Friday, April 16, 2021

Discovering History in my House

Junghans Ships Clock
M/V Usarmao on Reverse

 I have clocks. Many sizes and kinds from small alarm clocks to towering grandfather clocks. And wall clocks. While stationed in Germany with the Air Force, Chris and I began collecting clocks and I learned how to repair them. So we would buy non-functional clocks and I would make them run again. At one point I though it would be a good second career, but that urge has passed. 

One of the clocks in my collection is a ships clock made by Junghans--a solid German clockmaker to this very day. The clock measured about 7 inches across the case. Oh yes, the clock works.

I never though too much about the clock or if it had ever been on a particular vessel until the other day when Patrick and I were talking. He asked if I knew what ship the clock may have been associated with. I remembered there was some almost unintelligible writing on the back of the clock and we turned it over to find M/V Usarmao written on the back. I remember looking at the back when I bought the clock and Have to admit I was not familiar with the designation M/V (not being a sailor) and thought it was someone's signature or the name of the owner. 

SS Usarmao
In Dar es Salaam
Date unknown
Now, however, many decades later I recognize the M/V as either Motor Vessel or Merchant Vessel. So, of course, we immediately checked the internet and discovered that the M/V Usarmao has a history as a passenger and cargo ship and was last operated by the German Navy before being scuttled in 1944. The ship was built in 1920. The website has some interesting history of the vessel and the location of the wreck.

The website reports:

Passenger ship requisitioned by the German Navy to base crews and supplies. 12/09/1940: Sunk by Allied aerial bombing in the port of Bordeaux. Then handed afloat. 25/08/1944: Scuttled by her crew in Lagrange, Gironde (France) Read more at wrecksite:

Fascinating. I have this piece of history connected to a ship that was part of WWII action.

OK, now for the disclaimer. 

I have no idea if the clock is genuinely from the M/V Usarmao. All I know is that the name, for some reason, is written on the back of the clock. I do not remember where Chris and I purchased the clock, it was likely from a flea market in Germany. No mention at the time of purchase connected the clock to a ship. Although my German is pretty poor and even if the seller mentioned the history of the clock, I did not understand it. 

So, I will live with the illusion that the clock is in fact from the ship. There is a serial number on the clock which may provide a definitive clue, should I wish to pursue it. 

History in my house! Wow!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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