Captain Ken #34 - Stockport

Captain Ken Owen had a long career at sea which included sailing as master with Overseas Containers Limited (OCL), P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd.   Ken is now retired and in 2020 he started writing a monthly article for publication using the pen name 'Captain Ken' in the Mellor Church Outlook magazine.

A number of articles that Ken has written are about his time at sea and he has very kindly agreed that we can share them here.  

This is the 34th in the series of PONL Heritage Captain Ken's articles.  In this one Ken starts with an account of the loss of the S.S. Stockport in February 1943 and then on to an accident on a Glen Line ship that saw him receive medical treatment and recuperation care in Stockport, the town.

(This article was first published in the February 2023 edition of the Mellor Church Outlook Magazine).

On the 23rd of this month it will be 80 years since the convoy rescue ship S.S. ‘Stockport’ was torpedoed  and sunk with the entire crew of 64 souls.  [Nb: This article was first written and published in 2023 so marked the 80th Anniversary]


I have always been most impressed by the way the Hazel Grove branch of the Royal Naval Association, has organised memorial Services at Norbury Parish Church, and Parades, to mark each anniversary of the terrible disaster.  The art award winning memorial railings on the Mersey riverbank at Knightsbridge are a tribute to both the RNA and to Stockport Council.


Some indication of the Council’s involvement was evident, when at the RNA’s Trafalgar Night dinner at Alma Lodge, last year, no less than the current Mayor of Stockport, and six former mayors were guests at the dinner.


The tragic loss of the ‘Stockport’ seemed to coincide with the turning point in the War, when within months, the U-boat that had sunk her, was herself destroyed with all hands.

I was only a small boy at Ludworth school when these events took place, but not many years later, I was a teenage midshipman on ‘Glenbeg’, a former Liberty ship run by Alfred Holt’s Glen Line and carrying munitions for our forces in the Korean War.  To us young cadets it was just good fun, but to the captain and senior officers it must have been quite terrifying as they had already suffered the worst of war and were now supplying our troops in Korea and then loading in China, whose troops were fighting us in Korea.

All had gone reasonably well, and homeward bound we were headed for Amsterdam.  Whilst steaming up the Channel, all efforts were being made to paint the ship before arrival.

To encourage us to hurry up with the painting, we were given ‘job and finish’, which meant in those days, knock off as soon as you’ve completed the work.

That’s where I came to grief.  I was painting the ventilators by the after mast,.  My ladder wasn’t properly secured and I fell 15 feet on to the steel deck.  

I woke up to discover I had damaged my face which was covered in blood, and my right wrist was very seriously broken.  Of course we had no doctor on board, and the captain and chief officer, guided by the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, thought my wrist was simply dislocated and were attempting to pull it in place when fortunately, the chief engineer’s wife, who had joined him for the voyage and was a former nurse took charge, realising it was a severe break.

I was landed ashore to hospital when the ship locked in to Ijmupiden in Holland .  They’d been treating so much worse wounds during the long war years, but they simply plastered my arm and put it in a sling, leaving my face covered in dried blood. They transferred me back to the ship, by this time berthed in Amsterdam.

The captain thought I should get home as soon as possible and sent another midshipman to accompany me home on the Hook of Holland Ferry.  The ferry was packed and there was no accommodation available, but the kind thoughtful stewards made me a bed with bags of laundry in the alleyway.


It was the worst journey in the world and followed by an eight-hour rail journey from Harwich to Manchester.  There, I was met by my father, and escorted home to Marple, and to the luxury of my own bed.

Stockport Infirmary (now Millennium House - Image: Wikipedia)

The next morning, my sister, who was a teacher at Woodley School, fell off her bike and my mother dent for the doctor.  When he had applied a couple of plasters and declared her OK, mother said ‘Do you think you could look at my son, while you’re still here?’  He was quite astounded at my condition and rushed me to the lovely old Stockport Infirmary.  There, they re-set my arm and were quite amazed at the former treatment.  

Eventually I was made fit again by attending rehabilitation at Stockport Lads’ Club, which was attended by injured Army and Royal Navy personnel, and coal miners.

All together a most satisfying experience and within six months I was happily back to sea.

See also:

For further articles in this series:

Captain Ken Owen's articles are being published on a regular basis here but if you are interested in reading others that he has written which we haven't yet used then please feel free to go to