SS Thislegorm 1941

SS Thistlegorm was built by Joseph Thompson & Son of Sunderland in 1940. She was an armed freighter with a 4.7 inch anti-aircraft gun as well as a heavy calibre machine gun. She was owned by the Albyn Line which had been in operation since 1901. In her early days she had been carrying goods to and from the US, Argentina and the West Indies but on her final she anchored in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two German Heinke He-111’s had been sent to the Suez canal following intelligence that a large troop ship would be in the area. As it happened they had got the timing wrong and on their return selected SS Thislegorm as the largest target to dispose of their bombs. She was at anchor off Sinai point in the Red Sea following here refuelling stop in Cape Town. Two bombs hit hold four killing four sailors and five naval gun crew and almost spit the ship in half sinking her on 6th October 1941.
Her cargo, bound for Alexandria in Egypt, went down with the ship. This included Bedford Trucks, Armoured Vehicles, Norton 16H & BSA Motor cycles, Bren guns, 303 rifles and ammunition.
Also included were aircraft parts and two LMS Stanier Class 8F Steam Locomotives with there associated coal and water tenders.

The wreck SS Thistlegorm was found by Jacque Cousteau in the mid 1950’s but he had kept the position a secret until divers relocated her in the early 1990’s when I first dived her. Today she lies in 30m of water and is largely intact but rusting away. Her mid section, hit by the bombs, is missing exposing her cargo of armaments. A locomotive lies on the seabed on her port side have fallen off the deck during the sinking. In order to protect the wreck a series of buoys were put around it for the dive boats but this was unsuccessful due the occasional large surface currents in the area.
As well as its cargo you will find plenty of fish including Barracuda, Batfish, Morey eel, Lionfish, Stonefish, Crocodile fish, Scorpion fish and Sea turtle & Tuna.

Select the image below to take a tour of the wreck in 1997
Select the bell image to see the Thistlegorm in 1955 (Cousteau)

Underwater photos and video  Steve Clarkson

Select the image below to see more info on the Thistlegom. The Thistlegorm project is part of a wider maritime archaeological project called “Presence in the past” which is a Newton Fund project directed by Dr Jon henderson of the University of Nottingham.