North Sea

Wartime shipwreck comes up for sale

The Athelduke


By Janet Hall - Northumberland Gazette


If you’re looking for a gift for the man who has everything, how about the remains of a ship sunk by a U-boat during the Second World War ?

The wreck of the Athelduke, a 8,966-ton British diesel motor tanker which lies at the bottom of the North Sea near the Farne Islands, has come up for sale.

The tanker was built in 1929 by R Gordon and Company of Port Glasgow, Scotland. Owned by the United Molasses Company of London, she operated out of the port of Liverpool.

Requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Second World War to augment the ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, she was part of convoy FS-1784 transporting 12,600 tons of molasses from Port Everglades, Florida, via Loch Ewe to Salt End, Hull, when, at 5.32pm on April 16, 1945, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-1274.

A survivor’s report confirmed that Athelduke was hit by two torpedoes. The first struck the vessel on the port side of the cross bunker tank and the second on the port side of the near cargo tank.

The bunker caught fire and she started to sink, although she took 12 hours to sink completely. Seeing the danger, Captain Joseph Errett ordered his crew to abandon ship, which they did by way of two boats.

The master, 41 crew members and four gunners were picked up by the British merchantman SS King Neptune and were landed in Grimsby the following day.


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