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Description

The BELFORD was a three-masted schooner owned by R. Thomas & Co, Liverpool. In summer 1916, she crossed the Atlantic to load barley. While she was anchored in San Francisco, Captain William Davies and members of his family and crew enjoyed the sites and took several snapshots. In two of the photographs, a boy is handling the BELFORD’s telescope, one of only two items that were later rescued from the ship when she was sunk 100 miles SW of Ireland by the German submarine U 45 on 3 February 1917.

Captain William Davies’s son, J Ifor Davies, recorded his father’s memories of the sinking:

‘The German commander ordered to crew to take to their boats, and peremptorily refused to allow to salvage any of their belongings. The only article which Father managed to rescue was his telescope.
It did not take long to dispose of the Belford, and, although Father never cared to dwell upon the episode, he admitted that seeing her go down slowly, bow first, and with her poop high in the air, was one of the saddest moments of his life.
When they had taken to the boats, the German commander insisted upon towing them inshore. Father questioned his motives but was in no position to refuse. The boats were therefore roped together and tied to the U-boat. The carpenter sat in the bow of the leading boat, with instructions to use his axe at the first sign of danger. After working up a good speed the U-boat suddenly dived, with the clear intention of dragging the boats down with it, but the ropes parted and the axe was not needed.
Having spent over 48 hours adrift in dirty weather, they were picked up by the destroyer HMS Myosotis and landed in Bantry Bay.’ (J Ifor Davies: Growing up among Sailors, Gwynedd Archive Service, p. 85)

This document was brought to the attention of the U-Boat Project 1914-18 by William Davies's grandsons, John Davies, Denbigh, and David Davies, Mold, who inherited their grandfathers' documents and naval artefacts and kindly allowed us to share it.

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