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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

 

 

Page One: M.S. Charlesville

Introduction:

As the above image states, the MS Charlesville was the last of five sister ships built, being the “CMB Albertville Class” ships, obviously named after the vey first of five delightful 10,901 GRT delightful Passenger-Cargo Liners, the M.S. Albertville built in 1948, with the last of the series was completed in 1951. All of these beautifully built Belgium liners were especially built for the Belgium / Congo service. All five ships were built by J. Cockerill S.A. Hoboken.

The Charlesville seen in building

The MS Charlesville was built by the famed John Cockerill Ship Builders, in Yard 743 in Hoboken, Belgium and she was the last of the “CMB Albertville Class series of ships,” being the; M.S. Albertville, Elisabethville, Leopoldville, Baudouinville, later renamed Thysville, and finally the M.S. Charlesville.

A Short Background on “Cie Maritime Belge:

“Cie Maritime Belge” was founded in 1895 under the name “Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo” (CBMC). At the request of King Leopold II of Belgium and with support from British investors, a maritime connection was opened with the “Congo Free State.” Their very first ship the Leopoldville departed on her maiden voyage on February 6, 1895 and she was the company’s first ship to leave the port of Antwerp bound for the Congo. Interestingly, it had been for some sixty years that the Dutch “Kongoboten” Congo boats, had been present in the Port of Antwerp, as the Dutch ruled the oceans over the years, even more so than the British, thus the reason, the British invested into the Belgium Company!

In 1930 CBMC purchased another Belgium company “Lloyd Royal Belge,” and the company name was shortened to “Cie Maritime Belge” (CMB), mostly due to new services having been obtained towards America as well as the Far East. But amazingly the company had become closely associated with some thirty two “Ville” ships operating between Antwerp and the Belgian Congo, which was quite an achievement!

Building a New Fleet:

CMB that provided passenger and cargo services between Antwerp and the Belgian Congo, however they sadly suffered huge losses during the Second World War. The company was somehow able to rebuild a new fleet of ships and offer regular services between Antwerp and the Belgium Congo, and do so with a with new fleet of ships operating on a fortnightly basis.

Here we see the first of the series, the M.S. Albertville of 1948

The first ship taken into service was the Albertville (10,901 GRT), next came the Leopoldville (10,901 GRT) followed by the Elisabethville (10,901 GRT). The last two ships of this class the Baudouinville (10,946 GRT) and the Charlesville (10,946 GRT), although being identical in dimensions, but had additional passengers accommodations. This was mostly due to the relocation of the Dinning Room down to D Deck, (top deck in her hull), which together with the galley, occupied the greater part of hold 2 and the area aft of it. Whilst the first three ships had their Dinning Room located far forward of the superstructure on Shelter (C) Deck.

M.S. Charlesville – Note the Dinning Room portholes forward where hold 2 is supposed to be

And compare this to the photograph above of the M.S Albertville!

View the … Albertville-Deck-Plan the deck plan was sourced with thanks

from the - “Belgian Ships Archive” - www.belgischekoopvaardij.net

However, with four ships built and in operation to the Belgium Congo, finally on March 6, 1951 the MS Charlesville commenced on her maiden voyage to the Congo and operated a successful service. After the Independence of the Congo in 1960, when it became the “Democratic Republic of the Congo” the service continued as usual!

Ports of Call: Antwerp, Tenerife, Lobito in Angola, Matadi the Congo. On her return voyage a call would also be made at the port of Boma in the Congo.

M.S. Charlesville seen at full speed ahead, bound for the Belgium Congo

 

Starboard side view of the ship

Part of the above mentioned deck plan sourced with thanks from

 “Belgian Ships Archive”

The Charlesville’s Deck layout:

Decks on all of the five Albertville ships were arranged as follows, all having Five Passenger Decks: Pool Deck, Bridge (Navigation) Deck, A (Boat) Deck, B (Promenade) Deck, C (Shelter) Deck, and D Deck.

