Largest Thames Collier comes to Greenwich

From Mercury February 1st 1946



On Wednesday morning a brand new ship steamed up the Thames with her first cargo of coal from Newcastle and moored off East Greenwich. She is the ss Effra owned by the South Metropolitan Gas Company and is the first replacement of the company’s war losses.

This however is not the only distinction the ss Effra can claim. Being a   vessel of 4,050 tons, she is the largest collier to navigate the Thames having twice the cargo capacity of other vessels in the company’s fleet.

She arrived with 3.900 tons of coal on board and is scheduled to make three trips a fortnight from Newcastle to East Greenwich with coal for south – east London.

Mr. A.D. Seaton the company’s sales manager invited a Mercury representative to look over the new ship and chat to the Master, Captain Sidney H. Smith who has been with the company since 1923 when he joined ad Chief Officer.

a sturdy north countryman with a quiet pleasing voice he said that the ship completed her trials on Monday and behaved wonderfully well…“our 4,000 ton cargo can be loaded in a  day and a half and can discharge at East Greenwich in about 12 hours with four grabs working. His crew of 21 are mostly North Country men many of them Scotsmen.


The ss Effra has a silhouette that is different from other colliers, her engines and part of the crew accommodation are aft instead of amidships and here many other improvements.

She carries an echo sounding device as an aid to navigation and the operator merely turns a knob on the instrument and an automatic pencil registers on a chart the exact depth of water under the vessel. She is 304 feet long with an extreme breath of 44 feet three inches and a moulded depth of 21 feet four and half inches. Her loaded draft is 19 feet.

The Masters cabin is cream panelled with blue soft furnishings and furniture of light mahogany. Adjoining it is a comfortable sized bathroom. A soft blue carpeted staircase leads to the officers mess room and each two members of the crew share a cosy little cabin.

There is a central heating system and officer meals are cooked on an anthracite economy cooker. The crew cook their own meals on a coal burning stove and there is an ample refrigerator to keep the food in good condition.

Mr. Roy Wilson is marine superintendent to the company. His job is to supervise the company’s shipping and many of the improvements on the ss Effra are due to his suggestions following consultations with the Masters and ships officers and crews. In the navigating room Captain Smith demonstrated a modern loud speaker device by which his voice is carried to any part of the ship or other vessel.

The name Effra is derived from the old river Effra which at one time flowed though Brixton Dulwich and Herne Hill. Tributaries of this river still supply water for Dulwich Park Lake and the ponds in Brockwell Park. The old river has been diverted into a storm water sewer.

Skipper in D Day landings

Captain S.S. Smith served with the Royal Navy in both the Great War 1914-18 and the World War. He took part on the landing in Madagascar and in Sicily and is the Navy covering of the D Day landings on the Normandy beaches. He was released from active service last September with the rank of Lieut Commander RNVR.

He served aboard the first ss Effra which was purchased by the company in 1915 and was the only one of the company’s ships acquired during the 1914-18 war to be still running when the Armistice was concluded

She completed her thousandth voyage between the Tyne and the Thames in 1935 and was torpedoed and sunk on April 17 1941 when two lives were lost.

The South Metropolitan Gas Company commenced the late war with seven vessels each of some 2,000 tons capacity and of these four were lost. ss Brixton, sunk by a mine August `5 1940. ss Old Charlton dive bombed and sunk February 27th 1941, one officer dying from his injuries, ss Effra torpedoed by an E boat and sunk April 17th 1941 when  two men lost their lives; ss Catford sunk by mine May 31st 1943 when the master four of the crew lost their lives. The new fleet consists of four ships the Camberwell, Redriff, Brockley and the new Effra.

Return to Gas Works and shipping

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