beldis, armstrong whitworth
1924 - 1971

The building of large steam locomotives and coaching stock for the export market by the Armstrong Whitworth Co (and many others) saw the need for a type of ship specially designed for the transport of these vehicles, with the ability to load and unload them quickly. The Norwegian shipping firm of A/S Christen Smiths Rederi recognised this need and placed an order with Armstrong Whitworth Co. for the Beldis, the company's first motorship and the first built to specifically cater for the transport of railway locomotives & carriages.

The Beldis was launched on April 3rd 1924 and completed during June 1924 with her maiden voyage being from Newcastle to Buenos Aires with seventeen locomotives on board.

On December 27th 1924 a 'tempest of exceptional violence' to quote the British press, swept over Britain causing much damage on land and sea. Heavy rain in Wales and southern Scotland caused much flooding and loss of livestock. In the English Channel the worst seas recorded in many years were noted as vessels raced for port and lifeboats responded to many distress calls. On December 29th the Beldis, en route from Liverpool to Calcutta with a cargo of locomotives put into Queenstown, Ireland due to the severe weather.

Late in January 1926 the Beldis loaded fourteen new locomotives at Newcastle for shipment to Adelaide under the command of Captain Basberg (identified in period newspapers as Capt. Basbarg - Capt Basberg had taken command over the first locomotive carrier Belgot, a converted freighter built in Norway in 1920. Her first locomotive cargo was from Liverpool to Belgium. When she left Liverpool the dockside was crowded with people to see the 'doomed' vessel, because very few believed it was possible that she could make the voyage with such a heavy cargo on deck. He later took command over the Beldis, and in 1926 the larger Belpareil), the Beldis was expected to reach Adelaide about March 7th 1926. The locomotives were of various types and had all been constructed by Messrs. Armstrong, Whitworth, & Company for the South Australian Railways. The shipment comprised nine Pacific type, four Mountain type and one Mikado. The sixteen other locomotives which formed this order were shipped by the Belray.

The Beldis arrived at Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide on the Friday afternoon of March 20th ??? 1926, its arrival at the beginning of the weekend meant that unloading would not begin until the following Monday. It was anticipated that it would take the best part of the first day just to remove the lashings. The South Australian Stevedoring Company was responsible for unloading the locomotives, eight were mounted on the deck, the remainder were in the holds. The Beldis's own specialised lifting gear would be used to unload the locomotives. This would require a considerable gap to be left between the ship and the dockside due to the list created as the ship's gear swung the locomotive parts dockside. In each case the boiler would be separated from the frame and wheels, likewise the tender would be unloaded separately. The separated parts would be conveyed to the railway's Islington workshops for re-assembly. It was anticipated that the first locomotive would be available for traffic in about fourteen days.

The unloading of the locomotives was not without incident. On March 23rd Frank De Gilio, a wharf laborer, had his left leg fractured above the knee whilst assisting in the rigging up of the gear for the discharge of the locomotives. Whilst working on the top of one of the engines he was struck by a pulley and fell nearly twenty feet to the deck of the ship. He was transported to Adelaide Hospital for assistance to be rendered. At about the same time the waterside wharf labourers 'lumpers' objected to the specialised Christian Smith crews being used to unload the locomotives. The Reference Board arranged for the labourers to be permitted to work the Beldis but under expert supervision but rejected their request for increased pay.

On the morning of Thursday March 26th the first boiler was lifted ashore and placed on a gondola truck frame. The boiler belonged to the Mikado engine, the smallest and lightest locomotive of the shipment. By March 31st three complete locomotives had been put ashore. Five locomotives were in the vessel's holds, the remainder on deck behind the bridge. By April 10th 1926 four complete locomotives had been unloaded along with several cases of machinery. By May 15th all the tenders had been removed from the ship with only one steam locomotive remaining aboard, this locomotive was off the ship by May 17th. The Beldis was then moved to the North Arm to await the arrival of the Belray, which was bringing a further consignment of railwav engines for the South Australian railways. The Belray was due on May (or June??) 28th and required some of the equipment from the Beldis to unload the locomotives.

On June 28th 1926 the Belray arrived at Port Adelaide to unload its cargo of locomotives with the help of the Beldis.

July 12th 1926 - On Friday and Saturday flags were flown at half-mast on the Norwegian motor ships Belray and Beldis at Port Adelaide out of respect for the late Mr Erling Fredheim a member of the crew of the Beldis. His death occurred on July 9th 1926, was aged 20 and a native of Norway.

About August 17th the Beldis departed Adelaide for Sydney, and was noted departing Sydney on August 21st for Bunbury to load jarrah for South Africa. The Belray left in ballast for Mauritius to load sugar for the United Kingdom.

