History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

CS Cambria
by Bill Glover

CS CAMBRIA

Built in 1905 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd.

Length 283.0 ft. Breadth 37.1ft Depth 16.2ft Gross tonnage 1959

CS Cambria at Burwick, Shetland Islands during the laying of the 1906 Iceland - Shetland - Faroes cable

Caption reads: The Iceland Cable.
Telegraph Steamer "Cambria" landing
the Cable at Burwick, Shetland (1906)

Built for the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company Ltd. Sold to the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1912. Chartered shortly after by the Western Telegraph Company for repair and renewal of cables on the east coast of South America. Followed by similar work for the Eastern in the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa during the first World War. In 1919 based at Zanzibar for the maintenance of cables in the area. Severely damaged in a storm, repairs were carried out in Durban and Cambria remained there as repair ship for the St Helena - Cape Town cable.

CS Cambria’s dog Mickey, circa 1923

Mickey
Sailors Dont Care
C.S. “Cambria”
1923
(or 1925; indistinct)

Photo courtesy of Keith Matthews

CS Cambria was put up for sale in 1928, but instead was taken over by Imperial & International Communications Ltd. in 1929. Transferred to the West Indies in 1930 as repair ship. Refitted in 1935 then carried out renewal work on cables between Montevideo and the Amazon delta. This was followed by a transfer to the Mediterranean and then back to the West Indies and South America.

September 1939 working with HMS Lasso, an Admiralty cable ship, on harbour defence work at Dover. Moved to Plymouth as repair ship in the Western Approaches. 1940-41 based at Halifax, Nova Scotia on Atlantic cable duties, returning to the West Indies in 1942, remaining there until the end of the war.

CABLE WORK

Capt. J.E. Leach:

1905

MAIN-5: Canso, Nova Scotia - Waterville, Ireland - Weston super Mare, England

1906

Shetland Islands - Faroe Islands - Iceland

1907

Barcelona - Majorca

1910

Ascension - Buenos Aires, Argentina

1912

Abbotscliffe, England - Cap Gris Nez , France 4

Capt. Campos:

1911

Cape Cruz - Cienfuegos

1912

Syracuse, Sicily - Benghazi - Tripoli, Libya

CABLE REPAIRS

Capt. J.E. Leach:

1905

Sennen Cove - Canso 1880, 1881 cables

1905

Borkum - Lowestoft 1871 cable

1905

Borkum - Fayal 1903 cable

1905

Sennen Cove - Canso 1881, 1882 cables

1906

Valentia - Heart's Content 1874 cable

1906

Sennen Cove - Canso 1882 cable

1906

Ponce - St. Croix 1875 cable

1906

Jamaica - San Juan 1870 cable

1906

Jamaica - Colon 1870 cable

1906

Jamaica - Cuba 1870, 1878 cables

1906

Valentia - Heart's Content 2 repairs 1873 cable

1906

Sennen Cove - Canso 2 repairs 1881 cable

1907

Valentia - Hearts Content 1874 cable

1907

Sennen Cove - Canso 1881, 1882 cables

1907

Valentia - Hearts Content 1874, 1880 cables

1907

Borkum - Vigo 1896 cable

1908

Brest - Dakar 1905 cable

1908

Valentia - Hearts Content 1894 cable

1908

Sennen Cove - Canso 1881, 1882 cables

1908

Ballinskelligs - Halifax 1874 cable

1908

Cadiz - Tenerife 1883 cable

1908

Las Palmas - Lanzarote 1884 cable. New shore end Las Palmas

1908

Sennen Cove - Canso 1881 cable

1908

Valentia - Hearts Content 1894 cable

1909

Borkum - Fayal 1903 cable

1909

Valentia - Hearts Content 2 repairs to 1874 cable

1909

Coney Island - Guantanamo Bay 1907 cable

1910

Sennen Cove - Canso 1882 cable

Capt. Campos:

1911

Cienfuegos - Santiago diversion and repair to 1875 cable

1911

Cienfuegos - Casilda 2 repairs to 1895 cable

OTHER DUTIES

Capt. Campos:

1911

Sennen Cove - Canso recovering UK ends 1881 and 1882 cables

See the Cableship Stamps page for more information on Cambria

CS Cambria at Greenwich
Image courtesy of
The East London Postcard Site

On the 8th November 1945 while anchored in Montevideo harbour CS Cambria was hit by the Uruguayan ship Almirante Rodriguez Luis and sank. The New York Times reported that:

The British cable-laying ship Cambria was sunk today in a harbor collision with the 3,517-ton Uruguayan steamer Rodriguez Luis. The 1,817-ton Cambria was operated by the British Cable and Wireless Company. Its crew of eighty-eight were saved.

Thanks to Gustavo Coll and Michael Hacking for providing the official report and press photographs of the sinking, reproduced below. Michael’s father John Hacking was serving on Cambria at the time of the collision.

