The rocks and beach at Redcar have witnessed hundreds of shipwrecks and groundings over the years. So I took a gamble when I purchased an unlabelled photo album at a local auction, hoping that what I was looking at were previously unpublished photographs of one such incident.
With just the sea in the background, the only clue was some Greek writing visible on the back of the ship. “AΘHNA ΛIBANOY XIOΣ” which after a little research I was able to translate as “Athina Livanos Chios”
Chios is the fifth largest Greek island and was the birthplace of Greek shipping magnate Stavros Livanos. The ship was named after Athina, his second daughter. Despite the Greek name and ownership, the Athina Livanos was a 4824 ton steamer built by Grays of Hartlepool with a yard number of 1065. The engines came from the Central Marine Engine Works which was also part of Grays. She was launched on 3rd September 1936 and completed during October 1936 at a cost of £75,000.
The beaching at Redcar which was near Tod Point took very soon afterwards on 28th February 1937. It was a major story at the time as a Pathe News clip exists of the incident at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/coatham
Athina Livanos was just one of a series of ships built by Grays for the Livanos Maritime Company. There were ships named Eugenie Livanos, Evi Livanos, G.S. Livanos, George M. Livanos, Mary Livanos, Michael Livanos and Theofano Livanos after other family members.
The Athina Livanos was lost on 29th November 1943 while carry coal from Lourenco Marques in Mozambique (now known as Maputo) to Beirut and Tripoli. She was torpedoed in the Gulf of Aden by the Japanese submarine I-27, nine sailors and two passengers lost the lives. Submarine I-27 was itself sunk in the Indian Ocean on 12th February 1944 by HMS Paladin and HMS Petard but not before it had attacked and sunk the SS Khedive Ismail killing 1,297 people.
The real-life Athina Livanos went on to be the first wife of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis who later married Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Her second husband was John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. Her final husband, before her death in 1974, was another Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.
I originally wrote this article for the Evening Gazette back in July 2013.