This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

British shipping companies (U)

Last modified: 2021-05-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: shipping lines |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:

United Marine Aggregates, Ltd.

[United Marine Aggregates, Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 28 November 2005

United Marine Aggregates, Ltd., Chichester - white flag, blue outlined "UMA".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 28 November 2005

United Steam Fishing Co., Ltd.

[United Steam Fishing Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of United Steam Fishing Co., Ltd. (#1809, p. 123), a Grimsby-based shipping company, as white with two blue triangles spreading from the hoist to the fly.
Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

United Steam Tug Co.

[United Marine Aggregates, Ltd. houseflag] image by Eugene Ipavec, 17 February 2009

A company presented on the ‘Thames Tugs’ site is United Steam Tug Co. a name later preceded by the place name Gravesend aka Ring Tugs:
Quote: “The United Steam Tug Company Limited was another consortium of River Pilots and Gravesend businessmen, all owning shares in the vessels. Founded in the 1890's by Albert Pattison it sold its remaining vessels in 1937 to William Watkins Ltd.”
This last remark is also relevant to William Watkins, of course. Also a company bearing the same name was active at Liverpool in the 1850’s.

The house flag as shown by Thames Tugs (I was unable to find additional pictures) was white with a red lozenge (not touching the flag’s edges) bearing a large white initial ‘U’ and accompanied by four five-pointed blue stars, one in each corner of the imaginary rectangle enclosing the lozenge (in other words, apparently not relegated to the flag’s corners).
Jan Mertens, 16 February 2009

United Stone Firms Ltd.

[United Stone Firms Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

Closely associated with the coal measures in the Bristol area is the famous Bristol pennant stone, a hard sandstone that occurs either with a pleasing blue colour or as a slightly harder pink coloured stone, known locally as Red Pennant. Over the course of many generations, the value of this material was appreciated by builders, architects, surveyors and engineers alike, who used it for a variety of purposes, and for centuries many buildings erected in the Bristol area were constructed using pennant stone. Although brick and other materials gradually displaced pennant in house and wall building, up until World War Two it was still being widely employed for such things as street kerbs and paving stones as it is very durable and is not slippery when worn. Similarly, its weather-resisting properties, uniformity of colour and very fine grain have also endeared it to monumental masons over the years.
In 1896 the first steps were taken to combine the Bristol Pennant Stone Firms Ltd with not only the Bath Stone Firms, a highly successful and profitable company handling the famous Bath Stone, but also with the De Lank Granite Company of Cornwall and the Keinton Stone Company and Joseph Seymour (Street), both based in Somerset.
The new group, called the Hard Stone Firms Ltd, had adequate capital, and with the directors of the Bath Stone Firms being the majority shareholders they immediately moved the headquarters to Bath and altered the organisation and management arrangements.
Further amalgamation with other quarry concerns well outside the Bristol area took place in 1909, the subsequent conglomerate being named United Stone Firms Ltd, which had its head office in St Nicholas Street, Bristol. Financial problems in the 1920s led to a new company, United Stone Firms (1926) Ltd, being formed, but neither this concern nor others such as the Bryant & Langford Group, of Quarries, which existed between about 1927 and 1934 and had a quarry at Winterbourne, was able to stem the decline in the use of Bristol pennant stone.
Consequently, by 1939 quarrying in the East Bristol area had all but ceased, the only short-lived exception being Thomas Free & Sons Ltd at Frenchay.

Stone Quarrying in Bristol

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of United Stone Firms, Ltd. (#1890, p. 126) as white with a blue triangle in the center.
Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

United Towing Ltd.

[United Towing Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, the house flag of United Towing Ltd., Hull. A blue pennant with a five-pointed white star bearing a blue letter 'U'. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. A rope and Inglefield clips is attached.

In 1920, seven Humber tug companies joined forces to form United Towing, with a fleet of 36 vessels. The managing director, Thomas Clarkson Spink, was appointed to a post he was to keep for the next 40 years. Initially the company concentrated on port, river, and coastal towage, towing coal barges, meeting the sail grain ships from Australia, and taking barges across the North Sea. Tasks also included fire fighting, restoring anchors and cable to the local trawlers and hauling off stranded vessels. From 1925 company operations spread worldwide towing ships, barges, dredgers and dry-docks. Modernisation of the company began in 1959, but was speeded up by the purchase of United Towing by the Boston Deep Sea Fishing Group in 1962. The size of the tugs increased due to the demands of modern shipping, specifically the super tanker and the off shore rigs. New vessels such as the replacement 'Seaman', a multipurpose tug and 'Salvageman', the most powerful tug in the fleet were put into service. However by the early 1980s the increased competition from offshore support vessels and the decline in the general towage and salvage business led to the downsizing of the fleet to just three vessels.

