Originally built during the WW II in 1941 as an armed steam trawler for the Royal Navy by the shipyard Hall, Russell & Co. Ltd. Aberdeen, Scotland. The trawler was launched on 15.03.1941 and on 14.07.1941 she was delivered to the Royal Navy. The ship belonged to the Dance-class trawlers and was named HMS QUADRILLE with pennant number T 133 (Quadrille a dance invented during the time of Napoleon I in Paris). These trawlers had nothing to do with fishing, but were small auxiliary war ships. She had a crew of 40 men and a triple-expansion steam engine of 850 IHP gave a speed of about 12 knots. The armament of most of these vessels consisted of one 4-inch gun (100 mm), three Oerlikon AA-guns 20mm and 30 depth charges. These trawlers were mainly used against submarines, as mine sweepers and for guard duties. The HMS QUADRILLE sailed as a guard vessel with the big convoys across the North Atlantic up to Reykjavik, Iceland.

After the war ended, the Royal Navy discharged the now surplus HMS QUADRILLE from active service and sold her on 06.06.1946 in Lodon to Norway. The owner was now Skibs A / S Storhaug, who renamed the ship QUADRILLE and registered it in Stavanger, the management was appointed to Sverre Meyer-Knudsen from Stavanger. On 5 May 1948, the coaster, now converted at Holmens Verft, Risör Southern Norway, was renamed ELSA and got underway in June 1948. The 1943 built 520 PS Atlas British Auxiliary main engine came from the HMS PRONG. As you can see from the photo of HMS QUADRILLE, the new coastal freighter had nothing much in common with the original navy ship. It is however assumed, that the hull divisions, the propeller shafting and the rudder were of a favourable design for the conversion. The ELSA sailed under the Norwegian flag (Call sign: LLZA, home port: Stavanger) and had a charter on the East African coast. In November 1949 the ELSA sailed off the coast of Kenya, when she suffered an engine break down. The vessel EMPIRE TEST towed her into the harbour of Mombasa, where she remained four months for repairs.

In 1950 Keller Line Ltd. Basel purchased the freighter and first it was planned to take over the MURTEN in Durban, as implied by a letter from August 1950 from the Swiss embassy in Johannisburg to the Swiss maritime navigation office, stating, that they, or the consul in Durban, would be ready to administer any official functions, when requested. Actually the registration and hand-over of the MURTEN only took place on 12.12.1950 in the small fluvial port of Sarpsborg in Southeast Norway (off. No. 020, call sign: HBDQ). The name recalls the battle of Murten (in French, Morat), a small town on the lake of the same name, approximately 25 km west of Bern, when back in 1476 Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, was beaten here for the second time. The management of the vessel was carried out by Keller Shipping Ltd. located in the same building. The SEMPACH purchased two years later, was a very similar, converted trawler from the United Kingdom.

The cargo gear of the MURTEN consisted of 4 cargo winches and 4 derricks (2 x 3,0 mt und 2 x 1,5 mt SWL). The main engine was a 7-cylinder diesel engine of 520 HP, constructed in 1943 by British Auxiliaries Ltd. Glasgow, giving a speed of about 11,0 knots. A peculiarity, the engine exhaust gases were not led to the atmosphere trough the funnel, but left through the aft mast, as it is clearly visible on our photo No. 2.

Keller Shipping Ltd. traded the MURTEN on their liner service from Genoa, Italy to the western Mediterranean Sea, Morocco and Portugal, the so-called Keller-Lines. The crew consisted of 12 men, mainly Italians, at the beginning from the Viareggio region. The first master was Capt. Alf Stranger, a Norwegian, followed by Capt. Rudolf Riebenstahl and the first chief engineer was Hermann Eigebrecht, both from West Germany (after the war it was difficult to find a job as master or chief engineer in Germany). The first crew list mentions also a South African oiler of Greek origin, who enjoyed to show his war medals, gained in the South African Army and a Russian sailor, a Crimean Tatar. The Swiss Carlo Brodbeck signed on as a mess boy in the port of Rouen, France and he said "the vessel came from Madagaskar and was infested by cockroaches". For a mess boy, signing on for the first time, this was probably the most lasting impression. After Rouen the next destination was Casablanca in the intended trading area. In Casablanca Carlo wanted to pay off and go home, but soon he was promoted to deck boy, which improved his life on board. At times, the recently deceased electrician Erwin Sauter from St. Gallen worked on board to get the electrical installations back into shape.

