MV Doulos (1977-2010) - MS Franca C (1952-1977) - SS Roma (1948-1952) - SS Medina (1914-1948)

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A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960

 

A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues and I hope that the well over 675 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers ships I have written on will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts and continue a great deal of information and pleasure!

 

SS Medina (1914-1948) was sold and renamed: SS Roma (1948-1952)

MS Franca C (1952-1977) - MV Doulos (1977-2010)

Doulos Phos (2010 - ) A land-locked Hotel at Bintan, Indonesia

MV Doulos

“A Ship Like no Other”

By Reuben Goossens 

 

--SS Medina--

Chapter Two

Part Two – 1940 - 1948

SS Medina continued to ply the American West Coast until World War Two, when she was required once again by the US Coast Guard to sail under the command of the US Navy. She was refitted and made ready to transport warplanes, tanks, supply trucks and weaponry between the US and the UK and other Northern European countries, thus she served once again as a supply ship sailing frequently across the U-Boat infested North Atlantic to Britain and Scandinavia, yet unlike so many other much faster ships as those who sailed on her has told the author, “Medina the lucky ship sailed through two World Wars into some of the most dangerous waters and came home totally unharmed!”

SS Medina is seen here as part of the US Coast Guard on January 21, 1942

From the author’s Private collection

However, Medina was involved in a several accidents, one being with a Canadian corvette class naval vessel and this story as well as another incident is included - See the Robert W. Hicks story below the USS Williamsburg story.

SS Medina and the *USS Williamsburg Iceland experience - 1942

USS Williamsburg seen later during her career – as President Truman boards in 1946

Photograph from the National Archives and Records Administration (USA)

On September 15, 1942, the US Navy gunboat *USS Williamsburg sailing alone battled her way through a fierce gale that caused both depth charge tracks to spring free and it tumbled three depth charges into the sea whilst she rolled and pitched violently in during this violent storm. Then, she received dispatch orders that she had to rendezvous with the merchant freighter SS Medina and screen her at Hofn located at southwest of Iceland, whilst she was unloading her precious cargo. USS Williamsburg continued, but she did not have a sonar as it had broken during the storm as well as both depth charge tracks having sprung and not having a radar. Thus she experienced difficulty finding the Medina but she finally made contact with her at Berusford on the 18th. With the cargo having been unloaded the Medina and USS Williamsburg commenced their voyage to Reykjanes, southeast of Iceland, arriving on the 19th. The Williamsburg was discharged from her duties with the SS Medina.

*USS Williamsburg – was originally a luxury private yacht MS Aras was built on the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine USA, by “Bath Iron Works” in 1930. She was laid down on March 19, 1930, launched on December 8, 1930, and delivered on January 15, 1931 to her owner, a multi-millionaire who was a wood-pulp industrialist, Mr. Hugh J. Chisholm. The luxurious Aras was a good 1,805 tons and had a length of 243.9ft; her beam was 36ft; and a draught was 14ft. Her two Winton diesels generated 1,100 NHP giving her a speed of 13.5 knots. The U.S. Navy obtained Aras on April 24, 1941 and renamed her USS Williamsburg. She was refitted to become a gunboat at the Brewer Dry-dock and Repair Co, Brooklyn New York. She entered service. She was officially commissioned on October 7, 1941. After the War the USS Williamsburg became the Presidential Yacht and served two Presidents, Truman and Eisenhower.

US Navy Gunner Robert W. Hicks serves on SS Medina in 1943

Nineteen year old Private Robert W. Hicks was a gunner’s mate in the US Navy and he wrote an interesting story in relation to his time when he served on board SS Medina for three months during World War Two.

Gunner’s Mate Robert Hicks seen in 1943

Photograph provided by & Robert. W. Hicks USA

Robert was attached to the Medina in April 15, 1943 and he served on her until December 22, making a number of Trans Atlantic voyages on her. He was one of the twenty six of the gun crew on the Medina thus frequently stationed out in ferocious weather conditions whilst crossing the Atlantic as he was aboard during a period of what is generally considered as period that throws you considerable cold and rough seas at times.