In 1987 a majority interest in United Towing's parent company, North British Maritime Group Ltd, were bought by Howard Smith Ltd of Australia. In 1989 the remaining shares were bought making United Towing a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian company. The company then changed policy and withdrew from ownership of the large ocean going tugs, concentrated on the management of such vessels and maintained its salvage operations. Apart from commercial towing, the ships played a service role throughout the Second World War and the Icelandic cod wars when they provided protection for the trawler fleets; they later served in the Falkland conflict. The headquarters of Howard Smith (UK) Ltd, incorporating United Towing, is still in Hull."
Jarig Bakker, 3 September 2004

United Towing Salvage

[United Towing Salvage houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, the house flag of United Towing Salvage. A white rectangular flag with a black stylised depiction of a ship's stern flying the house flag of United Towing Ltd. A salvage vessel is shown in blue on a white background on the side of the hull. Around the logo in black letters is inscribed 'united towing salvage'. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The design is printed."
Jarig Bakker, 3 September 2004

United Whalers Ltd.

[United Whalers houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 8 March 2004

United Whalers Ltd. Although a simple design it has several versions ascribed. The company itself was a subsidiary of Hector Whaling Co. Ltd. who absorbed their fleet in the later 1950s. Hector Whaling was formed in the early 1930s as a British holding company and was associated with the Norwegian company of N. R. Bugge and a version of that company's livery was adopted. The Bugge flag was shown pre WW2 as a diagonal biband of blue over white with the line being from lower hoist to upper fly but at some point after WW2 it appears that the line was changed to upper hoist to lower fly although their subsidiary, A/S Hektor, is still shown with the original version by Brown 1951. After WW2 Bugge, now operating as Bugge & Krogh-Hansen, became managers of Hector Whaling and United Whaling and acted as such until their whaling interests were sold to Japan c.1960 (with Hector Whaling thereafter coming under Cayzer, Irvine & Co. Ltd., together with the likes of Clan Line and Union Castle, until the beginning of the 1970s when it disappeared). It is probably this connection that lead the US Navy 1961 publication to show the post WW2 blue over white biband version against Hector Whaling although the use of the red over white livery is supposed to have been in operation from their inception. The version shown by FOTW is supported by the Stewart 1st edition of 1953-1957 but Loughran 1979 shows a completely different version by reversing the colours to white over red with the line from upper hoist to lower fly. The last version is also ascribed to Hector Trawlers Ltd. which was an associate company. Another possible version is suggested for United Towing by Talbot-Booth in his 1942 Ships & The Sea edition which reverses the colours of this last version but this is based on the supposition of the funnel panel being the flag as here he is only showing funnel designs.

The above changes to both the Bugge and Hector flags may have actually occurred in full or part or they may have resulted from incorrect reporting and conclusions. Funnel panels and bands often supply excellent detail of the houseflag but there is a hidden fish hook. The convention for observing funnels is the same as for flags i.e. the observor views the port (left) side of the funnel with the bow (hoist) to their left (I am aware of one company at least which ignored or did not know this resulting in an entirely different meaning to its logo). Flags are normally one sided so the reverse shows everything back to front as a "mirror" image. However a funnel is normally double sided with the other (starboard) side showing the same appearance which is obviously essential in the case of lettering. But there are exceptions. N.R. Bugge is definitely one (personal observation) and Hector appears to be likewise in that the starboard view is a mirror image and this means that anyone using only this as the basis to draw a flag design which has no obvious "front" will probably draw it around the wrong way. In a perfect world such observations would go with a notation until either checked against the portside view or best of all, the actual flag. As far as I can make out the FOTW version is correct, E&OE.

Neale Rosanoski, 8 January 2003

Uranium Steamship Co.

[Uranium Steamship Co. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 27 March 2008

Lloyds Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of "Uranium Steamship Co., Ltd." (#114, p. 42), a company based in London, as blue with a white saltire and the yellow letters "U", "S", "S" and "C" in the upper, left, right and lower quarters, respectively.

"The Ships List" website says:
"The Uranium Steamship Company was a continuation of the Northwest Transport Line from 1910 and was probably owned by Canadian Northern Railway Company. Passenger services operated between Rotterdam until 1914 when Avonmouth - Quebec - Montreal services started. The company sold their ships to Cunard in 1916 and they were all later sunk by submarines."
The four listed ships operated by the company are the "Campania", "Principello", "Uranium" and "Volturno".
Ivan Sache, 27 March 2008 

On October 2nd, 1913 the S.S. "Volturno" leaves its docking place in the Maashaven (Meuse Harbor) in Rotterdam. On board are emigrants (mainly Jews from Hungary, Austria, Galicia and Russia). The ship is headed for New York with a planned stopover of one day at Halifax.
On Thursday October 9th, 1913 at about 05:50 a.m. a fire breaks out on board of the "Volturno", which is sailing in mid Atlantic Ocean.
Fire started at the front part of the ship, after which an explosion occurred which caused the immediate death of about 80 to 90 persons, among them a navigating officer, passengers and other members of the crew. The radio operator then sent out a distress call.
The "Volturno" had been built in 1906 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. in Glasgow, by order of the Uranium Steamship Company (British) and it was administrated by the Canadian Northern Steamship Co. Ltd.; the latter firm dealt with transport of emigrants between Rotterdam and the United States.

The number of passengers on board cannot be established unambiguously, because the original manifests listing crew members and passengers went down with the S.S. "Volturno". No univocal figures are known about the number of persons saved (522 saved, 131 died; 485 saved; 168 died).
The Volturno ship disaster

The link to Lloyd's has to be updated to
Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

British Shipping lines: continued