SS Riversdale 1917

N50 11.760 W3 44.138

The photograph above is of the steamship “Marstonmoor” which is very similar to the Riversdale and built by the same company in the same period. The only difference between theit ships during that period was they had an extra layer below the bridge.

On 18th December 1917 the Riversdale was en-route from Tyne to Savona in Italy with a cargo of 4000 tons of coal for the Italian State Railway when she was struck on her port side by a torpedo from UB-31 off Start Point in Devon. One crew member was killed in the explosion and the ship was taking on water fast. Captain John Thorn Simpson decided to try and beach the ship in Elender cove near Prawle Point where she was patched up and refloated by tug Woonda ten days later. Whilst under tow the patch blew off and the ship eventually sank.

The crew of UB-31 were aware that she was armed with a 12 pounder so left the area to find their next victim. Oberleutnant Thomas Bieber was in command of UB 31 at the time which was later sunk by depth charge, with the loss of all hands, on May 2, 1918

UB-31 was a Type UB II submarine in German Imperial Navy during World War I. The U-boat was ordered on 22 July 1915 and launched on 16 November 1915. She was commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on 25 March 1916 as SM UB-31. She sank 26 ships in 25 patrols. Oberleutnant Thomas Bieber was in command the day she sank the Riversdale. He commanded the submarine from 12 Aug 1916 to 31 Jan 1918

UB-31 was eventually depth charged and sunk by British warships HMS Lord Leitrim, HMS Loyal Friend, and HMS Ocean Roamer in the English Channel on 2 May 1918.







Steam Cargo Ship


J.Blumer & Co. Sunderland.


Hull Number:



2805 tons


317.5 ft x 46 ft


R. C. Thompson, Sunderland at time of sinking


Sunk by UB-31

Today the wreck is still fairly intact at 47m to the seabed and stands approx 10m high in an East West direction. Her bow section has recently collapsed.

During the 60’s the wreck was identified by the letters HGMR punched into a brass wheel that was recovered. The wreck of the Riversdale was bought by Torbay BSAC in 1964 for £5. In 1967 divers from Kingston BSAC recovered the bells gave it to the Torbay club where it hangs today. The bell does not have any inscriptions on it so may not be the main bell on the ship.