A Big Ship in a Small Port – The S.S. Anna Comes to Montague

Shipping at Montague. Carter & Co. postcard ca. 1910.

The fall shipping season at Montague was always a busy time. Usually there were dozens of schooners, many from Newfoundland, calling at the port to pick up cargos of potatoes, turnips and other produce in the short gap between the harvest and the snows.  At the same time there were some small steamers such as the Enterprise engaged in the local coastal trade.   In November of 1913, however,  the port welcomed  a much larger vessel — perhaps the largest ever to visit the the wharves on the Montague River.

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Real Photo Postcard of the crew of the Anna 1913. Postcard from the collection of Phil Culhane.

The S.S. Anna was a Norwegian steamer which had been chartered by Montague shippers Poole & Thompson to take a cargo from Montague to Havana Cuba.  The Anna was a classic tramp steamer taking any cargos it could find to any port it could enter.

S.S. Anna, empty of cargo, in an unknown location. Might this be at Montague? The landforms beyond are similar to those in the Montague area.  photo: https://www.sjohistorie.no/en/skip/1225/bilder

The ship had been built in 1900  in a Norwegian shipyard located in Grimstad. The vessel was 241 feet long by  35 feet wide, with 1,237 gross register tonnage, 747 tons net. Although not particularly large by steamer measurement its passage up the winding channel of the Montague River must have required extraordinary skill as the vessel had a draft of almost 15 feet. Even more impressive is the fact that the river near the wharf at Montague was only slightly wider than the ship was long and turning it to return down river would have been difficult. 

The presence of the ship was sufficiently unusual that a local photographer, almost certainly William Cumming,  made a photographic record of the officers, most of the sixteen member crew, and two of the ships cats. This was turned into a real photo postcard, a copy of which seems to have been kept by a member of the crew, quite possibly the captain as the note on the back of the card is signed “R”.  The young captain, Roness Peterson (or Peetersen, in the Lloyds shipping record) impressed the Montague residents in that he had been commanding ships for more than thirteen years and the Anna for the last seven years. 

The Anna loaded only part of its cargo at Montague, probably because of the depth of water at the wharf and in the river, and took on the rest at Georgetown. The  ship loaded 9,060 barrels of potatoes, 1,194 bales of hay, and 109 barrels of apples bound for the Cuban capital. Although Poole & Thompson developed a trade in produce and timber with with Cuba over the years it had usually been small shipments carried by schooners and this appears to have been an attempt to develop the market to a new level.  In 1912 Poole & Thompson brought the Furness, Withy & Co. steamer Swansea Trader up the river which was reported to be the largest ship to visit the port to that date. However, at 160 feet and 315 register tons it was considerably smaller than the Anna. The experiment in large volume shipping seems not to have been repeated and the outbreak of the Great War turned shipping interests elsewhere.

S.S. Anna with a substantial deck cargo of timber at Bristol U.K. . Undated photo although likely after 1914,  Note the neutrality mark o large name and country of registration on the vessel side. This photo is likely the source of detail for the nautical watercolour reproduced below. Photo Norwegian Maritime Museum.

The War also changed the fortunes of the steamer Anna which does not appear to have re-visited Prince Edward Island.  Although Norway was neutral during the conflict, Norwegian registered ships often carried cargos contributing to the war effort and about half of the country’s merchant marine was sunk during the conflict. One of these was the Anna. On January 19th, 1917, the Anna, on a voyage from Almeria Spain to Glasgow with a cargo of esparto grass which, among other things was used to make rope, was scuttled and sunk by the German submarine UC-16, near the western approaches to the English Channel 80 miles west of Ushant on the Brittany coast. The Anna was one of 43 ships sunk by the UC-16 in the course of the war. The Anna’s crew were set adrift in lifeboats and there were no casualties. One wonders if the ship’s cats made it into the lifeboats.  Read more at wrecksite: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?173143   


Modern watercolour painting of S.S. Anna. This image is likely based on the photograph shown above. https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/media/anna.462265/full

This posting originated in a query from Phil Culhane of Ottawa who had acquired the postcard shown above.  I am grateful to him for simulating my interest. Further research of local newspapers, Norwegian websites and a listing in the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping confirmed the identification.  


