THE Milford Haven fishing history is steeped in memories, and inevitably it has had its fair share of highs and lows, good times and bad, joys and sorrows.

This week's TRM is unique in reminding us all of one particular low. In his own words, recalled in a heartfelt letter, here is…"WHAT I REMEMBER ABOUT THE LOSS OF THE M T MILFORD VISCOUNT. By Skipper H. L. Thompson...'Milford Knight'

"The Milford Viscount was launched on April 4, 1948.

“On April 4...1950…my wife and me, and the chairman's directors, were at Selby for the launching of the Milford Knight. At the launching speech, Mr Lewis Cochrane, the builders chairman, made a speech, which I was to think about several years after. His words were..'It is two years to the day that we launched the Milford Viscount, and I sincerely hope this ship will be as lucky as the Milford Viscount has been’.

“Little did we all know that the Viscount, at that moment, was laying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, as later she was presumed lost on, or about, the 1st or 2nd April.

“Well, we all arrived home at Milford Haven on the Saturday night.

“I was at a silver wedding party, the skipper of the Milford Viscount's wife, Alex Smith was there. I said to her 'I thought Alex would have been here’.

“She remarked…'No…he could not come for the weekend, he will be here tomorrow, Sunday’.

“I said…'Have you heard from him?' She said…'No’.

“Well, on the Monday I said to Mr Ward, who was the managing director of the firm, that I thought Alex would have landed on the Monday. He told me that he had no news from the ship, but no doubt his wireless had broken down, which very often happened in them days.

“Well, I must admit I was very concerned in my mind, but I never said so.

“On the Tuesday, still no news, or Wednesday and Thursday. Messages were now being sent to the fleet, to hear if any ship had seen her, or heard her on the air.

“But nobody had heard or seen her for several days.

“Apparently, the Settsu Skipper N Brown, was the last ship to see her fishing in the deep waters off the Porcupine Bank area. The weather was then coming on very bad. Well, after this there was no news. The Milford trawlers and Swansea ships decided to start a search, Skipper A Saunders in the Milford Duke took charge.

“All fishing was abandoned for the time. They searched over a very wide area. At night, Skipper Saunders asked for complete wireless silence for about 10 minutes, so he could call the Viscount, as they thought he was drifting, and the transmitter was out of action. It was very pathetic to hear Albert calling…'Can you hear me Alex? If you can't speak, make a noise so we can hear you’.

“This went on several nights, but no sound. I well remember one night, a certain skipper would not get off the air…they just kept talking about nothing in particular. Well, knowing Skipper Saunders, I thought I am sure he will be telling them gentlemen off when they decide to finish their story. Well he did get in touch, he told them off in a very nice way, and finished off by saying…'To both of you, I only hope that you will never be in the same position as this ship who we are trying to find'.

“Needless to say I believe one of their own ships told them, too, what he thought of them.

“Now ashore at Milford Haven, people began to worry. Messages keep coming in from far and near to say that they had heard the Viscount on their sets. Well some were too fantastic for words.

“I will just quote a few positions…in the ice off Greenland…off position was near Coventry by the Longitude and Latitude. Nearly everyone varied. Days passed, and no news, only rumours.

“By this time, the press had got to work. Mr Ward did not have a minute’s rest, in fact, he came one night to stay at our house to try and get a little rest. But we were about all night with our phone going all the time. I can picture it now, with a big chart spread all over the floor, and listening to the wireless to the ships on the search, my wife ferrying coffee all night, so no sleep was had by anybody.

“By now the Press had descended on Milford Haven. In fact, on the next Sunday, Mr Ward sent them over to see me. They filled our front room firing questions. I told them from the start I could only tell them the facts as I knew them. I did not want to be drawn into anything I could not prove.

“Anyway, my thanks for that was…'NOT VERY SENSATION'... BY SKIPPER'. By this time the search was still going on by the Milford and Swansea fishing fleet, but no help from anyone else.

“So Skipper Saunders, and other skippers at sea, decided to send a strong message to Whitehall. This was it…'TO THE FIRST SEALORD...When Navy ask for help…fishermen respond. When fishermen ask for help, Navy cannot spare a punt!'

“After, the HMS Wizard went to the scene, but did not stop long. Sometime afterward the C in C Plymouth Admiral McGregor came to Milford Haven. He told Mr Ward that there were so many conflicting reports, they did not know where to start. By this time hope was rapidly fading.

“Then a report came in that two lifebuoys, with the ship's name on had been picked up on the west coast of Ireland, which I personally thought was not a very good sign. But I was assured that one of our ships had lost two a few trips ago in bad weather.

“Still, I'm afraid I was pessimistic about it all and I think nearly all the fishermen were the same.

“Now it came time for Mr Ward to go around all the crew's houses, to tell the wives and families that the ship was missing. A job I knew he would be most upset.

“Well, he was advised by friends not to go to the skipper’s house, as Mrs Smith's dad had been suffering from heart trouble. They thought that when she saw him at the door, it might be fatal. So, I had the job of breaking the news to her. I would say the worst job I ever had in my life. What I said, I cannot remember a word to this day.

“Well, after two or three days Mr Ward was at our house at 6 o'clock in the morning.

“He nearly knocked the door down, as he was so excited. He said that they had received a message to say the Viscount had been picked up, and was in tow.

“But he did not know the name of the ship. Still, it was wonderful news, so he had to go ‘round to all the families to tell them the glad tidings. Everybody was jubilant.

“But alas, it was a cruel hoax, so I'm afraid Mr Ward had to round again, and tell the families the dreaded news. How tragic.

“Well, after that tragedy, the Richard Crofts was lost with tragic loss of life.

“I am sure it shortened Mr Ward's life, as he was a man who had a deep feeling for his men. He found time to talk to them all…skippers or deckies.

“Well, after the Viscount was finally given up as lost with all hands, her position was not solved till the Milford Duchess, Skipper Jobson, trawled up several bundles of new nets similar to which the Viscount used. But then she trawled up an echo sounder, which proved to be the one the Viscount had, according to the serial number. So now they knew where she was, very close to where she was last seen, so the mystery was solved.

“I attended the inquiry, and also the memorial service. When the vicar read out all the names of the ship, I am sure there were not many dry eyes. I knew every one of the crew, and the skipper was one of my dearest friends.

“Since that tragedy I am sorry to say Skipper Saunders and Mr Ward have passed away, who, I am proud to say I classed as true friends also.

“Well, this is the end of a tragic story which is true, as near as I can describe it.”

Skipper H L Thompson. Milford Knight.

I am most grateful to Alan Thompson for sending me copies of his father's letter, and, to go with it, here is a snap of the Viscount.

I'll end with teasers. Les Haynes caused much head scratching last week, but the answer to his poser was...31st December. Those who sussed it out were…Joyce Layton, Charles Weatherall, Elinor Jones and Joan Earles.

Thanks to all who had a go.

No teaser this week…I'm having a break next week. Ta ra.