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  #1  
Old 6th May 2019, 15:58
Startseq Startseq is offline
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Thanks for allowing me aboard!

From a young age, always had a fascination with boats, ships and the sea. Grew up fishing offshore LA. As a young man spent time working on charter boats and private fishing yachts all over the GOM, inc. MX. Lucky to have worked for two of the absolute best charter and billfish captains in the Gulf - maybe world! Had sea time and experience for 100t license, but degree in ME kept and still keeps me working ashore. Long-time USPS member. Owned a 25 Bertram FB. Currently have 21' pontoon, et. al. Have to charter or cruise to see blue water! Interest in historic ships and liners, esp. ship systems and propulsion. Love the site!
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  #2  
Old 6th May 2019, 18:19
Stumpert Stumpert is offline
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Ropner’s Navy


By way of Introduction this is my Background.

I was brought up in the little North Yorkshire village of Hutton Rudby, just outside the village was the large estate called “Skutterskelf Hall” (Former Home of the Ropner family which was split up and converted to luxury apartments before 1960).

I went to sea in the Merchant Navy as an apprentice in 1963 with Alan Black’s of Sunderland, then with Trinder Anderson, when Black’s were sold to the Somerton Shipping Co., of Bermuda (Chapman and Willan of Newcastle were the managers) I only lasted 12 days with Chapmans’ as they were so bad I walked off the ship and completed my apprenticeship with Trinder Anderson.

I spent over twenty-five years at sea with various ship owners including, United Baltic, Saguenay Shipping of Montreal, and odd relieving jobs with some small coastal carriers, before going ashore as a Trinity House Pilot (Seaham Harbour) then in the offshore oil business and as a marine superintendent, ship manager, marine director, vice president, ship surveyor , and finally as an independent Tow Master moving Oil Rigs around the world.

This is a third party story told by my fathers’ good friend George Lodge; George was a book Maker (As was my father) and he was Chairman of the BPA.

George and my Dad were drinking buddies and would always be dressed in either a suit and tie or blazer and tie to walk down the village to the pub.

Dad would like to walk down to the Kings Head in Hutton Rudby and meet George where they would crack jokes tell tales of horse racing and losses and gains in the betting industry.
Dad enjoyed me coming along, and one even in the Kings Head (probably around 1969) we met George as usual. George was wearing a Blue Blazer and sporting a white shirt and merchant Navy Tie which he flicked out and waved at me saying, “you did not know I was entitled to wear this did you”.
He then told me about his four-year apprenticeship with Ropner’s. He joined Ropner’s just before the outbreak of World War 2.

He seemed to have spent the whole of the time tramping all over the world without coming back to the UK. The tail was just a non-stop triad against the inhuman way he was treated mainly by the Captains and the senior officers and the terrible living conditions he endured interspersed with hilarious tales and exploits of deeds accomplished and those that failed.

He eventually returned home to Hutton Rudy after some four years or so. He said the first thing he did was to get out his old bicycle ride out to Skutterskelf Hall and up the gravel driveway round to the front of the hall. He then proceeded to pick up gravel from the driveway and throw it at the large front windows and breaking as many of Ropner’s Windows as he possibly could before making his escape back to the village on his bicycle. He said that he had never set foot on ship ever again. All those involved have been dead for some thirty years so I doubt they would object to me retelling the story.

I have heard various tales of just how bad Ropners’ were to work for and in those days I believe life at sea may have been pretty poor for most people.

The story of “Ropner’s Navy” is a very intriguing one and I was told that the name was adopted in the early part of the 1st World war when it was said that the Masters of Ropners’ Ships were more afraid of Ropner than they were of the German Navy.

The story goes that during the first 6 months of the War Ropner Ships were said to have sunk more enemy shipping that the allied navies!

Apparently in the early stages of the war Merchant Ships would be stopped by the German Navy Submarines etc., and given the opportunity to abandon ship so that the submarine could sink the ship by gun fire a much cheaper option than using a torpedo.

Ropner’s Masters were so enraged that the owner might find out they had voluntarily given up one of his ships that they apparently rammed the aggressor sinking them and possibly themselves rather than abandon the ship.

This action resulted in the sinking of more enemy tonnage than the Navies efforts in the early part of the war!

Is this just folk Lore or is it true?

I also heard that Mr. Ropner (Who was a member of Parliament for Stockton) was recorded in Hansard, that during a debate on the allocation of funds for the building of more prisons in the UK as having said “Why are we debating the spending of money on new prisons while I still have ships we could put them in” .

