Philomel (1945-1971)

As of June 2024, little remains of the small wooden motor vessel that worked in and around the Falkland Islands for almost 25 years, mainly as a coastal supply and mail ship.

Built in Sandhaven, Aberdeenshire, by J G Forbes and Company, as a motorised fishing vessel in 1945.  Her hull was framed in oak and clad with coniferous larch wood, renowned for being rot-proof. She was fitted with a Lister diesel engine and could carry around 40 tons of cargo at speeds of up to 8.5 knots.

The Philomel was bought by the Falkland Islands Government for about £14,500 a few years after she had been launched and arrived in Stanley on 11th February 1948.  She operated as a coastal supply ship for about 18 years and found a special place in the hearts and minds of many islanders. When she was  replaced by the Forrest, the Falkland Islands Monthly Review of 4th September 1967 had this to say: “This little vessel; has served the Colony well and camp people will, we are sure, miss her welcome calls with cargo and mails.”

Key Facts:

steam drifter icon

Diesel-powered wooden coaster

Built: Sandhaven, Scotland
Size: 21.08 x 6.00 x 3.05, 77 gross tons, 34 net
Fate: Burned out and beached

In February 1969, Philomel was bought by Falkland Islander, Freddie Jones (I note that Peter spells Freddy with a y – which is correct?) and she was used for a variety of tasks.

On the 2nd of July 1971, at around 6:00 pm, the fire brigade in Stanley received an alert that a ship was on fire in the harbour.  When they arrived at the Public Jetty in the harbour, they found the Philomel , anchored off the F.I.C. West Jetty, blazing furiously.

Members of the brigade boarded the tug Lively, which had firefighting equipment on board, and headed for the burning vessel. With the help of another tug, the Forrest, the blaze was eventually brought under control, or so they thought.

The Philomel had become filled with water and it was decided to berth her alongside Packe’s Jetty. Forrest towed her to this spot, with Philomel’s owner, Freddy Jones, on board.  Some time later, Jones discovered that fire had re-ignited and he called for help. As the fire once again began to spread, endangering Packe’s Jetty and the hulk of the Jhelum, Lively was tasked to tow Philomel to the west of Fairy Cove where she was beached, still burning.

The tiny vessel continued to burn for two more days, through Saturday and into Sunday, before the fire burned itself out and she was declared a total loss. What’s left of her today can be seen in our FMHT video featuring drone footage taken by Falkland resident Mark Spicer.

In 2019, on the 4th March, the Falklands Post Service Limited issued a £1.01p stamp depicting the wreck of the Philomel as part of a set of four famous Falkland Islands shipwrecks. The others were the Plym (76p), the Lily (31p) and the Protector (£1.22p).  The Plym and the Lily can also be found on our Wreckhunter map and within the Maritime Archive.

Falklands wreck stamps

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