“Liberty ship, North Atlantic Winter” – Main text

"Liberty ship, North Atlantic Winter"Liberty ship, North Atlantic Winter“, the how and why I collected this Liberty ship info…

This painting was commissioned by former deck officer M. Claude Picot who had very happy memories of his time on “Trun“.
I discovered Liberty ships, based on a British tramp ship design, some times sank.
I remembered some of the “old boys” who pored scorn on Liberty ships.

Liberty ships did often suffer from cracking and welding failures, particularly in extremely cold weather.

At the time is was a relatively new technology for ship hulls.

The risk and strain is nicely illustrated by this painting of “Trun” a Liberty ship sold to France after the war.

Worst cases including ships literally breaking in 2, usually right in front of the accommodation structure so this painting may be said to nicely illustrate the design’s weakest point.

If Liberty ships occasionally broke in 2, suffered other design / construction flaws like occasionally loosing their rudders how come they were popular with their crews?

What was going on?


While working on some experimental landscapes, (not shown on this site but I still have them) about as far from the sea as you can get in Europe, I met M. Claude Picot and his wife Sylvie.

They owned a chateau I was painting and invited me in for lunch; too good to resist!

We became friends, good friends,  as often sea men do, besides, Sylvie was a delight to be around, they even invite my family to their 80 bedroom hotel in Sicily.

Claude, an ex mariner, decided to commission 2 marine paintings from me, “his” Liberty ship “Trun” being one, the other being his yacht “Nizou IV off Sicily, Vesuvius in the background“, with family aboard Nizou IV.


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When I am preparing a painting I research … all the facts I can get, too much info is better than too little is my thinking.

Thus  I became more fascinated by the famous Liberty ships, and was painting  PQ 13, a wild war time convoy scene for another client, I decided to paint “Liberty ship Convoy” on speculation (recently made available as a Prestige Limited Edition print).


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The Liberty Ships were much criticized when new for the weakness of their welded construction but then they were never intended to be long lived ships.

If they completed one laden wartime voyage they were considered to have paid for themselves.

As it turned out some Liberty Ships were very long lived.
I remember one laid up at King Harry Reach on the River Fal (Cornwall) in the early 1970’s.
She must have been one of the very last Liberty ships, Greek; of course.
In those days I was a press photographer and I washed down a beer or three with the Falmouth tug men at the Chain Locker, Falmouth Quay.
Their view was with a tug at each end that old Liberty ship, so rusty, they’d pull her in two!

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The Liberty ship, with superior accommodation form their time, all of it amidships, for all the crew were undoubtedly safer and more luxurious.
In comparison British tramp steamers mostly had accommodated crew in an unheated foc’sle in the eyes of the ships were the motion was most felt, dangerous to reach in bad weather and singularly comfortless.

Besides the Liberty ships that sank, it is often forgotten, many survived damage by storms, mines bombs and torpedoes.

I recall my Dad vividly describing how he and his men, soldiers of the Pioneer corps,  unloaded several damaged ships.
He was a junior officer at that time, and left a vivid description of working in the holds, how unspoilt grain was saved and in the heat how one man lost his jacket with all his ID up a grain sucking pipe!

Liberty ships after W W II

When the war ended, the United States had 40 million tons of new shipping at its disposal, of which, about two-thirds were Liberty types.

By the achievements of her war economy, the U.S.A. had become the owner of the largest fleet of merchant ships in the world.

Because of the sheer number of Liberty ships they had at their disposal, Congress realized sales of these ships could create a threat to the America’s own postwar merchant fleet.

The purpose of the U.S. Ship Sales Act was to make ships available to private operators in Allied countries as part of an attempt by America to assist a European recovery.
This generous policy as history now records, successfully avoided a world slump amongst shipowners, which history now records, did not eventuate.

The numbers subsequently allocated to foreign-flag operators included: Italy 90 Greece 98 France 76 Norway 45.
Other countries to benefit were, Belgium retaining four of her seven Lend Lease ships, Denmark 9, Netherlands 28 and China 10.
Transferred under Lend Lease to Great Britain were almost always given a name with the prefix “SAM”, which referred to “Uncle Sam”, -usually replacing a U.S.-given name.

After the war ships were transferred for about what they cost to build, to many nations.


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During World War II, Great Britain and its Commonwealth lost 11.9 million gross tons of shipping.
Allied and neutral shipping lost a further 9.8 million tons, the enemy about 10 million; equal to just over 50% of world tonnage at the outbreak of war in September 1939.
By 1946, the world fleet which meant mostly allied shipping was estimated despite the Axis powers efforts, at 72.9 million gross tons, an increase of 11.5 million tons over the pre-war total.
A large proportion of this tonnage was built during the war, as standard type cargo ships and tankers.
In fact, the figure comprised the major proportion of the estimated 43 million tons constructed during wartime.
At the end of the war, Liberty ships represented 17.75 million gross tons of the tonnage in service, or almost 25% of the world’s total.

© Gordon Frickers 2008, updated 19.07.2011, updated 26.06.2015


Built December 1943 by Calship to the order of the US War Shipping Admin: Managed by the Waterman Steamship Corp., Mobile.

2.47 Sold French Govt. (Companie Generale Transatlantique, Paris) renamed “TRUN“.

1961 ARMONIA -Proodos Cia.
S.A., Panama R.P., -Leb flag. (Tharros Shpg Co. Ltd., London)

1964 Managed Pegasus Ocean Services Ltd., London.


Sold Japanese breakers.
Arrived Yokosuka 19.10.68.


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Gordon Frickers © 26.06.15


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