Is this another folk lore tale or is this true, can anybody confirm this story.

The third piece of scuttlebutt was a story that Ropner would not put portholes in his ships because of the expenses and reportedly commented that if they wanted fresh air they could go out on deck!

Not sure if these reminiscences’ are marine folklore or actual reality. Even the best of British Ship-owners were a hard bunch and life at sea 100 years ago was a much different place.

Anyway if there is someone who could positively confirm or deny these tales it would be worth knowing the reality of the stories.

Regards Captain Stewart Baker
Nova Scotia
Canada
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Old 6th May 2019, 22:00
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Harry Nicholson Harry Nicholson is offline
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Originally Posted by Stumpert View Post
Ropner’s Navy


By way of Introduction this is my Background.

I was brought up in the little North Yorkshire village of Hutton Rudby, just outside the village was the large estate called “Skutterskelf Hall” (Former Home of the Ropner family which was split up and converted to luxury apartments before 1960).
Welcome, Stewart.
I see your origins are in Hutton Rudby. It is still a lovely village. I once stayed at a cottage close to the river bridge - but that was about 1947.

I'm from Hartlepool, and recall walking around the Headland with an elderly friend who was a historian. He pointed through a kitchen window and said: 'That's where Ropner stayed when he first landed here. He rented a space under the kitchen table.'
From Wikipedia: Ropner was born in 1838 in Magdeburg, Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, the son of Johann Heinrich Röpner and Johanne Christiane Emilie Bessel.[1][2] He emigrated to England and worked for a coal export concern before building up a fleet of colliers and founding the Ropner Shipping Company in Hartlepool in 1874.[3]

In 1888, Robert Ropner acquired a shipyard at Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham. Ropner established a successful shipbuilding firm, which built many trunk deck ships.[4] No longer limited to hauling coal, Ropner also established a company to operate tramp steamers. Although the shipyard went into liquidation soon after what was then known as the Great War,[5] the shipping company continued to operate through both World Wars, despite heavy wartime losses of vessels.[4]

Your story of Ropners ships trying to ram WW1 subs reminds me of Captain Fryatt who did the same, but was captured and executed by the Germans, as a reprisal for his action.
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  #4  
Old 6th May 2019, 22:03
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Harry Nicholson Harry Nicholson is offline
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Originally Posted by Startseq View Post
From a young age, always had a fascination with boats, ships and the sea. Grew up fishing offshore LA. As a young man spent time working on charter boats and private fishing yachts all over the GOM, inc. MX. Lucky to have worked for two of the absolute best charter and billfish captains in the Gulf - maybe world! Had sea time and experience for 100t license, but degree in ME kept and still keeps me working ashore. Long-time USPS member. Owned a 25 Bertram FB. Currently have 21' pontoon, et. al. Have to charter or cruise to see blue water! Interest in historic ships and liners, esp. ship systems and propulsion. Love the site!
Welcome, Startseq - it's good to come across new names here. Time takes away so many shipmates.
regards
Harry
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  #5  
Old 6th May 2019, 22:21
seaman38 seaman38 is offline  
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#2 Ropner's Navy

If you haven't read it I would bring to your attention "Ropner's Navy" by Billy McGee ISBN Number 978-0-9558593-5-9 a good read

I sailed with Ropner's on a number of ships, admittedly not 100 years ago but in the 1950' and 1960's, so only 30 years from your criteria.

I sailed on their war built ships, new ships, relatively fast ships, the aptly named 'Swiftpool' (16 knots) being one of them and the 'Levenpool' (9 knots on a good day and following wind and sea), also other vessels. I did 6 week trips and 22 month trips, on the latter we had a good master, officers, crew, cook and C/steward. We only had one bad apple, but he was foolish enough to pick a fight with a bunch of Japanese fishermen in Shimonoseki, ended up having 200 stitches and being sent DBS to UK.

You could be on the same ship for a year and have a change of companies without leaving your cabin, some masters were gentlemen, some were barstewards, luckily the latter were in the minority, I only sailed with one of the latter. I never found the ships lacking in food quality or quantity, (and I had sailed with liner companies), stores and equipment we ordered, we always received. Tramping masters rarely over ordered as the trades were so varied and carrying a lot of useless gear around wasn't prudent seamanship. Companies get to know their masters, mates and C/Es and know who are good house keepers and those who are not
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