12th November 1945

The Managing Director
Cable & Wireless Ltd.
Electra House
LONDON WC.2

Dear Sir,

I much regret to report the sinking of C.S. “Cambria” whilst lying moored with two anchors in Montevideo Bay.

At 2217 on the 8th November the vessel was struck by the Uruguayan steamer “Almirante Rodriguez Luis” on the starboard bow whilst entering the harbour on passage from New York at an estimated speed of eight knots.

I beg to enclose herewith copy of log entries made,
and action taken in an endeavour to tow vessel into shallower water before touching bottom, also photographs taken by the press soon after the collision before vessel sank and at daylight.

Protest has been lodged with H.B.H Consul and also with the Uruguayan Authorities.

I have interviewed Messrs. Chadwick Weir & Co. as instructed by your SG. I/N as appointed agents to deal with the ship in matters of the collision, also with Mr. Raul Jude, legal adviser to Messrs. Chadwick Weir & Co.

Captain Daniel was appointed surveyor by Lloyds’ agent and his report and recommendations were contained in our I/PS.

I much regret our endeavours to save “Cambria” from sinking before making shallow water were unavailing.

Yours faithfully

SP Sheldon
Commander.

 
Report taken from notes of the collision between C.S. “Cambria” & Uruguayan S.S. “Almirante Rodriguez Luiz”, log book having been lost when “Cambria” sank.
8th November 1945
2217 “Cambria" struck by Uruguayan steamer “Almirante Rodrigues Luiz” on starboard bow between No.1 & No.2 cable tanks, ripping open two or more plates to the extent of approximately nine feet, possibly rupturing No.2 cable tank which filled rapidly. Vessel started to make water rapidly. All water-tight doors closed, main deck scuttles closed & deadlights lowered. Mr D.J. Davis third Officer, was on deck and witnessed the collision.
2230 Orders given to increase pressure of steam on boilers as steam was going back, firemen having left stokehold at time of collision. Decided to slip anchors and endeavour to tow stern first into shallower water.
2435 Uruguayan Harbour Board Officer boarded offering to render assistance, tug in attendance. Crew unrequired for duty were ordered to board tug, standing by on Port quarter.
2315 Port anchor slipped but unable to pick up or pay out Starboard chain owing to low steam pressure. Tug made fast Aft, towing in effort to drag out starboard chain to next shackle, but this unavailing; efforts being made to cut through chain cable with hack saw meanwhile.
2330 Harbour Board Officer sent request for two additional tugs also for oxy-acetylene apparatus to cut through Starboard cable, ship’s acetylene cutter having proved unsuitable.
2345 View of ship rapidly & sinking & known poor condition of bunker bulkhead, orders given to draw fires & stokehold ratings to board tug.
9th November 1945.
0040 No further tugs were available & vessel now listing rapidly, orders given for all hands to board tug.
0045 Chief Officer reported chain cable half severed by hack-saw but fore-deck awash & possibility that bulk-head had carried away, lights failed for lack of steam.
0055 All hands ordered to board tug.
0100 Chief Engineer fell from Pilot ladder into water when attempting to board tug, but subsequently picked up.
0105 Vessel heavily listed & sank.
0110 Tugs with survivors proceeded to land at quay.
0120 Mr Forrest had previously been informed ship had been struck & had made arrangements for accommodating crew & landing Mr Main, Chief Engineer, to British Hospital.
0150 Captain, Chief Electrician and Chief Officer returned to the ship with Harbour Authorities to examine position before wiring Head Office.
0230 Interviewed Captain of Port regarding the accident & made arrangements to lodge protest at 0900 Despatched our SG I/CI, informing London of the position.
 

SP Sheldon
Commander

The Cambria’s Captain, Stanley Philip Sheldon, was born in Islington, London, on 30 July 1895 and went to sea in 1911. His earliest service was on commercial vessels, the first being Rollesby, which he joined on 3 November 1911 at age 16 and left on 2 November 1915, a four-year apprenticeship.

Sheldon was certified by the Board of Trade as Second Mate on 7 July 1917 and First Mate on 22 February 1919. On 13 October 1926 he received his Master’s Certificate.

According to his service history when he was certified as Master in 1926, Sheldon’s first cable ship was Lady Denison Pender in 1920, followed by Electra, Transmitter, John Pender, and Transmitter again. There are no records showing his subsequent service up until his command of Cambria; at the time of its sinking he would have been aged 60.

[Board of Trade Masters and Mates Certificates, ancestry.com]

CS Cambria after the collision
Images courtesy of Gustavo Coll

Gustavo Coll writes:
You will notice that Cambria is still carrying a gun, obviously having not returned to England after the end of the war. Furthermore, from documents in my possession, at the time of sinking there were two gunners on board.

Gustavo Coll has his own telegraph history website, based on his experiences in the cable industry in Uruguay.


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Last revised: 15 August, 2015

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