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964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About 1957/8 I was involved in radio traffic concerning two lost ships.
One was the "Nordic Star" which vanished as it was about to enter Biscay from the USA, she was a "London Greek" I think.
The other was an Indian ship the "Cowasjee Dinshaw" which was lost in a Cyclone in the Indian Ocean. I have never forgotten those ships, particularly the
Indian which I was in contact with as she neared her end.
I keep searching the web for information but nothing so far. Does anyone have knowledge of these losses?. Where would one locate the detail of any inquests into the disappearences?
Harry Nicholson

1,568 Posts

Nordicstar 7133gr
Completed as Westmount Park for Canadian Govt(Park S.S.Co)
Mgd Furness Withy
To M.O.T on B/Boat charter 1946 (Mgd Andrew Crawford and Co) Sold 1950 to Fairview Overseas Freighters and allocated name Lilac Hill
R/N Nordicstar Reg London
Disappeared W of Ushant 27/12/56 bound Philadelphia/Le Harve
An inquiry found that after careful consideration the court was unable to state the actual cause of her loss and crew of 34 but in all probability the main factor was heavy weather although it was unable to state the exact cir***stances in which the weather affected the vessel or the sequence of events leading to her loss. The last message sent was on the 27th to the agents in Piraeus, the charterers in Paris and the masters wife stating E.T.A Le Harve 3rd Jan. The weather was winds of hurricane force and heavy seas.Golfito made contact with a distressed ship but no reply, whether Nordicstar not known as she didnt request help. Seems she was overwhelmed by nature! Have nothing on Indian ship. Dave

964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Dave for all that information, how did you come by it?
I had an R/o friend who was in Philadelphia when the Nordic Star was in port. Before she sailed her Sparks came aboard the greek my friend was on and asked his advice about the Stars radio gear. My friend went aboard the Star to help how he could, (Brian was a top class radio man) he found the gear was not particularly good.
I recall the traffic on air about her disappearence and when we went through
Biscay we kept an eye out for her.

Thanks for your efforts. There will have been an inquiry about the Cowasjee Dinshaw, I wonder where it might be archived.
Harry Nicholson

964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Cowasjee Dinshaw

It looks as though we may not find much about that lost Indian ship (she was actually Pakistani...edited June 2006) so as a memorial to her here are some verses I wrote down when the memory came flooding back one day:

It was a long time ago but I still think about it. The Suez canal was blocked with scuttled ships in 1956 and so we had to go the long way round. In those lonely seas between Capetown and South Asia a Pakistani (edited) ship was overwhelmed close to us in a cyclone. A week later I met her British mate in a bar in Colombo; he was the only survivor because he had walked off the ship after his protest that she was badly laden was ignored.

(Now we have found her correct name I have edited the poem, June 2nd 2006)

Tramp Ship “Minocher Cowasjee”

Fate was stowed crudely
Profit driven, in your holds
At Vladivostok, and your Mate ignored
So that you wallowed in the troughs,
And in Jakarta he walked off.

Fifty years are gone
And still I hear your signals
Fill the ether through the howl
Of that terrible circulating storm.
A shaking

“S.O.S. Minocher Cowasjee,
Bound for Capetown from Jakarta,

And my reply
Reverberating on polished mahogany,
Thumped out on a brass key,
Heavy, solid, reliable and honest.
Thumped out onto groaning masts:

“Steamer Mahanada-
Out of Capetown for Colombo-
Eighty miles from you-
Unable to alter course-
Will come when we can“.

That’s all I can do,
I am nineteen how old are you?
Although I cannot see your face,
You live in a stream of intelligence
And wireless men can read emotion.

You do not see the grim set
Of our captain’s face.
“I have to keep her head into this
Or we’re over,
Tell him we’ll come when we can”.

We have dynamite below.
On deck two black locomotives strain
At their lashings like captive mastodons.
Our forward hatches are buried.
Astern the screw lifts free-


Then thuds into the sea again.
You call a few times more until-
In your holds,
Crates of Russian machinery smash
Into sacks of Javan rice.

A decorated Serang, steady,
Cropped grey beard, hajji,
Knuckles bloody,
Grapples with the davits.

In the hot oil mist of the engine room,
A clear eyed engineer
Is mobbed by frightened lascars
Crying out in Bengali-
For mother.

And she goes over-
To be filled and begin
Her bone snapping,
Five mile journey down,
Into the Mid Indian Basin;

To lay crumpled in the silence
Of the floor of the abyssal plain,
And be gazed upon forever
By lamp headed fish.

Harry Nicholson 2003

458 Posts
Your Poem

Damn, Harry! I felt every word of that. It seems you have indeed mastered "Theater of The Mind". Your words evoke very vivid images and emotions. Congratulations!!! My sincerest compliments.

17 Posts

A moving and vivid epitaph. It clearly haunts you still. I hope you find out more about what happened but suspect you won't.

Must be terrible to know that someone is in such a dire situation and there is nothing you can do.


964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The "Minocher Cowasjee"

Thankyou chaps for the kind remarks about the poem, I do appreciate them.
Initially I had helpful posts from Terence, Gdynia and David Edge about this ship and we have made good progress and at the same time exposed my dodgy memory.

