Keep the home fires burning


 During the First World War, the auxiliary ketch GARLANDSTONE continued to trade around the ports of South Wales and the Bristol Channel, and on at least one occasion crossed the Irish Sea. She may also have been one of the many sailing vessels that transported coal from South Wales to the allied forces in France.

 GARLANDSTONE was bought from the builders, James Goss at Calstock on the Tamar, by John Russan, who lived near St Ishmael’s, Milford Haven. Russan was master of a trading ketch that frequently called at Cothele Quay – trading links between the Tamar Valley to south Wales were well established. The proximity of his home to the Hook Colliery Company, near Haverfordwest, which shipped great quantities of coal to France for the armed forces, strongly suggests that GARLANDSTONE was involved in this work. However, former-deckhand Wynford Lawrence, who joined the vessel around 1916 made no mention of sailing to France in an interview with Barrie Burgess in the 1980s.


The interview records: “Because of the threat of U-boats, were towed across the Irish Sea by a large Admiralty tug. She had two schooners and a ketch on each quarter, and as we were making slow progress, they asked us to put on some sail to assist the tow. So we steamed into Milford Haven, and there were searchlights and inspection boats checking all vessels entering the port.

 “On another occasion, I remember we loaded fertiliser in Cardiff for Longhouse Farm, which we discharged into a horse-drawn cart on Abercastle beach. We used a discharging gaff and tackle to load and unload cargo and on one occasion, when we were on Dale beach, Jim Gwilym (GARLANDSTONE’s mate) was on the winch and we swung out a tub of coal, not realising the horse and cart below had moved off. There was much cursing and swearing, but we had a good laugh about it afterwards.

 “When we were at sea we often supplemented our rations with fresh fish. In the summer, while on passage, we would spin for mackerel and, if we were heading up channel, we would sometimes sail into Oxwich Bay where we would trawl for flatfish.


“When Captain Russan called at Saundersfoot, there was a well-rehearsed routine. His old pal Jack Childs, the harbour pilot, would row out with a bucket full of gull’s eggs. It was my job, as cook and deckhand, to boil the eggs for our breakfast. We had four eggs each, and very tasty there were too!”

 There were heavy losses to coastal vessels, mainly due to U-boat activity, so many were armed, with trained naval ratings on board to man the guns. In late 1918 GARLANDSTONE was in Frances’ yard in Pembroke Dock, waiting to have her guns fitted but they never were. Wynford Lawrence remembered being woken one morning by sirens and steam whistles – they were announcing the war was over.

 Where is she now?

GARLANDSTONE is currently moored at Morewhellam Quay on the River Tamar and is part of the visitor attraction on the site.


Barrie Burgess, ‘The Call of the Sea’, Pembrokeshire Life May 2004