At a special service at 11am on Saturday 15 September a memorial will be unveiled to commemorate the 44 lives lost on the MV Derbyshire when it sank in the South China Seas on 9 September 1980. The Derbyshire was a Liverpool ship, crewed by Liverpool seafarers, and owned by Bibby Line. She was an oil/bulk/ore (OBO) carrier and remains the biggest British registered merchant ship ever to have been lost at sea.
There was initially no formal investigation into the sinking, but following the loss of other ships of similar design a formal investigation reported in 1989 that the Derbyshire had been overwhelmed by the weather. After the wreck of the Derbyshire was found in 1994, a further UK/EU-funded survey concluded that the crew had been at fault and had flooded the ship by leaving a cargo hatch unsecured. Finally a new investigation was announced in 1998 by the Rt Hon John Prescott, who was Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. After a 54 day enquiry in 2000 it concluded that the crew were not to blame, but that there were a number of design faults which the Derbyshire shared with similar ships. 22 recommendations were made to improve ship safety.
The campaign to discover the fate of the Derbyshire was led by the Derbyshire Family Association, who have also raised funds for the memorial sculpture. The sculpture was designed by Liverpool sculptor Tony Evans.
The project to create a memorial garden around the sculpture is the result of a partnership between Liverpool Parish Church and Liverpool City Council. The Garden will be opened by Lord Prescott of Hull and dedicated by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool. The sculpture will be unveiled by Paul Lambert MBE, of the Derbyshire Family Association.
Liverpool Parish Church has maintained a strong relationship with the families of the crew, including the presentation of our maritime memorial book. Until recently there was an annual service to commemorate the Derbyshire. As the Seafarers’ Church, it seems most fitting that a permanent memorial for this significant tragedy be sited within the grounds.
Lord Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull said, “The loss of the MV Derbyshire and her crew caused great grief to the relatives and the community. The remarkable 20 year campaign by the Derbyshire Family Association for the ‘real’ truth is commemorated in this wonderful Memorial Garden and its sculpture.”
The Revd Dr Crispin Pailing, Rector of Liverpool, said, “The loss of the MV Derbyshire has had a profound effect on maritime shipping across the world, but for the last 38 years we have supported the families, where the effect of the sinking made a tragic impact on households across Liverpool. The sculpture is a fitting tribute to the men and women lost on that day.”
Paul Lambert MBE of the Derbyshire Family Association said, “The MV Derbyshire Memorial will have the names of the 42 Crew and the 2 Wives whose lives were lost on the 9th September 1980 engraved on the Memorial. This will give the families peace of mind in the knowledge that their loved ones will never be forgotten. It will also give the families a special place to visit. This was made possible by the dedication, commitment and the hard work of Dave Ramwell, Peter Mcgrath and Geof Green. A promise made to the families has now been kept. The campaign to ensure that all Merchant Ships must be built to the highest standards and must be able to withstand the type of weather they will encounter whilst at sea must never stop. The fight to protect seafarers’ lives must continue no matter how hard it is.”