The Liberty ship John Randolph was a standard EC2-S-C1 cargo vessel built in Bethlehem Fairfield’s yard in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Her keel was laid down on July 15th, 1941 and she was launched on the 30th December of the same year. From this date until May she was fitted out and loaded with cargo for her one and only voyage. Her dimensions were 441.6′ x 56.9′ x 37.3′, her gross tonnage 7176 gt and she was powered by a triple expansion steam engine of 339nhp.
She was part of convoy PQ16, consisting of 35 ships, that left Iceland on May 20th 1942 heading for Russia. She was under the command of Captain Alex Emmanuel Andersen Jr of Virginia. These voyages were extremely hazardous due to the many floating mines laid by the Germans to block the route and the often horrendous weather. The convoy was discovered by the Germans on the 24th May and for the next six days it was attacked more than 25 times by and aircraft and submarine. In the early morning of May 26th at 01:05am, as the convoy was off the north coast of Norway, the convoy was attacked by a U-boat wolfpack. 8 ships were lost from the convoy but, although a torpedo narrowly missed the stern of the John Randolph at one stage and she experienced four near misses from bombs and a second torpedo, she survived the outbound trip.
The convoy split on May 29th. Part of the convoy sailed for Archangel, arriving on June1st ,the largest part of the convoy, including the John Randolph, arrived at Murmansk on May 30th . After unloading her cargo, she joined convoy QP13 departing Murmansk on June 27th to return to Reykjavik. On this trip her luck ran out when, on July 5th 1942, while transiting the Denmark strait near Iceland, the convoy ran into an Allied minefield. Four of the convoy’s merchant vessels and a minesweeper were lost. The casualties included the John Randolph. She fouled two mines and broke in two as a result of the explosions. 5 crewmen died in the incident but none of the 12 passengers or the 12 man Armed Guards were lost. The survivors were picked up by other ships in the convoy. Almost immediately the stern section of the ship disappeared beneath the waves but the bow section floated apparently watertight with a clean break at one of the bulkheads. The bow section was towed to Iceland where it served as a floating dock for the rest of the war.
In September 1952 she was under tow the Dutch tug Oceanis bound for Bo‘Ness on the River Forth where she was to be scrapped. She broke loose from her tow about 150 miles NW of the Hebrides. Driven by the prevailing westerly winds and swell she drifted east temporarily grounding on two occasions before she finally went ashore on the 5th September in Torrisdale Bay. Efforts to refloat the hulk proved unsuccessful and she was later cut up where she lay.
The remains of the ship lie to this day half buried in the sands of Torrisdale Bay in position 58°31.646’N, 004°15.734’W.