© Charlie Hill of Swinefleet near Goole.
Completed 1968 from the Rolandwerft at Bremen, Germany, and delivered as the cargo vessel VESTLOLLIK O.X.C.N. (Nakskov). Owners: Partnership Vestlolland c/o K. A. A. Rasmussen of Nakskov, Denmark. IMO 6806731.
Yard no 951 – GRT 1400 / 781 – NRT 921 / 363 – TDW 2400 / 1500 – Measurements: 79.20 / 72.00 (lpp) x 12.20
Subsequent History: 1972 MERC ENTERPRISE O.X.C.N. (København) – Owners: Partnership Merc-Scandia V, a company under the umbrella of MERCANDIA Company of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Disposal Data: She capsized & sank 17 n.m. to the South of Eddystone LH on 16.01.1974 with the tragic loss of 7 lives. The vessel was on voyage from Le Treport to Cork, carrying barley in bulk.
Images show the vessel as the MERC ENTERPRISE in service, and further below you will find images from the dramatic rescue at her tragic loss in 1974. Mr. Lars Brunkman of Helsingborg, Sweden, has kindly supplied an image of the Soviet trawler LENINGRAD, which also played an essential role in the rescue.
16. January 1974 was indeed a day of sorrow in Danish seafaring history
7SEASVESSELS.COM wishes with this article, especially to pay tribute to the exceedingly brave air force crews from Germany and Great Britain who came to the rescue of the stricken vessel – may their bravery and fortitude in this action never be forgotten – therefore, please read the citations below:
The Captain is hoisted from the sea, assisted by one of the brave German rescuers. The name Schuler or Schüler is seen in his helmet. The rescuer’s facial expression clearly shows, describing way beyond what words can tell, the strenuous effort required on this rescue mission.
“Outstanding among the rescues of 1974 was that of the MERC ENTERPRISE which capsized in 50 ft waves and 80 kt winds. During a rescue lasting 2’2hr, the naval crews performed magnificently and were rewarded by two AFCs and three AFMs”.
Awards for helicopter crews:
The Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society is to present engraved tankards to the crew of three Royal Navy and two Federal German Navy Westland Sea Kings which rescued seven people and recovered five bodies from the sea off the Devon coast last January. The five helicopters, from RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, were called out when the Danish coaster Merc Enterprise capsized. Winds exceeded 50 kt, with gusts to 80 kt, and waves were up to 60ft high.
The awards recognise “the very high degree of courage, fortitude and perseverance shown by all the men involved in the face of extremely unpleasant and dangerous conditions“.
Petty Officer Fowles was an air crewman in one of the helicopters called to the rescue of the Danish merchant vessel “MERC ENTERPRISE” which had capsized in exceptionally heavy seas south of Plymouth. Conditions were very severe with winds gusting to 70 knots and waves of 30 to 50 feet from crest to trough. On sighting an apparently unconscious person in the water the aircraft was brought to the hover to enable Petty Officer Fowles to be lowered into the sea to recover the body by means of a double lift. The attempt was frustrated when he received facial injuries from the winch wire which suddenly tautened in a deep wave trough. Undaunted by the adverse conditions and his personal injuries Petty Officer Fowles continued in his efforts to recover two bodies from the sea but without success. His perseverance, courage and fortitude were in the highest traditions of the Service.
Able Seaman A. J. Williams was an air crewman in one of the Sea King helicopters called out from the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose to assist in the rescue operation when the Danish merchant vessel ” MERC ENTERPRISE ” capsized in very adverse weather conditions, south of Plymouth. On arrival the pilot, despite winds gusting to 70 knots and waves up to 50 feet, fought to maintain a low hover height so that Able Seaman Williams might be lowered on the aircraft winch wire in order to recover a body from the sea. He was several times dragged through the crests of waves to be swung violently in the air and eventually he had to be raised ‘to prevent being struck by another wave. In spite of this Able Seaman Williams made a further attempt and succeeded in grasping the body as he was swept downward, and they were winched back into the aircraft. His persistence in the task, with little regard for his own personal safety, and his courage and fortitude were in the highest traditions of the Royal Navy.
Five Culdrose Sea Kings, including two German a/c from the Foreign Training Unit (the others from 706 and 824 Squadrons) lifted seven crew from a 480 ton Danish coaster when hurricane force winds were blowing down the Channel, and a further four who had been picked up by a Soviet trawler. The ship had capsized off Plymouth. One of the German aircraft and the 824 aircraft suffered severe salt ingestion in the engines, and both made cautionary landings in fields on the way back to Culdrose. The turbine blades were found to have severe corrosion.
On 16 January 1974, near the coast of Plymouth, a British Sea King helicopter together with two German Sea Kings (89+51 and 89+55) saved eleven men in a severe storm from the Danish freighter ‘Merc Enterprise’.
Just four weeks later the same three helicopters rescued twenty-eight men from the freight ship ‘Lutria’. The ship’s crew had to abandon their ship and were already in lifeboats, on a sea with waves thirty to fifty feet high – despite these terrible weather conditions, the ship’s entire crew was saved.
Station honours: At Plymouth Lifeboat Station the following awards have been made:
Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum 13
Bronze Medal 5
Silver Medal 15
1974 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain John Dare for assisting the Merc Enterprise in difficulties in hurricane force winds and phenomenal seas.
© Lars Brunkman of Helsingborg, Sweden – The LENINGRAD Northbound passing Helsingborg 03 May 1980.
The Soviet factory trawler with side no. NB-0273, which managed to rescue 4 crew from the stricken vessel, was the LENINGRAD (IMO 6922042), built 1969 (# b26/34) at the Gdanska Lenina Yard at Gdansk, Poland. She was a co-called “Kosmos” type, a vessel of GRT 2947 – TDW 1316 measuring 83.10 / 78.00 (lpp) x 13.90. She was broken up at Alang on 20.12.1994.
Machinery Overview: 1 oil engine driving 1 FP propeller at 225 rpm – Total Power: Mcr 1,765kW (2,400hp) – Service Speed: 12.75kts.
Prime Mover Detail: Design: Sulzer, Engine Builder: Zaklady Przemyslu Metalowego ‘H Cegielski’ SA – Poznan – 1 x 8TD48, 2 Stroke, Single Acting, In-Line (Vertical) – 8 Cy. 480 x 700, Mcr: 1,765 kW (2,400 hp) at 225 rpm.
7seasvessels.com salutes likewise our Russian colleagues for their exceptional display of seamanship in very dangerous, adverse weather conditions. Their endeavour bears witness to a display of seamanship of the highest order attainable. One can only imagine the tremendous and skilful effort required of the Captain and crew in order to succeed in saving 4 crew members from the Danish ship.
We who operated ships on the oceans and lived to tell the tale, have always held in the absolutely highest regard, the brave men and women who comes for us when needed. They come with little or no regard to their own safety, and regardless of weather conditions.
This article is a tribute to their courage, fortitude and selflessness in executing this most honourable profession, which they have chosen for themselves. May they be remembered, honoured, and appreciated forever.