That broken propeller

To make a change from news regarding Covid, here's a reprint of an article from our Winter 2017 newsletter by Stephen Attenborough. You can get the latest newsletters and help support our work by becoming a member. Have a look at this page on our website for further information

Many times while volunteering on board Freshspring have I heard people remarking on the damaged propeller on Freshspring, if you haven't seen this, the tip of two blades are missing. Until recently, we believed that those tips were lost at the hands of her first private owners in the 1980's, Messrs Oswald Burgess and Graham Fox, while manoeuvring in Bristol when she came too close to the quay wall, due to the combination of her counterstern and low quay wall.


Recent contact with the brother of Mr Fox, Lawrence, has provided another theory. It is now believed that the propeller was damaged by a huge 8’x5’x2’ timber fender, which was used to hold the ship off the quay wall for security and also as a painting pontoon while in Bristol. The normal practice was to let go aft and allow the ship to drift off with only the bow secured, she was then run slow astern until warmed through. Unfortunately on this occasion, Oswald forgot about the timber and when warming through the engine, he turned it over alongside and the timber was sucked into the propeller breaking two blades. The jolt was so violent that the stern lifted up.

A photo recently acquired from a member, Billy Trelour, even shows the offending article.


When we were in the drydock last year we had a good opportunity to have a closer look at the propeller and it would appear that all four tips have been replaced at some point, made evident by the welding on the two remaining tips and the relatively clean break where the other two tips have been lost, the break happening at the weakest point.


We know that the propeller currently fitted to Freshspring was made by Friedenthals Ltd. Preston as this is cast onto the blades. Near the hub of the propeller also is '2071A' which we presume to be a casting or pattern number.


A report regarding the refit of a sister ship from 27/06/49 might give some useful or misleading information about a propeller design. We do not know if the below went ahead or if one of those propellers was fitted to SS Freshspring.

'Subject to confirmation by D.N.C. that the modified design propeller prepared by A.E.W., Haslar (Print No. A.E.W.140/46) for FRESH Class Water Tank Vessels to minimise Cavitation and refitted to FRESHWELL at Portsmouth in May 1947 has proved satisfactory in service, it is proposed that 12 in No. spare C.I. Propellers be manufactured to the new design'


Looking forward, the propeller will of course have to be repaired again or replaced, the latter option also giving us the opportunity to change the design for a more efficient and appropriate design suited to the further use of Freshspring.