Gdynia suggested I contact the Pakistan newspaper "Dawn" which has a columnist by the name Cowasjee:

Dear Mr Cowasjee,
A search for details of the vessel "Cowasjee Dinshaw" on the web produced little result except for references to the business of that name which was founded in Aden. I see that you write for a newspaper and because of your name I wonder if you know anything about that old ship.
The "Cowasjee Dinshaw" was lost in a Cyclone in the Indian Ocean in 1956 or 57. I was radio officer on the British ship "Mahanada" at the time and was in communication with the lost ship from a distance of 80 miles until she foundered. That incident has stayed with me; I am now retired and have time to conduct a little research into the loss but so far have drawn a blank.
The "Cowasjee Dinshaw" was Indian flagged I think but it may have been from Pakistan.
Yours sincerely
Harry Nicholson,

Part of Mr Cowasjee's reply:
The ship you seem to be referring to was perhaps the ‘Minocher Cowasjee’ (ex Frakda ex Benrinous). She was lost at sea in 1956 with all hands on deck.

Dear Mr Cowasgee,......
Time has played tricks with memory, the lost ship will be the MC as you say, but it was lost in 57, not 56.
I have been looking for more info on the web; a German "On this Day" site has:
1957 - English (sic) cargo ship "Minocher Cowasjee" disappears with its 51-koepfigen crew after a last position signal 1,500 nautical miles southeast from Madagascar.
I see from my seamans discharge book that I was 2nd radio officer on Thos & Jno Brocklebanks ss "Mahanada" at the time and have strong memories of that night and the storm and talking to the stricken ship by morse code. Her operator was sending out SOS; our bridge officers calculated that she was about 80 miles away. I remember when I gave our captain the distress message he said to "tell them we will come when we can, we cannot alter course at present, I have to keep her head into this or we will be over". It was a most savage cyclonic storm and the seas where huge, our course was adjusted so that we could ride out the storm more safely with the ships head into the weather. There were a couple of other ships in the vicinity and closer to the stricken ship than the Mahanada (traffic was heavier than normal on that route as the Suez Canal was blocked), none of us found anything in that area to the best of my memory.
When we docked at Colombo I met a British mate in the Grand Oriental Hotel who told me that he had walked off the MC in Jakarta after his requests that the cargo be restowed were ignored. He said that the vessel had been incorrectly loaded in Vladivostok and behaved badly on her way to Jakarta.
I notice on your site at Dawn you have a piece where you record the passing of Lord Brandon and mention his visit to Pakistan in order to be council in a marine inquiry and wonder if that was the inquiry into the loss of the MC. Would the proceedings and result of that inquiry be available, or a newspaper report perhaps.?
It is a long time ago, but I do think about it still and am trying to write up the story into a poem which might leave the memory with some dignity......etc
Harry Nicholson

Then from Dave Edge:
From 'Ben Line' by Graeme Somner:- Benrinnes, O.N. 145884, 5415 grt, 420 x 55 x 28 feet. 3 steam turbines, 3250 ihp, 12 knots. 1921 completed by Irvines Shipbuilding Co, West Hartlepool for Neptune Steam Navigation (Furness Withy) as 'Parisiana'. 1922 renamed "London Exchange", 1938 "Benrinnes", 1949 sold East & West SS Co, Pakistan and renamed "Fatakada", 1955 renamed "Minocher Cowasjee" (same owners). 21 - 12 - 1956 sailed from Dairen for Antwerp. 24 - 1 - 1957 reported in position 25.20S 68.00E, SE of Mauritius but thereafter disappeared.
Best wishes for Christmas & New Year,
Dave Edge.

So I had mixed up the name of Brocklebanks Agents in Aden with the name of the ship (both have Cowasjee in the name) and I got the flag wrong.
So I will need to tweak the poem just a bit.

But what made me get goose pimples was when I read Dave's post and realised that she had been built only a mile from where I was born 17 yrs later and that my Dad at the time she was built would have probably been hammering rivets into the side of a ship in the adjoining shipyard of Wm Gray.

964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
She still breaks surface in my mind:

Lost Ship

We saw nothing on the wind-glazed surface,
nothing floating in the spume as we steamed
across her last position on the chart;
no scrap of cargo, not a boiler suit,
nor a grain of last night’s rice.

In the dark we’d talked in bursts of dots
and dashes,
that other man and me.
We’d clung in chairs chained to the deck,
one hand on the tuning knob
chasing each other’s warbling signals
as masts swayed
and phosphor bronze aerials swung out
wild over the troughs;
the other hand thumping a big brass key,
in the cyclone.

It was fifty years ago, she flew the flag of Pakistan,
a new country. But the ‘Minocher Cowasjee’ was old
I now discover, launched as ‘Parisiana’
by Irvine’s yard in Hartlepool where my father,
back from his war with Kaiser Bill, might well
have hammered rivets into her, hard against
his own Dad’s hammer on the other side of the plate.

Three miles down they’re rusted now, those rivets;
strewn about, forgot, like Asian mother’s tears.
She's just another hull, after all,
the oceans’ floors are flung with ships...

Harry Nicholson, July 2007

964 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thankyou Neil, it's reassuring to know that my writing sometimes works for some people. I wrote that last week in a writer's group (all ladies except for me) and it didn't get much response except that the tutor thought the last line was a bit sinister (I think that was a compliment...).

1,579 Posts
My grandfather's brother flung rivets there to, I recently learned, and at Gray's, and my father served his time and Richardson's. I'm not surprised that there was little response from your group really. I'm not belittling them, its just beyond their understanding.

1 Posts
Hi Harry, you have given our family closure as it was my Grandfather, Thomas Chadburn, who was the radio officer on the Minocher Cowasjee, who sent the distress call. Your poems have brought us to tears and yet a sense of peace overwhelms us. You have taken us through an emotional journey of the last moments of my grandfather's life. Thomas's children never really grieved his death and by our contact it has enabled them to do this after 50 years.

I will share these poems with my children, my newborn, my only son, Christopher Thomas, born July 2007, carries his name. Thank you again Harry.
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