Dennis Crosby served aboard the SS Samlorian from July 1944 until December 1945, a total of seventeen months. He next signed aboard the SS Hazelbank, but as he relates in the following story, his time aboard her was cut short after only two weeks because of highly unusual circumstances. A J.O.S. is a Junior Ordinary Seaman. The Manchester Ship Canal was built in 1894 and it connected Eastham, across the Mersey River from Liverpool, with the inland textile manufacturing centre of Manchester. The thirty-six mile long canal made it possible for ocean-going vessels of up to 12,500 GRT to service Manchester.
by Dennis M. Crosby
In January 1946, as an eighteen year old J.O.S., I joined a ship in Salford Docks, Manchester . The ship was the S/S Hazelbank, sailing to New York and onward to New Zealand. After a few days we set sail to traverse the Manchester Ship Canal, which usually was pretty much a full days work, around eight hours, and required passing through four to five locks.
After the evening meal, with me being the youngest of the Deck crew and the "Peggy", it was my job was to clean up the mess and wash the plates and dishes. I had nearly finished doing this when Mickey Finn walked into the messroom and asked me if I could give to him a sheet of writing paper and an envelope. I did so, and then left, leaving him alone in the mess to write his letter, thinking that he intended to perhaps give it to the Pilot when he went ashore. Several of us were in a cabin sharing stories, when about ten minutes later, there was a bloodcurdling scream and a loud splash. Someone shouted, "He has done it!" Everyone immediately scrambled topside to look over the stern, and there was Mickey Finn splashing in the water. We threw several
Later, during our second watch, 12-4 am, it was eerie walking alone on lookout on the pitch dark foredeck, with the anchor light casting strange shadows and all the creaks and groans from the blocks and running tackle. The vision of this fellow drowning was very fresh in one's mind. The next morning, the crew held a meeting and it was decided to refuse to sail in this ship. When informed, the Captain sent ashore for a Union representative, and several from the Shipping Office. We were confronted with these people and asked why we refused to sail in the ship. We explained that too many incidents had happened in the short time since leaving Manchester and it was felt that this was not a lucky ship. It was said that one could feel the presence of Mickey Finn still.
Dennis' pages are maintained by Maureen Venzi and are part of The Allied Merchant Navy of WWII website.