No.61 The Vina, 1944

Target Practice

I have written before about how the downgrading of ships towards the end of their service life becomes part of a wrecking process (see: Vogelstruis); although the final end of the Vina came about through environmental causes despite being helped along by prior human agency.


Detail of the Vina, courtesy of the Nautical Archaeology Society
Detail of the Vina, by kind permission of the Nautical Archaeology Society

Built in 1894, she was a fairly small steamer of 1,021 tons in use in the Baltic trade for the J T Salvesen company, who had a dozen vessels just before the First World War. As so often, the fleet was much depleted by losses in that war: by 1939 only three ships remained to the company – by which time the Vina was obsolete. A major feature of both World Wars was the requisitioning and purchase of civilian vessels for wartime service in a number of roles: trawlers went from fishing to minesweeping and patrol duties, liners carried troops and wounded soldiers instead of passengers, and cargo vessels carried supplies for the war effort, sometimes what were euphemistically termed ‘Government stores’.

Even if ships like the Vina were no longer fit to put to sea, they could still perform a useful wartime function. From 1940 the Vina was on standby to be scuttled as a blockship at Great Yarmouth in case of invasion, but in 1944 she was towed further north along the Norfolk coast to Brancaster, to be used by the RAF as target practice in testing out a new rocket. It was an ideal location for the plethora of RAF bases in Norfolk and Lincolnshire such as nearby RAF Little Snoring, assigned to Bomber Command.

The final wreck event for the Vina came not from the RAF sinking her, however, but from a gale which sprang up and drove her ashore on 20 August 1944. Here is what is left of her, after being pounded by the RAF 70 years ago, and after 70 years of tides, storms, and partial post-war salvage.

Boiler and engine of the Vina, courtesy of the Nautical Archaeology Society
Boiler and engine of the Vina, by kind permission of the Nautical Archaeology Society


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