George was one of Heronspool’s heroes

GEORGE Blackwood who served on board the Heronspool
GEORGE Blackwood who served on board the Heronspool

A MAN of sobriety and one of a whole crew of heroes.

That was George Blackwood whose claim to fame is that he was part of the crew of the Heronspool,

Readers of this column will remember our first report on the ship which came to the aid of the 7,200 tonne vessel Stanfirth - adrift and helpless in an Antarctic storm in the seas off southern Australia.

She was without fuel and her radio had stopped working.

Ships tried to come to her aid but the deadly mix of storms, astonishingly poor visibility and freezing cold conditions were putting paid to every rescue attempt.

It was the 7,174 tonne Heronspool which came by the Stanfirth and stayed there for four days.

It was in August 1951 that the drama happened and George Blackwood was one of the crew on the Heronspool.

It was part of a two-year voyage which only came to an end in 1952 when Anthony was a mere boy of six.

Anthony told us: “My dad was a Heronspool engineer at the time of the incident. By the time my dad got home, the incident was old news.”

But Anthony certainly has plenty of memorabilia about what happened. He added: “I received the newspapers after my dad’s death in 1996.”

They tell a story of a crew which never gave up.

Part of that crew was George whose sea service papers describe him as having very good ability, very good conduct and was “strictly sober in his habits”.

Father and son were both from West Hartlepool and the ship itself had the town it came from - West Hartlepool - on its stern.

Australian papers later reported how the whole incident was so dangerous that the crew of the Stanfirth spent their time praying for a saviour.

It arrived in the form of a West Hartlepool ship whose captain TW Cameron was later praised for his heroism which was described as being so huge, he deserved a medal as big as a frying pan.

His crew was praised as showing seamanship of the highest quality.

This was no easy rescue mission. The Heronspool twice tried to get a tow line on board the Stanfirth without much success and kept going back for more.

At one point, the four-inch thick steel chains which kept the Heronspool attached to the Stanfirth, broke under the weight of the storms.

Later, Heronspool’s captain, Master Cameron, reported he had never known such bad conditions for a towing operation.

Four times the Heronspool tried to get a line on board. The final time, the two ships were so close, the Heronspool scraped the paint off the side of the Stanfirth.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Stanfirth were praying in their cabins.

We would love to find out more of what happened to the crew.

Get in touch by contacting Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email