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In the 1930s my parents had a boat called 'Runic'. From the look of it this is a converted lifeboat presumably off the earlier 'Runic'. Boat was kept at Liverpool and used for trips down to Anglesey.
Have tried attaching pic but no success. Could one of our learned members advise. Do know that photo presently too big.

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12 Posts
Hi there,

Thought this might be of interest:

My father, Leon Middleditch, was the Ship’s Baker on the refrigerated freighter Runic the night that it ran aground on Middleton Reef, 120 miles north of Lord Howe Island. His account of the affair is as follows:

The ship had left from Liverpool and had completed a circuit around Australia consisting of Freemantle-Adelaide-Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane. The next leg was to be across the Tasman Sea to Auckland, New Zealand, to pick up apples and lamb. Upon leaving Brisbane there was heavy cloud cover due to poor weather, which prevented any sun-sighting causing the ship to be off-course, and resulted in the ship hitting the reef at night. The impact occurred in stormy conditions at around 1am throwing men from their bunks, striking the reef bow-on but with the stern still remaining afloat. Lifeboats were prepared with stores in readiness for an evacuation, but were thankfully not needed. At daylight a crew-member checked the superstructure for damage and found that a fresh water tank in the bow section was damaged. Due to the severe stormy conditions and the empty hold, the ballast tanks were filled in order to stabilise the ship and reduce bouncing on the reef.

After two or three days the rescue ships arrived and some crew and passengers were transferred to sister ships. The remaining crew consisted of a few deck officers, engineers to keep the electric generators running, the bosun and deck crew to assist with refloating efforts, and the cook and baker to feed both the crews of the Runic and the rescue tugs.

A severe tropical storm then blew into the area and swung the ship side-on, and about 10m further onto the reef. The rescue tug crews cut holes into the upper superstructure to feed out seven wire cables, which had anchors attached. These were dropped onto the seabed about a kilometre back from the ship, rather than into the soft coral nearby. The cables were attached to the Runic’s winches in preparation for pulling the ship off the reef and into deeper water. At this stage they were able to pull the ship back to being bow-on to the reef, with the cables fanned out to the seabed behind the ship. The tugs stayed on standby, waiting for the next spring tide to use their power and the Runic’s winches to refloat the vessel. Unfortunately a cyclone warning was received, which caused the attempt to be called off – cables were disconnected and the tugs retreated to Lord Howe Island to shelter from the incoming storm.

The cyclone hit the reef with 10-15m waves that broke over the Runic. Portholes were smashed. The gangway was carried over the ship and lost. Lifeboats were ripped off their davits and hurled over the opposite side of the ship. Despite being heavily ballasted, the Runic was lifted and turned side-on to the waves, and was then bounced a further 200m across the reef, leaving behind a wide swath of coral that was crushed into sand. The steel plating on the seaward side of the ship was split open by the massive waves and the engine room was flooded, cutting power and lights. The noise inside the ship as the big waves pounded the vessel was deafening. The cyclone lasted two and half days before calm weather finally returned.

Due to the lack of power and ventilation in the kitchen, the only suitable area for cooking was in the hold, which was converted for cooking barbeque style, using halved oil drums with cargo dunnage for fuel. Since there was no power for the freezers, any frozen food was wrapped in the dining room table cloths to keep it fresh for as long as possible. The crew were able to catch fish on the reef – grouper and shark – for fresh fare. There was no running water so toilets were flushed with sea water, and showers had to be taken using sea water. Fresh water was strictly rationed. Small items that could be salvaged were dismantled, and the ships’s liquor store was unlocked and packed ready for salvage. The tugs returned to try and salvage the anchor cables, and then left for Sydney.

After a number of weeks, a sister ship arrived to take off all remaining crew and any salvageable material, and the ship was finally abandoned. The crew were then housed in the Naval Barracks in Sydney for a few days, before flying back to the UK via Darwin and India. Relief supplies had been stacked in the ship’s bridge for assistance to any shipwrecked mariners who might meet with the same unfortunate fate as the Runic. In 1978, yachtsman Bill Belcher was shipwrecked on the Middleton reef, and it may be that he was able to make use of these supplies during his epic tale of survival, which culminated in a four-week journey in his liferaft before rescue by a freighter off the Queensland coast.
I was an engineer on the Runic on the reef. Your write up is a bit light on facts. The weather that night was not that bad visabilitty was such that the helmsman could see breakers ahead the deck officers could not see the breakers because they were drinking coca in the chart room. The apprentice who was on the wing of the bridge would not believe the helmsman and insisted they were only white caps. By the time he was convinced by the helmsman to get a deck officer it was too late we were already on the reef. My understanding was that an error in time had been made by the ships pilot which made the deck officers think that they were not due at the reef for another hour.
The engine room was intact right up until we left the ship some six weeks after the grounding. Light power and steam were maintained until the day before we abandoned ship.Which means the sanitation and water services were also maintained.
They removed the hatch cover support steel girders and dumped them over the side when the next bad weather hit the ship was pounded into these girders which damaged the hull.
There are other inaccuracies with your write up but for now that,s enough.
Colin Harrison 5th engineer Runic

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Freeman Hatch, Andrew M, Captain Cook, Runic, Athenic, Gothic, Egidia, Largs Bay
4 Posts
s.s. runic

Hello everyone I joined the Runic in October 1953, was in the catering department. I signed of again April 1954. Captain Sendall joined the ship in London. I remember the mishap the ship had in Hamburg. I was amazed when I read about the Runic finishing up on Middleton Reef with the same Captain.

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