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Remembering MV Derbyshire: Items relating to doomed ship on display for very first time
MV Derbyshire lifebuoy. ©National Museums Liverpool.

LIVERPOOL.- A uniform which belonged to one of the crew lost on the tragic MV Derbyshire has gone on display for the very first time at Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The Derbyshire was the biggest British merchant ship ever lost at sea.

She sunk in the South China Sea during a typhoon on 9 September 1980. Forty four people were lost including 17 from Liverpool.

The uniform on display belonged to 3rd engineer officer Leo Coltman and has been a precious reminder to his family for the last 32 years. Other objects include a model of the Derbyshire and a letter written by Able Seaman 1 Ronnie Musa sent from the last port of call before the bulk carrier sailed onwards to disaster.

A lifebuoy used in a TV documentary about the ship is also on show along with items relating to the families 20-year campaign to uncover the truth.

The display opened two days before the 32nd anniversary of the sinking and a time when the DFA is fundraising for a permanent memorial to those lost at Liverpool’s Pier Head.

Merseyside Maritime Museum has worked closely with the DFA in creating the display.

Ellie Moffat, Curator of Maritime Collections, said: “The MV Derbyshire story is one of tragedy and loss. This was a vast ship but she was overcome in minutes during typhoon Orchid. The Derbyshire story is also about a 20-year campaign by families of those that died to uncover the truth about why the ship sank.

“We are pleased to be able to tell this important story in the Museum. Some pieces in the display will now become part of our permanent collections.”

The DFA was set up by relatives shortly after the sinking. The DFA’s persistence was instrumental in searching for the wreck and re-opening the investigation into the tragedy which cleared the crew of any blame.

Paul Lambert, Chairman of DFA, said: “We are pleased that the story of the MV Derbyshire is being covered in the Museum. It’s a very special moment for the families and ensures that the crew who were lost will never be forgotten.”

The investigation into the sinking of The Derbyshire concluded that ventilators on deck were damaged by huge waves and when water poured in the bow dropped lower. The hatches on deck gave way under pressure leading to a domino effect and the holds were flooded.

Ultimately it took 20 years for the families to learn how their loved ones perished.
The DFA has played a crucial role in influencing changes to safety at sea – especially for bulk carriers.

As well as the new display, the Merseyside Maritime Museum has a detailed section about the MV Derbyshire on its website.

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