The Charlesville, being the last of the series, there was no doubt that she would be the finest if the series, having the finest fittings as well as the latest in technology! A (Boat) Deck offered her passengers spacious decks for strolling, sunning or for sports as there were facilities available on both sides as well as aft, whilst the interiors were mostly reserved for officer accommodations, including their mess, lounge, etc. However, far aft there was the Children’s Playroom that was spread right across the superstructure and it had every possible facility and was fully supervised! This venue could be reached by an exclusive internal stairway on the portside from B Deck. Considering that the Bridge and forward section of this deck that contained accommodations for the Captain and his first officer, that section was separated by hold 3.

However, above A Deck just aft of the ships funnel was the location for the outdoor Swimming Pool on Pool Deck, which was surrounded, forward and the sides by steel and windows as well as steel roofing that surrounding the pool area, but the pool itself remained open to the air.

Her Interiors and Cabins:

Her overall décor was delightful featuring a touch of fine timbers combined with excellent art and other interesting articles on Promenade deck as well in her Dinning Room! Her accommodations were spread over her three main decks, B, C and D Decks.

Far forward on Promenade (B) Deck was a spacious Lounge or, the Salon, which had a delightful décor, along her aft centre wall there was a feature timber wall piece, with a matching, but wider cabinet below. Vertical panels finished this wall along the sides! The Salon was surrounded by windows, was followed making it a light and bright room during the day, and it offered a variety of furnishings, and rich carpeting. It had from upright tables and chairs, to armchairs and sofa with coffee tables, ass well upholstered. It was the perfect Lounge! On the port side there was an entrance to a small lounge called “The Living (rest) Room.” It was similar to the old days when there was a “Ladies Lounge” for the women to go and rest in, but this venue was more of a quiet room for all!

Directly aft of the Salon was the delightful Smoke Room with a bar, which was a more casual venue with the floor clad in a coloured rubberised non slip material. Again timber was the highlight here and the venue was warm and obviously very popular!

Amidships there were a good number of cabins, including several more spacious ones located forward that could be sold as separate rooms, or even as two roomed suites, accommodating up to four persons and a child, having two bathrooms. In addition there were twin bedded cabins, as well as single cabins that could also be sold as two berth cabins! All accommodations on this deck had private facilities.

But the M.S. Charlesville had one delightful feature located far aft on Promenade (B) deck, and that was the delightful Café a very special venue considering it was beautifully timbered and on the aft wall there was a delightful Congo based piece of art, which was a talking point on any voyage considering it was so beautiful! The venue was in a U shape, with it arms heading forward. On the starboard side aft, was the bar that serviced the venue, whilst the entrance to the Café from interior the ship was located on the portside.

As far as deck space is concerned as the Cie Maritime Belge brochure said it well, that there was; “Ample space for deck games and promenading.”

On Shelter (C) Deck most of the ships cabins and the majority had private facilities, whilst those on D Deck (top hull deck) did not have private facilities, but there were ample spotless share facilities available.

Located far forward on D Deck, using the space where in the first three “Albertville ships” would be the aft section of number 2 hold, here onboard the Charlesville was the spacious and beautiful Dinning Room that was able to seat all passengers in a single sitting. On her forward middle wall there were two large fine pieces of art, whilst on the aft, entrance side it featured a large mirror and some wall décor, as well as the two main entrances! This venue had long tables many set across the room, but some smaller ones length ways. The chairs were of fine timber with luxuriant chequered upholstery, and although a large room, a most pleasant one!

The accommodations ranged from single bed cabins, but the majority on Promenade Deck were twin bedded, on Main Deck, the same applied, but many twins could be sold as three or four berth cabins on Main, and on Tween decks. This would not apply to certain deluxe rooms on Promenade Deck, for these were exclusively for one passenger or two. Thus there is no doubt that her 217 passengers were superbly accommodated, as would be the 31 children who were berthed in their special children’s berths!