The following is how Robert Hicks remembers his time on the SS Medina during World War II!

“Our quarters on the SS Medina were below deck, even below the water line. Our onboard weaponry was as follows; we had a 5”/38 calibre gun on the aft deck and a 3”/59 calibre gun on the forward deck. In addition there were two 20mm guns, one located on each side of the Bridge and were there especially for air attacks.

Images of SS Medina’s Guns:

5”/38-cal gun located on the aft deck

US Navy photo – Provided by Robert Hicks

 

20mm guns like these were located one located on each side of the Bridge

US Navy photo – Provided by Robert Hicks

 

This is a 3”/50-cal gun like the one that was located forward on the SS Medina

Photo Mr. Ed Schnepf - USA – Provided by Robert Hicks

Our first voyage sailed out of New York in convoy and we headed across the Atlantic for Liverpool. Many of us were seasick on the first days, but we soon got over that as you get used to the rolling of the ship eventually. But, what did annoy us most was when the emergency officer in charge decided to call an emergency drill in the middle of the night whilst we had a short sleep, although we did have them day and night throughout the voyages. Whilst on watch we had to wear our life jackets at all times of course due to the frequent rough weather. Upon arrival in Britain we unloaded a ship full of warplanes, trucks, bombs and other weaponry, etc. However, the voyage back was very much more eventful for whilst on the Western Atlantic for some reason we collided with the Canadian corvette HMCS The Pas, and the Corvette was badly damaged and her crew did have a number of casualties including several really bad ones, but the Medina had only slight damage, thus we continued to New York and upon arrival she went into dry-dock for some minor repairs.”

HMCS The Pas - Collision at Sea

HMCS The Pas seen at St. Margaret's Bay, N.S. - November 11, 1942

Ken Macpherson / Naval Museum of Alberta

Canadian corvette HMCS The Pas was badly damaged in collision with the SS Medina in the Western Atlantic on July 21, 1943, while escorting a convoy ON.192, but she was able to continue and was under repair at Halifax and Shelburne until early October. There was a report stating that two of HMCS The Pas’ crew had been killed. SS Medina was not damaged due to her strong steel hull and she also continued on her voyage to New York.

We return to Robert Hicks’ story.

“In September we made another return voyage to Britain delivering further armaments and it was besides constantly avoiding U-Boats, it was rather an uneventful trip.

Then on October 3, we departed for our third voyage and this time it was in the largest convoy we had to date, as there were some 73 ships, which were bound for the United Kingdom, Murmansk or Russia, although Medina was bound for England. Tragically during this voyage many ships in our convoy were sunk by U-Boats, but the good old Medina survived and arrived safely in the UK where we unloaded our cargo in five short days. We departed again, but in a smaller convoy of 18 ships and headed back for the United stated and arrived home safe and well from what turned out to be one of our shorter voyages.

My final and fourth voyage on the Medina took somewhat longer and we departed on October 30 and we did not return until December 22. I recall we left New York with a full load of bombs, up on deck there were four Army tanks and two large supply trucks. This time the convoy included 60 ships, we had air and ship patrols for two days, however, due to very rough weather on the North Atlantic the Medina could not keep up with the faster ships in the convoy, thus we became a strangler in the convoy and we generally sailed all alone, which was obviously very dangerous! We arrived in the UK and called in at Plymouth then at Liverpool. After two weeks of unloading a shipload of good for the war effort, we were ready to head back to New York, this time with a convoy of 20 ships. But as it so often happened, we broke away from the convoy and sailed alone.

However, as we were approaching New York on a dark night considering there was no moon and no stars the Medina somehow collided with another vessel hitting her just aft of her mid section. We put a large hole in her that included some of the sleeping quarters of her crew, but none of her crew ended up in the water. As I remember our merchant crew offered assistance but the other ship refused help. We reversed our engines and pulled away and continued on our trip to New York. The other ship was not damaged sufficiently and thus it able to leave the scene of the accident and continue its voyage. The Medina had had hardly any damage to her bow. We arrived back in New York on December 22, 1943 and at that point I was officially detached from the SS Medina.

