My father was the Chief Steward on the Derbyshire.
I remember as a small child seeing the Empress of Canada upside down as I went past on the Over Head Railway to catch the ferry across the Mersey to see my Father on his ship.
Up the side gang plank, well it was steps not a plank. I can still remember the hum on the ship and the strange smell. It was very hot, in the engine rooms as I was shown around on my tour. The crew seemed to live on bunks and hammocks and had little oil fires cooking rice on the deck.
When it was lunch time we sat in a grand dinning room and the soup dish sloped in a way I could eat all my soup with out moving the bowl.
My Father died the next year 1953
R.I.P. JACK NOLAN
Built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Govan in 1935. Yard No: 653.
Official Number: 164273 Signal Letters: G Y M X
Gross Tonnage: 10,623, Nett: 6,243. Length: 482.6ft Breadth: 66.2ft
Owned by the Bibby Line Ltd (Bibby Bros.& Co. Ltd, Managers); registered at Liverpool
2 Sulzer Oil Engines, twin screws. Service speed: 15 knots.
The DERBYSHIRE in Gladstone Lock, Liverpool, in 1956
The DERBYSHIRE of 1935 was the last ship to be built for the Bibby Line with the traditional tall and graceful four-masted rig. Her home port was Birkenhead and terminal port Rangoon. The DERBYSHIRE had a large cargo capacity, and was a one-class passenger ship with pleasant, airy accommodation and plenty of deck space. Without the luxury frills of the mail ships to Bombay, Singapore and China, the DERBYSHIRE and her sisters provided what many travellers considered to be by far the pleasantest method of 'going East'.
A total of 291 first-class passengers could be accommodated on the DERBYSHIRE, looked after by a crew of 224. As a one-class liner, passengers had the run of the whole ship. The accommodation was excellent with the emphasis on ventilation, with all the cabins built on the 'Bibby tandem cabin' principle, whereby even the inboard cabins had their own porthole, accessed by a narrow passage to the ship's side. This made the ship well suited to the Indian Ocean service. The European members of the crew lived in the firecastle, with the Lasacar seamen and Goanese stewards in the poop.
The DERBYSHIRE of 1935 in her traditional Bibby Line rig.
The DERBYSHIRE had six holds, four forward and two aft. Her deadweight capacity was 10,400 tons on a draft of 29feet 2inches.
The DERBYSHIRE was launched on 14th June 1935 at the Fairfield Yard at Govan, and left Birkenhead on her maiden voyage to Rangoon on 8th November, joining the six other Bibby 'shires' on the route. The next four years marked the heyday of the Bibby passenger service. The route was from Birken-head to Gibraltar, Marseille, Port Said, Port Sudan, Colombo and Rangoon.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, the DERBYSHIRE was requisitioned as an armed merchant cruiser and spent the next three years patrolling Northern waters and the Western Approaches. Her main and mizzen masts were removed and the jigger mast cut down to a stump. She was equipped with six 6-inch guns and two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns.
In 1942 the DERBYSHIRE was converted into a troopship, with landing craft, and carried U.S. troops to the North African landings. She was then further converted into a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI), with five double tiers of assault landing craft suspended on each side from stiffened davits.
September 1944 saw the DERBYSHIRE back at Liverpool where she was adapted for service in the Far East. In 1945 she sailed out to India and Ceylon and was the first Allied ship to use Rangoon after the end of the Japanese occupation. In subsequent operations leading to the re-occupation of Singapore, the DERBYSHIRE was H.Q. ship, and on entering Singapore received a tremendous welcome from the liberated prisoners of war.
The DERBYSHIRE spent 1946 trooping to and from India, Burma, Malaya, French Indonesia and West Africa. During the War the DERBYSHIRE steamed 330,000 miles and carried 136,000 troops. This was magnificent war service, second to none.
In November 1946 the DERBYSHIRE was returned to the Bibby Line. She was sent back to her builders at Govan and underwent an extensive refit which lasted until November 1947. When she emerged from this the DERBYSHIRE bore little resemblance to her former self. Gone was the lofty elegance and grace of pre-war days; instead she had assumed the Bibby Line's 'new look' which was to last for the next seventeen years.
The DERBYSHIRE manoeuvring in Birkenhead Docks
following her post-war rebuild
By 1949 there were five Bibby Line passenger ships back in service - the DERBYSHIRE, along with her two pre-war running mates WORCESTER-SHIRE and the STAFFORDSHIRE, plus the two new ships WARWICKSHIRE (1948) and LEICESTERSHIRE (1949).
The Bibby Line passenger service to Rangoon never returned to its pre-war efficient regularity. Burma gained independence in 1948 (to become Myanmar), cutting off the steady flow of British Goverment employees who formed a large percentage of the passengers. In spite of ever increasing difficulties, the passenger service continued for another seventeen years.
The old DERBYSHIRE lasted until 1964 when she was sold to Far East breakers. The following year the post-war new ships WARWICKSHIRE and LEICESTERSHIRE were also sold and the Bibby Line passenger service to Burma ceased.
The DERBYSHIRE was 29 years old when her end came. She was arguably the finest of all the long succession of Bibby Liners, with a magnificent record both in war and peace. She was the last to carry the traditional Bibby 'rig', and the first with the 'new look'.
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