Clan Keith

22nd June 2010, 14:11
Does anyone have any official information regarding the sinking of the Clan Keith through an explosion off the coast of Malta in November 1961 leading to such an horrific loss of life?

22nd June 2010, 14:38
There was a Board of Trade inquiry, unfortunately not available on line - (or at least I can't find it) the National Archives or British Library will have a copy, as will some Nautical Colleges (Southampton and South Shields have full sets) Only on line reference is

22nd June 2010, 16:38
I believe she hit a rock in foggy weather.
Some years ago took over the 4 to 8 watch Looked through the bridge windows saw breakers dead ahead. Called the old man. adjusted course by 90 degrees. made the rest of the squadron do the same then checked ships position.The previous watch had missed a chart any how got a fix and saw it was the Clan Keith reef.
Later on a tanker in thick fog We wanted to change course for collision avoidance but the rock was in the way so did a 360 turn.

22nd June 2010, 18:01
Does anyone have any official information regarding the sinking of the Clan Keith through an explosion off the coast of Malta in November 1961 leading to such an horrific loss of life?
There was no explosion. She was wrecked. The following is from the CD Book "From Clans to Kings and Castles - The Cayzer, Irvine Group".

CLAN KEITH (2nd of name in fleet)
O.N. 167858. 7,174g. 4,272n. 425.1 x 57.0 x 34.8 feet.
T.3-cyl. (24˝", 37" & 70" x 48") engine made by the General Machinery Corporation, Hamilton, Ohio. 2,500 IHP.
14.5.1942: Launched as OCEAN VERITY by the Permanente Metals Corporation, Shipyard No. 1., Richmond, California (Yard No. 24) for the United States War Shipping Administration.
6.1942: Completed for lease to The Ministry of War Transport, (A. Holt & Company, Liverpool, appointed as managers thence their subsidiary - Glen Line Ltd., London).
1946: Chartered by The Clan Line Steamers Ltd., (Cayzer, Irvine & Company Ltd., managers).
1948: Purchased by The Clan Line Steamers Ltd., (same managers), and renamed CLAN KEITH.
5.11.1961: Whilst on a voyage from Middlesbrough to Colombo, via Malta, with general cargo, struck the Ecueils des Sorelles Rocks, near Cape Bon, 11 miles south from Galita Island, Tunisia, during a gale. The vessel, which grounded in heavy seas and poor visibility, broke in two. The afterpart sank the same day and the forepart the next. There were only six survivors from her crew, of 68, five of these being picked up by DURHAM TRADER (6,214g./59). When her Captain was rescued he stated that when the vessel was in a position 37.15 N., 95.0 E., there had been a huge explosion that had broken the vessel in two.
However, during the inquiry into the incident he was on 26.5.1963 found to be at fault for allowing his vessel to be lost on the rocks.

Hugh MacLean
22nd June 2010, 18:39
There is some information in the Times. If you would like to pass on your email address via PM I can send you the cuttings by email.


27th June 2010, 09:17
Thanks to everyone for helping me to understand this vessel's loss

Bob McManamon
16th August 2012, 22:31
Just browsing the site and saw your enquiry about Clan Keith. I realise a considerable time has elapsed since your original enquiry, but I hope the following information will be of some interest.

I was in the vicinity at the time of the accident, serving as radio officer on SS Kent (Trident Tankers), returning to UK from Banias (Syria).

The gale overnight was very powerful and the Kent received some heavy damage to the after accommodation block. A steel ladder down to the main deck had completely carried away on the starboard side, and a similar one on the port side had become detached from the deck and bent almost vertically upwards. On the second deck up, a wave had punched out a complete window (maybe two) approximately on the centreline. The sea had then rushed across a lounge/foyer area, breaking off two swing doors to the dining saloon and generally created havoc within – this being well above sea level.

On the Clan Keith, if it were possible, the radio officer would have sent an “alarm signal” which would ring a bell in the radio officer’s cabin on all ships within range. The bell continues ringing until the radio officer gets to the radio room to receive the subsequent distress message. As I remember, our respective positions would have probably been within radio range under good conditions. But I received no such alarm overnight, so maybe the Clan Keith’s radio officer was unable to transmit, or the radio conditions at the time prevented my own ship from receiving it.

As I recall, soon after coming on watch in the morning, I received a distress “relay” call from the Durham Trader which had found a lifeboat containing the master and four crew members. I do not know whether Durham Trader had previously received a distress call from Clan Keith or whether it found the lifeboat by chance. By this time, the Kent had passed the position where it could have been practicable to assist in the search for survivors, and a number of other vessels were already being engaged for this purpose, so Kent continued on voyage.

I hope this has been of some assistance. Regards

Bob McManamon

Chris Isaac
30th November 2013, 09:43
Taken from B&C Review December 1961

30th November 2013, 14:18
Thanks Chris for posting this tribute from the B and C Review of December 1961. What a shocking maritime accident and loss of lives.

Chris Isaac
30th November 2013, 23:04
A friend of mine Jeff Winter was a first trip cadet and lost his life. We were in the Boy Scouts together. Two years later I joined the same company, my first "Clan" ship was Ayrshire and she was also wrecked but fortunately with no loss of life.

1st December 2013, 06:44
I was originally posted as cadet to Clan Keith for that voyage then they changed my orders much to my annoyance to join Riebeeck Castle in London.

Lucky for me they did!

I sailed with the second mate who survived and he was very tight lipped about the incident.

1st December 2013, 12:54
Thanks Chris and Clanline for posting your recent comments especially since you knew one of the Cadets Chris. Also I have read your account of the loss of the Ayrshire elsewhere and how you survived the ordeal. I sailed with two Deck Officers who were present and assisited when the Strick Line vessel, MV Seistan blew up in the PG with the loss of 58 lives. Like Clanline's experience,they did not wish to be remembered of the incident so we never asked any more other than their acknowledgement of the fact 'that they were there.'

Bill Dancer
9th February 2014, 20:02
I sailed with 3 survivors of this incident in later years on various Clan ships.To add a little to the original correspondence, the explosion theory made the rounds shortly after the incident and concerned a nuclear blast somewhere world. I read about this theory in an edition of Sea Breezes published shortly after the incident but before the official enquiry.

4th August 2016, 22:31
I was 4th eng on the Durham Trader when the Clan Keith sank.