The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

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Hama
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The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Hama » 02 Apr 2017 20:46

My source for this story is the book Liffey Ships and Shipbuilding by Pat Sweeney and this article: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2192676?ori ... b_contents

During the interwar years both Estonia and Latvia possessed merchant fleets that carried goods across the Baltic and beyond. Ireland, on the other hand, tried to rely more on a policy of self-sufficiency and had few seagoing vessels for trade prior to WW2, with only a small fleet of coastal traders and fishing boats. They relied mainly on foreign ships (especially British) for overseas trade.

This all had to change on the outbreak of WW2. Ireland, though neutral, found itself threatened by the effect of the war on trade. European nations like Britain were requisitioning their own ships for the war effort rather than trade with countries like Ireland, and sea-lanes to the Atlantic were threatened by Uboat patrols. Ireland found itself scouring the markets for any seagoing ships it could to build up its own merchant fleet.

In 1940, the Soviet Union invaded and seized the Baltic states. At the time of the invasion there were several merchant ships of those nations still at sea or waiting in foreign ports to return home. Among these were the Estonian ships Otto, Mall, and Piret, and the Latvian ships Ramava and Everoja. The Soviets nationalised all industry in the conquered Baltic nations and sent wireless messages to all ship captains overseas, ordering them to go to Soviet ports and surrender their vessels. The three Estonian and two Latvian ships I mentioned all ignored the orders and stayed at port in Ireland.

The Soviet ambassador to the UK, Mr. Maisky, applied to the Irish High Court for the right to take over the ships. He claimed that he had spoken with the Irish High Commissioner in London, J.W Dulanty, about having the ships go to the Soviet Union. Dulanty had asked Maisky for permission for the ships to first discharge their cargoes in Ireland and stock up on supplies before leaving, and Maisky had agreed. Maisky claimed that this agreement (as well as the Soviet control over Latvian and Estonian industry) gave him the authority to claim the ships for the Soviet Union.

However the honorary consul of Estonia in Dublin, John McEvoy, opposed this claim and (along with Estonian representatives living in Switzerland) took his case to the Irish High Court for the ships not to be turned over to the Soviet Union. The Irish High Court acknowledged McEvoy's right to represent the owners of the Estonian ships in court, who at that time could not be contacted. (note: I am not 100% certain who represented the owners of the Latvian ships, but they were discussed in this court case as well).

On 16 May, 1941 the Irish High Court rejected the Soviet claim to ownership of the three Estonian and two Latvian ships. The Soviets appealed to the Irish Supreme Court, who also rejected their claim. On 3 July 1941 the case was dismissed with costs.

In reaching a verdict, the Irish court had asked the Minister for External Affairs whether the Irish government recognised the Soviet annexation of Latvia and Estonia, and the Minister said that Ireland did not. Thus, Soviet sovereignty over Estonia and Latvia could not be legally recognised by the Irish court, refuting the claim of the Soviet ambassador Mr. Maisky. Because Ireland did not recognise the annexation of Latvia and Estonia, they said that the wireless orders sent to the ships ordering them to go to Soviet ports did not have legal authority. They also said that, because the ships had been private property and not government property of Latvia or Estonia, they could not be claimed as state possessions by the Soviet Union.

The Soviets protested this decision, and said that they held the Irish government responsible and would take "what measure (they) might deem necessary". However, probably with bigger issues on their minds, the Soviets did nothing else to try and get the ships.

In this way, the small neutral country of Ireland was able to save the crews of the three Estonian and two Latvian vessels from being deported to Soviet-occupied homelands. The three Estonian ships were leased to Ireland for the duration of WW2, while the Everoja sailed under the British red ensign and was torpedoed and sunk while in an Allied convoy in 1941. I'm not sure what happened to the other Latvian ship Ramava.

I thought it was an interesting piece of diplomatic history... :)

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Mark McShane
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Mark McShane » 06 Apr 2017 20:32

Nice piece Hama, thanks for sharing.

Mark

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seaburn
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by seaburn » 07 Apr 2017 08:11

Never heard this before ... thanks !

Sid Guttridge
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Apr 2017 16:35

Hi Guys,

The Soviet threat was real. One Latvian or Estonian ship was interned in Peru. However, the USSR managed to subvert or incapitate opposuing crewmen and she escaped to the Soviet Far East.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Poot
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Poot » 08 Apr 2017 20:34

Interesting story, thank you for sharing it.
Pat
He who lives by the sword, should train with it frequently.