8 thoughts on “A Big Ship in a Small Port – The S.S. Anna Comes to Montague

  1. Ingrid Servold

    When I glanced at the photo of the sailors I was reminded of my grandfather before I saw that it was a Norwegian crew, My dad’s dad, Hans Jakob Servold, left the west coast of Norway at age 14, 1907 to work on merchant ships. Eventually he jumped the boat in NYC in the late 1920’s to head out to Iowa for work on the land with Norwegian settlers . At some point in time later he contracted meningitis and was recommended a respite in warmer climes. He got to the west coast (Seattle) looking for work on the boats and found a Norwegian boat and crew heading to China, he was hired on. On return he headed north to BC, and eventually Alberta where he met my grandma in Camrose, a Norwegian immigrant community.
    At age 79, his took his only return trip to Norway, and went with my father to see the villlage of Os where he was born and to Eltravåg where he was in school until he went to sea.
    Thanks Harry for posting the story about the ship “Anna.”


    Found this on U-boat site

    Ships hit by U-boats

    Swedish Steam merchant

    Photo courtesy of Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm

    Name Anna
    Type: Steam merchant
    Tonnage 1,345 tons
    Completed 1924 – Howaldtswerke AG, Kiel
    Owner Rederi-A/B A.Th. Jonasson (Mauritz Jonasson), Råå
    Homeport Råå
    Date of attack 3 Jun 1942 Nationality: [https://www.uboat.net/media/images/flags/small/flag_sweden_s.png] Swedish

    Fate Sunk by U-404 (Otto von Bülow)
    Position 34° 10’N, 68° 22’W – Grid DC 3267
    Complement 20 (0 dead and 20 survivors).
    Route Norfolk – St. George’s, Bermuda
    Cargo 1739 tons of coal and two motor boats as deck cargo
    History Completed in September 1924
    Notes on event

    At 05.01 hours on 3 June 1942, U-404 opened fire with the deck gun at the unescorted and unarmed Anna (Master John Svensson) about 210 miles west-northwest of Bermuda, after the ship had been missed with two torpedoes at 03.09 and 04.50 hours. However, the gun crew had to cease fire after seven minutes because they were blinded by a searchlight from the ship, which then tried to communicate with the U-boat by signal lamp. In the moonlight the Germans could see Swedish neutrality markings, but decided to continue the attack because sailing on a zigzag course without any navigational lights set at night clearly indicated that the ship was not neutral. Two crew members were wounded during the attack and the entire crew soon abandoned ship in two lifeboats. At 08.50 hours, the Anna caught fire after three rounds were fired from close distance into one of the holds and she sank by the stern at 09.55 hours. All survivors were picked up after about 13 hours by the Swiss motor merchant Saentis in position 34°08N/68°43W. They were landed in New York on 5 June, after the ship also rescued survivors from the West Notus which had been sunk by the same U-boat on 1 June.

    On board We have details of 6 people who were on board.
    Leaflet | uboat.net

    Location of attack on Anna.

    [https://www.uboat.net/media/maps/googlemarkers/orange_Marker.png] ship sunk.

    If you can help us with any additional information on this vessel then please contact us.

    Return to Allied Ships hit by U-boats




    1. sailstrait Post author

      Thank you for the comment. If you read to the end of the Sailstrait posting you will see that the Norwegian (not Swedish) ship Anna was sunk in 1917, not 1942. The information you have provided relates to an entirely different vessel.

    1. sailstrait Post author

      Thank you for the link to a fascinating biography. Unfortunately the S.S. Anna mentioned in this account relates to an entirely different vessel; Swedish, not Norwegian. The Anna which visited Montague was sunk in 1917, not 1942. Its captain was Roness Peetersen While not relating to the Sailstrait posting, the Svensson story is none the less of great interest as it clearly shows how Scandinavian seamen played such a large role in shipping.


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