A fairly quiet month – apart from the weather
January 1943 was a fairly quiet month in terms of shipwrecks in English waters: 8 ships were recorded as lost, of which one, Bolbec, was refloated in September 1943.
There were a few ships lost to war causes: first, patrol trawler HMT Kingston Jacinth was mined with considerable loss of life off Portsmouth on 12 January. Two wooden sailing Thames barges were lost to mines off Burnham-on-Crouch on the Essex coast: on 13 January, Ailsa struck a mine on the edge of Foulness Sand off the Essex coast, although fortunately her crew were saved, and on 28 January, Resolute, bound from London to Ipswich with wheat, struck a mine off Holland-on-Sea. When the lifeboat arrived on scene the crew found only wreckage, but the master had been picked up by another barge and was transferred to the lifeboat, although the mate was lost with the vessel. It sounds as if the barge had been blown to smithereens by the explosion.
Thames barges moored at Greenwich, taken by photographer S W Rawlings between 1945-1965. He was the photographer for the Information Office of the Port of London Authority, recording the working river in the postwar period. S W Rawlings Collection, AA001107 © Historic England Archive
The cargo vessel Longbird collided with the Beltoy off the north-east coast while sailing independently for Hull with foodstuffs on 16 January 1943, having parted convoy on her ‘northabout’ voyage round the Scottish coast from the Clyde. She was a fairly unusual vessel type, having been launched as a steam naval gunboat in 1919, but sold into commercial service in 1920 and converted to a cargo vessel.
The 7-ton Landing Craft Personnel (Medium) No.17 or LCP (M) No.17 was lost off the Isle of Wight on 5 January, cause of loss unclear. There does not appear to have been anything exceptional about the weather, but loss even in fairly calm conditions is not unknown.
It was a different story for our other wrecks this month, where the weather appears to have been the major factor accounting for their loss. Firstly, the cargo vessel Wyetown foundered in ‘heavy weather’ off the Suffolk coast on 14 January, while bound from Hull for Ipswich, consistent with the gale warning issued for London and the east coast at 01.45am earlier that day. (1)
On the last day of the month HMS Bloodhound, a pre-war motor torpedo discharge vessel built by Vosper of Portsmouth in 1937 was wrecked at her station off Bincleaves, Portland.
Historic aerial photograph taken only four years after our wreck, showing Bincleaves groyne, one of the breakwaters enclosing Portland harbour, from the east, looking towards the land, with small harbour craft dotting the water. To the right, outside the groyne, the water is fast-moving and agitated, within the groyne on the left, much calmer: a breakwater captured doing its job. If wrecked within the groyne, the water must indeed have been turbulent that day.
© Historic England. Aerofilms Collection Historic England photograph: EAW010943 flown 24/09/1947
Bloodhound was an interesting small experimental vessel, with a fascinating background. She had been part of ‘stone frigate’ (shore establishment) HMS Vernon, Portsmouth, as part of the Admiralty Torpedo, Mining and Electrical Training Establishment, based on the old Gunwharf (now the Gunwharf Quays development). Vernon was dispersed after air raids on Portsmouth, the Establishment being based at Roedean School for Girls for the rest of the war, and Bloodhound sent to Portland.
The wreck of HMS Bloodhound occurred in severe weather, with a gale warning issued for points on the SW coast at 6am on 30 January; a further prediction was a ‘south to southeast gale, veering southwest to west, severe at times especially on parts of the coast, beginning to moderate tonight’. (2)
Not only were there few wrecks for January 1943, detail on the ships involved is sparse and/or widely dispersed among sources, not helped by wartime censorship of sources we would normally rely on, such as newspapers. As Wyetown and Bloodhound demonstrate, weather data helps to fill the gap for vessels not lost to war causes.
(1) Daily Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, Air Ministry, London, Wednesday 14th January, 1943, No.25638 https://digital.nmla.metoffice.gov.uk/IO_5245f1c2-b185-42e0-99d5-3aefd5c4acaf/
(2) Daily Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, Air Ministry, London, Saturday 30th January, 1943, No.25654 and Sunday 31st January, 1943, No.25655 (Met Office Digital Library and Archive, Daily Weather Report January 1943 https://digital.nmla.metoffice.gov.uk/IO_5245f1c2-b185-42e0-99d5-3aefd5c4acaf/