Photo Album

1: Pool Deck

 

A fine view of a perfectly designed liner!

 

The Ships Swimming Pool, atop of the ship, just aft of the funnel

 

2: Promenade (B) Deck

 

A most comfortable and delightful Main Lounge, also known as “The Salon

 

In the old days the Smoking Room with a cosy Bar was very much a tradition, and it was located just aft of The Salon

Can you imagine, if they place a Smoking Room back onboard cruise ships today, there would be an outrage!

 

Starboard is the Bar of the spacious Café, perfect for a drink

or two, or even some morning or afternoon Coffee or Tea!

 

On the portside is the only interior entrance to the Café’

 

Here we see the main section of the Café and its famed artwork being its centre piece

 

A superb photograph of the popular of art in question!

 

Promenade Deck

 

3: Shelter (C) Deck

 

Here we see the stairwell is seen on C Deck

 

A Twin bedded cabin with Private facilities on C Deck

 

Hallway on C Deck from to aft deck

 

4: D Deck

 

 

Above & below: The Main Restaurant far forward on D Deck

 

 

 

This is a fine image of some pieces of art on the forward wall in the Dinning Room

As we have seen on the photo in the middle, which is the entrance, there is a large mirror on the wall!

Other facilities available onboard were the ships shop, barber/hairdresser, medical facility and the pursers office.

The M.S. Charlesville and her sisters continued a long and proud Belgium shipping tradition of beautifully built ships that were not just well built but offered wonderful public facilities, excellent accommodations, fine food and superb service!

The Charlesville seen in the Belgium Congo at Ango Ango

Photograph by & © Jean-Pierre Hack, Belgiu

Please Note: Although on this feature I will not be covering the first four ships, only provide the information as I have previously given above, however, I have already written on the fourth of the sisters the M.S. Baudouinville (2), which was later renamed the MS. Thysville and she then sailed under a number of companies and names, such as: RMS Anselm, M.S. Iberia Star, finally to become the “Austasia Lines” MV Australasia from 1965 to 1972.

To read all about this ship, you will find link provided towards the bottom of this page.

Engine refit in 1957:

On July 23, 1956 the first of two brand new liners, the 13,724 GRT M.S. Jadotville which was able to accommodate some 300 passengers, commenced her maiden voyage from Antwerp to the Congo.

Here we see the M.S. Jadotville in her new guise as the Chitral, as she was sold in 1961 to P&O

Both these sisters were sold to P&O in 1961

She and later her sister had a better speed of 16.5 knots, thus it was decided to upgrade the five “Albertville ships”!

Thus on May 18, 1957 the conversion of the Charlesville propulsion plant commenced with an additional piston mounted above the cylinder, which would compress the air in the cylinder, with the end result being of 9,250 BHP, offering a service speed of 16.5 knots to a maximum of 17.4 knots, being a great improvement over her previous 7,200 BHP and a speed of 15 to a maximum of 15.5 knots. This improvement shortened her round-voyage Antwerp - Matadi - Antwerp was shortened by two days.

The Charlesville engine room

 

M.S. Charlesville - Specifications:

 

IMO number:  5068863.

Built at:                            J. Cockerill S.A. Hoboken, Belgium.

Yard:                                743.

Launched:                         August 12, 1950.

Maiden Voyage:                 March 6, 1951.

Tonnage:                          10,946 GRT - Gross Registered Tons.

Length:  153.66m - 505ft.

Width:  19.60m - 64.3ft.

Draught:                           8.39m – 27.6ft.

Engines:                           1 x Burmeister & Wain Cockerill double-acting

.                                      eight-cylinder two-stroke diesel engine.

Propellers:                         One - 9,250 BHP.

Speed:                              16.5 knots service speed.

Passengers Decks:              4.

Passengers:                       217 passengers and 31 children beds.

Crew:                               140. 

