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

CS Lady Denison-Pender
by Bill Glover

CS LADY DENISON-PENDER

CS Lady Denison Pender at Port Sudan.

Built in 1920 by Fairfield Ship Building and Engineering Co., Glasgow

Length 269.2 ft Breadth 38.1 ft Depth 23.8 ft Gross tonnage 1984

General Arrangements: Profile and Rig for
CS Lady Denison-Pender, dated 31 May 1919
Detail of hull

Built for the Eastern Telegraph Company as a repair ship and fitted out by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company. Transferred to Imperial & International Communications Ltd in 1929 and then to Cable & Wireless Ltd in 1934. Based at Aden, undertaking repairs in the Indian Ocean and down the east coast of Africa as far as Zanzibar up until 1938. From 1938 until the outbreak of war carried out repairs in the West Indies.

For the duration of the war the crew consisted of men from the island of St Helena. In 1940 returned to Aden surviving a number of raids by Italian bombers. Moved again following these raids, this time working in the Atlantic. In January 1943 diverted the Malaga - Azores cable, belonging to Italcable, into Gibraltar and Las Palmas. Two months later, while acting as Convoy Commodore on a run from Gibraltar to Freetown, Sierra Leone, she had a narrow escape when a torpedo passed under her stern. All the other merchant vessels in the convoy were sunk.

Ken Smith was a cable jointer on CS Lady Denison-Pender during this period, and tells the first-hand story of the attack on the convoy, and other incidents.

During 1944-5 undertook repair work in the North Atlantic, South America, Pacific and Caribbean, most of this work being carried out without any escorts. Moved back to Aden in 1946 and worked there and off the Brazilian coast until 1958, returning to the West Indies for a further five years. Withdrawn from service in 1963 and scrapped in Belgium.

CS Lady Denison Pender at Mombasa, Kenya, c. 1961
Image courtesy of Mike Breeze

The images below were provided by Ray Banks, who writes:

My contact with the Lady Denison-Pender was for the several weeks when she came into the Humber Graving Dock at Immingham in Lincolnshire for a lengthy refit. I was employed by the Dry Dock Company as a ‘Fire and Security Officer’ - there were two of us on each shift, and the main part of our job was to work with the Burners and Welders on board ships under repair during working hours, and patrol the ships on fire watch during the nights.

It was, I believe, the very early 60’s, but after 50 years memory gets suspect! I do remember however that the new Henderson dry dock was under construction at the time, and as a young lad in his early 20’s I had no qualms about climbing up on one of the big crane jibs to get a picture!

Ray's photo of the Henderson Dry Dock under construction.
Work began in 1957 and the dock opened for service in 1960.

The LDP arrived from somewhere off South America, most of the working crew being Portuguese from around Recife in Brazil. The cockroaches in the galley at night were monstrous, but they soon succumbed to our colder weather when the ship went dead!

CS Lady Denison-Pender in full regalia; photograph
given to Ray Banks by one of the ship's officers

After the ship ‘blew down’ and de-commissioned, we didn’t see much of the officers; most went home on leave, and the Portuguese crew were moved into Nissan huts on the quayside. Outside working hours there was always one of the three Quartermasters standing his watch on board. During our nightly fire patrols, we became very friendly with these chaps, although the crew in general spoke very little English, and we had a lot of fun teaching them snippets of the language while they in return taught us phrases in Portuguese. After we patrolled the ship at night with the Quartermaster, they would always invite us back to the galley and offer us coffee, with the standard sentence of 'You fa kof’? (You for coffee?) which didn’t sound too amiable until you realised what they were saying!

Ray Banks at the stern gangway of the Lady Denison-Pender. She
had unusual outboard lifeboat davits, which may be seen in the photo.

Lucas, one of the LDP's quartermasters, poses for a souvenir
picture at the Henderson Quay with the LDP in the background

Last revised: 26 August, 2012

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