessel:

MADAY MESSAGE : Mr Thordur Oddsson first officer of the Icelandic Trawler Viking III stated that on January 11th the day after the last contact with the St Romanus he picked up a Mayday message over his ships radio " MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY This is the British Fishing vessel ST Romanus of Hull" position was then given and the name ST Romanus spelt out. Mr Thordur Oddsson then passed the message to his Skipper of which he did not know the action taken, when asked why he had not answered or relayed the mayday he stated that it was because the vessel was over one thousand miles away. It was only after hearing the PAN PAN messages on the 24th jan regarding the missing St Romanus on Icelandic radio that his skipper reported the mayday message. ( Proceedings were carried out in Iceland regarding wether it was negligent of the Skipper and First Officer of the Viking III in not reporting the Mayday signal immediately.)

LIFERAFT ; At 4am on January 13 three days after the last contact with the St Romanus a Danish Fishing vessel skippered by Eric Jensen, picked up a fully inflated liferaft 265 miles North of Spurn Point with only a No as identification H223, it was at first believed to be from a vessel which went missing in 1964 as there was no report at the time of any missing or overdue vessels.The liferaft was not reported till the vessel reached port on the 20th Jan and a connection to the St Romanus was still not made. The Hull enquiry asked the question if it had been possible to identify the liferaft earlier as that from the St Romanus could a search have been effectively made earlier and possibly in the right area. The enqiry also asked what action could be taken to identify liferafts easier and quickly, answers were been sought.

SIGHTING: The Hull trawler St Matthew had reported speaking to the St Romanus off the Lofoten Islands on the 13th January fishing at around 11.15 pm, The St Romanus was not expected to reach the fishing grounds till the 15 - 16 of January which should have immediately been picked up, it was later confirmed the vessel the St Mathew had spoken to was the St Andronicus.

The first sign to the families of the crewmen aboard the vessel that anything was untowards was a Hull Daily Mail Headline NOT HEARED OF FOR 11 DAYS - Search begins for St Romanus: Which was seen on newsaper stands all over the city. Mr Jonathan Watson Hall a director of Hamlings stated there was no cause for anxiety and the PAN PAN was a precautionary measure which is sent after we are unable to contact a vessel. The owners also believed that untill around Feb 2 when she should be expected back home the St Romanus would be in the bounds of her normal fishing trip. By Jan the 26th a massive sea search was been made by vessels of all Nations searching 2,800 miles of open water a day, aircraft also joined the search which was been directed by the command centre at Pitreavie Castle in Scotland. But the search was to no avail as the first physical sign would not come till Feb 21 when a lifebuoy from the vessel was picked up on a beach near Hirshals North Denmark.

With many families facing the reality of the situation the owners clung to their optimism but as this eventually wained the task of informing the families was rested on the shoulders of Mr Chapel from the Fishermens Mission, as he visited the 20 homes telling relatives that all hope of finding the vessel safe had been given up. There was immediate calls for an enquiry into the loss of the St Romanus and Mp Kevin Mc Namara tabled a commons question relating to the loss of the vessel. unbeknown to the fishing community there were further tragedies to quickly follow as the families took blow after blow.

Although there was much speculation on how the vessel was lost, from hitting a mine to been run down, there were many failings and it is probable that the vessel was lost on the 11th Jan on her way to the fishing grounds.

There was much deliberation at both the inquiry and subsequently afterwards about why it had taken over 11 days before anyone was made aware that there had been no contact with the vessel, In 1965 an Aberdeen trawler the Blue Crusader was also unheared of for ten days before an alert was made, she like the St Romanus was lost without trace off Scotland with all crew. yet three years on and the same mistakes were still been made.