Images of the Delightful M.S. Charlesville

An excellent stern view of a working ship the M.S. Charlesville berthed in Tenerife the Canary Islands

Photograph by & © Jean-Pierre Hack, Belgium

 

She heads off once more on one of her many voyages 

 

A delightful older Belgium postcard in Dutch & French of her departing Antwerp

 

Here we see her when she was obviously heavily loaded as she is well down, and heading for Matadi

Photo sent in by a supporter, but photographer is unknown – Please see my “Photo notes” at bottom of page

Just for interest the second of the new liners, the M.S. Baudouinville commenced her maiden voyage on November 2, 1957 and joined her sister the Chitral. But sadly their lives were rather short as both ships were sold to P&O in 1961 to be renamed the M.S. Chitral and Cathay and were placed in Australia to operate the Australian Asian service.

Here we see the second and the very last of the company’s passenger liners built the M.S. Boudouinville

in her new guise as the M.S. Cathay, as she was sold in 1961 to P&O

Rescue at Sea:

Having been completed, she returned to her regular duties and sailed on for the next ten years, although she did have one particular encounter that would place her into the Maritime History Books forever!

The famed Dutch liner, the M.S. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was sold on March 8, 1963 to the Greek Line and she received a minor refit to become their new cruise ship, the T.S.M.S. Lakonia that departed on April 24 for their very first cruise departing Southampton. She proved to be a huge success for the Greek Line, and they decided to do some further work on her, thus from December 9 to December 13, 1963, she underwent another minor upgrade. A new pneumatic fuel injection system was installed. Cabins were redecorated, and the kitchen and pantry were completely remodelled.

T.S.M.S Lakonia is seen here in Southampton on April 24, 1963

© ssMaritime.com

In addition, the Lakonia was outfitted with a number of safety features and she carried 24 lifeboats capable of holding 1,455 people. The ship had an automatic fire alarm system and two fire stations with specialised fire fighting equipment. There were lifejackets for every person on board and an additional 400 lifejackets stowed on deck.

She departed Southampton on December 19, 1963 for an 11-day “Christmas Cruise” of the Canary Islands, with her first port of call being the island of Madeira. Aboard there were 646 passengers and 376 crew and officers, thus a total of 1,022 people.

However, on Sunday, December 22, 1963 around 10pm smoke could be smelled in the lounges and fire had broken out on this great ship. Obviously, in due course an S.O.S. was sent out, and an abandon ship call was made. I will not go into the good or the bad of the events on board, etc, but there was great bravery by certain people and they have been well recorded!

The Lakonia seen still smouldering the next day

Photograph by Gerhard Jourdan a sailor on the M.S. Charlesville

Who himself was involved in the rescue operation

Photograph provided by Gerhard Jourdan

The ships that came to her aid were the Argentinean Passenger ship Salta, under Captain José Barrere, followed by a British tanker the Montcalm. The thirds ship on the scene achieved so much, and that was the Charlesville, which worked so hard in saving so many lives from this horrid disaster, including taking the last man from the burning ship, being the captain. Sadly, due to this tragedy there was a loss of 98 passengers and 30 crew members: thus, 128 precious lives had perished! As sad day indeed!

The M.S. Charlesville was one of the latter ships to arrive on the scene, due to the distance she had been from the tragic scene in December 1963 on the day after the fire commenced she played her own role in the rescue of survivors from the burning Greek cruise liner the Lakonia. She took on board a number of bodies, but thankfully was o save thirty four people, with six of these being passengers, and twenty eight being crew members, including Lakonia’s captain Zabris. All the survivors were taken to Tenerife; however those who were dead, where buried at sea.

Charlesville’s Engineer Jean-Marie Kolbach seen at the tiller of the lifeboat that has

just rescued Lakonia’s Captain Zabris who is sitting just in front of him

Photograph provided by Gerhard Jourdan

For the complete story of the events of those horrid days, and the brave work done by the crew of the M.S. Charlesville, read the author’s online book “Memories of the JVO” and you will find that page 8 contains all the details with many more photographs! There is a link further down the page, which will take you directly to that page!