During the first quarter of 1927 the Beldis shipped locomotives from Newcastle to Apapa Wharf, Lagos, Nigeria.

September 28th 1933: at Singapore.

February 26th 1934: at Singapore.

During February 1936 the British Full Court of Appeal ruled in the case in which the Beldis had been seized ('arrested') at Newport in an attempt to settle a claim against another vessel, the Belfri, where both vessels belonged to the same owner. The Court of Appeal were responding to a decision issued by Judge L C Thomas at Newport County Court on June 27th 1935.

Under the British flag from 1936 as Beldisa (Lambert Brothers Ltd., London).

Sold to Leif Erichsens Rederi A/S (Leif Erichsen), Bergen in 1937 and renamed Herma.

During World War Two the Herma spent most of its time in the Western Atlantic visiting many Eastern Seaboard and Carribean ports.

When Norway was invaded by the Germans on April 9th 1940 the Herma was at Corner Brook, Newfoundland having arrived there from Halifax on April 7th 1940.

The Herma arrived at New York from Boston on July 28th 1940. It remained at New York for almost four months, not leaving until November 23rd when the Beldis sailed for Trinidad.

1941 - 1942
The Herma rescued ninety one survivors from the British steamship City of Winchester on May 19th 1941, and landed them at Takoradi on May 26th 1941. The City of Winchester had been torpedoed by U-103 on May 9th 1941. On July 14th 1941 the Herma arrived in New York from Trinidad and did not leave until October 9th 1941, sailing for Cristobal.

Ports visited from late December 1941 throgh 1942 include St. John's, Botwood, Baltimore, New York City, Cristobal, Balboa, Tocopilla, Gulfport(?), Mobile, Kingston, Halifax, Sydney, Argentia, Providence. Many of the trips were made by the Herma independently without the use of the convoy system.

On October 11th 1941 the Herma sailed in convoy SC105 (for Liverpool) from New York City to Reykjavik, Iceland arriving on October 29th 1941, departing on November 25th in convoy ON148 (from Liverpool), arriving New York City on December 14th 1941.

During 1943 the Herma sailed very similar routes as that in 1942 particularly to the Eastern Seaboard ports north of New York City.

On February 27th 1943 the Herma left New York City in convoy NG346, arriving Guantanamo Bay On March 6th, Trinidad March 12th (convoy GAT 48) and Bahia on March 30th (convoy TB8). The ship was carrying equipment for the construction of an airfield on the island of Fernando de Noronha. The supplies included bulldozers, landing craft, petrol, oil & explosives. Unloading took place at Baia de Santo Antonio Bay, the Herma remained here for seven weeks. By June 24th 1943 the Herma was back at Trinidad and returned to its more familiar routes in the North East.

On September 9th the Herma left St. John's in convoy SG30 for Greenland, arriving September 15th. The ship sailed from Greenland on October 25th reaching St John's five days later in convoy GS 34. The remainder of 1943 was spent on the familiar North East routes.

On November 26th 1943 the Herma arrived at Baltimore from New York, and did not leave Baltimore until February 22nd 1944.

In addition to the ports listed in 1942 the Herma visited Louisburg, Charleston, Havana, Key West.

Another voyage to Greenland took place during late September/early October.

Post-war history:

1950 (April) Sold to A/S Rask (Sigv. Risanger), Haugesund, for NOK 750.000, renamed Rask.
1952 (April) Sold to Suomen Moottorilaiva OY, Helsinki, for NOK 3.500.000, renamed Silja.
1956 Taken over by Varustamo Paavo Nurmi,Espo (Same Manager), renamed Satu.
1958 Sold to O/Y Thombrokers A/B (L. Jouhki as managers) Helsinki, Renamed Make.
1963 Sold to Laiva O/Y Ritva (Erkki Poikonen), Helsinki, renamed Ritva.
1967 Sold to Rigas Bros & K. Mitropoulos, Piraes, renamed Marietta.
1971 Sold for scrapping to Sariktzis-Kaeintis-Kritikos, breaking started August 1971.

Built: Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle (998)
Launched: June 1924
Tonnage: 2,406 grt tons, 1,284 net
Deadweight: 3,440 tons
Length: 294 ft 1 in
Breadth: 45 ft 3 in
Draught: 19 ft 1 in
Propulsion: 2T single acting 4cyl Armstrong/Sulzer engines, 1350 bhp.
Auxiliary engines: ??
Speed: ?? knots

Article in 'The Motor Ship' of June 1923 & Shipbuilding & Shipping Record, December 1923.
National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (
Voyages are listed in records housed at the Norwegian National Archives:
Arnold Hague's Database - Convoyweb

Next Trove - beldis #20

Page added January 9th 2012.
Last updated March 23rd 2014.

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