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Hama
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Hama » 09 Apr 2017 14:24

Glad you all found it interesting. :)

sherwood-forester
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by sherwood-forester » 07 May 2018 00:21

I run a website, Darlaston Remembers, which lists all of the men, women and children named on Darlaston War Memorial. I have just discovered that one of the men on the memorial drowned while serving on the SS Ramava in 1946.
Does anyone know where I could get a photograph of the ship to put onto his page when I load it.

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Dr Eisvogel
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Dr Eisvogel » 07 May 2018 12:19

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to inform you that aforementioned Estonian ship Otto was leased to the Irish Shipping Limited between 1942 and 1946. In ISL service she sailed under name SS Irish Willow.

The same ship was owned in the years 1936-1937 by the Greek shipowner George Gratsos for whom she sailed under name Nestor.

She was built in 1918 in Toledo, Ohio on the lake Erie.

***

The records of the Latvian ship Ramava for the period 1942-1946 can be accessed at the British National Archives at Kew.
http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.u ... r/D8655110

Latvian Minister in London Mr. Charles Zarine [Kārlis Reinholds Zariņš] represented Latvia in the case related to Ramava before the Eire High Court.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/2192676?se ... b_contents


***

The story about the rest of Latvian merchant marine in WWII:
http://www.conflicts.rem33.com/images/T ... eiflot.htm

Best regards,
Eisvogel

sherwood-forester
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by sherwood-forester » 08 May 2018 03:01

Many thanks for the above information.

I have purchased the records from the N A but they end a few months before the incident with my man.

It seems that he has been hidden for 70 years and is reluctant to be discovered.

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Dr Eisvogel
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by Dr Eisvogel » 08 May 2018 16:41

sherwood-forester wrote:Many thanks for the above information.

I have purchased the records from the N A but they end a few months before the incident with my man.

It seems that he has been hidden for 70 years and is reluctant to be discovered.
Dear Sherwood Forester,

it seems that Ramava flew the British flag between 1942-1946.

However, it seems that Ramava was also photographed under British flag in 1948/1949 in Cardiff, which would imply that it was still seaworthy after 1946 tragedy.

Please, check page 112 in this catalogue:
https://museum.wales/media/14003/Hansen ... ection.pdf

***

About Latvian merchant marine before Soviet occupation in 1940:
At the outset of World War I, 333 ships were registered in Latvia’s ports; they constituted nearly half of Russia’s Baltic Sea merchant fleet. Shipbuilding, large enterprises, well-developed ports and a railway network connected Latvia with the world market.

As of January I, 1940, the merchant fleet of the Republic of Latvia numbered 103 ships, with a total capacity of 201,063 BRT (Brutto-Register-Tonnen, gross register tons), or 98 BRT per thousand inhabitants of Latvia. The figure is smaller that that of the developed sea powers, for example, Great Britain or Norway. However, it is larger than that of some other European countries – for example, Italy, 76; France, 70; Spain, 38; Portugal, 35; the Soviet Union, 8; Poland, 3; BRT per thousand inhabitants.

The red-white-red flag disappeared from the world’s seas on December 8, 1948, when independent Latvia’s largest steamer, Ķegums, was shipwrecked in heavy fog in the Bay of Biscay.
http://en.seaclub.lv/must_know/1969/3574/

***
Ilgāks bija tvaikoņa “Rāmava” (tās kapteinis Augusts Kristlībs noslīka Vidusjūrā, braukdams uz kāda angļu tankkuģa 1944. gadā, un ir apbedīts Sicīlijā) mūžs, kas britu dienestā nokalpoja līdz pat 1958. gadam.
http://musumemorials.lv/lv/publikacijas ... ara-ugunis

Summary: Rāmava sailed in British service until 1958! Her captain Augusts Kristlībs drowned in 1944, while sailing on a British tanker in the Mediterranean. He was buried on Sicily.

Best regards,
Eisvogel

vonmanstein
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Re: The Latvian and Estonian ships saved by Ireland

Post by vonmanstein » 21 Aug 2018 14:57

Hello. I am trying to research Baltic merchant shipping history prior to Soviet occupation in 1940. The internet is yielding no reliable record of this time. I am of the opinion records were destroyed or classified by them after 1944. They had 50 years. Any help in my endeavor appreciated.

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