Frank Ball aboard the SS Oronsay when she was torpedoed in October 1942

September 7, 2012

Hello there!

My name is Jann Collins. 

The reason I am writing is that I stumbled across your website whilst researching my Grandfather’s service aboard the SS Oronsay when she was torpedoed in October 1942.

The appears to be a discrepancy among the family as to whether he was Merchant Navy or Royal Navy, and as such, I am drawing many blanks when trying to research him.

I am hoping you can help in some small way – do you have access to any records which list the names of the crew aboard the Oronsay when she was torpedoed?
My grandfather’s name was Frank Ball. His birthday is 14 Feb 1907 and he unfortunately died in 1977, so I am unable to question him at all.

He told many stories of his time in the lifeboat, and his subsequent ‘rescue’ – however, these stories were quite often contradicted, so I’m unsure as to how accurate his memory was of the time – if at all he wanted to tell the story.  He was quite tight-lipped about the whole thing, and his stories would come about after he had downed a few pints, or if he was unwell with fever.

So, after all that, my question is – can you possibly help me in ascertaining if he was either Merchant Navy, serving on
board the Oronsay, or whether he was Royal Navy, and was merely a passenger. Or, did the crew consist of Royal Navy personnel?

Any information you could provide would be very, very welcome.

Incidentally, he mentions his rescue being by the ship named the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, but this does not coincide with any records I can find.

I am really hoping you can help me!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Kind regards,
Mt. Gambier, South Australia


I believe that the crew of SS Oronsay were merchant sailors.

I not able to find a crew list for her.

Here is a report from Wikipedia: SS Oronsay (1925)


Hi Mac

Thankyou so much for the information. Much appreciated.

I don’t suppose you could point me in the right direction to actually find a crew listing?  I have spent a considerable amount of time looking through the National Archives website, but each time I think I am on the right track and ask them to copy the document, they send me back emails saying that either the document I require is too large, or that specific information within the document is not easily identifiable and will require further research.  They then proceed to explain how I can attend in person and do the research myself etc etc. 

Am I missing a step here?  Is there somewhere else I should be looking, or some easy way to request the information I need?

You are obviously a man ‘in the know’ which is why I feel you may hold an answer for me!

Looking forward once again to hearing from you.

Kindest regards


I have tried the Orient line website, but no crew lists come up.

Here is a note from the P and O site:

Ordinary European Seamen
There are no records of ordinary European Seamen in the P&O archives, so it seems the information about ordinary European Seamen is just not available.

Best wishes, 
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