Saturday, 20 September 2014


Seychelles 1989 stamp of 'Liberty '; one of set commemorating the 125th Anniversary of International Red Cross
The ocean going steam ship that caught my attention on my previous World War 1 post was the 'Liberty' whose owners had the unfortunate habit of dying on board.  At the outbreak of war it was in the possession of Courtenay Morgan who in 1913 had succeeded his uncle as Vicount Tredegar and inherited an income of £1000 a day and £2.5M in the bank.  With  all that money one of the first things he did was purchase the steam yacht 'Liberty' and  as you can see he had an eye for beautiful ships.
Photograph from Roll of Honour - ships
  With the outbreak of war in 1914 Vicount Tredegar offered Liberty to the Admiralty and paid for it to be fitted out as a hospital ship (initially also providing and paying for the crew).  Leaving home he took command of the yacht and was given the title of Commander of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves.  The Seychelles stamp at the top shows it in its Red Cross guise.  The question in my mind was why had the War Illustrated referred to it as Lady Tredegar's yacht?  The daughter of James Carnegie, 9th Earl of Southesk Lady Katherine ran with the arty set in London and from all reports grew to loath her husband "with a passion" as he was her exact opposite being the archetypal hunting and shooting lord of the manor.  However Lady Tedegar took an active part in the war effort running fundraisers, galas concerts and exhibitions.  She also loaned out her London town house at 37 Bryanston Square to the fledgling Royal Flying Corps who opened it as a  hospital in May 1916 where, after a visit by the King and Queen in 1917, she also contributed £372 to cover maintenance of the hospital for 6 months and an extra bed. Given all this she must also have been involved with Liberty's use as a hospital ship.
Postcard of Liberty as a Hospital Ship from Newport Past
Lord Tredegar's command of Liberty only lasted until 1915 when he was transferred to the Royal Naval Division in charge of recruitment in Wales and in 1916 Liberty set sail for the Mediterranean with a full set of naval and medical crew.

After the war Lord Tredegar once again took charge of the yacht, refitted it, and embarked on a world cruise visiting every colony in the then British Empire and every state in the Commonwealth.  As far as I can gather Lady Katherine remained in London and continued her life but became "delightfully dotty" building and sitting in human sized bird's nests.  Her son Evan had a liking for parties and wildlife and kept a menagerie of animals at their country seat which including a boxing kangaroo called Somerset .  He would be the last of the Tredegar line (his sister having committed suicide) and today their 17th Century house is in the care of the National Trust and considered "one of the wonders of Wales"
The fate of the Liberty did not last as long for after Courtenay Morgan had sailed around the world he sold the steam yacht to the shipping magnate Sir Robert Houston in 1919/20 who died on-board in 1926 leaving the ship in his will to his wife Lucy, Lady Houston.   She spent much of her time living on the yacht and famously in 1932 when she had offered the British government money to strengthen the army and navy (and been turned down), sailed around the British coast with a huge electric sign on the Liberty's rigging with the words 'Down with Macdonald the Traitor'. After Lady Houston's death in 1936 Liberty was sold to John Cashmore for scrap and dismantled at Newport in 1938, only thirty years after her original launch in 1908.

Ship Stamps, 2 Oct 2008  -" Liberty yacht"
Lost Hospitals of London - Royal Flying Corps Hospitals
Gentleman Spy Blog - Evan's Ladies No 1 (Lady Katherine 1867-1949)
Gentleman Spy Blog - The Lords Tredegar (Courtenay Morgan 1867-1934)
Steff Ellis' Tredegar House - Evan Morgan and the First World War
Wikipedia - Lucy, Lady Houston

1 comment:

retriever said...

Wonderfull yacht,Greeting from Belgium.


Mons in Belgium My city