Divers locate Battle of the Atlantic lost shipwrecks from the Second World War

Dozens of shipwrecks have been documented on a seabed during the World War II Battle of the Atlantic. The ships that sunk come from both German and British sides. Now, divers and historians are on a mission to locate all the ships reportedly sunk on the area.

Among these ships is the SS Pearlmoor. The ship was travelling for almost 4,000 miles carrying 7,860 tons of iron ore. The journey from Sierra Leone to Britain was crucial to sustain Britain’s war needs.

The vessel, being 17 year old during that time, lagged behind the convoy of other ships. It was nearing the safety of dry land when it encountered Adolf Hitler’s U boats secretly lying in wait to do damage against Allied ships. Alas, the boat was alone when it approached the north coast of Ireland  and on its way to the final destination.

Around 6:30 pm of July 19, 1940, the ship was 25 miles offshore when it got hit by a German torpedo. The ship broke into two and sank. Thirteen of the twenty five crew members that survived were killed.

Many other British and German ships sank during the Battle of the Atlantic. Now, after more than 70 years, a major project to trace and locate the shipwreck are now undertaken.

The major project targets areas that hosted intense action during the Battle of the Atlantic. The six-year battle did severe damage to many ships especially in an area of seabed to the north of Ireland, west of Scotland, and areas where ships pass when they are on a destination to the ports of Glasgow and Liverpool.

Most of the ships en route on these areas carry crucial cargo in the war. The route also hosted heavy shipping traffic. German U boats targeted these areas. The U boats were dangerously close to the areas where the Royal Navy vessels were based.

The divers and historians who are hands-on on the project are trying to locate around 50 shipwrecks in an area of 250 square miles. Of the 50, 30 sites have been positively located.

They researched for the possible crash sites of these World War II vessels as recorded in war documents and databases. They also researched for reports of sightings by local fishermen.


Ian Lawler, an official of the Irish Sea Fisheries Board and also a diver, heads the project. A group of his friends has also joined the project.

“It was one of the most concentrated areas of the battle. But these are not just lumps of metal. The interesting part of the research is to find out about the stories behind the ships and the sinkings,” Lawler expressed.

The SS Pearlmoor is one of the most recent exploration of the group. Of the 29 merchant vessel in the convoy, it was the only one that got attacked by the German U boats and sunk. The captain of the vessel was Captain James Rodgers. The command of the U boats that sunk the ship was Hans-Bernhard Michalowski.

The wreck was first located in 2008 where a team of divers collected evidences and clues that could lead to its identification. It was positively identified in recent weeks along with other ships such as the Monmouth Coast which was sunk on April 24, 1945 by U boats while carrying sulphate to Sligo.

The Telegraph reports that there are a total of more than 4,000 vessels that were sunk in the area during the Battle of the Atlantic. The shipwrecks claimed the lives of around 70,000 Allied forces and 30,000 German forces. The German made it their effort to force Britain from the war but cutting its supply lines via the sea.

(Photographs courtesy of The Telegraph)






Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE