navy Ships that sank of the North Norfolk Coast during World War 11
has the third largest number of shipwrecks of any county in the
British Isles. Between the River Yare to 5 miles west of Kings Lynn
where the River Nene enters the Wash, there are in excess of 2,200
wrecks which when averaged equate to 26 wrecks per mile of coast
Norfolk coast has always been treacherous for seafarers, and
Happisburgh Sand, nine miles long and seven miles offshore, has been
disastrous for hundreds of vessels and claimed countless lives.
of the worst tragedies were as follows:
was a Royal
built at Chatham
and sunk in an accident nine days after commissioning on the 19th.
July1941 with the loss of 22 men.
submarine was sunk whilst en-route from Chatham to join the 3rd
Submarine Flotilla at Dunoon,
under the command of Lieutenant Mervyn Wingfield. She stopped
overnight at Sheerness
on the Ise of
Sheppey to wait for assembly of a north-bound merchant convoy leaving
the Thames and gathering off Southend. The boat then set out for
Dunoon Scotland and the Clyde to join the 3rd Submarine Flotilla and
was under way on the surface following the northbound merchant convoy
EC4 in a swept corridor around the East Anglia and then towards
Heinkel attacked the convoy and Umpire crash dived to avoid it, but
on surfacing, the
submarine suffered engine failure in one of the two diesel engines,
and this had to be shut down, this reduced Umpire’s speed and as a
result fell behind the convoy; a
radio message was sent to the Commodore of the convoy, reporting
this. A Motor Launch was sent back as an escort but lost Umpire in
the gathering darkness.
second merchant convoy was expected travelling south, also in the
around midnight whilst about 12 nautical miles off Blakeney.
No ships showed any lights because of the risk from GermanE-boats.
passed starboard to starboard, which was unusual,
since ships and convoys should pass port to port.
spotted the southbound convoy and altered course to port to avoid a
an armed escort trawler, Peter
in the southbound convoy accidentally struck Umpire.
suffered damage to the starboard side and sank within 30 seconds
in 18 metres of water.
crew members were on the bridge when the submarine sank, Wingfield,
the navigator and two lookouts. However only Wingfield survived in
the cold water to be picked up by the trawler.
16 of the crew
successfully escaped, 22 crew were lost.
wreck lies on its starboard side and is partly broken up.
wreck is designated as a protected place under the Protection
of Military Remains Act 1986.
FS 559 HM
was built in 1934 at Middlesbrough.
She had been ordered by the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company,
and was 433 gross tons, and originally named the “Mavis Rose”
was purchased by the Royal
in 1935, and was modified to carry out anti-submarine
work, as a Gem Class anti submarine trawler. In 1941 she was with the
maintenance reserve at Rosyth,
but in August was part of the Royal Navy’s escort flotilla
with convoy FS559.
FS series of convoys ran from Methil or the Tyne to the Thames
(Southend) and ran throughout the war from September 1939 to May
1945. The route was protected by defensive mine fields but was
vulnerable to attack by U-boat, E-boat, aircraft and enemy mines.
the 5 August Convoy
559 was proceeding down the East coast of Britain to London
The convoy was being escorted by two Royal
destroyers of the Rosyth
as an old ‘V’ class destroyer built in 1917, whilst HMS Wolsey
was a Thorneycroft ‘W’ Class built a year later in 1918. Also
helping with the escort duties were two trawlers, HMS Agate and HMS
The night was drawing in as the convoy made its way down the coast
and the weather was poor. There was a North-north west gale in full
blow with rain. It was cold and visibility was poor. By the early
hours and daylight of the 6 August the convoy was enveloped in a
thick sea mist making visibility very poor.
are two accounts of what happened in the early hours of the 6 August
1941. The first is that when Convoy
FS 559 was being passed by a northbound convoy. They had come under
attacked by German
The standing instruction for ships in convoy under these
circumstances is to scatter in groups, each with their own Royal Navy
escort. HMS Agate led her group away and had either lost all notion
of her position or the channel buoys had moved. The convoy had been
unable to see the Haisborough Light in the poor viability which due
to war time restrictions was only illuminated for ten minutes when a
convoy was due in the area. This had caused the lead escort
difficulty in plotting their position. Soon seven of the vessels were
stranded on the sands.
second version and the more likely cause of the ships running aground
is that the bad weather conditions, and the strong westerly drift,
and the fact that the exact position of the convoy was unavailable;
the ships involved just ran aground.
Lifeboat had been alerted to the disaster out on Haisbro
on the 6 August. The Cromer Number 1 boat H
put out at once with Coxswain
in command. Above the Lifeboat the crew of H
could hear the slow drone of RAF
aircraft sent to patrol above the stricken convoy[.
the lifeboat approached the sands, Blogg and his crew saw the seven
big cargo vessels stranded with their backs broke. All that was
visible was the ships bridges
as the sea broke across their decks.
One of the escort destroyers had already began rescue work using one
of her whaler
boats. The sea conditions the whaler came up against resulted in
twelve of the seaman drowning by the time the lifeboat arrived.
Before attending to the Gallois
the lifeboat took 16 men to safety from the SS
Coxswain Blogg then took the H
alongside the Galloise.
The steamer was still just above water and her engines were still
running. Blogg held the lifeboat alongside the ship, head to the
wind, while some of the crew jumped aboard and others slid down
ropes. One of the crew fell into the sea but was hauled out by one of
the lifeboat men, unharmed.
total the H
rescued 31 men from the SS
which with the crew from the Oxshott
meant she was now carrying 47 rescued seamen. The lifeboat left the
sands and transferred the rescued men to a nearby destroyer.