Other Events:

In addition, there were a number of other events, although there are little to no details available regarding these, as they are but simple “Log entries” with no further information being available.

Mar 26, 1960:    Log entry: Collision with MS Hirondelle.

Jun 13, 1962:     Log entry: Damage after collision with the MS Adoracion in Tenerife.

Jul  08, 1962:     Log entry: Damage after collision by MS Kano Palm in the port of Matadi.

Apr 16, 1963:     Log entry: Grounded in the Convenseight-pass on the river Congo.

Oct 18, 1963:     Log entry: Assistance to the MS Manticos near Bijouga (Guinee-Bissau).

Her Final Days:

However, after the eventful events of the tragic time with the Lakonia, sadly the M.S. Charlesville only had another three and a half years left with “Cie Maritime Belge” for it had become obvious that passenger and cargo traffic was lessening worldwide, being due to both the popularity of air travel and the arrival of the Jet age, as well as the modernisation with the introduction of container ships, which were slowly taking over the majority of the cargo trade.

Thus sadly the companies management had to come to the decision sell this fine traditional passenger-cargo Congo liner.

Back in 1961, Cie Maritime Belge had already sold their two newest built passenger liners, as well as the M.S. Baudouinville, which they had renamed the Thysville as the new ship was given her original name, but now in the 60s it was time for another two of the famed Belgium “Albertville series” to go, the first to be sold was the M.S. Leopoldville, followed by the M.S. Charlesville!

But as we see the Charlesville departing in 1966 and she was still in full operation, but sadly not for much longer

Photographer unknown – Please see my “Photo notes” at bottom of page

This meant that only the very first ship of the series, the M.S. Albertville remained in service, and she did continue until she was finally sold to the breakers and departed Antwerp late February 1973 bound for Taiwan, where she arrived on April 19, at the breakers yards at Kaohsiung where she was duly broken up.

A new life of the Charlesville:

On July 5, 1967 that the M.S. Charlesville was sold to the East German shipping company, “VEB Deutsche Seerederei” of Rostock who renamed her Georg Büchner, after a famous German writer from the 1800s.

The Georg Büchner Story will be continued on Page Two:

The M.S. Georg Büchner seen at sea

Photographer unknown – Please see my “Photo notes” at bottom of page

Special Links:

Link One:

Read about one of her sisters the M.S. Baudouinville (2), which was renamed the M.S. Thysville and eventually became the delightful Australian based liner, come cruise ship, the MV Australasia.

Link Two:

Visit: Lakonia's Final Voyage - This is just one page out of an extensive feature entitled “Memories of the JVO.” This was a greatly loved liner for so many years, especially when she operated between Europe and New Zealand and Australia, as well as the United States!

Link Three:

Please watch this wonderful video on the M.S. Charlesville / Georg Büchner at: http://vimeo.com/65285403. It was made by the Belgium’s as part of a campaign to save her, but sadly it has now failed, as we will discover on Page Two! The video shows in part, the ship in her original state and it will provide some wonderful insights to her happy days as a fine liner filled with happy passengers!

Link Four:

The ship now needs your help as we are working on saving her, and believe me IT IS A BIG JOB! Enter the; Save The Classic Liners Campaign.

Photographs on this feature are from: 1, the author’s personal travel agencies collection. 2, as sent in by supporters, and 3, as stated!

 

M.S. Charlesville Index:

Page One:      M.S. Charlesville from construction, maiden voyage in 1951 to her sale in 1967. (This Page).

Page Two:      M.S. Georg Büchner from 1967 read her history through to her tragic end in 2013.

 

“I will always love her because she was a Belgium Congo Liner, the M.S. Charlesville

for it was that what made her so special to me!”

Who said that? Actually it was me, the author! Reuben Goossens - Australia.

 

A fine study of a beautifully designed small passenger-cargo liner in the late 1940s!

 

***********************************

Who is the Author of ssMaritime?

Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960

 

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me in order that due credit may be given.

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