"SS Arvonian"

Llong Pwllparc

If there were a price for a ship that refused to die, then the Arvonian would most definitely be in the money. She was launched as the “Rosedale” on August 1st 1905, at the Richardson, Duck & Co. Ltd yard, Stockton-on-Tees, England, but her name was changed a month later, on the 1st of September, when she was bought by the brothers Watkin and Owen Williams, Pwllparc, Edern, for £30,550, and she entered the Golden Cross Line fleet. At 2794 tons gross, and capable of carrying 5000 tons of cargo, she was twice the size of any other ship they had, and she would be used for the world wide Tramping trade. Her twelve-year stint with the company went relatively unscathed, apart from loosing her propeller in mid Atlantic, and the odd bump against quay walls. But in August 1917 the Arvonian was taken over by the navy, and things went rapidly down hill from then on!!! She was re-named H.M.S. Bendish, then turned over to the United States Navy on loan by the British Admiralty "for war purposes" at the Admiralty Dockyard, Devonport, England, on 27 November 1917 and commissioned that same day, Comdr. David C. Hanrahan in command, her crew composed of volunteers from American warships in European waters. She was fitted out at Devonport, and then held exercises in Plymouth Sound. On 18 December, the ship was renamed “USS Santee” and she got underway for Queenstown, Ireland. She arrived on the 19th and resumed fitting out for service as a decoy, or "Q" ship.


Arvonian in the fleet 1905–17.

O.N. 119973. 2794gross 1784net 331.3 x 47.6 x 20.1 feet.

T3 cyl. By Blair and Co Ltd, Stockton on Tees.


(T 3 cyl denotes a triple expansion three-cylinder steam engine)


On 27 December, Santee sailed from Queenstown for Bantry Bay, Ireland, to carry out exercises. She was south of Kinsale when a lookout spotted an approaching torpedo. But it was to late, the torpedo hit the Santee's port side, just aft of the engine room. Comdr. Hanrahan ordered his men to battle stations and sent away the "panic party," those sailors who played the role of a crew precipitously abandoning their sinking vessel. This was an attempt to lure U61 to the surface, but the submarine did not fall for the trick, and never surfaced.  Destroyers and tugs were dispatched to her aid from the Irish coast. The damaged Santee was taken in tow, and reached Queenstown at noon on the 28th.

Repairs at Queenstown lasted through January. Then Santee was towed to Devonport and she arrived on 8 February 1918. Re-named H.M.S. Bendish (again) and sent to Gibraltar for more “Q” ship operations. She was decommissioned on 8 April 1918 and returned to the Admiralty and resumed her former name, Arvonian, in July 1919. In November she was sold to the Rondda Shipping & Coal Exporting Co. Ltd, re-named Brookvale where she stayed till 1928, then re-named Spidola, and a new Russian owner. But the story doesn’t end there!!! In 1943 she was captured by the Germans re-named Rudau, but soon struck a submerged wreck of the German coast, and sustained considerable damage. In 1945 she was attacked by the R.A.F. off the south coast of Norway, and towed into Bergen for repair. After the war (1947) re-named Spidola (again) owned by a Costa Rican company, but while on passage from the Mediterranean in February 1948 with a cargo of iron ore, she ran aground on Holy Island Anglesey. She was again re-floated, repaired. Sold to German owners, (Walter Ritscher) and she was finally broken up at Hamburg, in 1958, at the grand old age of 53.


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