Posts Tagged: British Ships Registry

Edward Elwyn Nott-Bower, OBE, MC, Brigadier

Book jacket 'Ten Ton Travel'

Published by John Murray, London, 1950

During the summer of 1948, the recently retired Brigadier was just completing his first sea voyage on the gaff-rigged cutter ‘Smew’. The voyage is brought vividly to life in his book ‘Ten Ton Travel’, published by John Murray in 1950. According to the Certificate of British Registry and Lloyds Register of Yachts, the Brigadier owned ‘Cachalot’ from 1951 – 1957. He purchased her with funds from the insurance claim after the loss of ‘Smew’ off the west coast of Ireland.

From their home in Devon, the Brigadier, his wife Angela and children Colin and Jill sailed ‘Cachalot’ on extended voyages including the Channel Islands, Ireland, West coast of Scotland, Caledonian Canal to Inverness, the Scilly Isles, Coast of Brittany and via the River Gironde and Canal du Midi into the Mediterranean. The Brigadier wrote an article for ‘Yachting Monthly’ in October 1955 describing his last voyage in ‘Cachalot’, leaving her in Andraitx, Majorca.

1936 – 1951: the war years, Dunkirk and beyond

'Cachalot' is asked to trice up the mainsail by Tom Cunliffe

‘Cachalot’ is asked to trice up the mainsail during the ‘Return to Dunkirk’, 1990. Photo: Tom Cunliffe

There are two references to ‘Cachalot’ in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1936). One is the well-known ketch built in Brixham the previous year, the other is a steel-hulled vessel from 1911. Neither being our ‘Cachalot’, we now turn to her Certificate of British Registry. The hardcover ‘blue book’ unfolds to reveal handwritten records from 1936 to 1991.

Based on records in the Certificate, Sir Lancelot Elphinstone sold ‘Cachalot’ to two stock brokers; Herbert Charles Norton: Stock Jobber from Amersham, Bucks., and Hugh Leycester Bedwell: Stock Broker from Warwick Square, London in August, 1936, after owning her for only four months.

These same two owners are listed in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1937-39), along with reference to a petrol engine, Stuart Turner, 2 cylinder.

The Lloyds Register was not published during the war years, and in 1947 we find she is listed as owned by Hubert Somervell, living at 97, Clifton Hill, NW8, still with her Stuart Turner petrol engine. Hubert Somervell is also listed as owner in the ‘Alterations and additions to the 1939 Register’ published in 1946 to incorporate supplements from May and July 1939. There is also a gap in the Certificate of British Registry from 1939 and Hubert Somervell is not recorded as her owner.  So when did he purchase her, and who owned her when she was requisitioned to take part in Operation Dynamo, May 1940? In ‘The ships that saved an army’ by Russell Plummer, pub. 1990, ‘Cachalot’ is recorded as being owned by ‘Mr Spurling’ at the time of Operation Dynamo but there is no reference to his source.

‘Cachalot’ is a member of the Dunkirk Little Ships Association and listed amongst the vessels requisitioned to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk, but there is no record of her activity there. She has taken part in events run by the ADLS, including the 1990 ‘Return to Dunkirk’. A Hubert A. Somervell enlisted as a midshipman in 1916 and is listed in the London Gazette on three occasions (1918, 1920 and 1921) as a Royal Navy Lieutenant [retired in 1921]. In 1939, Hubert A. Somervell is living at 10, Fishpool St. London, now a Clerk in Holy Orders. Could this be the same man who owned her in 1947 and perhaps when she was taken to Dunkirk?

Kenneth Albert Harwood: Opthalmic Optician and Neauer Messinger: Shopkeeper, both of Guildford, Surrey are listed as joint owners from November 1948 until Brigadier Edward Elwyn Nott-Bower purchased her in 1951. These two owners are also listed in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1949-51).

Sir Lancelot Henry Elphinstone (1879 – 1965)

Sir Lancelot Henry Elphinstone

Sir Lancelot Elphinstone

Perhaps her most illustrious owner, Sir Lancelot, is listed in the Certificate of British Registry as a Barrister, and owning ‘Cachalot’ from 8 April, 1936. We know a little about his military career, but sadly, nothing about his interest in ‘Cachalot’. He sold her after only four months.

Lancelot Henry Elphinstone served in the 47th Coy., 13th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. He was promoted from Second Lieutenant to Captain in the 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Volunteer Rifle Corps. in 1909. After the First World War, he was employed by the Honduras Trading Company loan Ordinance and in 1921 was Trinidad & Tobago Knight Chief Justice of Federated Malay States.

In 1924 Lancelot Henry Elphinstone, Esq. was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements.

Two lady owners and an engine installed


Certificate of British Registry: 1936

Between 1928 and 1931, two ladies are listed as owners in the Lloyds Register of Yachts: Mrs Ellen Margaret Stubbs of Leigh-on-Sea and Mrs Florence E Oliver of Coventry.

There is no record for ‘Cachalot’ in the Lloyds Register of Yachts between 1932 and 1936. The first entry in the Certificate of British Registry lists Jesse Frank Collier, Master Builder from Worthing, Sussex as the owner in March, 1936.

The Certificate also refers to an auxiliary petrol internal combustion engine, 1934, Stuart Turner, 2 cylinder, 6hp. We assume this to be her first auxiliary engine.

The Certificate shows ownership passed to Sir Lancelot Elphinstone on 8 April, 1936,