My time on the Medina was quite good and it was an interesting experience. The food aboard was very good really as we had a choice of foods having a different menu at every meal. Although the work on board could be quite hard, but that was to be expected, as our duties were four hours on and eight hours off. Then I recall the times that we sailed through some pretty rough weather conditions, when we suffered some extreme cold and massive seas, but thankfully we had been issued with heavy clothes to cope with the extremes and I mean extremes, like ice building up on the railings. Yet, even with the warm clothing, it was still freezing whilst we were on watch!

These were the kind of weather conditions encountered on the Medina

US Navy photo – Provided by Robert Hicks

Four years ago (2006) I sent for the Captains log of the Medina through the Archives in Washington D.C. for the duration I was on board, yet I found nothing in the ships log about the first accident we were involved in during our first voyage.

Robert and Mrs Hicks photographed in December 2006 – looking great for a young pair!

Photograph provided by & Robert Hicks - USA

The Medina stood up very well in all the storms we went trough in the North Atlantic and surprisingly there were no U-Boat attacks, she was the lucky ship! I am glad that the Medina has gone onto better things and continued to sail the oceans of the world for a good 95 years.”

Robert W. Hicks – Palm Bay, FL. U.S.A. (86 years young!)

PS: For interest, Robert and his wife are licensed radio operators in Palm Bay Florida and their call letters are: KN4LK & KC4AoL if you wish to contact them.

SS Medina to be Sold

After World War II, SS Medina had by now served in two World Wars and returned to an uncertain future. All too soon, this thirty four year old freighter was laid up in 1948 and was placed on the market. It had been expected that she would be purchased by one of the ship breakers and broken up, but amazingly her future proved to be quite secure for this ship would not only survive but sail under various guises well into the 21st Century!

SS Medina seen at her prime

Thank you to the Jonathan V. Niesling collection - USA

As her long history proves, she was never accosted by the many U-Boats that hunted down cargo and other ships sailing the Atlantic, whilst many other ships in convoys never made it as they were torpedoed and sunk, for the Medina, as it is said, was “The lucky ship!” She even collided with other ships causing damage to these ships, yet her thick strong steel bow and hull showed little to no damage.

This ship was going to prove that she was one ship that would outlast every other ship on the seven seas and she would soon become a brand new kind of ship with a new identity and life and she would end up sailing the globe many times over right through until December 2009, having had well over 22 million people walking her decks!

SS Medina is without doubt the world most amazing ship. It is recorded that the workers on the SS Titanic at some stage painted on her hull “Even God cannot sink her.” Well sadly we all know the truth and what happened to her. Due to man’s greed and stupidity; she went down on her maiden voyage to New York, with so many tragic and needless deaths! However, with a rather small and what seemed to be an insignificant ship, the fruit and vegetable freighter and US Coast Guard Supply Ship in two World Wars, SS Medina would outlast every major passenger liner on earth! Having had a transformation into a passenger ship she would eventually become in her latter life a Missionary ship the MV Doulos and the saying on board was that “Only God keeps this ship afloat” and I believe that He certainly must have, for this ship is indeed one of a kind, the most historic ship still afloat today!

This story contains much more about this amazing ship and you can follow her story and her transformation in Chapter Two.

Go to Chapter Two … From Onions to Passengers – SS Roma 1948 – 1953

 

Return to the Author’s – MV Doulos “A Ship Like No Other” Main Index

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are: 1. By the author. 2. From the author’s private collection. 3. As provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are photographs provided to me without details provided regarding the photographer concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me, that due credit may be given.

Copyright: “MV Doulos - A Ship Like No Other” is owned, protected under the International copyright laws and is the property of Reuben Goossens of ssmaritime.net. No part of this work including any of the images shown may be copied or reproduced by any means or reproduced by any format whatsoever, be it for private or commercial usage, without prior written permission from the author.

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