On 25.06.1956 Keller-Line Ltd. Basel sold the vessel to the shipping company Ubaldo Gennari, fu Torquato & Co., Ancona, who renamed her REMEX and operated her under the Italian flag (call sign: INSM). The following year, a new, 6-cylinder diesel engine of 500 HP was installed, delivered from Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz, Köln, West Germany. For about two years the vessel was time-chartered to AGIP, transporting butane gas bottles to Mombasa.

In 1959 the vessel was purchased by Vincenzo Muro e Figlio in Naples, but they sold her already in 1961 to Sebastiano Muro, Naples. In 1966 her ownership changed again to Giuseppe de Marzo, Genoa. He sold the vessel in 1967 to the shipping company De Marzo Brothers at Massawa, Ethiopia, today Eritrea, who renamed the ship GHEDEM (a town near Massawa). We assume that at that time she was flying the flag of Ethiopia, but no further information is available and her fate remains for the time a mystery.

- Federal archive, Bern
- Carlo Brodbeck, Muttenz
- Raymond Jones, Emlyn Local History Society, Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK
- www.aberdeenships.com
- www.skipet.no

SwissShips, HPS, MB, April 2016


From Mark Teggarty, Kilkeel, a small fishing town, County Down, Northern Ireland, we received the following story about his grandfather, Robert Bryden Richmond, who served on HMS QUADRILLE during the World War II. He was with this ship for his entire time in the Navy, from 1940 to January 1945:

My Grandfather, Robert Bryden Richmond, was Leading Coder on board HMS QUADRILLE (a radio operator with a special war time task). His job was to receive coded radio transmissions, translate them and then pass them on to senior officers. As a result, he was often the first to be aware of important developments in the war and the movements of the convoy, although with the information being top secret, he was not allowed to disclose the information to his shipmates!

Life on board ship was cold, wet and boring, particularly when conducting convoys throughout the winter in the North Atlantic, escorting merchant vessels as far as Reykjavik, Iceland. Two years ago I had the good fortune to travel to Iceland myself and my Grandfather was able to reminisce about the red tin roofed buildings that still exist there. He said, that as Iceland was subject to wartime rations and shortages, the sailors used to sell their allocation of alcohol (sometimes even watered down!) at a great profit to the local Icelanders who were more than happy to receive the booze. Also, with him being a non-smoker, you could accumulate your allocated ration from the NAAFI and sell the cigarettes too (NAAFI, Navy, Army and Air Force Institute, a British Government organisation, offering recreational facilities and selling goods to servicemen and their families).

As they were zig zagging across the Atlantic in foul winter weather the forecastle where the crew lived was freezing cold as it received the brunt of the icy waves smashing over the bow and so the whole place was constantly awash with seawater. He said that everybody was quiet and depressed until the middle of the day when in that era the grog ration was allocated. When everybody had consumed their allocated measure of strong alcohol, there was great chatting, singing, playing cards etc. and sometimes fighting!

When we were children my grandfather always used to tell us about the collision his boat suffered in the English Channel, passing another convoy, sailing in the opposite direction. On January 5th. 1945 during foggy weather, the larger frigate, HMS LOCH KILLIN hit his vessel, causing serious damage to the hull. Apparently great chaos ensued, many men jumped overboard, including my grandfather, who jumped in his pyjamas into the ice cold sea, which we all found hilarious and rolled about in laughter! The reality of this however is that he could easily have drowned or died of hypothermia. As far as he knew, no crewmen were lost, but not all members of the crew abandoned ship, some remained on board, as they could not swim. The men in the water were picked up by boats dropped by HMS KILLIN, then she towed the damaged trawler back to Portsmouth. My grandfather returned to the vessel in Portsmouth and possibly boarded without permission as he had left £ 6 in his wallet under his bunk… he found it and got it back, note £ 6 at that time was a considerable amount of money for a common sailor*). He spent the remainder of the war in barracks and did never sail again, instead he became a tax inspector.

When I asked him if he was ever scared he would just say that "everybody just signed up, it was just what you did" and that "I was too young and naïve to be scared, it was more exciting, then boring".

R.M. Teggarty
November 2018

*) Remark from H.P. Schwab:
Still in 1971, when attending the marine engineering college in Southampton, we used to go to town on a Saturday evening with 5 Pounds, had a nice meal, plenty of ale in the pub and a good time in the night club. Around 3 o'clock in the morning we returned home by taxi and the next morning still had about 2 quids in the pocket.